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Former Evergreen Park official celebrates 99th birthday and active life

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Evergreen Park resident Anthony “Tony” Yukich celebrated his 99th birthday on March 17. How does one celebrate the passage of 99 years? If you do it Tony’s way, you have a week of parties and sometimes two in one day.

“We have had so much cake, we don’t know what to do with it,” his longtime companion, Virginia Wrobel, said with a smile.

Mayor James Sexton started the birthday ball rolling at the March 7 village board meeting where he honored Yukich for his 57 years of service to the Village. “He is a political “Godfather” to me, a mentor and a friend,” he said.

Yukich began his political journey when he joined the United Home Owners in 1959. Early on, he served as president and is currently still a member. In 1964, he was appointed to the Village’s Zoning Board where he served until 1967. He has served under three mayors: Henry Klein, Anthony Vacco and Sexton.

“Klein and I didn’t get along, said Yukich. “In one meeting, he called me a young punk because I questioned one of his decisions. When I questioned him again in another meeting, he addressed me the same way. I told him if he called me that again, he wouldn’t be sitting in the mayor’s chair at the next election.”

True to his word, Yukich worked the campaign to get Vacco elected mayor, a position he held for more than 30 years until he retired due to poor health. During those years, Yukich ran Vacco’s campaigns in each election year.

When Sexton ran for mayor in 2000, Yukich campaigned for him. “I had known Jim’s dad for many, many years and I was happy to help in his campaign. He’s a great mayor and very proactive in bringing economic development to our village.”

Elected a village trustee in 1967, Yukich served three full terms until 1979. In 1995, he responded to a request from Vacco to run for trustee again, and he served a second term of office, from 1995 to 2001.

On his 95th birthday in 2012, the village honored him with a proclamation for his five decades of service throughout the majority of the 20th century, and into the 21st century.

The proclamation reflected a deep affection for Yukich. It read in part, “We refer to our friend Tony lovingly as ‘the Godfather’ and as ‘The Dean Martin of Evergreen Park.’ He has been a friend, colleague, strategist, and mediator and has always done so with a twinkle in his eye, a smile on his face and an outstretched hand to help anyone in need.”

Yukich still attends every board meeting where a specially designed chair is reserved for him on the first row. Prior to each meeting, there is a steady stream of staff, trustees and residents greeting him with hugs, handshakes, and sometimes a kiss.

In the year 2001, the village honored Yukich by naming one of the largest parks in the community in honor of him and his wife, Fran, who died in 2000. The 20-acre property, now known as Yukich Field, is located at 8900 S. Kedzie Ave. It includes two ball fields, three soccer/football fields, a walking trail, ponds, two concession stands and the Daniel A. Capuano ice rink.

On the day of the dedication, Yukich, who was not told ahead of time about the naming of the field, said he got a call from the mayor (Sexton) who told him to get over to the field that day. “He told me to hurry, there is something going on.

“The mayor made it sound urgent, so I just grabbed an old jacket and ran over there,” recalls Yukich. “When I got there, I saw there were a lot of people and I wondered what was happening. One of the trustees saw my old jacket and said, ‘Tony, why are you wearing that old rag. Here take my jacket.’ So I put it on. The trustee wasn’t satisfied and went home and got a newer jacket, came back and gave me that one instead. I didn’t know what he was so worried about.”

Then Yukich said he saw all his family there and the mayor called out to him to come and see something. “When I got up to him, he unveiled the Yukich Field sign and I was just bowled over. I had no idea they were going to do that.”

Naming the park after Yukich was significant because in 1996, as a trustee, he was instrumental in guiding the village to purchase the land where the park now exists.

The property was owned by the cemetery, just north of 87th Street. When they put 33 acres up for sale, at a cost of $3.3 million, Yukich told then Mayor Vacco that the village should buy the property.

“The mayor thought I had lost my mind,” said Yukich, laughing. He said “Where do you think we will get that kind of money. We can’t do that.”

But Yukich convinced him it would be valuable to the village and that it could be done. “So we purchased the property and later we were able to sell part of it for commercial development and then were able to build the park on the remaining acreage. It was a good deal, and it did benefit the village,” he said.

