By Tom Holmes
Phillip Jimenez, the new president/CEO of the West Cook YMCA in Oak Park, grew up in Forest Park. His story is a testimony to the truth that "it takes a village to raise a child." This is the first in a series of stories about the village which raised him.
The most important person in his village, of course, was his mother, Sophie Jimenez Barradas whom Rev. Dean Lueking describes as having "an amazing life story as a single mom who defied all the odds." She was so good at sales that Carson Pirie Scott hired her and supplied her with an interpreter until she became proficient in English. She found her real calling, however, making wigs and hairpieces.
Jimenez explained, "She opened her own business in 1964 making hair pieces for cancer and alopecia patients in downtown Chicago across street from the old Marshall Fields Building. When I was thirteen my mom insisted that I come to work for her, calling clients to confirm appointments. That's where I started to learn some of my social skills, how to interact with folks. She had a style about her that allowed her to connect with people. A person would come into the salon for all intents and purposes broken, either fighting cancer or alopecia. All I knew is that a person would walk in not whole, but when they left they were feeling better, and there was something about that which I internalized."