Saying goodbye to my cuddle-buddy

  • Written by Kelly White



Editor's note: Pets die every day. For those who don't care much about animals, this is no big deal. But for those who lost a beloved pet, it can impact the whole family. Correspondent Kelly White's family had their dog put to sleep in late April and her family's thoughts echo most pet owners' feelings.

By Kelly White


                How do you say goodbye to a pet who is part of the family?

                Marley, our St. Bernard, with a face just like Beethoven, spent all eight years of her life in our South Side home. She grew up in a house with my mother Diane, a woman who insisted on having large breed dogs, and my siblings Dennis, Jessica, Kristen and Allie.

                Marley's life was far from boring.

                Prior to me moving out in my mid-twenties, Marley would hop up on my bed and sleep with me every night. She was my guardian, my cuddle-buddy and my friend. We promise these pets early on, just as one would a child, that we will never let anything happen to them.

She was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, cancer earlier this year and our family was heartbroken. How could one of the things that tied our family together be falling apart?

Osteosarcoma can affect any breed of dog, but it is more commonly found in the larger breeds. The disease is extremely aggressive and has a tendency to spread rapidly into other parts of the dog's body. Aggressive was a term coined slightly, as the cancer left her maneuvering around on three legs in less than a month’s time, once the cancer consumed her entire left front leg.

We moved her over to my father, Dennis’s, house where one floor made it easier for her to get around. However, she was in constant pain and it would only get worse.

It was spreading and quick.

The decision to put her down was one of the most painful and difficult decisions we had to make to make as a family.

“I couldn’t stand to watch her suffer anymore,” my mother said, “I feel like she was always looking at me wondering, ‘why aren’t you helping me when I am in so much pain?’, and I felt so helpless.”

Kristen agreed.

“It is extremely heartbreaking and we are lost such a huge part of our family,” she said, “She made everybody happy and was a big teddy bear. You could always just see how much she loved everyone. She really was my best friend.”

With a week left, we made sure each one of Marley’s days on this earth were positive.

She enjoyed a McDonald’s hamburger and had her best dog friend over to visit and together went out for ice-cream, went on a car ride and toured the town, received lots of hugs, took several selfies and spent a lot of time relaxing out in the yard.

I would watch her sit outside and gaze off into the distance almost smiling. It was as if she knew and accepted the reality behind the situation of her illness, and she wanted to soak up as much beauty as she could during her time left. Even though she was in pain and hurting worse every day, she refused to be sad.

 “When I think about Marley I never looked at her only as my dog but also as part of my family,” Allie said. “I can still remember the day we brought her home as a puppy.”

It’s funny how the end of things makes you think about the beginning. I could still envision her bouncing around as a carefree puppy, barking at her own reflection in the mirror. She grew faster than she realized and always remained slightly clumsy, but she gladly took on her role as the family dog, guardian and companion.

“A lot of people see St. Bernards as these big dogs -- and yes, they are -- but they have the biggest hearts and are the most lovable babies you could ever imagine,” Jessica said, “Whenever I was having a bad day, coming home to Marley greeting me at the door would completely turn my day around.”

Marley also took it upon herself to look after my dog, now a five-year-old Shar-Pei/Beagle mix, Roxy, as her own puppy. Even though they didn’t live under the same roof, Marley would protect her and watch out for her all while knowing Roxy could be a bossy and barky handful.

Marley looked past her flaws and even with almost a 100-pound difference between the two, she would still let Roxy cuddle with her when she needed to feel secure. For such a large dog, she always had a gentle heart, and I know Roxy will never fully understand what happened to her best friend. That, too, breaks my heart.

 Saying goodbye was far from easy.

Instead of being sad, we promised to make her final days more enjoyable by making the most of every moment. I am so proud of my family for staying strong while saying goodbye at the same time.

 “She loved all of us very much and I wanted to be strong for her,” my brother, Dennis, said.

Marley’s death took away a piece of my heart.

There sits a void that cannot be filled and I would be lying if I said my entire heart wasn’t broken.


