St. Gerald parishioners push for Father Malcolm to stay

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Parishioners at St. Gerald Church in Oak Lawn have started a letter-writing campaign to the Chicago Archdiocese after their pastor, the Rev. Lawrence Malcolm, mentioned at Mass about two weeks ago that he had been asked to retire.

Malcolm did not want to comment on the situation himself, saying simply that the decision has not been made yet.

Members of the Parish Council also did not want to comment on the situation when asked about it recently, perhaps out of concern that publicizing the matter might be detrimental to their goals.

But one parishioner did confirm that parishioners are writing letters to Cardinal Blase Cupich and Bishop Andrew P. Wypych, auxiliary bishop in charge of Vicariate 5, asking them to reconsider. Vicariate 5 is the part of the archdiocese that includes Oak Lawn, and the woman, who did not want to be named, said Wypych is planning to meet with some of the parishioners at a Mass later this month.

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         Father Malcolm

Before coming to St. Gerald about 10 years ago, Malcolm, who was ordained in the 1960s, was pastor at St. Daniel the Prophet in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood, and at St. Bede the Venerable in the city’s Scottsdale neighborhood. He was popular in both parishes, and a new gymnasium built at St. Daniel the Prophet School is named after him.

Similarly, at St. Gerald, he oversaw the building of the Jonathan Collins Activity Center, which was dedicated in 2013. Since then, the debt related to the construction has been paid off.

Although the Archdiocese generally asks pastors to retire at 70, St. Gerald parishioners are asking for an exception to be made for Malcolm, who is 72.

“I don’t think of age. He is the most energetic, dedicated people-person I have ever seen here,” said Oak Lawn Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), a lifelong member of the parish and member of the Holy Name Society.

“If Father Malcolm hadn’t come here, I don’t think we would be the parish we are today. We’re a faith-based, active parish with growing enrollment at school. With the way things are going in the Archdiocese, with the consolidation of parishes, and the way he shares his beliefs and faith, I think Fr. Malcolm is the right man for the job here. He is very inspirational,” Olejniczak added.

The pastor is known as a baker at St. Gerald, where his homemade bread is a hot commodity at all the parish events. But he is also known as a walker, getting in at least 10,000 steps a day, and leading class trips to downtown Chicago.

“That’s one of the greatest things about him. Many of these kids in Oak Lawn would never get to downtown Chicago otherwise,” said fellow Trustee Tim Desmond (1st), whose sons went on the trips. “But he’ll take them on buses and trains, and show them all around. It is a great experience for them.”

Oak Lawn acts quickly to replace retiring 'double duty' fire chief

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

GeorgeSheets 2-15-18

Photo by Jeff Vorva

George Sheets had served as fire chief for both Chicago Ridge and Oak Lawn.

“Double Duty” Fire Chief George Sheets, who has been leading the fire departments of both Chicago Ridge and Oak Lawn for the past four years, notified officials in both communities last week that he will be retiring.

     Sheets said in his resignation letter that he planned to retire in July, but following an executive session after the Oak Lawn Village Board meeting on Tuesday night, Village Manager Larry Deetjen accepted his retirement effective immediately.

     Deetjen said Sheets' resignation and the decision by Chicago Ridge officials to end the intergovernmental agreement to share the fire chief necessitated the executive session. Sheets, who lives in Oak Lawn, was not at the village board meeting and his name was not mentioned during it.

   In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said, "The village manager accepted Fire Chief Sheets' retirement effective as of midnight Tuesday, and immediately appointed Robert Tutko as acting fire chief for Oak Lawn. The village will be conducting a search for a permanent fire chief over the coming months."

   Tutko had been deputy fire chief.


Although Sheets said two years ago that he was planning to retire ‘in the next few years,” this decision seems to have been made suddenly. There had been rumors that he was going to be fired last week in Chicago Ridge, but that could not be confirmed, and Sheets firmly denied them on Friday.

“That is not true. I was not fired. This is nothing more than a simple retirement. This is the right time for my family and myself,” he said.

