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Around and About in West Chicago - 30 May 2013

Around and About
              Although the day was overcast, approximately 400 persons attended the annual Community Memorial Day service at Oakwood Cemetery. The veterans, those currently serving in the armed forces, and members of the Ladies Auxiliaries from American Legion Post 300 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6791 stood proudly, while those attending honored both the deceased and living soldiers. The moderator, Kevin Driscoll from American Legion Post 300, said, “In their quest for our freedoms, more than 1,341,812 individuals gave their lives in the wars of the past and today. They gave their full measure to give us all tomorrow and freedom.”

              Reverend John Balluff, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, gave the opening and closing prayers. Members of the Legion and the VFW presented the colors and executed the 21-gun salute. Placing the wreath at the base of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument were Melissa Birch from the American Legion Auxiliary and Terry Adams from the VFW Auxiliary. Community High School District 94 Band, under the direction of Steve Govertsen, played the National Anthem and a medley of patriotic songs. Reverberating throughout out the cemetery were the poignant sounds of “Taps,” played by CHS trumpeters, Ben Stibal and Quentin Letts.

              In his speech, keynote speaker Mayor Ruben Pineda stressed the true meaning of Memorial Day.

              Earlier this month I had the honor of welcoming over 1,000 people, many of them veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and current, active military, to the DuPage Airport in West Chicago for a celebration of their service to our country. The event, sponsored by the DuPage Veterans Foundation, was a fundraiser for Honor Flight Chicago, an organization that flies WWII veterans to Washington, D.C. for a day of honor and reflection at the various war memorials.

              What I came away with after spending four hours in the Calamos hangar among these great men and women, was the sense of pride and patriotism that has remained deeply ingrained in them, even though for some, five and six decades have passed since they returned stateside from their tours of duty. Hearing some of their stories and witnessing the camaraderie of these former warriors left me with a deep sense of awe and gratitude for their strength, bravery, and sacrifice. Current members of our military proudly carry on that tradition of service to the country and all around the world today.

              One such man, Sergeant William Stacey, epitomized what it meant to be a non-commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps. A journalist described him “as having a bright and concentrated flame within him that could cut through stone. It spelled death and failure for his enemies and gave life to his comrades.”

              On January 23, 2012, the 23-year old from Redding, California, already on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan, was killed by an IED blast while walking patrol in Helmand Province. ” The following is an excerpt from a letter he wrote in case he died in combat.

              “My death did not change the world. It may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all. But there is a greater meaning to it. Perhaps I did not change the world. But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools that have been built. He will walk his streets not worried about whether or not his leader’s henchmen are going to come and kidnap him. He will grow into a fine man who will pursue every opportunity his heart could desire. He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.”

              Pineda said, “I would argue that the sacrifice made by Sergeant Stacey and countless other American heroes like him throughout the generations, has indeed changed the world. All one needs to do is look at history to understand this—America’s independence, the preservation of the Union, the elimination of slavery, and the toppling of fascist, imperialist and terrorist regimes.”

              Pineda described the heroism of Father Kapaun, a Catholic chaplain during the Korean War, “who selflessly put the needs of his fellow soldiers ahead of his own…He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on April 11, 2013. President Obama said Father Kapaun was an American soldier who didn’t fire a gun, but who carried the mightiest weapon of all: the love for his brothers so powerful that he was willing to die so that they might live.”

              We owe it to Father Kapaun, Sergeant Stacey and the nearly one million other men and women who have died defending America since our nation’s founding, to live life to the fullest. We owe it to them to remember their families, who have sacrificed so much.

              As American citizens, we need to be there for them. Nobody can replace these fallen heroes – especially in the eyes of their families – but we can offer shoulders to cry on, assistance with educational expenses and assurance that their loved one’s sacrifice will not be forgotten. Americans must remember that freedom isn’t free. In fact, it is only possible because our fallen heroes have paid its high price. A price paid which enables us to have ceremonies and observances like this town’s, across this great country.

