My late mother used to tell me that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. She was most likely right. Taxes bring great frustration, and death, especially the passing of people that have impacted your life, brings great sadness. 

I hope we all look beyond that sadness and reflect on how people really influenced us and embrace their memory and celebrate it. I try to do so all the time. 

A member of American Legion Post #488 passed away recently. Raymond F. O’Donnell Jr. was a longtime resident of Riverside, but, more importantly, he was our post’s former sergeant-at-arms. Raymond was the model of loyalty: he would always show up for meetings. I celebrate Ray for being there, being there, and being there, when often others were not. 

A few years ago, he stopped showing up. We all got worried and, with the help of Police Chief Tom Weitzel, we found out that he was living at the Scottish Home (sorry, I am not good with name changes). 

I visited him and made sure he received his American Legion cap (all members get their cap from the post free of charge). I paid his dues from that point on so he never had to worry about them. It was the least I could do for him. I celebrate Ray for being a veteran, for being proud of his service, and for just being a solid person. 

We often had to repeat things for him at meetings because he did not always hear what was said, but he always understand what the post was trying to do. Post #488 and Sons of the American Legion Squadron #488 proudly salute Ray and his family. He will be missed but never forgotten.

Kathleen “Kay” Subaitis also passed away recently. I need to also celebrate her publicly as she was the secretary to the principal when I was a student decades ago at Blythe Park School. 

Ms. Subaitis was always so warm and kind to me when I entered the principal’s office area. I was frankly scared to enter that area, but that was where the school store was then located. 

When I needed a pencil or an eraser, I had no option but to enter the area. It was also the location for the mimeograph machine (I remember the smell of that ink like it was yesterday) and often I was responsible for picking up copies of things for a teacher. 

Ms. Subaitis made it her mission to teach me to remember my home telephone number. Math has and will never be my favorite subject, and I simply cannot remember numbers. Ms. Subaitis taught me how to remember that telephone number for my old house at 563 Selbourne Road: (312) 447-2951. A (312) area code for Riverside – wow, that is a long time ago! It is still one of the few telephone numbers I can remember. 

I celebrate Ms. Subaitis for never giving up on me. I saw her a few years ago at a North Riverside Library fundraising event. I reminded her of her phone number efforts with me. She smiled and gave me a hug. She will be missed. I will never forget her nor my old telephone number. 

Remember to celebrate the lives of those that have passed. Remember to also celebrate the lives of those that are present. Love one another like there is no tomorrow, because one never knows how many more tomorrows there will be in the future.

Joseph Baar Topinka