The travelin' man has returned

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




Photo by Jeff Vorva

By Jeff Vorva

and Tina Butler

Reporter News

Kevin Lee is back home in Oak Lawn.

For how long is anyone’s guess.

Since he graduated in 2007, he’s been a lot of places. While he probably can’t compete with the country song “I’ve Been Everywhere,” keep in mind he’s just 25. He has time.

He’s crammed a lot of living in recent years but for now he’s back home and is a math teacher’s aide at Richards after seven years of playing college baseball at Iowa, teaching in Atlanta, getting a master’s degree in education at Harvard and following the rock band The Youngest all around the Midwest for a film documentary.

His homecoming actually came about because of a homecoming game. This fall, he attended the homecoming game at Oak Lawn High School, which hosted Richards. 

While the Bulldogs were taking care of business on the field, Lee was in the stands with some friends and they engaged in a conversation with a guy about American linguist Noam Chomsky.

It’s probably not all that often that the visiting stands of the Oak Lawn football stadium finds a group of people dropping quotes from a man who wrote books titled “How the World Works,” “Government in the Future” and “Getting Haiti Right This Time.’’

But in this case, it worked and fate had it that the man they were talking to was the vice principal of Richards, Mike Jacobson. Jacobson asked Lee if he was interested in a job at Richards and now Lee is back at a teacher’s assistant and pitching coach.

And he has a message he wants to get out there to every student he meets.

School doesn’t suck.

Lee doesn’t mince words about his profession and he hopes to drill that in his students’ heads.

“I am very interested in education policy and would like to shift kids mentality from ‘school sucks’ to ‘school is our opportunity.’ ” Lee said and added that he wants to find ways to make it beneficial and enjoyable for all involved.

Lee’s career path to this entry-level job at his alma-mater had several twists and turns.

Lee, who said he is related to former major league pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee, was a pitcher for the Bulldogs and was recruited by the University of Iowa. His junior season, he set the school record with 13 saves in 2010. During his career, he pitched in an exhibition game against Iowa Triple-A Cubs and said he struck out future major leaguer Eric Patterson.

But injuries hindered his baseball career and teaching became a new love for him. After leaving Des Moines, he headed to Atlanta to teach at a high school for a couple of years and then headed to Harvard to work on his master’s degree.

After spending time on the movie and rock scene, he is back at his school and is ready to share his enthusiasm for education to his students and players.

Although he is teaching math, Lee said an English teacher helped shape his career.

“Mr. [Albert] Teunissen influenced me in a positive way and had made an impact on my life,” Lee said. “I learned how to write at Richards from Mr. Teunissen, and he's one of the only reasons I got into Harvard. My test scores were [poor], but they loved my public school background, success in Teach For America and writing style.’’

The former Kolmar Elementary School student said that getting into Harvard wasn’t impossible.

 “I took the GRE test and wrote a statement of purpose. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be,’’ Lee said.  “I did wonder and worry if I have enough in common with my classmates. I was happy to discover these people were like everyone else and they weren't all [Mark] Zuckerbergs. Also, I'd like to send the message to kids out there about Harvard University and that it is not as daunting or out of reach for regular people. And don't worry about new situations because that’s how we all grow.

I chose Harvard because they had a great education policy and film program,’’ he added.  “And I also thought, ‘hey, I got into Harvard. It's probably too expensive for my South Side bank account, but I probably should go anyways.’ The master's program was only one year so I figured what the heck.’ ’’




Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Julie Andrews deserves the booby prize for this movie

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions


It’s the 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music.’’

Lady Ga Ga dropped her goofball act for a few minutes during the Academy Awards to pay loving tribute to “Sound of Music” star Julie Andrews, a.k.a. Dame Julie Andrews, and later, the Dame received some more warmth from the academy.

There are stories and TV specials galore about the iconic film because of its half-century status.

Andrews’ role as Maria Von Trapp and her title role in the 1964 classic “Mary Poppins” launched her into a superstar and she became identified with an aura of goodness and wholesomeness.

But in 1981, she was in a forgettable movie called “S.O.B.’’

Her husband, Blake Edwards, directed it. It was a satire about the movie world. I was in college at the time and thought it would be a smart movie to see.

And toward the end of the film, we get to see a topless scene with…Dame Julie Andrews.

There are just some things that don’t seem right.

You don’t want the Pope getting a DUI.

