Village of Menomonee Falls — Prominent Menomonee Falls attorney John McLario died Wednesday, Jan. 11, after a brief illness.
While he is best known in the Falls community and beyond for his work in law, his 91 years of life are full of unexpected details and interesting anecdotes, as relayed by two of his children, Lana Lee Helm and Dawn Akam.
Here's a list of the top five things you may not have known about the "larger-than-life" McLario:
1) The love of his life first brought him to the Falls
McLario was born in 1925 in Pontiac, Michigan. He served in World War II until age 21, when he then went on to earn a college degree, first in speech in 1950 and then in law in 1953 from Marquette University.
It was his college sweetheart, Lois Kleist McLario, who was from Menomonee Falls.
Lois' parents, Herbert & Sylvia Kleist, ran the Falls Cafe since the early 1940s, which was located near the current Four Corners where the Day Springs Therapeutic Spa stands today on Appleton Avenue. The original building was torn down in the 1950s.
The two married in 1950, raised three daughters and altogether spent 66 years together in the community.
“He had such a heart for the Falls from the minute he married my mom," said daughter Dawn Akam. "He stayed in one place for all those years supporting the Falls and watching it grow; he encouraged it through whatever means he could."
In fact, McLario became extensively invested in community service and civic work, serving on the zoning board of appeals for 13 years, the Menomonee Falls School board for 11 years as a member, president, secretary and treasurer, and the Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) on the very first board of director's for Waukesha and Washington County.
He also was involved in the Menomonee Falls Chamber of Commerce, and he led many fundraising efforts for charities and local churches.
2) He had multiple law offices in the Falls
The present day law offices of McLario, Helm, Bertling and Spiegel S.C. at N88 W16783 Main St. in the Falls is actually the third office location McLario originally started.
Not long after graduating law school in 1953, he opened his first law office.
"His first law office was close to the old theater called the Falls Theater," said daughter Lana Lee Helm. "It was one room, so whenever a client came in, the secretary had to leave. He was just starting out. Then he moved his office to the building where Nino’s Bakery is."
As his firm became more prosperous, McLario eventually opened its Main Street location and gradually added five more lawyers to the firm, including son-in-law Joe Helm, husband of Lana Lee.
"As an attorney he was tenacious and meticulous, but as a person he was empathetic and understanding," Joe said.
3) He sold newspapers as a child outside the Pontiac auto factory
Growing up during the Great Depression, McLario had very humble beginnings.
Starting at age 12, he sold newspapers outside the Pontiac Assembly Plant in Michigan, shined shoes, bagged groceries, picked strawberries and collected scrap metal; any way he could help provide an income for his family.
Akam said these modest means helped foster his generous spirit.
“He was extremely extroverted and a people-person," Akam said. "He never knew a stranger. If he went to a restaurant, he very quickly made friends with all the waiters and waitresses. He would fund some of them on college trips. He did whatever he could do to help meet a need or a goal. He had a big heart for young people who were underprivileged because he came from humble beginnings. He would always remind us of that.”
4) He played tennis well into his 80s
Despite his busy schedule professionally and in community service, McLario was an avid tennis player.
Helm said he played tennis three times every week well into his 80s and played for the Menomonee Falls Recreation Department.
"He just loved that," Helm said. "I remember him talking about all of his tennis buddies that were Menomonee Falls guys.”
5) He was a Sunday school teacher
McLario's daughters Akam and Helm both agreed one of the top adjectives to describe their father was "faith-filled."
He was a Sunday school teacher of rambunctious fifth-grade boys and deacon at various churches in the community throughout his life.
"He bought the kids little Hot Wheels cars as incentives," Helm said. "Nothing was too big or too small for him to do to help others. As family, he seemed to us as a larger-than-life person.”
His influence on young minds left a lasting impression; growing up, the daughters were often approached by his Sunday school students. One young man said, "believed in me; he believed in us all."
Inside his Bible was a quotation he wrote: "The task ahead of us is not greater than the power of God behind us."
McLario is survived by his three daughters, Dawn Akam, Lori Melchert, Lana Lee Helm, his wife Lois, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and many other relatives and friends.