Attending all the birthday celebrations with Yukich was his beloved companion, Wrobel. They have been together for 14 years. “She is a great lady. I don’t know what I would do without her,” said Yukich. “Let me tell you how I won her, he said, with a twinkle in his eye.

A few years after his wife had died, Yukich decided to attend a Senior’s New Year’s Eve party at the Martinique Club in Evergreen Park. “As I pulled into the parking lot, the Lord told me who I should look for,” he said.

He entered the party and began looking around all the tables. As he searched, a friend stopped him and tried to introduce him to a lady, but Yukich kept moving. “I knew who I was looking for.”

He finally spotted Virginia across the room and walked over to her table. Not wanting to appear too anxious, he first asked the woman sitting next to her to dance. “Fortunately, the lady said she couldn’t dance as she had an injured foot. So I turned to Virginia and asked her to dance. She said yes, and that was the beginning. Before the evening was over, I asked her if I could see her again, and to my surprise she said yes again.”

At this point, Virginia said “I was as surprised as he was. I went home thinking, oh my, what have I done? She had been widowed for a number of years and had had no thought of dating again.

Their first date was at the former House of Hughes restaurant. “We sat and talked for so long, the staff kicked us out because they were trying to close,” Virginia said. “It was the first time I had ever been thrown out of a place.”

Yukich asked to see her again and she responded with “Only if I can drive.” She laughed and said “he is a terrible driver.”

Wrobel and Yukich had known each other for years before they both lost their spouses. She had worked at the Village Hall as director of services and was instrumental in starting the Senior Council. “I would see him there often as he was in and out all the time as a trustee, but we never really socialized.”

While they maintain separate homes, they go everywhere together.

Yukich said that when they first started dating they didn’t go public with their relationship. “But one day, a village event was coming up and I went into the mayor’s office and told Jim that I was planning on bringing a date to the event. He said he was glad that I was moving on and that I should enjoy life. I didn’t tell him who I was seeing, so when Virginia and I walked in together, it was a big surprise. But everyone was really happy for us.”

They lead an active social life, attending all the senior activities and the board meetings. And, every Friday morning, Yukich meets a group of his fellow Croation buddies at the Jedi’s Garden Restaurant in Oak Lawn.

Yukich raised three sons: Bill, who lives in Mokena; Jim, who lives in California; and Bob, who died at a young age in an industrial accident. He has five grandsons, one granddaughter and 11 great-grandchildren. One of his great grandsons came in from California to surprise him at the family birthday celebration.

Wrobel said the reference to Dean Martin originated years ago because Tony looked a lot like Dean Martin when he was young, and he also had many connections in Hollywood and Las Vegas.

At 99 years of age, Yukich is in good health, does not even need glasses, and is very mobile. Asked to what he attributes his longevity, he laughed and said “Wine, lots of good wine.”

But then he turned to Wrobel and said “it is because of this wonderful lady who makes me eat right and makes sure I exercise,” he said with a smile.

Encourage women to get tested for chronic pain in abdominal region

  • Written by By Janelle Frost

A lot of women may experience menstrual cramps right before and during their menstrual periods, but for some women there might be more to the pain than mere discomfort.

One in 10 women of reproductive age is affected by a chronic disease called endometriosis, a disorder in which the type of tissue that forms the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, is found outside the uterus, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

With endometriosis, the tissue can be found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes or other organs in the pelvis. The misplaced tissue responds each month to the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle. It builds up, breaks down and bleeds. But the blood has nowhere to go, according to Advocate Health Care officials. This causes surrounding tissue to become inflamed or swollen, and it can also cause scar tissue. Some of the symptoms include unusually severe menstrual cramping, serious cyclic pelvic pain and painful intercourse.

Endometriosis Awareness has been taking place across the world during the month of March to raise awareness about the disease that affects about 176 million women worldwide, according to the website endometriosis.org. Many women remain undiagnosed however, and are therefore not treated.

“I see patients everyday with pain where it might be endometriosis,” said Dr. Denise Elser, a urogynecologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. “I see a lot with urinating pain and painful bowel movements where if they don’t get better with a muscle relaxer and physical therapy, I expect it’s endometriosis.”

Elser saw such a patient about a couple of weeks ago -- a 20-year-old college student who was athletic, but couldn’t work out or run for several months. She was treated for burning urination and pain with sex, but it wouldn’t get any better with antibiotics. She was diagnosed with endometriosis.

