Willa Schaffer, 50, dean, counselor, OPRF teacher
Willa S. Schaffer, dean, counselor, and educator at Oak Park and River Forest High School, has died after nearly a year-long battle with leukemia. She was 50 years old.
Schaffer died Sept. 9, 2005, with her husband, Michael, daughter Jennifer, son Adam, and other family at her bedside.
"Throughout her entire illness, she was more concerned with how we were holding up than for her own welfare," said Michael. "She loved people and always wanted the very best for her family, her friends, and, of course, her students."
The Schaffer family has announced that it has started an Oak Park/River Forest memorial scholarship fund in Willa's memory to honor students at OPRF High School.
"Willa inspired her students to set high goals for themselves, to always strive to do better, and to realize the world offered all kinds of opportunities if they would just apply themselves," according to Marilyn Ames, Willa's assistant. "She always saw a positive glow in her students, no matter what their histories. Even if they had had problems in the past, she always found a ray of hope that helped inspire her students to succeed."
According to Ames, Willa loved working at OPRF High School because the school was so diverse, with students from all economic backgrounds, ethnicities, and backgrounds. "She loved the diversity," Ames said. "She embraced the opportunities that the diversity offered. To her it was the spice of life."
Dr. Susan Bridge, superintendent of OPRF High School, said, "I feel that all of us here were so very fortunate to share this amazing place and these beautiful kids with Willa. All of us?#34;students, teachers, and staff?#34;enjoyed our time together."
Working in education and with students was Willa's calling in life. She attended Southwest Missouri State University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in education. Willa went on to receive a master's degree in education and secondary counseling from the University of Missouri.
She earned a Type 75 Certification in educational leadership from Aurora University. This advanced degree is given to school administrators who display a special gift, knowledge, or skill at working with students in elementary and secondary schools.
"One thing I will always remember about Willa is that she got things done," said colleague Dr. Peter Lueck, Lisle school district superintendent and a good friend. "She was such a strong advocate for her students. If a college turned down one of her students, she would call the school and persuade them to reconsider. She fought for her students when she believed they had promise that was just waiting to blossom."
Willa had many other close friends, including those in a group of women that she met with on a regular basis for years just to have fun. "When I think of Willa, please excuse me, but the word that comes to mind is 'zany,'" said longtime friend Carol Mauloff. "We had so much fun. Willa had a great sense of humor, and all of us would laugh for hours. Willa was a gift to all of us, and we all loved her."
Her husband, Michael, said, "She truly was special and had a gift for being able to bring out the best in people. By funding an endowment scholarship at the school, it is our hope that we can touch students' lives and help them in much the same way that she did during her life. If we accomplish that, then the scholarship will be a fitting tribute to her memory and life."
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to:
The Willa S. Schaffer Memorial Scholarship, OPRF High School, 201 N. Scoville Avenue Oak Park 60302.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m., Oct. 1 at First Presbyterian Church of River Forest, 7551 Quick Ave.
?#34;Submitted by Robert Kravitz
Chester Gruszka, 81, 'Dr. Welby'-style family physician
Chester J. Gruszka, 81, of Melrose Park, a longtime Oak Park resident, died Sept. 14, 2005 after a brief but valiant battle with cancer. Chester's life is remembered by a sense of purpose and the commitment he had to his family, his patients, his community, and his faith.
Chester was born in the Cragin neighborhood of Chicago on Aug. 13, 1924 to Walter and Mary Gruszka, who came from Poland. He attended St. Stanislaus B&M School ('38) and Weber High School ('42). After two years of active duty with the U.S. Navy during WWII, he attended Loyola University, followed by the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine ('53).
Dr, Chester Gruszka opened a family practice office, first on Belmont Avenue in Chicago, later settling into his longtime office on North Avenue in Oak Park. Dr. Gruszka was on staff at St. Anne's Hospital where he served a term as staff president. Later he joined the staff of Resurrection Hospital.
Dr. Gruszka's approach to medicine was at once old-fashioned and current. He made house calls and took time with his patients to understand each as an individual. He was kind and compassionate and had a strong work ethic. Dr. Gruszka took courses at Mayo Clinic annually to keep apprised of the latest medical breakthroughs and trends. In fact, one of his patients was the first to have angioplasty in Chicago. He was intellectually curious and could be found, after making Saturday rounds at the hospital, in the library reading medical journals for all the other specialties. He enjoyed the challenge of medicine.
He was a remarkable Marcus Welby-type physician?#34;kind, compassionate, down-to-earth. He was a family practice doctor, yet often scrubbed in on surgeries to assist, to learn, and to be assured that his patients were well cared for.
