It could have been worse

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Deadly storm packs light punch in area


  The southwest suburbs front-color-4-COL-WEATHERWorkers from Eclipse Awning repair damage caused by Sunday’s storm in front of the Worth Restaurant. The deadly storm did some minor damage in the Reporter communities but it was not as severe as other parts of the state. Photo by Jeff Vorva.escaped the havoc and destruction that Sunday’s tornadoes wreaked on communities stretching from central Illinois to Frankfort, and residents realize how fortunate they were to elude the life-threatening damage that accompanied the storm.

  Workers on Monday repaired awnings at the Worth Restaurant, 6948 W. 111th St., which were damaged by high winds that whipped through several of the communities in The Reporter’s coverage area.
  Fortunately, the winds and rain caused only minimal damage to homes and businesses in the area.
  “We’re very, very happy this wasn’t worse,” said Linda Dawson, who has been a waitress at the Worth Restaurant for 16 years. “It’s a big deal to us, but it’s not that big of a deal when you consider what could have happened. This wasn’t major.’’
  Hickory Hills Village Clerk Dee Catizone echoed Dawson’s sentiments.
  “We were pretty lucky,” Catizone said. “It sort of blew over. It was pretty quick.”
jump-3-col-weatherFences at the site of a new bank on 95th Street in Oak Lawn were twisted and knocked over after Sunday’s storm. Photo by Jeff Vorva.  ComEd crews were working Monday to restore power to about 150 homes in the 9200 block of 88th Avenue, Catizone said. Those homes lost electricity on Sunday when a downed tree branch took out a power line, she said.
  Palos Hills, Chicago Ridge and Evergreen Park weathered the storm without serious property damage or electrical outages, officials said.
  However, power outages were again an issue in a section of Oak Lawn typically affected by storms.
  “Twenty four hours after the incident, residents of Oak Lawn are still without power,” Trustee Alex Olejniczak said.
  Outages affected more than 1,000 homes in an area roughly bounded by 87th and 101st streets between 52nd Avenue to Pulaski Road. Many of those homes had power restored by Sunday night, but an area near 93rd Street and Tully Avenue remained without electricity the following day, Olejniczak said.
  Olejniczak, a long-time critic of ComEd, said a damaged wooden utility pole located behind Fox’s Pub, 9240 S. Cicero Ave., collapsed during the storm, causing the outage.
  “It was weathered and warped through,” said Olejniczak, who added that markings indicated that the pole had not been inspected since 1983.
  ComEd officials said the pole was not responsible for the outage, and added that it was inspected in 1997.
  Olejniczak said homes in the 4600 block of 105th and 106th streets also were without power.
  “It’s just a frustration,” he said.



Family conducts investigation of Brittany’s death

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Two weeks after her daughter’s tragic death, Rebecca Tully vows that her memory will never be forgotten the cause of her death will ultimately be revealed.

  “She shouldn’t have died,” Tully said Tuesday afternoon. “This is not an accident.”
  And she wants to prove it.
  “My family and I are doing our own investigation,” Tully said.
  Prosecutors said Brittany Wawrzyniak, 18, died Nov. 8 after she was ejected from the back seat of an alleged drug dealer’s car after buying pills from him.
  “We have to be patient,” said Earl Lane, Wawrzyniak’s step-grandfather. “(Police) are not telling us everything right now.”
  Wawrzyniak met Eric Steven Johnson at the boat launch near 115th Street and Beloit Avenue in Worth. She got into the backseat of his car and handed him $200 in exchange for 30 pills of Clonazepam, prosecutors said.
  The prescription drug is used to treat panic and seizure disorders, according to medical experts.
  Wawrzyniak, a Worth resident and Shepard graduate, began counting the pills while still in the back seat as Johnson drove away. She opened the door of the moving car, was ejected and struck the pavement, prosecutors said.
  She was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn less than one hour later.
  Johnson, of Peotone, was ordered held on $300,000 bond. He is charged with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.
  Tully said her daughter had no intention of purchasing drugs. Rather, the drug buy was a ploy to arrange a fight between Wawrzyniak’s friend and another girl, she said.
  “It was all a ruse to set up a fight,” she said.
  Tully contends that if her daughter intended to meet Johnson to purchase pills, the transaction would not have resulted in her death.
  Tully said she is relying on God to guide her through the difficult days following her daughter’s’ death.
  She said she drew strength from the outpouring of support shown during last week’s wake and funeral services.
  Bridgeview police were needed to direct traffic in front of Hann Funeral Home where mourners waited in line for two hours to pay their respects. There was a standing-room-only crowd for funeral services at New Hope Church in Alsip. The family had to turn away people who wanted to attend the luncheon following services, Tully said.
  Wawrzyniak’s friends and family continue to post messages on the RIP Brittany Wawrzyniak Facebook page, which had more than 7,200 “likes” as of Tuesday. Her online memorial fund has raised approximately $11,000.
  Lane said the family is struggling to assume “some sense of normalcy. It’s a period of calming.”
  “There’s nothing you can say, nothing you can do,” said Lane, a Hickory Hills alderman from 1979 to 1991. “We lost a lot of love with Brittany, Brittany was special.”
  “I know where she’s at, and I will see her again,” Tully added.
  Several Facebook posts encourage people who may know more about Wawrzyniak’s death to report the information to the police. Worth police can be contacted at 708-448-3979.
  Attempts to contact Worth police for an update on the investigation were unsuccessful.

