Ed Duffy was a Chicago tough guy with street smarts gained from his time on the city's police force and organized crime unit. He was also comfortable roaming the halls of the state capitol in Springfield as chief of staff for Gov. Jim Thompson and director of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Abuse and the Department of Public Aid.
But Mr. Duffy changed careers in his 40s, going to work for Arlington Park owner Richard Duchossois when the state approved off-track wagering. He oversaw Arlington's OTB operations and was part of the team involved in rebuilding the track after a fire that burned it to the ground. In 1990 he was named Arlington Park president. He was engaging, enthusiastic and friendly, had a warm smile, and tried to build consensus in an industry where people traditionally don't get along.
Ed Duffy died from pulmonary fibrosis last Saturday at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, where he had also been on the city's board of trustees. He was 68 years old.
Mr. Duffy served three years as president of Arlington Park – where there is really only one man in charge: Richard Duchossois. He surprised many when he suddenly jumped ship, moving across town to Sportsman's Park to become chief operating officer. He was there when the Bidwill family that owned the track made the disastrous decision to partner with an auto racing group and turn Sportsman's into a dual use facility for cars and horse racing. It opened in 1999 and lasted a few years before going closing after a failed run. Mr. Duffy stepped down as COO in 2000, then spent several years working as a lobbyist for Hawthorne, the Chicago-area's third Thoroughbred track. He also lobbied for the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association in the late 1990s.
Mr. Duffy is survived by his wife of 46 years, Nancy; five daughters and eight grandchildren.
To read Mr. Duffy's obituary click here.
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