Category: Lives

Melrose Park Mailman, Retiring After 60 Years, Among Longest-serving in History

Sunday, August 13, 2017 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

When Garland Gralow, 83, of Melrose Park, began working with the United States Postal Service in 1957, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.

Sixty years and 11 presidents later, Gralow has reached the end of the 25th Avenue route he’s worked ever since joining the postal service, according to an Aug. 2 report by CBS Chicago, which covered the popular postal worker’s last days on the job before retiring.

Continue reading “Melrose Park Mailman, Retiring After 60 Years, Among Longest-serving in History”


Sun-Times’ Mary Mitchell Profiles 106-year-old ‘Regal’ Maywood Woman

Thursday, August 10, 2017 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

According to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell, Susie Lewis, 106, of Maywood, almost looks too good to be true.

When Mitchell, a former Maywood resident herself, visited the Maywood home where Lewis has lived for half a century, the columnist encountered a woman whose face “is virtually untouched by the two scourges of time: wrinkles and sag” and who “has the peaceful look of a contented child.”

Continue reading “Sun-Times’ Mary Mitchell Profiles 106-year-old ‘Regal’ Maywood Woman”

With Maywood Prayer Walk, A Pastor Returns to His Old Stomping Grounds


Participants in Saturday’s prayer walk, hosted by Impact Ministries, pray for Impact’s leaders, Pastor Anthony Pelegrino. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

On July 29, Pastor Anthony Pelegrino, who heads up Impact Ministries in Maywood, led around two dozen people on a prayer walk along the Prairie Path, from 17th Ave. to 11th Ave. and back.

The walk through Maywood was more than a demonstration for the 42-year-old resident of Downers Grove.

“I used to buy drugs out here,” Pelegrino said while standing on a plot of grass where the path meets the concrete road at 17th Ave., near Madison St.

Continue reading “With Maywood Prayer Walk, A Pastor Returns to His Old Stomping Grounds”

‘She Cared,’ Says Former Students of Retired Maywood Teacher

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Janet Nendze, who retired from Melrose Park Elementary School in May after a 39-year teaching career, accepts praise and thanks from family members and former students during a July 9 surprise party.  | Shanel Romain/VFP

Maywood teacher photo 6_Page 9 jumpFriday, July 14, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Tony Favela, a 1996 graduate of Melrose Park Elementary School, still talks fondly of his physical education teacher, Janet Nendze, who retired in May. That’s partly because of what she did for him during his eighth grade year.

“I got into a lot of trouble in eighth grade,” Favela recalled during a surprise party held for Nendze on July 9 at Miller Meadows Forest Preserve in Maywood.

“I couldn’t even walk across the stage during graduation. They told me to come pick up my diploma on the last day of school in the principal’s office,” Favela said.

“A couple of days before graduation, Ms. Nendze was like, ‘Go buy a disposable camera and when you get your diploma, meet me in the gym.’ That’s what I did,” he said. “She borrowed a cap and gown and took a picture of me so I’d at least have that memory.”

Favela was one among dozens of Nendze’s former students, most of them in their 20s and 30s, who wanted to let the PE teacher of 39 years know how much they appreciate that she cared.

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Former students of Nendze’s during a July 9 surprise party held for the retired teacher. | Shanel Romain/VFP

“When we had personal trouble at home and personal issues, Ms. Nendze was always there to talk to us, to give us advice, to assure us that everything would be alright,” said Rolando Villegas, who graduated from Melrose Park in 1998.

“She was more than just a gym teacher,” he said. “She was a friend, a mentor, a counselor, an advisor and a coach.”

Amelia Martinez, Class of 1985, remembers the time that Nendze intervened during a conflict between Martinez and another girl at school.

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A former co-worker of Nendze’s takes a photo with the teacher and her former students. | Shanel Romain/VFP

“She pulled us into the girl’s locker room and was like, ‘You both need to stop this nonsense, you can’t listen to the he-said, she-said,’” Martinez recalled. “That moment will always stay in my head. From that day on, that girl and I became best friends. We’re best friends to this day.”

Despite the laughter that coated the warm summer afternoon, the Sunday gathering was prompted, in part, by tragedy. On May 22, a week before what would’ve been her last day of teaching, Nendze’s husband passed.

Nendze’s granddaughter, Alaina Gallaway, said that her grandfather had been in the hospital on and off, but that his death was still unexpected.