‘Shared sacrifice’ still on ice as Oak Lawn trustees mull their health benefits

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Mike CarberryMike CarberryOak Lawn trustees took a pass Tuesday night on a discussion of eliminating health care benefits for elected officials, deciding instead that additional information is needed first.

  “There’s going to be a lot of discussion that’s going to take place between all of us,” Trustee Mike Carberry said. “It’s an overall compensation package. Health benefits are a major cost. We need to get everybody’s input. We’re going to try to come up with something that makes sense. There’s not a big rush on this.”

Part of that discussion will focus on a proposal to allow trustees to purchase health insurance from the village if it is no longer offered as a benefit.

“That wasn’t really discussed at the last meeting and I think that’s important to talk about before we start drafting an ordinance,” Village Attorney Patrick Connelly said. “I would like to hear some direction on what you guys [on the board] think.”

Connelly added that he is exploring whether or not the repeal of health care benefits would take place after a board member’s term. He said there was “some gray area” in the law that might allow benefits to be repealed at the end of the fiscal year instead.

The health insurance issue was first raised at the Oct. 22 board meeting by Trustee Tim Desmond, who called for “shared sacrifice” at a time when the board is considering several significant cuts to balance the village budget.

Several trustees and Mayor Sandra Bury currently take full or partial health benefits.

Palos Hills construction projects wrapping up in time for winter

  • Written by Kelly White, Correspondent

Photo by Jeff Vorva  Road construction on 111th Street continues in Palos Hills.

Photo by Jeff Vorva. Road construction on 111th Street continues in Palos Hills.

Palos Hills Public Works crews are wrapping up this year’s construction season, but before shifting into winter work mode the city is guaranteeing several current projects will be completed.

The Illinois Department of Transportation performed an unscheduled asphalt overlay to repair all four lanes of traffic on 111th Street from Southwest Highway to Harlem Ave. recently.

“The overlay was necessary due to potholes and delamination of the road surface along 111th Street,” Commissioner, Dave Weakley, stated at Thursday’s city council meeting.

There was another problem on Kean Ave. stretching from 111th Street to 95th Street, where the Illinois Department of Transportation completed an edge of road patching program due to the slippary surface course of asphalt. This is the second time in three years the city has patched and replaced the asphalt on that section of Kean Ave., Weakley said. Mayor Jerry Bennett noted the city is using asphalt approved by IDOT; however, officials are hoping to eventually see a better product come along after having to replace Kean Avenue so soon after the previous repair.

“The problem is, unless it is an IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) approved product, we cannot use it,” Bennett said.

Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Bears, Packers, Redhawks and Bulldogs?

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva. Marist coaches, who are having a disagreement with officials early in Friday night’s upset win over Bolingbrook, hope to guide their team to the Class 8A state championship. The Bears will honor all of the state champion teams when they play Green Bay in late December.

