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Family Always Came First for Iconic DePaul Benefactor Cacciatore

depaulDePaul loses a cherished and beloved member of its university family
Jan. 2, 2014

CHICAGO – In the illustrious and highly successful life and times of iconic Chicago business magnate and entrepreneur Victor Cacciatore, family always remained the most important thing in the world.

From his humble beginning growing up on the South Side and working as a teenager in his father Joseph Cacciatore’s real-estate office to marrying high school sweetheart Charlotte in 1956 and raising 10 children, family remained the one constant and the driving force in his life.

The DePaul University family lost one of its most cherished members and greatest benefactors when double DePaul alumnus Vic Cacciatore passed away last Monday after a long battle with cancer.

After working his way through college to earn a business degree in 1952 and a law degree in 1955, Cacciatore served in the armed forces as served as a U.S. Counter-Intelligence Special Agent in France from 1956-58 and went undercover gathering intelligence on Soviet activities.

He went on to build a financial empire—owning and running businesses in real estate, insurance, law, parking, street sweeping, banking and construction.

The innovative thinking and foresight of this South Side visionary resulted in a lifetime of success and good fortune which he wanted to share with his alma mater.

He joined the DePaul University Board of Trustees in 1973, and as chairman of the Physical Plant and Property Committee helped DePaul acquire the Goldblatt’s building. He headed the drive to acquire the Blackstone Theatre, now the Merle Reskin Theatre. Cacciatore also played a leading role in bringing the Goodman School of Drama into the DePaul community.

His generosity resulted in the construction of Cacciatore Stadium where the Blue Demon softball and soccer teams compete. The stadium features permanent seating for 1,200, complete concessions and restroom facilities and a state-of-the art press box.

Along with the stadium, his endowments include the Victor J. Cacciatore Annual Scholarship Award and the Joseph Cacciatore Classroom—both for the DePaul College of Law.

For all he had accomplished in enhancing the university’s academics, facilities and athletics department, Cacciatore was inducted on Jan. 20, 2013 into the DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Dr. Robert Hamilton Special Service Award.

“Vic was such a sweetheart of a guy, and what an overwhelming significance he had on our university,” said DePaul Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto. “He was one of those iconic Chicago guys, and he created an iconic Chicago family name.

“Born and raised in Bridgeport and a graduate of Mt. Carmel High School, Vic worked with his dad in building the family business. He was a part of what is now being hailed as the Greatest Generation of our time. He left a lasting legacy not only at DePaul, but also at Mt. Carmel and for the city of Chicago.

“Vic worked his way through school, got a business and law degree from DePaul and served his country. His dad bought the building on South Wells Street and Vic created a family business.

“He helped anchor the South Loop area long before anyone thought about being an anchor in the South Loop. His business helped to expand that area, which is where our new basketball arena is being built.”

Cacciatore’s generosity came at a pivotal moment in the history of DePaul athletics.

“The Cacciatore Stadium seating and improvements were necessary for us entering the BIG EAST Conference,” Ponsetto said. “If not for the generosity of Vic and Char, none of that would have been possible.

“Not only did Cacciatore Stadium help DePaul athletics, but it benefitted children in the community as well. Chicago Public Schools and other elementary school students along with high school students are able to make use of the facility, and that really appealed to Vic and Char. A number of kids’ camp programs use the stadium.

“Along with establishing the family name and running seven businesses, Vic was all about benefitting DePaul and the greater community. He has left behind a lasting legacy at DePaul and the entire city of Chicago.”

Blue Demon softball coach Eugene Lenti knows what a huge impact Cacciatore has made on his nationally renowned program.

“My first season was 1980 and we really didn’t have anything,” Lenti said. “We were lucky to have a bat and ball for practice. Money was tight.

“We played our home games on a field at Racine and Webster. Our players would line up along the foul line and walk across the infield picking up rocks and pieces of broken glass.

“Now we play in Cacciatore Stadium, a state-of-the-art facility and one of the most beautiful in the country.”

Lenti reflected on a special memory about Vic and his family.

“Every year during the Christmas season, Vic and his family invited our family—the Lenti family from DePaul and from Mt. Carmel—down to the Chicago Yacht Club for lunch,” Lenti said. “It was always such a beautiful view of the lake in winter and a special time.

“Our softball program will always be indebted to Vic and Char and the Cacciatore family for everything they did in building Cacciatore Stadium and helping us with everything we’ve achieved. Before, we never showed recruits our softball field. Now, it’s the first thing we show them.

“Thanks to Vic and Char, we’ve gone from the rocks of Racine and Webster to the palatial home of Cacciatore Stadium.”

