Given the nature of his first job in the sign business, one wouldn't have faulted Victor Laska for pursuing another career.
As the new guy at the family-owned Laco Signs, a 19-year-old Laska was hoisted on a boatswain's chair -- basically a plank of wood on ropes -- about three stories to the top of the Liberty Theatre sign.
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"His job was to scrape the loose paint and repaint that big tower," recalled his son, Duane.
But Vic Laska stuck with it, learning a variety of skills before being named president of Laco and then later, buying and running North Shore Sign Co., an institution in the industry.
"He was a sheet metal fabricator, a welder -- he grew up doing all the different trades. His niche was sales. He was very likable, a people person," Duane Laska said.
Vic Laska died Sunday, Sept. 9 from a heart attack while battling Alzheimer's and prostate cancer. He was 79.
A Chicago native, Laska was an Army veteran who saw combat in Korea. He lived in Libertyville and Green Oaks for more than half a century, and was well known in both communities.
He was involved in many business and civic organizations. He served as chairman of the former Libertyville Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Libertyville Lions Club and the City Club of Waukegan. He was a former director and president of the Illinois Sign Association and a division director for World Sign Associates. He was a trustee for the Libertyville Fire Protection District and served for 10 years on the Green Oaks plan commission
"He was a gentleman, he really was," Green Oaks Village Administrator Elaine Palmer said. "He contributed a lot to the village."
Laska was honored with a moment of silence this past Tuesday before the Libertyville village board meeting.
"He was very, very active, a super nice guy, wonderful person," Mayor Terry Weppler said.
Duane Laska, who served eight years as mayor in Libertyville, said his dad never pushed him into politics but provided support as needed.
In the 1960s, Laco signs was one of a few companies that began working with McDonald's, Duane Laska said. As president, Vic Laska helped forge a regional and national presence for the company and was instrumental in its relocation to a new plant.
But his passion was providing custom signs to small businesses and in 1972 he bought North Shore Sign Co., a small subsidiary of Laco and grew it into one of the largest full-service custom sign companies in the Chicago area.
Even after selling the business to Duane Laska and his brother, Kevin, Vic Laska would come in every day, doing even small tasks like cleaning just because they needed to be done.
"His passion was working. He literally never retired," Duane Laska said.
Vic Laska is survived by Barbara, his wife 55 years; two sons, Kevin and Duane (Patti) and a daughter, Karen Pierro; 10 grandchildren; and, a sister.
Visitation is 3 to 8 p.m. Friday at Burnett-Dane Funeral Home Ltd., 120 W. Park Ave., Libertyville. Prayers will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home to St. Joseph Church for a funeral Mass at 10 a.m.
Contributions can be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 8430 W. Bryn Mawr, No. 800, Chicago, 60631.