Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Neighborhood Librarian

Librarian Peggy Swanson and Elaine Johnson stood in a corner of the children’s section of the Maze Branch Library, talking about books.

Johnson visited Maze Wednesday, reading books with her granddaughter, Maya Rankin. Maya sat patiently in the Maze book playhouse, waiting for her grandmother, who had a stack of books in her hands.

Johnson hadn’t asked for book recommendations, she said, but Swanson was there to help her, anyway.

“If you’re here on a regular basis, they know you and your family,” Johnson

The two women talked about books and getting their grandchildren together at Maze once Swanson’s retirement was official. She’s leaving June 16, after 12 years with the Oak Park Public Library.

Swanson will miss working with the library’s patrons, she said. At the main library, just about everything is about materials and people needing them. At the branch libraries, it’s about the neighborhood.

“You get people coming in that just moved to the neighborhood for their first library card with their kids and family,” Swanson said. “It’s a much more social experience.”

People become close at Maze. A few years ago, one of the Maze staff members had a death in the family, Swanson said. People from the community came to the wake.

The people who come to Maze are from all walks, from children to seniors. Some people stop by following their commute, Swanson said, to pick up some reading material for the train.

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Mothers Day

Kaylee Elizabeth Stumbaugh expressed just a little displeasure at having to
change her shirt, letting out a few moans of objection as her mother, Susan,
maneuvered her out of her clothes.

She was doing better than the newborn a few rooms over, whose cries could be heard through the walls of West Suburban Hospital’s birthing center, even with the door to Stumbaugh’s room closed.

“It’s amazing what a production putting a shirt on is,” Susan Stumbaugh said, gently lifting her day-old daughter, slipping the shirt under the baby so she could slide another arm into a sleeve.

“Next winter, it will be a shirt, a sweater, coat, mittens and a hat,” her husband, Brandon Stumbaugh, chimed in. He sat on the same chair he had slept on while his wife was at the hospital.

“Hopefully, by next winter, she’ll let me move her arms,” she replied. With her shirt on, Kaylee crooned a little as her mother wrapped her in a fresh blanket, clean of spit-up. “OK,” Susan Stumbaugh said, picking up her daughter. “OK.”

Susan and Brandon Stumbaugh officially became parents at 1:30 a.m. May 2. This weekend will be Susan’s first Mother’s Day. The feeling, she said, is incredible.

“I just laid awake all night last night staring at her thinking, wow, she’s here,” she said.

It’s perfect timing, really.

The Stumbaughs wanted to wait until Susan had finished her master’s degree in library and information sciences before having children. She had just two more pages to write for her last term paper, due at 6 p.m. Wednesday night. Her laptop was open and running next to her hospital bed, her research lying on the table next to it. She knew how to finish the paper. It was just a matter of doing it.

“It’s really hard when you have the baby, even when you know exactly what you’re going to write,” she said.

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Broadview Bowl

Bob Vaughan gets a hug from Dianna Pruim behind the counter at the Broadview Bowl. The popular bowling alley will close this week after nearly 50 years in operation. "Thirty years coming here," Pruim said "Bowling, partying, it's emotional. Rob Hart/Staff Photographer

Bob Vaughan isn't just saying goodbye to the job he's had a quarter century, but to an institution that has been like his extended family.

At the end of business May 6, Broadview Bowl, 2812 S. 17th Ave., will close for good. The sound of bowling balls hitting the lane and crashing into pins will no longer be heard at the bowling alley, after 49 years in business.

Vaughan, 65, who manages the bowling alley, has worked off and on there for 25 years. He was friends with the previous owner who always had a job for him and now things have changed.

"I don't feel good about it," he said. "We'll miss the people a lot."
Broadview Bowl opened in 1958 and in 1982 the bowling alley's general manager, Rudy Gehrke, became the sole owner of the business until his retirement in 2003.
The current owner, Ken Prokopec, has decided to sell the bowling alley, which will make way for a strip mall.

Dianna Pruim, 55, has been a bartender and waitress at the bowling alley for six years, but her relationship with the establishment goes back longer. "I've been hanging here since 1972," she said.

