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Former Hometown Mayor Philip Lucerto Dies at 88

"Founding Father of Hometown" helped start library and established Hometown's first recreation commission. Also built a basement on his duplex.

 

Philip “Phil” Lucerto, considered one of the founding fathers of Hometown, passed away peacefully on Nov. 7 in Lockport, Ind.

A 50-plus-year resident of Hometown, Mr. Lucerto held many elected positions in the city, including 3rd Ward alderman from 1955 to 1959 and 1999 to 2001, and was a commissioner on Hometown’s library, park and police boards.

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From 1977 to 1985, Mr. Lucerto served as mayor of the city that had started as a planned community offering affordable housing to veterans returning from World War II and the Korean War.

In recent years Mr. Lucerto had moved to an assisted living facility in Lockport, Ind., to be closer to his daughter’s family.

“After living there three years he was almost mayor of that too,” said Mr. Lucerto’s son-in-law, John Forney.

Mr. Lucerto was born in Bridgeport on June 30, 1924. He was the youngest of three children and grew up on Chicago’s South Side.

“My grandparents were from Sicily,” Jan Forney,Mr. Lucerto’s yougest daughter, said. “It was an arranged marriage. My grandfather was already here and so was my grandmother’s sister. She wrote to my grandmother in Italy and told her come over on the boat because ‘I want to introduce you to a nice man.’”

During World War II, Mr. Lucerto was a tail gunner for the U.S. Army-Air Force in Italy, near where his parents were born. At the end of the war, he brought home a jeep and a dog named Lulu Bell, his daughter said.

In 1950, Mr. Lucerto married his wife, Jean, who preceded him in death. Like many young couples of the day, Phil and Jean lived with his parents in Bridgeport.

While working for a finance company repossessing furniture purchased by customers who had gotten behind on their credit payments, Mr. Lucerto discovered Hometown entirely by fluke, his daughter said.

“My dad had to go to Hometown, which he had never heard of before living in the city,” Jan Forney recalled. “When he came to the house he was knocking and knocking on the door. Finally the neighbor in the duplex next door came out and said that the people had moved out in the middle of the night.”

Learning that the duplex was about to go up for sale—along with the furniture that he had come to repossess—Mr. Lucerto bought the home lock, stock and barrel. He and his wife moved in and raised three daughters in the community.

Mr. Lucerto brought the same neighborhood values that he had grown up with in Bridgeport to Hometown, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

He organized the first VFW chapter in Hometown, helped start the library, and convened the city’s first recreation commission in 1967.

“My father has the very first library card ever issued,” Jan Forney said. “He was very active and social. Helping people was his whole life. It had to do with growing up in a neighborhood that was very family oriented. Back then people didn’t sit in the house and watch TV. You went out and engaged with the community.”

His young family soon outgrew the two-bedroom, one-bathroom duplex that he had purchased in the 1950s. Not desiring to leave Hometown to move to a larger home, Mr. Lucerto and a friend read a book on building room additions.

“My father worked 30 years for AllState as an insurance salesman,” his daughter said. “So he had friends who were electricians and carpenters. During the weekends they built a big addition on our house and added a basement. He made it a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a basement family room and laundry room in 1966.”

After 1985, Mr. Lucerto took a break from local politics when his second term as mayor ended. In 1999 he made his political comeback.

“After I married into the family and I moved to Hometown, he got me into politics. I ended up being 3rd Ward alderman for 11 years,” John Forney said. “In 1999 he decided to run for alderman again and won. We both sat on the city council at the same time for two years. Those were two good years.”

Mr. Lucerto enjoyed a long and active retirement up until his brief illness, when he passed away. He got to see his grandchildren grow up, golfed and worked out regularly. Like Lulu Bell, the dog he brought home from Italy at the end of World War II, a dog was always at his side.

“My father’s biggest love in the world was golf,” Jan Forney said. “He golfed to the bitter end. He was very adamant about golfing and taught me how to play when I was 14, and got my son interested in the game.”

Mr. Lucerto leaves two other daughters, Laura (Dr. Brian) Scanlan and Lynn (Lee) Hall. He was the proud “papa” of Kathryn, Ryan and Patrick Scanlan, and Philip Roper; a fond uncle to many nieces and nephews, and a special friend to many.

Services were on Monday. Friends and family may leave condolences on Mr. Lucerto's online guestbook.

In lieu of flowers, Mr. Lucerto’s family asks that donations be made in his name to the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge, 10305 Southwest Highway, Chicago Ridge, IL 60415.

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