Sheets was hired as Oak Lawn fire chief in 2009, and joined the Chicago Ridge department four years later when the two villages decided to share a chief, an experiment that saved both communities money.

Sheets will be leaving Chicago Ridge soon, but he did not say exactly when.

“I am just wrapping up a few things now,” he said last Friday, when he was reached at his office in Chicago Ridge.

“I’ve been at this for 36 years, 22 of them as a fire chief,” said Sheets, 54.

“I’ve had enough. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I just don’t have the energy to do it.”

“Between the two villages, I work with 12 trustees and two mayors, and a village manager (in Oak Lawn), who all have varied opinions, wants and needs.”

“Most fire chiefs do not get the fantastic opportunities I have had. This has been a joy to work at both departments,” said the chief.

In resignation letters sent to both Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar and Village Manager Larry Deetjen, Sheets said he had been “tremendously challenged” by the work, and thanked both the village officials and “the citizenry” for making his accomplishments possible.

He added that he was at peace with his decision, and making it felt like “having a ton of bricks lifted off my shoulders.”

His retirement apparently did come as a surprise to Oak Lawn officials.

When asked for comment on Tuesday, Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen issued a statement saying that “Officials on Thursday, Feb. 8, received official notice from Chicago Ridge that they were terminating a Shared Use Intergovernmental Agreement’ entered into by both municipalities in 2014 and renewed in 2017. The agreement provides for Chicago Ridge to fund approximately $40,000 of the Chief’s wages and benefits in exchange for professional executive fire-rescue administration services. This sudden termination of this agreement is a financial and policy issue as well as a personnel issue for Oak Lawn. The Chicago Ridge decision resulted in Oak Lawn’s Governing Body holding an Executive Session tonight (Feb. 13) to fully consider the matter.”

Whatever the case is, Sheets said he felt he was leaving both departments in good hands.

“We have done some tremendous things in Chicago Ridge, to have a union president create an annual award named for me, says a lot,” referring the award that was first presented last year.

The Missouri native began his career in 1981 with the Missouri Fire Service, moving up from firefighter to lieutenant and captain before taking leadership positions in fire departments in Portage and Kalamazoo, Mich. He was chief of fire and EMS services in Beaver Dam, Wis., before coming to Oak Lawn with his wife and two children.

“Chicago Ridge is running on all cylinders. We have three captains who are superb,” said Sheets.

He counts the 2015 opening of the second fire house at 10658 S. Lombard Ave. as one of his biggest achievements. Originally it was only open 12 hours a day, but since February 2017, it has been open 24/7, staffed by part-time firefighters.

Much of the work that needed to be done on the long-shuttered firehouse was also completed by firefighters who volunteered their time. Getting the part-time and full-firefighters in Chicago Ridge working together on shifts was another achievement credited to Sheets.

Engineer Joe Bandy, secretary treasurer of the Chicago Ridge firefighters union, a 16-year veteran of the department, had good things to say about Sheets on Friday as well.

“I’ve had a good relationship with him. We have had a very good working relationship with him,” said Bandy.

Asked what he most appreciated about Sheets, Bandy said, “His ability to use his expertise to listen to us and work with the village board to accomplish the tasks we wanted to do for this department.”

“What I intend to do first is travel and relax,” said Sheets.

He added that he is also considering going back to school to get a PhD.

Palumbos are still grappling with history as they lead area contingent of 16 wrestlers down state

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Richards’ Mia Palumbo, tying up Lindblom’s Steven Ross in sectional action on Saturday, is the second female freshman in history to qualify for the IHSA state finals.




