I love history. I love to read about history, I love to write about history and, most of all, I love to hear about history. And for a history buff, there’s nothing better than hearing about historic events from those who lived through them.
In recent years, I’ve really dove into World War II history. I’ve met many veterans of the war and helped to share their stories as told to me. I’ve seen these mature men break down while talking about how they feared for their lives or how they missed their families or how they lost friends in combat.
I’ve heard horrifying descriptions and looked at graphic black and white snapshots and held medals earned through injury. I’ve been able to witness something so many people don’t get to. I’ve learned about this era of history not just through picking up a book, but through hearing their experiences. I’ve heard pain and pride, regret and remorse, elation and relief through their cracked voices. To say I have felt privileged to have been the recipient of these intimate recollections is an enormous understatement.
This past week, I had the opportunity to hear two extraordinary men share their stories in a group setting regarding their experiences during World War II. There were so many facets of the war and so many stories coming from so many different angles. Each speaker had such a different story to tell.
The first was O. Lawton Wilkerson or “Wilk” as he likes to be called. Wilk was born in Chicago Heights and attended Bloom High School. Upon graduation, he went into the Army Air Force, training first at Chanute Air Field in Central Illinois and then at the Tuskegee Institute. Wilk was one of the first African-American pilots in the U.S. Army. He was part of an elite group known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
Wilk, now 88, was part of the first class to fly the B25 at the age of just 19. He finished his training just after the war ended and didn’t have the opportunity to serve in combat. He modestly emphasized repeatedly that he’s “riding the coat tails of those who came before me.” Yet he was part of an extraordinary group that changed the way things were done in the military and years before the Civil Rights movement was helping to pave the way for future generations. Although the role of the Tuskegee Airmen brought forth changes in the military, it was many more years before racial changes would be seen in the country. The Tuskegee Airmen who served in the war, proving their skills as pilots, returned home to be rejected for jobs as commercial pilots due to their race. There were still restaurants they couldn’t eat in and other places they couldn’t go.
Wilk showed the documentary “Who Says Black Men Can’t Fly?” which can easily be found and viewed on YouTube, by the way. As I watched it, I recognized two other men I’d met and saw the museum at the former Chanute Air Museum that I’d visited.
The second speaker was Dr. Alexander White, who visited South Suburban College for a lecture that was open to the community. White, 91, was born in Poland and was 16 when his hometown was invaded by Nazis in 1939. He was the only one of his family of six to survive the war. Of his extended family in that area of Poland, he was one of only three of 34 family members to survive.
White talked about several times he escaped death, the first being when the German Army first arrived demanding that all males from age 16 to 60 come forward. His mother said that he was only 14 and he was spared the firing squad death of many others.
“It was my first experience of the mass killing of perfectly normal, healthy people,” he said.
He described many other scenarios of horrific situations he faced and of how he lost members of his family.
After he made it through the war, White went to medical school and then came to the U.S. where he practiced medicine in Olympia Fields and Park Forest for about four decades before retiring. He now still works near his Arizona home and does speaking engagements to high school and college audiences.
Sometimes I am able to talk to these people because I’m interviewing them as part of my job as a writer or my role as vice president of the Lansing Historical Society, but there are many other opportunities to hear such interesting and significant stories. When you have the chance to hear them, don’t pass them up. Not too far into the future, those who lived through that era will no longer be here to tell these stories. Listen while you can.
At last week’s Village Board meeting, Village President Norm Abbott presented a proclamation declaring April 8 as Lansing Fallen Heroes Memorial Day. By designating that day, it helps bring awareness to the sacrifices made by our public servants and specifically to Officer Kenneth Novak Jr. and Lance Cpl. Phil Martini, who each died on April 8 in separate years in serving honorably in their chosen professions.
Officer Novak died on April 8, 1992, in the line of duty. He is the only Lansing police officer to lose his life while performing his duties with the Lansing Police Department. Martini died while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq on April 8, 2006. He is the only person from Lansing who has lost his life while performing his duties in the current war.
As time passes, it is up to those in the community to make sure they are not forgotten. By designating April 8 as a day of remembrance, it helps newer residents become aware of the men and reminds longtime residents they paid the ultimate sacrifice by protecting us.
I’ve gotten to know members of the Novak and Martini families a bit over the years and both of them appeared on the cover of my most recent book. Both were appreciative of the recognition given to their loved one. Novak’s parents, sister and a niece who was born after his death were in attendance at the board meeting.
“I just wanted to say that I'm touched that Lansing has remembered, and will continue to remember Ken. Between the sign at the exit/entrance to the police parking with his badge number on it, the plaque in the Police Department lobby, and now the memorial day, it's nice to know at the very least, the Lansing Police Department will remember, even though there are very few left on the force that actually knew Ken,” said Novak’s sister, Kathy Faucault. “I do have a friend from another state whose son was killed in the line of duty in a big city, and he has all but been forgotten. It's nice to know that the town of Lansing and it's residents care.”
“On behalf of my family, friends of Phil, and the Marines that served with Phil we are humbled and honored,” said Phil’s brother, James Martini. “The town of Lansing and it's surrounding communities have shown tremendous support to keeping Phil and Officer Novak's memory alive.”
I’m pleased this day has been named Lansing Fallen Heroes Memorial Day and I hope throughout the village, residents will find a way to honor these brave men. Fly a flag in front of your home to remember. Light a candle. Say a prayer with your family at the dinner table. Visit the Lansing Veterans Memorial. Visit the Lansing police station. Stop by the Martini tree planted at Winterhoff Park. Go to the Lansing Police Officer Kenneth Novak Jr. Memorial Page Facebook page or the Lance Cpl. Philip J. Martini Memorial Foundation Facebook page and learn a little more about them. Seek out a current Lansing police officer or someone in the military and express your gratitude for their service.
This past week our family took a trip to Indianapolis to enjoy the attractions there while the kids were on spring break. We had a fun time visiting museums and the zoo and eating at some great restaurants, but my favorite stop of our visit was one we originally didn’t even have on our itinerary. It was the Indiana War Memorial and I recommend a stop there for anyone visiting Indy. As we were driving by to get to another destination, I knew we’d have to include a stop. It’s a very beautiful and solemn place to reflect on why we have the freedom we do and to remember those like Martini who have provided it for us. The structure itself is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places I’ve ever seen.
Still time to RSVP for Veteran Appreciation Dinner
The Lansing Junior Woman’s Club will be hosting the fifth annual Veteran Appreciation Dinner at 5 p.m. April 17 at the Knights of Columbus, 17800 Lorenz Ave. in Lansing. The evening includes dinner, dessert, raffles and entertainment and is free to all veterans and current military and a guest. RSVP deadline is April 8. To RSVP call (708) 895-8982 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also want to thank the Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard for inviting me to their appreciation dinner last weekend. They’re such a special group of people and I feel honored to be welcomed to their functions. Also in attendance was Bob Zajac and his wife, owners of Pudgy’s Pizza in Hegewisch. Zajac is a Vietnam veteran and has supported the Honor Guard throughout the years. His first contact was when he heard they were doing an overnight POW vigil at the airport and he sent pizzas out to those participating. He’s also been a big supporter of St. Florian School and has donated to the school, which was slated to close at the end of the school year and will now remain open thanks to donations. Kudos to Zajac for his support of the Hegewich and Lansing communities.