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Former students of Nendze’s, including Elizabeth Salgado (far left), Amelia Martinez (second from left) and Veronica Montoya (far right). | Shanel Romain/VFP

“My husband would always say that he could hardly wait for me to retire,” said Nendze, who lives in Maywood. “I have sisters who live out of state and our daughter is in Texas. He looked forward to us traveling to see them. Right now, I’m taking things day by day.”

Nendze said that one of her three children (her daughter visiting from Texas) took her out to eat before springing the surprise. Many of her 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren were in on the act, making plans on Facebook weeks in advance (“they know I don’t do Facebook, I don’t have time for that”), and setting up in the park the day of the celebration.

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Former students Thomas Martineck, Rolando Villegas and Tony Favela during the July 9 surprise party for their longtime gym teacher Janet Nendze. | Shanel Romain/VFP

The gathering allowed Nendze some temporary relief from a period of mourning that’s still in the early stages. There are more tears still to be shed, but on Sunday, it was all about laughter — and the memories.

Nendze said she grew up wanting to be a teacher, but her inspiration to teach PE, specifically, came from a gym teacher “I had and who I loved.”

“Back then, the gym teachers wore long skirts and we did a lot of the same stuff over and over again,” she recalled. “I had so much fun in gym class that I wanted to get kids to have that kind of fun, too. And I wanted them to be healthy while having fun.”

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A former student embraces Janet Nendze, who retired in May. | Shanel Romain/VFP

Nendze, who started her teaching career in District 89 in 1977 (she started teaching at Melrose Park in 1980), said that when she thinks back on her teaching experiences, the fondest memories are often encapsulated in the little moments.

“When you see a child the first time they catch a ball and the smile that lights up their face,” she said. “When you’re coaching and someone had a great hit. I’m getting those flashback memories.”

Elizabeth Salgado, Class of 1997, had Nendze as a volleyball coach at Melrose Park (Nendze also coached softball and volleyball at Proviso East for over a decade, in addition to Little League softball). Salgado was the first third-grader at the school to play volleyball with seventh- and eighth-graders.

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Janet Nendze with her some of her three children, 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. | Shanel Romain/VFP

“Our practices were in the morning and she would often come with a tray of homemade brownies,” Salgado said. “She was like a second mother to us.”

Former student Thomas Martineck said that he would often go back to visit Nendze even after he graduated from Melrose Park and enrolled at Proviso East High School.

“I went back there for years while I was going to Proviso just to talk to her,” he said.

“I did that, too,” said Villegas, Salgado’s brother, before explaining his motivation. “She cared. She didn’t give up on anybody. She went out on the limb for you, even if you messed up. She was there to straighten you back out.” VFP

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Village People: Talei Thompson, Father and Son

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

During his June 24 installation ceremony in Forest Park, Talei Thompson — a John Maxwell leadership team member, motivational speaker, business owner and the newly installed Maywood/Proviso Rotary Club president — shared, in a moment freighted with emotion, what he wants for his two teen sons as they looked from the back of the room.

He also explained the family dynamics that kept him out of trouble while growing up on the West Side of Chicago.

You can hear more from Thompson at a free reception for business owners, entrepreneurs and local leaders on July 19, 6 p.m., at Cintas Uniform Services, 1201 St. Charles Rd. in Maywood.

On his desires for his two sons

Every morning when I wake up, you all don’t know it, but I fall on my knees and asked God to give you the gift of discernment. I ask God to lead and guide you, all of your steps, and that he places inside of you the ability to make good decisions.

I pray for your futures and that God places the people around you who will give you what it is you need in order for you guys to accomplish remarkable things in life.

I just want you to know that there aren’t any two other people in my life more important than you two gentlemen and daddy loves you.

On churchgoing and staying out of trouble

One person can’t raise an individual by themselves, especially a little knucklehead boy on the West Side of Chicago — 4015 W. Van Buren to be exact.

It was a rock’s throw away from the Eisenhower Expressway, which, because of the terrible things that happen in our community, people also call Heroin Highway.

To stay safe, I listened to the things [my family] told me as a child. My grandmother told me, ‘Make sure you watch who you get in the car with.’ And when I started to drive myself, ‘Make sure you watch who you put in the car with you. You don’t know what it is they’ve done, who they’ve done something to or what it is they have with them.’

My mom raised me in Sunrise Missionary Baptist Church and kept me active so I wouldn’t have an idle mind.