Men’s soccer coach Craig Blazer and the entire Blue Demon program are grateful for Cacciatore’s tremendous support.

“Vic was a great leader for the DePaul athletic department and the soccer program,” Blazer said. “His vision to build the soccer stadium has had a dramatic effect on the lives of everyone past, present and future with the DePaul soccer program.

“Thanks to his generosity, our beautiful soccer stadium shows everyone just how important athletics are to DePaul. He was committed to providing the best for the student-athletes at DePaul. He wanted everyone to have success.

“Vic not only lived the American dream—he also wrote the DePaul dream. He gave back so much to the program and was a true leader.

“I love how Vic held my hand at the last Hall of Fame induction ceremony and said: ‘Keep getting those wonderful, smart soccer players to fight and win.’”

Women’s soccer coach Erin Chastain echoed Blazer’s sentiments.

“Vic Cacciatore has made huge contributions to DePaul, and we will always feel a tremendous amount of gratitude for that,” Chastain said. “He has set a wonderful example for our student-athletes when it comes to work ethic.

“His life is inspiring, and he will be remembered always as someone who believed in DePaul.

“I am really proud to be the women’s soccer coach here and will always think of him when I walk into our beautiful stadium. We hope to make him very proud.”

Upon his father’s death in 1975, Vic Cacciatore was elected as Chairman and CEO of the Joseph Cacciatore & Co. real estate firm. He ran seven companies and built Lakeside Bank into a billion-dollar community bank. The Elgin Sweeping company that cleans the Chicago-area expressways expanded to cover four states.

As an attorney with a law office on South Wells Street, he represented Shell Oil for 28 years and at one time represented five oil companies. Some of his other clients included the FDIC, a large number of banks, the Chicago Park District, the Midwest Stock Exchange, Illinois Housing Authority, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, Federal Express, Chicago Title & Trust Company, DePaul and Mt. Carmel High School.

In 1986 he was appointed Special Assistant Attorney General for the state of Illinois, and he has represented seven other governmental agencies.

“Vic was such a staunch supporter of DePaul,” said women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno. “He really valued what DePaul did for him.

“A lot of people who reach the heights of success like Vic start to act all high and mighty as part of the privileged class. Vic was never like that and always made you feel like he was happy to be around you.

“Most of all, I’ll always remember Vic for his absolute loyalty to his family and the love of his children.”

Vic, Charlotte, and their children believe in DePaul’s mission and its ability to transform lives. A DePaul education is a tradition in the Cacciatore family, and more than a dozen family members are graduates of the university.

Seven of Vic and Charlotte Cacciatore’s 10 children are DePaul graduates. Two of Charlotte’s brothers are College of Law graduates who became judges and three of Vic and Charlotte’s son-in-laws earned master’s degrees.

Father John T. Richardson baptized all 10 children and married most of them. Cacciatore was blessed with 21 grandchildren. He spoke often of his love and respect for Father Richardson and DePaul President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.

Vic and Char Cacciatore raised the great American family in every sense of the word.

“It was a beautiful, strong marriage. They respected each other. They went through ups and downs but they loved each other,” daughter Susan Lasek told the Sun-Times. “He loved my mom, and my mom made him his favorite—homemade spaghetti and meatballs. That was his thing. She learned how to cook when they first got married. She (was Polish) and didn’t know how to cook a lot of Italian dishes, so she learned from my grandmother Cacciatore. That’s how you win a man’s heart—through the tummy.”

“It was a great partnership, son Philip Cacciatore added. “My parents never had help. It’s pretty amazing. They’re amazing people.”

Vic Cacciatore’s prowess as a pancake maker was recounted in the Sun-Times story, whipping up flapjacks for his family every Sunday. He took all 10 kids on fishing trips in Canada, and to an island in South Carolina. He talked about them in nearly all of his public speeches at charity and civic events.

“There is one word that Vic used more than anything in the world—family,” close friend and attorney John Turner told the Sun-Times. “He harped on that. Family was the basis, was the keystone, was the word he used every time he gave a speech. He never failed to mention the fact that family was behind everything.”

The Cacciatore family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations are sent in memory of Victor J. Cacciatore to Misericordia Heart of Mercy.

In addition to his daughter Susan Lasek and son Philip Cacciatore, Mr. Cacciatore is survived by his wife Charlotte, his other sons Victor Jr., Joseph, Peter, Chris, and Danny; his other daughters Cynthia Bickel, Mary Beth Cacciatore and Gloria Turan; 21 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Vincent Ferrer Church, 1530 Jackson Ave. in River Forest.

The funeral mass is at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Vincent Ferrer Church.

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