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A year of welcome returns and goodbyes

SWAT officers search Metrstop Tinley Park for two men who escaped from Metropolitan Correctional Center Chicago Tuesday December 18 2012.

SWAT officers search the Metra stop in Tinley Park for two men who escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago on Tuesday, December 18, 2012. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: February 1, 2013 6:06AM



Residents of the Southland are closing the books on a year that saw the return of a much beloved parade, the departure of a much vilified governor and the closing act of a political dynasty in one suburb.

A large regional hospital moved into a new home in 2012, while another health care provider got the green light from the state for a major expansion. A two-decade campaign to bring a dedicated housing facility for the region’s homeless came to fruition.

Here are some of the more notable news events that took place in, or otherwise impacted, the Southland this year.

JANUARY

Former Eisenhower High School football player Rasul “Rocky” Clark died Jan. 5 at age 27. Clark lived the last 11 years of his life as a quadriplegic after suffering a spinal cord injury during a high school football game in 2000.

Also in January, an Orland Park man became an international curiosity after accidentally shooting a 3 1/2-inch nail into his brain — the nail wasn’t discovered until more than a day after it happened.

FEBRUARY

Patients and staff of Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet moved Feb. 26 to a new 289-bed hospital in New Lenox.

MARCH

On March 11, the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade returned to Chicago’s Beverly community after a nearly three-year hiatus, accompanied by a heavy police presence and security measures aimed at keeping a lid on hooliganism. The resurrected parade stepped off on a somber note, led by members of Marine Cpl. Conner Lowry’s family. Lowry, of Beverly, died in combat March 1 while serving in Afghanistan.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich reported to a federal prison in Colorado on March 15 to begin serving a 14-year sentence after his conviction on corruption charges.

APRIL

Cook County officials say a birder alerted them to a pair of American bald eagles that had established a nest at Tampier Slough in Palos Township.

MAY

Lunchtime at the Ashford House restaurant in Tinley Park turned into chaos on May 19 when, police said, a group of five Indiana men wielding metal batons and other weapons attacked a group of suspected white supremacists meeting inside the restaurant.

Kaylah Lentine, a 14-year-old Hometown girl, died May 25, one day after being struck by a pickup truck as she walked to Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, where the eighth-grader was to have received a leadership award.

Crestwood Mayor Robert Stranczek announced May 29 he would not seek re-election in April 2013. It will be the first time in more than half a century that the Stranczek name isn’t on a municipal ballot in the suburb.

JUNE

Crete officials voted June 11 to withdraw the village from consideration as a site for a proposed immigrant detention center. A private company, Corrections Corporation of America, was to have built and operated the center for the federal government.

JULY

Sauk Village residents packed a July 17 village board meeting demanding officials take action to improve the quality of drinking water after the state issued a notice about elevated levels of a cancer-causing chemical in the water.

AUGUST

On Aug. 28, Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed legislation that would have cleared the way for a casino in the Southland. In November, Country Club Hills and a developer announced they’re working on a $250 million casino project in the event new legislation expanding gambling in Illinois is amenable to the governor.

SEPTEMBER

A Will County jury on Sept. 6 convicted former Bolingbrook police officer Drew Peterson of murder in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Bryan Craig, a Rich Township High School District 227 counselor and former varsity girls basketball coach, is fired Sept. 18 after writing a sexually explicit self-help book rife with his controversial and often crude views on women and sex. Craig is suing the district in federal court.

The Sept. 25 grand opening of the Country Club Hills Wellness Center caps a 20-year campaign to establish a facility dedicated to housing the Southland’s homeless.

OCTOBER

Teachers and students in Evergreen Park School District 124 were back in the classroom Oct. 15 after a nearly two-week strike. A settlement was reached after an 11-hour negotiating session.

NOVEMBER

Chicago Fire Department Capt. Herbie Johnson, of Chicago’s Morgan Park community, died of inhalation injuries Nov. 2 while battling a fire on the city’s Southwest Side. He was the first Chicago firefighter to die in the line of duty since 2010.

On Nov. 21, after a paid leave of absence that began June 10, Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned from the U.S. Congress, setting up a Feb. 26 special primary election. Voters in the 2nd Congressional District will elect a new representative April 9.

DECEMBER

A state review board on Dec. 10 approved a scaled-down expansion at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. Plans call for building a seven-story patient tower. The hospital is at work on a new tower to house outpatient services.

On Dec. 18, the search for two escapees from a federal prison in Chicago focused for a time on Tinley Park, prompting many local school officials — with the Newtown, Conn., massacre fresh in their minds — to not let students outside for activities such as recess.



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