Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

John Bellcoff

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

John Bellcoff

Article excerpt

John Bellcoff, who died this week at age 90, helped bring a world- class auto racetrack to the city of Madison. He also led the fight to keep out topless dancers, another venture that might have helped the community secure its economic future.

Madison, where Mr. Bellcoff was mayor for 12 years, was founded by immigrants seeking jobs in the industries around Granite City. Revenue for the small town rests largely upon a handful of retail establishments.

In 1992, a Springfield, Ill.-based chain of topless bars came calling, asking permission to bring strippers to an existing Madison nightclub. In exchange for amending the obscenity ordinance, the chain said it could add $100,000 to the town's annual revenues.

Mayor Bellcoff didn't hesitate when he said "no." He won unanimous support from his City Council to, as the Post-Dispatch reported at the time, spit in the company's eye.

Residents approved, at least those who didn't want their community to become known as another scantily clad, east-side hangout. The crowd at City Hall roared its approval.

Mr. Bellcoff retired in 1997 after three terms as mayor, capping 50 years of public service.

John Naum Bellcoff died Sunday (Feb. 17, 2013) at Relais Bonne Eau Hospice House in Edwardsville of congestive heart failure, his family said. He had moved from Madison to Edwardsville.

Mr. Bellcoff knew everybody in town. He graduated from Madison High School, learned his way around government paperwork in hospital administration in the Army during World War II, and came home to study political science at Washington University.

He joined his father at Bellcoff and Son Grocery in Madison. He worked every Saturday and stayed close on Sundays in case something happened to the refrigeration on the day the store was closed.

That meant his weekends were always busy. But he did make time on week nights for school board and city council meetings.

He joined the volunteer fire department as a firefighter, rising to assistant fire chief.

He began his political career in 1951 when he was elected to the Madison School Board, serving for 19 years, 15 as president. …

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