Many who knew former Marengo resident and fireman, Angelo “Mickey” Zito, said they will remember him for his genuine acts of kindness, caring smile, and giving heart.
Mickey, a former Marengo resident for 16 years, passed away at age 86, on April 29, 2011. He was born on March 27, 1925, and later attended elementary school at Sacred Heart Church in Melrose Park and high school at Proviso in Maywood. He married his wife Darlene in 1947, and became a father; and later, a grandparent. The Zito’s children include: Michael Zito, Timothy Zito, Mari Lynn Bracco, Jeanne McDaniel, and Claire Smunt.
“He was a family man,” Jeanne said. “It was my mother, his kids, and then, it was the fire department. His family always came first in anything he did. He did everything for his family. I’m very lucky and very proud.”
Zito started as a volunteer fireman with the title of captain, and later became one of five full-time staff members for the fire department in Melrose Park, Darlene said. He then became a fire investigator for the Fire Marshal’s Office in the State of Illinois.
“He just got off the department probably the same week he started as a fire investigator, and he was there for 28 years,” Darlene said. “He was so happy to be a fireman. He always wanted to be a fireman; and when we dated, he would always be late. I’d open up the door, and he’d always be dirty and full of soot. And he’d say, ‘Well, there was a fire and I had to help. But I think he looked for the fires.”
Mickey and his friend, Bob, also a former resident and fireman of Melrose Park, used to help at the scenes of many fires. Mickey also helped at the Our Lady of Angels School fire, and was at the scene helping when two planes crashed at the O’Hare airport, Darlene said.
Darlene said that one time, they were heading home from shopping in Crystal Lake and saw a fire truck headed to a fire.
I said, “Mick, let’s go chase it,” she said. “We got there just as the truck got there. So, he jumps out and starts laying hoses with the guys. He couldn’t say no. Whenever he saw a fire and whenever there was something he could do, he was there. He was a volunteer a lot of times. His kids would [laugh] and say, ‘Can you sit on your hands just once?’ The two of us really volunteered for anything we could volunteer for.”
In addition to being a fireman, Mickey also worked for Sacred Heart School in Melrose Park as a school bus driver; for Marsh & McLennan Companies selling insurance; for Melrose Park Racetrack, handling security; for Douglas Aircraft as an airplane mechanic; and as a truck driver.
Darlene said he was very caring and, “to a point, ambitious.”
“One time, there was a snowstorm, and we had a lot of babies in the neighborhood,” she said. ‘Mick said, ‘You know what, they’ve got to have milk.’
Mickey went to the neighbor’s homes and asked for their orders. He then went to Bowman Dairy in River Forest who told him the milk would spoil if they delivered it by truck, Darlene said.
“So, they gave him all the milk and he delivered it to all the families in the neighborhood, she said. He did a lot of good for a lot of people.”
Jeanne said her father loved animals and loved to help nurture stray animals, making them into pets. They also had a farm for 28 years that included many animals.
When the Zito’s moved to Marengo, the first thing Mickey did was check out the fire station in Marengo, Darlene said. She said he was “always over there.”
Darlene said she has appreciated all the help from her neighbors in Marengo with taking them places, mowing the lawn, and always being there when they needed them.
“Our kids always said, ‘You couldn’t have found better neighbors,’ she said. “We were older, and they accepted us. [Mickey] just thought the world of them.”
Gina and Richard Schultz, Marengo residents and neighbors of the Zito’s, said their family knew Mickey for several years.
“Mickey and Darlene moved next door to us when our daughters were 14 and 11,” Richard said. “Mickey was like another Grandpa to them. He was a good, caring friend and neighbor.”
Gina said Mickey loved to be outside taking care of his yard and flowers.
“[He enjoyed] life to the fullest, surrounded with family and friends,” Gina said. “We have many happy memories shared over coffee and dessert. We will miss him dearly.”
Darlene said she and Mickey also joined Sacred Heart Church as soon as they came to Marengo, and helped organize the St. Joseph’s Table. He was also a member of the choir, a lector, and a cantor.
Peg Bowman, from Sacred Heart Church in Marengo, said Mickey loved being a Catholic and was very grounded in his faith.
“When I met him, he was on the Parish Council, a member of the choir, and had brought the custom of the St. Joseph’s Table to Sacred Heart Parish and to the whole community of Marengo,” Bowman said.
“This traditional offering of a table laden with traditional non-meat Italian foods was a way to honor the great St. Joseph and to feed the poor. It was largely due to Mickey and Darlene’s efforts that we had a St. Joseph’s Table at Sacred Heart every March for many years. His joyful smile—a grin from ear-toear— was the hospitable welcome people saw first when they arrived for the celebration.”
Many friends and family members attended both services in Melrose Park and in Marengo, filling both churches. Darlene said she and her family want to thank the Marengo Fire Department for the tribute to her husband at his service.
“They had a nice tribute to Mickey,” she said. “The honor guard was great. We really appreciate everything they did.”
Claire said her father was a mentor and a friend.
“I am so privileged to be his daughter,” she said.“I was so fortunate to have him in my life.” He was always there to help and support us. He encouraged all of his children’s endeavors and was anxious to be a part of everything in our world. He was such an important part of all of our lives. He was so proud of his grandchildren and was so happy he got to know what wonderful men and women they grew up to be. There is such a void for the loss all of us feel; however, we are blessed with endless cherished memories of such a great man, father, and grandfather.”
Bob, now a current Florida resident, said Mickey Zito was a, “man who wore many hats.”
“Whatever he chose to do in life, he did it well,” he said. “[Mickey] was a man that made his mark in life and had more than his allotted 15 minutes of fame. His legend will live on for many years to come.”