Clearing the air -- Moraine Valley host no plans to become a four-year university

  • Written by Kelly White




    Despite rumors over the course of a decade, Moraine Valley Community College will not be transitioning into a four-year college.
    Rumors have been especially hot recently in the wake of the Palos Hills school making multi-million dollar improvements on its campus and two-year upper-division Governors State University transitioning into a four-year school last fall.
    MVCC officials shot those rumors down.
    “That rumor has been around forever, and we are not changing to a four-year and have no plans to,” Mark Horstmeyer, Director of College Relations, said, “Currently, state law does not permit community colleges to become four-year institutions.”
Horstmeyer said students past and present are responsible for the rumor of the possible four-year transition.
    “We have heard from a lot of our students over the years and continue to hear that they wish we would become a four-year school because they feel so comfortable at Moraine Valley and many don’t want to leave,” he said, “They like their instructors, love the campus and feel they have many opportunities here to be successful. We prepare them for the workforce and/or the transfer to a four-year school.”

    Illinois state law says that in order for Moraine to become a four-year college, it would need a change in legislation and support for it from the Illinois Community College Trustees Association, then the Illinois Community College Board and Illinois Board of Higher Education. The final step would be approval by the state legislature. So even if MVCC wanted to make the transition, it would be a long process.
    According to the Illinois Community College System, the Junior College Act of 1965 provided the foundation for the present system of public community colleges in Illinois. The act removed the junior colleges from the common school system and placed them under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. It provided for establishment of a system of locally initiated and administered comprehensive Class I junior college districts; requiring all junior colleges operating in school districts where separate tax levies had been established for the college become separate junior colleges, classified as Class II districts.
    Within Illinois state community colleges, transfer degrees are obtainable and use a common general education core and numerous major-specific courses that are transferable to all public higher education institutions in the state. Occupational degrees are also available and are designed to meet the criteria for excellence established by the National Council for Occupational Education of the American Association of Community Colleges.
    One student is happy with the school just the way it is.
    “I like because Moraine is only a two-year college,” Moraine Valley student, Gilbert Mendez, 20, of Chicago Ridge, said, “Not everyone wants to go on to obtain a bachelor’s degree and it’s important to have local community colleges in the area that offer associates degrees and a variety of work-related programs for students.”
    However, even with Moraine’s Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, Associate in Arts in Teaching and Associate in Fine Arts degrees that to transfer to a bachelor's degree program at a four-year college or university, some students are left questioning the two-year college.
    “I think Moraine should be a four-year school because it is close to where I live,”  Terry Patterson, 21, said, “The school also has a nice atmosphere and compared to other universities, the teachers are nice and open to talk about anything. They always find time for their students if they need help.”
    In pursuit of an Associate of Science Degree, Patterson said the college offers a university-like experience.
    “The campus provides students with the necessary courses and will help them further their education if they choose to continue on to a four-year college,” he said.

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: We're trying to keep local sports coverage alive but it's not easy

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions

Check out our sports section.

In recent months, it has taken on a newer look. It’s a little more attractive on the eyes and we are trying to have a little more fun with it.

But the philosophy of how Sports Editor Ken Karrson goes about his business has been the same for decades. Write a lot of stories. Get a lot of names in the paper. Keep it local.

Recently, I heard about the Sun-Times, which had sold its many suburban papers to the Tribune last year, is slashing its high school sports coverage even more than it had in recent months. Minor sports are all but history and it will be interesting to see what the paper does with football and basketball next season.

As a former correspondent for the former Bright One back in the 1980s, it’s a real shame to see that.

Back in the day, Taylor Bell had what seemed like an unlimited budget and an army of us, which were dubbed the Swat Team. I hated that name, by the way.

He had darn near 100 correspondents at his disposal in the heyday. If I wasn’t one of Bell’s top five in the large stable, I was in the top 10. The king of the Swat Team was Bill Fiegel, who was Bell’s go-to guy when it came to important-issue enterprise and controversial stories.

Fiegel now runs his own public relations firm and some of his clients include folks and groups on our area.

