March 28, 1959 - September 23, 2008
For the first time in nearly three decades, it's going to be quiet around the Oak Lawn public works offices.
J.D.'s gone, and that means less longwinded stories and far fewer practical jokes. No more John Dvorak bounding in at 6 a.m. with his giant mug of coffee, talking baseball and knocking out his endless to-do lists.
Mr. Dvorak, a longtime Oak Lawn village employee, died Sept. 23, 2008. He was 49.
A 29-year veteran of the public works department, Mr. Dvorak started as an entry-level employee in the sewers division, a grunt who cleaned sewers and shoveled snow with equal aplomb.
"He didn't mind the dirty work," sewer crew chief and colleague Bill Meyer said.
As his professional responsibilities grew, so too did his personal ones. He married a girl he met as a teenager. They had two sons and became a well-known Oak Lawn family.
Mr. Dvorak would go on to rise through the ranks of the sewer division, first as equipment operator, then as foreman - a position that kept him away from his wife, Mary, and sons Andy and Scott, for days at a time during floods and blizzards.
Sure he worked hard. But everyone knew Mr. Dvorak, a lifelong baseball nut, played even harder.
He and Mary went to Florida for spring training. He dragged her to minor league baseball games in far-flung cities.
Locally, he was an Oak Lawn baseball coach and later an umpire. He wasn't afraid to stop midgame and reprimand unruly fans. Four times, he got the nod to call games for youth tournaments in Cooperstown, N.Y.
He and Mary vacationed in Las Vegas. They toured Alaska and the Bahamas by cruise ship.
And late last month, he, Mary, and her mother drove John's boxy, beloved Honda Element to Tunica, Miss.
Mr. Dvorak had been suffering from what he thought was indigestion. He wasn't eating. He wasn't drinking Miller Lites or smoking his Newports. And early one evening, he went to his hotel room for some rest.
"He looked me right in the eye and said 'Come up and check on me,'" Mary said. "It was like he knew."
Though an autopsy never was done, Mary said her husband suffered a heart attack.
Suddenly, the typical chop-busting at the public works shop fell quiet.
"Sometimes you get knocked back on your heels," said Steve Barrett, another longtime Dvorak colleague. "You don't know what to say."
But it didn't last long. Gloom never was Mr. Dvorak's style.
Honoring the intentions he had made clear to his wife during their 29-year marriage, Mary ensured friends and relatives stayed upbeat after his death. They stuffed his casket with a bottle of Miller Lite, "Family Guy" memorabilia and a pair of work gloves given to him by Meyer. Someone may have sneaked in a pair of dice.
To open his funeral, they sang "The Star Spangled Banner."
To close? "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
"You were half ready to bawl," Meyer said. "But it was perfect."
Joyce M. Sommers
Joyce M. Sommers, 82, formerly of Oak Lawn and Beecher, died Sept. 21, 2008. She was an artist. Arrangements are by Palos-Gaidas Funeral Home, (708) 974-4410.
Marilyn J. Splitgerber
Marilyn J. Splitgerber, 76, of Orland Park, died Oct. 13, 2008. She was a retired nurse. Arrangements are by Colonial Chapel, (708) 532-5400.
Anthony J. Gregor
Anthony J. Gregor, 61, former ly of Park Forest, died Oct. 11, 2008. He was a retired tech sergeant with the Air Force. Funeral arrangements are by Kerr-Parzygnot Funeral Home, (708) 754- 0016.
Joe T. Cotton
Joe T. Cotton, 76, of Chicago Heights, died Oct. 10, 2008. He was a drywall installation contractor. Arrangements are by Midwest Mortuary Service, (708) 478-3546.
William E. Elliot Jr.
William E. Elliot Jr., 74, of Beecher, died Oct. 11, 2008. He was a retired crane operator and Air Force veteran. Arrangements are by Steger Memorial Chapel, (708) 755-6100.