The Lansing Association for Community Events recently held a kickoff meeting for Lansing Autumn Fest 2014. I’m a member of the board of directors of LACE, the nonprofit that organizes the festival. Our board was happy to get a great response from the community.
The public was invited to come out and learn more about the festival and volunteer to help in a variety of different ways. Thank you to those who came out and have already committed to volunteer. Visible Music College graciously allowed LACE to use the new college’s lounge area for their meeting.
If you weren’t there, but would like to help, call (708) 646-5606 or send an email to email@example.com. There are many volunteer opportunities in advance of the fest and during the weekend of the festival that will take place Oct. 10-12 in downtown Lansing. If you have a skill that you’d like to share or just want to be part of making this festival a successful event, we would love your help. Follow Lansing Autumn Fest on Facebook for festival updates.
Lansing Old Timers offers scholarship
The Lansing Old Timers organization will be awarding six one-time grants of $1,000 or $500 to three male and three female high school seniors who have participated in a Lansing Old Timers-sponsored program.
Applicants must be graduating high school seniors enrolled in or accepted by a two- or four-year college or university with at least a “B” average on their latest transcript and they must have participated in a school athletic program. Grants will be awarded by lottery to all eligible applicants.
Visit lansingoldtimers.com for an application, which must be completed and returned by May 1 to: Lansing Old Timers, c/o Frank Kiefor, P.O. Box 133, Lansing, IL 60438
Childrens’ production next weekend at TATC
As part of the Education Through Theatre program at the Theatre at the Center and the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster, a student production of William Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" will take place next weekend. The kids will perform four shows: 7 p.m. April 4; 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. April 5 and 1:30 p.m. April 6.
The play is a result of months of preparation by the students who learn about all aspects of play production under the direction of Patty Bird. I will be in the audience as one of my sons took part in this wonderful program. Tickets are $9.50 for adults and $7.50 for students and are available at the box office by calling (219) 836-3255.
An era will be coming to an end this year as the beloved Santa House in downtown Lansing will be coming down to make way for additional parking. The house is operated by the Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce, but sits on village property.
Chamber Director Dr. Renee Hale said that it is her understanding the house was built about 40 years ago and the board of directors of the Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce intends to continue the program. However, what is not known is where Santa will reside come November when he and Mrs. Claus arrive in town for the annual tree lighting that occurs the day after Thanksgiving.
“The board will not let the program skip a beat,” she said. “The board, which is comprised of 14 people, will vote on what the plan will be. We’ll start having meetings soon to look at the options that are available. It will be a board vote. It won’t be a decision made by one person.”
Hale assures residents the Santa visits will continue, just not at the present location. She noted that with several months before the Christmas season, there will be enough time to relocate Santa to a new home.
“It was built on village property and chamber members and organizations partnered together to build it,” she said. “There were a lot of personal investments and a lot of chamber involvement put into it.” Building the original house was a community effort and I’m sure whatever is decided about the future of Santa’s home, there won’t be a shortage of community support.
The demolition is drawing a lot of attention from residents who aren’t happy about displacing the jolly couple. I’ve visited the house every year for the past 20 years and I can see how my kids have grown when I pull out pictures of the many times they’ve sat on Santa’s lap and recited their gift list. Lots of memories have been made inside those four small walls.
In saying goodbye to the familiar structure, a little part of us goes away, too. I’ve been in Lansing long enough to have seen a lot of traditions end — the Lan-Oak Pool, the K of C Family Fest, the Lions Steak Fry, Luther East High School, the Ridge Road Sidewalk Sale Days, the removal of the original Christmas tree. I’ve also seen new things happen and be added, like the Eisenhower Fitness Center, the Summer Cruise Nights on Ridge Road, the Lansing Youth Center, the opening of Beggar’s Pizza and return of the big pipe organ, the Taste of Lansing during the tree lighting and the Lansing Autumn Fest. Many of the other traditions that I’ve loved about Lansing since I moved here, like the Good Neighbor Day parade, the Lansing Old Timers Little League program, the Christmas tree lighting, the Halloween parade and the Park District’s Easter egg hunts remain. Nothing lasts forever and change is inevitable, but it just strikes a bigger nerve when it comes to Santa. He is the coolest guy in town for his month or so visit from the North Pole.
It’s always sad to see a much-loved tradition end, but I’m eager to see what lies ahead for the Clauses. Maybe the big guy in red is making a wish list of his own, with access to a digital wish list from his visitors, a parking spot for Rudolph and a cappuccino machine. In time we’ll learn what new traditions we’ll have to look forward to, but it’s comforting to know the Clauses will be welcomed back with open arms as they have been for decades.
Mike Sanow is a Lansing resident who is active duty with the Illinois Army National Guard. I remember going out to the Lansing Municipal Airport last year to take pictures when he returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, followed by a nice welcoming reception for him back at the American Legion Post 330 in Calumet City, an event organized by the Lansing Veterans Ceremonial Honor Guard and the American Legion.
Since then I’ve been in touch with Sanow about a nonprofit organization he has started to aid those who help protect us.
Sanow is the step-brother of Del Pearson, a Chicago police officer who was wounded when he was shot twice in the line of duty two years ago. Sanow said Pearson was his inspiratin for founding the Illiana Network of EMTs, Firefighters, Law Enforcement Officers, Military Personnel and Veterans Foundation. The shooting occurred just two months before Sanow was scheduled to deploy to the Middle East for the second time in June 2012, this time Kuwait.
“I have several family members that are in law enforcement, another brother that is a firefighter, many veterans in my family, and many of the reservists that are in today's military are also EMTs, police officers, and firefighters for their civilian jobs. So, there's definitely a professional crossover,” said Sanow. “Having seen the cost of war firsthand as well as the devastation caused by an act of violence towards my family due to my brother's profession, I have a strong desire to strengthen the bonds between our chosen professions and help those in need.”
Sanow was deployed to Iraq with 1-106th Aviation Battalion on Dec. 15, 2003. Also participating in the same deployment was a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot, Capt. Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade on Nov. 12, 2004. She lost her right leg near the hip and left leg below the knee, along with several other injuries. Although Sanow wasn’t with her when the shoot down occurred, the event had an impact on him, as well as the rest of their battalion. Duckworth, who continues to serve as a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard, also serves in the U. S. House of Representatives, representing the Illinois 8th District since 2013.
Sanow said the the mission statement for the Illiana Network is “to financially assist those and their families that are injured or killed in the line of duty or while serving from the States of Illinois and Indiana.”
The Educational Scholarship Fund has been established so that scholarships may be awarded, through competition, to deserving recipients. Each of the nine scholarships that are being established will be named after a fallen hero from Illinois or Indiana.
Sanow is holding a fundraiser for the Illiana Network from 7 p.m. to midnight March 28 at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park, Ill.