              As the unofficial beginning of summer is upon us, let us never lose focus of what Memorial Day means…It is a day to remember those who have made the enjoyment of these things in a free society possible for us… We owe it to the heroes that have died and the loved ones left behind to make sure that their sacrifices are remembered and that their service to this nation will always be honored.

              May God bless them all, may God bless West Chicago and may God bless the United States of America.”


              The lighthouse photographs by artist Manda Gerard-Zappia are on display now through Saturday, June 29, 2013 at the West Chicago Public Library District, 118 West Washington Street. The featured lighthouses are from Midwestern locations in northeast Illinois, southwest Wisconsin and southwest Michigan and most are managed by state parks and open to viewing by the general public.

              Benjamin Middle School, 28W250 St. Charles Road, holds its Annual All School Picnic and Softball Game Thursday, May 30, 2013.  Cooking the hot dogs is the grill chef, Principal Joe Salmieri.

              To heighten awareness and raise donations for the Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics Illinois, West Chicago police officers participate in the annual Dunkin Donuts “Cop on a Rooftop” event. It takes place from 5:00 to 11:00 a.m. Friday, May 31, 2013 at the Dunkin Donuts businesses located at 185 West North Avenue, 330 South Neltnor Boulevard and 110 West Roosevelt Road. There is one police officer on the roof, one at the drive up and one inside. Persons making a donation to the Torch Run receive a free doughnut coupon.

              Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 19 sports for more than 21,300 athletes with intellectual disabilities and nearly 13,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities.

              Lewis Achenbach, the featured artist in the Gallery 200 exhibit, “Prestissimo, Priciosismo,” hosts a closing reception from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Friday, May 31, 2013 at the Gallery, 200 Main Street. Some of the artwork on display are pictures he painted during Blooming Fest.

              The Baccalaureate service at Wheaton Academy is at 7:00 p.m. Friday, May 31, 2013 in the Fine Arts Center, 900 Prince Crossing Road.

The Class of 2013 Commencement is at 4:00 p.m. Sunday, June 2, 2013.

              The West Chicago Environmental Commission offers a paper-shredding event from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Saturday, June 1, 2013 in the City Hall parking lot, 475 Main Street. There is a 10-box limit per car. The company in charge of the shredding is Accurate Document from Elk Grove Village. It has been in operation since 2005 and has a Better Business Bureau accreditation with an A+ rating.

              “A Day in the Park,” a dance recital by students in the West Chicago Park District School of Dance, is at 4:00 p.m. Saturday, June 1, 2013 in Weyrauch Auditorium at Community High School district 94, 326 Joliet Street. More than 70 dancers perform a variety of dances in a park-like setting. The ticket price is $5 in advance and $7 at the door. Tickets are available at the Park District office, 157 West Washington Street.

              Touch-A-Truck, organized by the West Chicago Police Department and West Chicago Park District, is from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. Saturday, June 1, 2013 in the Turtle Splash Water Park parking lot at Reed-Keppler Park. Adults and children have the opportunity to sit and view trucks and vehicles from the West Chicago Police Department, West Chicago Public Works Department, West Chicago Park District, West Chicago Fire Protection District, Winfield Township, DuPage County, C. H. Hager Excavating, Kramer Tree Specialists, Plote Construction and Canadian National Railroad. Others participating are AA Conte & Sons, Gary Spielman Plumbing, A.B.T. Towing, DuPage Top Soil, Golf & Busse Towing and the U.S. Postal Service. Providing nourishment are Augustino’s Rock and Roll Deli with Italian Ice, Scooby’s Red Hots with hot dogs, Franco’s with fried dough, Jimenez Grocery with bottled water and the police department with cotton candy and popcorn. There also are giveaways and drawings. Crime Prevention Police Officer Tony Quarto, the originator of the event, said, “It keeps growing bigger each year. Everyone has fun.”

              The West Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners combines its Committee of the Whole meeting and regular board meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at Dyer Maintenance Facility, 830 West Hawthorne Lane.  

              The public hearing before the West Chicago Historical Preservation Commission is at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at City Hall, 475 Main Street. The purpose is for the commission to consider the City’s appeal of the Denial of Certificate of Appropriateness #12-20 for demolition of the Wiant House, 151 West Washington Street. The 1869 Second Empire style home is in the Turner Junction Historic District.

              Persons wishing to voice their opinion may do so in person by attending the meeting, calling (630) 293-2200, extension 158 or writing the commission at City Hall, 475 Main Street, West Chicago, IL 60185.

              A group of citizens interested in the preservation of the structure has a website It relates some of the history of the house and information on the hearing.

              “Summer” is the exhibit for the month of June at Gallery 200, 200 Main Street. The display is a collaboration of seasonal artwork by Gallery members.

              Mixed media artists are Buddy Plumlee, Mandy Rakow and Deb Donnelly. Acrylic artwork is by Lew Achenbach. Watercolor artist is Heide Morris. Collage artwork is by Annie Phillips. The pencil and prints artwork is by Fredericka Howard. Cheryl Mahowald presents her work through books and paper.

              The artists’ reception is from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Friday, June 7, 2013. Rakow provides the music. Light refreshments are served.

              The Wayne Township Annual Recycling and Reuse event is from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday, June 8, 2013 in the township back parking lot, 27W031 North Avenue. It takes place rain or shine. Collectible items include car and sump pump batteries, working and non-working bicycles, electronics, cell telephones, inkjet/LaserJet cartridges, pet items in fairly good condition, eyeglasses and tattered American flags. New this year is on-site professional document shredding by Acme Refining; there is a limit of two boxes. For further information, call Cindy at (630) 231-7140.

              The United Methodist and Congregational Women host a musical dinner at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, June 8, 2013 at the church, 643 East Washington Street. The performance follows dinner and then dessert is served. The musical production, starring members of the church choir and the community, is “Fiddler on the Roof.”

              On the menu is Borscht, Challah (bread), cabbage tossed salad, honey mustard chicken breast, roasted carrots, Noodle Kugel and sour cream apple cake.

              The ticket price is $12.50 per person and $6 for children ages 3 to 12. Tickets are selling quickly .To make a reservation, call the church office at (630) 231-3344.

              Gallery Theater presents “Over the River and Through the Woods” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 8, and at 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. Sunday, June 9, 2013 in Gallery 200/STUDIO, 203 Turner Court.

              The comedy involves Nick, a single, Italian-American young man from New Jersey, and his two sets of overbearing grandparents. Upon hearing of his promotion and plans to move to Seattle, Washington, they begin a campaign to keep him local. This includes a dinner invitation to the lovely and single Caitlin, as bait.

              Members of the cast are Gail Cannata, Mark Fortman, Laura Dewitt, Ginny Lennon, Carl Zeitler and Howard Raik.

              The ticket price is $9. Seating is limited. For reservations call (630) 234-5919 or email

              The West Chicago Historical Society hosts its Third Annual Summer Tea Fundraiser at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, June 9, 2013 at the Fox Community Center, 306 Main Street. The $15 charge includes a light luncheon, a silent auction and entertainment that appeal to all ages.

              The History Singers, a husband/wife duo who have merged their love of history and American music into entertaining programs, perform “Songs of the Two World Wars.” During World War I and World War II, the soldiers went to battle, rallied their courage and reflected on life back home through songs. The citizens on the home front kept their perspective and solidarity with the troops through music. Radio, records and movies were used to arouse and maintain patriotic fervor. With their music and tales of history, John and Kathryn Atwood bring alive the songs and memories of those years.

              Reservations are required and may be made by calling Sara Phalen at (630) 473-0268 or email

              The Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual “Swing into Summer” golf outing Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at Royal Golf Course at Klein Creek, 1N333 Pleasant Hill Road. The Shotgun Start is at 1:00 p.m.; dinner and awards ceremony is at 6:30 p.m. The charge is $150 per individual, $600 for a foursome and $50 for dinner only. The price includes golf with cart, lunch, dinner and awards. Late registration fees take effect after Thursday, May 30, 2013. The registration form is online at For further information, call the Chamber office at (630) 231-3003.

