Tinley to name park for hometown soldier killed in Iraq service
By Mike Nolan email@example.com August 6, 2014 9:46PM
** FILE ** Staff Sgt. Michael Sutter, of Illinois, is shown in this undated image from video. Sutter was killed Friday, Dec. 26, 2003, in Iraq while trying to defuse a homemade bomb. Sutter was serving with the 745th explosive ordnance detachment Michigan Army National Guard unit. (AP Photo/WFLD-TV) ORG XMIT: CX101
Updated: September 9, 2014 6:18AM
Tinley Park’s newest park will be named for a fallen soldier from the village.
Park district officials on Wednesday approved naming a newly completed park next to the Bettenhausen Recreation Center in memory of Army Staff Sgt. Michael Sutter, who was killed in Iraq in December 2003.
A dedication ceremony for the park, 8125 W. 171st St., will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Organizers of a petition drive had gathered nearly 3,000 signatures in an effort to have a park named for Sutter and made a presentation to the park district board last month. The timing couldn’t have been better, as the district was putting the finishing touches on the new park, but it didn’t yet have a name.
“I’m thrilled,” Judy Sutter, Michael Sutter’s mom, said before the park board vote while standing next to the park. “Mike was always a kid at heart. If he was alive he’d be going crazy in this park.”
Sutter, 28, was killed the day after Christmas 2003 after attempting to defuse a homemade explosive device while deployed to Iraq. He enlisted in the Army in 1994, less than a year after graduating from Andrew High School, and after eight years joined the National Guard. Judy Sutter said her son had been in Iraq 21/2 months before he died.
Sutter was part of a bomb disposal unit attached to the National Guard’s 745th Ordnance Co. He had manipulated a robot to defuse one bomb, but a second explosive was inaccessible to the robot and Sutter manually was attempting to defuse it when it blew up a foot away from him.
Sutter’s father, John, was a longtime judo instructor in the park district, and Michael and his three siblings were involved in the program. Kim Fazio, who spearheaded the petition drive, began taking judo classes when she was 8 years old and spent 20 years in the program, ultimately earning a black belt.
The family’s longtime involvement with the park district had sparked the idea of seeking to have a park named for Sutter.
Judy Sutter said her husband taught judo for the park district from 1975 until 2002, with hundreds of kids participating over the years. One of his former students now is the district’s judo instructor, she said.
“We’re beyond thrilled,” Fazio said of the district’s decision, saying the location might be “the most visible park” in the village.
“It was very honorable for the park district to do something so meaningful for Michael,” she said.
A resolution adopted by district commissioners at Wednesday’s meeting read, in part, that naming the park for Sutter was “an appropriate way to honor his lifetime of compassionate and committed service to his community and his country.”
A sign for the park will be ready and installed in time for the dedication, and a plaque will be installed at a later date on a wall on the park’s east side, facing the recreation center, according to John Curran, the district’s director of parks and recreation.
“It will be a neat thing (for the Sutters) to see their grandchildren playing on their uncle’s park,” Fazio said.