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Remembering The People Who Died During 5 Years On The Beat

WICKER PARK — They left behind spouses and significant others, children, parents, friends, neighbors and customers.

Some died suddenly and too soon. Others lived until 98 and 106.

Some were here for a lifetime and others were just passing through Wicker Park, Bucktown and West Town during the five years I reported for DNAinfo Chicago.

Jimmy Lee Blank Jr., with dog Dassa Pit, in Wicker Park. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Jimmy Lee Blank Jr. died on November 25, 2013. He spent the summer of 2013 in Wicker Park, crashing in the park and sleeping in abandoned buildings. He would often be seen with his dog, Dassa Pit.

Blank was 26 and the sixth person in his circle of friends to die, his fellow traveler Felicity Barnshaw told DNAinfo.

“[Death] been happening since I started traveling, but a lot of people I know — too many — this past year have died. It’s a rough lifestyle; you have to be on your toes all the time. Some was drugs, other ones [bad] luck. One friend fell off a train,” Barnshaw said.

Felicity Barnshaw in Wicker Park in 2013.

Felicity Barnshaw died on August 20, 2017. She was 27.

Adrian Park at work. [Left: Provided; Right: Alisa Hauser]

Tai Sung “Adrian” Park died on April 14, 2016. A tailor and suit maker who outfitted several of Chicago’s leading athletes and politicians, Park was an ever present fixture in his North Avenue storefront. He was 43.

Adrian always had a dish of candy atop the credenza in his store. I would frequently pop in to chat with him and get a sugar fix. He always wanted to know the latest business gossip (who’s closing? what’s opening?). His family continues to run his store, 1755 W. North Ave.

David Lepola installs protective film over a window at Reckless Records, 1379 N. Milwaukee Ave.

David Lepola died on December 25, 2015. David was the founder and owner of Tag Free Glass, a graffiti removal service. I constantly saw Lepola on the streets — always looking for newly tagged windows so he could pitch his services to building owners. He was 51.

Marcella Juszynski in her living room, 2013. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Marcella Juszynski was a World War II Labor camp survivor and resident of Bucktown since 1954. She died on the front porch of her Bucktown home on July 4, 2013. Marcella was 90.

I met Marcella through Shakespeare District police officer David Uting, who often saw Juszynski strolling through the neighborhood.

“She is the original fabric of Bucktown and represents what Bucktown once was. There aren’t many people like her left here,” Uting told DNAinfo.

There is a bench behind the library that the Bucktown Community Organization dedicated to Marcella. Go sit on it if you can.

Left: The house Irene Mandock lived in for all of her life. Right: Mandock at her 106th birthday celebration. [Courtesy of Susan Fontana, Mandock’s neighbor]

Irene Mandock. Described by neighbors as a “tough cookie” with a tenacious spirit, 106-year-old Irene Mandock died on October 19, 2016 after a long and somewhat mysterious life spent almost entirely in Wicker Park. Unmarried with no children, Mandock lived alone on the second floor of a three-flat at 1935 W. Schiller St. until 2015, when she could no longer climb the stairs and relocated to a nursing home.

Susan Stursberg. [Gold Star Bar/Facebook]

Susan Stursberg, a bartender and co-owner of Gold Star bar at 1755 W. Division St. lost a near year-long battle with pancreatic cancer on December 10, 2012. She was 45.

More than 200 people packed Club Foot to celebrate Susan’s life.

“She made thousands of friends over the years. All these people here, they are people that love her,” said Mary Ann Reid, Stursberg’s mother. “She was my daughter, business partner, best friend.”

Reid continues to run Gold Star bar.

Glynis Gibson enjoyed a friendship with neighbor Joseph Ferrans, who died earlier this year. [Provided]

Joseph “Joe” Ferrans died on March 8, 2017 at age 98. The retired bricklayer lived in Bucktown for more than 50 years.

