Sabre Roon closes after 67 years in Hickory Hills

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


The 67-year-old Sabre Room banquet hall, a landmark building located at 8900 W. 95th St. in Hickory Hills, held its last events on Saturday and Sunday, before shutting its doors for the last time.

The family-owned business was founded by Arnold and Marie Muzzarelli in 1949, on the 30-acre site of the luxury Dynell Spring Spa dating back to the 1920s. In recent years, it was known for holding wedding receptions, New Year’s Eve parties, quinceaneras and other social events in its various rooms.

But in its heyday, with space for up to 2,500 people, it was a popular concert venue for top stars such as Frank Sinatra in 1976, and Dean Martin in 1977. Liberace, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour and Rudy Vallee all appeared there over the years as well.

The Muzzarellis, who lived upstairs, had made the connections necessary to draw the top acts through their previous training at the Ambassadors East Hotel and Pump Room in downtown Chicago. It helped that the Sabre Room encompassed 100,000 square feet of space, and acres of parking.

“I’m sorry to see it go. But I suppose it had to happen eventually. I have a lot of great memories there,” said Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward), whose ward includes the property.

He said he didn’t see Sinatra and the other big names, but he was there for plenty of weddings and other occasions.

“I never got a chance to meet Arnold Muzzarelli (who died in 1992), but I had the pleasure of meeting his wife, Marie. She was there, working the phone until she was 90,” said McAvoy. When Marie Muzzarelli died in 2010, at 90, the business was passed on to their children, Arnold Jr., and daughters, Janice and Yvonne.

The general manager, Art Golden, the current treasurer of the Hills Chamber of Commerce, had started working there when he was 15, in the 1970s.

“I wish Art the best of luck. He was there so much, he was all the time,” said McAvoy of Golden, who could not be reached for comment this week.

Worth residents Ed and Maggie Palenik are also sad to see the Sabre Room close, having worked there themselves as bartenders and waitstaff over the years, and just helping out where they could. Their daughters worked there also in recent years.

“We knew the Muzzarellis well. They lived upstairs. It was always a very well-run business. A lot of history went on there, and a lot of events were still held there, but just on a smaller scale. Just like the Martinique and other places like it that also closed, everything from the taxes, and gas bills and electric bills just got to be too much. And there were illnesses in the family too.”

McAvoy said that a developer is interested in the property, but he could not go into any details because everything is still in the preliminary stages.

“What happens there is very important to me and my co-alderman, Brian Fonte,” said McAvoy, who also represents the 3rd Ward.

“With 30 acres, it might be one of the biggest developments in Hickory Hills since the 1960s,” he said.

“It is going to be a planned-use development, so it won’t be broken up into different parcels,” said McAvoy.

“But it is going to be a long process. The developer still has to get planning permission, of course, and present plans before the full City Council. It is going to take months. No meetings are scheduled yet, but we’ll expect big crowds when they are held,” he said.


District 218 freshmen will get iPads to start the high school year

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The summer break has just begun, but incoming District 218 freshmen can at least look forward to receiving iPad tablets when they start high school in the fall.

The rollout of the 1:1 computer program will be complete in the fall of 2017, when students in the other grades will also receive iPads.

School board members gave their final approval to the program with a 6-0 vote at the May 16 meeting. School board member Robert Stokas was absent.

“We’ve already tentatively agreed to this, but this vote makes it official,” said Ty Harting, District 218 superintendent. All the teachers in 218, which includes Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Shepard in Palos Heights and Eisenhower in Blue Island, have already received iPads and professional development during the spring semester this year.

Neighboring School District 230 also embarked on a similar 1:1 technology program this year, but the students in those schools -- Sandburg, Stagg and Andrew high schools -- will be receiving Chromebooks.

According to a statement on the District 218 website, “The iPad has a strong connection to education with access to a large variety of quality apps and resources. Teacher feedback highlighted the importance of the productivity apps and creativity apps that are often exclusive to the iPad. The iPad includes powerful classroom management apps and access to interactive digital textbooks and course materials.”

It concludes, “We believe that the iPad provides rich opportunities for student engagement and instructional innovation that will meet the needs of diverse learners in our district.”

Through the three-year leasing program, the district will lease 2,600 iPad Air 2 Wi-Fi 64 GB tablets and protective cases from Apple Inc., according to information on the district website. The devices will cost the district $424 to lease, but it was pointed out at the meeting that that price represents a $130 decrease from the price originally considered.

According to district officials, leasing the computers for a three-year period will cost the district about $1 million, saving $160,000 from the cost of buying them.

Students will be asked to pay a $25 fee per school year to insure the tablets against theft or damage.

Harting said the board was advised to institute the $25 fee rather than getting the full-protection insurance offered by Apple Inc., because it would be too costly and not worth it for how often it would be used.

However, President Thomas Kosowski noted that students cannot be required to pay the fee to get the iPads.

“I would strongly encourage students to pay the $25,” said Harting, because he said it would be much more expensive to have to replace a lost or damaged computer.

Students who do not pay the $25 fee, and something happens to their device, they would be required to pay the entire cost of replacing it.

But the board members agreed that students could not technically be forced to pay the entire cost.

“What if a student gets bullied and their iPad is stolen or broken, and they just can’t afford to replace it? We want all our students to be able to participate and learn using these devices,” said Harting.

Harting said the matter would be treated like a lost textbook or any damage caused by a student, in which the board does as much as possible to get the money back,

Board member Johnny Holmes pointed out that any fees owed typically follow the student through their time in school. This could prevent a student from participating in graduation and diplomas can be withheld.

“But we can’t withhold diplomas indefinitely,” said Harting.

Hickory Hills alderman opposes limits on Committee of Whole meetings

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Two seemingly routine agenda items at the May 26 meeting of the Hickory Hills Council erupted into a lively response from council members resulting in a non-unanimous vote to approve a summer meeting schedule and the tabling of a request to prohibit the placement of fences in front yards.

When Mayor Mike Howley introduced a recommendation to cancel Committee of the Whole meetings for the months of June, July, August and September, Ald. John Szeszycki (2nd Ward) protested.

“I have said this before, and I will say it again,” he said. “I am opposed to canceling these meetings for four months. I think we should meet every month, even if it is just for 10 minutes, to review everything going on so we are all informed. And what if something important or urgent comes up? We can’t wait four months to discuss it.”

The Committee of the Whole meets prior to the regular council meeting on the fourth Thursday of the month.

Ald. Debbie Ferrero (2nd Ward) replied that if an urgent matter came up, the council would be notified and a special meeting would be called.

“Why should we have to go through all that? Just keep the meeting schedule and be here prior to our regular council meeting, as we do now,” responded Szeszycki.

However, the recommendation was approved, with seven “yes” votes and Szeszycki voting “present.”

In the Committee of the Whole meeting prior to the council meeting, Szeszycki had also protested a suggestion from City Clerk Dee Catizone to change the hours of operation for the City Hall, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Szeszycki said he thought the City Hall should remain open until 5 p.m., in case people needed to stop by on the way home from work, to pay bills or had questions. Catizone replied that the most activity from residents occurs in the earlier part of the day and that there is a drop box available for the payment of bills.

Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward) suggested that the new hours be tried for a period of three months to see if it worked. “If it is not working, we can always change the hours back to the original time.”

Howley supported Catizone’s suggestion. “I trust her observation on this, as she is here every day and sees what the traffic flow is like.” No date was given for the start of the change in hours.

On the matter of fences, City Attorney Vince Cainkar requested approval of an ordinance amending the city building code to prevent the placement of fences in front yards in the city, sparking an instant reaction and flurry of questions from the council.

Ald. Scott Zimmerman (4th Ward), spoke up immediately. “What about corner properties where the front of the house does not necessarily face the street? I live on a corner and I have a fence on the side of my house near my driveway. Is that considered a front yard fence as it faces the other street?

“Basically, you have two front yards. Anyone living on a corner has that situation,” said Building Commissioner Joe Moirano. “I have this discussion all the time with residents. It is a problem.”

Ferrero asked about front fences she has observed on properties around the city, such as elaborately designed brick fences and statuary work serving as fences. “Will this ordinance apply to those?”

Cainkar finally suggested tabling the motion until the next meeting. “I will rework the ordinance and provide drawings to answer some of these questions,” he said.

In other business, the council approved an updated Employee Benefit Handbook and approved revisions to the Police Supervisor’s Policy, effective July 1.

The meeting was adjourned to executive session to discuss police chief merit pay.

Orland Fire Department donates fire truck to MVCC in honor of late firefighter

  • Written by Kelly White

capuano family photo 5-26

Photo by Kelly White

The family of fallen firefighter Daniel Capuano appears at the dedication of a fire truck in his name at Moraine Valley Community College on May 19.


Fire academy students at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills honored the memory of a Chicago firefighter who died in the line of duty when he fell through an elevator shaft of a burning warehouse on the city’s Southeast Side.

A fire engine that was no longer in service by the Orland Fire Protection District has been donated to the school in memory of Daniel Capuano, 42, who was living in the Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood at the time of his death. Capuano died when he fell from the second floor of the warehouse fire on Dec. 15, 2015.

In honor of Capuano, the Orland Fire Protection District presented the fire truck -- a 1999 Pierce -- to the Moraine Valley Community College Fire Science Academy for student training on May 19 before the regular Moraine Valley Board meeting. The truck was named in memory of Capuano.

Capuano was a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department, where he was assigned to Tower Ladder 34 in the city’s Southeast Side. Capuano also was as a part-time Evergreen Park firefighter for the past 16 years.

The Orland Fire Protection District recently retired the fire truck from its fleet and worked with Cook County Board Commissioner Sean Morrison (R-17th) to explore possible reuse opportunities that led to the arrangement with MVCC. The MVCC Fire Science Academy is designed for students who wish to become eligible for initial fire department hiring lists.

The truck will be used to further the MVCC Fire Science Academy’s ability to provide the very best training to prepare students entering the fire department field.

