West View Junior High opened in 1966 and in 1991, was renamed A. Vito Martinez Middle School. But who was A. Vito Martinez?
Arnold Vito Martinez moved to Hampton Park with his family in 1960, served in the Korean War, and was an engineer for 35 years with ComEd. During his time with ComEd, he helped to put up the antennas on the John Hancock building in downtown Chicago.
He served for 20 years on the Valley View School District school board, all but two of them as president. He was also the board’s first president.
He guided the district through rapid growth, the 45-15 year-round school plan, uniting the teachers’ union, the coordination of the district’s curriculum and the closing of two elementary schools.
He had a vibrant sense of humor. During a particularly testy school board meeting, an audience member called him, “Ayatollah Martinez."
So Martinez photocopied dart boards with his photo in the middle and sold them for $1 each. Proceeds helped send the district’s cheerleaders to a competition in Florida.
In 1991, the district decided to rename West View after him. During the ceremony, he received a memento with the number 23,045 on it.
According to the calculations of the board treasurer Paul Swinford, that was the number of handshakes Martinez had given out over the course of 76 high school and middle school graduations.
“My heart is in kids,” he once said in an interview.
He died in 1992 at the age of 62.