You don’t want to hear Mother Theresa swearing and seeing her spit on a homeless guy.

And you most certainly don’t want to see what pops out of Mary Poppins’ bra.

It’s just not right.

Andrews wanted to shed her squeaky-clean image. I thought it was a poor career choice, right up there with Florence Henderson – a.k.a. Carol Brady – playing a drunken hooker in “Shakes the Clown.’’

Andrews’ cupcake show ranks 24th in the “25 Grossest Nude Scenes in Movies” by No. 1, by the way, is Kathy Bates skinny dipping in a hot tub in the 2002 film “About Schmidt.”  I didn’t see that one, but it must be bad because it is five spots ahead of the grossest scene I’ve ever seen and that’s Borat wrestling with hefty manager.

But I digress.

Some actors and actresses do nude scenes before they make it big and a few of them actually regret it. This is a case where the Dame sounded like she was regretting the pure  image that made her millions. So at age 45, she showed her spoonfulls of sugar.  Luckily, it didn’t catch on.

While I still think it was a horrible career move, the 79-year-old can laugh it off and, darn it, I was laughing along with her. Last year, she appeared on the BBC’s “Graham Norton Show” and when she was asked if people tried to talk her out of it because she is Julie Andrews and she poo-pooed it and changed direction by adding “It can be cold in the studio.’’

One of the other guests on the show was Jonah Hill, who knows a little something about nudity in films as he was a star in “The Wolf of Wall Street.’’ They all had a bunch of laughs.

Maybe I’m making too big of a deal out of this, but it just doesn’t seem right that Dame Julie showed her that her hills were alive in a major motion picture.

Now, let’s get back to Florence Henderson and “Shakes the Clown”...


Worth trustee candidates hope to relieve economic headaches

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Worth Trustee Mary Rhein didn’t hesitate Thursday night when asked about the village’s most significant priority.


“Besides economic development, what issue do we have? We need tax revenue,” Rhein said during a candidate forum hosted by the Chicago Ridge Worth Chamber of Commerce.


The other candidates at the forum, which was held at Worth Village Hall, did not disagree.


In fact, economic development and improving the business climate were the issues most frequently brought up at the 90-minute forum, which attracted about 40 people.


Six candidates are running for three seats on the village board.


Incumbents Rhein, Pete Kats and Warren Soldan are joined on the April 7 ballot by challengers Kevin Ryan, Bruce LeBeau and Forrest Tucker. Tucker did not attend Thursday’s forum.


The incumbents pointed to their experience as the primary reason to return them to the board.


“The key is to listen, learn and lead,” said Rhein, a trustee since 2001.


She recalled the financial crisis the village faced in 2009. The board was forced to make significant, unpopular cuts to restore the village’s cash reserve to 90 days, Rhein said.


“Just because it’s in the budget doesn’t mean you have to spend it,” she said.


Soldan, a lifelong resident of the village, was appointed to the board two years ago to fill Mayor Mary Warner’s trustee seat. He has served as the liaison to the police department during a time of transition in the department.


“I think the biggest thing we’ve done is the new police chief we have,” Soldan said.


Kats, also a Worth native, has served two terms on the board and stressed the amount of work that accompanies the job.


“It’s just a huge responsibility,” Kats said. “It’s an honor.”


He added that voters should assess village progress over the past few years. If they’re not satisfied, they should not return him to office


The two challengers who attended the forum both have records of community involvement.


Ryan has lived in Worth for about a decade and first got involved during the financial crisis. He is a member of the library board as well as the village’s economic development commission.


“We need to work together for what is in the best interests of the village,” Ryan said.


LeBeau has lived in Worth for 25 years and also served a stint on the library board, which he described as a “hands on” job.


“They were days of blood sweat and tears,” LeBeau said.


LeBeau said the village must work harder to invigorate the business community by involving more residents.


“To me, it’s getting the word out. Let’s get everyone involved. You’ve got to go out and grab people. We have to get 111th Street going with the businesses we have,” LeBeau said. “You’ve got to get creative. We have to bring this town into the next 100 years. It’s a sleepy town. We need to wake it up a little bit.”


Rhein said such initiatives are not always successful. She said hundreds of emails were sent out to encourage people to attend the candidate forum and only a small number attended.


“It’s not easy. It ‘s hard to rally people,” Rhein said. “We try our hardest.”


LeBeau also disagreed with the other candidates on the presence of a medical marijuana dispensary on Harlem Avenue.


