Anthony J. “A.J.” Rich was born on Dec. 29, 1916, in DePue, Ill., a small town along the Illinois River, five miles from LaSalle and Peru.
A.J.’s father was a cabinetmaker from Yugoslavia who settled in DePue, and A.J.’s mother, Ursula, sadly passed away when he was four. A.J. had one older sister, Mary, and one younger brother, Walter, and was raised by his stepmom, Agnes, who also had three kids, Alfred, John and Richard.
At the age of 10, A.J. developed an interest in electronics. His father bought a Philco radio with a short wave band, and as soon as A.J. got ahold of the radio, he began adjusting it and heard people talking and exchanging call letters. He also got his hands on a Sears Catalog that outlined how to build a crystal set and receive radio signals.
While he was still in high school, A.J. fixed the local community’s radios and soon opened his own radio shop in downtown DePue. He also sold appliances. After he graduated high school in 1934, that summer A.J. did some research and learned he wanted to one day become a HAM Radio Operator. At age 21, he married Katharine Toscana, who was from Standard, Ill., a small farming community near the Illinois River Valley.
A.J. lived in DePue for one year and still ran his electronics shop. His Philco Radio supplier told A.J. that the United States Army Signal Corps was looking for HAM Operators to become instructors, and they gave the Colonel A.J.’s name. Shortly thereafter, A.J. got a call from the military to come out for a meeting with the Colonel in Chicago.
A.J. met with the Colonel as the military interviewing positions for the United States Signal Corps instructors to train the army men how to use and repair the radio equipment used during the second World War for the Marines hitting the beachheads at Normandy. When A.J. got up to leave, the Colonel said that classes started “first thing tomorrow morning.” At that time, these classes were held at Navy Pier.
A.J., Katharine, and their two children Jerry and twin sister Janice prepared to move to Chicago and eventually found an apartment on the corner of Montrose and Mozart. A.J. spent his nights at the Illinois Institute of Technology where he earned a degree in electrical engineering. By 1943, he was no longer needed in the Signal Corps and so he transitioned to a position with Motorola within their engineering lab until 1948. He remembered Bob Galvin occasionally walking through the lab.
A.J. and his family lived in the city until 1948 and then he built a house in Villa Park, Ill. From 1948-1952, he worked for a communications company in Chicago. In 1952, he started his own business in communications, Rich Inc. and that same year developed a multi-communication system that is still used in schools and hospitals today. He gained many relationships with architects and engineers developing state-of-the-art communications systems during the 1950s and beyond.
When the ‘70s hit, technology changed. Always staying on the knee of technology, A.J. was prepared to follow the transition from vacuum tubes to solid-state circuitry to integrated circuits to finally microprocessors and software.
In 1961, his son Jerry graduated from Northern Illinois University and began to work closely alongside A.J.
In the mid-1970s, the era of digital technology hit, and in 1974, the Apple 1 came out. At that time, A.J. bought the first Apple 1, designed his company’s ROS (Rich Operating Systems), and determined how to apply their software and programming for microprocessors and multiple applications.
A.J.’s company, Rich Inc., went on to integrate audio, video, and data in educational and medical centers, which led to the integration of computer terminals in the trading industry that positioned his company as the world leader in information retrieval.
A funeral Mass for A.J. was held on Saturday at St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church, 8S055 Dugan Road, Sugar Grove. Fr. Bob Jones officiated. Private family interment took place place at Valley Memorial Park, Spring Valley, Ill.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be directed to St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church, P.O. Box 1189, Sugar Grove, IL 60554 or to the Kid’s Golf Association of Northern Illinois, P.O Box 610. Sugar Grove, IL 60554.
Arrangements are being finalized under the direction of The Healy Chapel, 370 Division Dr. Sugar Grove.
For more information, call (630) 466-1330 or visit www.healychapel.com to leave an online condolence.