Climbing the Ladder of Success

John was the son of an auto repair machinist and World War I veteran. Like many women of that era, John’s mother was a homemaker. John’s father was an alcoholic who, especially when under the influence, was physically abusive to his wife, John and his sisters.

In his teens, John showed an interest in politics. In 1960, John, then eighteen years old, worked as an assistant precinct captain for a Democratic Party candidate in his neighborhood. As an assistant precinct captain, John’s job was to help link the political candidate with the individual voters in his neighborhood.

In the following year, John enrolled at Northwestern Business College in Bridgeview, Illinois. The admissions department at the college accepted his application although he had not graduate from high school. He was a good student and graduated in 1963. Straight out of college, the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company hired John as a manager trainee. John was a fast learner. He prospered at the shoe company and, in early 1964, his boss transferred him to a larger store in Springfield, Illinois, where he worked as a salesman. He prospered there as well and, withing weeks of working as a salesman, his boss promoted him to department manager.

Soon thereafter, John joined the Springfield Jaycees John showed the same work ethic with the Jaycees as he had with the Nunn-Bush Shoe Company. He earned the position of Key Man in the Jaycees in April of 1964. By the following year, John had risen to the position of vice-president of the Jaycees and was named the third most outstanding Jaycee in Illinois.

When John saw something he wanted, he went after it with dogged but tactful determination Almost as soon as he moved to Springfield, he began dating a co-worker, Marlynn Myers. Six month later, in September of 1964, the two married. Soon after the marriage, Marlynn’s father made John an offer that he was unable to refuse. Marlynn’s father had purchased three Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Waterloo, Iowa, and wanted someone he could trust to manage them. With his business degree and family connections, John was the perfect choice. The position was a huge pay increase over his shoe department managerial position. In addition to the large salary ($15,000 per year, which, adjusted for inflation, would amount to about $130,000), John would receive a percentage of the profits.

After completing the required Kentucky Fried Chicken managerial training course, John and Marlynn moved to Waterloo. John joined the Waterloo Jaycees and often provided free chicken at their meetings. Always ambitious, John requested that the other Jaycees call him “Colonel.” The other Jaycees humored him with the title because he was a likeable guy and because he excelled in fundraising work for Jaycees.

In 1967, the Waterloo Jaycees honored him with the title “outstanding vice-president.” That same year, John served on the Board of Directors for the Waterloo Jaycees.

Through the passing years, John made several career changes, each one successful, and relocated to a few different cities. In the 1970s, John began to reconsider his political ambitions, which he had always kept in the background. He had worked as an assistant precinct captain in 1960, and in the mid-1970s, he earned the title of precinct captain. From 1975 to 1978, John was the director of Chicago’s Polish Constitution Day Parade. On May 6, 1978, the First Lady of the United States, Rosalynn Carter, met and had her photograph taken with John. In the picture, John proudly displayed an “S” pin on his lapel which indicated that he had been given special clearance from the Unite States Secret Service.

To everyone who knew him, John’s climb up the ladder of success seemed limitless. People spoke of the possibility that John would run for mayor or even governor. But John had a secret.

Until Dec. 21, 1978, John only shared his secret with 33 people whose names are too important not to include. Those privy to his secret included Timothy McCoy, John Butkovich, Darrel Samson, Samuel Stapleton, Randall Reffett, Michael Bonnin, William Carroll, Jimmy Haakenson, Rick Johnston, William Bundy, Michael Marino, Kenneth Parker, Gregory Godzik, John Szyc, Jon Prestidge, Matthew Bowman, Robert Gilroy, John Mowery, Russell Nelson, Robert Winch, Tommy Boling, David Talsma, William Kindred, Timothy O’Rourke, Frank Landingin, James Mazzara, Robert Piest, Unidentified Victim No. 28, Unidentified Victim No. 5, Unidientified Victim No. 26, Unidentified Victim No. 13, Unidentified Victim No. 21, and Unidentified Victim No. 10.

On Dec. 21, 1978, police arrested John after they located the bodies of several missing boys buried under his house. He confessed to the rape and murder of at least 33 boys and was eventually executed by lethal injection on May 10, 1994. The man who seemed to be forever climbing the ladder of success was John Wayne Gacy His last meal included a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

1. Chicago Tribune. “Here Are John Wayne Gacy’s Victims.” December 17, 2018.
2. U.S. Inflation Calculator. “Us Inflation Calculator.” Accessed May 24, 2021.
3. Wiki Commons. “John Wayne Gacy Certificate of Death.” Accessed May 24, 2021.

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