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Memorial Day salute to my dad and all veterans

  • Written by Joe Boyle

My father died nearly 11 years ago, but with Memorial Day quickly approaching, he is in my thoughts.

My father grew up during the Great Depression and as World War II broke out, he signed up for duty. I remember him telling me that he was lying on the floor and listening to a Chicago Bears football game when a news bulletin broke in informing listeners of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My dad said he continued to listen to the game but knew what he was going to do the next day.

That’s how it kind of was with my dad. He may mention something in passing about the war and usually not elaborate. He often would just move on to another subject.

But there were reminders that he served in the Marine Corps in World War II. I recall an album of Marine-related music, including the Marine fight song. As a little kid, I remember playing it on our little portable hi-fi.

He also had pictures that featured some natives of Okinawa, Japan. Again, when asked about the photos, he just said that a friend gave them to him. I also recall he had a machete and a helmet. I remember putting on the helmet when I was a kid. I think one day I asked him where he got them and he said “he found it.” Maybe he did.

I remember my dad telling me about one incident in the war. He said that he and a couple of Marines slowly approached a building that had been mostly ripped apart by gunfire and explosives. My father and the two other Marines slowly entered. While the two other Marines approached other sections of the building, my dad turned and entered another room.

At the end of the room on the other side of the wall, my father turned and was suddenly face to face with a Japanese soldier. My father was armed and the solider, who appeared to be tired and frightened, also had a weapon. My father said he had a knife. My dad did not move and just stared into the eyes of the soldier.

After what seemed like an eternity but was more like 30 seconds, my dad slowly lifted his left arm and held out his hand. His weapon was held tightly in his right hand. The Japanese soldier continued to stare at my father. He could hear the other Marines in the building. He then slowly lifted his arm and gave the weapon to my dad.

At this time, my father called out to the other Marines. My father implied that one of the Marines was a little trigger-happy. He told my dad that they should kill him.

My dad wanted no part of that. I remember him telling me that he said, “No, you don’t do that. He’s a prisoner. We have to take him in.” That’s how my dad explained it to me. What my father did not elaborate on is that this is the right way to do things, the humane way. He knew that it was pointless to try and explain it to the other Marine.

My father was a gunner and took part in many flights in Okinawa. I do recall that someone asked him if he killed anybody in his role as a gunner. He just shrugged and said “maybe.” He did not really want to talk about it.

I do know that he was happy the war ended and he would soon be home. My dad was happy to be home and said all he wanted to do was get married and have a family. That was a common theme among the young men who came home after surviving World War II.

My father was an only child. He married a young woman from the neighborhood near Ogden Park in Chicago and settled down. They had six children.

And on Memorial Day, my father was like anybody else. If he wasn’t working as a Chicago firefighter that day, he could be seen barbecuing in the backyard and maybe playing horseshoes with some neighbors later on.

We didn’t discuss the war much. Our time was spent more on how the White Sox will do any particular season. But on this Monday, I will be thinking about him and other veterans who served and were fortunate to come home, and the others who did not.

And yes, I will probably barbecue and watch some White Sox games this weekend, just like my dad.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Capturing images and moments in time for years to come

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEW

The Dr. Seuss book, ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ rang loudly in my head this weekend. Friday, my Nikon placed me in the heart of Chicago to capture a senior prom sendoff. The eyes at the door danced with delight every time the prom princess pushed it open for her guests. Their astonishment at her transformation was evident by their dropped jaws and misty eyes. No longer the little girl they once knew, before them stood a beautiful woman.  

Saturday, I traveled to Lake Forest to shoot a surprise birthday party for a woman I believed to be 70 years old. I learned of my ignorance after hearing her spouse gush about their 67 years of marriage. My estimation was way off -- she’s 88!

I fogged up my camera eyecup a few times as I listened to the various voices express the impact she’s had on their lives. The room was filled to capacity. Her loved ones went through great lengths to make the occasion memorable. Their attention to detail was unmatched. Her family’s attire was color coordinated with hers and the party décor. Each table had floral centerpieces made of framed photo vases with pictures of her at numerous stages. I especially loved the two-foot, inedible cake, filled with rolled currency. Technology allowed those unable to attend the festivities to join via video.

Her grateful heart made it difficult for her to remain composed, “I know my time is short. I’m grateful for this day where I can look at each one of you, and tell you how much I love and appreciate you,” she tearfully expressed.

The only part of that gig I wasn’t fond of was the distance it took to get home. My Sunday venue wasn’t close either. It was a Charis Bible College graduation ceremony in Schererville, Ind. Thank goodness I arrived early. I had to skitter into a Walmart nearby to replace my tripod that I’d left in Lake Forest the day before.

