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.

No comments:

Post a Comment