Teaching can be a rewarding profession—maybe not financially, but in other meaningful ways—and it takes a rare breed to decide to educate our youth rather than pursuing more lucrative careers. In many cases, teachers teach because somewhere deep inside them, a passion for knowledge and for helping others burns so intensely that it simply cannot be ignored.
Such was the case for Maureen Oleskiewicz, a suburban 6th and 7th grade language arts teacher at Independence Junior High School in Palos Heights, Illinois near Chicago—a school she once attended as a student and returned to in order to “give something back.”
For the last six years, Maureen worked tirelessly to make learning fun for her students. This is the way she learned best and her goal was to give her own students a similarly positive experience. Nothing was too crazy as long as it was educational and fun. And if learning meant she had to make a fool of herself, so be it.
Maureen was up to the challenge, and everyone loved her for it.
Unfortunately, the life of this amazing teacher was cut short during a Chicago Cubs baseball game last Sunday.
A die-hard Chicago fan—and a “brainwashed Cubs fan,” according to her mother—Maureen went to as many games as possible each year. And last Sunday, she and her brother Martin had a chance to visit Wrigley Field together.
Before the game began, the siblings grabbed some food and went to their seats to enjoy the beautiful weather and to wait for the opening pitch.
Ironically, Maureen would not live to see that pitch.
The young teacher was enjoying a hot dog when suddenly, a large piece got lodged in her throat and she began to choke. At first, Martin thought his sister was joking around, but he quickly realized she was in serious danger when she fell to the ground, her hands grasping her throat.
Maureen Oleskiewicz was 28 years old.
Losing someone so young—and in such a senseless way—is always a tragedy. But when that person is also an amazing teacher, someone devoted to our youth and so focused on improving our collective future, the loss takes on added significance, at least to me.
I work in education and believe me, we can’t afford to lose any skilled and passionate teachers. If anything we need many, many more.
What’s funny is that even after her death, Maureen is still helping people. She was kept alive for several days—despite being brain-dead—so her organs could be harvested for others.
Maureen was an organ donor. Was there ever any doubt about this sweetheart of a woman?
“Someone got a liver, two people got kidneys and a 14-year-old girl got her heart,” her mother Margaret said. “I hope they take that and run with her kind and beautiful heart.”
That makes two of us, Mrs. Oleskiewicz. Farewell, Maureen…
Those of you who live there or in the surrounding area should probably pay close attention, even though I’m sure this story is at the top of most local newscasts.
Robbins was supposed to be released in 2029, but sadly that date got moved up to 2013.
After the drug and weapons charges against Robbins were dropped, Illinois authorities mistakenly set him free instead of returning him to the Indiana jail where he was serving his murder sentence. Apparently, there was some kind of error and his record was not “flagged” as a convicted felon, so the cops just let him go.
Robbins is currently at large and in the opinion of Douglas Garrison, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Corrections, could be dangerous.
“The man’s been convicted of murder,” Garrison told reporters on Thursday. “We always think that men on the run are desperate, and that desperate men can be dangerous.”
A warrant for Robbins has been issued in both Illinois and Indiana, but so far authorities have no idea where he could be. More than 100 law enforcement personnel are searching for him, including local and state police, the U.S. Marshal‘s Office and the FBI.
Talk about a serious waste of resources.
At any rate, Robbins is on the run, has killed before and might be willing to avoid capture at all costs. He’s been described as a light-skinned, African-American male around 5’5″ tall and weighing nearly 200 pounds. Robbins also has a tattoo on his neck that reads “Nicole.”
If you live in the areas I mentioned and see someone who fits this description, please call 708-865-4915 to report it. With so few leads, I get the feeling police will need the public’s help in apprehending this dangerous (and fortunate) criminal.
Until that happens, though, I suggest you lock your doors and keep your eyes open. You just never know where this killer is liable to turn up.
Maria Ridulph was a beautiful 7-year-old girl living in Sycamore, Illinois in 1957.
One winter evening, she and her friend Kathy were playing in the snow when they were approached by an older boy, 17-year-old John Tessier. He seemed nice enough, talked about dolls and even gave the girls piggyback rides. But it was very cold, so Kathy went home to grab some mittens.