Much of his patient base was Polish. He treated them like family, and they considered him family. They brought him homemade Polish foods when they came to his office. I don't think an Easter went by when we didn't have homemade Polish sausage made by one or more of his patients.
In 1952, he married Alice (nee Toton), his wife of over 53 years. They shared a deep love for each other and enjoyed many of the same pursuits, especially literature, music, and the arts. They also loved children and had six of their own. They raised their children to treasure family, to uphold traditions, to practice their faith, to value education, and to have a good sense of humor. Each of their children received advanced degrees in their fields of medicine, law, psychology, and business.
Chester Gruszka is survived by his wife, Alice; his six children, Mary Ellen (Bob Best), Peggy (Hubie Scoble), Marcia (Bob) Blank, Paul (Dolores), Philip (Kelli), and Peter (Amie); 15 grandchildren, ranging in age from 22 years to 2 months; two sisters, Ann Menet and Evelyn (Ed) Jachim; and two brothers, Leonard and Walter (Pat).
Chester and Alice could be found at daily Mass at their parish church of 45 years, St. Giles Catholic Church, where Chester was a Eucharistic minister. After retirement, he volunteered at a soup kitchen each week for many years, living his faith and continuing to care for the needs of others. In the twilight of his life, he pursued his love for gardening and created a beautiful oasis in their Oak Park yard. Retirement gave Chester time to pursue another great love, literature. He was a voracious reader and enjoyed taking literature classes at Triton College.
Visitation was held Sept. 18 at Salerno Galewood Chapels, 1857 N. Harlem, Chicago (Sciaraffa, Funeral Directors). Funeral Mass was celebrated Sept. 19 St. Giles Church in Oak Park, followed by interment at Maryhill Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Doctors Without Borders, P.O. Box 1869, Merrifield, Va. 22116-9644 or Sister Ann Schaeffer, St. Stan's Soup Kitchen, 1351 W. Evergreen, Chicago 60622. For information call 773/889-1700.
?#34;Submitted by Dolores Gruszka
Frank Vozak, Jr., 88, Violinist, farmer, humanitarian
Frank R. Vozak, Jr., 88, died in Oak Park on Sept. 13, 2005. He was born Sept. 15, 1916 in Alton, Ill. Frank lived in Alton until July of 2005 when he moved to Holley Court Terrace in Oak Park. He was a farmer and factory worker, and chairman of the Alton Human Relations Commission. He was also a founder, violinist, and board member of the Alton Symphony Orchestra.
A proud Democrat and trade unionist, he was active with both the ACLU and the First Armored Division Association. Frank loved living in Oak Park, and was dubbed "Mayor of Lake Street" by friends from Holley Court Terrace.
Frank Vozak was preceded in death by his parents, Frank and Emma Vozak; his brother, Leo, who died in combat in WWII; and his beloved wife of 57 years, Margarita Redin Vozak. He is survived by his son, Frank R. Vozak III and daughter-in-law Terrie Rymer of Oak Park, and his cousin, Francichek Vozak of Brno, Czech Republic.
Services were held in Alton. Memorials can be made to the Alton Symphony Orchestra, 5800 Godfrey Rd., Godfrey, Ill.
Doris Winchell, 76 , Motel owner, sailor
Doris E. Winchell, 76, died Sept. 1, 2005. She was born in Chicago, and resided in Oak Park, where she raised five children with her husband, Howard. Doris was a former dance instructor for Fred Astaire Studios in Illinois. In 1972, she moved to Edgewater, Fla., where she was a motel owner and able to indulge her love of sailing.
Doris is survived by her husband, Howard; her sons, Laurence, Terry, and Jerry; her daughters, Karen Cauley and Cindy Sherwin; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; her sisters, Marilyn Blass and Violet Daniel; and her brother, Steve Trottier.
Services were held in Florida on Sept. 8 and on Sept. 16 at Dreschler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, Oak Park, followed by interment at Arlington Cemetery in Elmhurst.
Marjorie English, 95, Secretary, Ascension parishioner
Marjorie M. English, 95, died at the British Home in Brookfield on September 13, 2005. She was born April 9, 1910, and was a life-long member of the Oak Park community. Her home was torn down to make room for the building of the Eisenhower Expressway. Marjorie had been a secretary in the newspaper industry, and was a member of Ascension Parish.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Charles and Laura English, and two brothers, Raymond and Donald. She is survived by her niece, Kathy English and a grand-niece. At the age of 95, Marjorie outlived many family and friends.
Services were held Sept. 15, followed by interment at Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, in the English family lot.
?#34;Compiled by Kate Galo