Month: November 2016

LLOC Meeting Scheduled Tonight, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 7 PM

Maywood Flag

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

A Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting is scheduled for tonight, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 7 p.m., at 125 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood.

Among items to be discussed (for full agenda packet, click here):

  • Discussion and consideration regarding authorization to repair Ladder Truck 502 (transmission and radiator failure),  Fire Chief Bronaugh is requesting that Interstate Power Systems of Carol Stream, Illinois, where the vehicle is now placed, be allowed to initiate and complete transmission and radiator repair for ladder truck No. 502.  The total amount for repair is $14,269.63.
  • Consideration for Police Chief Valdimir Talley, Jr., to address the public with highlights of accomplishments for Maywood Police Department for Quarters Two and Three.
  • An Ordinance amending Title XI (Business Regulations), Chapter 117 (Alcoholic Beverages) of the Maywood Village Code to prohibit the issuance of any New Class M (Video Gaming Café/Bistro) liquor licenses in the Village of Maywood in accordance with the November 8, 2016 Advisory Referendum results, including the Cook County Clerk’s Office confirmation of the November 8, 2016 General Election for the Village of Maywood’s Advisory Referendum on the question of whether the Village of Maywood should adopt an ordinance prohibiting the issuance of any new Class M (Video Gaming Café/Bistro) Liquor Licenses, with a cover memorandum dated November 22, 2016 from Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins, Ltd. VFP

F E A T U R E D  E V E N T S



A Greenhouse Looks to Setup Shop in Maywood, But Board Says Not So Fast


Good Earth Greenhouse, located in River Forest, is looking to relocate to Maywood. | Good Earth Greenhouse

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The owner of Good Earth Greenhouse, currently located at 7900 Madison St. in River Forest, has his sights set on empty village-owned land on the northwest corner of 1st Ave. and Lake St. in Maywood.

According to a Nov. 17 report in West Suburban Journal, Tom Cronin approached members of the Maywood Board of Trustees during a Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting held earlier this month. He’s looking to relocate his business from its current River Forest location to that prime parcel in Maywood.

“Good Earth would make a $750,000 investment in the property and between sales tax for the village and landscaping of the [adjacent] Widows Home property would provide the village with $300,000 over six years,” according to the West Suburban report.

An estimated $200,000 would go to the village in the form of sales taxes, said Cronin, who added that the business would generate an estimated $10 million in sales over six years, the report states.

Trustee Michael Rogers, who said he was in support of the concept, nonetheless pushed back against the offer, explaining to Cronin that the village should receive more money for one of its most commercially appealing properties.

In 2013, InSite Real Estate Development offered to purchase the empty lot on the northwest corner of 1st and Lake for an appraised value of $450,000.

The development of a Hinsdale Community Bank branch and several retail outlets was planned for the site, but the proposal fell through after the board failed to garner a five-vote supermajority necessary to vacate an alley in the area — an action that developers said was essential in order for the plan to go forth.

Trustee Henderson Yarbrough, West Suburban reported, said that, despite some board members’ reservations about the initial offer, the village should continue to negotiate with Cronin.

According to its website, the Good Earth Greenhouse garden center carries “trees, shrubs, perennials, native plants, and annuals from local and nationally known growers.” The website notes that Good Earth also has a location in Hinsdale and a wholesale and growing facility in Lockport.

Located within the River Forest location is Good Earth Cafe, a health-conscious juice bar that also sells fresh fruit and vegetables.

Cronin told Maywood board members that he would provide similar fresh fare at the Maywood location, which would also include a drive-thru, West Suburban noted. VFP

Pick up a copy of West Suburban Journal at numerous locations throughout Maywood, including the Maywood Public Library (121 S. 5th Ave.) and Village Hall (40 Madison St.).

F E A T U R E D  E V E N T S



Let's Talk.jpg

Big Holiday Events Around Town in December

christmas ornaments.jpg

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 || By COMMUNITY EDITOR || @maywoodnews || UPDATED: 7:35 p.m.

The days ahead are marked by Christmas lights, caroling, hot chocolate and more in Maywood and surrounding communities.  Scroll below to see what upcoming events, which are listed in chronological order, are most suitable for you and your loved ones. Most of them are FREE.

