Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: She’s finally the retiring type

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Regional Publishing’s Ulanowski leaves after Page-3-2-col-Sharon-for-JV-COLOne of the last stories that retired Regional Publishing typesetter Sharon Ulanowski worked on was this column. Photo by Jeff Vorva.decades of service

  When Sharon Ulanowski walked into the Regional Publishing office as the company’s new typesetter for the first time in the summer of 1972, it was hot outside.
  It was worse inside.
  “There was no air conditioning,” she said. “We had fans blowing. The old press was here and that gave off heat. It was hot and muggy.”
  Ulanowski walked out of the Regional Publishing office Tuesday on her final day as a typesetter in temperatures on the wrong side of zero with plenty of snow piled up visible from the parking lot.
  In between the sizzler of ’72 and the freeze of ’14, Ulanowski has spent decades typesetting copy of stories and ads for the Regional and Reporter newspapers. It’s almost impossible to figure out how many stories she has seen and it’s unimaginable to figure out how many words her eyes have seen jeff columnduring her career here.
  “I love my job,” she said. “I like the typing. I like reading the news. I don’t read the newspaper at home because I read the stories here.”
  In recent years, she has used a computer to get the work done. In the old days, it was different.
  “We punched holes on a yellow strip,” she said. “It went into a big machine. We called it ‘Beauregard.’ It ran through the machine and it came out on film. Then we ran it through the smelly chemical processor. We had to let the film dry and we had to trim it and ran it through a waxer and then we had to paste it all down.”
  I’ve known Sharon for the past 16 months of her career and have stayed on her good side for most of them.
  She did most the news work for the Regional and sports for both papers. In July, when I was mulling if I should move from Regional reporter to Reporter editor, she insisted I stay with the Regional because we worked so well together.
  The next time I saw her after I accepted the job as Reporter editor in August, she greeted me warmly with a “Good morning, traitor.”
  Aside from that day, we got along pretty well even though I know she wasn’t happy a few weeks later when I approached her about the Football Forecast feature in sports that we wanted to try out for the first time.
  While it sounds simple to have five goofballs picking about 10 prep football games a week, it took a lot of work on her end to get everything lined up just right to make the graphic look as good as it did.
  When we did our last Football Forecast after the state championship, I jokingly announced that we were going to do it for basketball as well. Have you ever heard of the term “stink-eye?” Well, that day I got it.
  Before coming to our offices, Ulanowski worked at Chicago Title and Trust and took four years off before coming to our offices in Palos Heights on that hot day in 1972. She is originally from Chicago and attended Immaculate Conception Grammar School and St. Peter and Paul High School — both have ceased to exist after her departure (hope that’s not an omen).
  It’s the end of an era for us at the Regional and Reporter. Few papers use typesetters anymore.
  Ulanowski lives in Bridgeview with her husband, Tom (of 45 years) and together they have made some of the best Christmas sweets you ever wanted to eat. We will insist that she stops by in December to fill our bellies with holiday goodness.
  Their son, Paul, is a Cook County Sheriff’s officer who teaches at Moraine Valley Community College and is a gun range instructor. Her daughter-in-law is also in the printing business at Fischer Printing in Bridgeview. Her retirement will feature fun with her grandkids, Raymond Richard (age 9) and Madison Mae (7).
  “They are the love of my life,” she said.
  So our loss is her grandkids’ gain.
  Just two pieces of advice to the kids:
  First, make sure you hug your grandma often because she loves her hugs.
  Second, don’t make her do any Football Forecasts.



Radice back on OL payroll despite protest from Streit

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The Oak Lawn village board on Tuesday approved a contract with a part-time village employee who will provide inspection and business development services to the village.

