'He needed to be remembered': Elgin woman establishing ECC scholarship to honor husband
When her husband died of leukemia at age 58 last July, Alicia Delgado-Lutz of Elgin wanted to make sure his spirit lived on.
She hopes an Elgin Community College automotive scholarship in his name is just the thing to do it.
Tom Lutz worked for the city of Elgin for 21 years in the sewer department. He loved his job, his wife said, and he loved helping people.
He wasn't just a good guy. "He was a model guy," she said.
His co-workers agree.
"He would do anything for anybody; he just wanted everybody to be happy," said his supervisor, Matt Mattingly, utilities crew leader for the sewer department. "He was one of those people who always put a smile on your face, never seemed to have a bad day.
"And he was an expert on everything we do.
A jack-of-all-trades, his nickname was "Tomcan," Delgado-Lutz said.
"Someone would ask, 'Who can fix the brakes on my car, who can fix this light, who can paint this wall?''" she said. The answer was always, "Oh, Tom can."
He also had a love of muscle cars and owned a 1967 Pontiac GTO and a 1965 Pontiac LeMans, which he was always working on and taking to car shows.
That passion for cars, combined with his handiness and desire to help people, gave Delgado-Lutz the idea of creating a scholarship for automotive studies in Lutz's name at ECC.
"They say that a person really only dies when no one remembers them," she said. "I thought he needed to be remembered."
Delgado-Lutz raised $1,500 selling masks she was making at the height of the pandemic, and added another $1,500 of her savings. She approached ECC about establishing a scholarship and learned that for $10,000, she could set up an endowment that would give a scholarship in Lutz's name every year in perpetuity.
"I want this to be a forever thing," she said. "I want it to live on."
The endowment would fund an annual scholarship of at least $400, or more as the principal balance grows over the years, said Noah Rehberg, manager of annual giving at the ECC Foundation. The need-based scholarships will start being awarded as soon as the endowment is fully funded.
Rehberg said Delgado-Lutz has been "wonderful to work with."
"Her enthusiasm is contagious," he said.
Delgado-Lutz hopes people who knew Lutz will chip in on the endowment, but otherwise, she said, she'll "find a way."
Donations can be made online at pages.elevate.salesforce.org/eccfoundation/tom-lutz, or checks can be sent to ECC, attention ECC Foundation office B230.02 at 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin, IL 60123. The donor should indicate the money is for the Lutz automotive fund.
She hopes to meet the scholarship recipients once they start being awarded. Delgado-Lutz said she'd like to share a little about her husband, so they can pay it forward.
"He was all about helping and he never expected anything in return, and that's why people just loved him," she said.