News - Joliet and Will County

Bob Hacker, Joliet City Council member for 34 years who forged path for Louis Joliet Mall, dies

Hacker initiated Joliet push to get mall inside city limits

Visitation will be held Sunday for Robert Hacker, a longtime member of the Joliet City Council whose accomplishments included an initiative to ensure that the Louis Joliet Mall was built in Joliet.

Hacker, 87, died Saturday at his Joliet home, according to his obituary.

He served on the City Council for 34 years before losing an election in 2005.

Hacker also was part of a family lumber business, Hacker Lumber, and later became a salesman for the former Alexander Lumber in Joliet for 36 years until December, according to his obituary.

Hacker retained his interest in city government and appetite for activity, said Michael Turk, a friend and a fellow former council member who, like Hacker, served for 34 years.

“Up until five weeks ago, he was his old self,” Turk said. “He was interested in in what was going on with the city and what was going on with the council.”

Hacker since December, when he was no longer a salesman for Alexander, “was just wishing he could do something for half a day,” Turk said. “He needed something to do.”

That energy served Joliet well in the 1970s when Hacker learned that land was being bought up in an unincorporated area between Joliet and Plainfield for an indoor shopping mall, the biggest development trend in retail at the time.

He brought the project to the city’s attention and urged a push to ensure that the mall would be part of Joliet.

Hacker personally met with residents and property owners in the area to persuade them to annex to Joliet as part of the effort to extend city boundaries to the mall site, which could have become part of the village of Plainfield.

He also went to Homart Development Company, the Sears subsidiary that was believed to be building the mall but trying to work behind the scenes, to convince the company that the mall should be in Joliet.

”I tried to get a meeting, and they kept putting it off,” Hacker told The Herald-News in a 2018 interview. “So I said, ‘You don’t let me in, I’m going to blow this up in the news media.’ We had a meeting.”

In 2018, the 40th anniversary year of the mall’s opening, the city designated a section of Essington Road leading to the mall in Hacker’s honor.

Hacker was part of a network of civic-minded business people that continued to meet regularly after his departure from the council. They included Joe Shetina, a council member for 36 years who also served with Hacker and who died in April.

“Our group is getting smaller every day,” Hacker said after Shetina died.

Among Hacker’s survivors are his wife, Katherine “Cottie,” and daughter, Diane.

Visitation on Sunday will be 1 to 6 p.m. at the Fred C. Dames Funeral Home, 3200 black Road, Joliet.

More details are provided in Hacker’s obituary in The Herald-News and on the Fred C. Dames Funeral Home website.