Oak Lawn’s Garden Club Blue Star Highway Memorial maker project takes root

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Julie Barker’s love of gardening made her a natural to join the Oak Lawn Garden Club.

But after becoming a member, it was her passion for another project that made her committed to accomplishing a goal that was close to her heart.

Barker, Lorraine Bujan, current president of the Oak Lawn Garden Club, and other members were on hand for a Memorial Day ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker at 95th Street and Cook Avenue. The plaque honors the memory of all veterans and especially those who died in the line of duty.

The marker is of the greatest importance to Barker, who has been an official member of the Oak Lawn Garden Club for 10 years. She recalled a woman from Evergreen Park who said the condition of another Blue Star Memorial Highway maker has worsened. Barker told her that the Oak Lawn location had been nearly forgotten.

“That’s when I got involved,” said Barker.

The Oak Lawn Garden Club was created in 1956. The club’s origin dates back to World War II when the National Garden Club came up with the idea of erecting a marker in memory of the nation’s war veterans. In May of 1963, the club dedicated the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker at 95th Street, north of the railroad tracks in the village, near the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 5220.

Barker said that the club wanted a more prominent spot for the marker. The club, through the help of Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Village Clerk Jane Quinlan, assisted in the marker moving to 95th and Raymond in front of the parking lot adjacent to the old Oak Lawn Senior Center and Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce office.

“We had to restore it, and they got it moving,” said Barker.

When the Oak Lawn Bank and Trust purchased the land, officials suggested moving the plaque inside the building. Barker was vehemently against the idea.

“I did not want it on private property,” said Barker. “It had to be on an interstate highway like it is now.”

Barker said she became more of a historian regarding the Blue Star Highway Memorial. However, keeping up with the club’s history and the marker proved to be a daunting task.

“It was growing and I had no room to put everything,” said Barker. “June Cutis, who was our president then, helped out. We worked to gather the information and she got it on a computer. We were anxious to get it done.”

The first dedication was in 2009 at the 95th Street and Raymond site. Along with the Oak Lawn Garden Club, local dignitaries were on hand for the ceremony, along with Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd).

After the bank purchased the property, the Oak Lawn Garden Cub, with the assistance of the village, made the move to 95th and Cook, which has been the site of the Nativity scene during the holiday season.

“I’m really happy where the marker is now,” said Bujan, an Oak Lawn resident since 1974 who has been an Oak Lawn Garden Club member for six years. “We have people who stop to look at the spot now. They did not do that at the old location.

Pat Bugos, another Oak Lawn Garden Club member, also likes the new location for the marker.

“I think a lot of people from Oak Lawn have been in the military,” said Bugos. “We have members in their 70s, 80s and 90s. I think it’s important to pass this on so people remember. I think it is important.”

As for Barker, 84, she will continue to work to have a ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway to coincide annually with the Memorial Day observation.

“These men and women put their lives on hold for us,” said Barker, whose late husband served in Korea. She also has two children. “Many of them did not come back. Many of these veterans return with mental problems. It’s the least we can do for them.”

Worth reaches agreement over distribution of rain barrels

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Thanks to approval of an ordinance amending the municipal code at the Worth Village Board meeting on Tuesday, regulations are now in place regarding the free rain barrels distributed by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

While the MWRD program allows four barrels to a household, only two barrels will be permitted in Worth. However, there will be no restrictions on the placement of the barrels other than being located to receive water from a downspout.

The approval came after much discussion in earlier meetings where the trustees had voiced numerous concerns about the number of barrels allowed as well as the placement of the them. Trustee Pete Kats had said he did not want to see the barrels haphazardly placed in front yards creating an unsightly view.

“We need some kind of control in place before problems arise,” Kats said.

In an ironic twist after the ordinance was approved, Mayor Mary Werner said she had received a letter from the MWRD this week stating that as of Dec. 31, 2016, the MWRD will no longer be offering the free rain barrels to residents. Additionally, residents applying for barrels now can expect up to a 10-week delay in delivery.

“In other words, if you are ordering barrels now, it could be as late as September or October before they are delivered,” she said. She added that MWRD reported that 126,000 free barrels have been distributed since the program began three years ago.

Also approved was an ordinance agreeing that prevailing wage rates will be paid to laborers, mechanics and other workers performing public works in the village. The ordinance is approved annually.

In other matters, the board heard a presentation from Todd Kupsak, president of Administrative Consulting Specialists, LLC regarding the feasibility of retaining his consulting services to seek grants for the village. He has been consulting with the village police and fire departments for the past two years.