Christmas events near you

Toys for Tots Toy Drive || Nov. 28 to Dec. 14 || Melrose Park Civic Center, 1000 N. 25th Ave. || MELROSE PARK

Mayor Ron Serpico’s Annual Toys for Tots Drive for underprivileged children will be held at the Melrose Park Civic Center, Nov. 28 through Dec. 14, 2016.

The Toys for Tots Drive is open to all community members and organizations. Items can be dropped off at the Civic Center foyer, 1000 N. 25th Ave., Melrose Park.

Everyone is encouraged to participate by dropping off new, unwrapped toys. Last year’s drive was very successful and the village is hoping this year’s event will be even better.

For more information, call Toys for Tots Chairperson Mary Ann Paolantonio at

Triton Festival of Trees || Dec. 2 || 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. || 2000 S. 5th Ave. || RIVER GROVE 

Triton College is seeking people to sponsor Christmas trees on behalf of municipalities, business, organizations and individuals for its annual Holiday Festival of Trees on Dec. 2, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., on the Triton College Mounds, located on the west side of the campus, 2000 S. 5th Ave., River Grove.

Interested sponsors can decorate their trees from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1. On Dec. 2, participants will be treated to hot chocolate, cookies, holiday music and a photo booth during the event. They’ll also be able to take in a free holiday show at the Cernan Center.

Take a photo of your tree and share it with the college using the hashtag #DeckTheMounds.

Each lighted tree is $150, with proceeds to benefit the student scholarships through the Triton College Foundation. For more information call (708) 456-0300, Ext. 3165/3172 or click here.

Christmas tree lighting || Dec. 2 || 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. || Corner of 5th Ave. and St. Charles || MAYWOOD 

After searching throughout the village, the Maywood Environmental and Beautification Commission has found a Christmas tree, a spruce, to display during the Christmas season.

The tree, donated by Maywood resident Lawrence Sparks, will be the centerpiece of a tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 2, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the corner of 5th Ave. and St. Charles.

The ceremony will feature numerous special guests, including Pastor Elliot Wimbush of First Congregational Church of Maywood, who will lead participants in carols; storytelling by Kim Davidson; face painting; the Proviso East drama team and band; the Second Baptist children’s choir; and more.

Holiday Magic || Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18 || Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Road || BROOKFIELD 

Brookfield Zoo’s 35th annual Holiday Magic event features more than one million twinkling LED lights, caroling to the animals, an ice carving demonstration, a magic show, live entertainment, model railroad displays and more.

$17.85; $12.50 seniors and ages 3-11; FREE to children under 3 and members. Information at (708) 688-8000 or click here.

Christmas Winter Festival || Dec. 3 || 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. || 1025 W. Lake St. || MELROSE PARK

St. Paul Lutheran will be hosting a Christmas Winter Festival this Saturday. Join them for a little shopping and eating while live and pre-recorded Christmas music plays. Stroll through the aisles and check out the various vendors, home baked goodies, and attic treasures.  Stop and have a little lunch and join in singing some Christmas carols too!

St. Paul is also looking for additional vendors who wish to sell their items at our Christmas Winter Festival. One vendor per company or brand; tables are $25.00 each on a first come, first serve basis. Contact 708-544-1336 or 708-343-1000 to reserve your table.

Holiday open house || Dec. 7 || 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. || Melrose Park Public Library, 801 N. 19th Ave. || MELROSE PARK

Drop by the Melrose Park Public Library  for some holiday treats and fun! And by the way, we’ve got lots of great holiday books!

Merry Grinchmas Holiday Event || Dec. 10 || 8 a.m. || North Riverside Park Mall, 7501 W. Cermak Rd. || RIVERSIDE 

We’re inviting all the little elves, naughty and nice kids to our Annual Kids Club Holiday event, held inside of our food court. Join us for a classical reading of “How the Grinch stole Christmas.” Enjoy FREE face painting, music and prizes. The first 150 kids will receive a FREE Elf Plush Toy. For more info, click here.

Breakfast with Santa || Dec. 10 || 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. || Proviso East High School, 807 S. 1st Ave. || MAYWOOD 

Join us on Thursday, Dec. 10 for our annual breakfast with Santa, held in the high school’s cafeteria (enter at the clock tower). We look forward to seeing you!

