Rolling Meadows courthouse assistant chief remembered for 'big personality'
Remembered for his generosity, gregarious personality and a law enforcement career that spanned 57 years, former Cook County Sheriff's deputy Ralph DeBartolo will be laid to rest Thursday, Feb. 4.
DeBartolo, who retired from the sheriff's department in 2013 after serving 25 years, 15 of them as assistant chief of Rolling Meadows' Third Municipal District Courthouse, died Jan. 23. He was 87. His funeral will be livestreamed at 10:45 a.m. at everloved.com/life-of/ralph-debartolo/obituary.
"He was the love of my life," said Helen DeBartolo, his wife of 64 years and mother of their sons Anthony and Daniel.
"He saw the good in everybody," she said. "That's what he looked for and that's what he found."
Even after he retired from the sheriff's department, DeBartolo remained close with his deputies, Helen DeBartolo said.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who described DeBartolo as a close friend, remembered him as a great leader and mentor.
"Everyone who knew him, loved him," said Dart in a prepared statement. "He was a true example of a public servant and he will be deeply missed."
Born in Chicago in 1933, DeBartolo worked for the railroad at age 18 to support his family after his father's death. A U.S. Army veteran, he manned heavy artillery during the Korean War. Returning home, he joined the Chicago Police Department. Eighteen months into his law enforcement career, he was driving home after his overnight shift on Dec. 1, 1958, when he happened upon the devastating fire at Our Lady of the Angels grade school, which claimed the lives of 92 children and three nuns.
"I was still in my uniform," DeBartolo recalled in a 2012 interview with Daily Herald reporter Burt Constable. "We were following the firefighters up the stairs."
A founding member of the Italian American Police Association, he served as its president and board chairman for 27 years. Named law enforcement officer of the year by the Order of Sons of Italy in America in 1997, he was also the Italian American Police Association's 2004 man of the year. In 2010, the Illinois State Bar Association awarded him its law enforcement award.
After retiring from the Chicago Police Department in 1989, he joined the Cook County sheriff's department. Upon taking over the Third District courthouse, he organized fundraisers for fellow officers combating disease or coping with tragedies, earning the respect and affection of his fellow officers.
Third District Presiding Judge Jill Cerone-Marisie recalled fondly the St. Joseph Day celebrations DeBartolo hosted annually at the courthouse.
"He was a big personality," she said.
"He's a guy who did so much for so many people," said retired Cook County Judge Sam L. Amirante. "Such a tough guy, but such a good guy. He did something good for someone every day of his life."