Hickory Hills woman defends family in wake of neighbor’s previous complaints to council

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Deborah Szymanski is fighting back.

The Hickory Hills resident appeared at last Thursday’s city council meeting to defend herself and her son against allegations levied by a neighbor.

The neighbor, Gil Marek, of the 9300 block of 79th Avenue, asked aldermen at the Sept. 25 council meeting to intervene in an escalating dispute he’s having with the Szymanski family.

The problem is, Marek and Szymanski have very different versions of the dispute.

Marek asked the council to take action to prevent the Szymanski’s from repairing campers in their driveway, which is located directly across the street from his house.

He said his neighbor has worked on at least three campers in recent weeks, which includes the use of power tools for hours well into the night.

Szymanski denies the claim.

“He wants us to get aggravated,” Szymanski said after last Thursday’s meeting. “He is clearly fabricating because he wants his own way.”

Marek, who vowed to attend future meetings until the problem is resolved, was not at last Thursday’s meeting.

Szymanski said Marek became angry on a recent weekend when her son, Tim, was working on his pickup truck in the driveway. She said Marek was “ranting, raving and swearing” when police arrived.

The Szymanski’s did not receive a ticket from police, but did get a letter from the city reminding them of various ordinances such working too late or violating noise restrictions.

Szymanski was adamant that her family is not running a business from their home.

“The fact that tickets haven’t been issued supports her statement,” Mayor Mike Howley said. “We certainly can’t control what he’s alleging, what he saying.”

Szymanski denied that her family power washes multiple trailers in their driveway or that her son routinely uses a grinder while restoring his truck.

“He wants to dictate a block of Hickory Hills,” she said. “He’s harassing us. I feel he’s watching. It’s pretty bad. It scares me.”

She also denied Marek contention that other neighbors are angry about the situation, but they are afraid to call the police and complain to the city.

Marek told the council during at his first appearance that he has no conflicts with his neighbor other than the complaints he’s lodged with the city.

Szymanski agreed with that assertion, saying that she gets along with Marek’s wife, who her son has helped out in the past.

Quinlan won’t seek trustee post for third term

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Eight is enough for Oak Lawn Trustee Carol Quinlan.


The veteran village board member has decided against running for a third, four-year term in April, but has wasted little time endorsing a candidate to run for her 5th District seat.


Bud Stalker, a long-time Oak Lawn resident announced his candidacy last week. He joins Dan Johnson and Paul Vail in the race.


“I just think he’s a straight-up guy,” Quinlan said. “He would be ideal.”


Stalker also has the support of former 5th District Trustee Marge Joy and former Village Clerk Jayne Powers.


Quinlan said she decided after winning re-election in 2011 that she would not run again.


“I had only planned for two terms. I think it’s a good think to have new blood,” Quinlan said, adding that she’s looking forward to spending more time with her family.


An ally of former Mayor Dave Heilmann, Quinlan became part of the village board minority in 2013 when Mayor Sandra Bury won election and often disagreed with the mayor on various issues.


Quinlan said she has known Stalker for many years through their involvement at St. Linus parish.


“You have to find someone who’s passionate,” she said. “I wanted to find someone who would do a great job for the village.”


Stalker, 68, has lived in Oak Lawn for 25 years. He retired in 2009 following a career as an electrical contractor. He is the president of his condominium board and is a member of the International Association of Electrical Inspectors.


The experience, he said, prepares him to serve on the sometimes contentious village board.


“If you think this is tough, you ought to try negotiating a contract worth a couple million dollars,” Stalker said.


He added that he is prepared to work with Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury and other members of the village board.


“I am not for or against the mayor,” said Stalker, who describes himself as an independent.


Both Vail and Johnson also have said they are independent candidates not aligned with the mayor or other factions of the board.


Vail, 36 is a lifelong Oak Lawn resident who chairs the village’s corridor studies committee. He works as a construction manager.


Johnson is the commander of the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post in Oak Lawn.

He served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, including four years of active duty, two tours of combat in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan.

He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in a combat zone in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2013. He is a member of the Army Reserve.

Stalker and his wife, Mary Ellen, have been married for 44 years. They have five children and seven grandchildren. He is a graduate of Brother Rice High School and Bradley University.


Stalker said he considered for months Quinlan’s suggestion that he run and added that he’s looking forward to the race.


“It’s going to be a real good opportunity for three people to discuss the issues,” Stalker said.


The race could involve more than three candidates, as there are rumors other contenders may jump into the contest, Quinlan said.


Stalker has not yet discussed his candidacy with Trustee Bob Streit, Bury’s chief opposition on the board, but plans to meet with the veteran trustee.


“Bob is an interesting person,” Stalker said.