Steve Radice, a former chairman of the village’s planning and development commission, will be paid $75,000 via the annual contract, which was approved by a 4-1 vote. He will not receive health insurance benefits as part of the deal.
The contract replaces the village’s previous arrangement with Radice, who worked as a part-time inspector and later took on business development consulting work through a contract the village had with his company, Bring It Inc.
Payments to Bring It, which developed a basketball game available in various sporting goods stores, caused quite a stir as former mayor Dave Heilmann and Trustee Bob Streit alleged that they were illegal because the village cannot do business with a company owned by an employee.
The pair attacked Mayor Sandra Bury, who campaigned on a platform of ethics reform and increased transparency, and village manager Larry Deetjen, for awarding the payments to Radice’s firm.
“This whole scheme is part of a massive cover up and I can’t support it,” Streit said Tuesday night.
Trustee Carol Quinlan abstained from the vote because of her friendship with Radice and his wife.
Streit voted against the contract, saying it was illegal and Radice lacked business development experience.
Radice took on a part-time inspector’s position with the village in October, 2012. At that time, he resigned from the planning and development commission to avoid a conflict of interest. Several months later, Radice and three other village employees applied for the new business development consultant position.
Radice was chosen, and the village board in October made a $3,400 payment to Bring It Inc. In November, the board made a $4,706 to the company. The new agreement calls for Bring It to reimburse the village for those payments.
Streit said Tuesday that awarding the personal services agreement was “an attempt to erase a serious violation of the law.”
“It was not legal,” said Streit, who added that Radice received the contract because he is a political supporter of Bury.
He added that Radice is not qualified to work in the business development arena.
“I like Steve,” said Streit, who recommended his appointment to the planning and development commission. “He is not qualified to provide consulting in the area of economic development. He doesn’t have a degree in this area or any area for that matter and he has zero experience.”
Radice has said that his experience as a corporate recruiter and consultant coupled with his time on the planning and development commission and his vast network of business contacts qualify him for the position, which is responsible for bringing new businesses to Oak Lawn.
Trustee Mike Carberry took issue with Streit’s allegations.
“Surely we didn’t enter into this, Bob, to jam us up and make us look stupid politically,” Carberry said.
He added that Radice is doing a good job providing inspection services and is an asset as a business development consultant.
“Right now, we have a guy who’s from Oak Lawn, who has a vested interest here. He’s not getting benefits or insurance. Quite frankly, I don’t know why. He’s met with several [retail] brokers that I know and every one of them has given him high praise.”
“I don’t think it was hidden from me or anything was done illegally,” Carberry said.
Quinlan criticized village attorneys for mishandling the agreement between with Radice and the village.
“You guys blew it,” Quinlan said. “I think you made this board look terrible.”
She added that Radice was blindsided because the attorneys did not look ahead to catch any problems that existed with the initial arrangement.
Village attorney Paul O’Grady said he initially was unaware that Radice was a part-time village employee.
Deetjen said the responsibility ultimately is his.
“If you want to blame anybody, blame me,” Deetjen told trustees.
He added that the idea of a part-time employee taking on a second role is not new.
“I saw some talents that he had. It is a little bit creative,” Deetjen said. “There is nothing secretive or covert.”


The B-Side — Keeping Megan’s memory alive

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 Hurckes’ spirit sparks annual bowling event