Elser said when there’s severe cramping that causes women to lose their quality of life – they miss school or work - then they should seek treatment.

“There are a lot of ways to treat (endometriosis),” said Elser, who has said most women with endometriosis tend to experience symptoms in their 20’s, but cases can appear during the teenage years or into the 30’s. “If it’s not treated it can lead to chronic pain and infertility. We want to catch it and prevent suffering from happening.”

She said the first line of treatments is hormone therapy, which may be an injection or oral birth control. And there’s also surgical treatment.

“You treat it like you would cancer,” Elser said. That would include hormone, surgery and chemotherapy. The ultimate treatment is to remove the ovaries, but “we don’t want to on young women unless there is no other option,” she said.

A new treatment is a hormone called letrozole, which Elser said shows great promise of treating endometriosis without side effects doctors have seen with other hormones.

“There are always new things on the horizon,” she said. “Scientists are always working on testing.”

There is no cure for endometriosis, but treatment can help reduce pain and infertility risk as well as improve overall quality of life, according to Advocate officials.

The cause of endometriosis is not clear, though genes may have something to do with it.

“It can run in families. There’s definitely a heredity trait,” said Elser, whose 20-year-old patient’s mom and aunt also have endometriosis. “Women might think that’s how the family is and don’t think to get it treated. I’ve seen women who’ve been to a gynecologist, complained about cramps, and told to take birth control pills and that was it. It was not explored further.”

Holly Brenza, Oak Lawn’s Advocate Christ Medical Center and Advocate Children's Hospital public affairs and marketing specialist, said she thinks she would not have explored her severe cramping any further and learned she had endometriosis if it wasn’t for a cyst growing on her ovary, which was causing a lot of pain.

Prior to that, she always had severe cramps, the same problem her mom had. Her mom told her that’s “what it is, what we go through as women.” But when Brenza, who was always in tears and couldn’t walk or stand up at one point, started complaining about the pain in her lower abdominal area to her mom, her mom realized that maybe it wasn’t normal. Brenza went to see her primary doctor and learned she had a large cyst on her ovary.

“I was 18 when I found out so I didn’t know too much about (endometriosis) at that point,” said Brenza, who was diagnosed with the illness in 2012, following her surgery. At the time, she was a freshman in college and worked part-time during the summer for Advocate Christ Medical Center physicians at their private practice.

She had surgery to remove the growth and was then started on birth control. She later had a second surgery in 2013 to remove the endometriosis growth as it had returned. Now she’s on a birth control that suppresses her menstrual cycle to four times a year.

“That’s what has been working best for me,” Brenza, 23, said. “Luckily I didn’t have to have any more surgeries. I’m having periods less, which means I have less pain. There is definitely an improvement with frequency of pain.”

Brenza sees her doctor every year. She and Elser encourage other women with endometriosis to be seen by their gynecologist on a regular basis.

“The most important thing is to stay on top of it,” Brenza said. “If you let it go, it’s going to get worst and come back. Make sure you are keeping your appointments and at least your annual checkups with a gynecologist. Be honest about the symptoms you are having, keeping a log with what happens helps. You’re in control. Don’t let it ruin your life.”

Hickory Hills City Council complies with IEPA to prevent water pollution

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

The Hickory Hills Council heard a detailed report on the city’s activities on March 24 to comply with control measures on water pollution as required by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The report will be included in the 2016 update to the IEPA.

Village Engineer Mike Spolar presented the report on the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which is authorized by the Clean Water Act. The NPDES permit program controls water pollution by regulating sewers and ditches and the areas that serve as tributaries for these sewers and ditches that discharge pollutants into waters of the U.S., creek, ponds and detention basins.

He explained that in Hickory Hills the storm water runoff enters the Belly Deep Slough, I&M Canal, and the Lucas Ditch Cut-Off.

The IEPA requires six minimal control measures that are to be addressed by each municipality. They include Public Outreach and Education on Storm Water Quality; Public involvement and Participation; Illicit Discharge and Elimination; Construction Site Storm Water Runoff Control; Post Construction Storm Water Runoff Control in New Developments and Redevelopments; and Pollution Prevention and Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations.