Streit is seeing his seventh term on the board and is facing a challenge from Scott Hollis, 58, a newcomer to Oak Lawn, who announced his candidacy in August.



Heading to ‘Little Company of Mary corner of heaven.’

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Sister Sharon Ann Walsh sat in a wheelchair near the front of St. Bernadette Catholic Church Tuesday morning and accepted condolences from several mourners who attended the funeral Mass for Sister Jean Stickney, 86, and Sister Kab Kyoung Kim, 48.

Sister Walsh appeared emotional at times during the 90-minute funeral Mass, which occurred nine days after Sister Stickney and Sister Kim, were killed when a car driven by Sister Walsh was hit head on by a pickup truck at 95th Street and Cicero Avenue in Oak Lawn.

Sister Walsh is the Provincial Leader for the American Province of the Little Company of Mary Sisters and the chairman of the board for the Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers.

She left Little Company Mary of Hospital, where she was being treated for injuries sustained in the accident, to attend the funeral services. The wake for the sisters was held Monday at the hospital chapel.

Hundreds of people turned out for Tuesday morning’s funeral in Evergreen Park to pay their respects to the two Little Company of Mary Sisters.

“This has been a very difficult week for all of us,” said the Rev. William Sullivan, who concelebrated the Mass with several other priests from the area.

Sullivan recalled tears coming to his eyes when he learned of the fatal accident. “It’s time to grieve.”

But he added that it was appropriate to celebrate the sisters’ entrance into heaven, adding that Sister Stickney and Kim have been welcomed by the nuns who have gone before them into the “Little Company of Mary corner of heaven.”

“Today we grieve (and) we celebrate,” he said.

Sullivan also suggested that the sisters are martyrs because several more people may have been killed in the traffic accident had the pickup truck not hit their car first.

Peg Schneider, chaplain in the hospital’s pastoral care department, praised the sisters as selfless women during her closing remarks.

“We stand in love and remembrance of two good women,” Schneider said.

“Sister Jean, I would say, her name was goodness,” said Schneider, who said she often worked “under the radar” to accomplish her goals.

“She was gentle, loving and respectful,” Schneider said, adding that Sister Stickney was charitable and “saw the good in everybody.”

“We celebrate today a very generous woman with wonderful gifts,” Schneider said.

Schneider said Sister Kab Kyoung Kim, known to many as Sister Anna, was at her best working with children, including those she served in the hospital bereavement program.

“The language she really brought to us was the language of love,” Schneider said.

The sisters were eastbound on 95th Street Oct. 5 in the front of a lane of cars stopped at a red light at Cicero Avenue when a westbound pickup truck hit their car at 4:27 p.m., police said. Both died at the scene.

The driver of the pickup truck, Edward L. Carthans, 81, of Chicago, also died in the 11-car accident.

Police are awaiting toxicology reports on Carthans to help determine what caused him to veer into the opposite lanes of traffic after causing a four-car accident at 95th Street and Keeler Avenue. Witnesses told police that Carthans was initially seen slumped over his steering wheel at 95th Street and Western Avenue, but he refused help and drove away.


These trolls don’t know compassion from Adam

  • Written by Bob Rakow

A comedian and podcast host I thoroughly enjoy, Adam Carolla, does a bit on his show called “What Can’t Adam Complain About.”


Much of Adam’s comedic shtick is complaining about things. So during the bit, which is typically performed at his live shows, audience members are challenged to pitch topics that would be tough for him to complain about.


But no matter what happy, joyful topic his fans propose, Adam always finds a negative. A sunny day on the beach? Adam would say you risk skin cancer and will have sand in your shoes. A traditional holiday meal with family? Adam would remind you that someone’s bound to drink too much and start an argument.


I thought about the bit the other day after Oak Lawn resident Jenni Simpson shared with me Facebook posts in response to her decision to leave a bouquet of roses near the site of last week’s tragic 11-car accident.


Simpson’s attached the roses to a street light near 95th Street and Cicero Avenue on Monday morning. They served as the sole reminder of the horrific accident that took three lives on Sunday afternoon.


Tough to complain about that thoughtful deed.


I chatted with Simpson shortly after seeing a picture of the flowers on Facebook. She told me the accident left her numb. It was a terrible tragedy, she said, reflecting on the fate of the two nuns who perished when a pickup truck smashed into their car as they waited at a red light on eastbound 95th Street.


The sisters were powerless to do a thing. Yet, a third nun in the car survived. Why? Simpson seemed to be wresting with so many thoughts. She decided that honoring the deceased with a simple bouquet of flowers was the right thing to do.


Indeed. I doubt even Adam Carolla would disagree.


But a small number of Facebook trolls were up to the challenge.


Simpson took a fair share of shots on a community Facebook page. She was ripped for injecting herself into the story. She took grief for bringing her 7-year-old son with her to accident site. In fact, the criticism turned to the kind of name calling you’d expect to hear on an elementary school playground.