Bobs Column - The B Side  I vividly remember the moment I learned that Megan Hurckes had died.
  My daughter and I were returning from the grocery store and before I could pull the car to the curb, my wife stepped onto the front porch to deliver the news. I was beyond shocked. What happened? How could this horrific news be true? But, sadly, it was true no matter how hard it was to believe.
  The news quickly spread throughout Oak Lawn. Megan Hurckes, 10, died in an ATV accident on Labor Day weekend in Wisconsin. Purple ribbons were tied around trees throughout the community to commemorate her short life. Social media was flooded with messages from friends and family offering their condolences and support.
  Megan was a sweet, adorable girl who had a smile you couldn’t forget. My daughter, Brigid, played softball with Megan on a team coached by her father, Jerry. Those were good times that I’ll always remember.
  Jerry Hurckes is a former Oak Lawn trustee, who ran for mayor several years ago. I know him as a politician, a coach, a community activist. He was always a good news source when he represented District 6 on the Oak Lawn Village Board. He and his wife, Maryann, are good people.
  Perhaps one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done is offer Jerry and Maryann my condolences at Megan’s wake. Hundreds of people stood in line at Blake and Lamb Funeral Home for more than two hours to offer the Hurckes’ their sympathies.
  When I approached Jerry, we embraced and he said, “She was a good girl, Bob. She was a good girl.” My heart was pounding. I had no idea what to say. What could I say? This family was grieving over the loss of their 10-year-old daughter, their baby girl. There were no words.
  More than four years have passed since Megan’s death. She would have turned 15 in February. She would have been a high school freshman. I have no doubt that the Hurckes’ deeply miss Megan every day, but what they’ve done to honor her life is remarkable. The family has gone beyond grieving to celebrate what Megan meant not only to them but to so many others who knew her from the community, St. Louis de Montfort Parish, Kolb School and Westside Baseball.
  Jerry Hurckes once told me, “To keep her memory going is much more important.”
  The Hurckes’ will do exactly that on Feb. 1 when they celebrate Megan’s 15th birthday at the annual Megan Hurckes Memorial Candlelight Bowl. The event begins at 7 p.m. at Arena Lanes, 4700 W. 103rd St., Oak Lawn. Tickets for bowling (which is optional) are $10. You can also sponsor a lane for eight bowlers for $150. A cash bar is available and raffles and chances will be held throughout the evening.
  The event is a good time, I guarantee it. Come out and see some familiar faces, bowl, eat, drink and, most importantly, take a moment to tell Jerry and Maryann Hurckes that Megan’s lives on, not just in our hearts and memories, but in the lives of so many children who’ve benefitted from the scholarship foundation, which was formed shortly after her death.
  The foundation has raised thousands of dollars for scholarships awarded to students from Oak Lawn Community High School, Simmons Middle School, Kolb Elementary School and Saint Louis de Montfort. Money also has been contributed to Westside Baseball and the Oak Lawn Children’s Museum, where the Megan’s Maze exhibit is on display for thousands of children to enjoy.
  The Hurckes’ have said they never would have survived the tragedy of Megan’s death without the support of friends and community members. Let’s show them that love and support once again on Feb. 1 while remembering Megan as well.
  For information or tickets, call (708) 599-7302 or visit If you can’t make it, donations can be sent to the Megan Hurckes Scholarship Foundation, 7036 W. 96th St., Oak Lawn, Ill., 60453.



Parachute wedding dress weaves Cox’s two loves together

  • Written by Claudia Parker

  The two things that longtime Evergreen Park volunteer Page-7-2-col-dressFormer Evergreen Park resident Rona Cox was married to her husband, Kenneth, in a dress made out of parachute material. Submitted photo.Rona Cox loves the most are her late husband, Kenneth, and the military.
  In what could be called the perfect symbol of her life, her love of Kenneth and the military were weaved together in the form of a unique wedding dress that was made out of a parachute.
  When Rona left the Air Force in the 1949, she was given a parachute. Rona’s mother, Helen Reynolds, was a skilled seamstress and was able to take that parachute, made from yards of pure silk, and create Rona a breathtakingly, gorgeous wedding dress.
  Nearly, 40 years later, on Jan. 1, 1988, Kenneth collapsed and later died from a massive heart attack while golfing with friends. While saddened by her husband’s death, Rona can’t help but to be grateful for all the years they spent together.
  Kenneth’s experiences in the war are described in a book titled, “Backwards into Battle: A Tail Gunner’s Journey in World War II”by Andy Doty.
  The national headquarters for The American Legion in Indianapolis is slated to keep Rona’s wedding dress there for display.
  Kenneth and Rona Cox married in 1949 shortly after returning from World War II. The couple both served in the United States Air Force. Kenneth was a radioman on a B-29 bomber, and Rona was a classification specialist for B-17 bombers.
  Shortly before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Aug. 6, 1945, Kenneth and nine airmen were on a reconnaissance mission. This is the military’s way of exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces. During this mission, their plane went down into the Pacific Ocean. Of the 10, seven survived with minor injuries. Kenneth was one of them.
  The dress provides good memories of Kenneth for Rona.
  “When I see my wedding dress, I think of him, floating overnight in the Pacific Ocean and I’m thankful he didn’t die that day,” she said.

Skater made our country greater

  • Written by Claudia Parker


  With wheels on her heels, 90-year-old Rona CoxPage-1-2-col-CoxPage-1-2-col-CoxFormer Evergreen Park resident Rona Cox was in what is now known as the Air Force in the 1940s, topt photo, and has served as an American Legion volunteer in the area for more than 60 years. Cox, bottom photo, just turned 90 and retired from volunteer work in December.Page-1-color-2-col-cox

has spent a lifetime rolling through life and serving her country.

