Tough and tender:Bouchard's award brings out two sides of a local legend

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

Kirsten Bain had to wipe away tears from her eyes last Thursday afternoon after she accepted an honorary award for her late grandmother, Pat Bouchard.

Crisis Center Board President David Anders presented the award to Bain at a rededication ceremony and the tears flowed.

“I was really close with her, she spoiled us rotten,’’ Bain said.

A handful of family members – including daughters Tricia Bouchard Case and Bobbie Bain – were there and share happy memories of mom and grandma with me.

I was a bit surprised to hear of this genuine emotion from them. There some people in this area who remember Pat as being tough and opinionated. One person I talked to a few years ago referred to her as the b-word and said it admiringly.

But, yes behind all that tough guy exterior, Genevieve “Pat” Bouchard was a mother and grandmother and had her kind and tender moments that not everyone got to see. At one time she was a newspaper columnist for the Reporter and Regional and even bucked up against two others in a race for Worth mayor in 1981.

Two summers ago Bouchard died.  Before my boss at the Regional News, Jack Murray, had me write her obituary, I had no idea who she was.

When I found out that one of the many things in her full life was that she was a columnist for our papers, I thought that was a good starting point.

I figured I would crack open some old yellowed papers that her work would appear in and was ready to be underwhelmed.

See, I made the mistake of lumping Bouchard with the many columnists on weekly papers who write about their town’s garden club and little Billy turning 10 and having four friends over to the house. I have nothing against those columns and the garden club members and little Billy are thrilled to see their news in the paper. That’s what we’re here for – to try to serve as many people as we can.

But the scope of such a column is pretty narrow and those outside that town or little Billy’s house may not give it a second glance.

So, I was all set to read Pat and…well…she had a sharp wicked edge to her. And funny?

Look, I know some of my columns are out there when I talk about Julie Andrews’ breasts and exposing the dark side of June Cleaver. But this Bouchard…she wasn’t writing about the garden club or little Billy. She was writing about the Nazi club and little Adolph.

In a Sept. 4, 1986 column she had me laughing out loud.  

She highlighted an item about 92-year-old Rudolph Hess — Adolph Hitler’s right-hand man — being denied televised news and political debates in prison.

“I think Hess should be exposed to the blatherings of world politicians and to the other realities that are carried into our homes by the nightly newscasts,” she wrote. “Why should a Nazi suffer less than the rest of us?”

OK, that hooked me.

She also had the wisdom to let great quotes make her point if she couldn’t do it herself.

In another column, she found a news bit about a Rhode Island researcher who claimed that more people are likely to strike their kids than smack their dogs. So she talked to a friend who had raised five teenagers and was not exactly politically correct.
  “Sounds reasonable to me,” the unnamed friend was quoted as saying. “My dog never snitched my pantyhose or makeup, he never told my family secrets to my in-laws, never borrowed the car and got a ticket…
  “There is just no temptation to hit a loving beast who accepts you as you are … however when your darling blond daughter shows up with pink and blue hair or your son sneaks a beer out of the refrigerator … well, that’s another story.”

Priceless. Just priceless.

I wanted to read more of her and I checked out a handful of columns before I realized I better stop because Mr. Murray’s deadline for the obit was fast approaching.

But before I was done, I found a column from Sept. 25, 1988 in which she started the piece: “‘Never lower Tillie’s pants. Mother might come home. Now that I have your attention, permit me to assure you that this column is not about the sexual adventures of Tillie or any other frisky lass.”

That column was about memory improvement, by the way.

I heard she would lock horns with everyone in the office about a variety of subjects so I know she could be a spitfire and if I worked with her back in the day, I would probably have gotten into a battle royal or two with her.

So, now I have painted you a picture of someone who seems to be as hardened as pig iron.

But there was another side to her.

Her many years serving an volunteering at the Crisis Center, which started in Palos Park and is now based in Tinley Park, showed her heart was in the right place in helping to keep this shelter for abused women and kids alive for decades.

“She devoted a lot of years to this Crisis Center,” Tricia said. “She loved it and did great work here.’’

The facility went through a major facelift in the last year with improvements in just about all the living and work areas. One of the newly renovated bedrooms at the facility will be named for Pat.

“She would like this honor,” Bobbie said. “On the surface she might not say it, but deep down she would like it.