Another one of Taylor’s stars was Mike Mulligan who is now a morning personality at WSCR.

There was a lot of talent on that roster and we were let loose just about every day to cover events from the dangerous inner city to rich suburbs to rural communities. I could be at King High School one night and Coal City the next.

Now the “SWAT Team” is the “What Team?”.

Over the years, high school and community sports in most papers have been reduced and, while the internet is absorbing some of the void, there is no real must-see, go-to site for the preps. It’s fractured.  

Yes, I know I am sounding like a dinosaur. But after covering prep sports since 1977 and knowing how must passion and interest there is for them, I just can’t put my finger on why over the years ad salespeople have had troubles selling high school sports sections and pages.

One of the most popular items in a lot of community papers used to be the football preview section and the common cry across the country is that they are disappearing because ad people couldn’t sell that section.

After watching the disintegration of high school and local college sports coverage in daily and weekly newspapers, in the Chicago  I’m happy that we are still able to bring you stories about Shepard’s Nick Martinez, a tennis player who made it to the Illinois High School Association All-Academic team. I’m glad that our top story a couple of weeks ago was about St. Xavier pitcher Nicole Nonnemacher, who struck out all 15 batters in a perfect game.

It’s great the Anthony Nasella can write miles of copy on some of the minor sports when other papers have given up on them.

So, check out our sports section and let’s enjoy this ride while we can.

Post Mother’s Day thoughts

I kind of knew that dads got the shaft when I was younger.

When I was in grade school, the family went to church one Mother’s Day and the priest used up every second of his homily talking about his sainted mother. I thought he was going to fall to his knees and break down bawling.

So when June came around and we went to church on Father’s Day, I was interested to see what the man would have to say. This same priest didn’t mention fathers at all during his homily and at the end of Mass, he said “Happy Fathers Day to all of the dads out there’’ with the same enthusiasm as if he were announcing that coffee and donuts were available in one of the meeting rooms.

Now there is documented evidence dads are duds.

Some group called Visiting Angels surveyed 300 adults and asked that if Mother’s Day and Father’s Day fell on the same day, 78 percent would choose spending the day mom over dad.


I had a hunch us fathers were less popular but not by that much! Murderers and lawyers might have a better popularity than good ol’ pop.

Perhaps us old men should just be grateful just to get a “hello” on June 21.


(Subhead) Partiot games

Now that the NFL filed a reports saying the Patriots cheated with their deflated balls, I am hoping the league will strip the Patriots of their Super Bowl title.

Then quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick can blame the Evergreen Park Athletic Association.


Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: It was good to be Green last weekend

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions


Kailey Green’s family was nowhere to be found on Sunday.

The 26-year old from Chicago won the overall women’s division of the First Midwest Bank’s second running of the 10K race, which ran in conjunction with the 8th annual half marathon in Palos Heights.

A pretty big deal? Some might think so.

Her family, however, was moving into their new house this weekend and just didn’t have time to come and watch Kailey run.

But that can be excused.

See, the last time the Greens were in a house that they called their own was Nov. 17, 2013.

At about noon that day, members of the Green family left their home in Washington, Illinois and a tornado ripped through the town, destroying more than 1,000 houses, including the one Kailey Green grew up in. She’s not sure how old it was but said it “was pretty old.’’

Most of us in this area that day were bracing for that storm to move north and possibly hit Orland Park and Worth and create havoc with the Bears-Ravens  game that was going on in the afternoon in Chicago. That game was stopped and delayed for two hours.

My family took to the basement for a little while that day. Luckily, the storm passed with minimal damage and no deaths in our area.

Washington was not so lucky.

Green was in Chicago trying to find out just what in the heck happened in her hometown and the news she heard was not good. 

“I got a voice mail from my mom and they were at the hospital because they took in one of our neighbors,” she said. “I couldn’t get her cell phone because her phone and her purse were gone. I called back to the hospital and they had to try to find her. I finally got to talk to her. It was terrible.’’

