Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Another Mezyk brings down the house at Senior Idol event

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Orland Township’s Senior American Idol celebrated its second show on May 6 and for the second year in a row, a Mezyk brought down the house.
This time it was Josh Mezyk.
In 2013, Orland Park’s Tom Mezyk won the inaugural event at Georgios Banquets in Orland Hills. The 60-year-old was ecstatic after he had the 900-plus in attendance pounding their tables while he tore through Phillip Phillips’ “Home.” He was also happy that he was able to perform an original tune, “I’ll Take Your Place.” He was touched by the crowd’s reaction to the song, which is about a convict who was about to be executed and met Jesus.
Then the man known to friends as “Deuce” and his wifeDR-Page-3-2-col-Josh-for-jv-colJosh Mezyk, top photo, sings about his late father, Tom, and Kym Frankovelgia, bottom photo, showed a lot of energy while singing “Build Me Up Buttercup” at the Orland Township Senior American Idol on May 6. Photos by Jeff Vorva.DR-Page-3-2-col-Kym-for-jv-col took a trip with a group to the Holy Land in late June and early July and Mezyk suffered a fatal heart attack near the Western Wall.
It was shocking because those who knew him said he had no previous health problems.
This year’s Senior American Idol event featured a tribute to Mezyk, performed by his son, Josh.
Josh took the stage before the final five contestants were ready to battle it out for the 2014 title and sang a self-penned tune, “Living to Legend,” in honor of his old man. The song can be found on along with some other tunes that he has written and performed.
When it was over, he received a thunderous ovation, just as his dad did a year ago. The song is both sad and uplifting and somehow, somewhere I imagine that pops heard it and was pretty proud.
More Idol talk
Like last year, this was a pretty solid show by folks who can just plain sing no matter what age they are.
This isn’t a bunch of geezers and geezettes messing around – these people have respectable chops and some have performed professionally. This isn’t amateur hour here.
The winner was Tinley Park’s Joe McElligott, who a few years ago had his career kickstarted when members of the Generations Band saw him singing at Sam Buca’s in Palos Heights. They call themselves an “old guy basement band” and perform around the area.
McElligott won over the judges but my favorite contestant was runnerup Kym Frankovelgia of Downers Grove. She was the only woman in the final five and her rendition of “Build Me Up Buttercup” killed. I don’t know how old she is – and I wasn’t going to ask her – but she had a lot of bounce and energy in her performance.
I was a bit disappointed that I got there in the second round and that Palos Hills’ Ray Parker and Palos Heights’ Beverly Opelka were already eliminated after the first round.
But the rest of the night was entertaining.
This is an event that drew 1,600-plus in the two events and money goes to the Township’s scholarship fund. I hope it continues to be a success.


Gin Blossoms head Staggapalooza

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Stagg High School is throwing an all-day Staggapalooza bash Saturday to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
  The day will start at 8 a.m. with a craft fair and 5K run and end with a concert headlined by the Gin Blossoms followed by an 8:30 p.m. fireworks show at the athletic stadium.
  In late 1980s, Gin Blossoms started to grow a following in Phoenix and its jangle-pop sound was evolving during radio’s diverse mix of hair bands and grunge music superstars like Nirvana. After the Phoenix New Times chose it as the citys best rock band, it qualified to play at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin Texas in 1989. That same year, College Music Journal dubbed it as the “Best Unsigned Band in America” and added an invitation to perform on MTV’s New Music Awards in New York City.
  Taking its name from a caption on a W.C. Fields photo, Gin Blossoms signed a record deal with A&M and recorded its first EP “Up And Crumbling” in 1991. But, it was not until its breakout record “New Miserable Experience” in 1992 that its rise to fame began.
  “New Miserable Experience” kept the band on the charts for almost three years with singles “Hey Jealousy,” “Allison Road,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Mrs. Rita,” and “Found Out About You.”
  The schedule of events for the day:
  8 a.m. —5K Race Registration
  9 a.m. —5K race begins
  8 a.m.-5 p.m. — Craft fair on south side of campus
  9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. — Pancake Breakfast in Commons
  9 a.m. to noon — Vendor Fair in Charger Gym
  11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Main stage performances in stadium
  11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. — Food vendors
  5:00 to 8:30 p.m. — Gin Blossom Concert in Stadium
  8:30 to 8:45 p.m. — Fireworks
  There are various price ranges for the event including a $3 half-day pass and a $10 mega all-day pass.

Chafee a big wheel in basketball circles

  • Written by Claudia Parker

PAGE-1-color-ella1Even though she is holding a WNBA ball signed by the Chicago Sky, Ella Chafeew of Oak Lawn is a new member of the NWBA Hall of Fame. Photo by Jeff Vorva.
When the National Wheelchair Basketball 
Association announced its Class of 2014 into the NWBA Hall of Fame, Ella Chafee of Oak Lawn rolled her eyes in surprise and her wheelchair up the platform to accept. 