“As a son of a retired Chicago firefighter this story touched me. I never knew Danny Capuano personally, but like the tens of thousands of other people, I have heard through the media’s covering the tragedy of his death, I became informed, not of just the tragic circumstance surrounding his death, but of most importance, the magnificent life in which he lived and the love and dedication that he held for his family and his fellow brothers and sisters of the Chicago Fire Department,” said Morrison.

The dedication ceremony took place outside of the college campus and featured Morrison, Chief Michael Schofield, Orland Fire Protection District; Dr. Sylvia M. Jenkins, president of MVCC; Joseph P. Murphy, Moraine Valley board chairman, and the Moraine Board of Trustees.

Capuano and his wife, Julie, had been married 20 years. He leaves a 16-year-old daughter, Amanda, and two sons, Nick and Andrew, ages 12 and 13.

Capuano's sons attend Queen of Martyrs School in Evergreen Park. Nick is in the seventh grade and Andrew in the eighth. Amanda graduated from Queen of Martyrs and now attends Mother McAuley High School, where her mother had graduated.

Capuano grew up in Palos Park with his parents, Jacquelyn and Michael Capuano, and his two brothers. Before he became a Chicago firefighter, Capuano also worked in Lemont as a firefighter and paramedic.

“There is a long legacy of honoring our fallen firefighters by dedicating fire trucks and other emergency apparatuses’ in their memory, this particular event is amongst them,” Morrison added. “Danny Capuano was from the Palos community, and members of his family still reside in our community to this day. Additionally, prior to his service on the city of Chicago Fire Department, he was a member of the Evergreen Park Fire Department. All of these communities share Moraine Valley Community College as their feeder school for secondary education. it is only fitting that we honor firefighter Capuano in that tradition.”

Worth Scout designs benches in honor of deceased friends

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

worth eagle scout photo 5-26

Submitted photo

Granit Xhemajil, 18, kneels before one of two park benches he designed and built in memory of two late friends.


Granit Xhemajil decided that he would do something special to become an Eagle Scout. The 18-year-old Worth resident decided to honor the memories of two close friends.

Xhemajil designed and built two memorial benches in honor of Robert Burns and Anthony Sosnowski, who both lived in Worth. For his efforts, Xhemajil and his mother, Arlene, were honored at a May 18 Worth Village Board meeting. Xhemajli was recognized for his “outstanding contributions to the Worth Park District.”

In order to complete requirements for his Eagle Scout program, Xhemajil who is part of Worth Boy Scout Troop 668, was required to come up with a plan for a worthy project to benefit the community; to then design the project, find a sponsoring organization, raise funds for the material needed and finally to build the project.

Kevin Higgins, superintendent of Maintenance for the Worth Park District, said Xhemajil came to the district about three months ago and met with him and Robert O’Shaughnessy, executive director of Parks and Recreation, to discuss his project and to see if the district would be interested in it.

“We both were very impressed with this young man and his plans and we agreed to work with him. Any time we are able to help a young person with goals such as this, it is a pleasure for the district to do whatever they can,” said Higgins. “His goal to build these benches to honor these two people was very worthwhile. “

Higgins worked with Xhemajil through the month it took to complete the project. “Our communications included establishing timelines and determining the most appropriate location for each of the benches.”

Xhemajil’s choice to honor Burns and Sosnowski was based on what they both meant to him and the impact they each had on his life.

“They both were good people,” he said. His reasons for selecting them were heartwarming and touching and in the case of Sosnowski, it was especially heartbreaking.

“Anthony was my best friend and he passed away in December, 2015. He was only 21 years old. He and I spent a lot of time skateboarding at Peake’s Park, and I wanted to place a bench there with his name on it, where we had shared so many wonderful times. I hope people will sit there, enjoy themselves, and remember my friend.”

Xhemajil also lost his longtime mentor and friend in Burns in November, 2015, just a month before his friend Anthony died.

“I had been in Scouts with Mr. Burns since I was 6 years old, a total of 12 years. He was always there for me and was a great help to me. He was a World War II veteran and I thought it would be appropriate to honor him with a memorial bench at the Veteran’s Memorial in Worth.”

He added that Burns was a longtime Boy Scout volunteer, with more than 50 years of service to the scouts.

In taking on this final project to earn his Eagle Scout rank, Xhemajil, who has earned 32 merit badges during his scout career, said he felt like he was taking a huge step into the world of life as an adult.”

He offered a huge thank you to all the adults who have helped him get where he is today, but one very special person received a special recognition, his mother.

“If it wasn’t for my mother, I would not have been successful in becoming an Eagle Scout,” said Xhemajil. “When I was discouraged, she pushed me through it because she knew I could do it. I am glad and grateful she helped me out with everything.”

He also thanked Scout leaders, Rick Landry and Debra Skopec, who in addition to Burns, had been a great help to him through the years.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it hadn’t been for the Scouts,” he said. “I have a lot of knowledge under my belt I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I feel I have matured as a person and gained good communication skills, which have been a huge step for me. Learning how to talk to people I didn’t know was very difficult for me.”

Xhemajil graduated this month from Alan B. Shepard High School and plans on attending Moraine Community College to earn an associate’s degree in mechanical design technology. From there, he plans to attend Illinois State University and complete his studies for an M.A. in engineering tech.