Summit honors Kurcz
Firehouse named for family that donated land
By Steve Metsch
An honor that was 20 years in the making has finally happened in Summit.
At the urging of Mayor Sergio Rodriguez, the current village administration decided to dedicate the firehouse at 7339 W. 59th St. to the people who made it possible, Joseph Kurcz and his late wife Margaret Powers Kurcz.
The couple donated to the village the land where the firehouse was built. It opened in 1999.
And after a heartfelt ceremony on the warm and overcast morning of Oct. 10, a sign was unveiled that reads “Kurcz Family Summit Fire Department.”
Best of all, Joseph Kurcz, sharp as ever but now in a wheelchair, was there to see it happen. And, it all took place in front of dozens of his family members and friends on the Summit native’s 92nd birthday.
“I certainly appreciate. I never totally expected this. It’s a very big honor for me,” Kurcz said.
He donated the land “because I’m a citizen of Summit, I was born and raised in Summit, and I could afford donating it.”
Glancing up at the sign, made by Summit Sheet Metal Specialists, he smiled and called the honor “wonderful.”
He said his late wife Marge, who was 50 when she died in 1978, “would love it and be totally honored like we all are.”
“I’m very proud of my name as you well know. It is an honor. I stayed in Summit because I liked the people, I liked the community and it’s just a wonderful town,” he said.
Kurcz now lives in Burr Ridge but still owns a house on 59th Street. And he still shows up each day at work, said his son, Wayne Kurcz, of LaGrange Highlands.
Kurcz’ oldest granddaughter, Maureen Dehler, of Oswego, was thrilled to attend.
“It’s amazing. I’ve known my whole live how amazing he is. I’m so proud of him knowing there are so many people out there who know how incredible he is,” Dehler said.
“He didn’t do this for a sign. That makes this even more special,” she added.
The firehouse stands on land Kurcz located east of his business, Williams-Hayward Protective Coatings. He bought the company in 1972 after he started working there on the dock after World War II.
Kurcz, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski said, “lived the American dream,” noting that Kurz worked his way up the corporate ladder.
“But the American dream is also about giving back,” Lipinski said. “Joseph served in the Navy in World War II and his entire life here living in Summit was about giving back to the community.”
“Everyone here in Summit can look for inspiration at Joseph and what he was able to do,” Lipinski added.
Summit Fire Chief Wayne Hanson, state Sen. Martin Sandoval, state Rep. Celina Villanueva and Lyons Township Supervisor Christopher Getty also made brief comments thanking Kurcz for his dedication to and continued support of Summit.
“He was born and raised in Summit and still has strong ties to the village,” Rodriguez said. “This fire department stands as a symbol of looking out for each other. We want to recognize his contribution to the village. This is the right thing to do.”
Hanson said the fire department is “grateful to the Kurcz family for donating the land. We’re happy to see the mayor and village board made this event happen.”
Getty thanked Joseph Kurcz for the donation: “I think it’s exceptional and a superior act of kindness. It says volumes about your character and everything you do.”
Wayne Kurcz told an amusing story about his father, a Cubs fan, who was serving on a destroyer in World War II in 1945.
He had saved all his money from the Navy. On the way back, it was Game Seven of the World Series between the Cubs and Detroit Tigers.
“What did Dad do? He bet all his money with a fellow from Detroit on the seventh game. Anybody who is a Cub fan knows what happened to that,” the younger Kurcz said to laughter.
Joseph Kurcz said he forgot how much he bet in 1945 but admitted “it hurt” losing. He was finally rewarded by the 2016 champion Cubs.
“We took him to a World Series game, but they lost,” Wayne said.
In a serious note, Wayne told of his father developing the first water-based coatings that could be used on railroad cars.
“We are the most well-known water-based manufacturers of environmentally safe coatings for rail industry and coil industry,” Wayne Kurcz said.
Before 1999, the fire department shared the building on Archer Road with the police, who are still there. “It was tight,” Trustee Marvel Parker said.
“This,” Parker said nodding toward the firehouse, “was a 1997 CDBG Project. The dedication was in 1999. I was then the director of community development. I know all about it. This is my baby.”
— Desplaines Valley News
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