Saturday, May 20, 2023

When every day was Thanksgiving

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Adapted from something I wrote in November 2015. 

Those who know me in the real world, as opposed to in newspapers or social media, know that I am an extremely private man. I typically do not talk about my personal life.

An example from long, long ago in my college years: one day, while in the campus newspaper office, a nice young woman innocently trying to make conversation asked me if I had any brothers or sisters.

My response: "Why do you want to know?"

That's me. Mr. Personality.

But today, I'm going to open up just a bit.

And to do that, I'll say a few words about that nice young woman I was so cold to on that day back in 1982.

Her name was Joan Heelan, and despite my best attempts to stay in my shell, I found I could not resist the sparkle of her eyes, the beauty of her smile and the warmth of her heart.
Joan Heelan in 1982.

I found myself liking her and then falling in love with her, although--me being me, idiot that I was--I fought it. But when I finally did admit it and mustered the courage to ask her on a date in 1983, I fell hard, fell fast and fell with absolute joy. Very early in our dating, I told her I loved her--so early in our relationship that I know it startled her and perhaps frightened her. (A lot of people would agree that I'm a bit frightening. Sorry about that, folks.)

Anyway, to my great fortune, Joan fell in love with me, over time. Why, I don't know. I just know how grateful I am that she did.

Things got better with each passing day, and then on a beautiful Labor Day weekend in 1984, we went to the town of Lake Geneva and stayed in this cool little motel cabin from the 1940s. (We are both fans of things that have a bit of history, a bit of character.)

I took Joan to a local supper club that had not changed much since its founding in the late 1940s, and which had the best food around.

Later, to cap off the evening, we took a brief stroll at the lakeshore; and next to a stately oak tree, I once again professed my love, this time adding a marriage proposal.

To my great fortune, she said yes.

We were married in 1985, in the church where she grew up--a beautiful old church. And in the years that followed, we built a life and were blessed with two spectacular daughters.
Joan on her birthday, September 2022.

Together, we built a love so broad, so deep and so solid, it got us through the bumps, bruises and rough patches common to any marriage. And today, our love is deeper and stronger than ever.

In many ways, she is what I only wish I were. She is a gentle soul with a warm and forgiving heart, yet strong and steady when she needs to be, including and perhaps especially in my hours of weakness and self-doubt.

Joan is a wonderful wife, mother, friend and so much more. And now we can add grandmother to that.

She is the blessing of a lifetime for me.

So before I sit down with her for our 33rd Thanksgiving dinner later today, I just want to say thank you, Joan, for everything. You are the love of my life, now and forever. I give thanks for you--on Thanksgiving and every day.

Post-script, 2023: Sorry about those last four paragraphs, folks. I’m still having difficulty changing the verbs to past tense. You see, earlier this year—the day before Valentine’s Day, to be specific--Joan was diagnosed with cancer. She died less than 90 days later.

Rest easy, dear. We’ll meet again. I’m certain.

# # #

Saturday, May 6, 2023

A ‘Kind and Giving Heart’

Family, friends remember community journalist Joan Hadac

Those who knew Joan (Heelan) Hadac never seemed surprised that she landed in jobs where she helped people. It was simply her nature, her kind and giving heart, they’d say.

A lifelong Southwest Side resident, Mrs. Hadac died at home, in hospice care on May 5, three months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was 63 years old.

Mrs. Hadac joined the Greater Southwest News-Herald in 1987 as a news reporter but quickly earned a promotion to an editor’s post.

Later, she was promoted again, to founding managing editor of the Southwest Senior newspaper.

In recent years, she was best known as the front-page columnist of the Clear-Ridge Reporter & NewsHound, companion publication to the News-Herald.
Early years

Born Joan Heelan on Sept. 4, 1959, she grew up mostly in the Gage Park neighborhood, graduating from St. Clare of Montefalco School in 1973 and Lourdes High School in 1977.
She had her first taste of journalism at St. Xavier College, where she double-majored in English and Mass Communications and joined the Xavierite student newspaper. She earned a promotion to co-editor and later editor, and she spoke well of her instructors, most notably Joel Sternberg and Dennis Wheeler. Upon graduation in 1984, she was presented with the Distinguished Student Service Award.

It was at SXC where she met Tim Hadac, a fellow student journalist, her future husband and love of her life. They were wed in 1985 at St. Clare of Montefalco Church.

