Oak Lawn Senior Center could now be in the center of town

  • Written by Bob Rakow


The future of the Oak Lawn Senior Center may get a fresh start in the center of the village.
Mayor Sandra Bury is exploring the possibility of building a new senior center adjacent to the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 5220, 9514 S. 52nd St., she said at Tuesday night’s village board meeting.
The mayor said she’s participated in initial conversations with VFW officials about the possibility of adding a 1,000 square-foot addition to the facility. The addition would have a separate entrance, but seniors also would use the existing VFW Hall for some of its activities, she said.
“It’s a good location. It’s worth exploring,” Bury said. “It seems to be a very good fit.”
She added that there is good synergy between village seniors and the VFW, which counts many seniors among its members.
Additionally, the VFW holds many of its activities on nights and weekends while the senior center is busy on weekdays. The village owns the “underutilized” parking lot where the addition would be located, Bury said.
“It solidifies (the seniors’) position in the center of our town,” Bury said.
She said the village has gone from “a very exciting vision of the continuation of senior services in Oak Lawn to the continuation of a senior club concept.”
Seniors are excited about the proposal, Bury said.
The senior center currently is located at the former McGugan Junior High School, 5220 West 105th St.
Talk of a senior center at the VFW Hall comes about one month after Bury said seniors were “getting screwed” as politics got in the way of a proposed series of land exchanges and purchases that would lead to the development of a new senior center.
The proposed land exchanges and purchases involved the village, park district, Mancari’s auto dealership, 4630 W. 95th St., and St. Paul Lutheran Church, 4660 W. 94th St.
Under the terms of the proposal, St. Paul would sell a 61,740 square-foot parcel located adjacent to the church to Mancari’s, who would deed the property to the village. The village, in turn, would deed the property to the park district.
Mancari’s would then negotiate with the park district to purchase a 41,862 square-foot parcel located between the dealership and the Oak Lawn Ice Arena. The village would then negotiate with the park district and Mancari’s to secure the funds needed to build the senior center.
The agreement would give the park district additional open space and provide Mancari’s room to expand its landlocked dealership, Bury said.

Cops’ 71-page report has Brittany’s family puzzled

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Members of Brittany Wawrzyniak’s family went to the Worth police department last week to pick up copies of the long-awaited report concerning her death.
But in the week that has followed, family members have come to realize that the 71-page report does not answer the critical question that they’ve been posing for seven months: Who is responsible for Wawrzyniak’s death?
That’s been the central question since Nov. 8, when Wawrzyniak died after being ejected from a moving SUV in the parking lot of the Worth boat launch.
It is not, however, the family’s only question.
They wonder, for example, why the Eric Johnson, the driver of the SUV from which Wawrzyniak was ejected, was never charged in connection with her death. Johnson was charged with conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and is serving a 3 1/2 –year prison sentence.
Additionally, the family asks, why did the Worth police close the death investigation three weeks after they said a full investigation would require an additional eight to 10 months? And why did four months pass before police interviewed a couple that encountered Brittany’s bodies while walking their dogs near the boat launch?
The Worth police closed the case several weeks ago and determined her death to be accidental.
Family members admit that sifting through the details of the report has been both overwhelming and frustrating as they digest the myriad details looking for any information that will help determine who is responsible for Wawrzyniak’s death. They’ve spotted some inconsistencies in witness accounts, but little else so far, they say.
The final report includes the reports filed by the Worth police, the Cook County Medical Examiner, the Cook County Sheriff, the Cook County Circuit Court and Illinois State Police Forensic Lab.
It includes the police department’s incident report as well as summaries of the witness interviews, which were conducted in the days following Wawrzyniak’s death.
Based on those interviews, prosecutors determined that Wawrzyniak met Johnson at the boat launch, got into the back seat of his SUV and handed him $200 in exchange for 30 pills of Clonazepam.
She began counting the pills while still in the backseat. When someone tried to open the rear door of the SUV from the outside, Johnson sped away.
Wawrzyniak opened the door of the moving vehicle, was ejected and struck the pavement, prosecutors said. She was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn less than one hour later.
The Cook County Medical Examiner ruled that Wawrzyniak died as result of multiple injuries sustained due to a fall from an SUV, including lacerations, abrasions and contusions to the head; skull fractures; dislocation of the neck and abrasions and contusions to the back and upper extremities.
Wawrzyniak allegedly met Johnson and his girlfriend, Courtney Hyzy at the boat launch for a drug buy that was arranged, according to witnesses, to set up to force a fight between Hyzy and Lily Arboleda, 18, of Chicago, a close friend of Wawrzyniak.
Arboleda later was charged with conspiracy to commit battery for her role in the incident.
Hyzy has not been interviewed by Worth police, a fact that remains puzzling to the Wawrzyniak’s family.
Wawrzyniak’s toxicology reports were clean, a fact her family heralded to indicate that she was not involved in drugs.
However, a Feb. 13 police interview with a Palos Heights woman who knew Wawrzyniak via her friendship with the woman’s son tells a different story.
The woman told police “Brittany was a good person but she did have her faults,” the report said. She told police Wawrzyniak admitted to smoking marijuana and taking Xanax and k-pills and drinking alcohol. She said Wawrzyniak ignored her advice about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, according to the report.
The woman also told police that she had tracked Hyzy to her sister’s residence in Evergreen Park and advised police to obtain a DNA sample from her. She said the DNA sample could be used to compare with any DNA evidence found on Wawrzyniak.