Kupsak offered the village the opportunity to move forward with him as an addition to his contract with the police and fire, or to wait until the state opens up.

“There is federal and county grant money available now, but the situation with the state is not good. Once it opens up, there will be a windfall of grant money, but that just is not the case now,” Kupsak said. “If you can wait, I would advise you to wait. I am not trying to take money from my clients needlessly. That is not the way to keep clients.”


Werner said the matter will be discussed as the board is currently holding budget meetings to establish the 2017 budget.

In closing comments, Werner issued a warning to residents concerning fireworks. “Fireworks are illegal in Worth and we will be ticketing offenders,” she said.

Evergreen Park mayor hints that more development is planned for 95th Street

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

The silhouette of the Village of Evergreen Park is changing along West 95th Street with the recent demolition and clearance of property located at 2942-46 W. 95th Street.

During the Monday night board meeting, Mayor James Sexton hinted that there will soon be good news for village residents regarding the now-vacant land.

His teaser comment came when the trustees approved a final payout to Environmental Cleaning Corporation in the amount of $32,936. Sexton had made a similar comment at the June 6 board meeting, but said he was not yet at liberty to reveal any information as the matter was under discussion and not yet finalized.

In other business, the board also approved the purchase of a new squad car in the amount of $27,076. Sexton explained that $24,000 of that amount will be paid by insurance, as the vehicle had been destroyed in a fire in April. He said it was a bizarre incident in which a transformer blew out in the alley behind the police station and a live wire landed on the squad car that was parked in the police lot, igniting a blaze that totally destroyed the car.

A fence and garage of a resident was also damaged. Sexton said it was fortunate that no one was injured in the incident. “It could have been much worse,” he said.

The board also approved a request from Police Chief Michael Saunders to hire a new police officer from the May 2 Probationary Patrol Officer Eligibility List to fill a vacancy on the force due to a resignation.

Other approvals included a final payout of $99,352 for sanitary sewer linings in a Community Development Block Grant project and granting a request from K & G Fashion Superstore to conduct two sidewalk sales; June 30 through July 4 and Sept. 1 through Sept. 5.

The Aug.1 village board meeting will be cancelled due to Sexton participating in an annual charity event.

The village’s Zoning Board of Appeals announced a public hearing will be held at the Village Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 12 on the request for variations to permit a subdivision of a 75-foot zoning lot into two 37.5-foot zoning lots on the property located 9315 S. Troy Ave.

The property is owned by Grade A Investment, LLC, an Illinois Limited Liability Company. Any interested person may attend the meeting.

Warm weather arrived before summer solstice

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Summer has officially arrived for readers who probably did not notice. The summer solstice officially began at 5:34 p.m. Monday.

For grade school, high school and college graduates, summer began for them the minute they walked out of the classrooms and later picked up their diplomas. The same can be said for the students who have not graduated but are free to spend most of their days in the sunshine for the next couple of months. Chicago Public School students will see another year come to an end this week.

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas had it right when they sang “Summer is here and the time is right for dancing in the streets.” “Dancing in the Streets, the 1964 Motown hit was an anthem of sorts that summer coming at the emergence of the civil rights movement. The song has been interpreted in many ways but the majority of the cities mentioned in the song were from the North and South, where many racial conflicts would occur.

Instead of fighting, it was a call to dance and have fun. As a kid growing up in the 1960s, I had a lot of fun but witnessed a lot of conflict. It was all part of growing up.

I do recall those long, hot summer days. This past Monday was the longest day of the year but when you are working, most of us are not even aware of it. The summer solstice began but if you ask most weather forecasters, they will tell you that meteorological summer started on June 1.

Since I was already out of school for a couple of weeks at this time, I don’t recall celebrating the summer solstice or realizing that even occurred. This year, it was not until I came home from work Monday evening and began watching the news did I realize something historical took place. This year coincided with the “strawberry moon,” the folkloric name given to June’s full moon.

The term strawberry moon had nothing to do with color. It was given that name by the Algonquin tribes because it occurs right at the height of the season when strawberries are harvested, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

I did see the full moon that evening but did not realize the significance. This was the first time this has occurred in about 50 years. The last strawberry moon and the summer solstice occurred at the beginning the so-called “Summer of Love” in 1967. This won’t happen again until 2062.

All I know is that we are experiencing more warmer days. When I was a kid, if I was not practicing baseball or playing a game that evening, those hot, lazy day were spent a number of ways. I had a friend who lived across the street from me by the name of Jim Prendergast. He was from a large family and had several brothers. Some of those days were spent playing Wiffle ball off the front steps of their bungalow home. Usually it was just us playing. Essentially, the steps served as the catcher because the ball would come back to you. The pitcher was also the fielder. Balls hit on the ground that were caught meant the batter was out. That also went for popups.