That seems like such a long time ago and yet all this time, people have been without homes. The Greens were able to get by but this weekend it would be appropriate if they blasted the John Denver song “It’s Good to be Back Home Again” throughout the new house to christen it.

“They rented a house while they rebuilt it,” Green said. “I was home for Easter and got to see the new house, and it looks awesome. They are really excited to move in.’’

Green was also excited to be running on Sunday. She said she raised $1,300 in pledges for the South West Special Recreation Association, which provides activities and sports for children and adults with disabilities.

She said she works as a nurse educator for the Advocate hospital network and spends some time at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She said she has been running since she was 8 or 9.

The family has gone through a lot since that tragedy hit Washington, but Sunday, Green was full of smiles. A race title for her and a new home doe the rest of her family was pretty special.

“It was a great weekend for the family,” she said. 

– Emotions ran high for family after Palos Hills native is rescued in Nepal

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Days of worry by family and friends were followed by jubilation when Palos Hills native Corey Ascolani, was rescued by U.S. Special Forces helicopters after being trapped for five days in earthquake-ravaged Nepal.

“I can’t tell you how good it was just to be able to talk to him today. The emotions are still very high,” said his mother, Christine Bregar on Saturday. “For two days, we didn’t even know he was alive.”

Ascolani, 34, a 1998 Stagg High School graduate, had moved to Barcelona, Spain, to teach English, about 18 months ago. But after his rescue, his family was looking forward to welcoming him back to the southwest suburbs sometime this week.

Bregar, and Corey’s older brother, Damon Ascolani of Lemont, said Corey and a friend, Paul Franklin, also a Stagg alumnus were considering climbing Mt. Everest later this year, and he had gone hiking in Nepal to lay the groundwork.

When the 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook the mountainous Himalayan country on April 25,  he was hiking with 26 others in Langtang National Park, a 660 square mile reserve about 90 miles from the capital of Kathmandu. But his family and friends in Illinois were not exactly sure where he was.

“We knew he was in Nepal, but we weren’t sure if he was in Kathmandu, or out on the hike already.  He had also visited a monastery. His itinerary hadn’t been set,” Damon said.

“He is an adventurer. Using Barcelona as a base, he had already been to Switzerland and walked the El Camino,” he added, referring to the trek across northern Spain that attracts people from around the world.

Bregar, who lives in downstate Lacon near Peoria, credited Damon, Franklin and Mike Dettlaff - all Stagg graduates -- with using social media to coordinate the efforts to rescue Corey and the group of people he was with. Damon said that he and the other friends used Facebook to keep in touch, and get a general idea of where Corey was.

Damon said that two days after the earthquake, Corey was able to use someone’s satellite phone to send a text message to their mother. Bregar said that when she got the first text message, she wasn’t sure if someone who heard about the case was playing a cruel prank, and asked for confirmation to ensure it really was her son. “When he said as my favorite son, I knew it was him, because he always jokes about that,” she said.

They were eventually all able to speak to him, and from the satellite phone, got the coordinates of where the group was and send for help.

In phone interviews conducted since his rescue, while at the U.S. embassy in Nepal, Corey thanked the U.S. forces for rescuing his group, which included people from several different countries.

He said there were landslides following the earthquake, but his group was in an area where they could see the rocks coming and get out of the way. In a radio interview, he also said the group was able to clear and mark three makeshift helipads for the rescue helicopters to land.

Damon Ascolani said that since his rescue, Corey had been staying at the U.S. embassy in Kathmandu, and helping with the recovery efforts as much as possible until flights out became available. According to the latest figures on Tuesday, at least 7,000 people have died in the quake, and thousands more are missing.

Coincidentally, Ascolani was not the only Stagg alumnus rescued following the earthquake. Tinley Park resident Rob Besecker and his sister, Chris Griffin, were also there, and came home earlier this week.

Besecker, who has muscular dystrophy and atrial fibrillation, had just left Mount Everest’s base camp and was in the town of Luka when the ground shook. His older sister was there for support, but had become ill on the climb and was taken by helicopter back to  Kathmandu before the quake.