Victor J. Cacciatore, expanded family’s Chicago real estate empire, dead at 83
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter December 31, 2013 7:28PM
Updated: February 3, 2014 3:53PM
Victor J. Cacciatore Sr. made the family name larger than life.
Just take a drive past the iconic Jos. Cacciatore & Co. Real Estate sign that greets drivers just before the Chicago Stock Exchange on Congress, marking one of Chicago’s oldest and most successful real estate companies.
Much of what Mr. Cacciatore did was on a large scale.
He raised a large family — 10 children — in the River Forest home he shared with his wife of 57 years, his high school sweetheart Charlotte. And he’d grow the family’s business empire beyond real estate to law, street sweeping, and banking.
Mr. Cacciatore, 83, died Monday after a long battle with cancer.
The son of a humble immigrant who came from Sicily at age 13, Mr. Cacciatore had big dreams for his family.
“I remember him saying, many times, ‘mediocrity should not be in your vocabulary,’” his daughter Susan Lasek. “He said ‘never be a procrastinator.’ He taught us that if you needed to do something, do it right away or it’s not going to get done. ‘Part of a successful person,’ he would say, ‘is that you do things. You’re a doer.’ My dad is a doer.”
“Everybody knew Vic,” said longtime friend John Turner, attorney at the Law Offices of Victor J. Cacciatore since 1963. “He always was a businessman, starting out with parlay cards in high school. His first big business adventure was selling chances on portable radios. He was a great raffle guy.”
But his youth wasn’t just fun and games. Mr. Cacciatore spent much of his time as a teen in his father’s real estate office, learning the tricks of the trade.
After graduating from DePaul University where he earned both his undergraduate and law degrees, he served in the U.S. Army as a Counterintelligence Corps Special Agent in France.
His ambitions upon returning led him to follow in his father’s footsteps, taking over his real estate firm Jos. Cacciatore & Co. and expanding it.
But with financial success came some trouble. In 2007, he testified in the Operation Family Secrets trial about being extorted by the mob during the early 1980s. He was the victim of mob threats, including having his back windshield shot out and receiving threatening phone calls. He said he was initially extorted for $5 million and wound up paying $200,000 to get the Outfit off his back.
The threats were something he discussed with his closest friends, but it was a matter they kept in confidence.
“It was extortion because he was doing so well. He was really doing well, and of course, he was one of the hits,” Turner said. “It didn’t matter that he was a good Italian boy. Vic was right in the middle. It was a perfect mark. When we found out [about the extortion], we couldn’t believe it.”
Turner called that time in Mr. Cacciatore’s life a “terrible, unfortunate thing.”
“He was relieved when it was all put behind him, all finished,” Turner said.
Above all, Mr. Cacciatore’s home life was at the core of his success, friends and family say.
He met his wife Charlotte at age 15. They got married in 1956.
“It was a beautiful strong marriage. They respected each other. They went through ups and downs but they loved each other,” Susan Lasek said. It was a great partnership, son Philip Cacciatore said: “My parents never had help . . . it’s pretty amazing. They’re amazing people.”
Charlotte was Polish. He was Italian. And she knew she had to learn a key thing to make him happy.
“He loved my mom and my mom made him his favorite, homemade spaghetti and meatballs. That was his thing,” daughter Susan said. “She learned how to cook when they first got married. She 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.”
Mr. Cacciatore himself became a pancake maker, 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,” Turner said. “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. And it wasn’t phony. It wasn’t just a catchphrase to use.”
Mr. Cacciatore was also a philanthropist, donating to his alma maters Mount Carmel High School and DePaul University, where he personally gave funds to construct Cacciatore Stadium, which serves as the athletic field at the Lincoln Park campus.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations are sent in memory of Victor J. Cacciatore to Misericordia Heart of Mercy, a nonprofit the family is very involved with.
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 Roman Catholic Church in River Forest.
The funeral mass is to start at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Vincent. Burial to follow at the Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside.