Mayor Marcucci reflects on career

ELMHURST, IL

Mayor Tom Marcucci is in his City Hall office until 10 on most weekday mornings, and anyone can make an appointment to see him. I thought it was time for me to do just that in view of the fact that this term will be his last. He greeted me warmly and escorted me to the large, modern quarters he has occupied since he first was elected in 1993. The walls are covered with photos taken over the years in Washington, D.C., Springfield, and at various events and fundraisers. There are ground-breaking shovels mounted on the wall and a copy of a 1920 cartoon, which says, “Get out of the mud. Boost Elmhurst improvements,” to remind him that there has always been a fight to effect change in Elmhurst.

He pointed out some of these mementos as well as some photos of his family. He has a clear, resonant voice, larger than life presence, courtly manners, and has clearly enjoyed being mayor for the past 15 years despite the fact that he has a regular job at his family owned Gonnella Bread Co.

“Gonnella has always been a family owned company,” he said. “And today we employ 400 people, sell in over 45 states and had $120 million in sales last year.”

His older brother, George, also worked at Gonnella, but since George’s death last year, the mayor has had to work more hours, one of the reasons that he has cited for not running for another term.

“When I first decided to run for mayor,” he related, “I went to my boss, Bob Gonnella, to ask for his approval. You have to understand that Bob is a good man but a very tough businessman, and I wasn’t sure what his response would be. To my surprise he actually got teary-eyed. He said, ‘That’s why our grandparents and great-grandparents came to America, Tommy, to make a contribution. I support you all the way.’”

He was very young when his parents bought a house in the then new Bryn Haven subdivision.

“We were a typical middle class family. My dad coached baseball for 20 years,” he said but also adds that neither parent lived to see him elected mayor.

It is clear that Marcucci has a lot of energy because he works a full work week, attends to his mayoral duties, is devoted to wife Mimi and daughters Flavia (named after his mother), Frannie, Annie, Molly and Kitty, and serves actively on many boards including PACE, Metropolitan Family Services, and the Suburban O’Hare Commission, to name a few. In addition, he was a founding member of the Elmhurst Children’s Assistance Foundation and was honored as Man of the Year by the Illinois Crime Commission in 2006. Two of his daughters married last year, and all have careers now. But in 1993, they were all at home, and in March 1998, his daughter, Molly, then a junior at York Community High School, was diagnosed with bone cancer, and treatment involved removing the affected knuckle of the middle finger of her right hand and then necessitated removing the middle finger and moving her index finger to that spot.

“Molly was in the hospital for 28 nights, but she never spent a night alone without her mother at her side,” he said. “The whole ordeal lasted 14 months and was a very rough time. She had chemotherapy and her weight dropped from 123 to 81 pounds, but thank God, she came through it.”

Through all his years as mayor, despite personal problems and the loss of his older brothers George and Larry in the past two years, the mayor has missed very few City Council meetings. He is also usually found at all three Elmhurst parades, at the opening of Elm Fest, and at innumerable city functions. He has clearly loved being mayor.

“I love Elmhurst,” he said in explanation. “And I love being out in the community meeting people. I love the interaction, and I love the art of debate, and I’m energized if someone makes a point that changes my mind.”

I asked him more questions but that will be in next week’s column.

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