The night will include entertainment by three bands; Kelly Campos, Deju Vu and I Decline, a buffet, beverages and raffles. Emcee for the event will be NBC news anchor Dick Johnson. Sanow is also working on visits from some other notables, so there may be other surprises in store.
Like Sanow, I have several people in my family in the professions this foundation benefits. I’m proud of them and everyone that serves everyday to make out towns, states, country and world a safer place. And I’m proud of Sanow for taking these steps to make sure that those who are hurt or lost in doing their jobs are not forgotten and that their families get much needed support.
Tickets to the fundraiser can be purchased online at www.theilliananetwork.com. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door. Those who show a badge, military ID or proof of veteran status, will get $5 back at the door.
Veteran Dinner date correction
Last week I wrote about the Lansing Junior Woman’s Club’s fifth annual Veteran Appreciation Dinner and listed the incorrect date. The dinner, which is free for veterans and a guest, will take place at 5 p.m. April 17 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 17800 Lorenz Ave. in Lansing. To RSVP call (708) 895-8982 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If there’s any group in our country that is overworked, underpaid and under appreciated, it is those serving in the military. It’s not a 9-to-5, 40-hour-a -week job. It involves long stretches away from family and friends. If you end up being deployed to another part of the world, you may be living in not so great conditions, in severe weather situations, in constant fear, deprived of sleep and good food, missing holidays with your loved ones and being put through a lot of physical and mental stress. Yet those who do it don’t expect a big paycheck or a pat on that back. However, no one deserves it more.
I’m so happy to be part of a group that recognizes how valuable and selfless these individuals are and does something each year to honor them. As a member of the Lansing Junior Woman’s Club, I’ve had the opportunity to help host a dinner for our veterans each year in April.
This annual project started by our club just wanting to round up some local veterans and treat them to a meal as our way of saying “thank you” for all they have done. It started small with about 60 people at the dinner. It has grown each year and we outgrew our original venue and last year we welcomed more than 200 to the dinner.
Not only do we honor our veterans on this evening, but we also invite them to bring a guest. We know the sacrifices aren’t limited to the veterans, but their families also deserve thanks. The dinner is free for the veteran (or active military personnel) and a guest. There are a lot of couples who come to the dinner together or sometimes a son, daughter, grandchild or sibling accompanies the veteran.
The dinner is paid for by the club's fundraising efforts and donations from other organizations. The Lansing Lions generously donates every year to make it happen. The Lansing Copper Muggers are also pitching in this year to help. With these contributions we are able to grow and honor more of our vets each year. Many local businesses also provide prizes for the event.
It feels so good at the event to look around the room and see men and women who have served in all branches of the military, from World War II to the present and think that we’ve brought them all together and can for one evening let them and their families know how many people appreciate their service. There are so many vets I’ve come to know by name who come to the dinner year after year and every year there are new faces to whom we are able to express our gratitude.
So, to all vets in the area, mark your calendar for 5 p.m. April 18 for the fifth annual Veteran Appreciation Dinner at the Lansing Knights of Columbus Hall, 17800 Lorenz Ave., and spread the word to other veterans you know. Reservations are required to attend and seating is limited. To RSVP call (708) 895-8982 or send an email to email@example.com. Let us know your name and the name of your guest, your phone number, branch of service, years served and how you learned about the dinner. Reservations will be taken until April 8.
The Lansing Historical Society is now filled with exhibits again after the huge task of setting up trees for the annual Festival of Lights exhibit and then taking them all down. And after the two-month break of general meetings, the society is kicking off 2014 with a program on writing a memoir and interviewing older friends and relatives to record their memories.
Janette Quinn is based out of Wheaton, Ill., and offers memoir writing services and workshops. You can find more about her and read her blog at www.livingstories.us. The February meeting of the Lansing Historical Society is 6 p.m. Monday in the community room of the Lansing Public Library, 2750 Indiana Ave. Quinn will offer tips on writing your autobiography so the stories of your life can be shared with generations to come. She’ll also cover helping others to tell their stories so they can be shared and saved.
Last year as the society had a yearlong theme on World War II, we emphasized the need to preserve the stories of those who had fought in the war and those who supported them back home. As a society, we are constantly reminding visitors and members of the importance of putting your stories and memories on paper. The history learned by the next generation will depend on what we leave for them. As vice president, I’m responsible for setting up programs and this is one I am really excited about.
One of our historical society members, Mary Alice Sylvester, shared a book with me a couple of years ago. It was the story of her brother’s time spent in Iwo Jima during World War II. It was not written by him, but compiled by a family member he had shared stories with and he didn’t want the stories printed until after his death. The book, "Leo F. Carroll: World War II Experiences," is a short hard-bound book with some accompanying photos that Sylvester was kind enough to donate to the Lansing library. It is a quick and very interesting read and I’d encourage anyone with an interest in local history or World War II to take a look. I hope after our meeting on Monday, more people will consider sharing their life stories this way.
Lansing Roundball Classic celebrates community
This past week, I stopped over at Memorial Junior High to take a few pictures at the Lansing Roundball Classic Championship game. Well, it wasn’t a simple in and out for a few pictures. I got there just before halftime, but when I saw how close the game was and how intensely these kids were playing, I stuck around for the rest of the game, which was really exciting. The game was very close throughout the second half and just before the buzzer went off, the game tied at 14-14 and went into overtime. It ended with Oak Glen winning 22-15. The final contestants of the fifth-grade girls hot shot contest competed at halftime with St. Ann’s Paige Drewno taking the trophy.
This was the fifth year for this tournament, which highlighted the fifth-grade boys basketball teams at five public and private schools in Lansing. I’m always very impressed and touched to see so many people in the community working together to make it happen. So many family and friends and school staff come out to watch, community groups help out selling refreshments, basketball players from T.F. South and South Suburban College come out in support, the police cadets were there to help and the schools collect nonperishable food for the Lansing Food Pantry. All the proceeds also go to help a Lansing charity. It has been highly successful and a much needed event that helps to unite the community. Although so many work together to make it a success, I want to send a huge thank you to Rick Seymour and Sally Reynolds, who were the founders of the tournament and who organize and run it each year. We wouldn’t have this event without them.
Well, we have had a doozie of a winter. It’s been pretty lousy if you have had to drive in it or walk in it or shovel it. But, it is beautiful to look out your window and see falling snow and if you enjoy winter sports, it’s been a great season for it. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that the Midwest would have been a perfect spot for the Winter Olympics.
Our family recently took advantage of the wintery weather to visit Wilmot Mountain Ski Resort, just over the border in Wilmot, Wis. I wish I could say that I bravely and gracefully made my way down the slopes, but our trip was short and I have never been on skis in my life. Perhaps next winter I’ll give it a try as they do have private, semi-private and group lessons for the newbies. However, we did get to spend an afternoon of fun at the tubing hill at Wilmot Mountain.
The resort dates back to 1938 and was one of the first successful ski resorts in the Midwest and the first to create artificial snow. in 1952 the snow machines were introduced allowing visitors to ski even when Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. Lights were also added in the 1950s for night skiing. There are 25 unique runs for skiers or snowboarders.
