George "Babe" Tuffanelli was a powerful mobster who ran Chicago's southside for Al Capone. Tuffanelli was born in Italy and came to America with his brother Luigi Tuffanelli around 1900. Luigi got sick on the voyage; therefore, he was not permitted to enter the U.S. So both brothers jumped ship and came into America as illegal immigrants, settling in New York. Tuffanelli got more involved in the life of crime and became more invested in the Italian Mafia as time passed. He moved to the southside of Chicago, where he became a friend and associate of notorious gangsters such as Al Capone, "Umbrella" Mike, and Jimmy Derrico. Tuffanelli became a powerful member in the Chicago Outfit and ran the southside as boss of Blue Island. After his rise to power and success, he started investing his money in racecars and then moved with the mob to Las Vegas, Nevada, to invest in the casinos. Tuffanelli died while living in Las Vegas.
House Built By Notorious Gangster 'Babe' Tuffanelli For Sale In Morgan Park
By Howard Ludwig
MORGAN PARK — Ever wonder who moved into Michael Corleone's home after the Godfather moved to Las Vegas?
Probably a nice family like that of Dr. John and Shirley Waitkus.
The Waitkus family bought the Morgan Park home of George "Babe" Tuffanelli in 1963, just before the bootlegger and gambling boss moved to Las Vegas.
"You would never know this man [Tuffanelli] was who he was," said Susan Waitkus Westcott, who moved into the 4,100-square-foot home at 11860 S. Bell Ave. with her parents when she was 3 years old.
Howard Ludwig took a look inside to search for a rumored secret tunnel:
Her mother, Shirley Waitkus, 82, died on Feb. 6. She left the four-bedroom ranch house to her three children. Considered opulent when it was built in 1947, the home maintains many of its original features. It's now for sale and listed at $525,000.
A sprawling, finished basement is among the highlights of the home. It's rumored that a tunnel is also hidden within the lower level. It's said to be connected to the home next door, which was once owned by one of Tuffanelli's associates.
Waitkus has fond memories of the Tuffanelli family. The family matriarch, Augustine "Little Babe" Tuffanelli briefly lived next door with her daughter, Shirley, and granddaughter, Dawn Marie. The Tuffanellis moved into what was previously their converted garage upon selling their house.
"Mrs. T, we called her," said Westcott, a Mayfair resident.
The Tuffanelli and Waitkus families were neighbors for about four years. Babe Tuffanelli moved west ahead of his wife, daughter and granddaughter. Westcott said she doesn't remember him ever living in the adjacent home just outside of her bedroom window.
Joseph Thomas Gatrell, a Blue Island historian, researched the Tuffanelli family extensively for his book, "Just The Way Things Were Done: A Political History of Blue Island. Volume 1, 1920 - 1965." The 378-page local history book debuted in February.
George "Babe" Tuffanelli was once Al Capone's bootlegging and gambling boss in the south suburbs. His Morgan Park home at 11860 S. Bell Ave. is for sale, listed at $525,000. The family of Dr. John and Shirley Waitkus have lived in the home since 1963. Tuffanelli Home For Sale
"Everybody called him 'Babe.' He was a well-respected, beloved guy," Gatrell said.
According to the author, Tuffanelli first landed on Al Capone's radar around 1921. Tuffanelli was just 18 years old when he took a job as the sheriff in the southwest suburban Palos area. Capone took notice of Tuffanelli's driving skills after he chased down one of Capone's drivers.
Capone was so impressed, he hired Tuffanelli. He began as a bootlegger, likely learning his craft from his Italian father, Ferdinand.
Ferdinand Gaetano Tuffanelli was born in Ferrars, Italy. He settled in south suburban Blue Island and at one time listed his occupation as "brewery agent" — though it's unclear whether he manufactured or sold products.
His son, Babe, quickly worked his way up the Outfit's ranks. He soon led Capone's bootlegging operation in the south suburbs, Gatrell said.
"My grandfather had parts for over 100 stills at the house on Bell," Babe's granddaughter Dawn Marie Tuffanelli told Gatrell during a 2013 interview in Las Vegas.
Her grandfather's business expanded to gambling in 1937. Babe Tuffanelli was allowed to operate his bootlegging and gambling empire extensively in Blue Island without police interference, Gatrell said.
Blue Island Mayor John M. Hart turned a blind eye to Tuffanelli's underground enterprise in exchange for kickbacks as well as a promise to keep prostitution and violent crime out of Blue Island, Gatrell said.
Tuffanelli was likely beginning to feel heat from Chicago-area law enforcement when he sold his Morgan Park home. He may have also recognized a shift in organized crime away from his mainstay of gambling and bootlegging, Gatrell said.
"Babe was ahead of his time. He saw what was going on," said Gatrell, adding that illegal drugs were beginning to take hold of the illicit business.
Of course, this was all invisible to Susan Waitkus Westcott. She remains in contact with her childhood friend, Dawn Marie Tuffanelli.
She said the Waitkus family routinely visited their former neighbors in Las Vegas. Westcott even vaguely recalled her father, a surgeon, coming to Dawn Marie's aide when she required medical attention.
The Tuffanelli family was overwhelmingly grateful. Westcott somewhat remembers their neighbors offering her father a job or some other perk after the incident, though he declined.
Babe Tuffanelli died on Easter Sunday in 1976. He was 73 years old. Westcott said she remembers visiting him in Las Vegas. She said he was a sick man, having suffered a series of strokes in the 1960s.
Denise Amraen of Morgan Park is the real estate agent handling the sale of the home at 11860 S. Bell Ave. She's on the lookout for a buyer who will appreciate the history of the house as well as some of the finer details such as marble window sills and the Vitrolite glass tiles that were considered lavish at the time of construction.
"It is one of a kind and my hopes are that the buyer will relish the hidden gems," Amraen said.