Christmas sing-along || Dec. 10 || 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. || Maywood Public Library, 121 S. 5th Ave. || MAYWOOD 

Please join us at the Maywood Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm, for our annual holiday sing-along! There will be live music, food, fun, and giveways. There will also be a Split-the-Pot Raffle! So come on out and enjoy an evening filled with lots of holiday cheer!

42nd Annual Madrigal Dinner Fine Arts Fest || Dec. 10 || 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. || Proviso West High School, 4701 Harrison St. || HILLSIDE 

Proviso West High School will be the scene of lords and ladies, court jesters, and royalty at the 42nd annual Madrigal Singers Dinner Fine Arts Fest at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10.

The shows are a fundraiser for the Proviso East and Proviso West choral music departments that reenact a 15th–century royal court. Guests will be treated to music, dance, and drama in the Proviso West Little Theater followed by a three-course meal and raffle prizes in the “Royal Dining Hall.”

During this time, those in attendance will be entertained with Madrigal-style harmonies, dances, comedic and dramatic sketches, and traditional holiday vocal music. For more info, click here.

Brunch with Santa || Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 || Seatings at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. || Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Road || BROOKFIELD

Enjoy an extravagant all-you-can-eat buffet, visits with Mr. and Mrs. Claus and the appearance of the zoo’s costumed characters.

$39.95; $29.95 ages 3-11; FREE for ages 2 and under, which includes admission, parking, tax and gratuity. Reservations are required. Information at (708) 688-8355 or click here.

9th Annual Seniors Christmas Party || Dec. 14 || 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. || Mariella’s Banquet Hall, 124 S. 5th Ave. || MAYWOOD

The Village of Maywood invites you to its 9th Annual Seniors Christmas Party, held at Mariella’s Banquet Hall. This event will feature a full buffet dinner, gifts for all seniors and entertainment. This holiday party is compliments of Mayor Edwenna Perkins, the Maywood Board of Trustees and Village Clerk Viola Mims.

Attention Maywood Senior!  Reserve a spot for this blowout holiday event by either signing up at a Maywood Senior Club meeting, by calling Larry Shapiro at (708) 238-3657 or by emailing Larry at

The deadline for reserving your spot is Friday, Dec. 9.

Santa photos || Dec. 16 || 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. || Winston Plaza, 1254 Winston Plaza || MELROSE PARK

Spend $25 at Winston Plaza on Friday, Dec. 16 and receive a FREE photo with Santa. $5 per photo without receipt. Proceeds will benefit Toys for Tots.

Winter Wonderland || Dec. 17 || 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. || Beverly Center, 3031 S. 25th Ave. || BROADVIEW

The Broadview Park District presents a Winter Wonderland! This event will feature dance performances, face painting, ornament decorating, a bounce house, selfies with Santa, a toy giveaway and more! For more info, call (708) 343-5637 or click here. VFP

Your big event missing? Submit info to You can also message us on Facebook. 

Facebook Like

BRIEFLY: Maywood, Triton to Unveil Christmas Trees | More Mayoral Race Intrigue | The Hamptons Earn More Praise | More


Monday, November 28, 2016 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

After searching throughout the village, the Maywood Environmental and Beautification Commission has found a Christmas tree, a spruce, to display during the Christmas season.

The tree, donated by Maywood resident Lawrence Sparks, will be the centerpiece of a tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 5, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the corner of 5th Ave. and St. Charles.

The ceremony will feature numerous special guests, including Pastor Elliot Wimbush of First Congregational Church of Maywood, who will lead participants in carols; storytelling by Kim Davidson; face painting; the Proviso East drama team and band; the Second Baptist children’s choir; and more.

Triton kicks off Festival of Trees

Triton College is seeking people to sponsor Christmas trees on behalf of municipalities, business, organizations and individuals for its annual Holiday Festival of Trees on Dec. 2, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., on the Triton College Mounds, located on the west side of the campus, 2000 S. 5th Ave., River Grove.

Interested sponsors can decorate their trees from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1. On Dec. 2, participants will be treated to hot chocolate, cookies, holiday music and a photo booth during the event. They’ll also be able to take in a free holiday show at the Cernan Center.