  Approximately 400,000 women enlisted with the armed forces during World War II. Cox, a former resident of Evergreen Park, is one of them. Her two-year stint had such an impact, she continued to serve as a volunteer for 63 years with an unflinching dedication at the American Legion Post. The first 10 were served in Hometown and the final 53 at Post 854 in Evergreen Park, where she remained until retiring in December.
  And she was a pretty good roller skater, too.
  Even at 90-years-old, Cox is vibrant and lucid. She said, “I’ve spent my entire life being active. I didn’t retire from skating until I was 83. At that age, had I fallen, I would have been finished off in a wheelchair somewhere.”
  For nearly 70 years on roller skates, Cox said she never had an injury. “Nothing kept me from rolling.’’ Cox said.
  In addition to volunteering, Cox worked full-time while raising her two children, Dave Cox of Lemont and Patricia Morrin of Chicago. She said her mother, Helen Reynolds, offered a tremendous amount of support. Reynolds moved the year Dave was born in 1952 and didn’t leave until she died in 1985. Having family support allowed Cox to offer more than what most could give. She said, “If I couldn’t be totally committed. I didn’t do it.”
  With Cox’s official retirement from the ALP, she said, “I’m getting organized. I’ve made my final plans. I told the funeral director not to put a crucifix on my program. Instead, put a B-17 bomber on it!”
  Cox was barely out of high school when the war began.
  She graduated six months prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. She admits to being naïve about going to war, saying, “I had no idea what the war was about. I’d just discovered roller skating. After taking dance lessons for 12 years, I was enraptured by being able to dance to the organ on skates.’’
  The skating rink became her stage. It wasn’t long before her solo performances turned into duets.
  She blushed, saying, “Sailors from the Great Lakes training center came to the rink by the busloads. I liked them boys.”
  Cox befriended many of the servicemen. One in particular, named Kenneth Cox, whom she’d dated since high school, joined the Army Air Corps, which is now known as the United States Air Force.

  “I found myself being drawn in but no one from my small family had ever served in the military,” she said.
  After becoming more skilled at her hobby of roller skating, she began to compete. Skating kept her mind occupied as she sought her mother’s approval to enlist in the Air Force, which is where Kenneth had already been for a year. She finally joined in July 1944, becoming a classification specialist for B17 bombers.
  Cox spent her tour in New Mexico and later, Colorado Springs, which is now the Air Force headquarters. She was responsible for getting classified personnel into Europe. Although the war ended in 1945, she spent an additional year bringing her fleet home. She was honorably discharged in August 1946. She and Kenneth married in 1949 and moved to Hometown.
  “Hometown was where you went to establish yourself when you got back from the war,’’ she said. “The community was built for returning veterans. The American Legion Post and its auxiliary were just being formed. I was one of the first to join.”

PAGE-7-4-col-cox-jump-hotoRona Cox shows off a B-17 model airplane. The 90-year old still loves the military after spending more than 60 years volunteering for area American Legion groups. Photos by Jeff Vorva.  The purpose of the American Legion is to assist veterans of all wars, their widows and dependent children. The Legion also is active in developing and promoting legislative activities that establish or protect the rights of veterans.
  “This work is important,’’ Cox said. “Through the years, I’ve held just about every job there is serving my local post.”
  She’s received various accolades from the district, county and state for her work, including recognition for being one of the first female commanders and auxiliary presidents.
  She loves the military and is fond of veterans.
  Even while considering her own death, she’s thought of the veterans.
  “It’s a far drive from Evergreen Park to the cemetery, and I don’t want people hungry,” she said. “So, I told the funeral director to serve lunch first.” When he asked what style of thank you cards she wanted, she replied, “I’ll take care of those myself.”

  There’s no need to print those programs just yet. Cox is very much alive and well. Today you can find her at a ballet performance or snuggled on her sofa watching a good ol’ war movie.
  “After 63 years with the Legion, I guess it’s time to relax,’’ she said. “But I’ll never forget the veterans.”