Neighbors remember Tinley Park woman killed in blaze
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org April 11, 2014 10:37PM
Tinley Park firefighters clean up Friday night after putting out a fire that killed a 78-year-old woman at her house in the 17400 block of Oketo Avenue. | Susan DeMar lafferty ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 14, 2014 6:48AM
Two longtime neighbors of Tinley Park resident Patricia Clausen will remember her friendly nature, the way she cared for her pets and how she “took a lot of pride in her yard.”
“She loved the way her lawn looked. She’d go out and take care of all the ornaments and everything. The appearance of her lawn was a priority for her,” said Chuck Novak, who’s lived next door to her for 20 years.
That lawn was a mess Saturday, with flower pots smashed and broken glass strewn about, the aftermath of a fire at her home, 17360 S. Oketo Ave., that claimed Clausen’s life.
The fatal fire came as a shock to the quiet neighborhood, said Novak, who found out about it when he saw flashing lights of emergency vehicles Friday night.
“We’re all kind of ... it’s a pretty close neighborhood around here. An incident like this makes you want to have spent more time with people. They were good people. Her husband, Ed, was an awesome guy,” Novak said of Clausen’s late husband.
“There used to be a shrub where the fence is now. And when I came home from work, Ed would meet me, and we’d talk. He’d say, ‘I’m glad you came home.’ He’d smoke, talking to me, because she wouldn’t let him smoke his cigars in the house,” Novak, 50, recalled with a smile.
“After Ed passed away, she kept to herself more. But she was a nice lady,” Novak said.
Tinley Park Fire Chief Ken Dunn said Saturday the fire’s cause had not yet been determined.
Jerry Ryan, who lives across the street from the Clausen house, sat on a lawn chair in his driveway Saturday, thinking about his friend.
“It’s so sad. She was a very nice lady. Three weeks ago, I was talking to her about moving into a nursing home. She was worried about whether they’d let her bring her cats. I told her they would,” said Ryan, 79.
Clausen was a breast cancer survivor, Ryan said, and suffered from back pain in recent years. Several times he had to help her up after she had fallen in her yard, he said. That’s why he urged her to move to a nursing home.
Clausen had two pet cats. One was found dead in the house, he said.
The other, a black cat named Nicky, is unaccounted for, Ryan said.
Novak said Clausen formerly had a pet dog named Penny.
“She loved that dog to death. I want to say it was a basset hound. She used to walk that dog all over the place. She’d take the dog for a walk at least once a day,” Novak said.
Penny died a couple of years ago after the dog was attacked by a pit bull, Ryan said.
Clausen had one daughter, Ryan said. Clausen and her husband formerly owned a trucking company, he said.
Tinley Park firefighters received the 911 call from another neighbor at 8:22 p.m. Friday, Dunn said. Flames were heavy when they arrived, but firefighters had it doused by 8:45 p.m.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury, a small burn to one hand, Dunn said.
“There was a lot of good work out there by us, Orland Park, Oak Forest and other villages who responded,” Dunn said.
Clausen was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. Friday at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. An autopsy conducted Saturday by the Will County coroner’s office was inconclusive. The coroner was awaiting results of toxicology, police and fire reports to establish the cause of death.
Kurtz Memorial Chapel in New Lenox is handling the arrangements, which are expected to be finalized Sunday, a funeral director said.
A board-up company was at the house Saturday. A blue tarp covered part of the roof that firefighters had to cut through. Heavy black smoke stains were visible on brick near the front windows blown out by the fire.
Clausen often sat in that part of the house, Ryan said.
Dunn thinks the house can be saved, “but it’s going to be quite a while before it’s all repaired.”
Contributing: Susan DeMar
Lafferty, Donna Vickroy