Longtime newspaper director Jack Pittas built business and family ties
An international energy industry leader who testified before Congress and served as president of Universal Oil Products in Des Plaines, attorney Jack Pittas brought those same leadership skills to the Paddock Publications board of directors, guiding the Daily Herald through decades of changes and challenges.
"I considered Jack our lead director, and indeed he was -- a strong voice, direct and importantly wise as he helped shepherd our company through years of dynamic change," said Douglas K. Ray, chairman, publisher and CEO of Paddock Publications. Pittas served on the newspaper's board from 1977 until he died in his sleep Monday at age 89 in his home in Luther Village in Arlington Heights.
"From the '70s through today, his advice and support were always sought," Ray said. "He led a multinational company at UOP and brought structure and strategic planning to the newspaper. His legal background also was a significant asset through the years. Jack took great pride in the local community and loved the newspaper and appreciated its community service role. Our management team and fellow board members will miss him greatly."
Born John F. Pittas on June 30, 1932, he was raised by his mother, Hetty Fournier Pittas, in Washington, D.C., and attended what now is St. John's College High School. He and many of his St. John's friends went on to the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated in 1954. He married Elaine K. Pittas, a sister of a high school friend, on June 12, 1954.
After a two-year stint in the U.S. Navy, Pittas went to classes at night to earn his law degree at Georgetown Law in 1959, and he worked as a lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Accepting a job with Universal Oil Products in Des Plaines, the family moved to Elk Grove Village in 1960 before buying a house in Arlington Heights.
In 1969, the family moved after Pittas joined a prestigious law firm in Philadelphia. But he returned to Arlington Heights in 1971 to serve as executive vice president of UOP. During his time as president, the company moved to lead-free gasoline and new technology, such as the catalytic converter.
Pittas and his wife raised seven children: Jay, Teresa Walsh, Greg, Marc, Doug, Dave and Jim. And have 24 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. Elaine Pittas died in 2016, but the family's much-loved second home in Fripp Island, South Carolina, always was called "Casa Elaino" by her husband.
"He was still active and working and sharp. That was a blessing for us all," Jay Pittas said of his father. Pittas was a key adviser in the newspaper's recent move to an employee stock ownership plan, and he remained a trusted resource until his death.
"From his former role at Universal Oil Products, Jack brought important business perspective to Paddock Publications. He could be counted on for smart, grounded advice, becoming a lead director and a key member of the voting trust established by the late Stu Paddock Jr.," said Daniel E Baumann, who was chairman, publisher and CEO of Paddock Publications before serving as chairman emeritus in retirement. "I could always count on Jack for good counsel. Over the years of our service together, he also became a personal friend. Jack added a lot to the lives of those who knew him. I will miss him."
Added Stu Paddock III, who serves as a board member today: "Jack challenged you to know your subject matter inside out. His questions were penetrating. You best have the answers. With his guidance, we were able to expand our boundaries time and again during the high growth days of the newspaper. He found a way to help us make it work. If Jack was good with it, it was a go."
Pittas kept friends he made throughout his life, but, as the child of a single mother, he cherished his wife and kids.
"He was very dedicated and devoted to his family," son Jay Pittas said. But he also had "a remarkable intellectual and professional side," where his clever mind and quick wit made him many friends.
"He had a remarkable sense of humor and a laugh that came from his gut," Jay Pittas said. "He was always full of life, and you felt that energy when that laugh would kick in."
A lifelong Catholic who attended Catholic schools and was active at St. James Parish in Arlington Heights, his faith was always important to him but became more so in recent years, his family says.
Visitation will be from 10 a.m. until noon Monday at Glueckert Funeral, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights, with a memorial service at 1 p.m. at St. James Catholic Church, 820 N. Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights. Burial will follow at St. Michael's Cemetery, 1185 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine.