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updated: 3/20/2014 2:29 PM

Arlington Hts. drowning victim donated $400,000 to police, fire departments

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  • Henry Laseke's car was pulled from the pond near his Arlington Heights home in July 2013.

       Henry Laseke's car was pulled from the pond near his Arlington Heights home in July 2013.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

An Arlington Heights man who died over the summer has donated $200,000 each to the village's fire and police departments, officials said.

Henry Laseke, 89, died tragically in July, mistakenly driving into a retention pond near his Arlington Heights townhouse and drowning. Neighbors and emergency responders tried to rescue him and Laseke himself called 911 from the sinking car, but he couldn't be saved.

Arlington Heights officials said they can't remember such a large donation to village departments.

"We really wish we could thank him in person," said Finance Director Tom Kuehne. "We don't know why he did it, but we're very appreciative. It was an incredibly generous offer."

The police department will spread the money over the next 10 years to fund its K-9 unit with $20,000 each year, said Police Chief Gerald Mourning. Previously the unit had been funded through forfeiture money obtained through drug busts, but that money will be reallocated to other department needs.

The fire department spent its $200,000 on a new ambulance that it was planning to replace anyway, but because of Laseke's gift was able to do so sooner than scheduled, Kuehne said.

Kuehne said he didn't know about the donation until October when he was notified by Laseke's estate, but Mourning said he and Laseke met about three years ago to discuss it.

"He was very quiet, he didn't have a lot to say, but he indicated that he wanted to provide funding to police and fire for things that normally would not have been paid for by the village," Mourning said. "At the time I had no idea how much money we were talking about."

Laseke's family had long ties to Arlington Heights. For more than 50 years his father's company, Laseke Disposal Service, hauled trash for the village.

Laseke took the company over from his father, but after he lost the Arlington Heights contract due to a more competitive bidder in the late 1970s, the business soon closed.

At the time of his death, neighbors said Laseke was a kind, quiet man who mainly kept to himself, but went out for breakfast every morning, a trip he may have been returning from when he inadvertently drove into the pond behind his townhouse.

According to a recording of the 911 call, Laseke told the dispatcher, "Help me, help me quick," and "Hurry up, I'm sinking."

Laseke did not have any children or next of kin, officials said.

"He obviously felt a kinship for this village," Kuehne said.

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