              Winning the Battle of the Bands, sponsored by the social studies classes at Community High School District 94, was the Summer Runner Band. Members of the band are Ahnmad Asani, Akeem Asani, John Draughon and Mitch Carnes. They donated their winnings to WeGo to Africa, a fundraiser led by CHS Community Leadership class and some World Geography classes.

              The Battle of the Bands was a fundraiser to help the participating social studies students offset their program costs of the trip to Washington D.C.  The trip takes place from Sunday, June 16 through Sunday, June 23, 2013 and is through the Close Up Foundation.

              This is the first one in which CHS is participating explained Lisa Willuweit, Humanities Division Head.  Four students and one teacher are going. “Our students will join others around the country for a week-long summer program learning about our history and government. Each day they engage in debates, simulations, discussions and visits to local sites related to a theme.” She added, “On the last day of the program, the students meet with our local representatives and senators. We are looking forward to it.”

              The Close Up Foundation, a not-for-profit, nonpartisan educational organization, has been leading student programs in Washington D.C. for more than 40 years. It offers high school students an in-depth view of the democratic process. Through interactive participation, the students learn and understand the key roles they, as ordinary citizens, have in the process.

              Along with adding an Intro to Engineering course to its 2013-14 school year, Wheaton Academy also is expanding its extra co-curricular opportunities involving science. One is the International Space Station program. The school is in a partnership with Valley Christian in San Jose, California, in conjunction with NanoRacks LLC, to send an experiment into space. The lead mentor is Dr. Ali Atashroo and the assistant mentor is Kiernan Mack. Both are WA faculty members. NanoRacks LLC develops and provides microgravity research facilities. According to the Linked In profile, the business “is dedicated to helping stimulate use of low-orbit by having entered into a partnership with NASA that allows the Company to develop hardware and programs in the U.S. National Laboratory on board International Space Station.”

              At the Monday, May 20, 2013 meeting, City Council approved special uses for internet-based automobile sales and auto repair, Platinum Motor Cars located at 397 Charles Court. The business primarily focuses on high-end luxury and custom modified sports cars.

              Council approved a contract for the Fremont Street Parking Lot Reconstruction Project for the amount of $182,568.81 with the J. A. Paving Company from Arlington Heights. The new public parking lot is between the Fitness Center and Tastee-Freez. The project includes concrete sidewalk, curb and gutter removal and installation, full-depth asphalt pavement, raised landscape islands with landscaping, parking light lighting and parkway landscaping.

              Also approved was a contract for the 2013 Main Street Stairway Improvement Project for the amount of $180,938 with The Kenneth Company of Lemont. The project includes removal and replacement of existing landscaping and stairway railings, installation of decorative lighting, concrete flatwork associated with the stairways located at 116 and 204 Main Street. The project is to begin Monday, June 17, and be completed by Monday, August 12, 2013.

              With the election of aldermen in the Tuesday, April 9, 2013 consolidated election, new appointments were made to the standing committees. Serving on the Development Committee are Ward 1 alderman Jim Beifuss, Ward 2 Alderman Jim Smith, Ward 3 Alderman Laura Grodoski, Ward 4 Alderman Al Murphy, Ward 5 alderman John Smith, Jr., and Ward 7 alderman John Banas.  Ward 6 Alderman Becky Stout is chairman.

              West Chicago Elementary School District 33 hosted its annual Retirement and Recognition Social Thursday, May 23, 2013. Retiring faculty and staff are Ed Leman, Superintendent, with 20 years; Fran Aurience, executive secretary for Department of Learning, with 18 years; Helen Christ, facilitator at Currier School, with 21 years; Brigitte DePue, computers at West Chicago Middle School, with 19 years; Pam Giermann, preschool teacher, with 25 years; Peggy Molitor, fourth grade teacher at Turner School, with 27 years; Patricia Pentek, Gifted & Talented Education program teacher at West Chicago Middle School, with 31 years; Anna Rutkowski, reading assistant at Pioneer School, with 16 years; Raymond Seike, Technology at West Chicago Middle School, with 35 years; Debra Woodman, home economics teacher at West Chicago Middle School, with 38 years; MaryLu Mulcahy, Gifted & Talented Education program teacher at Indian Knoll School, with 13 years; Mary Ellen Nelson, health aid at Indian Knoll School with 16 years School; and Lynn McCleary, first grade teacher at Indian Knoll School, with 14 years.

