Lipinski nominates Oak Lawn resident to attend West Point

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

patrick fox photo 2-2

Photo by Sharon L. Filkins

Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) honors Oak Lawn resident Patrick Fox on Saturday. Lipinski nominated the Richards High School senior to attend West Point Academy.


The atmosphere in the Johnson-Phelps VFW 5250 banquet room in Oak Lawn was filled with an air of excitement and anticipation on Saturday as 18 high school seniors and their families gathered for a U.S. military nomination ceremony hosted by Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd)

The nomination ceremony recognizes high school students who live in the 3rd District and have been selected by the congressman to receive his nomination to the military academy of their choice, including West Point, the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy.

Jerry Hurckes, Lipinski’s chief of staff, said that this year there were 100 applications received in the office.

“It is not just a simple application. It is a lot of work on the part of the students who have to present their transcripts, school records of their accomplishments and letters of recommendation from instructors and community and civic organizations,” Hurckes said.

He added that the congressman’s nomination is just the first hurdle. “The student still has to be accepted by the academy,” Hurckes said.

Among those nominated to attend West Point was Oak Lawn resident Patrick Fox, a senior at Richards High School and a member of the ROTC.

“Today is one of the proudest moments of my life,” said Fox after receiving his nomination to West Point from the congressman. “I have been working on my application since my sophomore year. It has been a lot of hard work with a lot of stressful moments. I want to thank my parents for their support and understanding through this process. I could not have gotten to this point without them.”

When asked how he chose West Point, he replied that he had begun searching colleges and in his research he determined that the values of West Point Academy, such as character and integrity would help him in his goals for what he hopes to do.

“My dream is to spend 20 years in the military and then hopefully work for the state department. I would hope for the opportunity to work my way up to become an ambassador.”

Fox pointed out that these plans are his dream for his future, but he realizes that life can change unexpectedly.

“But for the present, I have this wonderful opportunity and will do everything I can to make it a reality,” he said.

Four nominees to attend the Naval Academy also represent area schools. They are Brandon Fitzpatrick and Desiree Garcia, both students at Marist High School; Justin O’Connell, a student at St. Rita High School; and Joseph Sweeney, who attends Brother Rice High School.

St. Ignatius High School was represented by Jennifer Stelnick, a nominee for the Merchant Marine Academy.

Other nominees for West Point were James Beecher, Benet Academy; Denise Hernandez, Lindblom Math and Science; Steven Irace, Lemont High School; Drew Litynski, Lockport High School; and John Sims, Kennedy High School.

Additional Naval Academy nominees are Charles Chan, UIC College Prep; John Hirstein, St. John Northwestern; George Pina, NAPS/Chicago Military; Philip Smith and Ryan Hammond, Lyons Township High School; and Grace Rost, Providence Catholic High School.

Nominated to the Air Force Academy was Jordan Brown, Lemont High School.

In his remarks prior to presenting the nominees, Lipinski praised their families, parents and grandparents for being a part of the student’s lives and instilling a sense of commitment to serve.

“We see fewer people today who are willing to make a commitment. So many in today’s world seem to be self-centered. But this group here today have demonstrated they are willing to give of themselves, to give it all, to sacrifice for others,” he said.

Turning to the nominees, he said, “All I can do is nominate you. I can’t get you into the academy. But it is your hard work that got you to this point and I thank you for being willing to make this commitment. Thank you and God bless you.”

Also encouraging the students was Clifford DeTemple, a U.S. Coast Guard recruiter.

“This moment is a pinnacle of your life. It is no small endeavor to join the military. It will change the rest of your life, for the better. It is so different than going to a college. In the academy, you will be trained for leadership positions. Most grads of military academies become Commanders or Admirals,” DeTemple said.

He also cautioned them to be prepared for day one. “You will need to work hard so prepare yourselves. The first weeks can be difficult but once you get past that, it is better.”

Other guest speakers at the event included former Chicago Ald. Jim Balcer, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Bronze Star recipient and a Vietnam War veteran.

Joe Stachon, a former state commander and a former commander of the 3rd District, also spoke. Stachon is also a former commander of the Johnson-Phelps Post.

Hickory Hills honors Good Samaritan business owner

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

ghanda dini photo 2-2

Submitted photo

Ghandi Dini, a business owner in Hickory Hills, is surrounded by family and members of the Hickory Hills City Council last Thursday after being honored for aiding a woman involved in a road rage incident.


A Good Samaritan proclamation and commendation for a local business owner occurred during the Hickory Hills City Council meeting last Thursday night.

Recognized for a selfless act of heroism and concern for a victim of road rage occurring on Oct. 5, 2016 was Ghandi Dini, co-owner of Chill ‘N Grill Spot Restaurant, located at 9348 S. Roberts Road.

Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward) introduced Dini and read the Good Samaritan Proclamation of Recognition and Gratitude, which outlined the events of that day when Dini left his store and ran out to aid a young woman who had been involved in a traffic collision involving two cars.

Dini was in his store at about 8:30 p.m. when a customer came in and said one of the drivers, a young girl, was being assaulted by a female occupant of the other car. When Dini went out and approached the young woman to help and comfort her, the other woman verbally assaulted him and told him to mind his own business.

When he responded to her remarks, a male occupant of the car joined the woman and they both physically attacked Dini. As he was defending himself and backing up, he tripped and fell. The two people continued beating and kicking him in the face and torso, according to the proclamation.

