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Toppen 

PFC Aaron S. Toppen, 19, of Mokena, died June 9 while serving his country in Afghanistan. He is survived by his mother, Pamela (nee Winter) Toppen; two sisters, Amy Toppen and Amanda (Jerry) Gralewski; and niece, Taylor. He was the grandson of Betty Winter; boyfriend of Jacqueline Rozek; nephew of Jack Winter, Barb (Stephen) White and Jeff (Nina) Winter; and a dear cousin, neighbor and friend to many. Services were held at Parkview Christian Church. Interment St. John’s Cemetery. Funeral arrangements by the Vandenberg Funeral Home.

Rebecca Susmarski
Central Command confirms friendly fire

Nearly three months after an operation in Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of five U.S. soldiers — including Lincoln-Way East graduate and Mokena resident Pvt. Aaron Toppen — the United States Central Command released documents confirming it was a friendly fire accident.

Danielle Tabor

Hometown hero 

Photo by Jean Lachat/22nd Century Media

Yellow ribbons adorn trees in front of Ken and Danielle Newbauer’s home on Marjorie Parkway in Mokena. Ken, a former infantry member, said he wanted to show support for his neighbors, the family of Aaron Toppen, who was killed in Afghanistan while on active duty with the U.S. Army.

Mokena-gram producer Jean Lachat blogs at spiritofthesoulphotography.wordpress.com

Rebecca Susmarski

On June 14, the 11 and younger Mokena Blast girls’ softball team made it to the championship game in the Naperville Father’s Day tournament.

The team took second place in the 12 and under bracket – one division up – with a final score of 2-1.

The team includes Kathryn Ponton, Ashlyn Agnich, Ashley Carter, Morgan Dapkus, Laila Summers, Abbie Caskey, Hayley Wlodarski, Megan Smith, Eliza Rex and Madelyn Del Cotto. 

The team is coached by Ed Wlodarski, with assistant coach Mike Dapkus and manager Mike Agnich.

Rebecca Susmarski

Mary Lou Cioffi remembers exactly what her son Nick did when a drunk driver hit their car two years ago.

“The one thing I remember as I sat in the car ... a jacket was taken and put over me, because I heard Nick say, ‘put that over her, I don’t want her to go into shock,’” said Mary Lou, of Mokena. “He used his first aid training.”

Rebecca Susmarski

Laura Quinlan’s dreams are about to become reality.

The New Lenox mother of four’s Simply Rose Boutique, located off 191st Street in Mokena, will host a grand opening on May 3-4, marking the culmination of a half-year’s worth of work Quinlan hopes will result in a sophisticated shopping experience customers of all ages will find worthy of revisiting time and time again.

“I am so excited,” a beaming Quinlan said during a recent interview. “This is a dream come true for me; a bucket list item, you know. 

Pictured is an early evening shot of the Ebert Farm Service grain elevator on Front Street. Chester D. Ebert, who ran Ebert Farm Service for almost 40 years, died in mid-April at the age of 95. Photo by Jean Lachat/22nd Century Media

Editor’s Note: Mokena-gram is a new feature that will appear in The Messenger’s Life & Arts section each week (see a full explanation on Page 19). Professional photographer, Mokena resident and frequent Messenger contributor Jean Lachat is the woman behind Mokena-gram’s lens.

The Mokena Fire Protection District (MFPD) responded to a residential structure fire at about 3:53 a.m. Friday, July 18 in the 1900 block of Anna Street.

Three minutes after notification, fire crews arrived on the scene and determined the fire originated in the basement of the home where the fire was contained, according to a news release from MFPD.

The home was unoccupied at the time of the fire and no one was injured. An estimate on damage caused was not available at this time.

Danielle Tabor

Residents of the Prairie Ridge subdivision will have developed park space to enjoy after the Mokena Community Park District was awarded a $400,000 grant to develop the space through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Numerous amenities will be added to the 5.7-acre plot, which is located southwest of the intersection of Wolf Road and Lincoln Highway.

Will O'Brien

“More happiness.”

That was the term that Lincoln-Way North girls’ volleyball senior middle hitter Valen Manns used last week.

She had good reason too, as she helped lead the Phoenix to the championship of the summer league playoffs on Thursday, July 31, at Palos Courts in Palos Heights.  

Rebecca Susmarski

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