              Also recognized were persons employed by the district from five years to 35 years. Ray Selke, technology teacher at West Chicago Middle School, celebrates 35 years. Celebrating 30 years are Mary Garcia, art teacher at West Chicago Middle School; Barb Boni, district-wide head librarian; Barb Clark, Director of Human Services; and Ruth Meyer, seventh grade literature teacher at West Chicago Middle School. Kathy Fraser, reading teacher at Pioneer School; Gigi Hendricks, reading assistant at Gary School; and Sandra Schmitt, health aide at West Chicago Middle School, celebrate 25 years.

              U.S. Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-6-R) presented the Sixth Congressional District Excellence Award to Wheaton Academy senior MacKenzie Schiff on Thursday, May 9, 2013. It recognizes her academic excellence and extraordinary leadership qualities.

              The literary journal “Blue Pencil” recently published the poem, “Dear Maggie,” by Wheaton Academy senior Katie Bracy. WA senior Aubrey Benson will have his poem published in “Navigating the Maze,” an annual anthology published by Adonis Designs Press. Kent McDonell will have his story published in “Greystone.”

              State Representative Mike Fortner (R-49) has a new website,

              At its Tuesday, May 21, 2013 meeting, Community High School District 94 Board of Education approved Allister Scott as the Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning, a new position at the school. He currently is the Division Head for Math & Science.

              Newly elected officers of the West Chicago Public Library District Board of Trustees are Nancy Conradt, president; Mary K. Peterson, vice president; Frank Fokta, secretary; and Richard Bloom, treasurer.

              The weather was perfect for Blooming Fest on Saturday, May 18, 2013, with blue skies and a gentle breeze at times. Happy sounds abounded as attendees enjoyed the vendor and information booths, the musical entertainment, the car show, children’s activities, art, and food.

              Garden Club member Tom Fessler said their plant sale was a huge success. People started lining up at 7:30 a.m.  The club had more than 2,000 plants for sale. “We had more variety this year. The vegetables were really popular. He added, “We sold everything, nothing was left. This was the first year that this happened.”

              Another successful not-for-profit organization event was the Boy Scout Troop 33 Pancake Breakfast. Troop leader Steve Usedom said, “The breakfast was great. We doubled our attendance from last year. “The scouts also “served breakfast to more than 40 people in the vendor booths and we made quite a few connections that may have great impacts on the troop and resources available to us.”

              Dian Cracraft, a member of West Chicago Sister Cities, said, “I thought Blooming Fest was very good. Many people stopped by our booth. It is always fun.”

              Assistant Marketing Coordinator Krista Coltrin said it was a very successful event, in more ways than one.

              “I have received comments from multiple people that this was the best year yet for Blooming Fest.  It was very well attended, the variety of activities offered something for people of all ages and the excellent performances on the entertainment stage added to the lovely weather to create the perfect ambience for an outdoor festival.

              As the organizer of an event that is intended to bring exposure to the downtown business district, it has been rewarding to see the increase in participation by business owners at the event. Many worked outside of their businesses to offer sidewalk promotions and others participated with booths in the vendor area.

              It has also been rewarding to work with an outstanding committee comprised of representatives from local businesses, intergovernmental organizations and community volunteers. The committee has grown to include nearly 30 volunteers and each person brings their unique qualities and interpretive ideas to the meetings for the betterment of the event.  The volunteers have taken ownership in the event and it shows in the outstanding schedule of events that were offered this year!”

              Remember to support our local businesses as they contribute to our community not only through taxes, but also with in-kind and monetary donations to churches, clubs, organizations and schools. For news on local businesses, read my monthly column, “Business Highlights,” at

              My email address is


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