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Crash kills memorial backer

Anthony R. Cutrano helped found Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial Marseilles Ryan Beaupre memorial Kankakee County.

Anthony R. Cutrano helped found the Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run, the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial in Marseilles and the Ryan Beaupre memorial in Kankakee County. | File photo

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Updated: July 3, 2012 12:12PM

Anthony Cutrano found peace at the “Wall.”

On Saturday, like he often did, Cutrano visited those granite panels engraved with the names of American soldiers killed in post-9/11 conflicts that stand along the Illinois River in Marseilles. It was Cutrano’s vision and drive, dedication and charisma that got the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial built here.

He co-founded the Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run, which raised cash for the memorial and other things to support the families of slain soldiers. For a very long time, that wall — and the cause to remember those troops — was his life, his family said.

After one last visit Saturday, Cutrano’s Harley Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle hit a guardrail on Route 6 on a curved incline locals call “Holderman Hill” just east of Seneca.

Cutrano was not wearing a helmet when he was thrown from the bike. He suffered multiple injuries. At about 3 p.m., he was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 52.

‘The Mayor’

Anthony Cutrano was born on Nov. 7, 1959. He was the son of a Chicago police officer and a stay-at-home mom. He graduated from Stagg High School. He served in the U.S. Navy.

In 1993, he married his younger sister’s pal, Linda. They had one son, Chase Cutrano.

“He was the best father a kid could have. He was a jack of all trades. He knew how to talk to people. He could be fun and wild. He was a good electrician, good at plumbing, a great auto mechanic. Great at everything he did,” Chase Cutrano said. “He prepared me to be the best person I could be. And I could see him, the way he was with people. Kind. Giving. Those were his parenting skills.”

Some of Cutrano’s motorcycle friends called him “The Mayor.” Others called him something else, a teasing reference to his Italian heritage, but he did not mind.

“There were a lot of Tony’s out there. So he was the Italian Tony,” Linda Cutrano said.

Cutrano worked at Burns & McDonnell as an electrical engineer. He stood out — dark curly hair, goatee and tan skin marked with tattoos — and it seemed everybody knew him. And everybody liked him, his pals said.

“It’s a big loss to the motorcycle community,” said Jerry Kuczera, who co-founded the Freedom Ride with Cutrano. “A fun-loving guy. Passionate about his goal to put names on the wall.”

Kuczera and Cutrano came up with the idea for the ride and a memorial after watching protesters spit on an American flag during the Iraq War in 2003. And once the memorial was built, Cutrano made sure the names of soldiers who died were added. He picked weeds and planted flowers there. He also helped raise money for other veteran-sponsored charities. For years, Cutrano was the balloon guy at the Toys for Tots ride.

“He dreamed big,” Linda Cutrano said. “He always would give someone a dog tag with the name of a fallen soldier on it. He’d say, “You’re traveling with this person, remember them.”

When Cutrano needed to find peace, he’d take a ride to the wall and find it there.

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