Summit Trustee Karen Wasko killed in head-on crash
By Bob Bong and Carol McGowan
Summit Trustee Karen Wasko was killed Friday night when the car she was traveling in was struck head on by another car at 64th Street and Harlem Avenue in Bedford Park.
Her husband, Robert Wasko, was badly injured in the crash and was in critical condition but improving at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and had undergone at least two surgeries.
Joel Velazco Jr., 23, of Oak Lawn, has been charged with drunken driving in connection with the fatal collision, according to a news release from the Bedford Park Police Department.
The Waskos were headed home after helping celebrate the 75th anniversary of Mama Luigi’s restaurant in Bridgeview when they were struck by a 2012 Audi allegedly driven by Velazco.
Police said they received a call about the crash at 10:52 p.m. Friday night.
Police said a witness reported the Audi was speeding in the southbound lanes of Harlem before it crossed the center median and went into the northbound lanes where it ran into a 2012 Buick being driven by the Waskos.
The Bedford Park Fire Department responded to the accident and transported the four people involved to area hospitals. Firefighters from Bridgeview, Summit and Roberts Park assisted Bedford Park.
Karen was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn where she succumbed to her injuries.
Velazco has been charged with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of alcohol, improper lane usage, driving in the wrong lane, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, and providing no valid proof of insurance.
Bail was originally set at $250,000 but he is now being held without bail. He’s on electronic monitoring while being treated in the hospital for injuries he suffered in the crash. His next court date is set for April 13.
Karen and Bobby are lifelong residents of Summit.
Karen Wasko, 74, had been a Summit village trustee since 2014 and was seeking re-election in the April 4 municipal election. Prior to that, she was on the school board for Argo Community High School.
Karen spent 12 years working in the Argo High School human resources office. Before that she spent 10 years at Natural Gas Pipeline Company and 10 years with the McCook Police Department.
Robert Wasko is a former chief of the Summit Fire Department and had also worked part-time with the Summit Police Department.
Karen’s death hit her fellow elected officials in Summit hard.
“The sudden loss of Trustee Wasko is difficult for me to grasp,” said Mayor Sergio Rodriguez. “She was a lifelong resident of Summit, raised her family here, and was a huge supporter of the Fire and Police Departments. It is an understatement to say she loved our community.
“Karen started on the board just as I was just appointed mayor. Although we faced difficult times, we were able to overcome adversity and accomplish many things. I have been blessed to have her by my side and she will be dearly missed.
“I ask everyone to keep her husband Bobby, her two daughters, Nicole and Kelly and her mother and the family in our prayers.”
“She was a great person,” said Trustee Sam Dardovski. “Like I, she lived in Summit all her life and really cared about our community. She was on top of her game in every way with living and loving life. She was always very proud of her daughters and husband. She took care of her mother, and loved her so. She was always active and supportive of the fire department and police department.
“At the last Summit Neighborhood Watch meeting, she joined the Argo-Summit Lions Club as new members were needed to keep the club going. Karen was just a wonderful person to work with, and was at every meeting. We are all physically stunned and hurting from this. It will be awkward without her.”
“She was much more than just a fellow trustee,” said Trustee Aleco Julius. “My wife and I are going to miss you very much. Love you, Karen. Rest in peace, my friend.”
“I am so hurt, that I can hardly find the words to express the profound loss of Karen Wasko to our Village Board,” said Trustee Marvel Parker. “During my 25 years at the village, I have lost all of those that were dear to me. We were a team, she cannot be replaced.”
Officials in neighboring communities were also shocked by her death.
“I’d like to have a moment of silence for Karen Wasko, trustee from the village of Summit who passed away in a fatal car accident Friday night,” Mayor Terrance Carr said as Monday night’s meeting began this week.
“Also for her husband, keep him in your prayers. Bob Wasko was the fire chief in Summit, a policeman at one time. He’s not doing too well. Had a couple of surgeries today,” Carr said.
After the meeting, Carr recalled Wasko.
“I always liked Karen. You knew where you stood with Karen. Whether you liked it or not, you knew where you stood. She never held back,” Carr said with a smile.
“When I got this job, (Karen told me) ‘Hey (deleted), don’t (mess) up like the last boss did over there.’ That’s what she told me JC’s Pub. I’ll never forget that day,” Carr said with a laugh.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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