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She’s van-tastic

  • Written by Declan Harty

 

‘Local hero’ from Oak Lawn wins wheelchair-accessible van

For Linda Stearns, the feeling of needing a Page-1-four-col-vanLinda Stearns poses with the door on her van that nearly knocked her over after it fell off when she went for a mammogram over the winter. The Oak Lawn resident, who is a tireless volunteer, won a new van for being a local hero in a National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association contest. Photo by Jeff Vorva.new van has been one that has been in her mind for quite a few years.

But it was when the door fell off her current Dodge Ram Braun Rampvan as she pulled up to a breast cancer mammogram on a snowy day this past winter, she knew she really was in need of one. She said the darn door nearly knocked her over.
In June, the 67-year old Oak Lawn resident’s wishes were finally granted.
Stearns won a brand new Chrysler wheelchair accessible van through the National Mobility Equipment Dealer’s Association’s (NMEDA) Local Heroes Award, which is awarded each year during National Mobility Awareness month.
The van, which is equipped with hand-controls and valued at approximately $70,000, will allow Stearns to not only get around town on her own, but also to have her first ever brand new car.
But despite this, Stearns only views it as an opportunity to help others despite living with Multiple Sclerosis, which has limited Stearns to a motorized scooter, and being a breast cancer survivor.
“I was struck with multiple sclerosis when my daughter was three, and I have had to live with that,” Stearns said. “I am in a motorized scooter, a very expensive and annoying disease (MS) I might add. Then after being struck with MS, if that isn’t bad enough, I was struck with breast cancer, but you have to throw all of those to the side because there are worse people out there than me.”
But it wasn’t her diseases that made Stearns want to give back to the community—she has always done in some fashion or another.
Stearns’ daughter, Gail Ann Stearns-Hussein, wrote an essay on her mother that helped win her the new van.
Stearns-Hussein said that Linda, at the age of 17 was working at Misericordia Chicago and she met Charlie, a baby who was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and was not expected to live past two years old.
But that didn’t stop Stearns.
At the age of 21, Stearns brought Charlie home with her. And in November, Charlie will turn 50 years old, as he currently still resides with Stearns and her family.
Additionally, according to Stearns, she became the unofficial provider of two sets of quadruplets, at the same time, for mothers who needed to work at the time.
For Stearns, the van provides an opportunity to continue to help out Charlie and the hundreds of others she has impacted.
From joining Charlie at Garden Center for the Handicapped located at 8333 Austin Ave. in Burbank to donating her time at her church, Mt. Zion Lutheran Church and Galilee Baptist Church, located at 10957 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago, Stearns has manage to balance a life full of hundreds of other people in addition with her own family.
“She bakes for PADS, which serves the homeless, attends Honor Flight Chicago to support veterans and rearranges flowers from local funeral homes, which she delivers to patients in hospitals and nursing homes,” Stearns’ daughter wrote in the essay.

Plans for multi-town drainage plan underway

  • Written by Kelly White

  Palos Hills is joining forces with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), Cook County and two nearby communities to develop a master storm water drainage plan for a five-mile stretch of Roberts Road.

  The city joined the MWRD and representatives from Bridgeview, Hickory Hills, Justice and Cook County Highway Department last Thursday at a kick-off meeting in Palos Hills to discuss a proposed drainage plan for Roberts Road from 71st Street to 111th Street.
  But Palos Hills and Hickory Hills residents shouldn’t get too excited just yet. It could be a decade before a Roberts Road storm water system is installed, thereby resolving many of the flooding issues that affect both towns,
said Larry Boettcher, Hickory Hills’ director of public works.
  But Boettcher and Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley lauded the MWRD for employing a regional approach to solve the Roberts Road flooding problems, which also plague Justice and Bridgeview.
  “They’re looking at the bigger picture,” Howley said.
  Previously, individual communities examined ways to solve flooding issues, but such an approach could have a negative impact on neighboring towns, Boettcher said.
  “Engineering studies have shown the main drain under Roberts Road is undersized and drainage improvements are necessary,” Palos Hills Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley said at last Thursday’s city council meeting.
  The MWRD and the Cook County Highway Department are addressing all concerns and working to develop a comprehensive plan that addresses the storm water drainage needs of the communities residing along Roberts Road, Weakley said.
  Meanwhile, the Palos Hills Public Works Department recently completed two water main replacement projects, Weakley said. Fifty feet of deteriorated water main was replaced at Winter Park and Sun Valley drives and another 50 feet was replaced at Cottonwood and Chestnut drives.
  “The maintenance work was in response to numerous water main failures at both locations,” Ald. Martin Kleefisch (1st Ward) said.
  Two leaks were located on 74th Avenue—one 104 Street and the other at 105th Street—were rather large and finding their way into the sanitary sewer system. The other two leaks were the result of fire hydrants that were not fully closed, Weakley said.
  Weakley reported at previous city council meetings that there was a hidden water leak in the city’s system, and a water leak detection company was brought in to survey the system and locate the leaks. Four water leaks were detected and repaired, he said.
  Weakley said his department also has responded to concerns about poor storm water drainage at 102nd Street and 78th Avenue by clearing overgrown vegetation and debris from the east ditch line along 78th Avenue from 101st Street to 102nd Street, he said.
  “After completing an elevation survey of the area, it was determined that clearing the ditch was the best approach to improving storm water conveyance throughout the area,” he said.
  During the clearing process, public works crews discovered a beaver dam in Lucas Ditch Extension, east of 78th Avenue and north of 103rd Street, which also contributed to poor storm water drainage in the area. The MWRD was contacted and trapping of the beavers was been requested.
— Bob Rakow contributed to this report

