A look back at some of the people who made a difference in DuPage County

Posted1/3/2014 10:03 AM

There is much to learn from the Faces of 2013 in DuPage County.

These are some of the people who made a difference in how we lived over the past year, who helped define who we are.


Look at these faces and you'll find young people who tried to teach us about caring and heroes who put others before themselves. You'll find stunningly talented musicians and athletes unafraid of overcoming the hurdles life sometimes puts in front of us. You'll find educators and leaders and folks who contributed lots and lots of money to causes they believe in.

You'll find a woman who wasn't afraid to stand on a scale in front of us all and a man who walked from Chicago to Atlanta to honor his mom. You'll find artists and TV personalities, and even a couple of chimney sweeps.

Look at their faces and you'll see a reflection of who we are and, in many cases, who we can aspire to be.

These are the Faces of 2013.

Bobby and Jimmy Miller

The Lombard brothers enjoyed a "play it cool" rivalry in advance of January's battle between Alabama and Notre Dame for college football's national championship. Bobby was a junior at the University of Alabama; Jimmy a freshman at Notre Dame. Their dad, James, said he was just hoping for a close game. It didn't work out that way: the Crimson Tide rolled over the Fighting Irish.

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Jesse Tyler Ferguson

The star of TV's "Modern Family" came to Naperville in January to help launch "Bow Tie Lobby Day" to rally advocates for marriage equality to push their message in Springfield. It worked.

Heidi Wennstrom

The longtime administrator was selected in January to become superintendent of Oak Brook's Butler Elementary District 53. She began work July 1 in the high-achieving district. "I'm still a teacher at heart," she said.

Peter Monaghan

The longtime assistant principal and dean at Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn started his new job as the school's principal on July 1, replacing Jane Thorsen, who retired.

Deb Darzinskis

The interim director of the DuPage Housing Authority was appointed to the permanent post in January. She had served as interim director since the August 2011 termination of David Hoicka, who was let go just eight months after being hired to help overhaul the housing authority.


Teri and Ron Kuhn

The high school sweethearts who graduated from Wheaton's St. Francis High School in the 1960s donated $1 million to jump-start a $5 million capital construction program at the school to include a synthetic turf football field and all-weather track.

Susan Westgate

The new director of the Carol Stream Public Library officially took the reins in January with the goal of changing the negative perception some had of the library and getting a sharply divided elected board to work together.

Kelly Farley

The Aurora man has been pushing for years to amend the Family Medical Leave Act to allow grieving parents to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off in the event of the death of a child. Farley was optimistic about the bill's passage when he met with members of Congress in early February, but it didn't happen.

Paul Gordon

He started the year as the chief academic officer for a K-12 district covering 52 schools in suburban Denver, but in January was named superintendent of Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41. He started his new gig July 1.

Stephen Davis

The Wheaton man, who already had served nearly nine years on the DuPage Airport Authority Board, was named chairman of the group in February to replace the retiring Dan Goodwin. "My goal is to continue the reforms and the changes that have happened over the past nine years," he said.

John Lehman

Aurora's deputy fire chief was tapped in February to become the department's chief to succeed Hal Carlson. He's a 26-year veteran of the department.

Serena Harnack

The 14-year-old Glen Ellyn girl is making a name for herself as a violinist in the Chicago area, performing solos with symphony orchestras. "I'm really speaking to the audience when I play," the freshman at St. Francis High School said.

Kory Atkinson

The Roselle man has made a name for himself by filing objections to get candidates kicked off the ballot. Since 2009 he's objected to the candidacies of at least 10 office seekers, including eight who weren't even running against him. "The rules that apply to elections are not ones that I've created," he said.

Marianne Costales-Roman

The Naperville woman lost 60 pounds in 12 weeks to win the Daily Herald's fifth annual Fittest Loser contest. The 38-year-old wife, mother and high school social worker dropped from 222 to 162 pounds, losing 27 percent of her original body weight.

Catherine Kitz

The Montini distance runner continued to excel even while battling cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes mucus to build up and clog parts of the body, including the lungs.

Aurora responders

Aurora police investigators Edwin Doepel, Erik Swastek, Greg Christoffel, Jeffrey Hahn, Nicholas Gartner and W. Joshua Sullivan, along with officer Christopher Coronado, were honored in May for their heroics in pulling a 14-year-old girl from a vehicle that had plunged into a frigid pond. The girl, Annie Prosser, attended the ceremony.

