Leg amputation doesn't keep Oak Lawn native down

  • Written by Claudia Parker


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Submitted photo

Oak Lawn native Laura Heneghan enjoys herself on a vacation trip to Las Vegas.



Refusing to let go can be deadly!

For Laura Heneghan, of Lombard, it was holding on to a limb that nearly cost her life. The Oak Lawn native and 1987 Richards High School graduate said, “My legs were my best attribute. I received more compliments about my legs than anything else.”

Beyond the vanity of the matter, Laura had much deeper concerns about having her leg amputated. She was a mom of two elementary-aged children, her daughter, Courtney, 8, and her son, Jordan, 7.

“Will my kids love me without having a lap to sit in? Will I lose my friends? Will I feel like less of a person with only one leg?”

Laura said those thoughts plagued her. She prolonged the decision to have surgery until the infected tumor in her leg encapsulated her blood vessels causing the tumor to rupture. When that occurred, the infection penetrated her bone.

It was either her leg or her life.

“One of the most surprising revelations I had after my surgery was how much easier things became,” recalled Laura. “I felt a tremendous sense of relief. I wish I’d done it much sooner.”

Five years previous to the amputation, Laura was diagnosed with cancer. “Initially, I was misdiagnosed,” said Laura. “Doctors thought I had an adductor strain.”

An adductor muscle strain is an acute injury to the groin muscles on the medial aspect (inside) of the thigh. Her assumed injury was treated with physical therapy that included an ultrasound, heat and electrical muscle stimulation with hopes to bring blood back to the tissue for healing. However, Laura in fact had a malignant blood tumor. The therapy fed the tumor and it grew -- to the size of a softball.

An aggressive radiation regimen was administered by the well-respected Fermilab, known for treating advanced tumors difficult to reach or that have been slow to respond to other forms of treatment. Laura said the treatment was so potent it killed the cancer more rapidly than her lymph nodes could handle. Lymph nodes filter lymph of harmful pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. The nodes also filter out cellular waste, dead cells, and cancerous cells.

Laura’s dead cells were lying dormant in her leg wreaking havoc.

“My leg was enormously swollen, didn’t function and it left me in chronic pain,” said Laura. “I was on the strongest pain killers prescribed and I still felt pain.”

Laura said being on medication habitually left her groggy, emotional and isolated.

“My husband would have to take the kids to birthday parties and social outings without me because I was always too tired or in too much pain to go anywhere,” explained Laura.

Her best attribute had become her biggest adversary.

“I had to use crutches because my leg didn’t bend,” recollected Laura. “Even with crutches I was challenged because the weight of my leg was so heavy I’d have to drag it.”

The reality of waking from surgery to one less limb might have left most devastated, but Laura said that isn’t what she noticed was missing. “The pain was gone,” said Laura. “I actually felt relief.”

That wasn’t the only surprise Laura experienced.

Laura found she could propel forward on crutches much easier without hauling around dead weight. She also discovered that her children she worried wouldn’t be able to accept her enjoyed her much more after surgery.

“They loved seeing me happy and enjoying life again instead of laying around stagnant, in pain and sleeping all the time.”    

Laura added that, “God brought me through it. He put people in my life that gave me love, support and encouragement. From my mom sitting by my hospital bedside, my kids helping change bandages, and my church family and friends getting me out of the house. God sent help.”

Laura said surviving cancer and getting through her amputation gave her a renewed sense of passion and purpose. After having been a stay-at-home mom she went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Trinity Christian College. She started working in school District 124 in 2001. She first taught English Language Learners and now she is an ELL coach.

“Never underestimate the power of what you can do with God’s help,” said Laura. “Don’t ever give up on yourself.”

This December, Laura’s slated to walk across the stage to receive a master’s in Educational Leadership with a Principal endorsement. She’s spoken at a half dozen conferences on a national and state level, teaching educators how to gain a deeper understanding of students where English is a second language.

Laura learned that losing her leg didn’t cripple her, it was holding on to it that was. Now she has a life she didn’t know she could experience.

