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Press conference scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Mokena native Aaron Toppen, a Lincoln-Way East graduate, was among five American troops killed by friendly fire Monday, June 9, during a security operation in southern Afghanistan, a family friend said.

Toppen was 19.

“It’s very tragic,” said Jennie Swartz, the family friend who spoke to The Mokena Messenger by phone Tuesday, June 10.

Danielle Tabor

Aaron Toppen grew up dreaming of serving his country.

Though he and family members knew his enlisting would come with an unavoidable degree of risk, they held firm and united — a tight-knit group — in supporting his ambition, keeping close from the time he was a tot to a teen.

Rebecca Susmarski

Pam Toppen takes a seat in a Starbucks cafe next to her daughter, Amanda Gralewski, as she smiles and enthusiastically introduces her baby granddaughter, a certain bitter sweetness though as it was roughly a year ago that Toppen found out about her while having to plan to funeral.

A little while later, she shows off her dog tags with her late son’s military photo proudly imprinted – something she never leaves her home without.

Rebecca Susmarski

Roughly 25 boxes line the outside walls of a garage filled with assorted documents, as Jeff Dencek and Mark Mistretta work in mechanical rhythm, dumping the paper into large trash receptacles.

“This is called a purge,” said Dencek, co-owner of Shark Shredding in Mokena. “We’ll do a bunch of boxes for a purge.”

It was a cold Friday morning Feb. 12, as Dencek and Mistretta were on their first stop of the day at a Frankfort residency on Steeple Chase Drive helping to destroy assorted documents.

Danny Ciamprone

The second annual Mokena Festa Italiana will be held on Sunday, July 19, and is expected to draw an even larger crowd than last year’s 1,000-plus attendees.  

The event begins at 11 a.m. at Mokena Intermediate School, 11331 195th St., with a procession ending at the festival grounds at the Front Street Metra Station lot. The festival is based on the traditional Italian Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  

Danny Ciamprone

Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 was subpoenaed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to testify before a grand jury May 18 at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago, according to a subpoena released Monday, May 23, by Taryn Atwell, community relations director for District 210.

District 210 was required to bring to the hearing a variety of documents and recordings from Jan. 1, 2000, to present, many of which related to former superintendent Lawrence Wyllie. The subpoena was dated May 4.

Danielle Tabor

Ladies and gentleman of Mokena, start your engines. Indoor go-karts could be coming to town.
Developers at Autobahn Indoor Speedway want a two-track, 65,000-square-foot racing business up and running inside the Ligo building at 9100 W. 191st St. by June or July.
The plan was first publicly detailed Monday, Jan. 20, during a Village Board work session.

Will O'Brien

No music is playing, rather just the sound of pouring rain, some bickering among park visitors and a tyrannosaurus rex with a dangerous combination of curiosity and appetite, who has made its way out of captivity.

Danny Ciamprone

Farmers markets, outdoor movies, trips to the pool, festivals, parades, cruise nights and fireworks. There is no shortage of activities when it comes to summer in the southwest suburbs. And 22nd Century Media has 101 ideas for readers to get out and enjoy their communities this summer. We provided 50 ideas in print and now have 51 more online. Enjoy!

1. One Fish, Two Fish ... Time to Find All the Fish

Will O'Brien

In March, Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 was placed on the Illinois State Board of Education’s Financial Watch List.

The ISBE used five criteria to place the district on the list: fund balance to revenue ratio, expenditure to revenue ratio, days cash on hand, revenues and expenditures, and long term and short term borrowing capacity.

Danny Ciamprone

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