Spolar reported that the city and its Public Works Department has met the requirements of these six measures including publishing articles on storm water awareness in its newsletter to residents and distributing pamphlets from the clerk’s office.

He informed the council that a description of each measure implementation will be included in the annual report to the IEPA, which is due June 1.

In other business, the council approved an application for CDBG funds in the amount of $300,000 for sewer lining replacements.

Also approved was a payment of $96,000 to Hasse Construction. The council adjourned into executive session to discuss a police contract.

In an earlier Committee of the Whole Meeting, Mayor Mike Howley announced that the city would move ahead with a tree planting program. His decision came after discussing a pilot program implemented last year where residents were asked to contribute $60 for the planting of trees in the parkway in front of their residence. It was not successful because residents did not cooperate as he had hoped.

Howley said that the Public Works Department spent many hours calling residents reminding them of the contribution program, but to no avail.

“We have many streets where there are no trees. It is our city and I think we should just take the bull by the horns and go ahead and plant trees where they are needed, without asking the residents to contribute,” said Howley. It will beautify our city and will be something we can be proud of.”

He directed Public Works to send out letters notifying residents that the trees will be planted in front of their homes in the fall and asking if they would consider watering them.  

Public Works Director Larry Boettcher said that it was best to plant the trees in the fall, since they will require less water than a spring planting.

Local legislators share coffee and concerns over budget stalemate

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

Two local legislators, residents and some community leaders sat down to have some coffee Saturday morning and shared ideas and complaints about the ongoing budget impasse in Springfield.

State Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) and state Sen Bill Cunningham (D-18th) listened to the concerns of a wide range of issues from nearly 20 people Saturday at the Starbuck’s located in the Stony Creek Promenade TIF District near 111th and Cicero in Oak Lawn.

Burke told the group seated around a table that the largest obstacle is that Gov. Rauner emphasizes that any reforms that are made has to be tied to his “turnaround agenda” that currently calls for restrictions on collective bargaining rights and major concessions by union leaders.

“There are things we can work with,” said Burke, who district includes Evergreen Park and portions of Oak Lawn. “The governor wants term limits. I personally don’t agree but we can look at that. But calling for the end of collective bargaining is not going to happen.”

Cunningham, whose district includes portions of Worth, Palos and Orland townships, agreed and added that it does not help that the governor makes these demands instead of negotiating.

“The governor had talked about shutting everything down if he doesn’t get what he wants,” said Cunningham, “But when you say the government, it also means Misericordia and Catholic Charities.”

Burke said that she and 20 other legislators sent a letter to Rauner asking to negotiate on aspects of the turnaround agenda.

“We will not talk about collective bargaining,” said Burke. “But we will talk about other issues.”

Burke said that discussions can focus on costs at colleges and universities. She said money goes to instructors, administrative fees and intercollegiate athletics. Rauner signed a bill last year to provide funding for kindergarten through 12th grade. The governor has stated that the cost at state colleges and universities are too high. Burke said a bill she helped introduce regarding Monetary Awards Programs, or MAP grants, has since been revised on a couple of occasions and has been vetoed by the governor. A new bill passed through the Senate on March 17 with some additions and the return of MAP grants. The governor has not commented on the most recent bill.

Residents who dropped by for coffee and stopped to listen to Burke and Cunningham asked what tax plans the Democrats have put forth? Burke said a graduated income tax has been talked about, and pointed to the bill state Rep. Jack Franks (D-63rd) introduced.

Franks’ House Bill 4300 calls for the elimination of several employer tax incentives that he said does not benefit the majority of businesses. Some business leaders have said that Franks’ bill would be detrimental to companies and raise costs for employers.

Cunningham said there are a number of plans out there introduced by Democrats. However, he said he recalled being called in for a breakfast meeting with the governor along with other legislators.

“The first 15 minutes he was talking about the evils of organized labor and that concessions have to made,” recalled Cunningham. “I thought maybe he would talk to us and get to know us. I thought maybe he would find out what we did before entering politics. There was nothing like that. There was no negotiating.”

Cunningham is in agreement with Burke regarding the need for MAP grants. Many of these students are from first-generation homes and need assistance, he said. The legislators said if the governor can get away from collective bargaining, there is room for compromise.