The first time I saw Laura I was getting out of my car with my purse, laptop and camera bag. It was heavy and difficult to carry and I felt bogged down by the load until I looked up. Laura was walking across the parking lot with a purse, workbag, stack of papers, and a coffee. She was walking on one leg, on crutches. Did I mention she was in a stylish dress wearing a matching sandal that had the nerve to have a high heel?

How dare I complain about what I had to carry. I was walking on two legs with a pair of flat shoes.

I wanted to share Laura’s story because it’s such a great example for anyone refusing to let go of dead weight. Maybe for you it’s a relationship, business, profession or job title. Maybe at one point the attachment was an attribute, but now it’s your nemesis. It’s time to detach from that which is dead so you can live again.

You can learn more about Laura following her blog at

Claudia Parker is an author, photographer and a reporter. Her columns appear every second and fourth Thursday of each month. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Dare we say it? Spring is not far away

  • Written by Joe Boyle
As we enter the middle of February, I began to think we are entering a period of anticipation. The Super Bowl, the Patriots comeback and Lady Gaga is now a memory. Chance the Rapper, from Chicago’s South Side, collected some Grammy Awards on Sunday night. Hey, that’s great. I can’t say I know a lot about Chance the Rapper. He did do a series of TV promos for the Chicago White Sox last summer and threw out the first ball on opening day. I’m glad he is a White Sox fan and his spots called for the team to “step up.” Obviously, they didn’t. The Academy Awards are coming up on Sunday, Feb. 26. I will probably watch at least some of it. I like to watch to get an idea of what some of the better films of the past year were. Some of the recipients who receive Oscars could be longtime favorites who finally receive the honor. And perhaps you are rooting for a certain film or actor because you have actually seen the movie. In many cases, I have seen very few or none at all. This past year, I did see “Arrival” starring Amy Adams. I thought it was a great film and worthy of being nominated for Best Picture. Adams is not up for Best Actress but probably should have. What that means for me is that this movie is the only one I saw that is up for an award. The only reason I’m going on about the Academy Awards is that that is the only big event coming up in the near future. But if I have not seen many of the movies, my interest level drifts, especially when the awards show clocks in at three hours. It may be time to channel surf. Perhaps there might be a limited series on HBO that is coming up that may catch my interest. Netflix has an interesting lineup of shows to view as well. For college basketball fanatics, “March Madness” is approaching. I hear a lot of discussion about tournament picks and who may win and so on and so on. Even former President Obama would be interviewed on ESPN and other sports programs about his choices. I read and watch TV reports with some curiosity over the enthusiasm some sports reporters and broadcasters show over the “Big Dance.” Personally, I just don’t get that pumped about the tournament. I guess I’m not a big basketball fan anyway and less so when it comes to college. I just don’t follow it. At one time I was more interested if I knew someone who was playing at that level. If there were athletes my kids or nieces or nephews knew, I would show more interest. But that’s about it. One sport I’m not thinking about is football. The Patriots won the Super Bowl but I think we can give football a rest for a while. I think I saw somewhere that someone is counting off the days for football training camp in June. I can’t believe that. Maybe this person is a Patriots fan. He can’t be a Bears fan. I’m not counting the days for football training camp to see stories on the Bears, who finished 3-13 last year. This is the time of the year when I actually start thinking about spring, which is still a month away. The Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox actually began spring training this week in Arizona. All major league teams began their workouts this week in Arizona and Florida. For me, that’s something to look forward to. Yes, we have had a mild winter so far. We have only had just over 18 inches of snow this winter and the majority of that came in December. Maybe the unseasonably warm temperatures have me thinking more about spring. Of course, I have lived here long enough to know that the weather can change in a hurry. Hey, we can always hope. February is a short month and perhaps March can enter and exit more like a lamb. That means baseball, watching a variety of sporting events, and taking walks at our local parks and forest preserves. Spending more time outdoors and actually seeing the sun more often would be a welcoming sight indeed. I look forward to that, with great anticipation. Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Memories of snowy days, watching from the window

  • Written by Janet Boudreau

If you're from Chicago, know someone from Chicago, or want to be from Chicago, then you've heard of the Great Blizzard of '67. For those of you from Des Moines or farther west, just know it was a huge deal. On Jan. 26, 1967, snow began falling and did not dissipate for 29 hours. Approximately 23 inches fell. The front pages of the newspapers showed abandoned and mostly buried cars littering the streets and expressways. Time seemed to stand still. Well, maybe not time itself but just about everything else.