The tubing hill was a blast. It is actually just down the road in a separate area dedicated to tubing. You’re able to go down individually or connect your tubes to go down in a big group and you can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. The 20 tubing lanes are 1,000 feet long and when you get to the end, there’s a conveyor system to return you and your tube to the top. The season goes into early March, so there’s still time to head up and check it out. For more information, visit www.wilmotmountain.com.
This is my favorite area to visit for an overnighter, no matter what time of year it is. Besides skiing, we went for a meal at a cute '50s style place, the Bristol 45 Diner, did some outlet shopping, stopped at the Jelly Belly Center and took a drive along the Lake Michigan shoreline, which looked really beautiful with all the snow and ice. I had to stop and take a few pictures. There are several wonderful museums and attractions in the area, some of which are free. They have some great public beaches with free, easily accessible parking.
A visit to Wisconsin is also never complete without a stop for some cheese. We ended our trip with dinner at the Brat Stop, just off Interstate 94 where we watched the Super Bowl while we enjoyed fried cheese curds and bratwurst. Then I stopped in the gift shop to pick up some cheese and knockwurst and this amazing pastry called the “Racine Kringle.” It was a quick trip, but a great way to enjoy the winter weather with my family
For more on fun activities in the Kenosha area, go to www.visitkenosha.com.
Starting on Thursday, the fifth annual Lansing Roundball Classic will take place at Memorial Junior High, 2721 Ridge Road in Lansing. It’s an event that has been helping to raise funds for local organizations and highlights the athletic ability of our village’s fifth-grade boys basketball teams.
“The tagline and theme is ‘Bringing the community together,’” said Rick Seymour, co-director of the tournament. “We have the public schools playing the private schools that they normally don’t get a chance to play against.” Five Lansing schools will participate in the tournament. Seymour and Lansing physical education teacher Sally Reynolds founded the tournament and have continued to organize it each year.
Not only does the event bring together students from various schools, but money brought in as admission goes to a Lansing charity. During each day of the tournament, canned items are also brought in to be donated to the Lansing Food Pantry. Numerous other groups within the community get involved by helping out at the concession stand during the games. It’s great to see something take place like this that does encompass so many different parts of the community and benefits so many.
Games begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Doors open a half hour before game time. On Saturday, the games begin at 11:30 a.m. A championship game and awards ceremony takes place at 6 p.m. Feb. 20. Admission for each day of the tournament is $1 for students, $2 for adults and $5 for a family.
On the night of the championship, nonperishable food items can be donated for the food pantry in lieu of the admission fee. Donations can also be taken at any time during the tournament. Seymour said the participating schools are also holding food drives in February and the school that collects the most food receives a plaque to be hung at the school. Oak Glen School was last year’s winner.
During half time at every game is a hot shot contest where girls from the fifth-grade basketball games compete by shooting from different points on the court.
The charity benefiting from the tournament has not yet been determined, but past recipients have included Meals on Wheels, the Lansing Food Pantry and LARC. “We try to look around and see where there’s the most need,” Seymour said. In the past four years, close to $10,000 has been raised.
A nice addition to the tournament is the assistance of the South Suburban College basketball team in working with the players during one of the days of the tournament. The team currently ranks as No. 3 in the country in their division among junior colleges. Seymour is grateful for the cooperation of SSC coach John Pigatti, who encourages his players to support the local communities.
“It’s a great weekend with the kids coming in and playing and the families coming in and it’s a great time. The mayor is a big supporter. We can’t do it without the volunteers we get — the youth center, the Lan-Oak Park District, the women’s club, the teacher’s union,” Seymour said. “It’s nice to see the community come together.”
What might Wally Rolniak be doing today in 2014 as compared to 2004? He might have a few gray hairs on his head from aging and raising teenage girls. He may be starting to think about retiring in the next decade from a long career as a police officer. Perhaps he’d be taking selfies with his grown daughters. He’d still be enjoying dinners out with his siblings and parents. It’s normal stuff that happens all the time with families in the region.
However, these are all things that won’t happen for the Rolniak family — not since his “end of watch” on Feb. 4, 2004. Detective Rolniak was doing the job he loved that day with the Riverdale Police Department. And in an instant that promising future of his was taken when he was forced from the police station by a suspect who was being questioned for attempted murder, home invasion and aggravated kidnapping and then shot execution style.
This week as it nears 10 years since Rolniak’s death, his family focuses not on how he died or what would have been, but what he meant to them in the time they had with him. His wife, Maureen, and daughters, Nicole, 24, and Denise, 22, talk about him often and remember all the fun times they had as a family.
Wally and Maureen married on Aug. 8, 1989 at St. Mary Church in Chicago. They’d met in high school and started dating after Wally was out of the service. He spent four years serving in the U.S. Air Force.
“He was a great husband and father. He always kept me on my toes. He made me and the girls laugh a lot and I miss that. Wally was always upbeat and acting silly,” Maureen said. “Anyone that knew him knew he was a family man. If he was not at work, we were together as a family. We have so many memories together from our Saturday night bowling league, which was also ‘date night’ for us.”
Maureen said that he enjoyed his role as “coach” and they spent many weekends out at the softball fields where his daughters played and he coached their teams. “We also spent a lot of time hanging out with friends and spending time with our families at family parties. Our lives have been changed forever. We miss him more with each day that passes.”
Dan Dempsey was Rolniak’s partner for several years and was a detective working with Rolniak the night he was killed. Dempsey also emphasized how dedicated Rolniak was to his family. “Wally was not only a great friend and partner but a man that spent every day talking about his wife, daughters, mom and dad, and sisters,” Dempsey said. “Family was the most important thing to Wally.”
I really feel for his family and can relate on some levels, although I couldn’t begin to know the feeling of their loss. The Rolniak family grew up in Dolton where I also grew up. His younger sister was a classmate of mine through elementary school and high school. Wally was the handsome big brother of my friend, Stacey. Like her, I was a little sister and I had handsome, big brothers that meant the world to me and who I looked up. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have them here and especially to lose a sibling in such a tragic and senseless way. I’ve also got a brother-in-law who served about three decades as a police officer in our hometown and there’s a constant concern for their safety when they do that job.
Rolniak’s wife and kids will spend what Maureen called “Wally’s 10th birthday in Heaven” with family and friends remembering the good times and celebrating the legacy Wally has left.
The public safety building in Riverdale bears Rolniak’s name and a memorial race is held each year at Balmoral Park Race Track in Crete in his honor. “There are many cars out there with his sticker on them to remember him as well,” Maureen said. “It's great knowing that Wally affected other peoples' lives as well and not just our lives.”
The Lansing Junior Woman’s Club, of which I am a member, has been busy lately. In December, the club collected new toy donations that members delivered just before Christmas to patients in the pediatric ward at Community Hospital to help brighten the day for some sick kids.
Last week the club held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser that was well attended. Club members made everything from scratch, including the sauce and meatballs and cannolli. Funds raised at the dinner will go towards the club’s fifth annual Veteran Appreciation Dinner.
