On September 25, 2005 the legal community lost a true giant in the Hon. Anthony M. Peccarelli, who was 77 at the time. I had the pleasure of knowing Judge Peccarelli personally and professionally and respectfully submit this article to honor his memory.
Tony, as he liked to be called by his friends, was a private and unassuming person born and raised in Newark, New Jersey from humble beginnings; his father a dairy salesman and his mother a homemaker. Near the end of World War II Tony enlisted in the Marine Corps and served his country with honor before being discharged and moving to Wisconsin to attend Beloit College. There he played on the football team and met his wife, Mary, whom he married in 1953. Mary passed away a few months before her husband in April, 2005.
The young couple soon moved to the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Illinois where they raised three children: Andrew, David and Laura. Tony worked his way through John Marshall Law School, often riding the train downtown with another student by the name of John Bowman, also to become a Judge in DuPage County and currently a sitting Judge on the Second District Appellate Court.
When he began practicing in DuPage County Tony became a trailblazer — there were few Italian-American attorneys in the county at the time. And Tony often remarked on the tough times he endured because of his ethnicity. But he persevered and was hired by Bill Bauer to work in the State’s Attorney’s office where Tony because First Assistant States Attorney in 1965. A few years later he entered private practice and eventually became the founding member and first President of the DuPage County Chapter of the Justinian Society of Lawyers. The Chapter recently celebrated its 25th Anniversary and includes many prominent practicing lawyers from around the county.
In 1970, the Illinois Constitution was 100 years old and in need of being updated. A Constitutional Convention was convened and Tony served as the DuPage County delegate along with the late Hon. Helen Kinney. So in a sense, Tony co-authored the present Illinois Constitution
From 1975-1976 Tony proudly served as President of the DuPage County Bar Association. A few years later in 1979 he became an Associate Judge in the Eighteenth Circuit, was elected a full circuit Judge soon afterwards, and was ultimately chosen to be Chief Judge by his peers.
It was during Tony’s tenure that the Court moved from a small building in downtown Wheaton to the complex on County Farm Road where it sits today. Shortly after opening, the building began experiencing air quality problems requiring some courts to move to makeshift courtrooms in other buildings. This was a monumental challenge, as DuPage County has the second largest court system in Illinois: but Tony was up to the task. Following his term as Chief Judge Tony was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court where he served until retiring in 1994.
As if this were not enough, Tony was appointed DuPage County State’s Attorney when Jim Ryan was elected to be Illinois’ Attorney General. After completing his term Tony returned to private practice and became a much sought after mediator. He also served as the county’s first Ethics Officer.
Tony loved to play golf, although the game did not love him back (if you know what I mean). He was known for giving or taking a gentleman’s mulligan off the first tee and one on each of the front and back sides. In the game of life however, Tony took no mulligans and counted every stroke. Our foursome at Bartlett Hills Golf Course will miss him dearly, as well my fellow members of the bar.