OL native and sound man from ‘Lebowski’ comes back home for renovation ceremony

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


 Photo by Dermot Connolly

Brian McCarty speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony near a renovated intersection in Oak Lawn at which he suffered injuries in an accident there 48 years ago. McCarty has gone on to have a career in Hollywood as a sound engineer and music arranger for films including “The Big Lebowski."



St. Gerald alumnus Brian McCarty waited almost a half of a century to see this day.

Forty-eight years after receiving 176 stiches in his face and a broken leg when he was 13 because of a an accident at a dangerous intersection near the school at Central Avenue and Southwest Highway intersection, he came back from Australia to celebrate the completion of the renovation of that area along with current students and Oak Lawn and Cook County officials on last Wednesday outside the school.

McCarty grew up to work on movies such as the “Big Lebowski,” which has a famous line in it about a “world of pain’’ and he and others hope these renovations can prevent future pain and destruction.

Central and Southwest Highway had been both two-lane roads in each direction at the intersection, which was notoriously dangerous for years, especially for cars stopping to make turns. Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, who joined local officials and Cook County Commissioner John Daley (D-11th) for the ribbon-cutting ceremony said more than 100 crashes have occurred there over the past decade.

But there were problems there for many years before.

In 1967, McCarty was a 13-year-old student at St. Gerald riding his bike through the busy intersection next to his school when he was struck by a speeding car and badly injured.

“I was on my bicycle and I was hit by some aggravated driver going 44 mph,” he said. McCarty, who lived on nearby Moody Avenue at the time.

McCarty, now 60, fully recovered and went on to a long career in Hollywood working on more than 40 movies, mainly as a sound engineer and music arranger.

He has been nominated three times for Oscars for his work on movies that included “The Big Lebowski,” “Naked Gun,” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” among others.

“(The accident) was a career-building moment,” he said wryly after the ceremony.

But he and his family, many of whom still live in Oak Lawn, never forgot about the danger of that intersection. Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), who grew up on the same block as McCarty, said he has been working on getting the intersection improved since he was first elected 10 years ago, in 2005.

Olejniczak said that after hearing about his efforts, McCarty sent him an email telling his story, which the trustee kept in his wallet to remind him of the importance of the task.

“We’re very happy that it is complete. It is not just for my district but for all of Oak Lawn and the whole area,” said Olejniczak. He credited Commissioner Daley for taking a personal interest in the project, thanking him for his “professionalism and concern, and for listening to a newly elected local trustee.”

“It shows that government can work,” said Olejniczak.

A work commitment prevented the trustee from attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but his sons Zach and John filled in, helping cut the ribbon along with Preckwinkle, Daley, Mayor Sandra Bury and Trustees Tim Desmond (1st) and Terry Vorderer (4th), and St. Gerald Principal Al Theis.

The $1.3 million renovation included widening the intersection, adding turning lanes on Central, and landscaping of the property adjacent to St. Gerald Church and School. Updated traffic lights and pedestrian countdown timers were also added to improve safety.

“We’re here in celebration of teamwork and cooperation,” Bury said of the project funded by the county.

Preckwinkle agreed, saying, “This is a great example of when units of government work together.”

She added that the county has spent $3.3 million on various Oak Lawn projects in the past five years.

“I think we were safer in these last six months [while the renovation work was underway] than at any time before,” said Theis. He thanked the county officials for working so closely with the school and parish to ensure the safety of the children and their families who use the intersection daily.

“We’re just grateful that this was done, especially that they replaced our trees,” said the Rev. Lawrence Malcolm, pastor of St. Gerald, pointing out the newly planted saplings on the rebuilt parkway along Central Avenue.

Tinley mayor announces shocking resignation

  • Written by Sharon Filkins

You could have heard a pin drop.

More than 300 people sat in stunned silence.

What started out as a festive Tinley Park Business Breakfast, May 6 turned into a shocking ending when Mayor Ed Zabrocki concluded the affair with his comments.

Zabrocki, overcome with emotion, struggled to finish his remarks, announcing that he was resigning his position as mayor, effective June 1. He has served the village a total of 36 years, two as trustee and 34 as mayor. Locally, he had strong ties to Brother Rice High School, serving at the Chicago school for four decades.

With his voice breaking several times as he spoke, he cited health reasons as a major factor in his decision to resign as mayor.

“Ten years ago I battled cancer and it went into remission. I recently learned that the cancer has returned and a specific treatment plan was recommended," he said. "Treatment will begin this month and will be intensive and time-consuming. It will continue for 10 weeks.

Zabrocki said that he and his wife, Emily, have endured a very challenging year as they cared for three of their grandchildren enabling his son and daughter-in-law to remain at the hospital with his granddaughter, who suffers from spina bifida and has been in critical condition for several months.

“We realized with the challenges facing us that it is time to make this very difficult decision. he said.”

In addition to serving as Mayor of Tinley Park, Zabrocki was employed at Brother Rice for 40 years, retiring in 2005.  He began his career there in 1965, teaching American literature. He then served as both a teacher and a counselor and in later years he became the director of counseling.

