OL officials troubled by fires

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

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Photo by Dermot Connolly

Last week's fire at the Airway mobile home park in Oak Lawn left two men dead.


The investigation continues into the deaths of two men taken out of a fire early last Thursday morning in the Airway mobile home park at 9001 S. Cicero Ave. in Oak Lawn, which have been ruled homicides by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

Oak Lawn police and fire officials said at a press conference last Thursday that they had been alerted by a Hometown police officer to a fire in a mobile home at that location at 12:43 a.m. Firefighters determined that the fire started in unit 10D, and spread to 10E. Both were heavily damaged. Both fatalities were found in the same residence, according to Fire Chief George Sheets, and another man in the residence next-door suffered smoke inhalation.

The officials said the Hometown police officer entered the first residence and found one of the men and brought him out, but he was deceased. As of Tuesday, his name had not been released, awaiting notification of his family. But, according to the medical examiner’s office, an autopsy determined the cause of death to be injuries caused by the fire, with “sharp force injuries.”

The second person taken out of Unit 10D was identified as Randy Chabala, 59, of Midlothian. He had been taken out of the residence in full cardiac arrest. After being stabilized at Advocate Christ Medical Center, he was flown to Loyola University Medical Center, where he died at 2 p.m. the same day. His death also was ruled a homicide, caused by injuries from the fire as well as “sharp force injuries,” indicating that both men were stabbed.

“We are all distraught that there have been two fatal fires in that community within 30 days,” said Mayor Sandra Bury at the press conference.

She was referring to the May 9 fire at another home in the park, which killed a 64-year-old woman who lived there. That fire is believed to have been caused by smoking, said Sheets.

“We have very few fatal fires in Oak Lawn,” said Sheets, calling it a coincidence that two had occurred.

He said having working smoke alarms is very important for safety, and noted that they are available free at Village Hall for Airway residents.

But the fact that the latest deaths were ruled homicides “is a major concern,” said Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) at the Village Board meeting on Tuesday night. He held up a sheaf of papers, saying it represented the number of calls for service that the village’s emergency services have received from Airway over the past year. He estimated that there have been 100 calls over the past 12 months, and Sheets said there have been something like 253 over the past three years.

“That is an usually large number,” the trustee said.

“Safety is a high concern with all of us,” said Olejniczak. “Myself, the mayor, and village staff are trying to set up a meeting with the owners of Airway to discuss our concerns. It is a shame it has come to this.”

The trustee said he expects the safety concerns in the 61-year-old Airway community, which includes several hundred residences, are expected to be a major topic of discussion at a District 2 safety meeting he will be holding at noon Saturday, in the conference room at Oak Lawn Village Hall, 9446 S. Raymond Ave.

Worth approves to dissolve economic development commission

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

During the June 6 village board meeting, Worth trustees voted unanimously to eliminate its economic development commission (EDC) and to modify the village’s business license review procedures.

Mayor Mary Werner stated that the EDC members had met with her last month to recommend the elimination of the commission.

 “They felt that their duties, which included reviewing business applications after they had been processed by the Real Estate Development Board, was a redundancy and only served to delay the application process by weeks,” she said.

When the elimination of the EDC was discussed at the last board meeting, Trustee Kevin Ryan expressed concern about economic development efforts in the village.

 “We can’t just walk away from economic development. We have just recently approved a long range plan and we need someone to oversee it. We need to consider hiring an economic development coordinator,” he stated.

In a later discussion after the June 6 meeting, Werner acknowledged that the role of economic development is different than approving business applications and licenses.

 “We are beginning our budget discussions in the coming weeks and we will definitely be considering the possibility of hiring an economic development coordinator,” Werner said.

Also officially approved at the meeting was the ordinance approving the village’s “opting out” of the Cook County requirements regarding minimum wage and sick leave payments for local business owners. With this vote, Worth joins the many other south suburban communities opting out of the Cook County ordinance and agreeing to follow Illinois State mandates. 

In other matters, the board approved business licenses for AR Oil Inc., 11458 S. Harlem Ave., and for Odeh Law Group, 11350 S. Harlem. Ave.

In the public comment portion of the meeting a resident complained about vehicles speeding on Hyland Avenue, a residential street.

 “There is a stop sign at 105th and Hyland and drivers don’t even stop for it. It is getting worse all the time,” the person said.

Werner acknowledged that speeding on the residential streets is a problem throughout the village.

 “It is our residents that are speeding and it is a real problem,” she said.

Police Chief Mike Micetich asked the resident what time the traffic was the heaviest.

 “It starts getting heavy around 2 p.m., said the resident.

Micetich promised him there would be extra patrols in the area.

 “We are battling this problem all across the village,” he added.