Every Monday, I went to practice for the Sun Rise basketball team. Every Tuesday at 6 p.m., I went to Bible class at that same church. Wednesday, I had a little break. On Thursday, I went to senior choir rehearsal and watched my mother, who sang in that choir. Friday, I had another little break.

On Saturday, it was time for me to participate in my own choir rehearsal with the junior choir. And on Sunday, I went to church and had a great time in fellowship in church.

It is because of that decision that I can honestly say that I went this way and not that way. I thank my mom for that. VFP

YOU NEED TO BE HERE Business reception Detailed Flyer_July


Milestones: Broadview Judge Appointed to Oak Park Hospital Board | Bellwood Bank Appoints New VP

Cherly Ingram.jpgTuesday, June 27, 2017 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

Judge Cheryl Ingram, a Broadview resident who has presided in the Fourth Municipal District of Cook County since 1994 and was elected to the Circuit Court county-wide in 1992, was recently appointed to Rush Oak Park Hospital’s Board of Directors.

According to a statement released by Rush Oak Park on June 27, Ingram “was first drawn to the hospital for the medical expertise it provides.”

“My family and I have always been pleased with the services we have received from the Rush family,” Ingram noted in the statement. “Having had personal involvement with the hospital assured me that this was the type of organization that I wanted to help grow.”

Bruce Elegant, the hospitals president and CEO, said he welcomes the addition of the Broadview resident.

“We’re pleased to have Judge Cheyrl Ingram by our side as we continue to provide expert and compassionate health care for the community,” Elegant said.

Ingram joins distinguished company on the board, whose voting members include:

  • David Ansell, MD | Senior Vice President, Community Health Equity, Rush University Medical Center | Associate Provost, Clinical Affairs, Rush University
  • Donna M. Carroll | President, Dominican University
  • Anthony Mitchell | Vice President of Communications, Chicago Council of Global Affairs
  • Joan Kurtenbach | Vice President of Strategic Planning, Marketing & Communications, Rush University Medical Center
  • Gary McCullough | Chief Executive Officer, ARI Packaging
  • Sandra Sokol | Retired Municipal Clerk, Village of Oak Park

Pan American appoints new VP 

Chris parker revised.pngPan American Bank & Trust, based in Melrose Park, announced last month the appointment of Christopher J. Parker as vice president, relationship executive and office manager at the bank’s Bellwood branch, located at 2801 St. Charles Rd.

“With over a decade of financial experience, Parker brings not only his expertise, but also his investment in the local Bellwood community,” according to a company statement.

Parker is currently president of the Bellwood Chamber of Commerce and is also a member of the Maywood Chamber of Commerce.

“Chris brings the enthusiasm, client-centered, relationship-focused approach that Pan American Bank & Trust thrives on when interacting with our clients and helping them live their dreams,” stated Frank Cerrone, Pan American’s president and co-CEO.

“We know that Chris will continue to do great things for Bellwood and the surrounding communities,” he said.

For more info on Pan American, click here. More in the video below:


Village People: Arlenne Villegas, 33, On the Job of Her Dreams

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Arlenne Villegas, owner of Diana’s Shoe Boutique in Melrose Park, takes a break from work inside of her store. | Michael Romain/VFP

Thursday, May 25, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Arlenne Villegas, 33, owns Diana’s Shoe Boutique, 122 N. 19th Ave. (also known as Broadway) in Melrose Park. The Maywood resident took a short break from her work to talk about how she came to own the shoe store she once worked in as a teenager. 

I was about 16 or 17 when I started working here. I worked for the previous two owners. I got married and then stopped working because of pregnancy. Then I came back and started working here again for another four or five years before I went home to stay with the kids.

Now, I own it

On taking ownership 

One day, we were walking by here with the kids and we saw that the lady who owned the store was tired of it. I said, ‘I’ll take over!’ That was around two years ago.

It’s always been a dream of ours [her and her husband Rolando Villegas] to open our own store and that was the perfect opportunity.


On Broadway’s diversity 

This store has been here for over 20 years. It’s known for being the only shoe store on the block that serves the whole family. We have men’s, girl’s, women’s shoes. Most of our customers are women, though.

It’s very exciting working for a store you own. I love working with people. The community is very diverse. We have Hispanics, Italians, African Americans. But everyone is unique and they have their own faces, so I have to think about each and every person as an individual.

For more info on Diana’s Shoe Boutique, click here. VFP

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