A list of state wrestling qualifiers from the area:


Stagg – Domenic Zaccone (120 pounds), Peter Radev (160) and Ahmed Suleiman (170)

Sandburg – Pat Nolan (132) and Mike Amedeo (220)

Marist – Michael Leveille (106) and Jacob Dado (138)


Brother Rice – Hassan Johnson (120)*, Dominic Murphy (160)*, Paul Gliva (170) and Myles Ruffin (285)*

Richards – Mia Polumbo (106)*, Rocco Polumbo (145) and Marquis Hall (285)

St. Laurence – Mike Archer (113), Mike Rodriguez (126)

*-- Sectional champion


Mia and Rocco Palumbo didn’t let the pressure of sectional action get in the way of making history.

The two Richards High School wrestlers became the second brother/sister combo to qualify for the Illinois High School Association Individual Wrestling State Finals when Mia, a freshman won the 106-pound championship and Rocco, a sophomore, finished second at 145 at the Class 2A Hinsdale South Sectional Saturday in Darien.

Mia also became the first female to win a conference, regional and sectional title and the fourth female to qualify for state. Caitlyn Chase of Glenbard North qualified in 2005 and lost in her only match at state. Carbondale's Ally Ragan qualified in 2007 and lost her first match. Dunbar senior Quiovany Santos also qualified on Saturday by winning the Class 1A Hope Academy Sectional. Palumbo could be the girst girl to win a match at state.

The Palumbos lead a group of 16 area wrestlers to state, which begins today, Thursday, and runs through Saturday at the State Farm Center in Champaign. Brother Rice is bringing the biggest contingent with four wrestlers including sectional champions Hassan Johnson (120 pounds), Dominic Murphy (160) and Myles Ruffin (285).

Richards coach Nick Grabarek said before the postseason began that Mia Palumbo could win a regional, sectional and state title and she is four matches away from that. She beat three sectional opponents by a combined score of 24-0 to improve her record to 28-3.

And she is picking up a bigger following with every victory.

“It was crazy with everyone cheering for me at the end,” she said. “People have been supporting me throughout.’’

She makes her state debut against Springfield’s Kaeden Kinison (35-9). The other wrestlers in the field have records ranging from 42-1 (Crystal Lake South’s Christian Olsen) to 27-16 (St. Rita’s Noel Rosales, whom she beat twice in the postseason).

Mia said she watched the final night of the state tournament from the stands last year.

“It was fun to watch, but it’s better to be out there on the mat,” she said.

Her goal, like her coach’s goal, is a state title.

“No matter who steps on the line, I’ll give it 110 percent – even if they are ranked higher than me,” she said. “Anything can happen in any match so you have to go out there and compete.’’

Rocco was on a roll in sectional action when he blanked Rich East’s Jalen Terry, 10-0 in the quarterfinals and topped Nazareth’s Alex Carrillo in the semifinals, 6-2. But he was pinned by Thornton Fractional North’s Bilal Bailey in the finals. Rocco brings in a 29-4 record into his second state appeance. Two of his losses were to Bailey, a sophomore who has not lost to an Illinois opponent this season.

“I’ll pull around and get him one time hopefully,” Rocco said. “Making it back to state is exciting. When we wrestled in the (Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation) I never made it to state the same time Mia did so it’s nice to be together.’’

Brother Rice coaches are hoping for big things from the Crusaders’ contingent.

Johnson, who was second in the state at 120, pinned his first two opponents at Hinsdale South and earned a 7-2 decision over Lemont’s Kyle Schickel to win the sectional title. He improved to 31-6

Murphy beat Rich East’s Michael Terry, in just 28 seconds in the sectional title match and takes a 35-9 mark into the state finals.

Ruffin, who finished third in the state last year at 285, pinned his first two sectional opponents and beat Richards’ Marquis Hall, 10-4, in the finals to improve to 35-3.

Other area grapplers who didn’t win sectional championships who could still make a lot of noise in Champaign are Stagg’s Domenic Zaccone (120 pounds, who finished second in the state at 113 last year), Marist’s Jacob Dado (138, who took fourth at 120), and Sandburg’s Pat Nolan (132, fifth at 120).

Sectional dual team wrestling takes place on Tuesday and Sandburg faces Marmion at 6 p.m. at Downers Grove South. The winner goes to the state finals.