The event crisis on that day was realizing my Speedlight flash batteries were dead, just moments before the surprised birthday recipient was about to enter the dark banquet hall. Being that she was walking up the sidewalk didn’t exactly provide time to run out and buy any. Graciously, the restaurant owner produced the four AA batteries needed. My blood pressure deescalated at the sight of Duracell. I’d been given a specific instruction. “Feel free to use your creativity. However, my MUST HAVE is the element of surprise on her face when she walks through the door,” requested the party host.  

The banquet hall in Schererville had plenty of light, but to keep a photograph of a large group crisp, a steady hand is needed. I was actually a little excited about having left my tripod in Lake Forest once I realized my new one was a 2-in-1 Tripod/Monopod to be used for recording video as well. “Sweet,” I exclaimed as I played around with the panning feature.

I don’t know how other Bible colleges do things but there wasn’t anything normal about this Charis Bible College graduation. We’re talking about some high praise unto God going on. At one point, I forgot I was the hired help. I put my camera on the tripod and started getting my praise on right along with the rest of them. I am not ashamed of the Gospel and I dare not ever let a rock cry out for me. As long as I have breath, I will give honor to God, wherever I am, especially among other believers. It was a glorious celebration to be a part of. A great end to an exciting weekend of photography.

The family I took photos for on Friday were people I’d never met. The woman explained, “A friend gave me your card.”

I recalled the name and realized that this particular client hadn’t even viewed her proofs yet. “Oh yes, I know exactly who you’re speaking of. I’m honored she referred me without having seen the quality of my work,” I told her.

“Yes, she mentioned that,” said the woman. “She told me, ‘I haven’t seen her work, but she’s very professional.”

“Wow,” I thought. “That’s such a great thing to hear.”

How many opportunities are lost to extremely skilled individuals who lacked professionalism? We must be mindful of our interactions with people at all times. This particular new client is highly affluent and personally connected to the most powerful people in the United States. An opportunity I gained by a decision to reflect a positive countenance.

I’m happy to serve in the areas God has gifted me. Photography allows me the opportunity to freeze experiences for generations to come and it brings me great joy.

As we approach Memorial Day, many of us have plans to acknowledge those who’ve passed on before us. We either honor or dishonor the legacy of our lost loved ones with the lives that we lead. Many of us still have an open wound from their Heavenly ascent. Nothing brings me more satisfaction than knowing that because God sent His Son, we’ll be granted access to them again. So, until then, let’s impress them with our lifestyle. “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.”

I don't need Dr. Seuss to tell me where we might end up. If we don’t know, there's a Bible for that!

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.  

Graduates face a new high tech world

  • Written by Joe Boyle

This is the time of year for proms and graduations. Smiling faces are abundant this month as families and students have plenty of reason to celebrate.

My daughter graduated from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb on Saturday. Like other proud parents, it was a great day for our family. Along with taking photos and listening to the speakers at the ceremony, I could see many delighted graduates waving to parents and friends who gathered for the morning commencement program.

And when they received their diplomas, applause and some shrieks rang out as the graduates looked up and waved again. All the hours of study combined with arranging class schedules, finding places to live and working part-time jobs on campus has come to an end. Long-lasting friendships develop as they officially become alumni.

It was a reminder to me that kids graduating from colleges today are no different than students who received their degrees in the 1980s, 1970s and 1960s. The new graduates approached the world just like students of the past did -- with some apprehension. But they also are confident that they will find the job of their choice. Times change and the economy will play a role at least initially in them finding opportunities.

But I still could not help but see the smiles on the faces of the graduates. They were all generally happy and their parents were proud of their accomplishments.

This is a reminder to me that these kids will go through tough times like everybody else. However, the U.S. is resilient and we can survive the problems the world faces today just like we did yesterday. These kids will go through it. My advice is to keep smiling and just do your best. In the long run that’s all you can do.

I recall listening sometimes to my parents, relatives and neighbors from generations who were born before World War II. The rapid changes that took place in the mid-1960s to the early 1970s were alarming to some of them. The civil rights movement and the anti-war protests against the war in Vietnam were frightening to some of them. Some of our neighbors were angry and others were confused.

Change tends to do that. We need time to develop perspective. The 1960s was a period of asking questions and not just accepting the status quo. We have witnessed rapid changes in this new century. We have gone through the horror of 9/11 followed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden is dead but the rise of the Islamic State has posed a new threat. Reports have indicated that ISIS has been hampered and maybe on the run. But you get the feeling that even if that occurs, another band of fanatics will begin to organize and create more havoc.

Kids have more access to knowledge at their fingertips than I had in my college days. It was interesting to see family members in the stands during the graduation ceremonies staring at their cellphones from time to time. They were often sending texts to the graduating students below. And from time to time, I could see the students sending texts to family members.

