West Nile nightmare

  • Written by Bob Rakow


 ‘I called myself a bag of water’ EP mayor Sexton says as he publicly opens up 14 months after his near-fatal ordeal

 Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton considers himself a blessed man.

  The veteran mayor contractedpage-1-COLOR-4-col-sextonEvergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton was relaxed when he opened up and discussed his fight with the West Nile virus before being honored Friday at a ceremony at Christ Medical Center. Photo by Jeff Vorva West Nile virus more than a year ago and endured months of grueling rehabilitation sessions to regain his strength.
  But Sexton refuses to call himself a victim. Rather, he believes the illness and subsequent rehab were blessings that gave him a new outlook on life.
  “I’m most fortunate to have this happen,” Sexton said Friday during a luncheon before an awards ceremony at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
  Sexton and four others were honored for never giving up during their battles to overcome various illnesses during the hospital’s 25th annual Rehabilitation Awards Ceremony.
  In the past 14 months, Sexton has been reluctant to talk publicly about his ordeal. He tested positive for the virus July 30, 2012. In mid-August, 2012, the information became public and was a major story in the Chicago area because the news broke just days after the death of Lombard Village President William Mueller. Mueller reportedly died of complications caused by the West Nile virus but had also been battling bone marrow cancer.
  When Sexton missed his first board meeting in early August, an official told audience members that he had a virus but specifically ruled out West Nile. Jerome Bosch, a trustee at the time, said that it was the first meeting Sexton missed in 11 years.
  On Friday, Sexton was relaxed, joked around with friends and family and said “life is better” as a result of his lengthy rehabilitation. “It’s all a positive. You realize how lucky you truly are. People have it tougher than this,” he said.
  Sexton underwent extensive rehabilitation sessions at both Christ Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, working with occupational, speech and physical therapists, who pushed him to overcome the aftereffects of West Nile virus.
  He returned to work in October and attended his first board meeting since contracting the virus Oct. 15.
  Sexton, 61, prefers to focus on the positives that came as a result of the intense rehab.
  “It turned out to be a wonderful experience,” he said, adding that he bonded with therapists and other patients and grew closer to his family.
  Sexton was joined at Friday’s luncheon by several family members, including his wife, Karen. The mood was festive, vastly different emotions than the ones experienced in the days after Sexton was hospitalized.
  Sexton’s brother, John, said the mayor’s condition was initially touch-and-go and family members were extremely concerned. But the mayor’s physicians put the family at ease, explaining that he would rebound after the first few days.
  “I was really worried early on,” John Sexton said. “He was comatose.”
  Jim Sexton recalled feeling sluggish and thought he had the flu or was dehydrated. But when he checked into the emergency room, he was sweating profusely and had a 105-degree temperature, he said.
  But Sexton rallied and soon was handing some village business while in the hospital—taking phone calls and meeting with village staff.
  John Sexton often drove his brother to rehab sessions and said the mayor never complained or expressed doubt about recuperating.
  “He bought into it and was very, very committed,” John Sexton said. “He really had a great attitude through the whole process.”
  But Sexton said the early days of therapy were tough. He could not get out bed, shower or dress himself without assistance.
  “I called myself a bag of water,” he said.
  But the rehab team believed it was time to take Sexton on the road to recovery.

  “They know how to push your buttons,” Sexton said of the therapists, many who attended Friday’s awards ceremony.
  Fourteen months later, Sexton continues therapy sessions two days a week primarily to regain the strength is his neck—the only remaining aftereffect of the disease.
  Sexton said he attended the luncheon to thank therapists, physicians and nurses who cared for him.
  “I think all of the awards should go to the people at Christ Hospital,” he said. “I had a little roll of bad luck.”


Community Briefs

Oak Lawn

Children’s Museum celebrates Literacy Month

  The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn is celebrating National Literacy Month. Simply show your library card at the admission’s desk and you will get $1 off your admission price throughout the month of September.
  “Reading and writing is the foundation of today’s learning,” said Adam Woodworth, the museum’s Executive Director. “Yes, you can turn on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel and get a lot of good, useful information. But, what if you want to learn more about something that you’ve seen? You are probably going to go to the library or look it up on the internet. That’s where reading comes in and where fluency and comprehension in reading becomes that much more important.”
  “Some kids are good at science, some kids are good at math, but without being able to read,” added Woodworth, “Those subjects become that much more difficult.”
  While you are at the museum, you might find a way to celebrate National Literacy Month with your child. For instance, you might:
  • Participate in our 11 a.m. story time experience from Tuesdays through Friday.
  • Find a book in one of the exhibits and read with your child.
  • Make a story with your child about your visit to the museum.
  • Find words throughout the museum and have your child read them to you.

Artsy Good program highlighted

  Also at the Cnhildren’s Center over the summer, several young artists participated in the Artsy Good program at the museum and they will be showing off their work at our first late night of the year at 6 p.m. Friday.
  To celebrate the first late night of the year, admission is just $5 per person between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Starting in Oct., the museum will be open until 8 p.m. on the second and fourth Friday of each month.

Little Company of Mary seeks volunteers

  Little Company of Mary is looking for energetic and friendly individuals to donate their time to greet and guide patients at their newest state-of-the-art medical facility in Oak Lawn. The Outpatient Center is a 51,000-sqaure-feet, the three-story-state-of-the-art medical center is located 6700 West 95th St.
  Volunteers enhance the effectiveness of the many departments which serve patients, visitors and employees. Volunteers play an intricate role that helps make the hospital function.
  If you would like to become a volunteer at Little Company of Mary, we ask for a minimum commitment of four hours a week for one year.
  For more information about volunteer opportunities, please call Volunteer Resources at 708-229-5280.