Take a photo of your tree and share it with the college using the hashtag #DeckTheMounds.

Each lighted tree is $150, with proceeds to benefit the student scholarships through the Triton College Foundation. For more information call (708) 456-0300, Ext. 3165/3172 or click here.

Mother Hampton receives posthumous resolution from Springfield


Iberia Hampton, middle, and her son Bill, left, cut a ribbon before the opening of the Fred Hampton Family Aquatic Center. | File

Illinois State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) introduced a House Resolution earlier this month honoring the life of Iberia Hampton, the mother of famed civil rights activist and Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.

Mother Hampton died on Oct. 16 at the age of 94. In October, the Cook County Board of Commissioners presented its own resolution honoring Hampton’s life during a regular board meeting.

Hampton’s son, Maywood Park District Commissioner Bill Hampton, received an honor of his own by the Maywood Police Department during a board meeting in October.

Hampton, along with the late Mayor Joe Freelon, who served as Maywood’s first African American mayor for four terms throughout the 1980s and 1990s, was honored as the department’s Citizen of the Year.

The department award lauded Hampton for his efforts in continuing “progressive and unique programs” and in the development of “new and innovative projects” for Maywood.

To read the full House Resolution, click here.

Mayor’s race getting more crowded

With just weeks to go before candidates are required to turn in petitions in order to get on the ballot for the April 4, 2017 election, more names are popping up as possible candidates for Maywood mayor.

Sitting Mayor Edwenna Perkins, former mayor and sitting trustee Henderson Yarbrough, sitting trustee Antonette Dorris and liquor commissioner Mary “May” Larry have all announced their intentions to run for the mayor’s seat in April.

Three more potential candidates — attorney Luther Spence, activist Quincy Johnson and community leader Billy Fowlkes — have been named as possible contenders, although they have yet to formally announce.

First Congregational Church seeking new occupants

MFA Danceres

Maywood Fine Arts dancers rehearsing inside of First Congregational Church earlier this year. | Spooner Bauman

Maywood’s First Congregational Church, 400 N. 5th Ave., is seeking new occupants to share its space with. For the past five years, the church shared space with Maywood Fine Arts, which has since moved into a new dance studio down the street.

“There are many hours in the week when church activities are not taking place and our simple, but spacious home may work for someone,” church officials noted.

“We are open to ideas and can be fair and flexible with terms.  We are seeking to be good stewards of our church home and not waste any of our assets.”

For more information, call (708) 3344-6150.

Maywood fire chief appeals to residents to obtain working fire, carbon monoxide alarms

CT ct-overnight-photo-XXXX 4 04.JPG

Maywood Fire Chief Craig Bronaugh released a statement on the appropriate methods for staying safe during the winter season.

“Because the cold season is approaching, we will soon find ourselves having to both initiate and maintain efforts to keep warm in our homes,” he wrote.

“Sometimes accidents do happen. Because of this possibility, as Fire Chief of Maywood, I am making a personal appeal to every Maywood Village Resident to ensure that you do indeed have present and operating smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your place of residence.

“The devices are not expensive and can be found at local neighborhood stores. The presence and proper operations of both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can notify and protect residents from the devastation resulting from fire and carbon monoxide.

“Thank you, be safe and enjoy the upcoming holiday season!” VFP

For more local news, ‘Like’ VFP on Facebook

Facebook Like

Bellwood School District Facing More Scrutiny Over Spending

Marilyn Thurman.pngMonday, November 28, 2016 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

The Chicago Tribune has published an article today about Bellwood School District 88, which apparently has paid $605,000 to People Cab Co. since 2011 on transportation services for homeless and special education students.

“More than half — or $311,000 — of those expenses were authorized by the board during the past two school years alone, records obtained by the Tribune show.”

The contract with People Cab, which was approved without a bidding process, was supported by Marilyn Thurman, D88’s school board president, pictured above left. The Tribune claims that the father of Thurman’s son drives for the company.

Thurman, (who along with the district’s superintendent, Rosemary Hendricks, declined to comment on the story), said that she supported the no-bid contract with People because it’s difficult predicting the monthly transportation needs, or the number, of the district’s homeless and special education students.