“We have dealt with budgets, we have done it all the time,” said Cunningham. “But when the governor wants to tie everything together, it makes it very difficult.”

The budget stalemate has created financial hardship for state universities like Eastern Illinois, whose applications are way down, said Cunningham. Some residents who attended the coffee hour said that Governors Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar would negotiate. One woman said that Thompson fought for the “Forgotten Children’s” fund.

“There’s a belief that some of these institutions are bad,” said Burke. “In the 1970s we funded mental health programs but that began to change in the 1980s. The money that is cut from these programs mean these people are left out in the communities.”

Some residents pointed out that these people are our homeless. Another person said many of these people are ill and need help.

Burke added that in a couple of weeks, letters will be sent out to families about MAP grants. “The governor wants to increase spending for K through 12 by 25 percent,” said Burke. “So, where is the money for that?”

Burke and Cunningham said much has to be done. Both legislators said the middle class and the poor are suffering.

“A lot of people’s wages are stagnating,” said Burke. “That’s not good for society.

“I wish I knew some psychological lever I can pull to get things going,” added Burke.

Worth mayor said vandalism may result in thousands of dollars in damage

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Worth Mayor Mary Werner voiced her displeasure during the board meeting on March 16 about reports of damage to property that has occurred recently in the village.

Werner read a prepared statement about what she said has been excessive damage over the last seven weeks to village, park district and school properties.

“To repair and restore the damaged areas will cost in the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, of taxpayer dollars,” she said.

Reportedly, the damage has been caused by an individual, or individuals, driving a vehicle recklessly on the properties. Damage has occurred at the Water’s Edge Golf Course, Altman Park, and twice each at Homerding Park, Stahlak Park and Gale Moore Park.

Additionally, the Worthwoods School and the School Administration Building were vandalized during the same time frame.

Werner said she was bringing this to the public’s attention, not just as a public service announcement, but as a request for help.

“If any suspicious activity is witnessed in our parks or other areas, please do not hesitate to contact the police. We want to continue to keep our village, parks and schools looking good. Any assistance or help in trying to prevent this type of activity from continuing will be appreciated,” she said.

Her remarks came on the heels of an announcement from Village Clerk Bonnie Price, who stated in her clerk’s report that security cameras were installed at the Metra Train Station on Friday.

Werner said she hoped the cameras would become a deterrent to the vandalism. “The recent damage to Gale Moore Park was caused by vandals who stole large bags of rock salt from the train station and scattered it across the grassy areas in the park, which has effectively killed all the grass,” she said.

At the board meeting, two new police officers were sworn in to serve and protect.

Taking the oath of office were Officers Joseph Vityk and Michael Wirth, bringing the total number of police officers in the village to 26. Price administered the oath. Both Vityk and Wirth graduated on Friday from the Cook County Police Academy in Chicago after completing three months of intensive training. According to a police department spokesperson, the two officers will then complete an additional week of training with the academy. The week is an optional choice and will involve taser training.

Vityk and Wirth are scheduled to begin their duties with Worth on Monday, March 28.

After the ceremony, Werner said, “I am grateful when we have young men such as these, stepping up to be police officers in this day and age. It makes me feel safe.” Werner told the officers she was proud of them. She attended their graduation on Friday.

In other board action, a business license and ordinance approving a special use to operate an automobile repair shop was approved for A Plus Auto Repair Inc., located at 6445 W. 111th St., with a stipulation that prevents the company from test driving vehicles southbound on Natchez Avenue, as it is a residential street. Also outlined was a requirement that vehicles not be stored on the lot for more than 72 hours.

A license was also approved for the Hookah Shoppe d/b/a Worth Tobacco, located at 10718 S. Harlem Ave. The license is contingent upon having passed all inspections and being in compliance with all codes and ordinances, which does not allow paraphernalia, such as glass pipes to be sold.

A license approval for The Walk-in Closet, 6955 W. 111th St., was removed from the consent agenda because the owner was not present. Werner said attendance is mandatory for owners of businesses seeking business licenses. She noted it will be visited again at the next regular board meeting.

Also approved were Tag Day requests for the Worth-Ridge Panthers on May 21 and for Blue Cap on Aug. 19 and Aug. 20.

Trustees Tedd Muersch Jr. and Kevin Ryan were absent from the meeting due to work conflicts.