As a teenager growing up in Toronto, Robert Marcocchio was intrigued by horse-racing.
Not riding thoroughbreds, necessarily. But his facility with numbers fit right in with handicapping racehorses, according to his longtime friend, former TV news anchor Ron Magers.
That talent grew into a lifelong passion.
Marcocchio’s family and friends are mourning the loss of the 75-year-old Rolling Meadows resident, who died Saturday of cancer.
“He had a great eye for horseflesh,” said Magers, who met Marcocchio in 1992 when Magers sought the bloodstock agent’s advice about selling a mare. The two teamed over the years to own 38 horses, including the 2011 Illinois Champion Sprinter Third Chance.
“He was kind of a numbers guru,” Magers said, calculating the value of horses. The two attended the world’s preeminent yearling sale annually in Kentucky, where horses that haven’t been saddled, let alone raced, are judged on their bloodlines and their conformation.
Magers said Marcocchio had an “amazing memory” for horses, not just the ones he owned. He often surprised others with his depth of knowledge about horses they had owned, including race results, Magers said.
Marcocchio loved watching his horses run at tracks in New York, Kentucky, Florida and Toronto. They also raced at Arlington Park and Hawthorne Racecourse.
“Our families have had great fun in the horse-racing industry,” Magers said. “It will take a great edge off the business for me not to be involved with Robert.”
Marcocchio also will be missed in another arena — the business world.
He was a principal with Assurance Agency, an insurance brokerage in Schaumburg, where he had worked since 1984.
And he was long involved with the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois.
Marcocchio was a member of the board of directors for 11 years, until his death, said Steve Bernas, president and chief executive officer of the BBB.
In 2018, Marcocchio received the BBB’s Torchbearer of the Year Award.
It recognizes “consistent and dedicated support of the BBB,” as well as efforts to teach consumers and businesses about the importance of an ethical marketplace. Previous recipients included luminaries such as former state attorneys general Lisa Madigan and Jim Ryan and former Gov. Jim Thompson.
Bernas said Marcocchio was devoted to educating businesses about behaving ethically and holding them accountable when they did not. “He was beyond reproach,” Bernas said.
Marcocchio was chairman of the golf outing committee in 2018, which set a record for raising money for college scholarships.
Bernas recalls Marcocchio calling him in January 2018 about that summer’s event. Bernas heard odd noises in the background. It turned out Marcocchio was calling from a hospital bed.
His dedication to organization was evident, too, on the day he found out his cancer had returned. He insisted on honoring a commitment to meet with a BBB employee he had been asked to advise, Bernas said.
“‘Everybody else in front of him'” was Marcocchio’s practice, Bernas said. “It was never about Rob.”
Marcochhio is survived by his wife, Lynn; son Jonas; daughter Cara Morkes; and two grandchildren. Memorial donations may be made to the Alexian Brothers Hospice Residence; chicago.foldsofhonor.org; or Mayo Clinic Cancer Center research. His funeral is at 1 p.m. Friday at Holy Family Catholic Church in Inverness.