Charles (Chuck) Raymond Dressel, of River Forest, died on Jan. 22, 2018 at the age of 68. Born on Sept. 11, 1949 in Oak Park to Raymond and Blanche Dressel, the oldest of four siblings, he attended Grace Lutheran School and went onto excel in three sports: football, wrestling, and track & field at Oak Park and River Forest High School, where he was named the school’s 1967 Athlete of the Year. As a senior, he was honored as an all-star football athlete by the Chicago Tribune and received the Knute Rockne Award, bestowed by the University of Notre Dame. He was also a standout three-sport athlete at Princeton University.
After graduating in 1971, he returned home to assist his father with the running and managing of the Dressel Family Hardware Store. Started by his grandfather in 1923, the store at 1137 Chicago Ave. remains one of Oak Park’s oldest businesses.
In 1976, Jan Novak, a young teacher and local resident, wandered into the store to buy lawn care supplies. She and Chuck found kinship in the fertilizer aisle and began dating. The pair were married the following January and eventually purchased a home a few blocks from the store. Over the next decade, they welcomed three children — two girls and a boy. He became active in the local sports community, coaching youth teams and fundraising for the OPRF Huskie Booster Club. He was instrumental in securing the funding to construct the Keystone Park batting cages, procure additional fields across from the high school, and light the football stadium.
He practiced softball pitching with his daughters for hours on end, devotedly dragging gear and equipment on every family vacation. During winter months, he engineered an indoor pitching studio on the upper floor of the hardware storage facility, equipped with a kerosene cannon heater and a life-size “batter” made out of pink styrofoam. His daughters affectionately recall the numerous dents in that styrofoam and dragging their feet through the snow to practice, spurred on by their dad’s resolve that repetition was the only path to improvement.
He was especially keen on passing on his love of wrestling and football to his only son, Blake. The two of them were fixtures in the Little Huskies Wrestling Club and youth football program. Some of Chuck’s proudest moments were watching Blake qualify for high school state wrestling three years in a row and lead his football team as captain and MVP during his senior season.
“He was a rare lover of lima beans, an accomplished baritone shower singer, and suffered from abysmal penmanship,” said daughter Emily.
His children remember his exuberance whenever there was a major snowfall as it meant more customers coming into the store to stock up on shovels and ice melter. He also jokingly proclaimed that dandelions were his favorite flower, given that he was the town’s local purveyor of weed killer.
In his later years, Chuck struggled with bipolar disorder and heart disease, resulting in compromised physical mobility. Despite that, he adored interacting with his four grandchildren, one of whom is currently learning the sport of wrestling.
Chuck is survived by his wife, Jan Novak Dressel; his children, Emily (Brad) Hampson, Amy (Bryan) Pritchard and Blake Dressel; his grandchildren, Brady, Bridget, Jack and Grace; his siblings, Beth Ann, Bob (Nora), and Todd (Erin); and several nieces and nephews.
Private family services have been held per the deceased’s request. In lieu of flowers, the family graciously asks that any donations be made in Chuck’s name to Huskie Wrestling Family (427 Thomas Ave, Forest Park, IL 60130) or via the link on http://www.oprfwrestling.com.
Chuck’s eulogy can be read at http://emilydressel.blogspot.com/2018/01.