Menu

And the story has come to a close


James Casey will open a new book after 20 years at Oak Lawn Library

(From May 17, 2012)

After 20 years as the head of the Oak Lawn Public Library, James Casey will come the end of June step down from his post.

Casey, 61, will work his last day at the library on June 29. He began working in the library sector in 1973 in Ohio, and came to Oak Lawn in 1992. He earned a bachelor's degree in history, with a minor in German, from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and received a scholarship to attend library school at the State University of New York in Geneseo. After graduate school he worked in Cleveland for 10 years, and during that time worked toward his doctorate at Case Western University. He got his first job as a director at Pickaway County District Library in Circleville, Ohio, outside Columbus.

"I had to do almost every job in the library," Casey said. "I did the grant writing, budgeting, hired personnel, did the public relations, ran board meetings, cleaned the walls, unplugged toilets, and even killed bats."

Getting the job in Oak Lawn was a "glorious opportunity," Casey said. He and his wife, Diane, moved to Oak Lawn in 1992. Diane is a retired librarian who served as dean of the library at Governors State University for 10 years.

"We were glad to come to the greater Chicago area," Casey said. "Having been in a rural community [in Pickaway County], coming back to an urban environment was great."

Casey's favorite memories from his tenure as library director include the renovation and expansion project completed nearly 10 years ago. The $4.5 million, 16,000 square-foot expansion included a two story addition, meeting space, and glass walls to give patrons an unobstructed view of the Village Green to the north.

"It was a very exciting moment," Casey said. "We have seen advances in technology, too. We have upgraded our Internet and established a website. We didn't have the Internet 20 years ago - we still used a card catalogue."

Casey also helped create the library's local history unit and art gallery. He will miss working with the Friends of the Library, and the library's staff, board of trustees and volunteers.

"It is a real team effort here," Casey said. "This is a great job if you are fortunate enough to have it. The person who gets it will enjoy it."

Casey plans to do a lot of reading during his retirement, and he and his wife are planning several trips, he said. He also plans to volunteer in Oak Lawn community and at the church he and Diane attend in LaGrange.

Oak Lawn man meets his angel

Nurse saved his life after heart attack last year

(From July 19, 2012)

Tears came easier than words for Gerald Boekeloo when he met for the first time the woman who saved his life.

Boekeloo was on Tuesday introduced to Dawn Bausone-Gazda, an Advocate Christ Medical Center nurse who revived Boekeloo using CPR on after the Oak Lawn man suffered a heart attack while driving last November. Boekeloo until Tuesday did not even know his heroine's name - Bausone- Gazda left the scene of the accident after bringing him back to life.

"I looked high and low and here I am ready to meet her," Boekeloo said moments before his heroine's identity was revealed. "She's my guardian angel."

Boekeloo, 69, was driving to Advocate Christ last Nov. 19 because he was not feeling well. Looking back, Boekeloo said he should have dialed 911. He suffered a heart attack near 95th Street and Cicero Avenue, just blocks from Christ, but managed to maneuver his car into the parking lot of White Castle, at the corner of the busy intersection. There, Bausone-Gazda spotted Boekeloo lain on the pavement, surrounded by people who had aided him out of the car.

Bausone-Gazda, 48, a Burbank resident and nurse for 25 years at Christ, said she checked Boekeloo's pulse, and when she did not fell one began to administer CPR.

"I did what I was trained to do," Bausone-Gazda said. "After the paramedics arrived I knew he was in good hands so I left."

The nurse left the scene without being identified.

Boekeloo died upon arrival at Christ Advocate, but was revived a second time by hospital staff members. Cardiologist Thomas Levine credits his second restoration to Bausone-Gazda's earlier work.

"I believe the quick and initial administration of CPR made it possible for his lungs to revive," Levine said.

Boekeloo, who is on the heart donor recipient list, said he is doing well today.

"I wouldn't be here if it were not for [Bausone-Gazda]."

Boekello greeted Bausone- Gazda Tuesday with a card and bouquet of flowers, but explains he will never be able to repay her.

"I could give her a $3 million and that still wouldn't be enough," Boekeloo said. "I enjoyed life before, but now it's beautiful. All I can say is thanks."

Advocate Christ medical director for the Center of Heart Transplants, Geethat Bhat said Boekeloo is very lucky to have run into Bausone-Gazda. Eightyfive percent of people who suffer heart failure outside a hospital die, she said.