Early in her career in newspapers, Mrs. Hadac’s work earned acclaim, including a nomination for the prestigious Lisagor Award for a story she wrote examining racial change in Gage Park through the prism of religion.
Her proudest role
Mrs. Hadac took a break from community journalism from 1991-98 to bear and raise the couple’s two daughters, Johanna Grace and Mary Sheila. For the rest of her days, she would refer to that time as “the best seven years of my life.”

“Joan had so much to be proud of in her professional life; but by far, she was most proud of being a mother and later a grandmother,” her husband said.

“She loved and was always proud of our daughters. She absolutely doted on our four grandsons and looked forward to when they were in town for a visit.”

She and her husband raised their daughters in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood, where they still lived at the time of her death.

Back to the newsroom

In 1998 she returned to community journalism, covering beats in Downers Grove and Clarendon Hills for the Suburban Life Newspapers. She was a key member of a team of reporters and editors that won awards from the Illinois Press Association and the Suburban Newspapers of America for riveting coverage of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and for coverage of the Downers Grove High School District 99 teachers’ strike in 2002.

In 2012, Mrs. Hadac and her husband founded the Southwest Chicago Post, an online news service. She anticipated that the endeavor would be small, with an audience of about 50 people; but over time it became one of Chicago’s largest neighborhood-based news services, with more than 3.2 million cumulative hits on its website and more than 22,000 followers on its Facebook page.

Her kindness was evident in what she wrote as a news and features reporter.

“Most news reporters I’ve met can be kind of hard edged,” said Garfield Ridge businessman and community leader Al Cacciottolo. “But not Joan, not ever. She was a reporter with a heart and was at her best when she shared human-interest stories with her readers, stories about interesting people making the community a better place. And by doing that, she made the neighborhood a better place, year after year, story after story.”

Outside of journalism, Mrs. Hadac served as parish secretary at St. Joseph Parish, helping people with a wide range of needs, including informal grief counseling to men and women who had recently lost their loved ones.

Most recently, she was employed by Chicago Glass Blocks. Her value to the company was appreciated by the Basic family, founders and longtime owners of the company.

“Joan was the face of our neighborhood family business,” the family said in a statement. “Always greeting customers pleasantly, friendly and with the wonderful sound of her smooth-jazz station playing in the background. Numerous customers continue to ask about her. Our sincere condolences to her family. She will be greatly missed by our family, her co-workers and customers.”

Mrs. Hadac also was a former president of the Lourdes High School Alumnae Association and a former two-term school board president at St. Joseph School.

Mrs. Hadac was preceded in death by her father, James R. Heelan; sister, Sheila Forsner; and infant nephew, Alexander Edward Forsner. In addition to her husband, she is survived by her daughters, Johanna Grace (Michael) Smith and Cosmo Mary Sheila; grandsons, Raphael Elijah, Anthony Blaise, Aran Joseph and Patrick Fulton Smith; mother, M. Eileen Heelan; sisters, Eileen (Edward) Forsner, Bernadette (Lynda Smith), Patrice (Joseph Monaghan) and Monica (Brian) Swift; and aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends and many others.

Visitation is Friday, May 19 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Foran Funeral Home, 7300 W. Archer Ave. (55th street just west of Harlem), Summit. Visitation at the funeral home on Saturday, May 20 from 8:30 a.m. until time of prayers at 9:30 a.m. Procession from the funeral home to St. Mary Church, 105 Herrick Road, Riverside, for a 10 a.m. funeral Mass. Interment at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, near the graves of her maternal grandparents, Edward and Joan McGee.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Garage Burglar Hits Clear-Ridge

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

Three garage burglaries in the area have prompted police to issue a warning.

Crime scenes include:

• 5500 block of South Melvina at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 21. 
• 5600 block of South Massasoit at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, April 2. 
• 5500 block of West 63rd Place at about 8:40 p.m. Sunday, April 2. 

Police said the burglar is described as a Hispanic man age 35-40 and 220 pounds.

Those with useful information to share are encouraged to call CPD Area 1 detectives at (312) 747-8380 and refer to crime pattern P23-1-071.

In the wake of the crimes, police advise:
• Keep the perimeter of your property well-lit.  
• Report suspicious activity immediately.
• Keep doors and windows secured.
• Immediately repair any broken windows, doors or locks.
• If video surveillance is available, save a copy of the incident for detectives.
• If you are a victim, do not touch anything. Call police immediately.
• If approached by a witness to the crime, request contact information.  