Jeff Vorva's imPRESSions: Crunchy cheese, a mystery car and a race against time

Jeffs Col ImpressionsHere is a cheesy story.
  Even though our correspondent, Claudia Parker, had some very interesting things happen to her since I’ve known her in the past 10 months or so, this Evergreen Park Christian, wife, mother, author and speaker (that’s how she signs her e-mails) had a pretty bizarre series of events happen to her last week.
  It all started when her 6-year-old daughter took a bite out of a slice of cheese and it crunched. Cheese isn’t supposed to be crunchy.
  At first, she feared the worst.
  “I swear when you look at it up close it looks like tiny pieces of glass,” she said. “It’s in the entire pack of cheese. What the heck....I’ve been feeding this to my kids!”
  After a few days of investigation, including having the cheese examined by Little Company of Mary Hospital and the Illinois Health Department, it was determined that it could be something as harmful as glass or hard plastic or it could be just crystallized salt.Page-3-3-col-car-with-jvcolA man from Florida is still looking for the make and model of this car, which spent some time in Oak Lawn in the 1960s. Submitted photo.
  “That sure beats glass,” she said.
  Parker said she has drawn some television interest in the story, pending the investigation. She said the cheese was voluntarily pulled from the store she bought it from.
  This latest incident comes on the heels of Parker dropping her cell phone in the toilet but that’s another story. That story, by the way, can be found in the debut of her column on page 12. Her columns will run every second and fourth weeks of the month.

He’s not giving up
  Phillip Topcik’s quest for a an answer to a near 50-year question of identifying the make and model of his car hit another dead end when no one from our area responded to a column I did in the May 22 editions of the Reporter and Regional.
  It is a rare car that was made in Germany for a movie star and it once belonged to John and Anne Greeneltch of Oak Lawn and sold to a Volkswagen dealership in Evergreen Park.
  Topcik, who lives in St. Augustine, Fla., bought the car in 1967 and has explored many different avenues trying to locate that information including contacting national and international car magazines and even reached out to Jay Leno. He was hoping we could help and that someone from the area might have remembered talking to John about the car and might remember him mentioning the make and model.
  When the story appeared in our papers, he was on a cruise in Alaska and did not have Internet access. But when he got off the ship he went to a library, logged into a computer and…
  “I double checked my e-mail six times,” he said. “Not a one. Maybe the people we’re looking for are all in the old-folks home somewhere.’’
  Topcik is offering $100 and a six pack of beer to anyone who can help him, and you can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We are running the photo of the car one more time.
  He is not giving up. He said a newspaper in Florida will try to help out and get him in contact with more magazines and he may seek advice at an East Coast car show.
  “So far it’s been dead end after dead end after dead end,” he said. “I know someone out there has to know what kind of car this is.’’

Finish line coming up soon
  None of us need to be reminded of how old we are getting and how time is flying by.
  But I picked up a double whammy on Saturday.
  First, I went to my nephew’s graduation party and the fact that he is graduating high school already put me in a where-did-the-time-go frame of mind.
  Then there was that stupid horse race.
  The whole weekend, the focus was on California Chrome, who was trying to become the first hoss to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
  Oh, 1978 was the year I graduated high school, to Saturday pretty much affirmed my position in this race.

Animal abuse is abundant

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 Torturing animals mostly goes unreported

Two recent cases of animal cruelty in Worth Township resultedChristopher-KrentkowskiChristopher Krentkowski in arrests, but far too often dogs and other animals are abused and the occurrences go unreported, animal advocates say.

 Animal abuse occurs routinely, but typically goes unreported because few people call the police.

