‘Da Barber,’ groomer of Niles cops and mayors, dies
Updated: April 8, 2013 2:03AM
One of Mary Lou Rempala’s favorite childhood memories of her father, Lorenzo Marucci, involved a place considered to be a second home: his Niles barbershop.
After playing in a park one rainy afternoon, Rempala and her mud-strewn bicycle took refuge at the small storefront shop at 7542 W. Oakton St.
Seeing this messy girl parade through the shop, a young boy getting his hair cut asked why she could bring her bike inside but he could not.
“That’s my daughter, that’s why,” Marucci simply told him.
Many years later the boy, Greg, would become Rempala’s husband.
That was Marucci’s magic: He knew how to keep people around. During his 50 years in the barbershop business, it was his generous spirit and warm personality that earned him a loyal following of customers and friends.
Lorenzo Marucci, fondly nicknamed “Da Barber,” died Jan. 20 from pneumonia and the flu. He was 75.
Though Marucci and his family had moved from Niles to Bloomingdale decades ago, he continued to work nearly daily at the shop he opened in 1961.
“He had a great worth ethic,” Rempala said. “He worked until he died. That was important to him.”
Marucci had learned to be a barber in Italy shortly before immigrating to the United States. He initially found work in downtown Chicago, but knew after a few months the hustle and bustle of the city wasn’t for him. So he took a job shining shoes with Florsheim Shoe Company, and worked evenings as a barber in Niles.
When the barbershop where he worked went up for sale, Marucci jumped on the opportunity to own it and didn’t look back.
As the pace of life quickened, Marucci’s style of business didn’t change. An old-fashioned shave and haircut, marked by personalized service, was his trademark.
“He was a hell of a worker,” recalled John Mirabelli, of Addison, who met Marucci five decades ago at Florsheim.
The hours-long wait at Lorenzo’s Barber Shop didn’t bother the five or six men who often waited in line for a cut and shave.
“People would come in for a haircut but (Marucci) would do the entertainment,” Mirabelli said. “He was well liked no matter what he did.”
Marucci became the barber of choice for Niles police and fire personnel, as well mayors Nicholas Blase and Robert Callero. Former Niles trustee George Alpogianis called Marucci an “icon of the community.”
“He probably cut hair for half of Niles for years,” he said.
Marucci, a notable workhorse, was a family man, too, friends said. He and his wife, Dolores, were married 51 years.
Joe Turner fondly recalled the times he sat with the couple on their front porch as they reminisced about Italy. He lived on the Maruccis’ block in Bloomingdale for eight years before moving to Streamwood.
Turner and Marucci also watched Sunday football games together; Marucci was a big Bears fan.
Turner said whenever his grandchildren visited, they peeked out the front window in hopes of seeing Marucci. If he were outside, the kids would go to him to say hello, hug and high-five. In the summertime, he’d give them Italian ice, Turner said.
The caring neighbor “basically became my adopted father,” he said. “It was just the warmest relationship you could ask for.”
Mirabelli said it was Marucci’s good company that attracted people to him, and ultimately, the barbershop.
“He was the life of the party,” he said. “He’ll be missed.”
Marucci was buried at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, and is survived by wife Dolores nee Caccavella, daughter Maria “Mary Lou” (Greg Rempala), and granddaughter Mia.