The Tribune reported that less than 2 percent of Bellwood’s student population was homeless at some point in the 2015 school year (or 42 students). In nearby Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89, 67 students were homeless at some point that year. And Berkeley School District 87 had 21 students experience homelessness in 2015.

“In contrast, the Berkeley and Maywood districts spent a combined $47,000 that year, a fraction of the nearly $192,000 spent in Bellwood,” the Tribune notes.

To read the full Tribune article, click here. VFP

Photo credit: Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune

For more local news, ‘Like’ VFP on Facebook

Facebook Like

Infant on Life Support After Crash on Eisenhower Expressway

Eisenhower crash.png

Illinois State Police investigate a two-vehicle crash early Sunday in the eastbound lanes oh I-290 near Desplaines Avenue in Forest Park. | Caption by Sun-Times | Photo by NVP News

Sunday, November 27, 2016 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

An infant boy is in critical condition after a two-car crash that happened on I-290 Sunday night, according to the infant’s family members.

The child, who media reports, based on interviews with his grandmother, identified as 10-month-old T.J. Hughes, Jr., suffered serious injuries, including two broken legs, a broken arm and a skull fracture.

“The boy was in the vehicle with his aunt after visiting his grandmother’s house in Maywood for a post-Thanksgiving gathering,” according to a report by ABC 7 Chicago. “They were headed back to T.J.’s home in Chicago when they were hit.

“A blue 2000 Hyundai Elantra driven by a 25-year-old Chicago woman was stopped in the right lane with its lights off when it was rear-ended by a silver 2001 Honda Odyssey driven by a 50-year-old Chicago man, police said.”

According to police, the infant was rushed to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where he’s on life support and where the adults involved in the crash were also taken. Their medical conditions haven’t been released. Police suspect alcohol may have been a factor in the incident. VFP

For more local news, ‘Like’ VFP on Facebook

Facebook Like

Maywood Mourns First Black Mayor: ‘Because of Him We Thought More of Ourselves’

Mayor Joe Freelon Sr..pngSunday, November 26, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Hundreds of mourners gathered at Maywood’s Second Baptist Church, 436 S. 13th Ave., on Saturday to celebrate the life of Joe W. Freelon, Sr., Maywood’s first African American mayor. Freelon, who died on Nov. 18 of natural causes, was 87 years old.

Born on Sept. 15, 1929, in Grenada, Mississippi, Freelon was one of 13 children. He attended Grenada’s elementary and high schools before enlisting in the U.S. Army for three years and eventually enrolling at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama.

After graduating from Tuskegee’s R.O.T.C. program with a bachelor’s degree in 1956, Freelon re-entered the military as an officer stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas. Eventually, he would move to Chicago and become a schoolteacher.

In 1964, Freelon and Gladys, his wife of 61 years, moved to Maywood and joined Second Baptist, where Freelon would serve as chairman of the church’s deacon board for more than 40 years.

The church was a magnet for former southerners and educators like Louise Denton-Jones, who was also born and raised in Grenada before moving to Maywood and starting a decades-long teaching career.

“Joe was what you’d call my homeboy,” said Denton-Jones, who officiated Saturday’s service. “We’re from the same hometown and we both graduated from Grenada Public High School. We’ve come a long way. Joe was no ordinary man. He was a great man.”

Freelon was in his early 50s, and had distinguished himself as a social studies and math teacher in Chicago Public Schools, as well as a key community figure, by the time a group of residents tapped him to run for mayor in the early 1980s.

“Joe was first and foremost an educator,” wrote U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th), who sent a letter that was read by his former chief of staff and current Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) during Saturday’s service.

“He taught for many years in the North Lawndale community [and] children in the community at large loved him,” Davis wrote. “Joe was the kind of person who would always come when called. When a group of his neighbors, friends, colleagues and fellow church members called, he answered and ran for mayor. For the rest of his life, he has been a leading force in the governance of Maywood.”

Freelon entered the race as one of eight candidates, including six African Americans. One of them, Bill Hampton — the brother of slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton — recalled in an interview on Friday that the 1981 race may have featured the most black candidates of any race in the village’s history.

