Photo by Joe BoyleThe Evergreen Park Animal Hospital, 3000 W. 95th St., will close by July 1 to make way for additional parking for Wu’s House Grill and Sushi Restaurant, which is in the process of being built next door.
Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton said he has a contract, signed and sealed.
“I now have a signed contact in my hand and we are ready to move,” said Sexton, who was delighted to receive the signed paper that will allow for the demolition of the Evergreen Park Animal Hospital. This means that additional parking for the Wu’s House Hibachi Grill and Sushi Restaurant, which is currently under construction at 95th and Sacramento Avenue.
Sexton thought the purchase of the animal hospital was a done deal over a month ago. He was under the impression that the owner of the animal hospital, Dr. Roy Hubert, DVM, had agreed to the proposal. The mayor was so confident that an announcement was made at the Dec. 19 Evergreen Park Village Board meeting that that the purchase had been made.
But Hubert called The Reporter office a few days later to say that nothing is final.
“We have not signed anything or made any agreements,” Hubert said. “The village approached us a couple of months ago. The mayor asked us if we wanted to sell.”
This had the mayor perplexed because he told The Reporter that it was just a matter of the attorneys going over some paper work. He said it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Since then, the mayor has had a couple of conversations with Hubert to clear up any misunderstandings. Hubert acknowledged that he had talked to the mayor and made it clear that he wants to stay in Evergreen Park.
“I’m not 100 percent sure I want to do this,” added Hubert. “We have several other animal hospitals a few minutes away from us. I just don’t want to make a decision in which we lose our business.”
His initial concern was when his customers first dropped in after the story appeared detailing the sale. The customers were wondering if he was going to close. Hubert assured them he wasn’t.
But since signing the contract, Hubert has been looking for another location. His goal is to remain in Evergreen Park.
“I haven’t had much more to say on this since then,” Sexton said. “But I do know a customer came by and asked him if he was going to stay (in Evergreen Park) and he said yeah. I hope he does.”
The board had approved the ordinance for the real estate contract for the purchase of the Evergreen Park Animal Hospital, 3000 W. 95th St., at a cost of $400,000. Hubert was not present at the December meeting.
“I’m still open and we will continue to remain open,” said Hubert. “I’ve told the village that I want to remain (here).”
Hubert and his staff are required to be out of the animal hospital by July 1, according to the agreement.
Sexton said he had previously suggested to Hubert that he would assist in keeping his animal hospital in the village.
“Absolutely, we would like to have him remain here,” said Sexton. “They have been here a long time. I didn’t know if he wanted to go on. I’m glad that he wants to reopen and stay here.”
The mayor said the foundation for Wu’s had been laid down at the location, which was once a furniture store.
“The walls will have to be put up,” Sexton said. “They have been working hard, and weather permitting, it could be up in about six months.”
Hubert said that his years of service for the Evergreen Park Animal Hospital dates back to 1969. The Evergreen Park Animal Hospital first opened in 1950.
The Evergreen Park Animal Hospital has been at its current location since the 1980s. Hubert’s animal hospital was once located at 98th and Western Avenue. The Plaza developers owned the land around the hospital and the village intervened to work out a deal with Hubert for the property.
Photo by Jeff Vorva
Queen of Peace underclass basketball players cry during a Senior Night speech Thursday after beating Kennedy, 73-33. This was the last game in the gym as the players found out two days prior the school was closing.
In mid-January, Chicago Ridge’s Brooke Vida heard the unsettling news that her grammar school alma mater, Our Lady of the Ridge, could be shut down if the school didn’t meet financial obligations by the end of February.
“I was upset – but we have a chance to get it back,” Vida said. “There is still a chance.’’
On Jan. 24, the historic Queen of Peace basketball team that she is on had just beaten Joliet Catholic when the junior forward heard another piece of bad news.
Queen of Peace is scheduled to close after this school year.
Talk about a double-whammy for Vida.
That news hit the Peace teachers, students and administrators hard.
“It was like a slap in the face to be completely honest with you,” said senior guard Kara Shimko.
For many, it was unexpected.
“We were completely blindsided,” junior Ashley Murphy said. “Our numbers were up. We had 80 students take the entrance exam. I thought we were doing great.’’
So many people will be affected by this closure but coach George Shimko’s basketball team, which entered this week with a 25-1 record before Tuesday’s Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal game against Mother McAuley, was especially hit hard by the news.
No other team in school history won more than 24 games and eight of the 10 players on this team are underclassmen. Plus, there are 11 players on the freshman-sophomore roster waiting in the wings and hoping to contribute to future success.