Witnesses standing by helped pull the attackers off of him just as responding police officers arrived. Dini was treated at the scene by North Palos Fire Department paramedics and transported to Palos Community Hospital, where it was determined he had suffered a fractured left eye socket. He is still recovering from the injury.

Also commending Dini was Police Chief Al Vodicka, who presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation and Gratitude.

“The Police Department commends you for bravery above and beyond the norm, in the face of a physical assault,” said Vodicka.

Phyllis Majka, president of the Hills Chamber of Commerce, also recognized Dini for his bravery in coming to the aid of a young victim and presented him with a one-year free membership in the chamber.

Speaking in response to the outpouring of appreciation, Dini said he was humbled by all the recognition.

“I thank all of you for your kind words. I only did what I had to do,” Dini said. “Someone needed help and I was there. It is what I know in my heart. We are to help people who need help and I will continue to help whenever it is needed.”

On another matter, Mayor Mike Howley announced the city was making a contribution to the Palos Area Bus Transportation for the Elderly and Disabled in the amount of $13,450. He stated that of the 5,000 trips the bus makes annually, 2,000 of them are generated by Hickory Hills residents.

In a committee of the whole meeting conducted prior to the regular council meeting, council members reviewed several options presented by ComEd for improved maintenance of an approximately two-acre lot it owns, located along 76th Avenue, just south of 95th Street and the entrance to I-294 South.

The options offered by ComEd included a chain-link fence, a post and cable fence, a guard rail or concrete barricades.

The consensus of the council was to have a guard rail installed around the lot with one entrance south of the property.

Howley said the lot is unsightly and has been used as a fly-dump spot for years.

“Hopefully, this will be an effective solution,” he said.

Trump is 'lightning rod' but TCC professor says U.S. has been through this before

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The inauguration of President Donald Trump on Jan. 20 made some Americans happy and hopeful, while others are disappointed and rallying against him.
“I think the country is clearly divided.  There are times it has been divided before. There has also been extreme rhetoric before,” said Professor John Fry, chairman of the history department at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights.
Fry sees some parallels between the current situation and the responses to the elections of Barack Obama eight years ago and Ronald Reagan in 1980. But the professor, who teaches classes on American history, said there are similarities with races in more distant times.
“FDR was called a fascist and a communist. Lincoln was called ugly and all sorts of things,” said Fry. Indeed, according to a 2009 issue of Hallowed Ground magazine, Lincoln was lambasted in an editorial in The Salem (Illinois) Advocate, basically his hometown newspaper, while he was making his way by train from Springfield to Washington for his first inauguration in 1861.
In part, the editorial states, "The illustrious Honest Old Abe has continued during the last week to make a fool of himself and to mortify and shame the intelligent people of this great nation. His speeches have demonstrated the fact that although originally a Herculean rail splitter and more lately a whimsical story teller and side splitter, he is no more capable of becoming a statesman, nay, even a moderate one, than the braying ass can become a noble lion. His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world. The European powers will despise us because we have no better material out of which to make a president.”
 Some of those descriptions sound very similar to things said about Obama and Trump.
“People are worried about very basic issues, about life, about government. They are called culture wars, but I think of them as cultural shouting matches. These have been going on for the past 25 years or more. But it’s been peaceful for the most part,” said Fry.
He said the current situation is different than generations ago because, “as the federal government gets more powerful, the election for the president gets more important. We now have this lightning rod [to direct anger at].”  
“Now, the Internet allows people to say whatever they want. There are pros and cons to that. There are a lot of interactions on computers but people are less able to talk to each other in person. It is not good practice. You just type in your 140 characters and send. We now have a president who does that too.”
“No one expected (Trump’s election) to happen. At first, it was a big shock. In a place like Trinity, we get students from a lot of backgrounds, from Chicago and other cities and suburbs, and rural areas of the Midwest.  People have different opinions. We tried to provide space here for students to talk with others who don’t already agree with them. And it has worked out. The intention is to allow people to say what they want. The nice thing is, we try to do it with Christian love,” said Fry.
 “We had a similar situation eight years ago. It looks like a lot of Obama voters voted for Trump this time. Not because they liked Trump, but to vote against Hillary Clinton,” said the professor.
Fry said that because President Trump does not come from a traditional political background, there are more questions than usual with a new president.
“The thing is, we don’t know what he will be able to accomplish,” said Fry, because getting things done will require working with both parties.
He noted that even though Republicans now have control of the White House and majorities in both the House and Senate, it might not be as simple as it looks. “Donald Trump, during the campaign, didn’t show any willingness to listen to the people in his own party who opposed him.”
Despite the uncertainty, Fry said he is optimistic looking ahead to the next four years.
“I am a Christian and I teach at a Christian school. So I am always optimistic because God is always in control,” he said. “If people are unhappy, I would just advise them to get involved locally in politics or join organizations working on the issues you feel strongly about,” said the professor.
“One of the great things about living here is, we have the freedom to assemble and the ability to make our voices heard. If people don’t think government is listening to them, they can get involved locally to get people they want elected,” Fry said.

Evergreen Park has green light to buy animal hospital

  • Written by Joe Boyle

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Photo by Joe Boyle

The 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.

QUEEN IN PIECES: Historic team soldiers on despite news of school closing

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



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.