We have seen so many advancements in technology in just the last five years that it is hard to keep up. I must admit that I sometimes fall in that category. However, for these students, this is the world they live in. They are very comfortable with cellphones, Wi-Fi, Facebook, Instagram and “binge watching” TV programs they have downloaded.

I thought it was a big deal when cable TV and VCRs became prevalent in the 1980s. When I attended Western Illinois University in Macomb in the mid-1970s, we also had cable. However, there was little if any original programming at the time. Cable TV was available at WIU so that you could see WGN-TV Channel 9 and perhaps a station from nearby Keokuk, Iowa and Quincy. This was such a rural area that without cable, WIU college kids might have three local channels at best.

Today, many college kids don’t even worry about cable. They stream programs or watch Netflix shows. They have the right idea. The price is definitely less expensive.

I salute the graduates of today who are entering a new, technological world. They will survive this election like we survived the 1960s and ‘70s. Whether it’s the Donald or Hillary leading us into the future, recent college graduates will indeed survive.

My advice is keep a sense of humor.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Trump is lone GOP candidate, and that’s reality

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Maybe O.J. Simpson toting a gun as a passenger in the back seat of a white Bronco cruising down an LA freeway back in 1994 is to blame for this. The former NFL running back and actor became a suspect in the brutal murders of his ex-wife and her friend.

What followed was a media frenzy and a nationally televised trial that actually pushed afternoon soap operas to be shown later at night. Simpson became the show, along with Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden and Judge Lance Ito. And there were those gloves that became Cochran's battle cry of “if they don't fit, you must acquit.”

The end result was that Simpson was declared innocent by the jury, despite the fact that evidence linked him to the scene of the crime in a trail of blood in his white Bronco and near his home. Simpson became the symbol of racist abuse by the Los Angeles police that dated back to the Rodney King beating in 1991. Simpson was never an active participant in civil rights. On the contrary, most of his time was spent with middle-aged white men he played golf with. Of course, he made those “Naked Gun” movies that made us laugh.

Regardless, Simpson was great theater and a ratings bonanza. Reality TV was born. What followed was the MTV’s “The Real World”, “Court TV,” “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” and of late, “Honey Boo Boo,” “Real Wives” and “The Duggars.” Some of these older and present shows enjoyed some success because of devised plots that most of us know are either hyped up to fill out a half hour or hour. In short, there is nothing real about reality TV.

Donald Trump was also a reality TV star. “The Apprentice” gathered healthy ratings where Trump was the main attraction in this formulated plot in which he hired and fired people. Many of these people were B actors or celebrities whose 15 minutes had passed their expiration date. And many of these individuals were eager to accept Trump’s praise or rejection in the name of stardom. Trump was already known as a billionaire developer and larger than life personality who enjoyed the spotlight. His signature catch phrase on “The Apprentice” was “you’re fired.” The show’s popularity encouraged many spin-offs, including “Celebrity Apprentice.”

But Trump’s ambitions have taken on a greater stage. He is now the presumptive Republican candidate for president of the United States. Democrats and Independents initially did not take him seriously until it was too late. Trump and his supporters were later met with protests and physical confrontations at rallies.

But it is not just many Democrats and Independents who oppose Trump. He has also drawn the ire of conservative Republicans who see his campaign as a farce. They oppose him on the basis that he has does not share their conservative values and that he has no chance to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Many moderate Republicans oppose Trump because of his often outrageous statements and volley of insults at the other candidates.

But as we enter the second week of May, Trump is the only Republican standing. He left Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Indiana dust two weeks ago, ending his campaign. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a congenial sort whose campaign never registered a pulse, bowed out the following day after Cruz threw in the towel.

And Clinton, who has most of the delegates sewed up for the convention, cannot put away from the passionate Gov. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent. Sanders will continue to hang around to frustrate Clinton after winning Indiana.

But if Trump seems to have so much opposition, how is he winning? Well, it all comes back to his days as a reality TV star. Barking out you are hired or fired resonates with some people. He did not follow the conventional playbook against his opponents. When they finally began to realize they better start to taking him seriously, Trump would respond by mocking them, criticizing the looks of Carly Fiorina, the lone female GOP candidate, and continually shouting out how America is going to be great again.

We could go on and on about the insults. But for brevity sake, let’s take the most recent. Trump stated on the day he was going to win Indiana suggested that Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, was an associate of John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. And his latest salvo was fired at House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said at this point he is not backing Trump. He needs more time and a chance to talk with the Republican front-runner, Ryan said.