Boekeloo spent three months in the hospital and learned of his hero and the events through hospital staff. He began searching for his unknown heroine through police reports and hospital staff accounts, but was unsuccessful in learning her identity.

Unbeknownst to Boekeloo, he and Bausone-Gazda had met once before. While he was being treated at Christ, Bausone-Gazda was called to his room to cover for another nurse who was unavailable. She figured out who he was as they began taking about his heart attack.

"I didn't know who he was, and as we started talking I realized it was him," Bausone-Gazda said.

Bausone-Gazda told Boekeloo her account of the event, but chose not to tell him who she was because she did not want to cause him any stress while he was recovering. With the help of Shirl Wilson, a nurse at Advocate who knew both parties were in the hospital, a reunion was set up and the two were reintroduced.

"When I got the call they had found her, I cried," Boekeloo said.

Bausone-Gazda said she is happy she and Boekeloo were reunited.

"This is the reason I become a nurse, thank you for reminding me," she told Boekeloo.

Boekeloo has been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart fails to pump blood to the rest of the body. Boekeloo already had a defibrillator, but his condition was so dire the day he was brought to Christ that he was determined to need a heart transplant, Bhat said. A patient can spend months or even years waiting for a matching donor, so Bhat transplanted a left ventricular assist device into Boekeloo's heart.

A ventricular assist device is a circulatory device commonly used in patients who survive heart attacks or heart surgery. The device pumps blood for the heart and acts as a temporary solution until Boekeloo can receive a heart transplant. Boekeloo is now on the heart donor list, but could be waiting years for a new heart.

"The device typically last for six to seven years," Bhat said. "It acts to bridge the gap between diagnoses and surgery."

With advancements of the devices, first approved for use in the U.S. by the FDA in 1994, the quality of life for patients with the device have improved drastically over the last 10 years, Bhat said.

Bhat said Boekeloo's incident demonstrates the importance of knowing CPR, and for people to be aware of their heart conditions.

"Everything worked out for him," Bhat said. "He would not have made it to me without her help."

Area cooks in extreme heat


Temperature hits 100 in southwest suburbs

By Laura Bollin

People packed local pools and stopped on street corners for cups of lemonade in an effort to beat the heat as the temperature here hit 100 last Thursday and came close to the century mark again Friday.

Laura Vognar, of Oak Lawn, and her friend Ashley Klauck, of Mokena, made plans a day in advance to head to the Oak Lawn Park District's Central Pool, 9400 Kenton Ave. The two were cooling off last Thursday under a tree outside of the pool.

"We knew it would be scorching, so we wanted a place to cool off," Vognar said. "For health reasons, it is important to cool down. It's a great day to go swimming."

Klauck said she was concerned about heatstroke, so the girls were staying hydrated.

"We've been staying in the shade and drinking lots of water," she said.

Central Pool manager Maura Gavin said the pool had been packed all day - with 104 people in the pool within the first half-hour of it opening. The pool's capacity is 400 people.

Gavin said that there had been no incidents of heat stroke or heatrelated illnesses at the pool, but that she was making sure swimmers and lifeguards were staying safe in the heat.

"Our lifeguards are getting breaks every 25 minutes, and every 10 minutes during adult swim time," Gavin said. "They are staying hydrated, and are jumping in the pool whenever they need to."

Kevin Krillic, an Oak Lawn Park District camp counselor who was chaperoning a youth outing at the pool, said he was not looking forward to the heat.

"I didn't expect it to be so hot here," Krillic said. "As a camp counselor, usually I stand outside the pool, but today I am jumping in a lot, because there is just no way to stand being outside in this heat."

Krillic said he and the other camp counselors were taking extra measures to make sure the children in their care, aged 6 to 10 years old, were staying cool.

"Yesterday we had popsicles for the kids at the end of the day," Krillic said. "On days like this we want to keep them inside in the air conditioning, take water breaks, apply sun tan lotion when we're going outside, and keep the kids safe."

Angie Koziczkowski spent the day at the pool with her children, Grace, 4, and Michael, 2.

"They're having fun," Koziczkowski said as the youths played in the kiddie pool and went down a waterslide. "We have a membership, so we will be here all summer. We like the pool so far."

In Evergreen Park, some people cooled off by buying cups of lemonade or tropical punch Kool-Aid from Victoria Yozze, 12, and her brother, Joseph, 8, who had set up a stand at 97th Street and Central Park Avenue. The youths were selling drinks for 50 cents a cup, and offering free chocolate chip cookies with each beverage.

"We thought it would be fun," Victoria said.

