I enjoyed JoAnne Kosey’s article of April 25, 2017 about the Riverside Town Hall. It is a place that makes everyone who loves it remember the past and the people that have contributing to the Village of Riverside and the Township of Riverside for over a century.
However, having just celebrated Mother’s Day, we need to also remember the most important people of our past and our present — our mothers and our grandmothers. As my late mother would commonly say, “If it were not for mothers, where would be? Mom was right, of course, but then she used to also say, “Mothers are always right.”
Time passes quickly and, one day your mother or grandmother is there, and then she is gone, sometimes very unexpectedly. Not everyone has a living mother or grandmother, but they may have others in their lives that fill the bill. Spend time with that person. You will be glad you did, and that person will love you for it.
I had one such person in my life who was like a grandmother. Her name was Millie Slezak, and she passed away on April 4. For those that knew Mrs. Slezak, known as Millie to her friends, they would recall that she was like everyone’s adopted mother or grandmother.
When my late grandmother, Lillian M. Baar, died in 1988, Millie became my adopted grandmother as much as she became an adopted mother for my mother. Millie made you feel so good to be alive, and there was nothing she would not do to help you.
She was born on Aug. 23, 1925 in the Czech neighborhood of Pilsen and then went on to co-own Manor True Value Hardware store in Cicero with her late husband, Charlie Slezak.
Both were extremely involved in so many communities within the western suburbs. In 1979, she and Charlie left the hardware business, and Millie became one of the loyalist staff members for a young lady running for state representative in the 43rd Legislative District, which was run for years by a male-dominated, Republican political machine.
With Millie’s help, this young lady not only won the election but went on to a lengthy career in Illinois government. Through it all, Millie Slezak was always there and would eventually become Judy Baar Topinka’s campaign chairman.
Everyone loved to see Millie, and Millie loved to see them. For years, she was quite frankly Judy Baar Topinka’s right-hand person. But she was also the right-hand person to her family and to so many other people and organizations within the community such as the Rotary, Berwyn-Cicero Council on Aging (now Solutions for Care), VFC Ladies Auxiliary, Cicero Boys Club and Seguin RCA, to name a few.
She was a role model for the community, and I am grateful that I was able to spend so much time with her and her family in recent months.
I missed Mrs. Slezak this past Mother’s Day as I missed my mother and grandmothers, but I never forget them. Never forget your mothers and grandmothers, especially if they are alive. Enjoy their company, and treat them like the queens they are.
Joseph Baar Topinka