Column-Edit-NoteThe Bears host the Packers on what could be a frozen tundra at Soldier Field on Dec. 29.

Who knows which quarterbacks will show up for those teams? That will be a crapshoot. Jake Cutler and Aaron Rodgers could be in traction by the time that game rolls around.

The Bears also invited to the game head coaches and player representatives from the eight Illinois High School Association football champions.

Who knows who will show up for that? That will also be a crapshoot. But the Reporter area still has two horses still left in this race.

The quarterfinals are this weekend and Marist is still alive in Class 8A and Richards is one of eight teams left in Class 6A. The Redhawks host Oswego at 7 p.m. Saturday and the Bulldogs host Lincoln-Way North at 6 p.m.

If one or both teams win state titles, the halftime show should be pretty cool for them.

The ceremony will include state championship game highlights on the video boards, courtesy of Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

“The Chicago Bears are dedicated to supporting high school football throughout the state of Illinois, and we will be proud to recognize our 2013 football state champion teams during halftime of our game on December 29,” said Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey in a news release. “Winning a state title is a monumental accomplishment, and we look forward to congratulating each championship team.”

The IHSA football state title games will be played at Huskie Stadium on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb on Friday and Saturday, November 29-30.

What are the chances we get someone there?

Now that Marist knocked Bolingbrook, Class 8A looks a little more wide open. How about a Marist-Maine South championship two days after Thanksgiving in DeKalb? That would be a rematch from 2009, and that didn’t work out so well for the Redhawks in a 41-17 loss. A little revenge could be in order.

Richards’ big obstacle could be Providence in the semifinals. That team finished 5-4 during the regular season but played arguably one of the strongest schedules in the state.

It should be a fun couple of weeks full of twists and turns. And we’re not just talking about the limbs of Cutler and Rodgers.
Game of the year?

Evergreen Park’s thrilling 45-44 win over Argo is one of five games considered for the CN100 Game of the Year honors. Voting runs through Nov. 24.

The CN100 Game of the Week crew covered 17 games around Chicagoland this year and has narrowed the field down to the five best. Fans can select the CN100 Game of the Year by going to to make their choice.

The five games in contention are:

  • Evergreen Park vs. Argo (taped Oct. 15): Don Oresky strips the ball and returns the fumble for a fourth-quarter touchdown to give the Mustangs a 45-44 win over Argo.
  • Wheaton North vs. Wheaton Warrenville South (taped Sept. 13): The Tigers score 17 unanswered points and hold on to take down their crosstown rivals 17-13 in a Week 3 meeting.
  • Oak Forest vs. Lemont (taped Sept. 20): Oak Forest kicks a late field goal for the 23-21 comeback win to snap an eight-game losing streak to Lemont.
  • Lincoln-Way East vs. Bolingbrook (taped Oct. 18): The Raiders clinch their first conference title since 2009 with a 12-3 victory over Lincoln-Way East in Week 8 action.
  • Neuqua Valley vs. Waubonsie Valley (taped Oct. 11): Broc Rutter threw three touchdown passes and Mikey Dudek returned a kick 77 yards as Neuqua defeated rival Waubonsie 40-25 in Indian Prairie Classic.

Ms. Senior America crowned

  A few weeks ago, this press release came in and I didn’t have as much time or space to devote to it as I do now. I’m not sure this event was on TV so this is news to all of us:

Longtime Charlie Daniels Band background vocalist Carolyn Corlew was crowned Ms. Senior America at the National pageant at Resorts Casino Hotel’s Superstar Theater in Atlantic City, NJ. The competition featured 34 women age 60 and older from around the country. Corlew won the title of Ms. Senior Tennessee April 27th.

While representing Wilson County at the Tennessee State convention, Corlew encouraged ladies that have reached the “Age of Elegance” to consider participating in the pageant.

  “I am thrilled, honored and so excited about wearing this crown for the next year,” said Corlew.

  “These women were over the top — there were professional dancers, opera singers from Broadway... I sang a bluesy Etta James song and we had a 93 year old that rocked the competition. I’m blown away. From this point it’s spirit, mind and then body — it’s gotta come from within. I’ve got a 20-pound dress on and a crown and I’m proud to represent all the senior women of America!”