The man charged with two felony counts of drunk driving for running down and killing an 83-year-old Brookfield resident and severely injuring her 88-year-old husband in the 4000 block of Prairie Avenue on Monday night was out on bond for a charge of driving under the influence in North Riverside just two days before.
North Riverside Police confirmed that Thomas J. Postulka, 45, had been arrested for DUI just after midnight on Jan. 20 after reportedly losing control of his 1999 Pontiac and knocking over a streetlight at the intersection of Cermak Road and First Avenue.
North Riverside Police Chief Anthony Garvey confirmed that Postulka did have a valid driver's license at the time of the North Riverside incident. Postulka was also cited for leaving the roadway, damage to village property and having no proof of insurance in that incident.
Just days after those charges were filed, Postulka is now facing up to seven years in prison for allegedly killing Helen Lilly. He also faces another five years in prison for injuring Francis Lilly, who remains at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. Postulka appeared in Cook County Circuit Court this morning for a hearing in front of Judge Paula Daleo, who set Postulka's bond at $1 million.
On Jan. 22 just before 7 p.m., Helen and Francis Lilly parked their car in the St. Barbara Church parking lot and crossed the street to attend a church service scheduled that evening. Postulka, who was headed northbound on Prairie Avenue, reportedly struck the couple and then continued away from the scene.
However, an off-duty Chicago police officer driving behind Postulka witnessed the accident and gave chase. According to Andy Conklin, spokesman for the Cook County State's Attorney, Postulka attempted to flee the off-duty officer, but was eventually stopped two blocks north of the accident scene.
Brookfield police determined that Postulka was intoxicated and charged him with DUI. The Cook County State's Attorney on Tuesday approved felony charges against Postulka, who lives in the 3000 block of Prairie Avenue.
That the Lillys were heading to St. Barbara Church at the time of the accident was not a surprise. Parishioners at St. Barbara's since 1949, Francis and Helen Lilly were known as tireless volunteers and dedicated churchgoers.
"They are the greatest volunteers I've ever known. They are wonderful, such good people," said Sister Margaret Halligan, who runs many outreach programs at St. Barbara and has known the Lillys and their three children for decades.
"They were inseparable," Halligan said. "Family was of the utmost importance to them."
Helen Lilly was a longtime member of the parish's Council of Catholic Women, both were involved in the parish's senior citizens club, faithfully attending that group's monthly get-togethers.
Helen and Francis Lilly were original members of the parish's Ministers of Care group, started in the 1970s by Halligan, visiting and giving communion to the sick and homebound.
Halligan said that Helen Lilly volunteered at the Sisters of St. Joseph infirmary on LaGrange Road, visiting infirm nuns and acting as "a wonderful companion to the sick sisters." Helen Lilly also was an English-language tutor for the religious order's mobile classroom based in LaGrange.
Years earlier, the couple actively participated in the Nights of the Dolphins parish fundraisers. Over the years they have also been involved in the St. Vincent DePaul Society and volunteered regularly for AMVETS, visiting Hines V.A. Hospital monthly to assist the blind in playing bingo.
"They had an interest in practically everything that was going on," Halligan said. "They are really pleasant, gracious people and very humble. They were really satisfied being in the background. They are very special people."
Visitation for Helen Lilly will be Friday, Jan. 26 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Hitzeman Funeral Home, 9445 31st St., Brookfield.
She will lie in state on Saturday, Jan. 27 at St. Barbara Church, 4008 Prairie Ave., Brookfield, beginning at 9:30 a.m., with a funeral Mass following at 10 a.m. Interment will be at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside. Memorial contributions to St. Barbara Church are appreciated.