Lester: The rundown on Cubs anthem singer's faith, recovery
The darkest hour is just before dawn, the saying goes.
For professional singer Wayne Messmer -- who will perform the national anthem at the Cubs' first home playoff game against the Cardinals today -- that time was spring and summer of 1994 after he was shot in the neck by a teenager trying to rob him.
The bullet struck him in the throat, leaving doctors to doubt his booming baritone would be heard again.
Amid all the darkness and doubt, Messmer found solace in the pews of St. Emily Catholic Church in Mount Prospect, where he lived in the 1990s before moving to Glenview. Daily, he said, he'd sit alone in the mornings looking for divine direction.
"I really had to have the conversation with God of what if the voice doesn't come back," he tells me. "It was just a tremendously spiritual time that I spent there."
He eventually gained a sense of peace, and his voice healed, too. Six months after the shooting, Messmer belted out the national anthem at the first Chicago Wolves game at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
Two decades later, St. Emily holds a special place in his heart. "Even when I just drive by, even today, I will still slow down and always take a look and make the sign of the cross," he says.
House shakeup could benefit Roskam
Top GOP operatives tell me that Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy's surprise announcement that he would not run for House Speaker could bode well for Peter Roskam of Wheaton, who's made a habit in recent months of taking actions to unite the fractured Republican caucus. That included organizing a special conference meeting after Speaker John Boehner announced plans to step down at the end of the month.
Roskam isn't saying yet whether he will re-enter the race for the post now that McCarthy is out. But if it happens, it could bring a sense of déjà vu to the suburbs. Dennis Hastert of Plano, who was indicted by the feds this summer on charges he lied to the FBI and tried to hide financial transactions, was chosen as Speaker in 1998 after the post unexpectedly opened up.
On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Rep. Bill Foster, who has a doctorate in physics, tells me he's worked on a number of massive superconducting magnets like the one that recently was moved from New York to Fermilab National Laboratory in Batavia.
He applauded those who worked on the delicate move.
New Trier GOP gets leader, finally
Cook County GOP Chairman Aaron Del Mar of Palatine has named Marc Levine of Wilmette as committeeman for New Trier Township -- the home base of two top Republican officeholders, Gov. Bruce Rauner and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk.
The group went several months without a formal leader -- an embarrassment to some establishment Republicans. Del Mar had blamed Levine for not filling out a formal application. All's apparently well now, as the two have reported an "outstanding" conversation strategizing how to move the Cook County Republican organization forward, Del Mar said.
Central Continental Bakery in Mount Prospect is among the suburban bakeries with a case of Cubs fever. It has a full roster of team jersey cookies flying off the shelves. It's the latest of creations for Central, which once made a detailed newspaper-themed cake for an engagement party I hosted for digital editor Travis Siebrass and wife, Kim. It came complete with "Paddock blue" icing forming the Daily Herald nameplate.
With Chris Hage of Wheaton stepping down as a member of the DuPage Election Commission, Republican blogger Dave Dierson has the scoop that Chairman Dan Cronin has selected Jamie Lowe to fill the vacancy and that Lowe will be resigning his position as the chairman of the Lisle Township Republican Organization.
State Treasurer Mike Frerichs will be at Elmhurst College Tuesday to rally for Gov. Rauner and lawmakers to release Monetary Award Program grant funding, which has been tied up because of the state budget impasse.
The program provides financial support for roughly 130,000 students at public and private colleges across the state. About a quarter of Elmhurst's 3,200 students get grants.
Watch for Frerichs (a Yale grad) to be sporting one of the dozen-plus orange ties he owns as a nod to his hometown institution, the University of Illinois.
Mangels on the move
Mangel's Gifts in Long Grove has moved from its longtime spot in the village's historic downtown to a new spot nearby. Owners Mark and Amy Charlesworth of Rolling Meadows tell me the space is smaller, but the rent is much lower. Amy also is the longtime director of the Rolling Meadows Park District.