It’s incomprehensible to me. Makeshift memorials are commonplace today. They serve as coping mechanisms and a way to honor the deceased.


The day after Simpson brought her roses to the scene, a small memorial was up, including two wooden crosses and a heart bearing the names of the three who died in the crash.


The crosses were put there by Greg Zanis, of Aurora, who runs an organization called Crosses for Losses. He’s placed more than 11,000 wooden crosses across the country since his father-in-law was murdered in 1997. It helps him cope with his personal tragedy. He hopes the crosses do the same for others.


In a small way, that’s what Simpson was doing with her single bouquet of flowers. She took a few moments out of her day to remind the folks driving on 95th Street that something horrible happened one day earlier. Lives were lost and so many other lives will forever be affected.


But a few people had issues with Simpson and let her have it behind the safety of the Facebook wall. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. So too should the folks who posted a bevy of inappropriate comments on Facebook the night of the accident.


I have no idea whether they didn’t like the bouquet of flowers or if they have some other axe to grind with Simpson. Doesn’t matter. It was not the time or the place. When did it become OK to lay into a person for handling their grief and expressing their condolences in their own way?




As far as Simpson bringing her 7-year-old son to the site, that’s her call as a parent. She didn’t bring him to the horrific crash. Rather, she taught him a valuable lesson the following day about honor and doing the right thing.


It’s a lesson some other folks on Facebook certainly could use.



Jeff Vorva's ImPRESSions: Becoming a lover of the covers

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions

People around me who have heard me singing the old Whitney Houston hit “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)’’ can blame Charles.

No, not Charles Richards, the former owner of this newspaper. I’m talking about a store I discovered in Naperville called 2nd and Charles.

This is one of the coolest stores I’ve been to.

Most the stuff is used but it’s a huge store with huge selection of CDs, DVDs, books, comic books, t-shirts, records, electronics and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. I could spend a week in the store and not be finished.

There are more than 20 of these stores located in America, but only three in the Midwest and one in Illinois. The Naperville store, located at 336 South Route 59, had been open for just 10 months according to the guy who checked me out. I mean, the guy who took my money after a purchased a CD, not a guy who was...ah forget it.

About that purchase?

I love going into a store and finding something I have never seen before and for some reason, a live David Byrne CD from Austin Texas had escaped me all of these years until my inaugural trip to the store.

The live set featured some of Byrne’s solo work and some of his Talking Heads tunes. But at the end, he throws in a pretty cool cover of Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)’’ that makes a song I really never cared about into something I’ve been singing or whistling to for a week.

So if any developers in this area want to bring a really neat store to the south suburbs, give Charles a call.

HEADLINE – Speaking of covers…

The burning Byrne cover reminds me of some other unlikely cover combinations that work surprisingly well.

To me a good cover tune is one that is radically different and better than the original, whether I liked the original or not.

Case-in-point – pop tart Britney Spears’ “Oops!...I did it again’’ is a catchy but disposable tune that was covered by Richard Thompson. Thompson is a guitar genius whose lyrics can be twisted, edgy, haunting and occasionally creepy. His version and arrangement give the song a whole new dynamic.  Thompson has covered everything from Spears to forgotten 16th Century songs with more hits than misses.

The Clash’s punk-pop hit “Train In Vain” is an outstanding song on its own merit. But Dwight Yoakum’s hillbilly version and Annie Lennox’s gospel-tinged version of the same song actually trump the Clash’s version.

 The White Stripes’ edgy “Seven Nation Army” sounds strangely wonderful by the Oak Ridge Boys and their country-pella, Bosshoss by its yee-hah style and Marcus Collins and his bluesy approach.

Speaking of Nation, my all-time favorite desecration of a song is Queen’s rocker “One Vision’’ turned into “Geburt Einer Nation” an German-style anthem by Yugoslavian industrial snarlers Laibach.

HEAD – Ultimate cover band

While the Ramones are my favorite band and they do some great covers of 50s and 60s songs such as “Palisades Park” and “Surfin’ Bird’’ the ultimate cover band in my mind is Pearl Jam.

For those who think that Eddie Vedder and the boys nothing but a bunch of serious grungers, you might be surprised that in their concerts they let loose with some pretty incredible covers.

They tackle a whole lot of songs and styles including the Beatles (“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”), Generation X (a scaled down “Gimme Some Truth”), Otis Redding (“Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”), Devo (“Whip It”) plus multiple songs by the Who, Ramones and Split Enz.

Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” was never one of my faves, but Eddie’s haunting voice and a guitar is all that is needed to turn this into something special.

And to go full circle, recently Willie Nelson turned in a brilliant cover of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe.”