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Crime News Update

          Editor's note: The crime news reported by the Southwest Chicago Post---taken directly from Chicago Police Department incident reports---is not by any means an exhaustive catalogue of all crime reported in the Chicago Lawn (8th) District. For example, it typically does not include news of crimes committed in the eastern sectors of the district---because the Southwest Chicago Post's coverage area is primarily the neighborhoods that border Midway Airport and secondarily because including the relatively large volume of crime news from elsewhere in the district would be a logistical challenge. We make this note to offer a little helpful perspective and remind everyone that while crime is definitely a concern in all parts of the district (as it always has been), crime remains relatively low overall in the western section of the district. May all of us work together diligently to keep it that way. May all of us also remember that a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

* * *

Driver shot in shoulder on Cicero
A 35-year-old man was shot in the shoulder as he drove his vehicle in the 4500 block of South Cicero at 3:01 a.m. Sunday, March 19. The victim was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was listed in fair condition. He told police the bullet shattered his vehicle’s rear window. No one is in custody.

Driver gets graze wound in his head
A 43-year-old man sustained a graze wound to his forehead as he drove a vehicle in the 6400 block of South Lawndale at 10:12 p.m. Saturday, March 18. He was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he was listed in good condition. The victim told police he heard a loud sound and felt pain. He then realized a bullet had pierced his windshield. No one is in custody.

Charged with domestic battery

A 48-year-old Clearing man was charged with domestic battery after he was arrested at his home in the 6300 block of South Long at 11:14 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12.

Mauricio Merlos-Garcia allegedly “became physical” with a 50-year-old woman during an argument, a CPD spokesman said without elaborating.

Allegedly hit man at airport

A 34-year-old man from suburban Blue Island was charged with battery after he was arrested at Midway Airport at 6:36 a.m. Monday, Feb. 13.

Kenneth A. Ray, of the 12500 block of South Vincennes, allegedly struck a 35-year-old man in an attack described as “unprovoked” by a CPD spokesman, who declined to elaborate.

According to public records, Ray has been arrested six times by CPD since 2015 on such charges as theft, obstructing identification, criminal trespass to land and aggravated battery of a transit employee.

Arrested at MDW

A 50-year-old West Lawn man was charged with criminal damage to property and criminal trespass to state land after he was arrested at Midway International Airport at 7:20 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Jaime Hernandez, of the 6700 block of South Karlov, allegedly refused to leave airport grounds and then allegedly tore down several large photographs on the walls of the pedestrian bridge that spans Cicero Avenue.

According to public records, Hernandez has been arrested 24 times by CPD since 2016 on charges that included drinking alcohol on the public way, possession of a controlled substance, obstructing identification, retail theft, assault, battery and violating an order of protection.

Charged with trespassing at MDW

A 30-year-old South Side man was charged with criminal trespass to state land after he was arrested at Midway International Airport at 7:55 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16. 

Olanda Robbins Jr., of the 200 block of East 51st Street, allegedly refused to leave airport grounds when told to do so by a security employee.

According to public records, Robbins has been arrested five times by CPD since 2015 on charges that included battery, domestic battery and theft.

Traffic shop leads to drug charge on 59th Street
Salcedo Salas

A 24-year-old Gage Park man was charged with possession of a controlled substance after he was arrested during a traffic stop in front of 4020 W. 59th St. at 8:17 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18.

Manual Salcedo Salas, of the 5700 block of South Homan, was apprehended without incident. A CPD spokesman said officers making the stop saw and confiscated a rolled-up dollar bill with a white powdery substance inside. He also was charged with driving on a suspended license.

According to public records, Salcedo Salas has been arrested four times since 2015 on charges that included reckless conduct and possession of a marker with intent deface.

Charge woman with battery at MDW

A 48-year-old South Side woman was charged with battery after she was arrested at Midway International Airport at 1:04 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Lucille T. Landry, of the 500 block of East 89th Place, allegedly punched a 25-year-old woman in the head during an argument. Police offered no other details.

According to public records, Landry was arrested by CPD in August 2019 near 73rd and Western and charged with battery.

Ford City shootout leads to multiple charges
A 20-year-old Little Village man was charged with armed violence, aggravated battery and burglary after he was arrested in the 7900 block of South Komensky at 12:41 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28.

Giovanni J. Rodriguez, of the 2600 block of South Drake, allegedly burglarized a vehicle in a Ford City parking lot. When confronted by the owner, a 46-year-old man who is a valid FOID card and CCL holder, gunfire was exchanged—and Rodriguez allegedly shot the victim in the left thigh and right hand.

