Steve “Papa Z” Zalesny and his wife, Julie, in happier times. --Supplied photo
Papa Z, your goodness lives on
By Joan Hadac
Your correspondent in Clearing and Garfield Ridge
(708) 496-0265 • firstname.lastname@example.org
As a young couple in their 30s, Steve Zalesny and his wife, Julie, bought a home in the west end of Garfield Ridge, near 57th and Neenah. That was back in the 1980s. Garfield Ridge is where they lived and raised their daughter, Allison, sending her to St. Daniel the Prophet School, Nazareth Academy and so on.
Affectionately known to many as Papa Z, Steve was a Vietnam-era veteran (U.S. Army). For 40 years, he worked as an operations director at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
In retirement he served as a volunteer at Brookfield Zoo. Many knew him as an usher at the 10:15 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Daniel the Prophet Church.
Fun fact: if ever you saw a gold PT Cruiser tooling around Garfield Ridge, that was Papa Z.
But things started to unravel in late 2015, when Steve was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died in March 2016. He was 64 years old.
But what was an end in some ways was a beginning in others.
Starting in January 2016, Steve’s family—most notably Julie and Allison—launched a fundraising effort in his name. It was an effort designed to help in the fight against pancreatic cancer.
These types of efforts are so often a “one and done”—an event to raise a few dollars and that’s it.
But more than seven years after they started, Julie, Allison, Zack (Allison’s husband) and crew and have raised an astounding $100,000-plus for pancreatic cancer research.
“My dad was always kind, always polite, somebody who bent over backwards to help out or make people feel welcome,” Allison recalls today. “He had an impact on everyone he met. He was the type of man who wanted everyone he met to feel like the most special person in the room. He was just one of those guys you instantly loved.”
It’s that spirit of giving, of thinking of others first, that drives the fundraising in Papa Z’s memory.
“I hear his voice in the back of my head,” Allison adds. “When you have the means, you help other people. We can’t bring my dad back, but we can help others. We can work to fight and maybe end this disease.”
Those fundraisers help. In recent years, the five-year-survival rate for pancreatic cancer has gone up markedly. That matters quite a bit, I can assure you.
Their most enduring fundraiser in Steve’s name has been the monthly trivia night at Tom’s Tap, 6707 W. Archer. It started long ago with just seven people. These days, the trivia players regularly number about 90, filling Tom’s, one of the best neighborhood bars on the entire Southwest Side.
From what I’ve heard, these are some of the most enjoyable nights you’ll find in a neighborhood known for its big heart.
So what about you? Interested in having a bit of fun with friends and neighbors? You can easily learn more by visiting facebook.com/TeamPapaZ.
Mark your calendar
- Last year, when our dear family dog (a lovable rat terrier/mutt mix named Nathan) had to be put down, it wasn’t long before we got another. We went through the non-profit Mutts of the Midway because as always, we wanted to keep things as local as we can.
Sure enough, we found a similar sized, similar mix dog. Bowie is so named because she has one brown eye, one blue eye (as David Bowie did). She’s a fun, energetic, goofy, loving dog.
At every step, getting a dog through Mutts has been a positive experience.
Want to learn more about Mutts of the Midway? Well, Executive Director Ashley Archer will host Mutts Monday, a live update on YouTube, from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 10. To get a clickable link that will take you right to the webcast, see https://www.facebook.com/events/154016787546046?active_tab=about.
- If you live in central or western Clearing (everything west of Central Avenue) and want to join the fight against crime, you are welcome to attend the next CAPS Beat 812 meeting, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 12 at the Clearing Branch Library, 6423 W. 63rd Place. Hear the latest crime statistics and speak directly with police officers, as well as your neighbors who share your concern about public safety. Additionally, meet members of the Clearing Night Force neighborhood watch and find out how you can join.
- If you have any potentially sensitive paper documents you want shredded (like old credit card/bank statements, medical or utility bills) bring them to the west parking lot of Kennedy High School (just south of 56th and Narragansett) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 15. Documents will be shredded on site. Thanks to 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn and State Rep. Angelica “Angie” Guerrero-Cuellar (D-22nd) for providing this useful public service. If you have questions, call (773) 581-1313.
- Next week will be busy at the Garfield Ridge Satellite Senior Center, 5674-B S. Archer (immediately west of Archer and Laramie). Here are just a few highlights:
A “cardio chair” exercise class is set for 9 to 9:45 a.m. Monday, April 10. Bingo starts at 1:30 p.m.
A singalong is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 11. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. You’ll need a ticket for lunch, and they are available starting at 9 a.m. At 1:30 p.m., stick around for bingo.
A “cardio chair” exercise class is set for 9 to 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, April 12. At 12:45 p.m., enjoy a cooking class with Chef Gloria D. Hafer.
A White Crane social worker will be on hand from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13. A nurse will be there from 12:30 to 3 p.m. for individual consultations. An exercise class for those with arthritis will run from 1 to 2 p.m.
Bingo starts at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 17. If you like sci/fi thriller films, the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once (rated R) will be shown at 1 p.m.
That’s it for now. Please have a good week.
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