The teams hosted the last event in the Queen of Peace gym and beat Kennedy, 73-33, in front of a full house of 550 people. Kara Shimko led the Pride with 23 points and 11 assists and Jessica Potter had 13 points. After the game, Shimko and Potter were honored for Senior Night, Shimko had her number retired and the team was surprised with a banner for winning the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference White Division.
Heck, even Kennedy seniors Sabrina Ricci and Patty Kapusciak were given flowers before the game. It’s rare that visiting seniors are honored. But this was a unique night.
It was a night of mixed emotions -- but mostly sadness.
“I couldn’t believe it – it was the worst news I ever heard,” junior Ashley Murphy said. “This place has been my home the past three years. It’s all I’ve known and I love it so much. I’ve known all the girls here and they are all my family. That I can’t walk across that stage with my family (for graduation) breaks my heart.’’
Her heart was warmed by the fans’ support on that final night.
“For everyone to be here in this last moment in this gym is just…there are no words to describe it,” Murphy said.
Kara Shimko, a Hickory Hills resident who owns the school’s scoring record and will attend Cardinal Stritch next season, said she was stunned to have her number retired. The life-size poster of her jersey won’t have a permanent home in the gym, however.
“I have no idea what I will do with it,’’ she said. “Maybe I can bring it to Cardinal Stritch. My roommate might hate me for it. Hopefully she will understand.’’
There seemed to be a lot if finality for the team and school last week, but George Shimko said his team knows there are still important games ahead.
“We told them it was a bump in their lives,’’ he said. “It’s a magical team and a magical season. Enjoy every single moment. The school will close, but what we are doing will never be forgotten. Let’s send a message every time we play and let’s try to finish out the best way we can.’’
“The girls are resilient. I know it’s an old adage, but play them one game at a time. But that’s really how it is for us.’’
“It might be our last game here, but we’re not done,” Murphy added.
Courtesy of Oak Lawn LibraryAn Oak Lawn resident uses a sled to carry her groceries after the blizzard of 1967 as she walks along an empty street.
Ask someone who grew up in the Chicago area in 1967 what they remember most about that year and most likely you will receive a couple of answers.
It is either the great blizzard that brought the area to a standstill, or the tornado that ripped through Oak Lawn and other communities that spring. Most likely, Oak Lawn residents will tell you both.
“A Blanket of White: The Blizzard of ‘67” photo exhibit is on display officially beginning today (Thursday, Jan. 26) at the Oak Lawn Library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave. The official opening date is significant. That was the day the snow began to fall in Chicago and suburban communities like Oak Lawn. And the snow continued to fall for two days.
When it finally ceased after just 24 hours, 23 inches of snow fell to the ground. The majority of schools had to close and people had difficulty getting to work the following day. Many Oak Lawn residents left work early on Jan. 26 as the snow was coming down at a rate of two inches an hour throughout the afternoon.
Even a busy area like 95th Street had virtually no traffic. Vehicles were stuck on side streets and usually busy corridors. Buses could not move because of the heavy snow. Many people had to walk miles and miles to reach their Oak Lawn destinations.
However, Kevin Korst, the local history coordinator for the Oak Lawn Library, said that most people who have come up to him were younger kids at the time living in Oak Lawn and actually have fond memories of the blizzard.
“You know what came across as much as anything when talking to people about the blizzard is that most of the things that were said were a microcosm of what was going on everywhere else then,” said Korst. “People who I talked to were kids at the time. They recall having a good time. No one could get around. The store shelves were almost empty. A lot of schools were closed for a few days.
“A lot of people told me that they remember going to the store with their parents and they used a sled to carry the groceries,” added Korst.
The snowstorm is a smaller display that can be found on the second floor of the library and shares a larger section dedicated to Oak Lawn’s history dating back to over 100 Years. Over 30 to 40 images from the snowstorm are on display along with some newspaper accounts of the blizzard. Korst said that a larger display will be built dedicated to the tornado that struck the village that April and had a large impact on the community.
While kids were sledding and having snowball fights, the next few days were tough on people trying to go to work. Most kids made it to school and adults made it work on Jan 26. But the snow kept falling and at noon there were eight inches on the ground. O’Hare Airport shut down while businesses began to let employees go home early.
According to some published reports, at least a dozen babies were born at home in the Chicago area. Another problem after the storm was low supplies of heating oil. Trucks could not get access to buildings. The Chicago area began to slowly start digging itself out on Saturday, Jan. 28.