Like a lot of other people, she used to come to the bowling alley and hang out after work at International Harvester, which was located where Home Depot now stands in Broadview Village Square.

"This was our meeting place," she said. "It was kind of a central watering hole."
She said the bowling alley closing for good is heartbreaking.

"It's sad," she said. "All of my friends are here. I met a lot of wonderful people. It's been in this area for over 30 years. Emotionally it's hard. Where do you hang out now?"

-David Pollard

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Peculiar polling places

While most people cast their ballots in a school, church or otherwise "public" place, some are assigned to vote in a more ... unusual setting. Pioneer Press set out April 17 to find the weirdest of the weird. Check out a multimedia slide show to see what we discovered. Multimedia Slideshow

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Frame of Mind 4/18/07 Makeover

Jessie Greenwood hadn’t been to church for six weeks, she was so upset with what her cancer treatment had done to her.

“Since I’ve been going through this chemo, it really drags you out, makes you look tired and worn,” the Maywood resident said.

She’d lost 25 pounds through this round of chemotherapy, her third cancer treatment since 2002. Church had been there for her, helping her keep the faith.

“I’ve never felt bad about myself, except with how I look,” Greenwood said.

She was working on her look in the lobby of Gottlieb Memorial Hospital’s Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center in Melrose Park. She’d been feeling better of late, she said, and decided to come to Gottlieb for a makeup lesson from the “Look Good … Feel Better” program.

“I’m going to do this,” she said. “Sunday morning, I’m going to get up and do this stuff. I know I look better, and I feel better.”

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Frame of Mind 4/14/07 Clowning Around

The miniature bicycles, pies to the face and pratfalls under the lights of the main ring would come later.

Instead, the clowns for the Triton Troupers Circus focused on their faces, the perfect curvature of a colored pencil, developing their character from a photo or sketch before them.

The bright lights came from the globes around the mirror of the make-up table. Instead of the scent of popcorn and cotton candy, the make-up room contained the faint smell of clean powder, applied with care.

Some were frantic, applying final touches. Others were calm, stretching rainbow colored suspenders onto their shoulders, over-sized shoes on their feet.
“Blue?” Andrew Bedno asked, holding out a make-up pencil he was about to draw with around his lips.

“No, no, black,” replied Susan Hooper, a rainbow wig already on her head, and a purple, glittery star sticker attached to the tip of her nose. “Too much blue.”
Difficult work, this clowning.

Hooper, a Chicago resident, is a professional clown and performer. She was busy at the Triton show, acting as the clown Sweety, an extra in the wire act, and a performer walking on a globe and in the gym wheel.

Performing with Triton gives Hooper a chance to keep her skills sharp, she said. She likes the lights and enjoys being on stage.

But the clowning is not a full-time job. She’s a social worker, working in a nursing home, at hospitals and adult day-care centers in the area.
The clown work comes in handy, though.

“They kind of work hand in hand in terms of providing entertainment and therapy together with the work,” Hooper said. “I like to feel I’m able to develop a different rapport with my clients and the people I perform with.”

When the clowns needed advice, she was there to offer her help. “I want everyone to look good and have a good time,” Hooper said.

With the crowd arriving at Triton College, the clowns stood outside and in the lobby, working as they welcoming crew. Some mimed, some joked, all offered up a few yucks to warm the crowd.

“Hey, do I look a little pail?” yelled Mike Pepe, the circus clown Lumpy, as he stood atop stilts hidden by his ultra-long pants looming over the heads of the crowd. In one hand, he offered up a pail the size of a shot glass.

For Westmont’s Jamie Glassman, aka Spots, it was his first time as a clown.
Glassman decided to join the show on a spur of the moment, he said. He had talked to some other clowns, and they urged him to sign up.

“It’s just something I thought I’d do,” Glassman said. “I feel I owed it to these kids, to make some of the kids happy.”

At first, it was difficult acting the fool for circus peer reviews, but Glassman said it takes a lot for him to be embarrassed. Which no doubt helped explained the fire-engine red dyed hair on his head.

