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Oak Lawn honors 6 generations of Philbin family in village

Bob PhilbIII right Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann unveil PhilbWay street sign Saturday honor longtime residents village.  |

Bob Philbin III right, and Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann unveil the Philbin Way street sign Saturday to honor the longtime residents of the village. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 10, 2013 6:41AM



The Oak Lawn Way always has been the Philbin Way.

“The Philbin Way,” Mayor Dave Heilmann said, “is thinking of others first,”

And that’s how it’s been for more than 100 years for one of Oak Lawn’s oldest families.

The family was honored by the village during a ceremony Saturday morning at the corner of 98th Street and Cook Avenue.

With about 100 people watching, a brown-and-white honorary street sign reading “Philbin Way” was unveiled. A duplicate can be found at the corner of Cook and 97th Street.

The signs honor a family that predates Oak Lawn’s incorporation as a village, and one that officials said exemplifies what it means to be an Oak Lawn resident.

“The Philbin family has always worked hard to help others in our community. I’d like to congratulate the entire Philbin family,” village Trustee Robert Streit said.

Streit and Heilmann noted how Philbins laid track for the Wabash Railroad that runs through the village and helped start St. Gerald Catholic Church.

Heilmann said that those at the start of any project “are the best people on the planet because they’re not doing it for themselves. They’re doing it for people years and years from now. It’s selfless. It’s character. What a nice statement that is about your family, who are doing things thinking of others first.”

“Thanks to your family, there’s this railroad track here that I get to take to work every day. Thanks to your family there’s this beautiful faith-based community. When I think of St. Gerald’s and all the churches, that’s the fabric of the community. You guys have the needle and the thread. Many leave. Your family stayed and continues to contribute,” Heilmann said.

Streit got the street sign idea when Bob Philbin III approached him to discuss the family’s history that includes the former Landahl gas station at 5500 W. 95th St.

“(The Philbin family has) six generations of really rich history in the village,” Streit said.

And the Philbins still contribute to Oak Lawn.

In January, Bob III and Bob Jr. tried to save the life of a neighbor who had collapsed while shoveling snow.

When St. Gerald Church started, John Philbin donated the organ, and his wife, Abigail, the grandmother of Bob Philbin III, was the organist.

Pat Philbin, the wife of Bob Jr. for 43 years, recalled how the Philbins always put Oak Lawn first.

“When I first met Bob and I went to gathering with him and I said I was from Chicago, they’d say, ‘Oh, from the city.’ (It was) like I lived across the ocean. They thought Oak Lawn was the world,” Pat said.

Bob Jr., also a longtime member of the fire department, drove a truck for Old Style beer for 35 years before he retired. He has lived in the same modest house — “the one with the awning” — in the 9700 block of Cook Avenue, now Philbin Way, since 1971.

He’ll never forget his homecoming from Vietnam in 1967. Just six days after he returned to Oak Lawn, a devastating tornado swept through his village.

“I went to the old police station and firehouse and they told me, ‘Bob, go home and get your Army uniform on.’ I was a medic. I went out Friday night helping the injured with the fire department and I got home Tuesday afternoon,” he said.

Like her brother, Trishia Skertich is among the many Philbins who never moved away.

“Why do we stay? There are so many answers to that. It’s the people,” she said.

In a lighter moment, Bob III, a devoted Cubs fan, joked that he has something special planned for any Sox fans who dare drive Philbin Way.

“There will be a toll, five bucks,” he said to laughter before he and Heilmann climbed a ladder to unveil the sign.



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