The Leo High School Family is saddened by the passing of Jack Schaller, a Chicago institution and true Leo Man who passed away on Saturday, May 28. Schaller, a 1942 Leo graduate and longtime proprietor of the landmark Bridgeport bistro known as Schaller’s Pump, was 92.
“Leo has lost a true friend and a great Leo Man, and Chicago has lost a great character,” Leo President Dan McGrath said. “We offer our condolences to the Schaller family.”
Jack was a standout lightweight basketball player at Leo, a starter on some of Brother Francis Finch’s most celebrated and successful teams. He volunteered for the army immediately after leaving Leo and compiled a distinguished service record serving in both the European and Pacific theaters in World War II. Jack was rarely seen without a cap acknowledging his status as a World War II veteran, but he rarely discussed his military experiences.
Jack returned to work at the restaurant after leaving the army and took over from his late father as owner-operator in 1960. He remained involved with Leo into his 90s, attending football and basketball games and posing for pictures with Blackhawks President John McDonough and defenseman Brent Seabrook when the Stanley Cup visited Leo in September 2015.
When Cardinal Francis George showed up at Schaller’s for lunch in 2013, Jack regaled the leader of the Chicago archdiocese with tales of Babe Baranowski and some of his other Leo contemporaries.
Schaller’s, located at 37th and Halsted, opened in 1881 and is believed to be Chicago’s longest continually operating bar-restaurant. Its proximity to the 11th Ward Democratic Party headquarters across the street and U.S. Cellular Field roughly a half mile to the northeast made it a popular gathering spot for politicos and White Sox fans—Jack was a lifelong Sox supporter himself.
But Leo was also a presence within the Pump’s dark wood-paneled walls. Jack’s Leo Hall of Fame plaque is on prominent display behind the bar, along with a photo of him and daughter Betty Jo with the Stanley Cup taken during its visit to Leo.
Jack was preceded in death by his wife, Betty, and a son, also named Jack. Survivors include daughters Betty Jo, Kim, Colleen, Sue and Jill, and sons Jay and Jim.
Services were at Nativity of the Lord Church, 653 W. 37th Street, on June 1. Jack is buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.