“I’ve never been pied yet,” he said. “Tonight, I will be for sure.”

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Frame of Mind 4/04/07 Dressed to Impress

Abby Zupancic, dressed in a sweatshirt, short pants and sandals, stood in stark contrast to the pantsuits and casual business wear of the Dominican University women around her.

The Dominican fashion students were performing a skit for the women at Grace House, a home for female ex-convicts on Chicago’s West Side. The students discussed how to dress and act for a job interview.

Zupancic was an intentional failure, disorganized, talking too much about her family, knowing nothing about the company she was interviewing with. She was dismissed with a “great meeting you.”

“That’s when you know you’re not going to be hired,” one of the Grace residents said.
The session was the last of six run by the Dominican students at Grace. Students had talked about issues such as make-up, matching the right clothing with body type and exercise and nutrition in the previous five.

The session March 27 on interviews was fortuitous for Grace House resident Gail Williams, who had an interview scheduled the next day.

“The program ... it just taught me to be more motivated, no matter what,” Williams said.

Williams learned her strength can be her weakness. She likes to talk about her family and her children, she said. It’s something she’d have to stay away from in her interview.

The students also had tips on dress and how to answer typical interview questions.
“I was nervous,” she said. “I’m not nervous anymore.”

Grace House Program Director the Rev. Bernadine Dowdell said it was important for people in the community to work with the Grace women. The women at the home needed to see there were people who cared.

“The women here need this morale boost. They need this education,” Dowdell said. “They have so many obstacles to overcome.”

Denise Acevedo will face many obstacles herself. A Grace resident since February, Acevedo said she wants to get her high school diploma and to find a part-time job.
The Dominican students taught Acevedo to be creative, she said, to have a better outlook.

“They did a class on positive thinking, and coming from the addiction side, you have a negative outlook on life,” she said.

“They care about people. That means a lot to me,” she added. “It helps me grow period. I’m not by myself.”

-Chris LaFortune

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Illinois Best of Photojournalism Awards

Some images from the IPPA iBOP awards announced last month.

Portrait 1st - "He's Leaving Home" Rob Hart, Pioneer Press

Sports Action Honorable Mention - "A Goal in Mind" Rob Hart, Pioneer Press

Feature Honorable Mention - "Kiss at the End of the Robot" Rob Hart, Pioneer Press

Nature/Environment Honorable Mention - "Fall Colors" Rob Hart, Pioneer Press

Nature/Environment Honorable Mention - "Dark Side of the Moon" Rob Hart, Pioneer Press

Illustration Honorable Mention - "Wright Angle" Rob Hart, Pioneer Press

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Frame of Mind 3/28/07 Lent

The congregation at Grace Lutheran Church built a pyramid of cardboard
blocks, reading off statistics about children in poverty as they did.

Each cube represented an essential building block of life, the poverty
statistics printed on the side. The information was grim - every 43
seconds a child is born into poverty in the United States, more than
2,000 babies every year - the cubes stacked in a five level pyramid.

Take away one of the essentials, Pastor Joanne Fitzgerald asked, and
does the pyramid fall?

"If I take away clothing, how do children go to school? How do they
play with other children? How do they exist?" she asked

To illustrate her point, Fitzgerald inched a cube out from the pyramid
one at a time. On the third time, the pyramid collapsed.

The lesson completed, the congregation settled in to watch a video
about children and poverty. The lights turned off, the gray overcast
day filtering into the church basement through half-drawn blinds.
People fell silent, the only sounds coming from the movie and the tick
of rain against the windows.

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Frame of Mind 3/07/07 Road to Recovery

Mary T. Small understands how important it is for cancer patients to get to their appointments on time.

Her husband faced cancer twice, first Hodgkin's disease while they were dating. He was a cancer survivor for 36 years. But he was a smoker and was later diagnosed with lung and brain cancer.

"Jerry never thought it would hit him again," Small said. "He was like, you're immune to it. But you're not."

Small's husband died 10 years ago.

"Yesterday would have been our 47th wedding anniversary," Small said.

