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(Photo courtesy of John Binder).
"Rocky" or "Mr. Big"; a.k.a. DeGrazio; in his later years affectionately called "Gramps" by younger gangsters.
* I was reminded by an astute viewer to point out that there were two Rocco DeGrazia's. The other was known as Rocco J. DeGrazia, also known as "Gumballs," who was an undertaker who had once been arrested with Sam "GolfBag" Hunt, and Anthony Accardo. He was low level and only associated with gangsters. His brother was a police officer who was once seen travelling abroad with Anthony Accardo.
Rocco in a police lineup.
(Mario Gomes collection)
Capone gangster Rocco DeGrazia claimed to be 23 when he entered the U.S. and most newspapers accepted 1900 as his birth date. (Probably 1897).
He arrived from Italy in 1923. In July, 1932, he suffered serious spinal injuries in a wreck two
miles west of Bloomingdale, Illinois, and was hospitalized in Elgin, where he refused to discuss
the machine gun in the back seat of his car or the police star he was wearing at the time. (With him
was gangster Anthony "Tony the Mouth" Bagniola, and they had crashed into a farmer's vehicle while
driving at high speed to a roadhouse, partly owned by DeGrazia, that had just been raided.
Started as a driver for the Capone mob.Later makes his way up the ladder as gunman and gambling chief. DeGrazia was reputed to be in charge of accomodations for the St. Val. massacre shooters. In 1934, Rocco, then living at 1040 North Elmwood in Oak Park, threatened to
Rocco DeGrazia in 1934, during his arrest for income tax evasion.
kill IRS agents until he learned who they were. He and his brother Nick, who was residing in Maywood, were
indicted on July 27, 1934, for failure to pay income taxes during 1929 and 1930 on some eighteen
handbooks in Melrose Park, for which he paid $1,200 a month protection. On February 5, 1935, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eighteen months in Leavenworth, plus a fine of $1000. In 1946 Rocco and his brother Andrew, partners in a tavern called the Lumber Gardens, were picked up and questioned for allegedly threatening a Melrose park pharmacist over opium and morphine, which they were demanding to settle the druggist's gambling debts. Rocco surrendered to authorities on March 19,1946,
disposition of that case unknown. (Rocco had insisted that the drugs were for doping horses,
although his brother was believed to be addicted. Andrew's wife later committed suicide with a gun,
and Andrew himself ended up, in May of 1958, falling asleep at the table and choking to death
on italian sausages.
Rocco DeGrazia in 1946.
In his later years, DeGrazia dropped in stature, becoming a minor henchman of Sam Battaglia. His
sole remaining holding was his lavish gambling club, the Casa Madrid at 171 North 25th Street in Melrose
Park, which also doubled as his residence. On September 23, 1961, Rocco was arrested at the Casa Madrid and safes were seized, but the disposition of the case is unknown. After many failed attempts at revoking his liquor license and charging DeGrazia with running a gambling establishment, the club will nonetheless finally be closed, but Syndicate bosses continued to meet in the basement there as late as 1969. DeGrazia's wife Margaret, died in 1975 and he quickly faded into obscurity afterwards, dying largely unnoticed of natural causes in Melrose Park on
December 17, 1978.
Rocco DeGrazia's obituary
Rocco DeGrazia at Queen of Heaven cemetary.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Snyder)
(Special thanks to Rick Mattix and Mari Abba for some of the info).