"It is hot out, and this way, people can have a nice, cool drink. We have had a lot of people stop by. I was surprised."

An Evergreen Park Public Works employee pulled up to the stand, saying that lemonade was his way to cool off.

"We've been working on an asphalt project all day, getting ready for Day in the Park," he said. "I'm hot, so I am stopping here for lemonade."

'Restaurant: Impossible' visits Palos Hills


Chef Robert Irvine tries to revamp the old Valley Inn

(From July 26, 2012)

The popular Food Network reality show "Restaurant: Impossible" was in Palos Hills last week to film the grand reopening of one of the oldest restaurants in the area.

The show's star, British chef Robert Irvine, was at the Valley Inn last Wednesday and Thursday to remodel the restaurant and revamp its menu on a $10,000 budget. Valley Inn owners Dennis and Frankie Ristucci and the Food Network crew reopened the inn, 8300 W. 107th St., at 7 p.m. Thursday night to a reservations-only crowd.

The line of waiting patrons extended into the restaurant's parking lot. Some guests said they had made reservations a week and a half before the reopening, yet still stood in line for half an hour before they were seated. Dozens of other people, many of whom described themselves as Valley Inn regulars but who did not have reservations for the evening, also lined up outside hoping to get into the restaurant's bar.

The Food Network was filming the event for Season 4 of "Restaurant: Impossible," and the episode will not air for a few months. Only diners with reservations were allowed inside, and all were required to sign waivers stating they would not talk about the renovations or their experience that evening until five days after the show airs, said "Restaurant: Impossible" producer Justin Leonard, who noted the restaurant was being treated as a closed set. The Valley Inn's owners and staff are contractually prohibited from speaking to the media about their experiences with the show and Irvine.

No one waiting outside the inn was provided any information about the renovations, but guests were speculating that based on the number of people being allowed in that the restaurant's capacity had been expanded.

The Valley Inn, which has not always had that name, may be nearly 80 years old. "Restaurant: Impossible" makes $10,000 worth of renovations to restaurants nominated based on their status as failing or unprofitable. Irvine and his crew spend two days remodeling the interior, training or retraining staff and updating the menu. To see what changes have been made to the Valley Inn stop in or make a reservation.

A picture of Worth


Museum curator pens book about village

(From April 19, 2012)

The Worth Historical Museum's curator is hopeful proceeds from a book of photographs she compiled will help fund new exhibits at the museum.

"Images of America: Worth," which features hundreds of photographs collected by museum curator Colleen McElroy, will be released Monday, April 23.

"All of the proceeds go to the museum," McElroy said. "We're hoping to be able to create a replica of the Bishop General Store in one part of the museum. We also want to digitize some of our collection, maybe putting photographs into digital photo frames."

The book idea was inspired by Worth's upcoming centennial celebration in 2014, McElroy said.

"I found drawers and drawers of photos, and I thought it would be a nice project," she said. "I wanted to create a book so people could see and share the photos, instead of having them locked away."

McElroy was moved toward the project by a friend's documentary on LaPorte, Ind., which started from a photograph.

"He found this restaurant that used to be a photo studio, and there were a bunch of portraits in the back," McElroy said. "He managed to track down some of the relatives of the people in the portraits, and the documentary is their story."

The book contains more than 200 photographs ranging from those of school classrooms to the Bishop Store founded in 1881, to milestones in Worth history such as the opening of the Worth Park District's Terrace Centre and the Water's Edge Golf Club. The book is divided into five chapters including Transportation, Parks and Recreation, and the People of Worth - long known as the "Friendly Village." The nickname was given to the town by Bill Schneider, who while running for election to the Village Board in 1957 said, "Visiting the houses in town, Worth has the friendliest people around."

The book also features photos of historic homes - from the Victorian ornate to madeto- order dwellings that could be purchased through the Sears catalogue. At least 40 of the homes photographed are still standing, McElroy said.

McElroy's favorite photograph in the book is from 1906, when a "posse" of men wearing top hats and ties met before attempting to track down a convict who had escaped from the Illinois State Penitentiary. Another photo shows people riding a Barnum & Bailey circus elephant during a village festival in 1956.

The book ($21.99) and will be sold at the museum, 11500 S. Beloit Avenue, and at amazon. com, bn.com and arcadiapublishing. com. McElroy will be selling signed copies at this year's Worth Days Fest in August. There will be a bicycle tour in June featuring some of the village's historic homes, a program this summer at the museum during which McElroy will give an overview of the book and sign copies.