Anyone who wasn’t a friend of Riverside resident Joseph Petrzilka IV simply never met him. A remarkably outgoing man who was involved in a bevy of local Riverside business, fraternal and governmental organizations, Petrzilka always lit up a room.
Even in his capacity as a funeral director and owner of Ivins Funeral Home, Petrzilka had the ability to help families transcend the sorrow of the loss of a loved one.
“Joe was a really dynamic person,” said longtime business associate David Moravecek. “I was amazed at how many families who he helped with funerals are his friends now. At wakes he was a goodwill ambassador.”
Many of those friends paid their final respects Monday and Tuesday to Petrzilka, who succumbed to a three-year bout with cancer on May 19, 2006. Visitation was at Ivins Funeral Home on East Burlington Street in Riverside. He was 70 years old.
Raised in Berwyn, Petrzilka graduated from Morton High School in Cicero in 1953 and Lake Forest College before heading off to Michigan State University for graduate studies. A stint in the U.S. Army, including a two-year hitch in Germany, interrupted his schooling.
When he returned, Petrzilka decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, and enrolled in Worsham College of Mortuary Sciences.
He joined his father at Park-Wyn Funeral Home on Roosevelt Road in Berwyn, married Bonnie Truhlar in 1963 and moved to Riverside shortly thereafter. Petrzilka remained at Park-Wyn for many years before buying Ivins Funeral Home from the Triner family in January of 1979.
During that time Moravecek, whose family owned Moravecek Funeral Home in Cicero, often worked with Petrzilka and his son, Gregory. When Gregory left the business in 1997, Moravecek became Petrzilka’s partner.
In 1999, Moravecek took over as the owner of Ivins. And even though he had officially relinquished the reins, Petrzilka stayed on as a funeral director at Ivins, working in between his many local volunteer responsibilities and his trips abroad.
He was on the board of directors of the Riverside Lions Club, a past president of the Berwyn Lions Club, past president of the Riverside Swim Club, past president of the Riverside-Brookfield High School Boosters and past president of the Riverside-Brookfield Caucus.
In addition, Petrzilka served the Village of Riverside as a member of the Riverside Recreation Commission and Economic Development Commission. He was a member and past president of the Riverside Chamber of Commerce. In 1991, he was named Riverside’s Man of the Year by the chamber.
He also was a member of the Bohemian Funeral Directors and Ceska Beseda. He was also fiercely loyal to his high school classmates and started a reunion committee to ensure the Morton Class of ’53 reunited every five years.
“You name it, he did it. That’s the kind of person he was,” said longtime friend Ellen Herda, who was a classmate at Morton with Petrzilka. “I never knew him to go into a place where he either didn’t know someone or didn’t make a friend there immediately.”
Petrzilka loved world travel, and was especially fond of Africa, where he eventually bought some land and built a house, according to Moravecek. He also loved spending time with his family and friends, playing bridge and pinochle and dancing.
Petrzilka and wife, Bonnie, divorced four years ago, but reconciled and remained very close friends until his death.
“He was very good to people,” Bonnie Petrzilka said. “He was warm and loving and very caring for people. He had a full life.”
Petrzilka is also survived by his children, Joseph (Alison) Petrzilka and Gregory (Janet) Petrzilka; his grandchildren, Alexis, Tatiana and Charlie; and his sister, Cherie King. He was preceded in death by his grandson, Joseph Petrzilka VI.
Memorial contributions were appreciated to Hinsdale Neo Natal Unit, 7 Salt Creek Lane, Suite 203, Hinsdale, Ill. 60521 or the Riverside Township Lions Club, 27 Riverside Road, Riverside, Ill. 60546.