“A lot of people don’t want to get involved,” said Linda Estrada, director and president of the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge.
Estrada has worked at the Animal Welfare League for 18 years and has seen every kind of animal abuse imaginable, she said.
In fact, approximately 20 percent of dogs housed at the Animal Welfare League are victims of abuse, she said.
Since Jan. 1, 2013, Cook County Sheriff officers have made approximately 25 arrests for violations ranging from pet owners’ negligence to aggravated animal cruelty.
The Animal Welfare League has eight veterinarians and 14 technicians to treat the 1,400 dogs and cats housed at the facility.
Estrada has seen many dogs that were beaten, starved or left outside in extreme temperatures treated and brought back to health at the Animal Welfare League clinic.
That was not case for the two dogs that were abused in late May in separate incidents at a Worth Township trailer park.
The first incident occurred May 26 when Andrew Plecki,Page-2-or-3-1-col-Andrew-Plecki2Andrew Plecki 48, of the 11700 block of Ridgeland Avenue, allegedly shot his girlfriend’s 12-year-old chocolate Labrador in the head with an air rifle for unknown reasons, according to a Cook County Sheriff’s Police spokesman.
The dog, which was sick, was taken to Crestwood Animal Clinic, 5443 W. 135th St., where it was put down, according to the sheriff’s spokesman.
Plecki appeared in court the following day where bond was set at $40,000. He is expected to appear at Bridgeview Court on June 17.
Meanwhile, Christopher Krentkowski, 35, also of the 11700 block of Ridgeland Avenue, was charged with two counts of aggravated domestic battery and one count of aggravated animal cruelty after allegedly injuring his mother and killing her dog on May 31, sheriff’s police said.
Krentkowski allegedly dragged his mother’s 15-year-old dog out of a bedroom at 8:30 p.m. and began to kick it. When his 53-year-old mother told him to stop, he tried to strangle her and struck her head with a bookcase, injuring her, according to a sheriff’s investigation. Krentkowski continued to physically assault the dog, causing its death, police said.
Krentkowski received a $125,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in court on June 26 at the Bridgeview Courthouse.
The circumstances surrounding Krentkowski’s case are not isolated, Estrada said.
Individuals who abuse animals often do so to extract revenge on someone, such as a family member.
“People get back at people by abusing the animal,” she said, adding that breakups, divorces and custody cases can involve the mistreatment of pets.

Sliding into a new era

  • Written by Declan Harty

Hickory Hills and Palos Hills leagues get over

bumps to bring communities together

From uniforms to fields’ names, many elements around the baseball diamonds of Hickory Hills and Palos Hills have a different feel.
Though the daunting painting of Palos HillsPage-1-3-col-slide-2Chris Santoyo of the Nationals slides and beats the tag of the Indians Eric Kostiuk in a Pony League Friday in a Hills Baseball and Softball Association contest at the North Complex in Hickory Hills. Photo by Jeff Vorva. Baseball lies on the side of the South Complex concession stand still alluding to the days of two former leagues, these two long-established organizations merged and a new league has emerged as the 200-plus member Hills Baseball and Softball Association (HBSA).
Now halfway through its first season, the HBSA continues to provide the stability and foundations that were established for many years by the Hickory Hills Youth Baseball and Palos Hills Baseball Association.
“I would say considering everything, it was a very smooth transition,” said Peter Donahue, vice president of HBSA. “I think it has gone really well, we look forward to growing into the future and providing quality baseball and softball for kids so they can play at an affordable rate with their friends.”
Donahue, who is also a parent of two children currently playing in HBSA, said that despite a few minor difficulties the organizers faced in creating the new league, the transition went very well, especially with the support of the majority of the families.
Donahue and Mike Leach, a liaison between the executive boards of Palos Hills Youth Baseball and Hickory Hills Youth Baseball during the merger, said there were a few minor bumps in the road to creating a new league.
“As with any merger there were subtle differences, but it never affected baseball at all, it didn’t affect baseball or softball,” Leach said. “Most of the problems (are ones) we run into year after year in recreational baseball.”
Some of the bumps included different fees, fundraising methods and field care. Another complication that pag-4-2-coll-pitcherAlexis Baxter chose baseball over softball in the HBSA league and fires a pitch Friday in a Pony League game. Photo by Jeff Vorva.the trustees and board members of the HBSA needed to discuss was the facilities.
The HBSA now has two sets of fields. The former Hickory Hills Youth Baseball fields located along 76th Ave. in Hickory Hills have been renamed the North Complex and the Palos Hills Baseball Association fields, which were located at 78th Avenue and 103rd Street in Palos Hills, are now named the South Complex.
Both complexes have several fields and now the league must find volunteers on a regular basis for their two concession stands at each complex. Donahue also said the location of games rotates based on the number of games that