John W. Glueckert Sr., the Arlington Heights native synonymous with his local funeral home business, has died after battling cancer since last year.
Glueckert, 82, died peacefully Monday at his Arlington Heights home, said his son, John Jr.
The elder Glueckert formally retired a decade ago, turning operations over to his son and two daughters, but he still frequented the funeral home that bears the family name at 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road.
"He just enjoyed being around people so much," his son said. "He loved seeing the staff and people coming through. And knowing so many people in town for so many years, people enjoyed seeing him."
Glueckert got his start in the business as a teenager working at Black's Memorial Home, which was on the northeast corner of Vail Avenue and Northwest Highway. As a student at Arlington High School, he worked part-time, doing odd jobs like cutting the grass and painting.
Betty Black eventually sold the business to Howard Haire, who renamed it Haire Funeral Home. Glueckert, who had earned a degree from the Worsham College of Mortuary Science, served as manager. He bought the business in 1970, changed the name to Glueckert Funeral Home in 1976 and relocated to the current location in 1987.
As an Army veteran who served as a supply sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri between 1958 and 1964, Glueckert in recent years especially enjoyed organizing an annual trip to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery for veterans, according to his son.
Honorable discharged veterans are eligible to buried at the cemetery in Elwood, near Joliet, but not all veterans were aware of it. So Glueckert organized the first trip for veterans and their families in 2012, and it's since become an annual event.
Glueckert was a member of the Arlington Heights Lions Club for more than five decades, serving as president in the late 1960s, and was named a Melvin Jones Fellow, the organization's most prestigious honor. He also was a charter member of Knights of Columbus Holy Rosary Council No. 4483.
Horse racing was also a big part of Glueckert's life, as an owner and handicapper, spending afternoons with friends at Arlington Park. Often, they'd also meet at the Dunton House restaurant in downtown Arlington Heights.
"It was just a place to hang with the guys and talk about, 'What horses are you running?' and 'Who are you playing?'" Glueckert Jr. said.
Glueckert Sr. first encountered those connected to horse racing at his parents' restaurant, the Arlington Inn, on the northeast corner of Northwest Highway and Euclid Avenue. The building is now the Massucci, Blomquist, Anderson & Dunn law office.
"From the time he was a kid, the people that were customers at the restaurant were people on their way to the track: trainers, jockeys, other regulars," his son said.
Two brothers-in-law were also connected to horse racing: Arlington starter Jimmy Kinnard and Churchill Downs trainer Wilbur Borton.
Glueckert is survived by his wife of 59 years, Rosanna, three children, four grandchildren, and a sister.
Visitation is scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, at the funeral home. A funeral begins with prayers at the home at 11:15 a.m. Friday followed by a noontime Mass at St. James Parish.