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Independence mourns teacher

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

  Independence Junior High School is trying to return to normal after the shocking death of a teacher.

  Maureen Oleskiewicz, 28, of Orland Park, died May 7, two days after choking on a hot dog before a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
  ABC7 Chicago reported that an autopsy determined she died from lack of oxygen to the brain caused by choking on food and intoxication. She went into cardiac arrest after choking on the hot dog. She was kept alive two days, and her organs were donated.
  On the day the teacher died, District 128 Superintendent Kathleen Casey wrote a letter to parents saying: “The Palos Heights School District 128 family has suffered a devastating loss ... Our beloved Independence Jr. High teacher, Ms. Maureen Oleskiewicz passed away after suffering a tragic accident. Maureen had a positive impact on countless students, parents and her colleagues. Her vibrant, positive outlook on life and her joyful nature will be missed more than words can convey. There is no magic wand to fix what we cannot comprehend … Our crisis team and supporting grief counselors and social workers from neighboring districts were available for our staff and students. Please keep Maureen and her family in your thoughts and prayers during this most difficult of times.”
  Oleskiewicz choked on a hot dog before a game May 5 between the Cubs and Cincinnati Reds, according to multiple media reports.
  She was having a pregame lunch with her brother, Martin, and her mother, Margaret said Maureen started choking.
  “They’re sitting there eating lunch before the game, looking at the field and the next thing she’s on the floor,” Margaret Oleskiewicz told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He didn’t even know she was in distress and then she’s on the floor.”
  Margaret also told the Sun-Times her daughter was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center and was kept alive until 9:10 a.m. Tuesday and Maureen’s organs were donated.
  The Cubs issued a statement saying: “The Chicago Cubs are saddened to hear news of the untimely death of Maureen Oleskiewicz. We express our deepest sympathy to her family and friends. We will continue to keep her family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
  Maureen taught language arts to 6th- and 7th-graders at Independence. She is a graduate of Independence, Shepard High School and Bradley University. She is quoted on her teacher page on the website: “It is my belief that every day in school, as in life, is what you make of it. With the cooperation of the students, parents, and myself, I want to make this year a very informative, as well as enjoyable, learning experience for all involved.”
  She is survived by Margaret, her father George, her brother Martin and grandmother Rose Scanlon.
  A vigil was held at the school May 9. Visitation was held last Friday at Sheehy and Sons Funeral Home in Orland Park. A funeral Mass was offered Saturday at Incarnation Catholic Church in Palos Heights and interment services were at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Worth.