A remarkable Joliet family will be installed in the Hall of Pride November 3, 2016. Check the Our Banquet button for details on getting your seat. The Pritz family and Terry D'Arcy are our honorees in 2016.
Tell me about Ken Pritz and the Pritz family, I asked Carol Pritz, two daughters, and a granddaughter recently. The phrase “Close Your Eyes, and Imagine This” is what I learned.
Joliet benefits today from the legacy of the late Ken Pritz, Joliet Pharmacist and entrepreneur and his family. Ken Pritz died in 2015. The Pritz heritage includes the early planning and spadework as a City Councilman in the 1970’s that led to the development of the Billie Limacher Will/Joliet Bicentennial Park. The Pritz family still owns and operates the oldest pharmacy in Illinois, E.B. Brown company. Their Jacob Henry Mansion complex is an east side jewel that is known nationally as a reception and wedding destination. Carol Pritz joked that Ken “always wanted to be a farmer, but his mother said that Ken spelled it wrong, and became a pharmacist instead.”
Carol Pritz said her husband often pondered, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” He was never too old for anything. At age 54, he performed cartwheels in front of his grandchildren to celebrate his son’s college graduation.
“We have always known vision,” Carol Pritz told me, referring to her life with her husband, Ken Pritz. “We would sit somewhere and create, sometimes drawing out a plan on the nearest paper, often just a napkin.” Ken Pritz sketched building layouts everywhere. The family traveled a lot, so sometimes the ideas would come while sitting on a picnic bench at a roadside park. Sometimes the two would drive to a place where no phone could interrupt the process. The family retains a plank of wood, a two-by-four, in which Ken Pritz drew detailed building plans onto the flat surface. Some occasions, when Ken Pritz ushered family members into a building with raw, unfinished interiors, he would simply say, “Close your eyes and imagine this.” He described to the mind’s eye what the purpose and the interior should look like. No wonder, daughter Sue Pritz-Bornhofer referred to her dad as “the Walt Disney of Joliet.” He was in the imagination game.
Carol Pritz said each morning with Ken was “a whole new beginning, often greeting the dawn with the expression, “What shall we do today?” As children growing up in Joliet, Ken Pritz enchanted his children creating stories out of whole cloth. “It was hard not to listen” and accompany their father around the neighborhood in what he called a roving adventure, singing a song. Sue and Amanda recalled family bicycle parades concocted by their father, complete with balloons and flags tied to the children’s bicycles. Sometimes there was a boom box included that brought neighbors out of their front doors to learn what the clatter was all about. The parades became a learning experience as their father paused to explain details of local history. Eventually grandchildren and neighborhood kids joined into these impromptu parades around the block. At the end, everyone received a popsicle. It was a snapshot of how life should be, Ken Pritz style. “Let’s go bummin’,” was the Pritz call for a bicycle learning tour. Once the parade of bicyclists halted at the construction of the Harrah’s Casino. The foundation digs impressed the children as Ken Pritz described what grand structures would emerge from so humble a beginning as holes in the ground. “Imagine this,” Ken Pritz described the buildings to be to the goggle eyed kids.
On the excursions Pritz would ask the children, “Where are all these people going?” who passed by challenging their imagination.
“Once,” Sue reported on a bicycle tour with a crowd of children, “my father led us into Kline’s Department Store in downtown Joliet…without shoes!”
To be Coninued: Part Two descirbes how the family gained the Jacob Henry Mansion.