Mayor’s Farewell Tour Stops at Welles Park

On a sunny Friday morning, as the world watched the British welcome the latest addition to their royal family, Chicagoans from three north side wards bid adieu to royalty of their own.

Neighbors gathered at the Welles Park playground, across the street from Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church, to hear Mayor Daley's farewell address to the 32nd, 33rd and 47th Wards. Credit: Camille Whitworth

Mayor Richard M. Daley, winding down his 22-year reign, continued his farewell tour of Chicago’s neighborhoods, thanking the residents of the 32nd, 33rd and 47th Wards by dedicating the newly renovated Welles Park.

Students from several neighborhood elementary schools, including North Park and Queen of Angels, tried out the new playground equipment while the mayor, area business owners, and outgoing alderman Gene Schulter recapped the improvements made to the north side wards during the past two decades.

The mayor is proud of the upgrades made to the city’s buildings, sidewalks and parks with regards to accessibility for people with disabilities, including the renovation of eighteen stations on the CTA’s Brown Line.

Daley is especially pleased with the cultivation of the Chicago River for canoeing and other recreational activities. “Who would ever think twenty years ago that we would be talking about the great asset that is the Chicago River? Which it is!” he proudly exclaimed.

The environmentalist mayor also acknowledged the American Indian Center for their environmental programs, Oscar Mayer Magnet School’s garden project, and the Lincoln Square Farmer’s Market for bringing organic produce to the north side.

Alderman Gene Schulter and his wife Rosemary, Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, and State Representative Deb Mell join Mayor Daley at the dedication of the newly renovated Welles Park. Credit: Camille Whitworth

Daley praised the Household Chemical and Computer Recycling Facility, which not only offers proper disposal of hazardous substances, but provides employment opportunities for ex-offenders.

The mayor stressed the importance of reading to children and adults alike, touting the building of almost sixty new libraries in the city, and the renovation of the Sulzer Regional Branch. “If you take advantage of libraries we won’t have to talk about another generation of children that we’ve lost,” he declared.

“And of course, the Old Town School of Folk Music, what can you say about them?” asked Daley, a question which was answered with a round of applause. “Artists are people we should really respect,” implored the mayor, because they “provide a better quality of life for all of us.”

Bau Graves, Executive Director of the Old Town School, credited the mayor for encouraging the school to move into the long-vacant Hild Library building on Lincoln Avenue in 1998. “There was a question whether our small institution could fill the facility,” Graves recalled. “But we are now the largest community music and arts school in the United States.” The school has begun an expansion project that will more than double their capacity.

Bau Graves, Executive Director of the Old Town School of Folk Music. Credit: Camille Whitworth

Other representatives of the small business community who thanked Daley for his hands-on involvement and assistance with bureaucratic red tape included Yolanda Luszcz, co-owner of Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen, and Joel Nickson, Chef and Owner of Wishbone restaurant.

“We have been blessed with a mayor who has a passion for our neighborhoods,” said Reverend Nicholas Zook, Pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Concordia Place, which offers preschool, child care and after-school programs, as well as exercise and wellness programs for seniors. He cited the mayor’s attention to detail as a reason for Concordia’s ability to expand their programs and provide services to more area residents.

Liz Griffiths, Director of Economic Development of the North River Commission promised to continue Mayor Daley’s tradition of expanding the city’s green spaces and public art. She looks to the May 19th ground breaking of the Sculpture Park & Healing Garden in Ronan Park on the river at Lawrence Avenue as the northwest side’s answer to Millenium Park. “Our ‘Bean’ is a Cambodian goddess standing on a crocodile, which sits on a lotus flower,” Griffiths declared, to the delight of those gathered.

Daley insists that the energy of this city is found in young people and immigrants.

Neighborhood elementary school students listen to Mayor Richard M. Daley's farewell address. Credit: Camille Whitworth

He recounted a meeting with a Turkish immigrant who owns a textile plant on Belmont Avenue with 150 employees. “He said he has twenty-four ethnic groups in his plant. He said it’s the best quality workforce that anybody can have,” Daley recalled. “It’s a specialized textile industry. They make drapes and everything else. And he ships them all over the world right from Chicago.”

The mayor, who will pass the torch to Rahm Emanuel on May 16th, concluded his speech by expressing his gratitude to the people of his beloved hometown. “I thank you for the great honor of serving you for twenty-two years. I thank you for the commitment that all of you have made to our city, to our schools, to the environment, and yes, to the quality of life. God bless you and thank you.”

New gym floor for Queens

Queen of Angels School has completed work on a new gym floor. The new wood floor replaces a tile and concrete floor that made the simplest fall painful.

Queen of Angels sports a new look and a fancy looking center court

Queen of Angels sports a new look and a fancy looking center court. Credit: George Howe

“We are thrilled and proud of this floor,” Nancy Baer said. Baer, who has been in charge of the Guild Hall for 38 years said the floating wood floor has more give and will be easier to maintain.

The hall has hosted bingo, political events, mass, weddings, dances, fundraisers and athletics over its rich history. Twenty-four volleyball teams and 20 basketball teams in the North Central Parish League are scheduled to start play in the Guild Hall in November.

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Physical Education teacher Brian Duckman said, “It’s just a safer environment for the students.”

The Men’s Club, which has a weekly workout “definitely noticed the difference on their knees,” Duckman said.

The school’s teams, which are called the Knights, invite the community to celebrate their new floor and cheer them on to victory.