Several games would be played a day on our block at 97th and Throop in Chicago. Sometimes we would drift from our block to catch up with other friends. But a few innings of Wiffle ball passed the time of day. I already mentioned that if the pitcher either strikes out, catches grounders or fly balls, then an out was recorded. But if the batter hit the ball past the pitcher it was a single. A double was when the ball went over the pitcher’s head and hit the street. If the batter’s hit reached the grass just over the curb on a fly, that was a triple. Hit the ball over the sidewalk on the other side of the street and that was a home run.

We had fun and there were occasional arguments over strikes and balls called. I don’t see too many kids doing this anymore, but the suburbs don’t have as many bungalows or Georgians where you could use the stairs as a catcher.

Nearby schools also served as a place to play ball. Wiffle balls were replaced by rubber balls and a strike zone was made with chalk against the building wall. We would listen to music and probably heard Dancing in the Streets more than a few times.

Those summer days seemed to last forever. I had fun even if I don’t remember summer solstices or strawberry moons.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Palos Hills mayor credits retiring employee for modernizing system

  • Written by Michael Gilbert


Palos Hills officials said goodbye to one of the city’s longest tenured employees last Thursday, but not before sending her out in style at the city council meeting.

On the eve of Water and Sewer Department administrative clerk Nancy Witt’s retirement, Mayor Gerald Bennett presented her with a plaque honoring her 30 years with the city. The council as well as all staff and residents in attendance then gave Witt a long standing ovation.

“When somebody mentions about this administration being a success over the years, I always point immediately to the people who work for the city,” Bennett said. “Nancy is an example of the type of quality people we have working here in Palos Hills. Her dedication over those 30 years is pretty hard to summarize.”

Bennett credited Witt with “modernizing” the department, noting water billing was previously done on ledger cards and is now all computerized.

“It was pretty outdated and archaic,” Bennett said. “Nancy and (former) building commissioner George Lutz stepped in and modernized the entire water billing system. Certainly the changes that have taken place over the years – improving that system and the quality and reliability of it – are second to none around our area.”

Witt also performed clerical duties for the Public Works Department in addition to her work in the Water and Sewer Department. Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley called it a “pleasure” to work with Witt for the past 22 years.

“I’m going to miss Nancy every day,” Weakley said. “You’ve had my interests in your heart and I truly appreciate it. I‘ve turned to you for guidance and you have definitely provided me plenty of opportunities for guidance. I truly thank you.”

Witt addressed the council to thank them for the kind words and state she has been “fortunate to work with some really wonderful people.”

“From where Palos Hills started when I moved in in about 1976 to where it is today, a lot of the credit needs to be given to Mayor Bennett and all the aldermen that have served, but the progressive thinking of Jerry Bennett has profited the city to be a phenomenal city.

“I’ve been very thankful to work for the city and meet so many wonderful people. It’s been a great 30 years.”

Bennett praised Witt for her “loyalty” and “commitment” through the years. She started with the city on Sept. 4, 1986.

“All good things must come to an end,” Bennett said. “So is true for the marvelous and memorable contributions that you’ve made to the City of Palos Hills.    

“You have done a remarkable job. It’s so hard for me to say thank you enough for your service to the city.”

In other news, Ald. A.J. Pasek (3rd Ward) told the council registration is now underway at the Palos Hills Community Center for the second annual hot dog eating contest and inaugural pie eating contest at the city’s Friendship Festival to be held July 7-10 at the Moraine Valley Triangle, 107th Street and 88th Avenue.

The pie eating contest is to take place at 7 p.m. on July 9 and will feature a competition for both children and adults. Youths ages 17 and under will chow down on a five-inch berry pie while adults will take on the eight-inch version. A $50 cash prize will be awarded to the winner of each contest. The cost to enter is $15, Pasek said.

“It’s a no-hands contest,” Pasek said of the rules for the pie eating. “People are going to get a little dirty.”

The hot dog eating contest, which also costs $15 to enter, is slated for 6:15 p.m. on July 10. Competitors will see who can gobble up 10 hot dogs and buns the fastest. The winner will take home $50 while medallions will be presented to second and third place.

Each contest will be limited to 10 competitors. The deadline to register at the Community Center is July 8, Pasek said.

“The hot dog eating contest was a success last year and I think the pie eating contest will be fun,” Pasek said, noting more than 200 people crowded the beer tent to watch last year. “I think it’s going to attract people to the fest.”