Coming up on Saturday will be the Lansing Junior Woman’s Club’s Afternoon Delight Vendor Fair from 12:30 to 5 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 17800 Lorenz Ave. in Lansing. There will be more than 20 vendors, including Avon, Premier Jewelry and 31 gifts. Admission is $5, which will include appetizers, coffee and tea.
For more information on Juniors, visit their Facebook page. Upcoming projects include the annual Stay Safe Essay Contest and the fifth annual Veteran Appreciation Dinner in April.
Scouts to visit veterans home, seeking donations
Boy Scouts from Lansing Troop 276 along with the Calumet Detachment Marine Corps League will be hosting a Pre-Super Bowl party on Super Bowl Sunday at the Manteno Veterans Home, providing a meal and bringing donations for the residents.
They’re accepting donations of hard cover and paperback books, magazines, personal items and toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.) If you would like to donate, please contact Chuck Murach at (708) 895-0376, firstname.lastname@example.org or Dennis Kranc at (708) 203-5020, email@example.com. .
American Idol finalist returns to area
I’ve been watching "American Idol" on and off since season 4 and over all those years there are a few performances that I still remember well. There was Chikeze’s rendition of “She’s a A Woman” by the Beatles. There was “Grace Kelly” performed by Josiah Leming. Drew Poppelrieter was the cutest little country boy with this deep booming voice as he sang George Strait. Chris Medina, who is from the Chicago suburbs, sang The Script’s “Break Even” and had a touching backstory. Chris Daughtry blew me away singing “Hemorrhage.” Jason Castro’s version of “Hallelujah” is still my favorite version.
Of all the shows I watched, my very favorite was when Jon Bon Jovi visited to mentor the finalists during season 6. Bon Jovi gave the contestants great advice and everyone who sang in that show did a tremendous job. One of the best was Phil Stacey singing “Blaze of Glory.” It’s remained one of my all-time favorite performances on the show.
Last winter, Phil Stacey visited Lansing to do a performance at Bethel Christian Reformed Church, which I attended and enjoyed. He spends a lot of time touring these days and singing his original songs, many of them of the Christian music genre. During his concert he sang a song he’s written called “Old Glory,” which I absolutely loved. It was a heartfelt patriotic song written by the U.S. Navy veteran. I listen to it often.
I was excited to hear that Phil Stacey was going to be back in the area to perform. He’s been in the Chicago area for several days, performing at churches, schools and other venues in Chicago and several south suburban communities.
This past week, he was at Illiana Christian High School, Reavis High School and Thornridge High School along with several church concerts. This week he’ll be at Tinley Park High School, Bloom High School and Oak Forest High School. On Tuesday, you can see him sing at Kolas Christian Bookstore, 2635 Highway Ave. in Highland at 7 p.m. for a free will offering. The event is open to the public. For more information on Phil Stacey, visit www.philstacey.com.
As I’m sitting at my computer to type this week’s column, I have some background music playing. It’s not instrumental elevator music or today’s hits or smooth jazz.
Thanks to my dad, it’s a medley of waltzes by Johann Strauss. For my younger twin sisters and me, our early years were spent listening to nothing but classical music. As the years progressed, we’d sneak into our older sibling’s rooms to listen to rock music or listen to it while in the car with them. Occasionally, my mom would play country music.
I remember how excited we were to finally get our first 78 record that wasn’t something classical. I was about 9 years old. It was the Oak Ridge Boys. Not exactly hard what the other kids at school were listening to, but I’ve always appreciated being exposed to classical music by my parents and some days I think back to waking up to Vivaldi’s "Four Seasons," Handel’s "Messiah" or Beethoven’s "Fuer Elise" and I have to give it a listen.
And as my dad celebrated his 78th birthday this past week, I’ve been thinking about how much I have to thank him for. My first dancing was done on top of dad’s shoes with my ballerina dress on (to classical music, of course.) Each Sunday we watched "The Lone Ranger" together and at the end, he would bounce my sisters and me on his knee as the theme song — another classical tune, Rossini’s "William Tell Overture," played. And I can’t even begin to count how many rounds we’ve sang together over the years of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” either while watching Harry Caray on WGN or singing it with a crowd of about 30,000 when we’ve gone to Cubs games together at Wrigley Field. In recent years, we’ve gone to lots of concerts together — everything from Elvis, Rod Stewart and Beatles tribute artists to local holiday concerts to outdoor symphony performances in the summer months.
Most of my good times with dad are tied to music and baseball. The 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees were recently announced, which included two former Chicago players, Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux. Being a former Cubs player, Maddux is naturally one of dad’s favorite all-time pitchers. The third inductee wasn’t a former Cubs player, but someone I was happy to see inducted — Tom Glavine. He also sparks good memories with dad. My dad, son and I were at the Cubs game on my 35th birthday on Aug. 5, 2007 when the Cubs lost to the Mets and Tom Glavine got his 300th win. It was also the game where Kerry Wood returned to the mound after more than a year on the disabled list. It was quite an exciting night.
I have dad to thank for bringing me up as a Chicago Cubs fan and instilling this love of the game in me. Although he grew up in Central Illinois where he was surrounded by St. Louis Cardinal’s fans, he became a Cubs fan himself while he listened to the Chicago Cubs play in the 1945 World Series on the radio.
There’s more that I learned from him, directly or indirectly. When we were kids, we also had a huge dictionary on a wooden podium in the corner of our living room and whenever we came across a word we didn’t recognize, he’d send us to the podium to look it up. He taught me to be inquisitive and how big an impact a simple word can have. He sometimes sends me emails with a new “word of the day” and he’s fascinated to still learn a new word he has never heard. I learned from him to love flowers and birds and how to make a good pitcher of iced tea. So many little bits of my life are due to his influence.
I started typing this while listening to music that dad introduced me to. As I am finishing it up, dad is on my living room sofa watching "Jeopardy." I can hear him answering the questions, getting most of them correct. He knew I haven’t been feeling good this week and he made potato soup for me and brought some by. Being thoughtful is another thing he’s always demonstrated. He never forgets a birthday or an anniversary. And his birthday is definitely something I remember. So, thanks to a great dad who has taught me about music and baseball and the English language and "Jeopardy" questions and potato soup and iced tea. Happy birthday!
Over the past couple of years, the Lansing Library has offered a nice service in their Friday night free concerts. The Friends of the Lansing Library’s fundraising efforts make the concerts possible.
My dad and I have enjoyed attending the concerts together and there has been great variety in the genres included. In the past we’ve been to shows that have included big band, Word War II-era music, bluegrass, Celtic music and more. The series started last week and here is the rest of the lineup:
Feb. 7 Teflons: The Teflons perform country, doo-wop, swing, Hawaiian and rare originals from three powerful-voiced females and one male.
March 7 The Limitations: Classic Rockabilly hits mainly from Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Stray Cats, Carl Perkins and more from a memorable era in music.
