Summit loses a friend
Joseph Kurcz donated land for firehouse
By Steve Metsch
Joseph Kurcz never forgot his roots.
He was born in Summit, attended school in Summit, met his childhood sweetheart in Summit, raised their six children in Summit, worked his way from janitor to owner of a successful business in Summit and even donated land for a firehouse in Summit.
He was loyal, faithful, honest, a good father and a hard worker, daughter Maureen Kurcz, of Burr Ridge, said Jan. 14.
Mr. Kurcz, 92, died peacefully Jan. 12 at his home in Burr Ridge with his family in attendance.
He owned Williams-Hayward Protective Coatings on 59th Street in Summit. Land just east of the company is what he donated to the village for construction of the fire station, which, 20 years later last October, was named the “Kurcz Family Summit Fire Department.”
Mr. Kurcz was there that day, his 92nd birthday. He sat in a wheelchair, but his mind was sharp as he recalled details about his life.
“I never totally expected this. It’s a very big honor for me,” he said that day.
He donated the land “because I’m a citizen of Summit, I was born and raised in Summit, and I could afford donating it.”
He said his late wife, Marge, 50 when she died in 1978, “would love it and be totally honored like we all are,” he said.
Maureen said her parents met when they were 15 and 14, had a “storybook romance.”
“My grandmother, my mother’s mother, really loved my dad. When they broke up, as couples do, my father would communicate with letters with my grandmother. It kept that fire alive,” Maureen said.
Her father was a man of great faith, she said, which helped him cope with the deaths of Marge and two adult sons, Joseph and Patrick, Maureen said.
A Navy veteran of World War II, Mr. Kurcz served on a destroyer, surviving a typhoon, she said. That Navy background probably led him to conduct inspections of his kids’ rooms, she said.
“He was the embodiment of that generation. You just pushed through. If we got sick as kids, he’d ask, ‘Can you walk?’ Yes. ‘Do you need to go to the emergency room?’ No. ‘Are you dying?’ No. ‘Okay, you can go to school,” she recalled with a laugh.
Even in his advanced years, he still showed up at work daily, said his eldest son, Wayne Kurcz, of La Grange Highlands.
The elder Kurcz bought the company in 1972. He had started working there on the dock after the war. At work, Joseph Kurcz developed 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.
Visiting with him Saturday morning, Maureen said she thanked her father for “his bravery.”
“He was brave when my mom died. My dad had all these children and a business, and now his beloved beautiful wife, whom he adored, was gone. My dad was a man of faith and he truly believed that we will all be together again,” Maureen said.
At the firehouse dedication, Wayne Kurcz told an amusing story about his father, a Cubs fan, who was coming home in 1945 after serving in World War II.
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 that “hurt,” but he was finally rewarded by the Cubs’ 2016 Word Championship. He attended one game of the Series, having fun despite the Cubs losing.
Mr. Kurcz served on the Scholarship Committee for Argo High School, on the Des Plaines Valley Planning Commission for the Village of Summit, and was a longtime member of Des Plaines VFW Post 6863.
Services have been held.
— Desplaines Valley News
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