“Every morning, he would open the shades and then at night he would close the shades. He liked to read at the front window. I’m still keeping an eye on him from across the street. I miss seeing him Sunday mornings as he’s going to church, getting his mail or doing repair work. I miss seeing the blinds go up and down and knowing that he is there and he is okay,” his neighbor Glynis Gibson said.

Walter Sojka’s funeral home. [Provided]

Walter Sojka died on August 17, 2014. He was the owner of a funeral home that bears his name and was known by neighbors as the “mayor of Chicago Avenue” because he sat in front of his business and kept tabs on the area.

Photo of Oba Maja by Julia Pello, who is working on a collaborative project centered around Oba’s poetry [Julia Pello]

Oba Maja. A fixture in Wicker Park for decades, 71-year-old poet Oba Maja died on October 16, 2015. He was known by thousands of passers-by as the man who sat on the ledge of a Milwaukee Avenue storefront announcing “Poetry! Poetry!” in an attempt to sell his handwritten poems.

More than $2,400 was crowd-sourced to pay for Maja’s burial.

Lisa Kuivinen. [Facebook]

Lisa Kuivinen was struck and killed by a truck on August 16, 2016, while riding a bike in the 800 block of North Milwaukee Avenue. Kuivinen was 20.

Silma Kuivien continues to visit Lisa’s ghost bike, affixed to a street pole near the fatal crash. Many cyclists have said they’ve spotted Silma praying and tending to the many laminated photos adorning her daughter’s memorial.

Lisa’s ghost bike memorial in the 800 block of North Milwaukee Avenue.
Maljan spinning records. [Courtesy of the Maljan family].

DJ Adam “Chunk-A-Bud” Maljan died on April 16, 2016. He was an influential force in Wicker Park’s house music community and a talented craftsman. He was 43.

Throughout the 90s, Maljan was a DJ at Wicker Park’s Red Dog, a dance spot at 1958 W. North Ave. that later reopened as Annex.

Marcus Faletti braving the cold in 2015. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
Marcus Faletti in winter 2016, at left, a few days before he died, and in summer 2015. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Marcus Faleti, a 58-year-old homeless man who was a fixture in Wicker Park’s namesake park, died on January 1, 2017 from hypothermia and alcoholism, a lethal mix that the Nigerian man known by many had vowed to fight in past winters.

“I don’t like shelters. They throw you out at 6 a.m. The alderman took me to a shelter last year but I am not doing that again,” Faletti said in January 2015.

Faletti was often seen sitting on a bench reading the Sun-Times or Wall Street Journal.

Faletti’s friends who hang out in the park continue to talk about him.

Kasia Bober in her deli. [Provided by family]

Kazimiera “Kasia” Bober, the founder of a Polish deli in Ukrainian Village that bears her name and a successful wholesale business that stocks her frozen pierogies in grocery stores around the country, died on June 2, 2016. She was 80.

“She was there every single day for seven days a week. She loved that place; that was her life,” said Kasia’s son, Christopher Bober, adding, “She had a never-give-up attitude.”

Steve Jensen/BCO (door); DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser (Jean-Claude Poilevey)

Jean-Claude Poilevey, the chef and restaurateur behind beloved Bucktown bistro Le Bouchon and West Loop’s La Sardine, was killed in an icy, multi-car pileup on Chicago’s Eisenhower Expressway on April 9, 2016.

The name Le Bouchon translates into “The Cork,” Poilevey said in 2013 when Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) sponsored a city council resolution congratulating Poilevey on two decades of “gustatory greatness.”

Le Bouchon was featured on a 2001 episode of WTTW-TV’s “Check, Please!” The episode included President Barack Obama, a then Illinois State Senator, as a guest. Obama called the French bistro a “wonderful place to eat” and said that it really felt like walking into a little Paris cafe.

Poilevey was 71. His family continues to run Le Bouchon and La Sardine.

Jean-Claude Poilevey in front of Le Bouchon in 2013. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

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Alisa Hauser

Alisa Hauser

Portlander since December 2018. Former Block Club, DNAinfo and Chicago Pipeline reporter.