Richard ‘Dick’ Nardini, who worked at the Sun-Times half a century, dies at 85

Dick Nardini loved to golf.

Whether attending the annual Chicago Sun-Times golf outing to gain new advertisers for the newspaper he devoted his career to, or getting together to play 18 holes with a group of friends, it wasn’t uncommon to find Mr. Nardini out on the course.

Mr. Nardini and some of his newspaper coworkers would frequent a driving range in Des Plaines, said Vincent DeJulio, a longtime friend who worked in the production and sales departments at the Sun-Times with Mr. Nardini. When they’d take a break for lunch, DeJulio said Nardini would often order an Italian beef sandwich for lunch.

“He’d say, ‘Have the chef hold the beef,’” DeJulio said. “Everyone would just burst out laughing. I’m sure the chef in the restaurant got a kick out of it: order a sandwich and hold the meat.”

Mr. Nardini — who spent 55 years working his way up in the Sun-Times’ advertising department — died Monday of congestive heart failure. He was 85.

He started at the Sun-Times as a messenger in 1950, just shy of his 16th birthday. He met his wife, Mabel, there, through the newspaper’s bowling league, his wife said. The couple celebrated 63 years of marriage in April.

“He was a great husband and a great father,” his wife said. “He was very family-oriented,” she added, noting their five children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

At work, Mr. Nardini had a reputation for being honest and fair, DeJulio said. He spent his career building relationships with car dealerships and other businesses looking to advertise in the newspaper. Those advertisers knew they could trust Mr. Nardini, DeJulio said.

That respect didn’t stop with advertisers. Throughout the newsroom, employees knew Mr. Nardini to be a problem solver, bringing him their issues so he could suggest a solution, said David Nega, 79, who worked at the Sun-Times for 12 years.

Mr. Nardini was also a “heck of a leader,” said John Nocita, a graphics managing editor who retired from the Sun-Times before Mr. Nardini did.

“He was a great guy, a good businessman,” Nocita said. “He listened to the people around him.”

Mr. Nardini was director of classified advertising when he finally retired from the Sun-Times at age 71 in 2006. He received the prestigious Marshall Field Award in 1976 for his salesmanship, drawing in new revenue for the Sun-Times and its then-sister paper, the Chicago Daily News.

Richard “Dick” Nardini spent 55 years working in advertising at the Chicago Sun-Times. Here he is in a special section the paper produced to commemorate his 50 years of working at the Sun-Times.Sun-Times file

Outside of work, Nardini also served on the board of Leyden High School District 512 for many years. Mr. Nardini grew up in Northwest Chicago before moving to Franklin Park when he was in high school. He graduated from East Leyden High School in 1952 and remained committed to his alma mater. He and his wife raised their five children in nearby Schiller Park, living there for 57 years.

Mr. Nardini was re-elected to the school board time and again, Mabel Nardini said. In all, he served on the board 36 years — including nearly three decades as president — until stepping down in 2005.

Greg Ignoffo, who succeeded Mr. Nardini as board president, said his predecessor left “one heck of a legacy,” as Mr. Nardini was known for working to secure opportunities for every student to come through the district’s two high schools.

“His word was his bond,” Ignoffo said. “He never wavered on that whatsoever. He was a great mentor.”

Mr. Nardini and DeJulio would sometimes stop by East Leyden High School to play men’s volleyball, not deterred by the fact that the two of them were always the last ones picked for a team.

DeJulio said Mr. Nardini’s compassion flowed to the people around him, recalling a time his wife was in the hospital and Mr. Nardini sent her a box of Godiva chocolates.

Don Sylvander, who worked at the Sun-Times for 32 years, called Mr. Nardini “respected by all” and a “true gentleman.”

“You’ll never find anybody on this Earth that would have anything bad to say about Dick Nardini,” Sylvander said. “Dick was one of the greatest guys that ever worked at that paper.”

Besides his wife, survivors include sons Richard, Ronald and Robert Nardini; daughters Donna Mueller and Diane Weigt; and brothers Ronald, Eugene and Charles “Chuck” Nardini. Arrangements are pending.