The man at the helm of Rockford's 4th of July Committee has been organizing Rockford's incredible fireworks displays since 1963.

In addition to the title of "Mr. 4th of July," Joe was a decorated WWII veteran who was on the receiving end of many national and regional awards.

His family expressed appreciation for well wishes as they became aware of Joe's declining health.

Mike Marino wrote in a Facebook post: "The family greatly appreciates the outpouring of support and love from many thousands through social media and other platforms during his final days. He was humbly grateful to receive the prayers and good wishes expressed."

His family says the State Street plaque in Joe Marino Park honors his life well.

A lot changed since Marino first organized Rockford's fireworks celebration in 1963.

Marino told Eyewitness News that each year organizing the fireworks event was unique, but there were some events and visitors that he found truly memorable.

"George W. Bush was here in 1984 and we spent quite a bit of time together and he helped us celebrate that year," he said.

A few years later, another President, one who grew up in Illinois, became a part of the Forest City's Independence Day festivities. "In 1989 we were in touch with Ronald Reagan, President Reagan and he by phone helped us celebrate the 4th of July in Rockford."

From the plaque in Joe Marino Park:

“Joe Marino – Mr. Fourth of July. A lifelong Rockford resident and beloved civic leader who championed community celebrations and festivals for half a century. His leadership inspired generations of local children and adults to enthusiastically embrace their American values of love, honor and service to their city, country and families.”

RIP, Mr. 4th of July.

You made Rockford a better place than it would have been without you.

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