Rodriguez reportedly jumped in a waiting getaway vehicle, which sped away but crashed near the White Castle at 79th and Pulaski. Three people in that vehicle were taken into custody. One with a graze wound to his head was transported to a hospital, where he was listed in good condition. The 46-year-old man was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he was listed in good condition.

A charge of being a fugitive from out of state was added after police discovered that Rodriguez was want by authorities in Wisconsin. A CPD spokesman declined further comment.

According to public records, Rodriguez has been arrested five times by CPD since 2020 on such charges as driving on a suspended license, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, reckless discharge of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance.

Arrested during dustup at gas station


A 20-year-old North Side man was charged with criminal damage to property after he was arrested at the Mobil gas station at 8145 S. Pulaski at 5:56 a.m. Sunday. Jan. 29. 

Jimmy R. Farez Morocho, of the 5000 block of North Winthrop, allegedly damaged a vehicle belonging to a 55-year-old man during a fight.

She scratched my face, man says

A 32-year-old Scottsdale woman was charged with domestic battery after she was arrested at her home in the 4600 block of West 79th Street at 3:02 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4.

Sonya M. Perelka allegedly scratched the face of a 23-year-old man during an argument.

According to public records, Perelka has been arrested three times by CPD since 2014 on such charges as domestic battery and DUI.

He slapped me, woman tells police

A 37-year-old man from suburban Bridgeview was charged with domestic battery after he was arrested in the 8500 block of South Tripp at 2:40 a.m. Monday, Feb. 13. 

Jazzmon D. Perdue, of the 8800 block of South Harlem, allegedly slapped a 21-year-old woman in the face during an argument.

Charged with domestic battery

A 38-year-old Scottsdale man was charged with domestic battery after he was arrested at his home in the 4300 block of West 77th Place at 5:17 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18.

Margarito T. Botello allegedly slapped a 43-year-old woman in the jaw during an argument.

According to public records, Botello has been arrested three times by CPD since 2018 on charges that included unlawful use of a weapon by a convicted felon.

Charged with crimes against a woman

A 37-year-old Ashburn man was charged with unlawful restraint and aggravated domestic battery after he was arrested at his home in the 8400 block of South Spaulding at 12:55 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19.

Nathaniel Smith allegedly stopped a 30-year-old woman from leaving the home, stripped off her clothes, threw her into a bed and choked her, a CPD spokesman said. He also was charged with possession of a gun and ammunition without a valid FOID card.

According to public records, Smith has been arrested seven times by CPD since 2017 on charges that included urinating on the public way, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass to land, criminal trespass to a vehicle and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Claim man crashed stolen vehicle

A 19-year-old Clearing man was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, as well as criminal damage to property, after he was arrested at 2:52 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23. 

Aidan Alvarado, of the 6000 block of South Meade, reportedly was the driver of a vehicle that crashed into a light pole near 63rd and Austin. He reportedly bailed out and ran away on foot, but was apprehended a short distance away.

According to public records, Alvarado was arrested by CPD at 78th and Pulaski last June and charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and illegal possession of ammunition.

Claim man would not leave airport

A 25-year-old West Englewood man was charged with criminal trespass to state land after he was arrested near a ticket counter at Midway International Airport at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 7.

Traives R. Jordan, of the 6500 block of South Marshfield, allegedly refused to leave the airport when ordered to do so by security staff. A charge of assault was added when Jordan allegedly threatened a police sergeant at the scene.

Five days earlier, Jordan was arrested at Midway and charged with trespassing.

Charge man with trespassing at MDW

A 33-year-old man was charged with criminal trespass to state land after he was arrested at Midway International Airport at 10:43 p.m. Saturday, March 4.

Jorge Perez reportedly would not leave airport grounds when ordered to do so.

A month earlier, Perez was arrested at 500 N. State and charged with smoking on CTA property.

Traffic stop leads to gun charge


A 32-year-old West Lawn man was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after he was arrested during a traffic stop in front of 6226 S. Kostner at 3:43 p.m. Monday, March 6.

Oscar J. Rios, of the 6400 block of South Karlov, allegedly had a loaded handgun inside a book bag, a CPD spokesman said. He also was charged with driving on a revoked license.

Charged again with domestic battery

A 27-year-old Loop man was charged with domestic battery and violating an order of protection after he was arrested in the 4800 block of South Lawler at 1:47 a.m. Wednesday, March 1.

Zachary T. Pickering, of the 300 block of East South Water, allegedly grabbed a 26-year-old woman by the hair and punched her in the face, a CPD spokesman said. 

According to public records, Pickering has been arrested four times by CPD since 2021, three times on domestic battery charges.