For more than 20 years, Joe Arndt was a familiar sight riding in his golf cart on Fridays at Arlington Lakes Golf Course.
He carried no clubs. Instead he wore protective gear as he checked on the nearly 30 birdhouses he had built and maintained around the course.
Arndt died Friday. He was 78.
"Building and maintaining those birdhouses became a passion of his," says his daughter, Jody, one of Arndt's six children.
Each week, Arndt would go from box to box, counting eggs, keeping track of hatchlings and clearing out predators.
Family members say Arndt loved wildlife and the outdoors, but it was from Dr. Ted Fitch, a La Grange-based veterinarian he met on the golf course, that he learned how to protect certain varieties of birds by establishing nesting structures.
With Fitch's help, Arndt started by constructing three birdhouses for eastern bluebirds, but they found it too difficult to keep out nonnative sparrows. They then turned their attention to building swallow and wood duck houses.
Al Beevers, maintenance supervisor of Arlington Lakes, said the birdhouses are a cherished part of the course and were preserved during last year's complete overhaul.
"I am often asked by golfers who put them up and why there are different shapes to the houses," Beevers said. "I tell them they were designed to attract a specific bird and pointed in a specific direction to attracted that type."
Arndt was a passionate supporter of the public golf course from the start. In 1974, he and his neighbors in the Surrey Ridge West subdivision picketed the Nike base on Central Road to urge the Army to give up its surplus land to the Arlington Heights Park District for the development of a golf course.
"Together, we picketed the main gate," recalls Tom McDonnell of Arlington Heights. "Joe was part of the uprising."
With involvement from local legislators and even the White House, the Army eventually granted the park district 91 acres, and plans for Arlington Lakes Golf Course took shape.
Arndt was a former Evans Scholar who had caddied at the Park Ridge Country Club and attended Marquette University on the Chick Evans Scholarship. Consequently, he looked for ways to promote the game and staunchly supported establishing a public course.
Once Arlington Lakes opened in 1979, Arndt suggested to park district officials that a Citizens' Advisory Board be created as a way for surrounding neighbors and local golfers to advise park officials about the golf course's operational policies and procedures.
"It's still in place today," said McDonnell, who served on the board. "One of the things we suggested was to establish a member appreciation day, which they did."
Arndt was a civil engineer, planning the construction of local roads and bridges, first with Kenney Construction in Wheeling and later with Dunnet Bay Construction in Glendale Heights. But family members add that he found his true passion later in life: protecting wildlife.
Besides his daughter, Arndt is survived by his wife, Rose Ann, and children Katie Arndt Simons, Jaime Arndt (Mike Erickson), Matthew Arndt (Suzy Reutter), Meghan Arndt (Tommy Nuzzo), Holly Arndt (Dan Bragaw), and 10 grandchildren.
Visitation will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Cooney Funeral Home, 625 Busse Hwy., before a 10 a.m. funeral Mass Friday at St. Paul of the Cross 140 S. Northwest Hwy., both in Park Ridge.