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Skip Lombardo brought sunshine to our days

Guest Column

By Jack Murray
From The Regional News

I had to take a walk to clear my head Monday after the depression lifted.

Bitter cold of the past week melted, replaced by sunshine and a balmy 50-some degrees. Headed down to the newspaper racks outside Lume's to grab a copy of the competition.

From the Regional, I passed by Rini's, and thought of Skip - Michael "Skip" Lombardo, who I first met there when I used to duck out to get a snack, some gum or a pack of smokes. He was always friendly and open to some conversation.

A nicer guy you can hardly find around here. Skip was just a kind, gentle man who had a way with people, especially little kids, his family told me at Van Henkelum funeral home before his funeral Mass last Saturday at St. Alexander Church.

I had had a bad feeling at Mass the Sunday before when Michael Lombardo was among those named in the Prayers of the Faithful for the Sick. I knew Skip had taken a bad fall a few years back that landed him in Palos hospital, and he had never really looked the same since. They told me Saturday that he had taken a bad fall again before Christmas.

It was just a few years back when I'd see Skip out for a walk along Harlem. Maybe he'd be going to work, or home a few blocks away, or head across Harlem to Baumann's Bakery. He liked stopping at the bakery, they told me Saturday.

Palos Heights is a lot like Mayberry, a friendly small town where many people know each other, Alderman Jack Clifford is not alone in making that comparison. And Skip Lombardo was one of those beloved characters that filled the streets of this Mayberry-like community. It was always a joy to run in to him. You just felt better about the day, about the world, about everything. "How's things at The Regional?" he'd almost always ask.

That was the Old Neighborhood in Skip. When people lived in close families, in closeknit communities. He probably picked it up as a youngster working with his dad at Lombard Nut Company, maker of the Mr. Jolly brand of packaged, roasted nuts. They often did business in one of Chicago's open air markets, years back. It was the Water Street Market, a cousin's wife thought, but her son, who somewhat resembles his granddad Vince Rini, remembered differently. They each smiled at the memories.

Later Skip worked for Denemark Cadillac over on Pulaski Road on Chicago's South Side, where he further honed his people skills, first developed in a large, close, extended Italian-American family. Where holidays, like Christmas or Easter, meant two or three days of cooking, and Skip helped his cousin Lou Rini pick out the produce and make other preparations for the family feasts. It was a good life, one in which Skip helped out in any way he could, taking care of his mom as one of her caregivers for as long as his own health allowed.

With Skip's passing, we mourn a part of Palos Heights' history gone to the ages. Lou Rini is now retired as a pharmacist. The family drugstore on Harlem is still vacant, too large for some prospective tenants who are interested in only half the space, but perhaps a good fit for a restaurant, dollar store, or independent grocer. Lou's brother Realtor Frank Rini is the man to call to inquire to buy or lease the space. And we won't see Skip out on Harlem or at Palos Lions Club meetings at Silver Lake Country Club, two Wednesdays a month. Bruce Frazer used to drive him there. It was Palos Lions Club President Jim Lewis who first sent the bad news that Skip had died. Jim was also the guy to let me know that Skip was in Palos, when I went to visit him there after that fall a few years back. I was feeling pretty good at the time, which turned into feeling pretty lousy after seeing him bruised and broken in that bed.

If there is a God in Heaven - and on a sunny day like this Monday afternoon Jan. 28 on which I write this, I have complete Faith there is - Skip Lombardo is back to feeling as good as I did on that day, walking down the street with a spring in his step on an eternally beautiful day, in the best health of his life. God love him and bless him for all time to come. I will miss this sweet, good man.