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Businessman, Longtime Arlington International Racecourse Owner Dick Duchossois Dies

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Businessman and longtime Arlington international Racecourse owner Richard L. Duchossois died Friday at the age of 100.

According to a news release, Duchossois passed away at his home in Barrington Hills.

Duchossois is best known for the horseracing track in Arlington Heights, the property for which the Chicago Bears signed signed a $197 million purchasing agreement this past September.

Duchossois purchased what was then known as Arlington Park in 1983. Two years later, the whole facility was destroyed by fire – and Duchossois was credited not only with rebuilding the racetrack, but also holding the Arlington Million horserace just days after the fire.

Duchossois was born Oct. 7, 1921, and grew up in the Beverly community. He attended Morgan Park Academy, and was called into service with the U.S. Army in World War II when he was 20.

In World War II, Duchossois served with the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion and served as the commander of a Tank Destroyer Company during the European campaigns. He was shot during the war, but recovered and fought in such operations as the Battle of the Bulge, according to the news release.

Duchossois received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service in World War II, among other honors.

Duchossois married his wife, Beverly, in 1943, and their first son, Craig, was born the following year when Duchossois was serving in World War II. The couple had three more children – Dayle, Bruce, and Kimberly – and they settled in south suburban Flossmoor, the release said.

After returning from the war, Duchossois went on to join his wife's family business, Chicago Heights-based Thrall Car Manufacturing Company, which manufactured and repaired railcar parts. The company only had 35 employees at the time, but had 3,000 employees and a production capacity of 16,000 rail cars per year when Trinity Rail Group acquired it in 2001, according to the news release.

Duchossois went on to buy the Chamberlain Manufacturing Group, broadcast outlets, and of course, Arlington Park.

His wife, Beverly, died of cancer in 1980. She was treated at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and Duchossois made a major philanthropic gift to the hospital two years before she died, the release said.

The Duchoissois Family Foundation later began as a philanthropic organization.

Duchossois also brought the 2002 Breeders Cup to Arlington International Racecourse, and he was inducted into the National Museum and Racing Hall of Fame in 2019, the release said.

Arlington Park merged with Churchill Downs Inc. in 2000.

On June 17, 2021,, the Bears released a statement saying they submitted a bid to purchase the Arlington racetrack property.

The racetrack was forced to close for a couple months in 2020 to the pandemic, but resumed horse races in July. But Churchill Downs announced in February 2021 that the racetrack would be going up for sale, and its last horseraces were held in September of that year.

Despite the purchasing agreement with Arlington Racecourse, the Bears have said it's not a done deal.

Arlington International Racecourse issued the following statement:

"The loss of our wonderful friend and leader Mr. D leaves the Arlington Family with a heavy heart, yet we are warmed by the memories he gave us and the communities he touched through his long life.

"We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Judi and his surviving children Craig, Dayle and Kim and their large extended family.

"Mr. D accomplished many good things in life. He worked hard and always followed the path of honesty and integrity which is a gift that he passed on to all of us around him. We are most grateful to him for sharing this gift with us.

"Mr. D loved being around people, being a part of the community, picking people up by their boot-straps and watching them succeed. He was the consummate teacher, he always preached "Don't Expect What You Didn't Inspect", to take the responsibility you place on others, upon yourself as well.

"We are forever grateful for his loyalty and enduring friendship.

"HAPPY TRAILS to you, until we meet again."

The Bears also left condolences, with Chairman George McCaskey calling Duchossois "equally at home talking to world luminaries or to workers on the backstretch."

Due to COVID-19, there will be no visitation for Duchossois. Funeral services and burial will be private.

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