Evergreen Park mayor is presented with ‘Super Bowl’ ring

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

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Photo by Sharon L. Filkins

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton joins members of the fifth and sixth grade Evergreen Park Stallions football team, winners of the Metro League Super Bowl, during Monday night’s board meeting. Kathryn Fontaine (right), president of the Evergreen Park Stallions Youth Athletic Association, presented the mayor with a Super Bowl ring.


Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton may be the only mayor in the south suburbs who has been presented with a “Super Bowl” ring, thanks to the Evergreen Park Stallions football team.

The Monday night board meeting opened with the special presentation to Sexton from Kathryn Fontaine, president of the Evergreen Park Stallions Youth Athletic Association, a not-for-profit organization for youth from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“We have 176 youth in our programs and the village has been very supportive of our teams and we are very grateful for all you do,” she said.

The Evergreen Park Stallions Youth Athletic Association is also part of the Metro Youth Football League, which consists of 12 teams, all from local communities.

Fontaine said the fifth and sixth grade Stallions team, known as the widgets, was 8-0 during the regular season. They won two playoff games and advanced to the Super Bowl. The Stallions defeated the Blue Island Untouchables in the championship game. The head coach of the Stallions is Davie Torres.

“Our kids work hard, they practice four to five days a week,” Fontaine said.

A Super Bowl ring was also presented to Dennis Duffy, director of recreation for the village. Fontaine said that Duffy had been very cooperative in scheduling the practice times for the Stallions at Yukich Park.

In a later conversation, Fontaine stated that the Youth Athletic Association is the only place the kids can play football if they are not attending a Catholic grade school.

“We help prepare them for the athletic programs available to them when they reach high school,” she said. The program also offers cheerleading and wrestling instruction.

Sexton praised the team and the program.

“You have done a great job winning the Super Bowl and we know you have worked hard. Congratulations and keep up the good work.”

In other matters, two ordinances were passed amending the Evergreen Park Municipal Code. The first amendment repealed a motor vehicle leasing tax, limiting the tax to rental cars in the village. Sexton said the ordinance will eliminate the tax on trucks rented from stores, such as Menards, by customers who have purchased large pieces of furniture or equipment.

“We are not going to impose a rental tax on people spending money in our stores,” Sexton said. “The tax will remain on cars rented from rental agencies.”

The second amendment will allow for minor traffic violation tickets in the village to be handled in-house rather than going through a costly court session.

A resolution was approved authorizing a settlement agreement between the village and Luke Oil, Inc., in the amount of $60,000. The agreement is a result of an emergency mutual aid call involving the possible discharge of hazardous materials at or near the intersection of 85th Street and Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview in 2013. Evergreen Park is one of eight municipalities receiving the payment.

In a second resolution, the village approved a payment in the amount of $510,000 from the Illinois Department of Transportation for the maintenance of streets and highways from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 of this year.

Five business certificates were presented for approval with four being unanimously approved. However, the first one on the list, a license for Cigars & Vapes, a retail tobacco shop at 8740 S. Kedzie Ave., hit a snag when Trustee Mark Marzullo voted “Nay.”

Because two trustees, Mary Keane and Carol Kyle, were absent, with notice, Sexton said he would invoke his right to vote, which made the approval a 3 to 1 vote.

The remaining four businesses approved were Fuji Sam, a Sushi operation at 9400 S. Western Ave.; Red Snapper, a fast food restaurant at 9648 S. Western Ave.; Foundations Counseling, LLC, a private mental health therapy at 9730 S. Western Ave., Suite 215; and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a fast food restaurant at 2442 W. 95th St.

A payment of $26,560 for purchase of lights was approved for Brennan Electric.

A request from Police Chief Michael Saunders to purchase two new police vehicles through the Suburban Purchasing Agreement, and to sell a 2013 Ford Taurus, was approved.

Local candy history proves city is ‘Sweet Home Chicago’

  • Written by Kelly White

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Photo by Kelly White

Green Hills Public Library offered the perfect program on Friday afternoon just in time for Valentine’s Day called “Chicago’s Sweet Candy History” offered by Leslie Goddard, historian and public speaker.