Cali Linstrom

The Glen Ellyn teen took Abercrombie & Fitch to task over comments the company's CEO made referencing "fat" people. She not only got an apology from the company, she also got the chance to meet with some of its top executives.

Conrad Rask and Carol Davis

The two Carol Stream residents became good friends about a decade ago when they discovered they shared a common interest in playing the lottery. It paid off this spring when the pair won a $7.4 million jackpot.

Chloe Kennebeck

An avid runner, the 13-year-old Glen Ellyn girl ran her second half marathon in June -- despite the fact she's battling inflammatory bowel disease. She said her June race was in honor of a family friend who is going through some of the same physical struggles she is, plus many more.

Stephanie Penick

The longtime Daily Herald columnist and publisher of Positively Naperville was feted in June when she became the third recipient of the Fair Lady Award presented by Fair Lady Productions Inc., as a business woman who has made a difference in the Naperville community through her contributions and commitment to the arts.

Aseem Jha

The 17-year-old Lisle resident and Naperville North High School student aced both the SAT and ACT college entrance exams. How tough is that? Only 360 students out of 1.6 million across the country got perfect scores on the SAT and only 781 out of 1.66 million aced the ACT.

Brittany Smith

The Elmhurst woman was crowned Miss Illinois in late June after a weeklong competition. "I thought it was a dream until I saw the sash sitting next to me," she said.

Daniel Dolan-Laughlin

The Wheaton man was honored at the White House in July for his work on behalf of the American Lung Association. A double-lung transplant recipient, he has testified before the EPA regarding power plant pollution and automobile tailpipe emissions. He also regularly leads the lung association's Better Breathers Club meetings.

Brian Emmett

The self-employed advertising executive from Itasca won $250,000 and a contract to publish his own cookbook after winning "The American Baking Competition," CBS-TV's elimination-style reality show in July. "I think coming in here I was pretty cocky, but once we got into it (I realized) this is really difficult," he said.

Morgan Riley

Glenbard West junior Morgan Riley has raised six puppies for Canine Companions for Independence, a national nonprofit group that provides trained assistance dogs for children, adults and veterans with physical and developmental disabilities.

Kathy Birkett

She has spent her entire 35-year career in Indian Prairie Unit District 204, rising from her position as a gym teacher to become superintendent of the state's third-largest school district. In July, she announced her plans to retire at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Matt Tretter

The Glen Ellyn dad held his 10th and last fundraiser for Caitlin's Cause in July. Held in honor of his daughter, who lost her 3-year battle with cancer one day after her 6th birthday, the annual event has raised roughly $400,000 for the Keepsake Box program at Children's Hospital, which gives parents who lose a child a treasure chest of mementos.

Stephen Cummins

He spent seven years as director of the McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn before stepping down in July to take a job in California.

James "Deacon" White

The former Aurora resident was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July. Regarded by historians as one of the greatest catchers in baseball's early years, he starred beginning in the 1870s and is credited with getting the first hit -- a double -- in the first professional game ever played.

J. Anthony Kosar

The Lisle man's artwork is the stuff you see in nightmares, which was why the owner of Kosar Effects Studio in Westmont won this season's "Face Off," the Syfy TV network's special effects competition.

Alyssa Gialamas

The 18-year-old Naperville woman won a bronze medal in swimming as part of a relay team at the International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships in Montreal. She's training for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

David and Dee Stoll

The Roselle master chimney sweeps were married on Oct. 8, 1978, atop the Sears Tower. On their 35th anniversary they returned to the top of what is now the Willis Tower to renew their vows.

Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti

The Wheaton City Council member was selected in October to run for lieutenant governor on a slate with Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner. The daughter of an immigrant from Ecuador and a refugee from Cuba, she is in her first term on the council.

William Glass

The Lombard man walked more than 750 miles over the summer, from Chicago to Atlanta, to raise money and awareness for the fight against Alzheimer's disease. He called the walk "Flowers for Mom" in honor of his mother, Eileen, who is suffering from the disease.

Hannah and Emma Koropp

The Wheaton sisters, ages 17 and 16, founded the not-for-profit Apples and Carrots group in 2010 to collect food for the needy. Since then, they've collected more than 15,000 pounds of fruit, vegetables and dairy products -- so-called fragile foods with short shelf lives.

