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Shnay: A husband’s deep gratitude, and a wish for 2014

Officer Alex Breg | Supplied photo

Officer Alex Bregin | Supplied photo

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Updated: January 30, 2014 6:20AM



There are times when even our best efforts are simply not good enough.

One week before Thanksgiving, Rich Parnau and his wife, Jean, were driving from Homewood to Park Forest when suddenly his wife of 33 years seemed to stop breathing and slumped over in her seat.

Her husband knew what to do.

“I’m not the flighty kind of person,” Parnau said. “I saw what was happening, and I knew I had to get help quickly.”

At that moment, he saw what looked like a fire station. At one time it was, but now it served as a workout facility for the Park Forest Police Department. Parnau pulled into the driveway on Lakewood Boulevard and began to honk his horn. Once, twice, three times. No one was counting.

Inside the gym, two off-duty police officers, Robert Johnson and Alex Bregin, were lifting weights. Both officers are 27. Johnson, a math major in college, has been on the force for three years and has had some training with the U.S. Secret Service. Bregin, a two-year veteran, was recently named Park Forest’s Police Officer of the Year.

“I saw the car pull in,” Bregin said, “and he was honking the horn all the time.”

“I had no idea what it was,” Johnson said. “I went to see what was going on, and I saw this man in the car with his wife. He told me, ‘You have to help my wife. She is dying.’”

Both men knew what had to be done. Paramedics were immediately notified. Johnson unbuckled Jean’s seat belt and took her out of the car.

“She had her head back,” Bregin said. “It didn’t look good.”

The two officers laid her down on a workout mat and began efforts to resuscitate her.

“She was not breathing, but she had a slight pulse,” Johnson said.

As soon as the officers began their life-saving efforts, Jean suddenly gasped, coughed, started to sit up and began to breathe on her own. She was taken to St. James Hospital.

I wish this could be a typical, feel-good, end-of-the-year story. It is not.

Jean Marie Parnau died on Thanksgiving Day from a pulmonary embolism, her husband said.

One month later, Parnau was still praising the efforts of Johnson and Bregin.

“They were wonderful,” he said. “They did everything they could, and they stayed with me until the paramedics arrived. I can’t thank them enough for what they tried to do. They were great.”

In recent months, Park Forest police have been under public scrutiny and criticism for shooting and killing a 95-year-old man with a bean-bag shotgun at an assisted-living center. It is a subject we can discuss after the Illinois State Police report on their investigation of the incident is made public.

No one doubts that the village’s police department is staffed by conscientious men and women who serve the community and its citizens. Sometimes we take what they do for granted. We should not, and that is why I tell this story.

2014 and all that

The year will end before we meet again in these pages. So we can close the book on 2013 and hope that the new year will be more of a blessing and less of a curse, especially when it comes to putting in the correct date in our checkbooks.

I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating. Some years ago, I came upon a Thanksgiving prayer written by Eugene Pickett that seems appropriate at the dawn of a new year.

It concludes that we live “not by our fears but our hopes, not by our words but our deeds.” More I cannot wish for you, dear reader.

Happy New Year.



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