A six-decade-long legal career came to an end Tuesday with the death Ottawa lawyer Pete Ferracuti.
The 91-year-old Ferracuti died Tuesday. Private family services will be held. Ottawa Funeral Home and Crematory is in charge of arrangements.
"I always believed Pete was an example of the American dream. He came from lower-middle class immigrant parents and ended up a millionaire lawyer in a small community. It's a lot different practicing law in a small town than in Cook County," said 84-year-old Peru lawyer Anthony Raccuglia.
A World War II veteran and Ottawa native, Ferracuti started out as an assistant prosecutor under La Salle County State's Attorney Harland Warren in 1953. At the same time, he also worked in Warren's private law office in Ottawa that handled civil matters. Ferracuti's time as a prosecutor ended when Warren lost the 1960 state's attorney election.
As a private lawyer, Ferracuti largely handled personal injury and workers' compensation cases. Ferracuti's office had been in Fox River Center, which he finished building in 1987.
"I wanted to create something that would better the city. As they say, 'We're all just passing through,'" Ferracuti told The Times during the building's construction.
Raccuglia said he rarely opposed Ferracuti in the courtroom, because their practice areas were "parallel," and although they were not close friends, they were "friendly colleagues."
"He was a very good lawyer and a gentleman. I'm sure he was proud of his daughter, Alexis, taking over his practice," Raccuglia observed.
Ottawa lawyer Michael Reagan often opposed Ferracuti in court during the past 45 years, but nonetheless respected the elder lawyer, so much so, Reagan is serving as a pallbearer for Ferracuti.
"Pete's primary attribute was his intelligence. He used his intelligence to know the law and exquisitely know the facts of his case, then figure out the likely outcome. He was a tough adversary, but in this way, he helped reach an agreement with the other side," Reagan noted.
Reagan went on to say Ferracuti's intelligent approach helped provide "predictability and stability," rather than "chaos and fights," which results when a lawyer doesn't know his case or the law.
Another Ottawa lawyer, Mike Fuller, got his start with Ferracuti.
"He gave me an opportunity to come down to Ottawa and get my practice going, for which I'm forever indebted to him," Fuller said.
Fuller added Ferracuti taught him many fine points and showed a grasp of the law and of the ins-and-outs of negotiation. Few lawyers reach the level of experience enjoyed by Ferracuti, Fuller pointed out.
"You have to appreciate any lawyer who practiced as long as he did."