Mario Abruscato, husband of Wheeling Village President Judy Abruscato, is being remembered Tuesday as a man who liked to tell a joke and earned the affection of most everyone he met.
A celebration Mass for Abruscato, who died Sunday at the age of 90, will start at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at St. Joseph the Worker in Wheeling.
Mario Abruscato supported his wife's careers and campaigned door to door with her.
"He'd be on one side of the street and I'd be on the other, and he'd say to people, 'That's my wife across the street -- turn around, these people want to see you.'"
He worked 45 years as an arborist for a North Shore company, and Judy Abruscato credits the way he shared his dedication to trees with their son for inspiring Tony Abruscato's career as president of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show.
"The joke was, when Mario came home from work and the kids said 'How was your day, Dad?' He would say 'Oh, we had to buy a lot of Kleenex for the weeping willow.'"
Nick Helmer, now mayor of neighboring Prospect Heights, said Mario Abruscato collected baseball caps, and even people he didn't know would stop on the street and give him caps.
"The day I met him, I said, 'That's an interesting cap you're wearing,' and Judy leaned over and said, 'It's one of 210.'"
Helmer said Mario Abruscato was interested in life and very intelligent.
"Mario was a vibrant guy always ready to tell a joke and have fun," he said.
More than half a century ago when Mario Abruscato's niece told her friend Judy Heidersbach to drop into a family gathering and check out her unmarried uncle, the young woman thought the man who seemed interested in her was already married because all the young children were gathered around "Uncle Mario."
The Abruscatos were married more than 52 years and lived in Wheeling 45 years. Their two children are Tony, who lives in Chicago, and Valerie Gross, a Wheeling resident.
"Everyone should have had a chance to meet my Mario," said Judy Abruscato.