Patrons who visited the Green Hills Library on Friday afternoon learned that the Chicago area indeed has a sweet tooth.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, often the perfect gift encompasses some kind of delicious dessert or favorite candy. For residents who love candy, the staff at the Green Hills Public Library offered the perfect program just in time for the holiday called, “Chicago’s Sweet Candy History.”

The free program was offered by Leslie Goddard, historian and public speaker, and drew 50 people to the library, 10331 S. Interlochen Drive, Palos Hills.

Goddard has a Ph.D. in history and a master’s degree in museum studies. She first became interested in the Chicago candy industry while working at local history museums in the greater Chicago area, many of which were home to the city’s candy businesses or entrepreneurs.

“Candy tends to be seen as something frivolous and fun, so it’s easy to overlook it when you’re exploring a city’s industrial history,” Goddard said. “Chicago is often thought of in terms of its contributions to the meat-packing and grain and steel and railroad industries. Compared to those, candy feels like light history, and that’s too bad because candy was not only a huge business in Chicago, it also reveals a lot about the city’s history.”

The presentation served as a fun nostalgic look back at some of our favorite Valentine’s Day goodies. Many attendees were unaware that Snickers was named for the Mars’ family’s favorite horse or that the name Fannie May was made up to sound like someone’s grandmother.

“I think candy remains a popular Valentine's Day gift because almost everyone loves candy,” said Brittany Ramos, adult programming and graphics coordinator at the Green Hills Public Library.

Ramos was responsible for organizing the program and said the timing coinciding with the holiday was no coincidence.

“Our community seems to love learning about Chicago history, so I thought I would aim to share Chicago's rich candy history to go along with Valentine's Day,” Ramos said.

During the one-hour lecture, Goddard spoke about Chicago's rich candy history and what made Chicago such a powerful location for candy-makers.

“It was an especially appealing business for immigrants to enter, given the low cost of starting a candy business, and Chicago candy-makers pioneered a huge number of innovations in the candy business, from popularizing candy in a “bar” shape to marketing candy as a quick-energy food,” Goddard said.

Goddard's book, “Chicago's Sweet Candy History,” was published by Arcadia in 2012 and is available at the library.

“For most its history, Chicago produced one-third of the nation's candy,” Goddard said. “In the early 1960s, Chicago’s candy output was double that of the second-largest candy-producing city, which was New York.”

Some of the biggest names in the industry were based in Chicago: Curtiss, Branch, Tootsie Roll, Leaf, Wrigley and Mars.

Candies made or invented in Chicago reads like a who’s who of American candies, according to Goddard. These candies include, but are not limited to: Snickers, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, Tootsie Rolls, Frango Mints, Fannie May candies, Wrigley’s gum, Cracker Jack, Whoppers, Brach’s candies, Willy Wonka, Dove, Ferrara, Cupid, DeMet’s Turtles, and Andes’ Mints.

Along with these giants were smaller, family-based companies with devoted followings, such as World’s Finest Chocolate and the Ferrara Pan Candy Company, maker of Red Hots and Jaw Breakers.

Not all of these were invented in Chicago and not all of them are still made in Chicago, but all were at one point made in the city, Goddard said.

“There are many, many more candies made in Chicago because there are so many smaller operations,” Goddard said. “These are often local, neighborhood candy stores selling the most fabulous homemade candies like Margie’s Candies and Terry’s Toffee in Chicago, and Dan’s Candies in Plainfield and Graham’s Chocolates in Geneva.”

At its peak, the Chicago candy industry created more than 100 companies, employing some 25,000 Chicagoans. Refreshments of coffee, cookies and candy samples were served at the library. Participants were also able to bring in brown bag lunches for the event.

Today, M&M’s are the top selling candy in the United States.

“It’s really hard to get anyone to eat any new candy other than their favorites,” Goddard said.