Kortz in session — so is high school football

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Richards assistant football coachPAGE-1-COLOR-2-col Jeff Kortz tries to slow down running back Romeo Johnson with a towel during the first day of football practice on Monday in Oak Lawn.

  Once they hit the field, there may be no slowing down the Bulldogs in their quest to win a Class 6A state championship. Last year, the Bulldogs finished second and return some talented skill players including Johnson, who had seven carries for 97 yards in a 34-14 loss to Batavia in the state championship game in 2013.
  Jeff Vorva’s story looking at some of the early-season storylines for the 2014 campaign, which begins Friday, Aug. 29 and photos from Richards and Chicago Christian’s first-day practices can be found in sports. Photo by Jeff Vorva.

The so-called ‘meanest man in pro football’ dies

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Former Bear and Chicago Ridge bowling

alley owner Ed Sprinkle passes at age 90

Ed Sprinkle, a longtime resident of Palos Park and recently of Palos Heights who once owned a bowling alley in Chicago Ridge and widely acclaimed as one of the greatest football players in Chicago Bears history, died July 28. He was 90.
Mr. Sprinkle played as a right defensive end for the Bears from 1944 to 1955, earning the nickname “The Claw” for his ability to use his strong left arm against blockers and quarterbacks. He was named all-pro seven times and played in four Pro Bowls — in 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1955.
In a hardscrabble era of NFL football, he was known as a tough guy among tough guys, even getting tagged with a “meanest man in football” nickname by some—a designation Mr. Sprinkle and others close to him disputed.
“I don’t know where it started. I hit guys. I never stood around. Sometimes they interpreted that as being mean instead of being tough,” Mr. Sprinkle said in a 2012 interview with The Regional News. “Halas tried to defend me. He said I wasn’t a dirty player. I was mean as everyone out there.”
“His name is legendary. I’ve heard all the stories of the Monsters of the Midway, but I knew him as such a nice guy, such a gentleman. Hard to equate the legend with the man I know,” said Brian McCaskey, senior director of business development of the Chicago Bears and son of owner Virginia McCaskey, in 2012
In that same Regional News article, Mr. Sprinkle admitted to some run-ins with other players, including future Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula.
“I came around and hit him pretty good,” he said. “He said something, so I said, ‘If you want to stand around and watch the game why don’t you buy a ticket and sit in the stands?’”
Outside of football, he was a local businessman who owned a tile business on Southwest Highway, as well as a small bowling alley in Chicago Ridge on 111th Street and Oxford Avenue.
He was active in local affairs. He was a member of the Palos Lions Club and coached youth football and baseball, according to his daughter, Susan Withers, a banking executive and past president of the Palos Area Chamber of Commerce.
“My dad was tough on the field, because he had to be,” she recalled. “Everywhere else, he was kind and understanding. He wouldn’t just give orders, he would talk to you, explain things.”
“He was far more than a wonderful father,” Withers added. “He was a good friend. He was good with kids.”

She's history

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 

Her broken down car leads to curator’s love of Worth history

Colleen McElroy had never heard of Pag1-1-3-col-Coleen-for-Aug-14Colleen McElroy, shown at an outdoor board meeting earlier this summer in which board members dressed up in period pieces, has been synonymous with Worth history for years. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Worth until her car broke down in the Friendly Village 14 years ago.

“My ‘check engine’ light’ went,” recalls McElroy, who was returning home to Chicago from Orland Park, where she and her husband, Mike, had visited relatives.
McElroy and her young family lived on the Southwest Side of Chicago at the time, but less than a year after her car broke down, they bought a home in Worth.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“Things happen for a reason,” said McElroy, a member of the village board and the curator of the Worth Park District Historical Museum.
McElroy immediately got involved in her new community by joining the library board. She volunteered at the Worth Park District, where she oversaw programming. She moved to the museum when the curator position opened up five years ago.
McElroy, the mother of four, has a degree in history from Northern Illinois University and a passion for small town history, she said.
Overseeing the Worth Historical Museum fits the bill.
“I am very proud of where the museum is at today,” said McElroy, who spends about 22 hours week at the facility, which is located inside the Terrace Centre, 11500 S. Beloit Ave.