“I think we can find better ways to bring business to the village,” he said.


Other candidates said the clinic would benefit both patients and the community.


“It definitely will benefit the people who need it the most,” Rhein said. “It will be beneficial to our town.”


Ryan also supported the decision.


“It will bring in some revenue to town,” he said.


“I think it’s a great idea,” said Katz, who initially had concerns about the proposal.


The future of Water’s Edge Golf Club was briefly discussed, and Rhein and Katz agreed that the village is doing all it can to make the course more profitable.


“We are working diligently to make it work,” Katz said.


“Unfortunately, the golf industry has gone down,” said Rhein, who added that the course faces significant competition from other municipal golf courses in the area.


She added that the new company the village hired to manage the course has improved the situation, but nothing can change the fact that the village owes $6.1 in bond payments for the development of Water’s Edge.


“It’s here to stay,” she said.


Evergreen Park bank robbed

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The FBI continues to investigate a robbery last Friday of an Evergreen Park bank.

The incident occurred at about 3 p.m. when a man in his late 20s or early 30s robbed the BMO Harris Bank branch at 9950 S. Kedzie Ave., according to the FBI's BanditTrackerChicago website.

The man was described as black, 6-foot to 6-foot-1, with a thin build and a birthmark on his forehead above his right eye. He was wearing a black or burgundy jacket and a black skullcap when he robbed the bank, according to the FBI.

The FBI does not believe the robbery is connected to an attempted bank robbery that took place about 30 minutes earlier at Suburban Bank & Trust, 9901 Western Ave., which is about a mile away.

The Evergreen Park robbery comes about two months after an attempted robbery Jan. 13 of the Evergreen branch of U.S. Bank at 2917 W. 95th St., which also remains under investigation by the FBI.

Anyone with information about any of the incidents is asked to call the Chicago office of the FBI at 312-421-6700.


Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Chuy literally running for mayor of Chicago

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

This Chuy guy was like mercury at the Chicago South Side Irish Parade on Sunday – he was hard to catch.

He may be about 10 percentage ticks behind Rahm Emmanuel in the poll for mayor of Chicago, but he is making up for it in Tasmanian Devil-like energy.

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia probably should have run in the mile race that took place on Western Avenue an hour before the step off of Sunday’s parade. He might have given some of the top 10 finishers a run for their money.

The parade started at 103rd and Western and that was Chuy’s starting block as he ran and jogged the 12 blocks, zig-zagging between the east and west sides of Western, shaking hands with members of the crowd, hugging other members, yelling, pointing and giving the thumb-ups.  He was passing other floats and marchers.

His people were able to get parts of the crowd to chant “Chu-eee, Chu-eee.”  The last time I heard those words together so much was in the late 1960s on my transistor radio thanks to a group called the Ohio Express.

He was a photographer’s dream – when he stopped to shake hands and pose. But he was a nightmare when he would zip off and us pitiful paparazzi goofs had to run after him. I got some clear shots of him. I got some blurry shots of him.

Garcia and his Celtic Boxing group was the 92nd entrant in the 103-entry parade. For those who were getting bored with the show, he gave it a nice shot of energy toward the end.

Way earlier, Emmanuel was in the front of the parade with the Irish American Labor Council and he was also making nice with the members of the crowd but wasn’t as animated at Chuy.

On this day, Chuy reminded me of former Cubs manager Mike Quade. When Quade was a third-base coach, I talked to him during his first spring training about how hyper and excited he was about his  job and his response was “I make coffee nervous.’’

Chuy could be viewed the same way. I don’t know how many votes that will translate to, but give him credit for the effort.

Selfie-made man

Gov. Bruce Rauner was on hand at the parade and, like Chuy, was having fun with the crowd shaking hands and taking selfies with his adoring public.

He got a lot of cheers although he wasn’t popular with everyone. Someone held up a sign that said “Ruck Fauner.”

Despite that, Rauner was having a blast in the infancy of his new job.

We’ll see if that enthusiasm lasts in a couple of years.

Right on the Money

The WeishFest group was at the parade and announced recently that the 2015 lineup will include Eddie Money and Warrant.

This year’s fest will take place from noon to midnight July 18 at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood. The fest is in honor of Andrew Weishar, a Brother Rice student who died of cancer in 2012. The Andrew Weishar Foundation benefits families with kids or young adults battling cancer.

Tickets start at $25. For more information, visit