Chafee graced the ballroom stage at Louisville, Kentucky’s Crowne Plaza April 5 for the official ceremony of induction. The NWBA Hall Of Fame began in 1973.
“I’m one of only 11 women to receive this honor over 41 years.” she said
Chafee is known by her peers as a pioneer in the development of the Women’s Division of the NWBA. Her affiliation and longevity in wheelchair basketball is considered legendary by many.
“Back in 1980, the NWBA didn’t have a women’s team,” she said. “I wanted to play, so I started my own.”
The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago became the team’s official sponsor. Today that team is known as RIC Sky.
“When we first started, we had six players, just enough to have a sub. Let me tell ya, I played a lot of minutes,” she said.
Chafee said she has been a lifelong lover of sports.
At the age of six she contracted an acute viral infection known as polio, causing asymmetric paralysis. Only her legs were affected. Polio, however, couldn’t stop her.
“I’m a natural born tomboy. As a child, my first love was playing baseball,” she said. “I had a runner but I did my own hitting.”
She’s also pretty good in the water, too.
Chafee held national records in the 50-yard backstroke, winning two world records in swimming.
She also broke records in 800- and 1500-meter track events. She was selected for eight major international competitions, the Stoke Mandeville Games, Pan American Wheelchair Games, and three Paralympics over the span of three decades.
She also was one of the initial female marathoners and participated in the Boston Marathon in 1979, was the founder of the Chicagoland Area Women’s Wheelchair Sports Association, and is a USA hall of fame recipient for Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports.
Robert Syzman, of Morgan Park, is an associate professor of health, physical education and recreation, at Chicago State University and an inductee of the NWBA Hall of Fame. He served as a coach to Chafee and countless others and introduced Chafee during the hall of fame ceremony.
“The hall of fame committee found Ella suitable after a forensic search of the Chicago Charmers, RIC Express, and RIC Sky rosters yielded numerous names of young women whose wheelchair basketball careers began at her insistence,” he said “I believe Ella’s path to achievement was accelerated while she was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, working with her proclaimed mentor, Tim Nugent and her coach, Stan Labanowich.”
 The U of I has one of the best divisions for disability resources and educational services in the nation. Syzman said,
“Ella was surrounded by some of the finest wheelchair athletes of the day. It made her a versatile athlete.”
Due to her success, the University of Illinois Delta Sigma Omicron, Alpha Chapter presented Chafee with the prestigious Harold Scharper Lifetime Achievement Award.
 If you ask Chafee, she’s modest about her accomplishments and her induction speech was concise. She joked, “I would’ve said more but Bob stole my thunder.”

Hickory Hills - Facelift could keep cops away

  • Written by Kelly White

The city of Hickory Hills is hoping to benefit from some apartment makeovers beginning this summer. The apartments, located on 87th Street from Roberts Road to 85th Court have been the homes to previously neglectful residents, resulting in the area being more heavily patrolled by marked police cars on a daily basis, city officials said. 

In May, 2013, Police Chief Alan Vodicka gave an update on the increase in request for police services and escalated acts of violence in the vicinity of those multi-family dwellings.
Associated Real Estate Group representatives were on hand at last Thursday’s meeting and said they are ready to solve the problem. The group plans to renovate 48 apartment units, refinishing them with new kitchens, new bathrooms, front porches and even new a new parking lot.
There are 10 residents still residing in the 87th Street apartments, claiming ten of the 48 units to be renovated. The Associated Real Estate Group is hoping for the building to become vacant before beginning renovations.
“We are excited to be here and to work with the city,” said Bane Simic on behalf of the group. Simic said the group has 122 units in its portfolio that it manages.
“We are a very young and energetic company and we are willing to work hard for the best result.” Simic said.
Hickory’s building commissioner John Moirano said he is excited to be working with The Associated Real Estate Group and spoke highly of them. Mayor Mike Howley said he is looking forward to the apartment renovations. “It will be a nice improvement here in the city,” he said.

Not an e-waste of time

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Spartan athletes collect large electronics from seniors

A group of Oak Lawn CommunityOL-E-WasteOak Lawn Community High School Athletic Director Kevin McKeown poses with the students who participated Saturday in the village’s first e-waste pickup. Students removed e-waste such as televisions from the homes of several seniors who otherwise would have trouble disposing of the items. Another e-waste pickup is scheduled for October. Submitted photo. High School student-athletes spent Saturday morning taking large electronics off the hands of seniors in the community.
The first e-waste pickup was the brainchild of Jack Lopez, a veteran member of the village’s public works department who also oversees the e-waste program and its collection site at the public works garage, 5550 W. 98th St.
Lopez collaborated with Mayor Sandy Bury and Mike Riordan, principal and superintendent of Oak Lawn Community High School, to recruit members of the Spartan Athletic Leadership Team for the collection, which removed large electronics from the homes of several seniors who otherwise have difficulty arranging disposal.
“It’s for the right reasons,” said Lopez, who’s been involved with the e-waste collection site since in opened in 2009.
But the program had others benefits, he said, including exposing well-meaning adolescents to the community, Lopez said. He said that too often teenagers get a bad rap due to the actions of a few.
“I have always maintained, ‘You don’t know the kids that I know,’ ” he said.
Students traveled from one house to the next on a school bus driven by high school athletic director Kevin McKeown, who also was instrumental in organizing the event. The e-waste was loaded onto a village truck and transported to the collection site.
Another benefit of the program was exposing students to the importance of recycling, Lopez said.
“The environment wins, the school wins, the kids win and the village looks good,” Lopez said.
The e-waste site is open from 2-4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m.-noon on the second Saturday of the month. Volunteers are welcome and students can gain service hours working at the site.
The site has been a success since it opened more than four years ago, Lopez said. In 2009, 45 tons of e-waste was collected compared to more than 150 tons in 2013, he said.
Those interested in volunteering can contact Lopez via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .