Naperville, art world mourn loss of 'Dick Tracy' cartoonist Dick Locher
Dick Locher created characters and critiqued politicians for decades as he drew the popular Dick Tracy comic strip and earned a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.
The Naperville resident, whose art also graces the Riverwalk, the new Hotel Indigo and a park that honors the town's founder, died Sunday. He was 88.
A native of Dubuque, Iowa, Locher started working on the "Dick Tracy" strip in 1957 with Chester Gould, who created it in 1931.
"I got to work with a legend while creating an icon," he said in 2011.
Locher took over as the strip's artist in 1983 and began writing the storyline in 2005. He retired in 2011, but not until the city where he lived for nearly 50 years allowed him to create a sculpture of the square-jawed, fedora-wearing detective.
Before the larger-than-life sculpture was dedicated in 2009 along the Riverwalk, Brand Bobosky, the chairman of the Century Walk Corp. public art group, called the work of Locher and artist Donald L. Reed "our signature piece."
Locher's wife of 60 years, Mary Locher, said her husband enjoyed seeing people visit the Dick Tracy sculpture and show appreciation for it, especially as the comic strip continues under new artists Joe Statin and Mike Curtis.
While Locher may be best known for his work creating memorable characters in the world of Dick Tracy -- people such as Flattop Jones, Mumbles and Pruneface -- his wife says there was more to his life than the cartoon world of fighting crime.
"He had so many careers," said Mary Locher, who met her husband during a blind date on Christmas Eve. "He always had at least two running concurrently."
He ran his own advertising business in Oak Brook. He did fine art and watercolors. The couple served as tour guides for friends, planning and hosting trips to Alaska, Ireland and Switzerland. He drew box art for model airplanes, served as a trustee for Benedictine University in Lisle and helped with fundraisers for the United Way.
"It's amazing that one person could do the number of things that he did," his wife said. "But he loved to be extremely busy."
The Lochers moved to Naperville in 1969 and had three children, one of whom died when he was in his 20s. The family later grew to include five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The Lochers built a large network of friends, including multiple generations of the Wehrli family, who became admirers of Locher's work.
"He always had his hands into something," said Francie Wehrli, who works as director of administration at Naperville Township, which has a headquarters that looks out at the Dick Tracy sculpture. "He was extremely creative, very, very artistic and just so funny."
Locher's creativity and smarts earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for editorial cartooning. An illustration of President Ronald Reagan in a Superman costume falling out of a phone booth, which critiqued the president's handling of an arms shipment to Venezuela, helped him win the award.
By then, Locher had been drawing editorial cartoons for more than 10 years, after getting his start in the early 1970s when Richard Nixon was president. He said the local politics of Chicago and Illinois, which he would listen to daily beginning at 4:30 a.m., always gave him plenty of material.
Naperville artist Marianne Lisson Kuhn met Locher about 35 years ago and painted with him at times.
"I don't think there was any form of art that he didn't try," she said. "And he seemed to excel at all of them."
Visitation for Locher is scheduled for 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home, 44 S. Mill St., Naperville. A Mass of Christian burial is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 36 N. Ellsworth St., Naperville.
Although Locher's image is included in a 2009 painting depicting the "World's Greatest Artists" on the wall of the Naperville Art League's gallery, the city's art scene already is missing his presence.
"I feel like we lost a real treasure with him being gone," Lisson Kuhn said. "He gave so much to the community and everything he did, he was so passionate about."