Venerable Vito and NIck's II reopens in Hickory Hills

  • Written by By Bob Bong


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Photo by Bob Bong

Vito and Nick’s II reopened at 9644 S. Roberts Road in Hickory Hills. The restaurant reopened on May 26.


After being closed for more than six months after the death of its longtime owner, Vito and Nick’s II of Hickory Hills reopened May 26 with limited hours and a limited menu.

The restaurant was famous for its thin crust pizza. It will begin regular hours and its full menu on Monday, June 19.

Former Chicago police officer Mick Martire owned the pizzeria for 17 years until he passed away in January and left the restaurant to his daughter.

"He created a great business and loyal customer base," said Cayla Bates, the new manager of the pizzeria at 9644 S. Roberts Road.

Following Martire's death, the pizzeria was purchased by a group of local owners who, according to Bates, “Love the pizza and the neighborhood feel of the restaurant.”

She said the new owners invested in a complete renovation of the restaurant with the goal "to create a friendly neighborhood environment with good food and friendly faces."

Among the renovations was new Edison lighting, an open floor plan and a complete redesign of the graphics and art work. New flat screen TVs, increased seating and an area designated specifically for video gaming and slots were also added.

One of the key things the owners didn’t do was change the pizza ovens. The well-seasoned Blodgett ovens have pizza stones that have been seasoned over the years. Those stones and the dough made several times a week produce the restaurant's famous crispy thin crust pizza.

“The owners are committed to the highest quality ingredients. We use locally produced cheese and sausage made within 15 miles of the store. We bring in the mozzarella cheese in five-pound blocks and grind it in-house to maintain freshness,” said Bates.

Each pizza is made by hand and baked between 450 and 475 degrees to create that crisp crust and evenly melted cheese, she said.

There is close to one pound of sausage on the large sausage pizza, which has quickly become its best-selling pie. Other specialty pies include spinach, shrimp and Hawaiian pizza with pineapple.

The restaurant features a menu focused on pizza, salads and sandwiches. There is also an array of appetizers and a full bar.

According to Bates, the chocolate chip skillet cookie with vanilla ice cream is quickly becoming a customer favorite dessert.

"We bake the cookie to order, right next to the pizza, it comes to the table hot with a scoop of ice cream on top. It is quite good and perfect to share," she said.

Vito and Nicks II will be open from 3-9 p.m. today through Sunday and then from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily starting June 19.

At present, the pizzeria offers dine-in and carry-out only. Delivery will be coming later.

The reopening created about 20-25 new jobs.

The newly opened restaurant has no connection to the original Vito and Nick's at 84th and Pulaski in Chicago's Ashburn community. It got its name when Martire was married to one of the daughters of the original establishment's owner.

Girls celebrate ‘Wonder Woman Day’ at Evergreen Park Library

  • Written by Kelly White

sam giglio photo 6-8

Photo by Kelly White

Evergreen Park friends Sam Giglio (left), 12, and Colleen Malloy, 12, have fun at the first-ever Wonder Woman Day at the Evergreen Park Library on Saturday afternoon.



Girls of all ages dropped by the Evergreen Park Library on Saturday in a celebration of the power of females, just in time for last week’s movie release of “Wonder Woman.”

Growing up in Evergreen Park and the youngest of four children, Grace Dwyer, 15, decided to edge into the world of sports at a very young age, a world she considers mostly male-dominated.

“I began playing softball in kindergarten,” Dwyer said. “To me, when I think of sports, I think of them as mostly aimed at boys, especially in high school, but I never let that stop me. I fell in love with sports and enjoy playing them whenever I can.”

Attending Evergreen Park High School, Dwyer currently plays volleyball and softball and is hoping to try out for the swim team next school year, if the season does not conflict with her volleyball schedule.

Young girls, like Dwyer, are also looking towards female super heroes as icons.

“It’s important for girls to be strong in many different ways -- mentally, physically and emotionally,” said Sam Giglio, 12. “The world demands a lot from us, and we need strong women to look up to.”

The Evergreen Park Public Library stressed the importance of strong females during a “Wonder Woman Day” at the library on Saturday afternoon for youth and teenage girls in the local community.

Wonder Woman is a fictional super hero that originated in American comic books. The event also marked Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary of having the first-ever solo lead in a female comic book.

The character provides inspiration for young girls to be strong, according to Mary Black, the teen assistant at the Evergreen Park Library, 9400 S. Troy Ave.

“This event is a really great way to provide a social space to talk about inspiring women,” Black said. “Wonder Woman was the first female super hero. She is not just an extra, like a Batgirl or Super Girl; she is her very own super hero.”

“I like that Wonder Woman is a female,” Dwyer said. “She is a great role model for all girls.”