Small spoke about her husband as she sat in the waiting room at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, a cup of water in her hand. She waited for Kalyani Koneru, an Oak Park resident and cancer survivor herself.

Diagnosed with an inflammatory carcinoma, Koneru has had a mastectomy. There's no sign of cancer left in her body, she said.

Small drove Koneru to see her doctor at Rush all last week. She's a volunteer with the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery program.

For a while, Koneru said, her husband was driving her to the hospital for appointments at the Chicago medical center, bringing her home again to Oak Park and then heading to work back downtown. He'd miss a half day of work when he did, she said, but Koneru couldn't drive herself for treatment.

Then she heard about the Cancer Society's program.

"So here's my angel," Koneru said.

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Frame of Mind 2/28/07 Matrimony

The three happy couples stood together, hand-in-hand, as the aptly named Judge Noreen Love led them through a renewal of their vows.

“Remember that a happy marriage means two souls, but with a single heart,” Love said. “Two hearts beat as one.”

The audience witnessing the renewal of vows sat at round tables at the Bellwood Senior Center, silent except for the occasional scraping of a chair against the tile floor.

One woman in the audience dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, tucking it into her sleeve. Among the couples renewing their vows Feb. 20 were Dolores and Jacob Jindela of Cicero. Married in 1965, they celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary
Feb. 20.

Dolores saw the vow renewal advertised in the center’s bulletin, she said, and realized the ceremony was taking place on their anniversary. They decided to take part.

The couple met at St. Peter’s social club in Chicago.

“You thought I was cute at that time,” Dolores joshed her

Dolores didn’t know how to dance the cha-cha, Jacob said, so he took it upon himself to teach her.

“I wanted him to feel important, so I let him teach me the cha-cha because it was the one dance I didn’t know,” she said.

They met in April. Magic hit in May, Jacob said, while walking in Grant Park near Monroe Street. They were supposed to be making flowers for the social club. Instead, they spent the day walking in the park.

They were engaged in September.

“I told my wife, I know what your answer is going to be, but would you marry me,” Jacob said.

“That was pretty nervy,” his wife chimed in.

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Frame of Mind 2/21/07 Golf Club

Chuck Hayes of Elmwood Park, at right, listens to instructions from his younger brother Bob while golfing Feb. 15 with seniors from Elmwood Park in the golf dome at White Pines Golf Club in
Bensenville. Bob Hayes brings tips he learns from watching the Golf Channel to help his game. “(I watch) from 10 in the morning ’til my wife comes home at 4, then I put on the cooking channel,”
Hayes said.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Frame of Mind 2/14/07 Cupid's Arrow

Cupids arrows fly, mysterious and unseen, bringing people like Calvin and Jane Netter together.

It was Aug. 15, 2006, and Calvin Netter had just moved into Holley Court Terrace in Oak Park. Calvin was upstairs, waiting to go to eat dinner.

“I saw this beautiful girl walking down the aisle and I asked her to join me for dinner,” he said.

Jane Hockstein thought that would be fine, though she was waiting for a friend.

“He thought it was a male friend,” she said. “It was really a girlfriend.”

And so, the three went to dinner together. After, Jane invited Calvin to watch the televisionnews at her place, since his television wasn’t hooked up yet. “We’ve been watching the news ever since,” she said.

Jane and Calvin married Jan. 13 at Holley Court Terrace where they met. Both are in their early 80s, both on their second marriage. And so far, life for the newlyweds has been wonderful, Calvin said.

“To have someone to help take care of each other,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”

-Chris LaFortune

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Frame of Mind 2/7/07

With the reds, yellows and blues from the DJ’s lights rotating around the room, Melissa Broz danced as if she were in the spotlight.

Each song the DJ played, she seemed to know the words.

“Greased Lightning” pumped from the speakers, and Broz not only mouthed the words, but mimicked John Travolta’s dance routine. Travolta, Broz said, is the best. The dance scene, she had it memorized. Broz enjoys dancing, to say the least.

“Because it gets me moving,” the Franklin Park resident said.

-Chris LaFortune