Dominick's and Wild Bill, the police chief

Opinion: Dan Haley

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Among the wonders of live reader comments on our website are the occasional postings about stories I'd long considered dead. Take the column I wrote in 2005 about then-recently-deceased former Oak Park police chief Wild Bill Kohnke. 

I'm looking at the rail of most recent comments on our site, as I admittedly obsessively do, and a couple of weeks back there is a note from "Haroon," proclaiming the virtues of Bill Kohnke from his days as police chief and assistant football coach in west suburban Villa Park. 

"Big impact on my life," was the gist of the very sincere comment by Haroon. I appreciate his writing, though I do wonder what circuitous Google path brought him to my piece seven years after Kohnke's death. And I wonder what he thought about his former coach after he — columnist's ego at work here — read the column the comment was appended to. 

Because, you just know, I reread the column once I found the note and it has to be one of the most dismissive and snarky pieces I've ever written about a dead guy.

Actually Wild Bill crossed my mind a time or two in recent months. My memory was sparked by, of all things, news of the pending closing of the Dominick's on Lake Street. How can that be, you ask?

Well, while I shopped in that store hundreds of times since it opened in 1988, my most distinct memory was of the evening when the store hosted a grand opening for the local hot shots and broke all records for tiny hot dogs in tasty little pastries. There were probably 100, 200 people there making small talk and really celebrating that the decrepit old West Towns Bus Company barn had given way to this fine new supermarket.  

I was chatting with the still-new Police Chief William Kohnke. "How do you like the town?" "Sure are a lot of aisles in this store." That sort of small talk on my end. Then, unprovoked, Kohnke asked me if I liked Russian women. Don't know any Russian women, I responded. Well, he said, he loved Russian women; they are the hottest women in the world, and he was off on a monologue about the ripeness and tartness of Russian females and I was left looking for an out, with the clear thought that no other police chief had ever shared his sexual fantasies (?) with me, certainly not near the checkout lane.

Kohnke went on to drive his specially purchased police department Harley into the Des Plaines River in pursuit of a suspect who may have existed. He alienated most members of his department and seemed to enjoy that process.

So it was not a surprise that Kohnke left Oak Park a year or two later, booted by an irate village manager. The circumstances, though, were notable, as he decamped for Colorado with a sitting village trustee on his arm. Don't think Trustee Patty Andrews was Russian, but she was certainly high-spirited and a total goof. Our coverage of their affair, complete with her husband, a police sergeant being sent repeatedly out of town by Kohnke for "training," was inevitably sensational. 

So Haroon and Dominick's, thanks for stirring up those memories.

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Aging Disgracefully from Oak Park  

Posted: January 22nd, 2014 4:32 PM


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