April 4 Chicago Cossacks: Russian Music & More: The group performs Ukranian, Cossack, Jewish, Russian Roma (Gypsy), American oldies, classical music, Italian, French, German, Latina and other world music and songs.
All concerts start at 6:30 p.m. and doors open at 6.
If you haven’t utilized the library recently, you may be surprised at all that you can do there, from story times to book discussions to programming for kids and teens. Technology workshops are also offered if you need help learning Word or Excel or other programs. There are classes to help you understand Cloud storage. You can even make an appointment with a librarian for a one-on-one session to learn how to use library resources or get individual technology instruction. You can make an appointment by phone or online at www.lansingpl.org.
Available topics for one-on-one appointments are:
Accelerated Reader (AR) Book Help
Adult Readers’ Advisory and NoveList Antiques: Trash or Treasure?
Bilingual Assistance for Spanish Speakers
Computer Assistance by Appointment
eReader Help by Appointment
Email accounts on gmail.com
Excel 2007 Introduction
Genealogy and Family History
Magazine Articles: Find them with EbscoHost
PowerPoint 2007 Introduction
Publisher 2007 Introduction
Teen Readers’ Advisory
Travel Information at Your Fingertips
Word 2007 Introduction
Youth Readers’ Advisory
Recent cold weather could have been worse
When we get extreme weather in Chicago, I always like to research weather in year’s past to compare the highs and lows and snowfall and rainfall. This year started off with snow and extreme cold, which don’t always go hand in hand. Although the past week's temperatures along with the snowfall were brutal, imagine dealing with them a century ago. We’re fortunate that in these modern times we have well insulated, well-heated homes and vehicles and mechanical equipment for snow removal.
Here’s a few things I learned from scanning the stats on the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- The longest continuous period below freezing in Chicago was 43 days from December 1976 to Feb. 8, 1977.
- Although the two longest periods below freezing were in the '70s and '80s, the next three happened more than 100 years ago: 29 days in 1878; 79 days in 1895 and 28 days in 1905.
- Since the Chicago temperatures have been recorded by the NOAA, there have been six winters with no days below zero and the most recent year was 2012.
- Monday was one of the eight days that the low temperature in Chicago was minus 16 degrees. All eight of those days have occurred in January.
We are also lucky that our cold snap was fairly short. In 1912, Chicago saw 10 consecutive days with minimum temperatures below zero, the longest recorded stretch.
The past couple of years I have followed Facebook pages and blogs dedicated to doing random acts of kindness each day. I enjoy reading what these people are doing to brighten the days of others and how they’ve helped in ways both big and small to do good things.
Sometimes the acts were as simple as holding a door for someone or making dinner so their spouse didn’t have to do it. And other days there were more elaborate, involved or expensive gestures, like sending a game system to a sick child or helping to raise money for various causes or giving flowers to a co-worker or leaving generous tips for waitresses or changing a flat tire. I enjoy reading each one and look forward to the next day to see what’s next. It’s feelgood entertainment and it is inspiring.
This past fall, I thought I’d try and share some of the good deeds done by people in town every day and I started the “Lansing Acts of Kindness” Facebook page. In the description, I put “to challenge the people of Lansing to do 100 kind acts by the end of 2013.”
Imagine if everyone in Lansing made a new year’s resolution to go out of their way to do a kind act for someone just once a week, so much good could be done. And acts like this are contagious. Doing good things makes you feel good and others want to get in on it. Or those who are recipients of the kind acts choose to pay it forward and do the same for someone else.
Here are a few of the kind acts that were shared on the site over the past couple of months:
“Today we went to South Holland to Holland Home and sang carols to the residents. There were over 20 kids that went dressed as elves and they did Awesome!!!”
“I gave a lady my cart at Aldi today and didn't take her quarter.”
“Had a 15 minute conversation with a homeless person. Her response, ‘Thank you for treating me like a human being.’"
“Took a surprise lunch to a friend.”
“Wednesday I bought a hungry homeless couple some warm food in the evening.”
“I helped my elderly neighbor pick up all her leaves. I would have usually had my kids help her, but because of this site I wanted to give back. It's very rewarding!”
“My class has collected new pajama sets for kids in orphanages through the Scholastic Great Bedtime Story Pajama Drive! With each pajama set they will also be receiving a new book and story time.”
I know that these posts are just a sampling of the good deeds being done. I saw overflowing boxes for toy drives at the holidays, stacks of canned foods to go to the food pantry and people dropping spare change as they passed the red Salvation Army kettles.
Now that the goal was passed and there are over 200 likes on the page, it’s time to set a new goal: 365 kind acts for 2014. Please continue to share the kind acts you are doing, are witnessing or that people are doing for you. I look forward to hearing about the good things being done in our town and being inspired by your kindness.
While many of us spent our holiday feasting on an abundance of food, the sad reality is that many individuals and families have trouble putting food on the table throughout the year. Those in Lansing are fortunate to have two organizations that are run and operated entirely by volunteers to help feed those in our community. And while donations are often at their peak around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, not far into the new year the supplies are dwindling and donations are fewer, so please keep the Lansing Food Pantry and Meals on Wheels in mind in 2014.
Both programs are supported entirely by the community and do not operate on any government funds. All donations stay in the Lansing community. It’s neighbors helping neighbors, something that has always been a priority in Lansing.
The Lansing Food Pantry has existed for more than 30 years and it supplies food for those in need in Lansing and is open once a week for food pick-ups, but volunteers work throughout the week ensuring that food is on the shelves for those who need it. Donations of nonperishable food and toiletry items can be dropped off from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays or by appointment by calling (708) 895-3807. Monetary donations can also be made to help the volunteers purchase needed items.
It was great to also see the community support when the pantry was recently in need of a replacement van. A total of $17,000 in donations came in to purchase a van for use by the pantry when donations need to be picked up to distribute.
Meals on Wheels was started many years ago at the urging of Don Jenkins, who was a member of First United Methodist Church and a manager at Burger’s supermarket (which is now Strack and Van Til in Munster.) It continues today, still operated out of a basement kitchen at the church serving approximately 70 individuals a week.
A recent review of finances showed they would have to bring in more money to continue the program and starting in January the cost will go up from $3 a meal to $4 a meal and milk will no longer be provided. So it will now cost recipients $8 a week for the meals that are prepared and delivered by volunteers on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Unfortunately, there are seniors depending on those meals who aren’t able to pay that amount and Meals on Wheels has been reaching out to the village’s service organization to ask for help providing meals to those who can’t pay. “Out of those 70 there are probably about 20 who aren’t able to pay, but we’re not going to cut them out. We truly have some seniors who just can’t afford to pay, but are still deserving of a hot meal,” said JoAnn Kijewski, who is the co-coordinator of the program. The number of those served also fluctuates as there are those who receive meals temporarily when they may be recovering from a surgery or illness.
Individuals in town are also welcome to sponsor some of those who need the meals but are unable to pay and you know that your donation will go directly to help someone in the village with no administrative costs. A $32 donation will feed someone for a month. A total of $192 would sponsor someone for six months and $384 would provide the twice weekly hot meals for a year. If you’d like to donate, checks can be made out to Meals on Wheels and sent to: First United Methodist Church, 18420 Burnham Ave., Lansing, Ill. 60438.
