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Local News

An Extraordinary Life: Dedicated businessman, passionate artist

Joliet man avidly pursued both

JOLIET – Phyllis Anselmino of Joliet recalled the woman who shared how, when she was young and money was tight, her mother could go to Anselmino’s Fine Foods on Fourth Avenue in Joliet, take what she needed and simply pay later.

That was typical of Richard “Dick” Anselmino: A businessman who reinvented himself when he had to close the store his parents started, a visual and musical artist, and a friend to anyone who crossed his path.

Furthermore Dick, a lifelong Joliet resident, lived each of these roles fully and deeply.

“Dick was a people person,” Phyllis said. “He never met a stranger. As soon as he saw someone, he was a friend. … He was not a golfer or bowler or anything like that. He was a home guy. Family was his life, too.”

Smiling at the remembrance, Phyllis said Dick, when he was older, took his clarinet into the bathroom, shut the door and played. It was the same clarinet Dick played as part of the Joliet Township High School band.

Twice, Phyllis said, Dick and that clarinet participated in presidential inauguration parades – Truman and Eisenhower, she said. As a biology student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, where Phyllis met her future husband, Dick, had considered going into medicine, she said.

But Dick felt his parents needed him at the store they opened in 1933. Besides, Dick loved that store, Phyllis said. Even when the neighborhood changed, Dick continued to serve the community.

“He gave those kids a break,” said Don Laurich, Dick’s son-in-law, of Channahon. “He hired a lot of those kids and gave them a chance.”

Dick sold the best meat in town, Don said. One of the advantages of being married to Dick’s daughter Denise – especially when the couple entertained – was asking Dick to drop off rib eyes on the way home.

“Of course, there would not be a charge involved,” Don said.

Persistent robberies forced Dick to eventually close the store, Phyllis said, so Dick turned to real estate, working for Karges Realty for 25 years. He kept meticulous records, Don said, including every single phone call he made, business or personal.

“And he’d print them out, not just one copy, but several copies, just in case he needed more,” Don said.

Twenty years ago, Dick had a partial amputation due to Charcot arthropathy, or neuropathy in the foot and ankle, but that didn’t stop him.

“He got his prosthetic and he was off,” Phyllis said.

Dick continued working until last year. He and Phyllis traveled – to England and to Alaska – but Dick’s favorite place was Door County, where he worked with a designer to custom create a log cabin house, built with the wood from an old barn.

“I can remember going up there in the middle of winter and going from place to place and barn to barn,” Phyllis said. “He had to find the one that was old enough.”

But that didn’t fully satisfy Dick’s creative side. On the walls of that home hung his photography. He shot autumn leaves, sailboats, water scenes and sunsets.

“He’d go out on commercial fishing boats at 3 a.m. just to get pictures,” Don said.

Dick was 80 when he died Sept. 13.

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or

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