Colangelo grew up in the 1950s in the South Chicago suburb of Chicago Heights. His family lived in the section known as Hungry Hill, a working-class neighborhood named for its poverty and steep terrain.

Like many other immigrant enclaves of its day, Colangelo's neighborhood was a gritty place. Good jobs were scarce, and people struggled. His grandparents' first home had been a dilapidated wood shack made from two abandoned boxcars. To the people on the Hill, the wealth, privilege, and opportunity of Chicago's famed Michigan Avenue and Gold Coast might as well have been a million miles away.

The way to survive was to stick together. Families and neighbors stayed tight. An independent ego was something that the capricious ...

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