She made enemies. She pissed people off.

But she also left an impact on some lives that moved close ones to tears even two years after her death.

“She wrote an article when I was born about being a grandmother,” Kirsten said. “How did she say it? Grandparenting can be the best disease or something like that. She was a great woman.’’

Trying to fix the 'ghetto of Hickory Hills'

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins


Hickory Hills City Council members tried to come up with a solution for what one resident called “the ghetto of Hickory Hills.’’

While they couldn’t come up with a concrete answer at their July 23 meeting, the city bosses tried attacking the problem from all angles and kicking all sorts of ideas around.

Joe Piccioli, of the 7800 block of West 97th Street, addressed the council during the public comment section of the meeting regarding his concerns for the safety of his family in his neighborhood because of activities going on at vacant properties and houses occupied by people not taking care of the property north of his home.

“I feel like I live in the ghetto of Hickory Hills,’’ he said. “I am worried about letting my wife go out to walk the dog. This is not my first time here to tell you about this. Something has to be done.

“I know people are breaking into these vacant houses and there is no telling what is going on inside. It is a bad situation. I call the police nearly every evening. They respond, they come quickly, but if they issue tickets, it doesn’t change anything. These people don’t care about tickets or fines. What can be done?”

Hickory Hills Attorney Vince Cainkar said ticketing the alleged offenders is all that can be done.

“The fines will just keep escalating,’’ he said. “It can be taken to court, but it won’t result in a criminal charge.”

Alderman Mike McHugh asked if the empty properties could be boarded up and Building Commissioner John Moirano said he thought they should be condemned.

Mayor Michael Howley said that all the city can do at present is to keep ticketing the property owners.

“It is sad that you have to live in this situation,’’ Howley told Piccioli.  I know you have a very nice home. I have driven down your street and the properties you are referring to are in deplorable shape.”

The council members hashed out potential solutions.

Moirano is all in favor of demolishing the buildings.

“Give me some legal direction and I will take care of it,” he said, emphatically.

 There was point where several council members were talking at once and one could be overheard asking if the fire department could use the vacant properties as a training exercise and burn them down but Cainkar said, “No, you just can’t burn properties down that way.”

Police Chief, Al Vodicka, chimed in and said, “We can try daily patrol checks.”

The Mayor commended Piccioli for his reasonable approach in asking for help.

“We will do what we can; we will be consulting with our attorney. If we can step up enforcement we will. Your alderman will keep you in the loop.” Howley said.

Piccioli, who is a union contract plumber in Chicago, asked if he could make a “citizen’s arrest” if he catches someone in the empty houses. The mayor said, “Yes, you can.”



'Unbelievably pleasant': Former Sox pitcher and EP resident Pierce fondly remembered

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


PAGE-1-Pierce Billy-02-copy

Photo courtesy of the White Sox, inset photo by Jeff Vorva

Former Evergreen Park resident Billy Pierce died Friday at age 88. Pierce’s number was retired in 1987 (inset). 




There are so many people who remember White Sox pitching legend Billy Pierce as a “great guy.’’

After he retired from baseball in 1964, the former longtime Evergreen Park resident became an ambassador for baseball and the White Sox. He showed up at so many functions and seemingly always had a smile and nice things to say to everyone he met at these affairs.

Let’s face it, it’s easy to be a “great guy” at some Hot Stove league events or banquets in which everyone is having a good time and talking about the sport they love. But if they can still be that nice on days when most men to punch a wall or kick the dog…

Pierce died on Friday in Palos Heights and later that day, Oak Lawn’s Ed McElroy, who was a radio announcer in the 1950s when Pierce and the “Go-Go” White Sox were hugely popular in Chicago, remembered a time when the lefthander had a chance to be anything but a great guy.

“The Sunday before the Sox were trying to win the pennant (in 1959) he pitched and got knocked all over the place,” McElroy said. ‘’I got a call at 10 that night about a kid who was so sick, they didn’t think he would live until Christmas and wondered if there was something we could do for him.

“I called Billy at 10:15. I told him the story. This is hours after he got killed at the ballpark that day. He said “I’ll see you there tomorrow.’ That’s Billy Pierce, you know what I mean? You don’t call a guy who gets knocked around like that, but you call Billy Pierce. He was just a beautiful person. He was unbelievably pleasant.’’

Pierce died at age 88 of gallbladder cancer and he spent 18 years in the major leagues. He was with the Sox from 1949-61.

He was one of three Chicago baseball legends to die in 2015. Sox great Minnie Minoso and Cubs legend Ernie Banks also passed this year. Banks died Jan. 23 and Minoso died on March 1.

Pierce had a career mark of 211-169 with a 3.27 ERA, He threw 193 complete games including 38 shutouts and notched 1,999 strikeouts.

But around here, he was known for more than just numbers.

“Billy lived in Evergreen Park for many years, his home was about a block from the Little League Baseball Field,’’ John Halverson of Bradley wrote on “I…remember when a kid would knock on his door and ask Billy to give him a few pointers on pitching and Billy would always come out and help him. He was always helping out whatever way he could for the Shriners Hospital for Children. What a man.’’

The Sox retired his number, 19, in 1987 but he has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 2014, the Hall of Fame’s Golden Era Committee reviewed his case but did not let him in.

Another Evergreen Park native, former major league pitcher and current White Sox radio announcer Ed Farmer, said Saturday during a pregame show that Pierce is HOF material.

“He embodied a Hall of Famer both on the field and off the field,” Farmer said. “He was the same man now as the man I met when I was 16 and you don’t see that very often.’’

Pierce, whose actual name was Walter William Pierce, is survived by his wife, Gloria (nee McCreadie) and children William Pierce, Patricia Crowley and Robert Pierce.

He was a longtime parishioner of Evergreen Park Presbyterian Church and a 33rd Degree Mason of Evergreen Park Lodge.

Visitation was scheduled for Tuesday at the Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn Oak Lawn while a private funeral service for family and close friends was scheduled to be held Wednesday at Evergreen Park Presbyterian Church with the entombment at Chapel Hill Gardens South Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in memoriam of Bill Pierce's name to the Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities, P.O. Box 2865, Glenview, IL 60025.


Chicago Ridge shaved ice business no longer on ice

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The guy who sells shaved ice said he ate some humble pie but hopes his troubles with the Chicago Ridge Village Board are behind him.

Kevin Wright received approval from the board in July to add a gazebo with seating to his Sensational Snow business, a seasonal shaved ice business he has been operating out of a house-shaped trailer at 10600 S. Ridgeland Ave. for about four years.

But it may have been a case of “be careful what you wish for” because after that request led to a background check that turned up delinquent tax issues, the village suspended his business for nearly two weeks.  

Wright addressed the issue at the village board meeting on Tuesday, insisting that he is now in compliance. Hearing that, the trustees agreed by a 4-2 vote to give him a temporary license allowing him to reopen for the rest of this season, with the stipulation that he does not add the gazebo until they confirm his information and resolve other questions that they have about the business.

Village Clerk George Schleyer said an investigation into the history of the business following the expansion request found that Wright had not paid the village’s one-percent food and beverage tax since it was instituted in 2013. 

Schleyer said that it was also determined at a hearing that “no sales tax (had) been paid to the state of Illinois. The state didn’t even know he was in business because Wright’s tax ID number had been withdrawn.”

The clerk said that he decided then that the best thing to do would be to suspend his business license.

“(Having a problem with taxes) is a first for me, personally or professionally,” said Wright. “I am sincerely sorry. I never meant to avoid paying taxes. This is the biggest piece of humble pie I have ever eaten,” he added, adding that he cleared up the matter within 48 hours of being informed about the issue.

He said that when he opened his business, he allowed a friend, rather than a professional accountant, to do his taxes, and each year afterward just followed his lead.

“I did not even know that a food and beverage tax had even been instituted,” he said. Since it was brought to his attention on July 21, he and Schleyer went over his revenue records and determined that he owed the village a grand total of $243 in back taxes.

“You kept track of your sales during that time?,” asked Mayor Chuck Tokar.

Wright said he also met with officials from the Illinois Department of Revenue, and settled that debt as well. He would not say exactly how much sales tax he owed, but Schleyer told the board he had received documentation from the state that he was now in compliance.

“I’m going to have to learn a lot more about taxes. I’m an engineer by trade,” said Wright, a Chicago Ridge native now living in Schaumburg.

He said he also had not realized that the state had withdrawn or cancelled his tax ID number because no sales taxes were being collected.