I was just a little girl then, a scrappy 7-year-old with braids and freckles. We lived out in the prairies, which are now the far western suburbs. I sat on the back of the sofa with my nose pressed to the window watching my sisters and the neighborhood kids sledding down the huge drifts in a sea of white. Every winter I had to sit out of a lot of outdoor activities due to severe asthma. So I watched, sometimes laughing as they tumbled off their sleds at the bottom of the hills and drifts. When they would come in red-faced and shivering, dropping their wet clothes near the back door, I would pick up a random mitten with bits of crusted snow and hold it to my cheek.

We have a cottage on a lake in Michigan. It's a year-round home and although our kids spent the first few winters ice skating and learning to ski, summer will always be the main draw. In an effort to get everyone up to the cottage last month, we put together a weekend sledding event for our family, including our two little granddaughters. We pulled out all of the old sleds from the garage rafters, bundled up in layers and headed off to a nearby state park.

In all of these years I've never sledded. I thought I broke my ankle the first time I stood on ice skates and skiing is pretty much a death wish as far as I'm concerned. Yet I never forgot that feeling of being left out years ago, wanting to feel that rush of air and thrill of almost flying as all the kids did during that blizzard. This time around I wanted to be the one sailing down the hill, rolling in the snow and laughing.

My daughter and I stood inside the warming shelter, which is much like a metal shed with windows. There's a huge stone fireplace and chopped wood if you are making a day of it. Emily held her little baby, Madelyn, just 3 months old, wrapped in layers and layers of warm blankets. We watched out the windows as our crazy family flew down the hill, screamed, tumbled, rolled and dragged themselves back up for...just one more!

I was wrapping my scarf around tighter, fixing my eyes on the top of the hill, ready to make that climb. Surprisingly, it was taking a lot more courage than I thought I would need. Then Emily turned to me.

"Mom, will you hold Madelyn? I want to give it a try." And suddenly I was looking into the eyes of another little girl, my Emily. The one always trying to catch up with her daredevil brothers; the tiny little girl who sat on the beach while everyone swam to the raft and dived off; Dad's little helper in cleaning up the boat every spring but rarely going on the lake. This was going to be a big deal. I took the baby from her and smiled. I watched through the window as she climbed the hill while I cradled and cooed to little Maddie. And I knew the thrill was all mine.

Janet Boudreau is a writer, blogger, and a longtime resident of Evergreen Park where she enjoys cooking, gardening, reading and generally anything that doesn't require a lot of energy. You can reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Our Lady of the Ridge supporters need to go to battle for their school

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Supporters of Our Lady of the Ridge Elementary School in Chicago Ridge are doing everything possible to keep their doors open. I'm not sure what their odds are, but at least they have a chance.

At this point, you have to accept the fact the Chicago Archdiocese has sent out a warning that the school could close if they are unable raise enough money and increase enrollment.

But St. Louis de Montfort Elementary School in Oak Lawn did not have that opportunity. Unfortunately, the enrollment numbers at the school had continued to plummet over the years. Administrators there probably saw no alternative. But I always feel sorry for the parents who send their children to these schools and then receive the shocking news.

The announcement to close St. Louis de Montfort occurred on Jan. 11, which is the same day that Our Lady of the Ridge received its warning. I have brought this up to several supporters and parents who have children attending Our Lady of the Ridge about the warning. The archdiocese believes there is hope that this school can remain open.

While the enrollment numbers have been low at Our Lady of the Ridge the past few years, there does seem to be an organized effort from the school administration and the parents. That is a positive sign. The school also held an open house on Sunday, Jan. 29 to begin Catholic Schools Week. Banners could be found in front of the school mentioning the open house. Banners and signs also could be seen touting the positive aspects of the school.