Thomas J. McDonough
Thomas J. McDonough, 54, formerly of Tinley Park, died Oct. 30, 2008. He was a sales manager at Pitney Bowes Mailing Systems. Arrangements are by Butherus, Maser & Love Funeral Home in Lincoln, Neb., (402) 488-0934.
Fred Triezenberg, 90, of Tinley Park, died Nov. 1, 2008. He was a retired Oak Lawn schools custodian. Arrangements are by Colonial Chapel, (708) 532-5400.
Christine A. Durbin
Christine A. Durbin, the oldest daughter of Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, died Saturday, November 1, 2008 at age 40, according to a spokesman for the Democratic senator.
Christine Durbin died in a Washington, D.C.-area hospital from complications relating to a congenital heart condition. She had been hospitalized for several weeks, Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said.
Sen. Durbin was with his wife, Loretta Durbin, and family in the Washington, D.C., area on Saturday.
"Most of the family was at her bedside when she passed away," Shoemaker said.
Christine Durbin worked for 16 years for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the emerging markets division. She lived with her husband and son in a Washington suburb.
She "fought a heroic lifelong battle with heart disease," Shoemaker said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Durbin family."
He said Sen. Durbin would not be making a further public statement.
Christine Durbin is survived by her parents, husband Marty Johnson, son Alex, brother Paul and sister Jennifer.
Funeral arrangements were pending Saturday.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Sen. Barack Obama offered their condolences to the Durbin family.
"I was stunned and saddened to hear the news of Christine Ann Durbin's passing. My wife, Patti, and I extend our deepest, deepest sympathy to Dick and Loretta Durbin and the entire Durbin family on their loss," Blagojevich said in a statement.
"I hope all the people of Illinois will join Patti and me in keeping them in our prayers."
Obama adviser Robert Gibbs said the Democratic presidential candidate called Durbin on Saturday afternoon.
Durbin, 63, holds the U.S. Senate's No. 2 post as assistant majority leader. He is on Tuesday's ballot and is seeking his third term in the Senate after seven in the House.
Republican Dr. Steve Sauerberg, a physician from the Chicago suburb of Willowbrook, is challenging him.
Also in the race are Green Party candidate Kathy Cummings of Chicago; Larry A. Stafford of South Beloit, a Libertarian; and Constitution Party candidate Chad N. Koppie of Gilberts.
Richard G. Jones
Richard G. Jones, 75, of Chicago Heights, died Nov. 27, 2008. He was a truck driver. Arrangements are by Woods Funeral Home, (708) 755-2010.
James P. MacInnes
James P. MacInnes, 62, of Richton Park, died Nov. 2, 2008. He was a CNC programmer. Arrangements are by Cremation Society of Illinois, Matteson (708) 747-7820.
Frank J. Valent
Frank J. Valent, 84, of Palos Heights, died Nov. 25, 2008. He owned a welding company. Arrangements are by Heartland Memorial Center (708) 444-2266.
Michael E. Clark
Michael E. Clark, 51, formerly of Olympia Fields, died Nov. 24, 2008. He was a Navy veteran. Arrangements are by Thornridge Funeral Home, (708) 460-2300.
Kurt D. Sauer
Kurt D. Sauer, 40, of Frankfort, died Nov. 19, 2008. He was an architect. Arrangements are by Kurtz Memorial Chapel, (815) 806-2225.
Mary Velcich (nee Bon), 83, of Orland Park, died Nov. 22, 2008. She was a retired machine operator. Arrangements are by Thornridge Funeral Home, (708) 460-2300.
Dorene Nichols, 68, formerly of Monee, died Nov. 19, 2008. She was a homemaker. Arrangements are by Crossville Memorial Funeral Home and Crematory, (931) 456-0047.
Ronald Nudo, 68, of Crete, died Nov. 21, 2008. He was a retired manager in the steel industry. Arrangements are by Steger Funeral Home, (708) 755-3400.