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Edward August Quattrocki (Quattrocchi), a professor of English literature, book collector, commodities trader, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, died peacefully in his home on July 15. Ed was a man of many passions, which he pursued with unstinting devotion: great literature, colorful stories, fine wine, Irish wit, and the ideals of wisdom and beauty. But even more, he loved his family deeply, delighted in storytelling, carried a copy of the Constitution around in his breast pocket, and wept when he read the Gettysburg Address.
Born in 1931 at Mercy Hospital, Ed was the third of Thomas and Mary (Walsh) Quattrocki’s four children. Although his father died when he was still very young, Ed’s colorful memories of growing up in the Irish and Italian neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side stayed with him throughout his life. Until his last days, he enjoyed telling stories of working in Martini’s gas station at the corner of 63rd and Wentworth, riding the streetcar to deliver false teeth, and spending his off hours with friends, swapping stories and rooting for his beloved White Sox. He developed a brief flirtation with the priesthood, attending Quigley Seminary for one year, but quickly rejoined his buddies at Leo High School and Joe Breslin’s saloon.
After high school, Ed followed his best friend into the Coast Guard, where he was stationed in a lightship off the coast of Boston. It was during these years, filled with hours of tedium, that Ed developed his great love of literature. After leaving the Coast Guard, he pursued this intellectual passion, earning an undergraduate degree in English literature at DePaul University, a master’s degree at Stanford University and a Ph.D. at Loyola University. He interrupted his studies along the way to earn some much-needed funds, venturing south to Oklahoma City for a job, where he met his future wife, Carolyn Good, in a Great Books seminar.
Ed fell instantly in love, but Carolyn, wary of Ed’s northern roots, Italian last name, and Catholicism, was more cautious. But Edward persisted, and they married in 1958, with the first of their five children born a short 11 months later. After completing his graduate studies and again living on the South Side, Carolyn and Ed eventually settled in Athens, Ohio, where they raised their five children, and Ed spent many happy years teaching Renaissance literature, learning the art of wine and bread making, trying to elect George McGovern president, and instilling in his children an appreciation for the White Sox and Shakespeare. A city boy at heart, Ed eagerly took to small town life, insisting that his children accompany him to the local vineyard to pick grapes for his wine-making passion, and cultivating a plot of land near the Athens city pool. Always exploring new pastimes, he took up jogging before it was fashionable, and ran through the hills of Athens in an old suit and black socks.
When finances became tight, Ed took the advice of his longtime friend Don Stevens and moved the family to Evanston to begin trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. An unlikely figure on the Exchange floor, Ed continued to read the great philosophers while trading cattle options. Many fortunes were won and lost, but Ed managed to make enough money to finance his children’s college and graduate school educations. He also remained connected to his intellectual pursuits through book collecting, writing for the Caxton and Literary Clubs, enjoying the symphony, and inspiring his children and grandchildren’s love of great literature. Ed and Carolyn eventually became grandparents, and Ed delighted in his role as a grande ruota (big wheel) to 16 grandchildren and one great grandson. He chronicled with wit and excruciating detail the goings on of his now-extended family with a yearly Christmas letter that often ran well over 80 pages.
A man of many contradictions, he was an optimist at heart with a streak of Sicilian melancholy, evidenced by his favorite line from Shakespeare, “The worst is not/ So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’” He loved his time alone in his study, but never missed an opportunity to gather friends and family in his living room, eliciting stories from guests and regaling his audience from his own vast oeuvre. He insisted that every occasion, even the most quotidian, could be translated into a funny story. His highest praise was reserved for those who saw humor in themselves and others, often quoting Shakespeare’s Falstaff: “I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.”
He was expansive in his passions, his love of life, his welcoming of friends and strangers alike into his life. He often told his children that the world was divided into two categories, those who loved to be hosts, and those who loved to be guests. Placing himself firmly in the host category, he famously asked Carolyn to make extra food every night in case someone stopped by who might wish to stay for dinner.
Visitation and funeral mass will be held Thursday, July 21.