Frank J. Muriello, 92, died at Brookdale in Oak Park on May 31, 2020. Born in Oak Park on March 28, 1928 to Joseph and Mary Muriello, he was the brother of Rose, Marie and Jack, all now deceased.
The son of a Sicilian immigrant, he was raised in an apartment above his dad’s grocery store, Cardinal Food Mart, on the southwest corner of Madison and East Avenue. He graduated from Ascension Grammar School in 1942, Fenwick High School in 1946, and Loyola University in 1950.
He had a 65-year love affair with an Irish girl from Chicago’s West Side, Eileen Simpson. Married in 1950, they had seven children, 15 grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren.
His business career started at the former Oak Park Federal Savings & Loan (now Byline Bank), then as president of Life Savings in Melrose Park. In the 1960s he became a real estate appraiser and had a reputation as one of the greatest appraisal minds of his generation.
His loves included his wife (desperately), his kids, Keeler’s Resort on Lake Metonga in Crandon, Wisconsin where the family vacationed each summer from the 1950s to the ’70s, Ascension Parish where he was an usher at Sunday Mass for approximately four decades, and Jesus Christ.
He also loved Oak Park and wanted to give back to his community. He became a pillar of that community, serving as a village trustee from 1981-85, then head the Oak Park Residence Corporation (aka ResCorp) from 1986 to 1998, as well as the Oak Park Housing Authority, both of which were among several core village public/private partnership organizations. ResCorp resisted blight in Oak Park by buying some two dozen “troubled” multifamily buildings, rehabbing them, and selling them to new owners and/or managing them. He became known as Oak Park’s “blight fighter.”
During his time on the village board, his brainchild, the Equity Assurance Program, ensured that homeowners would be covered in the event that housing values crashed as the village began to diversify. That program has been credited with stopping “white flight” and leading to Oak Park’s success in maintaining stable diversity.
In a 1998 interview with Wednesday Journal, he talked about the importance of diversity:
“It’s surprising the flavor that somebody who comes from a different background brings. The wisdom that people bring from diverse cultures is just amazing, and when you don’t have it, you lose something. Not to have that diversity is almost incestuous. Who are you talking to, the same people all the time? Who is my fellow man? People are more respectful of each other when there’s diversity.”
Being a second-generation Italian-American, he and his family experienced their share of prejudice, yet he never expressed resentment and always preached that everyone deserves respect and a chance.
He was also an early investor in Wednesday Journal.
“When they get around to writing the history of the modern village of Oak Park,” said Ed Solan, who succeeded him as executive director of ResCorp, “Frank’s name should be prominently featured along with Jim McClure, Bobbie Raymond, and others of their generation. He had a major impact on racial integration and the stabilization of the village’s rental housing market at a time when both were in question. He combined the acumen of a savvy banker and appraiser with a strong vision for the future of the village. Oak Park owes a major debt of gratitude to Frank for the work he did to make the village the outstanding place we know today.”
To his kids he was a quiet leader, kind, loving and thoughtful.
“I was never afraid,” said his son, Tom, who joined him in the appraisal business. “We learned by his example and strength, and the gift of his love of my mom.”
Frank Muriello was the husband of the late Eileen (nee Simpson); the father of Daniel (the late Teri), David (Karen), Thomas (Laurie), Paul (Sara), John, Joseph (Maria), and Anne (the late Patrick) Farrelly; grandfather of Marcus, Lucas, Peter, Kaylie, Michael, Daniel, Joseph, Martin, Connor, Paul, Sara, Monica, Anna, Sean and the late Ryan Farrelly; great-grandfather of eight; and brother of the late Rose Chausse, Marie Reichenbach and Jack Muriello. Due to the coronavirus, funeral services were private. Arrangements were handled by Gamboney & Son Funeral Directors.