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Joe Gentile, gave $3.5M to help Loyola build campus arena, dies



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Updated: January 23, 2012 3:19AM

Joe Gentile believed in doing things from the heart.

From the time he was the youngest lieutenant in the Navy in World War II to his senior years as a courtside cheerleader for the Loyola Ramblers, the jovial businessman believed it was the right way.

He used the wealth he amassed in the automobile business to help others, donating millions to charities, churches, veterans groups and Loyola, his alma mater. His $3.5 million gift helped to finance nearly half the cost of the Ramblers’ on-campus arena, the Joseph J. Gentile Center, which opened in 1996 and was named for him.

Gentile, 87, died Monday with his family at his bedside.

‘‘Joe Gentile was a one-of-a-kind person who truly believed that education was the answer to all the world’s problems,’’ said John Planek, the former athletic director at Loyola and St. Ignatius College Prep, which Gentile also attended. ‘‘Joe dedicated his life to raising and donating funds for the advancement of Catholic schools, churches and health-care facilities.

‘‘His persona was almost as big as his heart, and he always felt good if his ego was massaged. He frequently would tell people to come to the Loyola games and mention his name to get free admission and, in some instan-
ces, a free hot dog. ‘Tell ’em Gentile sent ya,’ Joe would explain.’’

Loyola president the Rev.
Michael J. Garanzini called Gentile ‘‘an avid supporter of Rambler athletics and the namesake of our arena. We celebrate Joe’s passion for life and athletics, as well as his commitment to our students.’’

Gentile was a 1948 Loyola graduate. He started by selling Fords, then later opened a Buick dealership in Oak Park. He earned top sales honors in the country for 10 consecutive years, then in 1985 switched brands again and opened Joe Gentile Chrysler Plymouth in Barrington. Ten years later,
he earned the top dealership
honor in the industry, the Time Quality Award.

In 1994, he found a different kind of vehicle to his liking: a radio station in Elmhurst. He bought the station with the idea it would help him to sell cars and changed the call letters to WJJG-AM. He hosted his own morning talk show, with topics ranging from politics to sports.

Gentile was named the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame Man of the Year in 1990 and earned the Founders Award a
year later.

Survivors include his wife,
Carol. Services are pending.

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