If you’re unable to make a financial donation, but would like to help in other ways, Meals on Wheels is always in need of volunteers, who buy food, prepare meals, bake desserts or deliver meals. If you’d like to volunteer or are in need of services, call JoAnn at (708) 474-4583 or Elaine at (708) 474-8276.
I was disappointed this week to hear about the closing of Popolano’s Restaurant in Lansing. The longtime restaurant will close it’s doors after Jan. 1. Ever since word got out they would soon close, the parking lot seems to be packed and I am seeing posts from friends on Facebook that they’ve gone to enjoy a last meal or to pick up a final pizza.
Losing a place like Popolano’s hurts not just because it will be an empty building in town, but because it was a part of the town for so long. It’s where families have gathered after sporting events at the high school or to celebrate a graduation. I’ve been there many, many times over the years — for dinners with my former co-workers, for dates with my husband, for lunch with my dad or my sister-in-law, for a special dinner out with one of the boys for some one-on-one time. Each winter the kids looked forward to going there to use their free pizza coupon that came in the goodie bag from Santa or going there in the summer after they got a pizza certificate at the end of the school year for advancing to the next grade. I’ve been there for meetings and banquets for different clubs and social organizations over the years. We held a shower there for my sister when she got married.
In a day and age when so many dining establishments in our area are run by chains, rather than by families, it’s a shame to see another mom and pop place close it’s doors. I’ll miss the soup. And the rolls. And the tiramisu. And the atmosphere. And the comfort of knowing that one of the few family-run restaurants in the area was just a few blocks away.
T.F. South History Club donates $800 for veteran dinner
I was so pleased recently to learn that the T.F. South High School History Club, sponsored by Chris Roberts, had taken donations to go to a veterans cause. Roberts said that each year, the club takes donations around Veterans Day from the students.
This year, it was decided to use that money locally and donate it to the LCPL Philip J. Martini Memorial Fund, which in turn is donating it to the Lansing Junior Women’s Club. I’ve been a longtime member of the club and five years ago we started an annual dinner to thank our veterans for their service. It’s an evening where veterans and a guest are treated to dinner, dessert, entertainment and a free raffle and told “thank you” numerous times. That’s where the money will go.
Roberts said that when students learned that Martini was a T.F. South graduate, they were very generous and $800 was collected in just four days. Thanks to the kids for the generosity and Roberts for coordinating it and to all the vets and current military personnel (that includes my two nephews, Jeff and James Dubish, for serving.
Last Sunday, I helped out with the Lansing Association for Community Events' first Christmas home tour. My first stop was the Lansing Country Club, where I stopped for brunch before heading to my post. The LCC was also one of the seven stops on the tour and is decorated beautifully and brunch was great — a big buffet with custom omelet station.
I spent my afternoon as a greeter at the Albrecht home, which blew me away. Every room in the house was decked out in holiday decor, including the bathrooms, bedrooms, library, kitchen and sunroom. There were several trees throughout the house and it was such a festive place to be as the snow was falling outside.
I did squeeze in time to stop by the other homes on the tour: the Hamblin house, which included a massive tree in the music room, the unique log cabin home of the Eidams that made you feel like you were celebrating Christmas up in the North Woods and the McCall house, which as a real tree person, I was totally delighted with since they have a 10-foot freshly cut tree in their home with thousands of lights on it. Each home had beautiful decor and it was great of the owners to welcome everyone in.
I didn’t have time to make it to the final two destinations on the tour, but I’ve been to both locations this season and you can visit each without being on the tour — Water’s Edge Garden, Gift and Pond Center, 18418 Wentworth Ave., which is loaded with festive decor and ornaments galore. The Lansing Historical Museum was also a stop and if you haven’t stopped in to see the Festival of Lights exhibit, be sure to do so. Museum curator Barb Dust and her team have done a wonderful job of preparing about 30 trees from a variety of countries, cultures and community groups. The event was well attended and I can’t wait to see what new places are on the tour the next time around.
Classic story at Theatre at the Center is delightful
I recently went with my son and a friend to see “A Christmas Carol: The Musical” at Theatre at the Center in Munster. Every time I go there to see a performance, I walk away stunned at how professional the shows are and extremely impressed by the actors. This one was no exception. A musical version of the Charles Dickens classic, it is a wonderful feel-good show that will put you in the proper Christmas mood. My 10-year-old, who was reluctant to tag along at first, declared at the end, “that was pretty awesome!” The show runs through Dec. 22.
Drop off toy donations for kids with cancer
Last year Dan Dempsey, of Highland, who has a son with cancer, decided to ask around for toy donations for the children’s hospital where his son was treated. He wanted the pediatric patients to pick out a toy to take their mind off of their illness or provide a little entertainment.
It was called the “No One Fights Alone” Toy Drive. Word spread and soon there were numerous drop off locations in Northwest Indiana and toy donations pouring in. I asked then-Lansing Village Clerk Patty Eidam if the Village Hall could be a drop-off location and she was happy to help. At the Lansing drop-off location alone, there were more than 2,000 toys dropped off and $2,700 in gift cards.
This year, Dempsey decided to continue the toy drive and is asking for toy donations for kids up to age 12 and also gift cards for the older patients. You can drop donations off at the Lansing Municipal Center, 3141 Ridge Road, through Tuesday.
The Christmas season is in full swing now. I think our late Thanksgiving threw things off a little because we usually don’t do any decorating on Thanksgiving weekend and it’s normally the first Saturday in December that we go and pick out a real tree. I’m big on holiday traditions and our routine of going to get our tree ended up getting rearranged this year and taken care of a week early, but all turned out well.
I realized that our usual tree spot on Main Street — kind of where Munster and Highland and Schererville all meet — didn’t have any trees. It was quite a disappointment. We’d gotten into the habit of going there to pick out our real tree and then driving a few blocks down Indianapolis Boulevard to have dinner together at Texas Corral in Highland. It’s perfect for a family outing. The food is good, but not too expensive. You get big portions. And the kids are thoroughly entertained by the jukebox and the peanuts — scooping the shells into big mounds, competing with each other to see who can eat more and getting to drop the shells wherever they wish without being told to clean it up. I admit, I had a hard time with it the first couple of times we went there. I remember snapping at one of the boys, “Just because you’re allowed to make a mess here, doesn’t mean you have to.” I’ve lightened up and go with the flow and accept the sound of peanut shells crunching under my feet.
There really aren’t too many times during the year that all seven of us go out to dinner together. With that many people, it gets pricey and is a rare treat usually reserved for when we are traveling. Also, I like to spend some one-on-one time with each of the boys each month and I’m more likely to take one of them to their favorite restaurant alone than to have everyone tag along. My oldest son is often working when we plan an outing, too, so sometimes we have six out of seven. But when we get our tree, it’s always all seven of us.