“Those were golden years for me,” he said. “It is a great school with great students. Both of my sons graduated from there and went on to college; one to Georgetown University and one to Northwestern University.”

Zabrocki said he believes in the school and continues to support it through its foundation.

“I try to give back what I can,” he said.

His years at Brother Rice have left him with quite a legacy. Among his students at Brother Rice were Dan McLaughlin, now mayor of Orland Park and Gerald Bennett, mayor of Palos Hills and president of the Southwest Council of Mayors.

“Yes, four or five kids I taught or counseled are now either mayors or legislators,” Zabrocki said.

Zabrocki recommended that veteran Tinley Park Trustee Dave Seaman, currently Mayor Pro-tem, be elected to serve out his remaining term.

Public asks for part-time CL clerical workers to save on health insurance

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The health insurance issue in Chicago Ridge – in which trustees and former trustees have been offered healthy insurance benefits for free or a highly reduced rate, has a new wrinkle to it.

During the board’s May 5 discussion of advertising for an open clerical position in the police department, which needs to be filled due to an impending retirement, the health insurance issue surfaced.

Resident Mary Callan, an outspoken opponent on the insurance offered to trustees, asked if the full-time position could be filled by two part-time employees, to avoid paying insurance.

Although her suggestion was applauded by some in the crowd, Police Chief Robert Pyznarski, who asked for the opening to be advertised, said that isn’t possible.

“This job requires someone who is going to be there all the time,” he said.

He added the contract negotiated with employee unions requires that there be four full-time clerical positions.

Trustee Michael Davies suggested that the board hold off until the next meeting in two weeks to decide about advertising the job in order to get an official determination from attorneys about the legality of hiring part-time replacements.

“It seems to me we don’t need to wait two weeks,” said Mayor Charles Tokar. “I’ll call (attorney) Nick Cetwinski and get an answer. Then we can advertise for the job.”

As for the main controversy about the health insurance issue, Tokar helped form a committee which would look into the options for solving the problem. This issue brought more than 100 residents to the past two board meetings.

Callan also publicly praised Worth Township Highway Commissioner Ed Moody, a local resident who was at the meeting, for bringing the insurance issue to the attention of residents during the recent election campaign.

At the previous meeting in April, Moody was criticized by people such as Trustee Daniel Badon, who lost his bid for re-election, for making a political issue of the insurance. Badon is the only member of the current board who was a trustee when it the insurance plan was approved.

Before the meeting wrapped up and the new trustees were sworn in, Lind addressed the issue when thanking Badon and Davies, who stepped down from the board for many years of volunteer service to the village.

Referring to what he called “unfair criticism,” Lind said it should be remembered that the trustees are longtime residents and volunteered “countless hours” of service to the village. He also took issue with similar criticism of former trustee Don Pratl, who lost his bid to return to the board.

“We’ll get through this insurance thing, and if you think we did something wrong, that is fine. But (Badon and Davies) are not in it for the money. I do not serve to get insurance. I am here because I grew up here and I love this village. We look out for you. We are our neighbors. We are your friends,” said Lind.

“I second that,” agreed Tokars, thanking the outgoing trustees.

A standing ‘O’ for OL trustee

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The often-divided Oak Lawn Village Board was united in praise for outgoing Trustee Carol Quinlan, who received a standing ovation from the board and the audience as she stepped down at Tuesday’s meeting after representing the 5th District for eight years.

At the often rough-and-tumble meetings in recent years, Quinlan has been known to trade barbs with fellow board members. She and Trustee Robert Streit (3rd) formed the minority bloc on the board for the past two years since Mayor Sandra Bury took office. Quinlan called a Bury “a piece of work” after one heated exchange last year. But Quinlan was magnanimous in her closing remarks, thanking constituents and past and present board members, and village staff, she worked with over the years, including Bury. The mayor presented her with a plaque in honor of her years of service to the village.

Quinlan also thanked her predecessor, former 5th District trustee Marjorie Joy, who was in the audience.

“You have all at times challenged me, frustrated me, helped me and taught me. I know we have all had the best interests of residents in mind, and have worked hard for the betterment of Oak Lawn,” she told the board. “I’ve worked hard these past eight years for every resident, not just the 5th District. And I’ve met such caring residents I am humbled by your support for me, and I can only hope I did justice to my job as trustee.”

Of Village Manager Larry Deetjen, whom she has also tangled with, Quinlan said, “I know you put in countless hours of work. You have dealt with many strong points of view and I understand that can be difficult.”

She also thanked newly elected Trustee William “Bill” Stalker (5th), who was sworn in at the meeting, for agreeing to run for the office.

“I feel much better stepping down, knowing that you will be representing the district here.” She said.

Quinlan concluded by thanking her husband, Joe, and sons, Connor and Matt, for their love and support.

“I know this hasn’t always been easy on you,” she told them publicly.

“It has been a pleasure working with Carol,” said Trustee Robert Streit (3rd) of Quinlan, his closest ally on the board, and his only one for the past two years. “She has always been a bright spot on this board…thoughtful, deliberative and respectful. As a lifelong resident and mother [who chose to raise her family here], she brought a passion that will be hard to be replaced.”