According to newspaper accounts, some residents feared that, with so many blacks in the running, they would split the African American vote in what would amount to a missed opportunity at a time when the village’s black residents, who had comprised Maywood’s majority, were hungry for representation in the mayor’s office.

But Freelon prevailed over newspaper publisher Ron Saunders by just 23 votes, a result that Saunders contested in the courts.

In May 1982, a Cook County Circuit Court judge ordered  Freelon to vacate his position as mayor due to “large-scale voting irregularities in the April 7, 1981 election that put him in office,” according to a May 28, 1982 Chicago Tribune article.

Among those irregularities, the judge noted, were failures by election judges to “initial ballots” and “check registration cards” — oversights the judge said were due largely to “lack of knowledge of the election laws and the rules of the election board.”

After he stepped down, the village board appointed Freelon acting mayor until a special election could be held on Nov. 3 1982. Freelon would go on to comfortably defeat Saunders by several thousand votes in a head-to-head matchup.

“It is abundantly clear tonight that the people are saying, ‘Take your programs and move forward,’” Freelon said when he was elected to an historic first term for the second time.

The Maywood mayor’s victory in 1981 predated a wave of major black mayoralties across the country. Two years after the village first elected Freelon, Chicago would elect Harold Washington, Philadelphia would elect Wilson Goode and New York City would elect David Dinkins.

Race played a critical role in urban politics in those years, with blacks jockeying for more local political power while whites fought to maintain their tremendous political advantages against a demographic surge that worked against them.

Months after his historic win, Mayor Washington attended a rally at the Maywood Community Center in order to galvanize support behind an all-black slate comprising four candidates for District 89 school board seats.

“Maywood is a focal point of a lot of attention,” said Washington, who was introduced by Freelon. “You know what you want. You don’t need me to tell you how to do it; but … I am bringing you this message from the good people of Chicago.”

The all-black slate, called the Citizens for Representative Education, claimed that the board’s white majority from Melrose Park “restricted public comment,” among other allegations of discriminatory practices.

Washington, the Tribune reported, called the majority white board of a majority black school district “a travesty on common sense.”

Donna Felton, a lawyer who was running on the CRE slate that year, spoke in religious terms when describing the movement to elect more black officials to the school board, among other local seats of power.

“What this says to the people is a crusade is still going on,” Felton said. “Many black people who never heretofore voted now realize the power of the collective vote and specifically the black vote. Harold epitomizes the movement. His presence here will have a tremendous impact on our race.”

Long before Barack Obama, Washington, and the other trailblazing black mayors like him, Freelon included, were models for young African American men, particularly in the South, who had never seen themselves in those positions of power.

David Core, Gladys’ nephew, was a young man in Alabama when his Uncle Joe was first elected mayor.

“I used to drop his name a lot,” Core, who eulogized Freelon on Saturday, said of his uncle. “It made me feel like I was a little more than what I was, because I had an uncle who was a mayor. In Alabama at that time we didn’t have black mayors. So I’d drop his name around. That made me feel a little bigger on the totem pole. He was an encouragement to us young, black men looking for an example. Because of him, we thought more of ourselves.”

Freelon’s election was also a boon to local religious leaders, some of whom found a sympathetic ear in the longtime deacon.

One pastor, who spoke briefly on Saturday, said the mayor helped alleviate a conflict related to Sunday parking near the pastor’s Maywood church.

“In 1993, God began to bless the church in such a way that we were taking up all the parking on 14th Avenue; so much so that we got tickets,” said the pastor. “It’s good to have saved people in political arenas. He cleaned up all my tickets and fixed it so we would have one-way parking on 14th Ave. on Sunday. We just need those kind of people in office today. He set a precedent and a legacy and I encourage all of us to pick up the cross.”

The village’s first black mayor, said another pastor during brief comments on Saturday, was a church leader before he was a politician.

“I met Deacon Freelon 27 years ago,” the pastor said. “Every time that I came here or met him in public, he was Deacon Freelon. I happened to call him a couple of times when he was in office and he would say, ‘Son, I’ll take care of it.’ I’d just like to encourage the church and the community to follow the footsteps and pattern of Deacon Joe Freelon. Serve with dignity, with excellency and with commitment.”

Freelon would need to tap into reserves of that commitment during the long, drawn-out battle for greater representation that local black leaders were fighting throughout his first term.

In addition to the prolonged legal battles he endured after his 1981 election, the mayor also had to confront a lull in that electoral crusade Felton referenced.

The four-member slate that the first black mayors of Chicago and Maywood supported with such vigor lost the campaign to unseat the predominantly white District 89 school board. According to a Nov. 9, 1983 Tribune article, Washington’s visit to the suburbs may have created a “backlash in the white community.”

“Tell Harold Washington to stay home,” then-Melrose Park Mayor C. August Taddeo told Tribune reporters. “Tell him to stay on that side of Austin Boulevard. I think he’s a great man. He’s got his own problems. He should solve them.”

The Tribune reported that the “slate of white candidates was winning 80-to-1 margins in some Melrose Park precincts that reported early results.”

The CRE slate of four blacks, Freelon told reporters, wasn’t generating anywhere near as much support, a disappointing reality that was compounded by low voter turnout.

In majority black precincts in Maywood, voters “were giving the black slate margins of only 5 of 10 votes,” and “only 25 percent of the voters in Maywood came to the polls, about half the turnout that the black slate estimated it needed,” the Tribune reported.

All wasn’t lost, however. Some black political leaders, like CRE candidate William Frayser, considered the losing effort just a start in a larger war for greater political representation.

“It was lost, technically, but I see this as a victory,” Frayser said. “It is long past time that this [victory] should come to us as a racial group. We have here the foundation of an organization.”

By 1984, Freelon was looking beyond Maywood and even Chicago for a glimpse of the future of black political representation. In those days, much of that future hinged on Jesse Jackson.

In April of that year, while attending the National Conference of Black Mayors in Missouri, Freelon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that, even if the civil rights leader and presidential candidate “did nothing more than get people registered and out to vote who have never voted before, the impact will be great.”

Many blacks “who thought of running for higher office before but didn’t are going to run for office now,” Freelon predicted. “And I think you’re going to see black candidates seriously running for president from now on.”

Familiar crises 

Maywood municipal workers picket village hall.png

Mayor Freelon’s election came in the wake of drastic racial change in Maywood. In 1970, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Maywood’s black residents comprised roughly 41 percent of its total population. By 1980, blacks were 75 percent of a village that had lost more than 2,000 residents — from around 30,000 in 1970 to around 28,000 a decade later — and thousands of jobs.

In 1975, the 18-acre American Can Co. plant, once the largest employer in town, closed its doors. Around the same time, a Canada Dry bottling plant also closed. Those two companies, according to estimated accounts published by the Tribune, employed around 8,000 people.

When those major local employers closed, smaller businesses that depended on the incomes gained from them closed, too.

The loss of stable jobs, small businesses and homeowners in the village, the cumulative impact of which residents are still living with now, precipitated a loss of tax revenue and all of the complications that come with that loss.

A 1976 work stoppage among Maywood police officers was followed by another one in 1983, while Freelon was two years into his first term.

That year, Maywood patrolmen were demanding a 7 percent salary increase and permanent shifts. The village, the mayor said at the time, simply didn’t have enough money to fund that large of a pay raise. A full-blown police strike was averted after the village offered a graduated salary increase.

There would be more work stoppages and strikes to come, including a massive strike by village employees in September 1986 that nearly “shut down village hall and the police station but had little immediate effect on city services,” the Tribune reported.

Many of the problems that Freelon confronted are eerily similar to those pestering village officials now.

In February 1983, the mayor and his colleagues confronted around $750,000 worth of overdue water bills and up to $1 million worth of overdue parking tickets by implementing shutoffs for delinquent customers and attaching boots to the cars of people with the most outstanding parking fines.

Within less than five months of implementing the shutoffs, the Tribune reported at the time, village officials had collected $322,000. That figure is similar to the estimated $333,000 that the village collected within several days after sending shutoff notices to residents more than 60 days behind on their water payments last June.

That more recent collection attempt was to address what current Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet called “the extreme delinquency” of unpaid water bills that amounted to more than $1 million.

