PEORIA HTS., Ill -- Rocky Vonachen gave the eulogy for his father Friday, remembering Pete Vonachen as a man who was devoted to his family, his baseball team and his friends. And he had a lot of friends.
Pete knew everybody. And everybody knew Pete.
"At the ballpark dad would make his rounds of the suites upstairs but he enjoyed being down on the concourse with the fans," said Rocky. "Talking to them, handing out his baseballs. That was dad."
Long-time close friend Ken Goldin first met Pete when Goldin worked at Bradley and Vonachen was a freshman.
"Pete said what's your name? And I said Ken Goldin," he recalled. "A week later I'm crossing the campus and Pete was with Chuck Orsborn, our former athletic director, and Pete said to Chuck, "this is Ken Goldin." I couldn't imagine the man could remember my name after meeting me a week ago for just 10 or 15 seconds."
Eventually Pete made a name for himself, opening restaurants and a hotel, running Peoria Blacktop and of course, the Chiefs. But he also made a career of helping others start theirs.
Mike Nelson was one of his early hires to be the Chiefs' general manager.
"He was a stickler for detail," said Nelson. "He taught me that right out of school and I've taken what I've learned from Pete and applied it to my life today and I owe everything to Pete."
"When you met Pete Vonachen for the first time it was like he knew you for his whole life and you knew him for his whole life," said Bruce Levine, who covers baseball for ESPN Chicago.
And on Friday hundreds of the people Pete loved to say hello to came to say goodbye.