R.J. Ogren

The Wheaton artist painted "Pearls of the Universe," a mural celebrating the contributions of Wheaton's immigrants, on the side of a downtown yoga studio.

Mariam Paré

The 37-year-old Naperville artist paints rich and vibrant pictures. But here's what really sets her apart: a gunshot wound when she was 20 lodged in her spine and robbed her of the ability to move her arms and legs -- so now she holds her paint brushes in her mouth.

Amy Walsh

The fourth-grade teacher at Bensenville's Tioga School was one of 11 finalists for the state's Teacher of the Year honors. Walsh most recently has served as a consulting teacher at her school, helping prepare changes to the curriculum to meet new Common Core standards and working with first-year teachers.

Octavia Spencer

The Academy Award-winning actress visited Aurora in October to meet with students from Young Elementary School and promote her first children's book, "Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective." She urged students to dream big and work hard.

Susan Broad

After more than 22 years at the helm of the DuPage Children's Museum, the 66-year-old Broad announced in November that she'll step down at the end of January. The Naperville-based museum attracts more than 300,000 visitors a year.

Larry Hunka

"Scary" Larry and his wife, Liz, have been turning their Wheaton garage into a haunted house since 2000 to entertain area kids and families. With his own son, Jeremy, headed off to college, though, Larry said this year will be the last for the spooky haunts.

Steve Chen

The YouTube co-founder and Illinois Math and Science Academy graduate pledged $1 million toward a facility the school is designing to support student entrepreneurs with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Called the Innovation Hub, school officials said the 6,400-square-foot lab will be an open space featuring cutting-edge technology.

Genevieve Cipriano

The 18-year-old Glen Ellyn resident got a bedroom makeover from Special Spaces Chicagoland. The nonprofit group creates "dream" bedrooms for children with life-threatening medical conditions. Genevieve has osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

Merri Lazenby, Traci Iarrobino, Stephanie Chang and Amy Prendel

Three nurses and a North Central College employee helped save the life of a man running the Naperville Marathon when he had a heart attack along the course in the Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve. The women performed CPR until emergency crews could reach the scene.

Lou Addante and Kathy Contreas

Addante, a DuPage Forest Preserve police officer, found Contreras, a runner, lost in the Greene Valley Forest Preserve during Naperville's inaugural marathon. Addante and some of his family members made sure the 44-year-old Contreras, who had fallen far behind the rest of the pack, not only found her way out of the preserve but stayed on the proper route the rest of the way to the finish line. "It was like a gift from God," she said.

Vinay Nayak

The Oak Brook man and senior at Yale University was one of 32 Americans, and the only one from Illinois, to be chosen as a Rhodes Scholar. He will begin study there next October.

Chris Stirn

She was named executive director of the Naperville-based Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment shelter in December after serving in several posts at the no-kill facility over the past four years.

Eric Petersen

The Carol Stream native and Glenbard North grad plays Kirstie Alley's son in TV Land's original sitcom, "Kirstie," that premiered in early December.

Arnie Biondo

The longtime director of the Carol Stream Park District was named executive director of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District in December. He replaces Brent Manning who stepped down in June 2012.

Evan Lysacek

The gold medal-winning figure skater from Naperville announced in December that a serious hip injury will keep him out of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochia, Russia. "I always thought it would work out," he said. "I was crushed. I am crushed."

Joseph Wozniak

The Naperville man was having a tough enough day in December when the DuPage Electoral Board was hearing complaints about his nominating petitions for a spot on the March 18 DuPage Forest Preserve District Commission primary ballot. But things got even worse when someone at the county complex mistook his cellphone for a gun and called police, who handcuffed him until they could straighten everything out.

Erin Blair

The Lisle native and hockey referee will represent the International Ice Hockey Federation at the Olympics during the women's hockey series.

Paul Kuhn

The Naperville sculptor is working on a piece called "Tragedy to Triumph" that will be displayed at the downtown Naperville train station to memorialize a Naperville train crash that killed 45 people in 1946.

Gina Santori

The Lisle surgeon came to Aurora in December to announce a $3 million donation from the Richard and Gina Santori Charitable Foundation to the Aurora Public Library Foundation to establish a technology endowment.

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