Several trustees raised other issues about the business at the meeting, including its exact address, because it is located in the parking lot of a commercial strip.  Wright said his lease agreement lists 10600 S. Ridgeland as his address, but Trustee Amanda Cardin said she wants to check that with the property owner. Trustee Frances Coglianese also questioned how he can have an address without being located in a building.

 Village Attorney Burt Odelson said that since the tax debt, the reason for the license suspension, had now been paid, the board might run into legal trouble if the suspension was not lifted.

Therefore, at Cardin’s request, Wright’s business license was reissued on a temporary basis while the other issues were resolved. The vote was approved by a 4-2 margin, with Bruce Quintos and Frances Coglianese casting the two dissenting votes.

Wright said he has had to put the plans for the gazebo on hold while sorting out the tax issues, and the temporary license stipulates that his gazebo plans remain on hold until the trustees are satisfied that everything is in order.

When Wright questioned wondered why he was being questioned so thoroughly now, after being in business for years, several trustees reminded him that many of them weren’t on the board when he was originally given the license, and they are just doing their “due diligence.”

“You’re the one who brought the expansion request to us,” Tokar reminded him.

“This was all over a $243 debt,” said Wright after the meeting, asserting that he has lost employees and $1,500 in business during the last two weeks while the shaved ice stand was closed.

“I’ve lost a lot,” he said.

Mayor to help oversee $1.7 billion highway project

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar will have a hand in decisions on a $1.7 billion highway project.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar has been selected to serve on the newly formed Central Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) Corridor Planning Council, which will have a voice in a $1.7 billion reconstruction project for the section of I-294 between 95th Street in Oak Lawn and Balmoral Avenue in Rosemont.

    Justice Mayor Kris Wasowicz was also named on July 23 to the 33-member advisory board, which is scheduled to meet for the first time at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 14, in Room 219 of Illinois Tollway headquarters, 2700 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove.

Tollway officials said in a press release that the advisory board will “provide public input and guidance” as a master plan is drawn up for the I-294 reconstruction project, part of Move Illinois, the Tollway’s 15-year, $12 billion capital program.

    “I was pleased and honored to be asked to serve on it by Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett (president of the Southwest Suburban Conference of Mayors),” said Tokar, noting the close proximity of I-294 to his village. As of early last week, he did not have an agenda for the first meeting, but said he was looking forward to being at it.

    “The Central Tri-State Tollway plays a critical role in the Illinois Tollway system and the regional transportation network, so input from the public and the communities we serve will be an important part of our planning process,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Greg Bedalov in a statement. “Working together, we have an opportunity to implement innovative solutions that address travel demand for decades to come while also helping to stimulate economic development and serving local communities’ needs.”

Nearly 22 miles long, the Central Tri-State Tollway Corridor is one of the busiest and most complex segments of the 286-mile Tollway system, serving up to 185,000 daily vehicles. In addition to being a main route to O’Hare International Airport, it connects five other interstates–the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), I-190, the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) and the Stevenson Expressway (I-55).

    According to the Tollway Authority, the Move Illinois Program currently includes $1.7 billion for the Central Tri-State Tollway Project, with advance work tentatively set to begin as early as 2018 and reconstruction scheduled for 2020-2022. In addition to planning for roadway reconstruction, the master planning process will allow the Illinois Tollway to consider improvements to several major bridges and local interchanges, accommodations for commercial vehicles and transit, as well as explore the addition of active traffic management similar to the eastern segment of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) Rebuilding and Widening Project.

Tollway officials said the Corridor Planning Council is expected to help develop a common understanding of the issues and concerns that should be considered as the Illinois Tollway undertakes this reconstruction project.

 Therefore, in addition to mayors from Cook and DuPage counties, the Council membership will include railroad and trucking industry officials, tollway representatives, and leaders of business organizations, such as Donna Smith, executive director of the Bedford Park-Clearing Industrial Association.

    Move Illinois, the Illinois Tollway's 15-year, $12 billion capital program, is aimed at improving mobility, reducing congestion and pollution, and creating as many as 120,000 jobs in the Midwest.

    Other Move Illinois projects include rebuilding and widening the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), constructing a new interchange to connect I-294 to I-57, building a new, all-electronic Elgin O’Hare western access, and funding planning studies for other emerging projects.