Man is charged in shooting at Evergreen Cemetery

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

elston stevenson photo 11-30

Elston Stevenson

A man was charged with the Nov. 22 shooting at the Evergreen Park gravesite of a man who was killed in Palos Heights two days earlier.

Evergreen Park police said officers responded to a report of shots fired at 2:50 p.m. at Evergreen Cemetery, 3401 W. 87th St., during a graveside service for Marud Talib, 39. Talib had been fatally shot on Nov. 20 at his home in the 7300 block of Ishnala Drive in Palos Heights.

That case remains under investigation.

No one was injured in the shooting at the cemetery, where about 20 people were attending the funeral service.

Police said Elston T. Stevenson, 56, of the 13000 block of South Corliss Avenue in south suburban Burnham, was arrested as he was leaving the scene. He allegedly fired once at the grave, saying, “You deserved it,” according to prosecutors at his bail hearing last Thursday.

A .32-caliber revolver loaded with four rounds and one spent shell was also recovered. Another man who was with Stevenson was also taken into custody, but was later released without charges.

Stevenson, who police described as a multiple felon, faces charges of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and aggravated discharge of a weapon. As of Tuesday, Stevenson was being held in Cook County Jail on $50,000 bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 20, according to information on the Cook County Sheriff’s Office website.

Talib was shot multiple times at his home by an unknown assailant about 5 p.m. Nov. 20. The shooter escaped in a car, and Talib was taken by ambulance to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he died about an hour later. His death was ruled a homicide by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, the first in Palos Heights in several decades.

“We’re making some very good progress on the investigation,” said Palos Heights Deputy Chief Bill Czajkowski. He said that while the shooting in Evergreen Park is related to the murder in Palos Heights, Stevenson is not suspected of involvement in the original homicide.

“It is all part of an ongoing dispute,” he said.

“There are people of interest who have been identified, but it is too early to say more than that,” said Czajkowski.

“The video evidence we received from neighbors’ surveillance cameras, as well as from red-light cameras, was very helpful,” he said.

The South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force and Cook County State's Attorney's Office are assisting with the investigation.

Senior housing plans moving forward at old Sabre Room site

  • Written by Joe Boyle


sabre room sign photo 11-30

Photo by Joe Boyle

The only remaining reminder of the old Sabre Room is the sign that can still be seen prominently along 95th Street in Hickory Hills. The once iconic entertainment center was torn down this past spring to make room for development that will feature senior housing.

Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley said that not a day goes by that the city does not hear from a caller inquiring about the future of the old Sabre Room site.

“We receive calls all the time,” Howley said. “They just want to hear an update. The senior community from Hickory Hills is very excited. They are looking forward to this. But some agreements have to be reached with different agencies.”

An agreement was reached with the Koziarz Group, owners of the property, during a Hickory Hills City Council meeting this past spring. The approved ordinance includes a planned unit development (PUD) proposal that would take in the site of the old Sabre Room, 8900 W. 95th St., Hickory Hills. The once iconic center was the site of wedding receptions and noted performers who took the stage there, including Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The Sabre Room closed last year and the building was demolished during the spring.

The approved special use for PUD, which is located in a R-4 Single Family Residence District and C-3 Highway Commercial District, will allow a combination of commercial and residential uses, including retail stores, independent and assisted living apartments, senior apartments, senior single-family ranch homes, and property that may be donated to the city for use as a public library or other public purposes.

Howley was one of the officials that met with the Koziarz Group, Retown, the development manager; and Chicagoland Realty, marketing and sales, to review the numerous plans that have been presented to the city.

The ordinance was approved after a delay due to zoning issues, water supply and sewage discharge limitations and traffic flow regulations. Surrounded by residential neighborhoods, the Sabre Woods property is about 30 acres, anchoring the city’s west edge along 95th Street. The master plan capitalizes on the rolling land contours and the elevated views. The natural resources are abundant including wetlands and woodlands that will be carefully interconnected with the new building areas, according to the developers.

“We want to move forward with development on this site, but we want to abide by what our zoning board has recommended,” Howley said at the time.

In reviewing the document that Howley had distributed, both council members and staff, raised a number of questions and concerns on density levels, setbacks and width of streets proposed.

Howley met with the developers last week to go over some of the issues. The Hickory Hills mayor said the developers have to come to agreements with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District regarding retention ponds and water flow. Other issues ranging from electrical and street renovations have to be made.

“They need to just get certain services developed,” Howley said. “We have residential agreements for six to eight single-family homes. Any other residential use after that is for ages 55 and over. We just don’t want to put more burden on our school districts. They have a lot of kids going to these schools now and we have to think about them.”

Along with Schools Districts 117 and 230, Howley said that 70 to 75 percent of all real estate has to be set aside for senior housing, according to the agreement.

“They are moving forward,” Howley said about the developers. “They have to contact the MWRD and the Army Corps of Engineers. There is still a lot of planning ahead.”

Former Ald. Tom McAvoy added that plans have to be made because of the terrain.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that this is not flat land,” said McAvoy. “There are a lot of hills and variations along this property. Water lines and drainage have to be considered. They also have to apply for city permits. Everyone is anxious but it takes time.”

Howley believes once the paperwork is done, the actual plans can begin.

“They have been working hard to get this done,” Howley said. “They are in earnest in providing senior housing. They reached out to us and we will get it done.


Mayor Sexton details new community center in 'State of the Village' address

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins


Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton had encouraging news for residents and cited new businesses, solid financial standing and potential new restaurants when he delivered his 17th "State of the Village" address.

But he saved the best news until last.

“Let’s look at the future,” said Sexton, speaking at the Evergreen Park Seniors Luncheon at the Senior Center last Thursday. “I am very excited about what is coming. We are going to build a new community center, approximately 10,000 square feet larger than the current facility,” he said, excitedly. “It will be twice the size of what we have now.”

The current center is located at 3450 W. 97th St. The new building will be set back further from the street at 3443 W. Clark St. Sexton said it will provide additional daycare space for various age groups in the youth wing and plenty of room for other youth activities.

Construction is expected to start in January or February with an anticipated completion date in November 2018. Sexton said the current building will continue to be used until the new center is completed and occupied.

“There may be some bumps in the road along the way, but I think you all deserve this; our seniors and our young people,” he said. “It is a win-win for all of us.”

He stated that the funding for the new center is coming from state money and sales tax revenue.

“It will not be coming out of taxpayer’s money.”

Architect for the project is Craig A. Podlak, who also designed the senior center, the village’s fire station and the village hall. Sexton said the senior center will remain open.

As he mentioned the new businesses opening up at the new Plaza, Sexton gave a huge shout-out to TJ Maxx for its donation of $10,000 to the village food pantry.

“That is being a good neighbor,” said Sexton.

On a more somber note, Sexton said there has been a rash of car-jackings recently.

“Do not leave your car running to warm it up,” he told the seniors. “It is better to have a cold car, than no car.”

He also praised the village’s police department for its national record on its three-minute response time.

“Don’t be afraid to call 911. If you have a problem, or you see something going on that doesn’t look right, call the police. Our police are there to help you. They can do vacation watches and funeral and wake watches. Just call them,” Sexton said.

Durkin getting hit from multiple sides

  • Written by Rich Miller


Operating Engineers Union Local 150 is making good on its threat to back a Republican primary opponent against House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.

The union local’s president, Jim Sweeney, told me he had about a dozen members in Durkin’s district passing nominating petitions for Burr Ridge Mayor Mickey Straub a couple of weekends ago. Straub is running against Durkin as a Republican. Sweeney said he expected to double that number the following weekend.

Challenging a legislative leader in a primary is just not done. But these are not normal times.

Local 150 led the fight against Bruce Rauner in the 2014 Republican primary and then backed a Libertarian Party candidate against him that fall.

The union’s leadership has fumed as Rauner has pushed his anti-union agenda, and now wants some payback on Durkin for helping to kill their bill to ban the creation of “right to work” zones by local governments. The governor vetoed the bill and the union tried twice to override Rauner without success, mainly because Durkin was able to keep his caucus together.

Since the union blames Durkin, they’ll ally themselves with anybody, including Republican activist Dan Proft, if they have to. Proft is backing Straub against Durkin, who he claims isn’t fit to be Leader. But Proft is not exactly known for being a big union supporter.

In fact, according to the Daily Law Bulletin, Proft co-founded the Liberty Justice Center, which, irony of ironies, is representing Lincolnshire against a lawsuit backed by Local 150 over the village’s creation of a local right to work zone – the very event that Local 150’s vetoed bill tried to outlaw. Don’t even try to wrap your mind around all that. You'll go nuts. This fight is beyond ideology. Sweeney and Proft have a common cause -- messing with Durkin - and they’re sticking with that.

Leader Durkin, for his part, took the diplomatic high road, releasing a statement saying, “Our caucus has worked with Local 150 in the past and will continue to work with them, where we can, in the future.”

And, indeed, Local 150 recently sent a mailer praising Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) for her vote to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the union’s right to work zone ban.

But you gotta figure Leader Durkin had to be gritting his teeth when he approved that statement. A primary race is a lot like a family fight. And even though Local 150 has a ton of Republican members and has supported Republican candidates in the past, its involvement is undoubtedly seen as outside meddling. The fact that Sweeney lives in Speaker Madigan’s district probably doesn’t help matters much.

The race is already starting to heat up. One of Proft’s newspapers, the West Cook News, published a story a few days ago about Durkin’s law practice, connecting the Leader’s bond work for the City of Berwyn to legislation allowing local governments to tie bond payments directly to revenue they receive from the state. Durkin voted for the securitization legislation, which just recently helped the City of Chicago obtain a “AAA” credit rating on a bond sale. Critics contend the law will allow municipal governments to more easily go into ever-deeper debt and the paper ran a quote from someone calling Durkin’s vote a “horrible conflict of interest.”

The same publication ran another story about a Republican congressional candidate making fun of Durkin’s bill to set up a statewide sexual harassment hotline. “What does it say about Rep. Durkin and his colleagues whom he supposedly leads when he all but admits that an anonymous hotline is required?” said Jeffrey Leef, a River Forest radiologist who is running against U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and has supported a universal annual base salary of $30-40,000 (yes, you read that right). “The only submission that Jim Durkin should be making is my order of french fries when he takes his more-appropriate job of cashier at McDonald's.” Classy.

I’m thinking we’ll see more stuff like that, and not just in obscure publications, but in mailers and other advertising. A fundraising e-mail from September claims the Illinois Policy Institute’s John Tillman, along with the Illinois Opportunity Project’s Proft, Pat Hughes and Matt Besler had already raised $25 million toward a $30 million goal to elect “a ‘Reform Slate’ of candidates to run in House elections across the state to pick up the nine seats Republicans need to gain control of the House and depose Madigan once and for all.” They haven’t yet reported receiving that cash, however.

 Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and

Local Knights of Columbus provide meal for blind veterans

  • Written by Joe Boyle

knights of columbus 1-23 photo

Photo by Joe Boyle

The Knights of Columbus members (from left) Bob Speck, Ralph Villalovos and Mike Kenny enjoy the music before preparing food for blind veterans who arrived from Hines VA Hospital Sunday afternoon at the Jonathan Collins Activity Center at St. Gerald Parish in Oak Lawn.

John Goetz recalls going bowling with a friend on Chicago's South Side when it was suggested to him that he join the Knights of Columbus.

"I thought about it and said OK," Goetz said. "I thought I could help people out. That’s how I got started.”

That was back in 1961 and Goetz, 89, has held a variety of officer positions for the Knights of Columbus since, including a grand knight. He is currently the director for the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Fatima Council 534 that meets at St. Gerald Parish in Oak Lawn.

Goetz is an Oak Lawn resident who has been a member of St. Gerald Parish since 1970. The organization has been involved in a variety of activities, but Goetz is most proud of the fact that they provide a Thanksgiving meal for blind veterans.

The Knights hosted the veterans on Sunday afternoon at the Jonathan Collins Activity Center at the parish. The veterans arrive at the parish by bus and are helped off and into the center by members of the Knights.

The veterans were given a chance to speak and many of them were from all over the Midwest. One veteran came from Red Wing, Minn., while another said that Minneapolis was home. Other veterans talked about their hometowns in Iowa, Green Bay and the South Side of Chicago. A World War II veteran from Watervliet, Iowa thanked the organization for having him over for a Thanksgiving meal.

Singer Roxanne Anzelone, who has appeared for several years at the annual event, entertained the veterans and members of the Knights of Columbus.

“I think it is nice because it is interesting to talk to these veterans,” said Bob Speck, a Burbank resident who has been a member of the Knights for three years. “It’s a great day and I think they really enjoy themselves.”

Ralph Villalovos, a Worth resident who has been a member for 17 years, is in complete agreement.

“We are like family here,” Villalovos said. “These are great guys here and I think the veterans who come here have a good time.”

Mike Kenny, also a Burbank resident, has been a member of this chapter for a year and said it is a great outfit.

“We have fun and the Knights of Columbus do a lot,” Kenny said.

The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded by the Rev. Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Conn. in 1882, it was named in honor of the explorer Christopher Columbus.

Goetz said the Knights have been providing Thanksgiving meals for blind veterans for 40 years. This is the third year the veterans have been served meals at St. Gerald. The local Knights also once had halls in Burbank and on 95th Street in Oak Lawn.

The veterans who arrive for Thanksgiving dinner are not all completely blind. Some veterans are missing some limbs from combat. The majority of the veteran that were on hand were enjoying themselves and preferred not to discuss their military service in depth. It was a day for them to relax and have a large dinner with desserts and refreshments. When they left for the day, they were presented with a bag of gifts.

“I remember how this all started,” said Goetz, who remains active and planned to attend another holiday meal event for veterans this week. “A guy by the name of Pat Sullivan, who was a member of the Oak Lawn Park District, asked if we could do anything for the blind vets. So, we began cooking turkeys and kept doing it every year.”

The Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Fatima Council dates back to 1952, Goetz said. He recalls visiting Hines to see the wing that has had been built for blind veterans. He was surprised at what he witnessed.

“I saw one of the blind veterans working on a carburetor,” Goetz said. “I said how could he do that? And then the staff told me that they do more than you think. It’s a good outfit over there. It’s a great thing they are doing for them over at Hines.”

The Knights meet at 8 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at Ralph Arnold Hall at St. Gerald School, 9320 S. 55th Court. The Knights also meet at 7:15 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month at Arnold Hall. The council also includes members of St. Albert the Great Parish in Burbank, and the Oak Lawn parishes of St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Linus.

Goetz said that chapter assists to help others. But the group also has social nights where they relax in a party setting. Goetz added that the organization is looking for new members since many in the group are getting older.

“A lot of the things we do have helped people,” Goetz said. “A lot of the money we get, we give to charity.”

Residents who are interested in joining the Knights or just want more information about the chapter can contact the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Fatima, Post Office 534, Oak Lawn, IL 60454. Residents can also drop by the meetings that are held at Arnold Hall.