Tuesday, August 25, 2020

He Lost Everything, Except His Friends

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

Kindness counts, especially when it touches the heart of someone who’s down.

Ziggy Bejger, 72, was down.

His home in nearby Hodgkins went up in flames earlier this

“I lost everything: IDs, family photos, furniture, everything burned completely,” Ziggy tells me. “Three more seconds and I might have been lost.”

One of his cats, Scooter, lost his life in the fire. “I couldn’t get back in to save him.”

As he fought to escape the smoke and flames, Ziggy suffered second-degree burns on his back, neck, left arm, shoulders, knees and fingertips.

His home was a total loss.

He spent four days in a hospital before being discharged.

Fortunately for Ziggy, one of his neighbors in the Weeping Willow Ranch neighborhood—Patricia Golden--lent him her fully furnished home. (She was away, visiting a niece.)

Another one of Ziggy’s neighbors is Terry Dahlstrom. She is a grandma to 12-year-old Anthony and 9-year-old Nicholas Ceska, who are growing up in Clearing with their mom and dad, Amber and James Ceska. 

The family of four had forged a relationship with Ziggy when visiting Terry. He would come over and sit on the deck with them, talking and getting to know them. Ziggy gave the boys presents at Christmas and other times.

Ziggy also was known as the handyman to call when you needed something fixed. According to Amber, he helped Terry a lot. 

“He always has been very good to us and my mother-in-law,” Amber tells me.

In the early-morning hours of the fire--around 2:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 10--Terry called Amber and James to tell them what was going on. Later that day, the whole family went to Terry’s for lunch and saw the devastation the fire left behind.

After seeing the charred remains, Anthony and Nicholas told Amber they wanted to help in some way. They came up with the idea of a lemonade stand. Mom and Dad agreed and helped purchase supplies. 

“It was for a good cause,” Amber recalls. 

So in front of their home near 63rd and Austin, the boys—
both students at Hale School--set up a banquet table with a tablecloth. They also made up a poster showing what happened to Ziggy and his home. For two days, Aug. 12-13, the boys sat at their makeshift stand to collect money for Ziggy. They charged a dollar a cup. One customer donated $50 to the cause.

Three days later, the Ceska foursome visited Ziggy at his temporary home.

Ziggy had already been told by Terry about the boys’ good deed. The news touched his heart and made him speechless. 

When Anthony and Nicholas came over to him to present the
$490 they raised, along with Jewel-Osco gift certificates, Ziggy tells me he “broke into tears. It was incredible what they did…that two little kids came up with this on their own.” 

“It was a very solemn moment for me. I played Santa for them, but they repaid me back tenfold…I told them, ‘Thank you so much and God bless you.’ It’s unbelievable what they did and I told them that they were young men with a lot of integrity. I told their parents that they must be so proud of what they did.”

Right you are, Ziggy. Well done, boys. And congratulations to the rightfully proud mom and dad.

Stories like this bring me to tears. It’s yet another example of why Clearing and Garfield Ridge are two of the best neighborhoods anywhere—city or suburban.

If you missed the lemonade stand but want to give Ziggy a hand, please email Amber at Aceska@att.net.

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