When she returned, John and Maria were nowhere to be found.
Five months later, Maria’s decomposing body was discovered in a wooded area more than 120 miles from her home. The ensuing investigation focused on numerous suspects, but no one was ever charged with the crime.
Yesterday, 72-year-old Jack McCullough, who Kathy identified as Jack Tessier during a recent lineup, was charged with the kidnapping and murder of Maria Ridulph for than half a century ago. That makes this one of the oldest unsolved crimes ever to be brought to trial. McCullough now faces life in prison.
On that fateful day in 1957, McCullough watched as Kathy went home for mittens and promptly dragged Maria into a nearby alley. That’s where he strangled her with a wire and stabbed her repeatedly in the chest and throat. Later, he tossed the corpse into his car, drove it away and dumped it in the woods. McCullough didn’t bother burying her, either. He just left her there for animals and insects to pick clean.
And for more than fifty years, McCullough got away with it.
Things started to change in 1994, when McCullough’s dying mother, Eileen Tessier, told his half-sister Janet that she knew her son had killed Maria all those years ago. Janet passed on this information to police in 2008 and in 2011, McCullough was arrested.
Thankfully, the Ridulph and McCullough families have found some peace together. Janet apologized for her brother’s actions, but helped bring Maria’s family some much-needed closure by leading authorities to him. Now McCullough can spend the rest of his life where he belongs: behind bars.
When I read an uplifting and inspiring story, especially one that involves children, I can’t help but share it since we need more good news in our lives. All of us need it.
Enter 8-year-old Wyatt Erber of Illinois.
Wyatt’s neighbors, the Kieltys, have a 2-year-old daughter named Cara who is battling leukemia. And anyone who knows about cancer knows it costs a lot for treatment.
Wyatt’s mother learned of a scavenger hunt being organized by a local bank and asked Wyatt if he wanted to participate. The grand prize was $1000 and when Wyatt heard this, he immediately agreed to join in.
“Let’s do it,” he told his mother. “And if I win the $1000, I want to give it to Cara.”
As it turned out, Wyatt was the first to complete the scavenger hunt and indeed won the cash prize. He instantly offered it to Cara’s parents, who reluctantly accepted because it meant so much to Wyatt.
Since his altruistic act, a local charity matched Wyatt’s contribution to the Kieltys and people have been sending in letters of support and even more money for Cara. In other words, his choice to “pay it forward” seems to be spreading.
This is the second story I’ve posted today about children doing selfless and kind things for others. If only adults could follow their examples, then our world would be a much better place for all of us.
I tip my hat to you, Wyatt. Thanks for showing us what life is really all about: love for your fellow man… or in this case, your cute little neighbor.
Kelly Davis is a resident of Zion, Illinois and the father of two beautiful daughters. Occasionally, they visit Chicago at night to enjoy all the city has to offer. But things took a turn for the worst during their last trip to the Windy City.
Davis noticed that Gates was paying no attention to him, but instead seemed focused on his two-year-old daughter, Myla. Davis immediately got between Gates and his brood, but that’s when Gates attacked.
He tried reaching around Davis to grab Myla and kept insisting she was his daughter, who he nicknamed Goldilocks. As Davis’ wife rushed the girls to safety, Davis took a shot to the nose moments before Gates strolled away. A bystander immediately contacted police.
Davis followed Gates for almost half an hour until police arrived and arrested him. He will be charged with kidnapping with the threat of force (a felony) and a misdemeanor battery.
I’m a fairly new parent, my son is only five years old, but this is one of my biggest fears. When he’s with me, I keep a very close eye on him, but I won’t always be there to help. And although we’ve talked about what to do when a stranger approaches, my boy is still very trusting of everyone he encounters. So I find myself in a constant state of worry.
I commend Mr. Davis for doing what needed to be done to protect his family. And given the same situation, I’m fairly certain that Gates would have received the ass kicking of a lifetime, too.
Parenting is tough and I wasn’t prepared for the constant fear it brings. My advice to all parents is to take the steps necessary to educate your kids about these types of threats. And please do what I do: commit yourself to protecting children regardless of whether or not they belong to you.
To me, this sounds like an excellent idea!
What a tool…