“Wonder Woman provides justice for all women,” said Louise Brady, 8, of Evergreen Park.

This was the first time the library offered this particular experience that gathered 10 youth and teenage girls at no cost to them. Black was responsible for organizing the event, along with librarian Rachael Baldwin, who presented a book talk to the youngsters, highlighting books from all genres that have strong female characters.

“Books provide an opportunity for girls to discuss topics that matter to them, such as body image, gender, racism, school, careers and relationships,” Black said.

A second talk was held on the topic of girl power, addressing issues of self-confidence, independence and navigating social media safely by Sargina Jerome, who has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Loyola, led the discussion.

“Young girls need to have strong female leaders to look up to,” Jerome said. “They need to focus on the qualities within themselves that makes them unique and powerful, not something like flying or teleporting, but aspects like being creative, helpful and smart.”

Jerome had the girls create a board stating all of their own internal superpowers and present their reasons why they chose these qualities to the class.

Each of the participants received a free Wonder Woman comic book and worked on a craft, making a book tote from an old T-shirt.

Persistence key to patient's recovery from rare cancer

  • Written by Joe Boyle


Donnell Hall was known as the foundation, the rock that his family could always look up to and lean on.

But when Hall, a resident of Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, began to suffer from a critical illness, he saw that leadership role begin to slip away.

Hall, 52, was suffering from a rare disease called malignant metastatic paraganglioma, or PGL. After a two-week stay at a hospital, Hall was in shock when providers at a medical center began to discuss hospice and palliative care options. Hall was informed that he may not have much time left.

“This was the most difficult conversation I ever had in my life,” Hall said. “I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I was not ready. As far as I was concerned, my fight had just begun and I was determined to fight for my life.”

Enter M. Bassel Atassi, M.D., the hematologist/oncologist and internal medicine physician at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park. He was willing and ready to lead Hall in his fight.

“I had never encountered this before, but I did hear of it in my studies,’ Atassi said. “Well, we were able to determine what it was after he had problems swallowing. This biopsy was unusual in that that the findings found that it was in its fourth stage. This is very, very rare. This disease is very rare. But I was not going to give up.”

That is what Hall needed to hear.

“Dr. Atassi wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Hall said. “He is my guardian angel and the reason I am here today.”

Hall is a former college basketball player and his athletic genes were passed down to his 15-year-old son, who plays baseball and football for a local high school. When he is not busy cheering his son at sporting events, Hall spent his time running a print shop and hosting family gatherings and holidays.

He had no family history of cancer or any other disease. When he was diagnosed with this rare cancer in 2016, Hall was in disbelief. In December 2015, Hall had been experiencing difficulty swallowing and catching his breath, At that point, he decided to make an appointment with his primary care provider. After a series of tests, Hall was referred to an academic medical center in Chicago where he was informed in February 2016 that he had cancer.

Hall was told about his rare cancer, which according to the National Institute of Health, PGLs are rare chromaffin cell tumors. In 2002, an estimated incidence of malignant paraganglioma in the U.S. was 93 cases per 400 million people, according to the NIH. In about 10 percent of patients, including Hall, metastases are already present at diagnosis of PGL. If left untreated, the prognosis is poor.

Atassi was pleased with Hall’s confidence in him, but added that he provides the best care possible of all his patients. Atassi was patient, providing treatments one appointment at a time. Over the course of a year, Hall had undergone local radiations to the man cancer mass. Two were targeted radiation liver-directed radioembolization treatments, and 12 chemotherapy treatments.

“After the chemotherapy, the metastasis began to shrink,” Hall recalls. “These treatments took over a year and half.”

Hall pointed out this was a team effort. He applauded the efforts of the health care team at Little Company, including Julie Choo, MD, radiation oncologist; Don Martinez, MD, interventional radiologist; and Hamid Nazeer, DO, interventional radiologist.

“I truly accredit our entire team for Donnell’s success story,” Atassi said. “None of us ever had encountered a patient with this type of cancer, but we all came together as collaborating physicians to create a customized treatment plan and ultimately save Donnell’s life.”

Hall is grateful to be alive. During his treatment, he made the decision to close his print shop, a difficult decision, but one that has helped him to slow down and enjoy life. This past April, Hall and his family celebrated his overcoming cancer by going on a cruise.

“Before this diagnosis, I was one busy man…constantly on the go and rushing through life,” Hall said. “Now, I just live life as I can. I take time to hear the birds.”

Atassi also learned something from Hall’s recovery.

“Well, I learned from this experience is that you need to be persistent,” Atassi said. “There are always good things that can come of out of this. Keep up the hope.”

To learn more about cancer care at Little Company of Mary Hospital, call (708) 229-6020, or visit