Salem UCC to serve at PADS site

  SALEM UCC, 9717 S. Kostner Avenue, Oak Lawn, will once again be a PADS site this fall and winter for women and children. This will be our third year that Salem has run the site. Every Sunday evening October through April, homeless woman and children are able to come to the church for a hot meal and a place to stay for the night.
  The site is run by volunteers and is in need of several volunteers again this year. There will be an information meeting at 7 p.m. at the church. Call Gerry Krakowsky at 708-259-3566 for more information.

Evergreen Park

Documents Disposal coming to EPCHS

  State Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, is inviting constituents to take advantage of free and secure document disposal at her community shred day this month.
  Burke’s shred day will be held from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 28 in the parking lot of the Evergreen Park Community High School, 9901 S. Kedzie Ave. in Evergreen Park. Residents are invited to bring old tax returns, pay stubs, bills, receipts and credit card applications for safe destruction. Documents will be shredded on site.
  “Shredding is not only the safest way to dispose of old bills, credit card statements and other documents that contain sensitive information, it’s also an environmentally friendly way of clearing clutter that’s taking up space in a home or business,” Burke said. “This shred day is a great opportunity to make our identities safer and our communities greener.”

  For more information about Burke’s shred day, please call her constituent service office at 708-425-0571 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Michael’s Pancake House damaged by fire

  • Written by Bob Rakow


A fire that destroyed a Worthpage-2-2-col-fireA close up of some of the damage inside of Michael’s Pancake House. Photos by Jeff Vorva. pancake house Monday night is under investigation by the North Palos Fire Protection District.
  The blaze was contained to the kitchen of Michael’s Pancake House, 6753 W. 111th St., but the entire eatery suffered significant smoke damage, Battalion Chief Rocky Carlson said.
  “The inside is heavily damaged,” Carlson said.
  A neighboring realty office also experienced smoke damage, he said.
  The fire department received a call from a passerby at 5:29 p.m., Carlson said. The blaze was extinguished in about 30 minutes, he said. The restaurant was closed at the time of the fire.
  The masonry building does not have a sprinkler system or smoke detectors, Carlson said.
  A fire fighter cut his hand while fighting the blaze but was treated at the scene.

Two charged in OL prostitution sting

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  An Oak Lawn woman was charged with prostitution Sept. 5 during a sting at the Oak Lawn Hilton, police said.

  Alexis S. Stademeyer, 20, was arrested at 11 p.m. by an Oak Lawn police detective posing as a potential client, according to reports.
  Police made an appointment to meet Stademeyer after seeing an ad for her services on a web site.
  After arriving at the Hilton, 9333 S. Cicero Ave., the detective received a telephone call from the same number he used to set up the appointment. The detective was told what Stademeyer was wearing and that she would be in the hotel lobby shortly, according to reports.
  Moments later, a woman wearing a black jacket appeared and had a conversation with the undercover officer. She asked what he wanted and he told her, “What we agreed on the phone.” She said her services cost “$100 for 20 to 30 minutes,” according to police.
  The detective offered her cash, but Stademeyer asked to be paid in the hotel elevator. She was arrested moments later in the hotel lobby, police said.
  Apollo D. Brandl, 27, of Chicago, was charged with promoting prostitution and possession of marijuana, police said.
  Police met Brandl in a Cadillac parked in the hotel lot. His cell phone had pictures of Stademeyer, which were the same ones posted on the website. Another woman in the car admitted to being a prostitute and was released, police said.
  Brandl told police he received $50 a day for gas and driving Stademeyer to appointments. He said she was a call girl and it was the second day he had worked for her.

Parking woes don’t cross up plans for new Chicago Ridge restaurant

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Plans for a new restaurant and bar in Chicago Ridge gained momentum Tuesday night when the village board approved business and liquor licenses for the establishment.

  Trustees approved licenses for the Crossing Bar and Grill, 102nd Street and Ridgeland Avenue, which was previously Bearhawks Sports Bar and Grill.
  But trustees continued to voice concerns about a lack of sufficient parking at the restaurant, which is located in a small strip mall.
  Bar owners told the board they were willing add 16 parking spaces to a location behind the bar, which is adjacent to Gen Hoe Chinese Restaurant.
  There are a limited number of parking spaces in front on the strip mall, but not nearly enough to accommodate a busy restaurant and bar, officials said.
  Owners said they have been unsuccessful contacting the owner of Penny Lane School, which owns a parking lot adjacent to the strip mall. Mayor Chuck Tokar suggested contacting the school’s owner about leasing parking spaces to the new establishment.
  Trustees two weeks ago delayed granting a business license for the restaurant until the owners could determine if Penny Lane would agree to lease some of its parking spaces.
  Trustees are concerned that bar patrons will park in the residential neighborhood adjacent to the tavern if sufficient parking is not provided.
  “That’s going to be a problem — like I told you before — if you’re successful,” Trustee John Lind said.
  Lind said he wants the bar to succeed but not at residents’ expense. He said Tuesday that he would talk to the owner of Penny Lane on the restaurant’s behalf.
  Tokar said he also would favor additional parking behind the bar or in the Penny Lane lot.
  “Either of the (parking) options would certainly help,” the mayor said.
  Employees of the restaurant will park in a mechanic’s lot across Ridgeland Avenue.