Weather forecasts were not as sophisticated as they are today. Initial reports had for a few inches of snow. On Thursday morning, the total was increased from four to eight inches. It was the greatest snowfall in a day in Chicago area history with 16.4 inches of snow on Jan. 26. This record was broken when 18.6 of snow fell on Jan. 2, 1999.
“I did hear that Mayor (Fred) Dumke, who was the Oak Lawn mayor at the time, did a pretty good job of clearing the streets,” Korst said. “Matter of fact, I heard that most of the local municipalities did a better job of clearing the streets than Chicago. But maybe that was to be expected.”
Photo by Joe Boyle
Signs have been posted in front of Our Lady of Ridge School, 10859 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge, alerting residents to an open house that will be held Sunday, Jan. 29.
Mary Grisolano said that her years as a student at Our Lady of the Ridge Elementary School provided her with great experiences, in addition to a great education.
After spending a few years in New York City, Grisolano felt the pull to come home to Chicago Ridge. One reason for her return was that one day her child can attend Our Lady of the Ridge, 10859 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge.
Now Grisolano, alumni, teachers and students at Our Lady of the Ridge have been working to keep the school open. The Chicago Archdiocese has stated that Our Lady of the Ridge has to increase funding and enrollment totals by the end of February or risk closing their doors in June.
The announcement was made public on Jan. 11, which was the same day that St. Louis de Montfort in Oak Lawn had been informed by the archdiocese that the school will close, effective on June 30. Low enrollment was the main reason given for the decision to close that school.
Grisolano has become the media relations volunteer and is confident that the community will rally behind Our Lady of the Ridge. An open house will be held Sunday, Jan. 29 to start off Catholic Schools Week. She said that along with the alumni, business and community leaders are also making efforts to keep the school open.
“We really feel good about this,” Grisolano said. “We are working on a long-term plan and everyone in the community is rallying behind this. Basically, we are getting the word out and everybody is excited.”
Enrollment has been as high as 196 at Our Lady of the Ridge but had declined over the years. But Grisolano is confident because the community is reaching out and the majority of current students have signed up for next fall. Enrollment had slipped to about 115 but there over 130 students now. After the open house and push for enrollment, those figures should rise, according to school officials.
The school is required to raise about $250,000 by the end of February. Alumni board members have said that they have raised nearly $100,000 going into this week. School officials are pleased that most current students are coming back. Our Lady of the Ridge had to raise their tuition about $1,000 to nearly $3,700 per year.
Along with the open house on Sunday, the Our Lady of the Ridge alumni and friends are holding a fundraiser from 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19 at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park. The fee is $35 for food and refreshments. Entertainment and raffles will also be held.
Sr. Stephanie Kondik, principal at Our Lady of the Ridge, shares Grisolano’s confidence. She said the school is special and refers to it as a “little gem.” Kondik has served two terms at Our Lady of the Ridge, spending eight years in the interim at St. Patricia School in Hickory Hills. After her term at St. Patricia, Kondik returned to Our Lady of Ridge in 2002 and has been principal at Our Lady of Ridge for 23 years overall.
“We have had people coming out from all over to help out,” said Sr. Stephanie. “The parents have been unbelievable. We have had businesses and the community helping out.”
Grisolano and the principal said Our Lady of Ridge offers students a variety of programs, including the OLOR Junior Stewardship Club. Abby Cross, executive director of StandUp for Kids, met with Our Lady of Ridge club students in the fourth through eighth grade Wednesday to thank them for coordinating a donation of 10 bags of clothing, socks and personal items to be used in the work of finding, stabilizing and assisting youths on the streets.
The school also has a choir, band and athletic programs. Sr. Stephanie said that volunteer parents will be on hand at the open house to greet residents who can sign up to help assist with school programs. The parish has also provided subsidies to help some parents pay their children’s tuition.
“I think Our Lady of the Ridge really helps out students,” said Sr. Stephanie about the school, which opened in 1954. “They are protected here and they are safe. We provide some sanity for them. The kids get a solid education. It’s a little school that deals with the whole child. The whole community is behind us and we pray for each other.”
Grisolano has a son who attends Our Lady of the Ridge and a toddler whom she hopes will be able to do the same
“Our Lady of the Ridge, as cliché as it sounds, is a real community,” Grisolano said. “They have welcomed my son with open arms. I’m still in association with alumni and everyone loves the school. I have a little one run running around here right now and I would like to see him go to Our Lady of the Ridge.”