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The Orland Park Prairie 021518

4 | February 15, 2018 |

4 | February 15, 2018 | The orland park prairie News Former Orland resident’s impact on community lives on after death Jacquelyn Schlabach Assistant Editor The three ways Dan Niehaus would best describe his late father Gary Niehaus are role model, cheerleader and loving father. “Gary was the dad who, after coaching our basketball team, would throw a pizza party in celebration of the year and give out personalized awards to all of the team members to recognize their strengths and make us feel great about the season,” Dan said while giving his father’s eulogy Jan. 29. Gary, a 68-year-old Lockport resident, died Jan. 24. He lived in Lockport for 13 years after moving from Orland Park. He became heavily involved in the Lockport and Homer Glen communities almost immediately upon moving. He was involved in 11 different organizations over the period of time from when he lived in Orland Park to the time he died. Gary was a retired police commissioner of Lockport, chairman of the Lockport Veterans Commission and a member of the chambers of commerce in both Lockport and Homer Glen. In addition, he won numerous awards, including “2014 Person You Should Know,” presented by Lockport Mayor Steve Streit; “2012 Senior Citizen of the Year Award,” presented by Congressmen Daniel Lipinski; and “2012 Volunteer of the Year,” presented by former Lockport Mayor Dev Trivedi. “Gary was just one of those tireless volunteers in the community,” Streit said of giving Gary the “2014 Person You Should Know” award. “He worked hard for a number of organizations, put his time and his talents to making the community better, and it’s just very appreciated.” The award was a unique one, presented specifically to Gary because Mayor Streit wanted to make sure he was recognized and appreciated for what he had done in his position as police commissioner and through his volunteering. “His energy [stood out the most],” Streit said. “He “He was always there, always involved, always willing to do his best for the community.” Steve Streit — Lockport mayor, on Gary Niehaus’ volunteer work was always there, always involved, always willing to do his best for the community.” One of Gary’s most notable volunteer efforts, according to his son Dan, was his 10-year involvement in the Orland Youth Association as chairman and founder of the organization. The OYA is an organization for younger kids to get involved with sports. “It probably has the biggest impact on the kids in the community,” Dan said. Gary was also Dan’s basketball coach at OYA and was also the president of athletic boosters at Sandburg High School at the time Dan was in school. “I was very fortunate to have had that, and it was great,” Dan said. “It’s like your best friend is working with you everyday and helping you be successful.” Through all of Gary’s volunteer efforts, it showed his son the importance of serving the community and doing what’s right with “integrity and just being a positive role model.” “He led by example in everything that he did, whether it was being a father, community servant, whether it was being a commissioner, helping the veterans, he just led by example in everything that he did,” Dan said. Gary also served in the United States Army from January 1968 to December 1973. His career began when he was a finance manager for car dealerships, leading up to becoming owner of Niehaus Gary Niehaus (right) pictured with his wife, Diane, and son Dan was a fixture in the Lockport community prior to his death in January. Photo submitted Chrysler Plymouth car dealership in Whiting, Indiana. Gary retired at age 55 from a regional finance manager position for Harley-Davidson. His retirement sparked the start of his memorable time and contributions to the communities of which he was a part. If there’s one thing Dan wants to reiterate to people about his father, it is that he lead by example. “I think just the leading by example — that’s to me what it all comes down to,” Dan said. “He just did it everyday and continued to serve his community and his family, and that’s what I think is most important.” Treasure Chest Foundation adds 52nd Treasure Chest with Cleveland program Submitted by Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation The Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation recently announced a milestone with the opening of its 52nd Treasure Chest Program located at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s and Pediatric Institute in Cleveland. This Treasure Chest Program is sponsored by Foundation Board Member Herb Walker and his wife, Janice, and will provide services to more than 600 young Cleveland-area cancer patients each month. Treasure Chest now provides comfort and smiles to more than 13,000 cancer patients in 19 states nationwide. Herb said he plans to sponsor another treatment center and Program next year. This rare program sponsorship, which included Herb’s tremendous donation of $10,000, is consistent with the generous support he displays throughout the year. The POTCF is a unique organization whose services impact more than 13,000 young cancer patients enduring 20,000 clinic visits each month in 19 states across the nation. Colleen Kisel founded the organization in 1996 after her then 7-year-old son Martin had been diagnosed with leukemia in 1993. Ms. Kisel discovered that giving her son a toy after each procedure provided a calming distraction from his pain, noting that when children are diagnosed with cancer their world soon becomes filled with doctors, nurses, chemotherapy drugs, surgeries and seemingly endless painful procedures. Martin celebrated his 24th anniversary of remission from the disease last year. For more information about the Treasure Chest Foundation, contact Colleen Kisel at (708) 687- 8697 or visit www.treasurechest. org. Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation Board Member Herb Walker and his wife, Janice, proudly stand in front of the 52nd Treasure Chest at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s and Pediatric Institute in Cleveland. Photo submitted News the orland park prairie | February 15, 2018 | 5 Saying goodbye to a trailblazer Congressional Gold Medal recipient, Montford Point Marine dies at 91 Meredith Dobes Freelance Reporter The Orland Park community said goodbye to a Congressional Gold Medal recipient and one of the last living Montford Point Marines Jan. 27. Lenon Lathan died at the age of 91. His loved ones remember him as a trailblazer, a people person, and a loving and caring soul who had a lifelong passion for learning. His contributions to the communities in which he lived and to the nation, through his service, leave a lasting impact. Lathan was born July 19, 1926, and raised in the small town of Sturgis, Mississippi. He was part of a large family, with 14 siblings. In the 1940s, during the Great Migration — when African Americans from the South sought opportunity and better lives for themselves in the North — Lathan pursued education farther north. “My dad loved to read and always thought if he stayed in Sturgis, Mississippi, he would never amount to anything other than being a farmer, like most people there,” said Denise King, Lathan’s daughter. “He learned through books that there was a bigger world out there, and decided he was going to find a place he could get an education.” Lathan ended up attending Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Alabama. When he finished his education, he returned to Sturgis and discovered that the United States Marines were recruiting there. After seeing all of his brothers enlist in the Army, Lathan was inspired to follow in their footsteps. When it came to joining the Marines, Rick King, Denise’s husband, explained, “He didn’t choose the Marine Corps; they chose him.” Denise added, “When they were out there recruiting those 20,000 men, they wanted the best of the best. They saw something in my dad he may not have seen in himself.” Serving his country In 1944, Lathan enlisted in the Marine Corps, making him one of the first African American men to serve in the U.S. Marines. With segregation and racism rampant in the nation during this time, many African Americans who sought to enlist were met by discrimination. Pushing back against this bigotry, African American leaders of the time demanded President Franklin D. Roosevelt act to end discrimination in the defense industry, leading to the signing of Executive Order 8802, requiring branches of the military to recruit and enlist African Americans. From 1942-1949, roughly 20,000 African American Marines were trained at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina. After his training, Lathan became a private first class with the 25th Marching Depot Company and was deployed to the Pacific Theater on the USS Dorothea during World War II in Guam. He also served on the USS General W.C. Mitchell in Guam and was honorably discharged in 1948. Lathan regretted that he did not see much action during his time in the Marines, as the war was winding “My dad was a trailblazer in a lot of senses. Having come from a big family, he lived his life fighting segregation.” Denise King — daughter of the late Lenon Lathan down when he was finishing his training, Rick said. In 2012, Lathan received the Congressional Gold Medal, along with his fellow Montford Point Marines. At that time, there were roughly 400 of them still living. Lathan also took a trip to visit the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., through Honor Flight Chicago. Denise said she rarely saw her father get emotional, but the trip made him feel like a hero and kept him smiling for years. Today, the Marine Corps actively seeks Montford Point Marines to honor them for their service. At Lathan’s funeral, there were three Marines at his gravesite. “It was 3 degrees outside, and these kids didn’t have coats on, but they didn’t flinch or buckle,” Rick said. “They were determined to bury my father-in-law like a Marine who gets wounded and dies in Afghanistan today. The honor and heritage of the Marine Corps transcends generations.” Serving his family and community Following his service, Lathan moved to Chicago. He studied continuing education classes, including Spanish, at the City Colleges of Chicago and graduated from Washburne Trade School. He worked as a pipefitter, part of Pipefitters Local 597 until his retirement in 1987. He was one of the first African American pipefitters. “My dad was a trailblazer in a lot of senses,” Denise said. “Having come from a big family, he lived his life fighting segregation.” Lathan and his wife, Mildred, initially lived on the South Side of Chicago. The schools were heavily segregated, and the parents wanted their children to attend a school in the Hyde Park area. The school sent the parents a note to inform them their children would need to go to another school. Lathan did not give up and instead sent his children to Catholic schools. Eventually, the family moved to the Lincoln Park area. Denise said she and her siblings were the only black children attending private schools in the area. Following Lathan’s retirement from his pipefitter work, he opened a bar and lounge at 12th Street and Wabash Avenue in Chicago. “That location was not what it is today, of course,” Denise said. “It was a bar that sat in the ground level of a transient hotel. It was kind of a place where my dad became like a resident counselor to a lot of people who were homeless, lost their families, struggled with addiction or had a lot of personal issues.” Lathan always looked out for his own family, as well. When his family members were moving to the area, he would open his door to them The late Lenon Lathan was a Montford Point Marine who received a Congressional Gold Medal and moved to Orland Park. Photo submitted and help them in any way he could, Denise added. Of the life lessons he taught her, one of the best was to never hold a grudge, she said. “As mad as we could get with each other, he would say his piece, he would fuss and yell one moment, and an hour later he’d say, ‘Let’s go for ice cream,’” she said. “That was one of his best qualities. He wanted everybody to have fun. … He loved his family, and any excuse he could find to get the family together was good enough for him.” Another lesson Lathan taught his children was humility. Rick and Denise were married for 15 years before they found out Lathan was part of the Marine Corps, and when Lathan received the Congressional Gold Medal, he was surprised, considering himself “just a regular guy.” In the Orland Park community, Lathan was an avid participant of Orland Township Senior Services’ programs and well-liked by fellow participants and community members, according to Denise, Rick and neighbor Frank Kozak. Denise said staff and participants at the programs often would check in on her father, as would employees at the bank, grocery stores and other businesses he would frequent. At his service Feb. 3 at Please see MArine, 8