When we realized we’d need to find a new place to get our tree, we figured we might as well find a different place to eat. Hubby was eyeing an ad in the newspaper for the Bennett-Curtis House, an 18-room mansion in Grant Park, Ill., that has been converted into a restaurant and wedding venue. It’s been on my restaurant bucket list for years as I’ve read about their murder mystery dinners, which sound like so much fun.
When I looked at the menu and found that there were no kid options, I resisted going, but my husband was really looking forward to it. He pointed out it was a once-a-year thing and the boys might like dressing up and going somewhere they’d have to act like gentlemen. I gave in and I’m so glad I did. Next thing I knew, the boys were all dressed in suits and ties and ready to go off on our excursion.
I cringed at the thought of ordering a $21 steak for an 8-year-old, but the kids are such carnivores that nothing went to waste. A little bit of unfinished food was lunch the following day.
They all behaved nicely and we were entertained by the music being played by the DJ for the wedding in an adjoining room. The place was decorated beautifully for the holidays inside and out.
So, we had a nice dinner, but still no tree. We considered buying one at a local store, but they all wanted the experience of wandering around a big lot and making their pick. At the suggestion of a friend, we made our way out to Peotone to Bengtson’s U-Pick Tree Farm. While I often insist on my favorite variety, the Frasier Fir, there were none. So, I just sat back while the boys made their selection. I often accuse my husband of picking out a “Griswold” tree. If you have seen Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold in "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation," you’ll recall the monstrous tree he picked that barely fit in the house. That has been us a few times. This year, they got one that was a reasonable height, but they were all very big around. This one takes up twice the room as our previous trees, but it is beautiful. We carried on our tradition of playing Christmas music that night and decorating the tree together and everything fell into place. Things went so nicely, in fact, that it may be the start of a new tradition.
The holiday season is here and I’m typing up my column in the midst of turkey and stuffing and pie and much good spirit surrounded by family. Thanksgiving is a once a year deal where the world seems to slow and the most important thing is gathering around the table with those you love. Everything feels right in the world.
While Christmas is a joyful holiday of magic, Thanksgiving is the more subdued day that begins the season of giving. It really isn’t possible to sustain the emotions, goodwill and abundance of food that occur that day and it’s the rarity of it that makes it so special.
However, there are pieces of the day that we can and should carry on throughout the year. Beyond the theme of giving and sharing one’s good fortune, there are three things that, to me, go along with Thanksgiving that are best repeated at random or brought into our living philosophies.
The first is gratitude. Thanksgiving is also about giving thanks. It’s about feeling grateful for what you have, rather than feeling unfulfilled over what you don’t have. Get a journal and write down things you are thankful for each day. My mom gave me a gratitude journal years ago and when I started taking the time to take notice of all I had to be grateful for, it really changed the way I looked at everything and everyone around me.
Next is appreciation. It may sound similar to gratitude, but it’s really quite different. In addition to being grateful for what you have, you need to truly appreciate it. That means realizing the value in something or someone and not taking things or individuals for granted. You can be glad you have people in your lives, but you also need to go deeper and see them for how they enrich your life. You need to skim past the imperfections and recognize what makes them unique and so important to you.
Kindness is the last virtue that I believe is essential to carry on for us to be happy. It means smiling. It means being genuinely interested when you listen to someone speak. It means doing meaningful gestures that will brighten someone’s day or make a difference in someone else’s life. It means being thoughtful of those you know and reaching out to those you don’t know.
I’m a frequent user of Facebook for both personal and work use and it’s a tool that can enable individuals and groups to do such good, but it can also be misused easily and negativity can spread like wildfire. Sometimes pages that are intended for one purpose become a platform for venting and ranting and complaints unrelated to the actual topic.
I thought it would be nice to create a page that would spread only the good and started a Facebook page for the community called “Lansing Acts of Kindness.” I created it last month with the description being “to challenge the people of Lansing to do 100 kind acts by the end of the year.”
There are close to 200 likes on the page and I’m posting the kind acts that are shared by others, or that I do or that I observe or hear about — more than 70 so far. I also post inspiring stories, photos and videos that I come across and also opportunities to donate or contribute to charities and good causes. If you are on Facebook, feel free to join in or stop by to see all the kind acts being done in your community. And if you want your kind act to be shared anonymously, just send it as a message.
Naturally, when I started the page I got some negative feedback. I got comments that kind acts should be done privately and you shouldn’t tell others about them. While I can understand that line of thinking, I also believe that goodness can spread quickly and reading about other kind acts can inspire each of us to do more of our own. My mom, who is never short on great advice, has always encouraged me to compliment others and perpetuate the positive. “If you think they look pretty, tell them. If you love their outfit, let them know,” she’d say. I agree with Mom. Why keep the good stuff to yourself? I wish you all a great holiday season and beyond full of gratitude, appreciation and kindness.
Monday is one of the highlights of the year at the Lansing Historical Museum. The museum will open its annual Festival of Lights exhibit following the Lansing Historical Society’s November meeting at 6 p.m. and a holiday performance by the Wolffgang Choir from Hobart High School. The event is free and open to the public.
The exhibit is a smaller scale version of the exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, which features decorated trees representing a variety of countries, cultures and themes. A dedicated group of volunteers clears out the museum, sets up the trees and decorates. Some of the volunteers come form the Lansing Golden Ks and others are members of the Lansing Historical Society under the direction of curator Barbara Dust. About 30 different trees and scenes make up this year’s exhibit.
The volunteers do a tremendous job of taking you on a journey around the world to get a glimpse into holiday customs around the globe, everywhere from Ireland to the Phillipines to our own backyard. The exhibit continues until the end of December.
Hours are expanded during the Festival of Lights exhibit and trees can be viewed from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. The museum is located in the lower level of the Lansing Public Library at School Street and Indiana Avenue in Lansing. Tours for groups are available. For more information, call (708) 474-7497.
The museum will be one of seven stops on the first Christmas Home Tour sponsored by the Lansing Association for Community Events from noon to 5 p.m., Dec. 8. The tour includes four Lansing homes, the Lansing Country Club, Lansing Historical Museum and Water’s Edge, Gift, Garden and Pond Center. During the five-hour period, ticket holders can visit any of the locations, in any order they wish.
Tickets for the walk are $17 if purchased in advance by Dec. 1. After that, tickets are $20. Tickets are available from LACE board members, Water’s Edge, the Lansing Country Club and the Lansing Public Library. Your ticket includes a free gift, appetizers and one cocktail at Water’s Edge. A brunch will also be available at the Lansing Country Club that day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $12, which includes tax and tip. For more information on the walk, call (708) 646-5606.
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Express lunch, all you can eat buffet, and create your own pasta all at Ciao Bella Ristorante.Click here for more details!!
Express lunch 11am - 2:30pm $9.95;
Details to be announced soon!
Briar Ridge Country Club of Schererville, IN offers 27 of the region's most meticulously maintained and beautifully situated golf holes.
Featuring 27 of the region’s most meticulously maintained and …
Hammond Fence represents honesty, integrity and competitive pricing!
Winter Storms have the Potential to damage trees which can Dis…
Do you expect the former Sheraton Hotel in Gary to be demolished by the end of the year?