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posted: 8/20/2012 7:14 PM

Duchossois recalls 'remarkable' Diller

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  • Arlington Park owner Richard Duchossois

      Arlington Park owner Richard Duchossois
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Daily Herald file photo 1987 Richard Duchossois in his office in 1987.

    Daily Herald file photo 1987 Richard Duchossois in his office in 1987.

and Projects Writer

Phyllis Diller was present for some of the most profound moments of Dick Duchossois' life and career, and he for hers.

Duchossois, Arlington Park's chairman, remembered the late comedian Monday as a "remarkable woman," who "had stamina you just wouldn't believe."

Duchossois, of Barrington Hills, knew Diller since she debuted at the San Francisco comedy club the Purple Onion in 1955.

Over the years, he said, they became close friends who attended parties together and kept tabs on one another's families.

In fact, he said, Diller was by his side in July 1985 when he learned the wooden and outdated racetrack he had recently purchased was on fire.

They were at his Barrington Hills home, he recalls, and Diller was slated to be on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" the next day. The grandstand was destroyed but later rebuilt.

Another time, he recalled, as he was readying for the high school graduation of one of his grandchildren, Diller pulled up outside his home in a limo.

"She knew about every one of the children and the grandchildren," he said.

Every Christmas, he said, she'd send his family one of her paintings -- small, 10-inch by 10-inch pieces that were often depictions of children or animals.

Duchossois learned of the 95-year-old's death via an email his daughter sent him while he was working at the racetrack.

On the way home, he said, "it was all over the radio."

Diller often joked, Duchossois said, that she really didn't know how old she was because "every part was different" from various surgeries along the way. "That was really right, too," he chuckled.

"She was the same way onstage as she was off," he said. "Always had you laughing."

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