“And she will be remembered as a champion of the original vision of the Stony Creek Promenade,” he added, getting a last dig in about what has become a bone of contention between the two of them and the rest of the board regarding the types of businesses now going into the retail development at 111th Street and Cicero Avenue.

He and Quinlan contend that the original plan for an upscale plaza is not being realized.

“Carol has given eight great years to the district, and has served the people of Oak Lawn well. She set high standards and her attention to detail will be hard to match,” said Stalker. “I promise to serve you well. We live in a great community that has a few problems, but none that we can’t solve,” he continued.

In addition to Stalker being sworn in at the meeting, the newly re-elected Streit and Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) also took the oath of office, surrounded by their families.

“The election was about the issues – [Making village government] more transparent, and making Oak Lawn a community where everyone feels safe in their homes,” said Streit.

Desmond, who was first elected two years ago to complete the term of Jerry Hurckes, thanked voters for giving him a full four-year term.

“It is a privilege to work for the people of the 1st District, and all of Oak Lawn,” he said. “I look forward to moving the village forward, and attracting new businesses. We have a lot of work to do, and I’m looking forward to getting going on it.”

Saying goodbye to my cuddle-buddy

  • Written by Kelly White



Editor's note: Pets die every day. For those who don't care much about animals, this is no big deal. But for those who lost a beloved pet, it can impact the whole family. Correspondent Kelly White's family had their dog put to sleep in late April and her family's thoughts echo most pet owners' feelings.

By Kelly White


                How do you say goodbye to a pet who is part of the family?

                Marley, our St. Bernard, with a face just like Beethoven, spent all eight years of her life in our South Side home. She grew up in a house with my mother Diane, a woman who insisted on having large breed dogs, and my siblings Dennis, Jessica, Kristen and Allie.

                Marley's life was far from boring.

                Prior to me moving out in my mid-twenties, Marley would hop up on my bed and sleep with me every night. She was my guardian, my cuddle-buddy and my friend. We promise these pets early on, just as one would a child, that we will never let anything happen to them.

She was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, cancer earlier this year and our family was heartbroken. How could one of the things that tied our family together be falling apart?

Osteosarcoma can affect any breed of dog, but it is more commonly found in the larger breeds. The disease is extremely aggressive and has a tendency to spread rapidly into other parts of the dog's body. Aggressive was a term coined slightly, as the cancer left her maneuvering around on three legs in less than a month’s time, once the cancer consumed her entire left front leg.

We moved her over to my father, Dennis’s, house where one floor made it easier for her to get around. However, she was in constant pain and it would only get worse.

It was spreading and quick.

The decision to put her down was one of the most painful and difficult decisions we had to make to make as a family.

“I couldn’t stand to watch her suffer anymore,” my mother said, “I feel like she was always looking at me wondering, ‘why aren’t you helping me when I am in so much pain?’, and I felt so helpless.”

Kristen agreed.

“It is extremely heartbreaking and we are lost such a huge part of our family,” she said, “She made everybody happy and was a big teddy bear. You could always just see how much she loved everyone. She really was my best friend.”

With a week left, we made sure each one of Marley’s days on this earth were positive.

She enjoyed a McDonald’s hamburger and had her best dog friend over to visit and together went out for ice-cream, went on a car ride and toured the town, received lots of hugs, took several selfies and spent a lot of time relaxing out in the yard.

I would watch her sit outside and gaze off into the distance almost smiling. It was as if she knew and accepted the reality behind the situation of her illness, and she wanted to soak up as much beauty as she could during her time left. Even though she was in pain and hurting worse every day, she refused to be sad.

 “When I think about Marley I never looked at her only as my dog but also as part of my family,” Allie said. “I can still remember the day we brought her home as a puppy.”

It’s funny how the end of things makes you think about the beginning. I could still envision her bouncing around as a carefree puppy, barking at her own reflection in the mirror. She grew faster than she realized and always remained slightly clumsy, but she gladly took on her role as the family dog, guardian and companion.

“A lot of people see St. Bernards as these big dogs -- and yes, they are -- but they have the biggest hearts and are the most lovable babies you could ever imagine,” Jessica said, “Whenever I was having a bad day, coming home to Marley greeting me at the door would completely turn my day around.”

Marley also took it upon herself to look after my dog, now a five-year-old Shar-Pei/Beagle mix, Roxy, as her own puppy. Even though they didn’t live under the same roof, Marley would protect her and watch out for her all while knowing Roxy could be a bossy and barky handful.

Marley looked past her flaws and even with almost a 100-pound difference between the two, she would still let Roxy cuddle with her when she needed to feel secure. For such a large dog, she always had a gentle heart, and I know Roxy will never fully understand what happened to her best friend. That, too, breaks my heart.

 Saying goodbye was far from easy.

Instead of being sad, we promised to make her final days more enjoyable by making the most of every moment. I am so proud of my family for staying strong while saying goodbye at the same time.

 “She loved all of us very much and I wanted to be strong for her,” my brother, Dennis, said.

Marley’s death took away a piece of my heart.

There sits a void that cannot be filled and I would be lying if I said my entire heart wasn’t broken.