And just as current residents often complain of the village’s crime rate now, the issue was no less pressing more than two decades ago — dominating, and perhaps ultimately upsetting, Freelon’s bid for a third-term in 1989, which he lost to State Farm insurance agent Don Williams.

Williams and Solomon Smith, the third candidate in that race (who was a retired Maywood police chief under Freelon’s predecessor), hammered the sitting mayor on the village’s increasing crime rate.

But Freelon’s four terms in office (after losing in 1989, he would later win his seat back in 1993 and serve for eight more years) may be characterized as much by the precedents the former mayor established as by the problems that dogged the village back then and that persist today.

Freelon presided over the construction of the police station at 125 S. 5th Ave., where the current mayor’s office and village council chambers are also housed. In addition, numerous committees and commissions, such as a beautification committee and a Water Service Commission, were created during his tenure.

“There’s been a change in attitude in recent years,” Mayor Freelon told the Tribune in 1997, when the village bought and demolished the decaying American Can site on St. Charles Road.

“In the past, we were trying to reconstruct the American Can Co., and that wasn’t going to happen,” he said, expressing the sense of optimism and resilience amid relative decline that would also be the late mayor’s legacy. “Now, we’re looking at other options and we’re positive about those.”

Articulating an approach to economic development that would be followed by mayors and elected officials who would come after him, Freelon told the Tribune that the village would focus on attracting a diverse array of businesses from smaller industries.

The razing of the old American Can plant — long a symbol of a bygone economic reality — would make way for Aetna Plywood, a wood and laminate products distributor, and Cintas Corp., a laundry and distribution center along St. Charles Road.

Although they did not begin to replace the amount of employment that American Can and Canada Dry provided, the two facilities would generate close to 200 jobs, according to one estimate published by the Tribune.

More, perhaps, than most places, current and former residents of Maywood have an unyielding faith in the town’s people — a belief that Freelon often touted.

“Maywood is a community where most people not only know each other but take care of each other,” the mayor told the Tribune. “People may think of us as a blue-collar place, but that makes us a very rich place indeed.

“If I had to pinpoint it, I guess I’d say our families are what have held the community together, despite what some people say was a bad economic picture in the past.”

An even greater service

Long after he retired from public service, Freelon could often be found in the basement of his church, teaching Bible study.

“He was one of the best teachers we had,” said Evangelist Frances Harris, a longtime minister at Second Baptist, during Freelon’s funeral on Saturday.

The former mayor, who served as chairman of the church’s deacon board for more than 40 years, was also a longtime board member for the church’s Maple Tree Child Care Center.

He also served in various civic capacities until his death. In 2014, he was appointed to the fire and police pension board by sitting Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins. In October, the police department honored Freelon for “initiating a turnaround” for the village.

Freelon’s post-retirement accolades would also include, perhaps most prominently, a bust of his likeness that was installed in the entrance to Maywood’s administrative building at 40 Madison St.

But although he received lots of public praise, loved ones said Saturday, the late mayor really lived to serve his wife; his two children, Joe Jr. and Gawana; his five grandchildren, including Dannie, Joe III and Alice, and his five great-grandchildren.

“Many times you wouldn’t have to tell him that you had a need because if he knew it, he would just step up and take care of it,” said Freelon’s goddaughter, Benita Thomas Leon.

“Through the years, I saw him serve without complaining, doing everyday things such as going to the grocery store for the family [and] during the times he chauffeured my godmother and me to the shopping centers, knowing he’d probably be there all day and half the night,” she said.

It’s a legacy of quiet greatness that his relatives will always be striving to live up to, said Freelon’s grandsons Joey III and Dannie, the latter of whom read a poem often cited by members of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, of which the late mayor was a member.

“The test of man is the fight that he makes / The grit that he daily shows,” his grandson said. “The way that he stands upon his feet.  / And takes life’s numerous bumps and blows.”

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin recalled Maywood’s motto, ‘The village of eternal light,’ when describing the late mayor.

“He was like the light of the world,” Boykin said. “He was like that city set upon a hill whose light could not be hidden.” VFP

Maywood’s first black mayoralty in newspaper clippings

April 1981

May 1982

February 1983

June 1983

August 1983

November 1983

December 1984

September 1986

March 1988 

March 1989 

June 2000