It is always difficult to say how the Chicago Archdiocese is leaning when it comes to closing schools. Queen of Peace, an all-girls high school in Burbank, is closing in June due to low enrollment numbers that the archdiocese believes will not turn around. Many parents and students found out through a series of robocalls on the night of Jan. 24.

I have seen many Catholic schools close within the past 16 years. The archdiocese has usually indicated that they would like to seen an enrollment at or near 225. But that is not always the case. I think it often comes down to what impact does the school have on the surrounding community at large. And can the staff and parents at Our Lady of the Ridge raise enough money to validate staying open?

Sr. Stephanie Kondik, principal at Our Lady of the Ridge, gushes when she talks about the parents and the students at the school. She has served as principal there for 23 years and believes the students receive a better education at Our Lady of the Ridge. Sr. Stephanie said that she and the staff know the students by name. She added that the appeal of Our Lady of the Ridge is that is a close-knit family.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar, a 1967 graduate of Our Lady of the Ridge, believes the school is like the heart of the community. For residents who have been raised in Chicago Ridge, Our Lady of the Ridge is important even if they did not attend the school. Tokar is confident that the archdiocese will allow Our Lady of the Ridge another chance because parents, community leaders and the business community have been raising money to keep it open.

The money aspect is important. I have seen some schools close whose enrollment numbers were higher but they had long-lasting debts. And some of the schools have closed because the archdiocese determined that they could not sustain enrollment growth.

But I have also seen schools with low enrollments who were able to raise lots of cash and remain open. St. Christopher School, 14611 S. Keeler Ave., Midlothian, was supposed to close at the end of 2014. But through an aggressive marketing campaign and the fact that supporters were able to raise money through businesses and donations, St. Christopher has remained open.

And this was a school that seemed certain to close. But graduates, the school staff and even the students fought against the odds and were able to convince the archdiocese to keep St. Christopher open.

So there is a precedent for Our Lady of the Ridge. The two key aspects are raising enough money and coming up with a long-term strategy to keep Our Lady of the Ridge viable. The archdiocese needs to be convinced that enough students will continue to go to the school and that the community remain involved.

The archdiocese has given Our Lady of the Ridge a chance. I think they believe it is worth preserving. It is now up to the school staff, the parents and the community. Without Our Lady of the Ridge, there would be no Catholic elementary school serving Chicago Ridge and nearby Worth.

Our Lady of the Ridge is needed in this community. I believe the archdiocese will ultimately agree.

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

Wife recalls her husband's big 'Harte' as Valentine's Day approaches

  • Written by Claudia Parker

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Jeri and Fred Harte are seen above before their wedding in 1979, and at their daughter's wedding in 2016.


As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s befitting that I share a romantic but tragic love story. I want you to know how a big “Harte” was spread across the seas!

“Every love story is beautiful, but ours is my favorite,” said Jeri Harte, of Evergreen Park. She adopted the saying written on a frame that houses a picture of her and Alfred John Harte, her husband of 37 years, affectionately known as Fred.

“Everyone calls him their ‘best Fred’”, said Jeri. “He was like everyone’s best friend, including mine.”

Their romance began nearly four decades ago in the now demolished Evergreen Park Plaza. “I was working in a record store and Fred did maintenance for the Plaza. I guess you could say I chased him until he caught me,” blushed Jeri.

Jeri said she was drawn to Fred.

“I’d see him working every day. I used to flirt with him by giving him discounts on records when he came into the store.”

Fred eventually caught on and asked her to be his date to a friend’s wedding. The spark between them flickered from May through the 4th of July.

“There weren’t fireworks that night, only waterworks coming out of my eyes - he broke up with me,” recalled Jeri.

She said she later learned that Fred fled because he was falling for her and wanted to spare himself the pain he’d experienced in a previous heartbreak.

“His friends told him he was an idiot to break up with me,” laughed Jeri.

That was presumably because they found her to be easy on the eyes. Images of Jeri in the '70s display a tall, slender, blonde with long locks and a summer tan. She said it took Fred a few months to come to his senses and by October they were dating again.