Trump’s response could have been predicted. He said that he may not support Ryan. Trump has someone in his corner. Conservative cheerleader and shrill Sarah Palin backs Trump, essentially saying that they don’t need Ryan.

This is reality TV at its finest. I don’t know where this is leading us to but it will be historic. This will be a brutal campaign and it will leave most of us feeling a little empty.

But just like the sight of that white Bronco, the ratings should be terrific.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

I know a secret about a local politician, and I refuse to conceal it

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEWclaudia and burke photo 5-12

Reporter columnist Claudia Parker and state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) converse over some issues and took time to pose for a photo.

 

It’s been a year since I optimistically strolled into the Illinois State Capitol located in Springfield. I wasn’t there sightseeing, as many of the students I observed on school field trips. No, I was there as an advocate, on official business.

I recall being slightly intimidated by the suits in the room before bravely speaking into the microphone. I’d been invited to share a personal testimony with legislators in a House Appropriations-Social Services Committee meeting. I was pleading for a funding continuation of Respite Care services for Illinois families.

Respite Care makes personalized, in-home care available to families of dependents with autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy or Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. It’s a state funded program only eligible to those with severe disabilities. I was a recipient of the service for my daughter, Rhonda-Rene, who suffers from a FOXP1 gene mutation that causes several complicated and disabling disorders. In spite of sharing the harm losing the service would cause my family, funding was still suspended- effective July 1, 2015.

The day wasn’t totally ineffective though.

Before giving my speech, I was able to observe the House in session. It was like watching a WWE SmackDown without physical contact. Pretty intense. However, a pleasant experience, for me, was meeting Evergreen Park’s state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th).

An individual in my party stated, “If you write a note to your Legislator saying you’re their constituent, they’ll come out to greet you.”

“Really?” I questioned. I mean, the debates happening on the House floor didn’t seem to lend time for a meet-and-greet. But, I gave-it-a-go anyhow and slipped my note to the guard at the huge door of the House floor.

Within moments, out came a smiling Kelly Burke.

“I’m Claudia Parker”, I told her as I reached to shake her hand. To my complete surprise, she knew who I was.

“Oh yes, Claudia, I read your column in The Reporter,” she responded with a firm shake. We spoke for a few moments. I shared my concerns regarding losing Respite and provided her with a copy of my written personal testimony. Our brief encounter ended with a quick snapshot and she was back to business.

It didn’t occur to me then that that would be the inception of several run-ins where she and I would be supporting the same initiatives.

A couple of months later, we shared a stage during a Southland Rally in front of a couple of hundred people and television news media. I was one of a handful of people who spoke during that rally. My transparency made me feel vulnerable. I held up in front of the crowd but once I got to my car, I had a good hard cry. Kelly walked me off the platform following that speech. “You spoke well,” she told me with a comforting hand on my shoulder. Her encouragement was greatly appreciated.  

The instances I came into contact with her thereafter had nothing to do with lobbying for change. She’s been volunteering in the Evergreen Park Elementary School District. And yours truly has happened to capture a few of those moments on camera. “Well, we just keep running into one another now don’t we?,” I expressed. We recently had a casual chat during a volunteer appreciation breakfast at Northwest School. She’s consistently been warm, sincere, and attentive toward me.

I’ll be the first one to admit, I don’t know much about politics. The little insight I have gained comes from short news segments from television and newspapers, which isn’t the most complimentary. The common sentiment in the media is that politicians are power hungry and corrupt. If one isn’t careful, you could buy in to that notion, especially considering the high profile political corruption cases in Illinois.

That’s why you might agree that the information I’ve learned about Kelly Burke provides a true glimpse into who she “really is” behind closed doors.

Moments before our last encounter at Northwest School, I’d been in conversation with another parent, which I abruptly ended when Kelly walked by. Feeling as though that mom may have felt slighted, I reached out to explain. “My apologies for the swift end to our conversation,” I told her. “That was state Rep. Kelly Burke. I needed to get an update from her on an important issue affecting my family.”

This mom responded, “…I wish I’d known that that was state Rep. Kelly Burke.”

I got a sense she wanted to get something off her chest. She continued. “She saw an article in the newspaper written about an accomplishment of my 7-year-old son and took the time to write him a personal note of encouragement. I would’ve loved to introduce myself to thank her.”

I don’t believe state Rep. Kelly Burke thought this would ever be publicized, but she deserves to be exposed.

She fights for her constituents in Springfield, stands with them during rallies, offering comfort and encouragement, makes herself available for various town hall’s, all while volunteering in elementary schools. She still finds time to write personal notes to students that she’s never met.

Wow!  

I don’t believe Kelly is meeting the needs of the people, she’s exceeding them! My advice to her peers is if you’re going to get caught doing something, make sure it’s something meaningful.