However, this time it was Jeri who was cautious. Apparently that apprehension made Fred nervous so he sealed his commitment with a proposal and they married the next year, Aug. 4, 1979.

No one actually spoke out to object when the pastor asked “If anyone objects to this union speak now?” but Jeri said there were many naysayers. The 22-year-old newlyweds had only known each other 10 months with a breakup in between, their odds of longevity was questionable.

So some believed!

Nonetheless, the Hartes' love and loyalty for one another bloomed into something others marveled at. That love manifested the creation of a family of five. They had three biological daughters, Lauren, Krystle and Jenna, and two “adopted”; a calico cat named Ginger and a dachshund pooch named Midge.

The Hartes were known for hitching a boat to the back of their vehicle and driving to the nearest campsite that lay next to a body of water.

“It wasn’t really planned, but we got our first boat when our oldest daughter, Lauren, was just 6 months old,” said Jeri. “Fred was so talented, he could fix anything with his hands. A friend hired him to restore an old vehicle for $3,000 but once Fred finished, the friend could only come up with $2,500. To save face, he offered him a small 16-foot boat. After that, we were hooked.”

They named their boat “Harte’s Desire” and it would continue to be upgraded throughout the years; today it’s a 35-footer. When the Hartes' hands weren’t steering their boat, they could be observed holding each other’s and smooching. But, life wasn’t only about leisure. Fred worked as a carpenter for 20 years, with his last place of employment being Carpenters of Chicago (COC).

“He worked there with his best friend, Brian Elvidge, whom he referred to as his little brother,” Jeri said.  

Fred’s resignation from COC was forced by a cancer diagnosis. Jeri tearfully remembered the day the news came.

“I had broken my wrist and was wearing a cast. Fred went with me to the doctor to have it removed. I had been worried about him because he was fatigued a lot and his legs were really swollen.” She inhaled and spoke through tears saying, “I remember asking my doctor if he’d just have a look at his legs while we were there. After a brief exam, he sent us directly to the emergency room for several tests. Those results confirmed cancer of the liver.”

Fred was diagnosed in October of 2015. Despite a treatment regimen which proved to have successfully shrank his tumor initially, it later metastasized to his heart. Fred passed away one year later, October 2016.

A month before he died, their youngest daughter, Jenna, got married on Sept. 23 at the Silver Lake Country Club in Orland Park.

“Fred was too weak to walk her down the aisle so I wheeled him while he and Jenna held hands,” cried Jeri. “At the reception when the DJ called for the father to dance with the bride, Fred’s brothers helped support his weight so he could stand while they danced to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 'Teach Your Children.'”

Jeri granted Fred’s wishes not to have his remains put into the ground.

“There’s a little of him spread everywhere,” said Jeri. “His ashes are in the waters of Galveston Beach, Texas; Seaside, Oregon and on June 3, to acknowledge his birthday, there will be a little of him in Lake Michigan.”

She said in each instance she’s only dispensed a small portion of ashes—the large urn of his remains is with her, closely guarded.

“We were connected at the hip, we did everything together. He was silly, with a great sense of humor. We enjoyed all the same things, we still held hands, kissed and expressed our love to each other daily. I miss our conversations. It’s hard going up to an empty bed at night and waking up the next morning knowing I have to start life without him all over again.”

Jeri said she knows what she and Fred shared was rare.

“His life imitated his last name, he had such a big heart.” Jeri tearfully said. “Please tell everyone to kiss their spouses and tell them they’re loved because you might not have another chance. You may not realize what you’ll miss until you don’t have it.”

Fred’s legacy lives in his family. His oldest daughter, Lauren, learned two weeks following his passing that she and her spouse are expecting.

Jeri said she has several fond memories of Fred she will forever hold near. One of her favorites remain them dancing on the bridge of Harte’s Desire to Van Morrison’s, “Into the Mystic.” While his ashes are spread within it, she will continue to sail upon it, until they meet again.

Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day, show someone they are loved right now!

Claudia Parker is an author, photographer and a reporter. Her columns appear every second and fourth Thursday of each month. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .