Good News Sunday: World War II veterans take dream flight high above suburbs

  • Fred Springs, a 99-year-old veteran from Northbrook, offers a thumbs-up Sunday at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling as he prepares to take a dream flight aboard a 1940s Boeing Stearman. The flights were offered courtesy of Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, a nonprofit. Springs served in the U.S. Navy from 1943-1946.

    Fred Springs, a 99-year-old veteran from Northbrook, offers a thumbs-up Sunday at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling as he prepares to take a dream flight aboard a 1940s Boeing Stearman. The flights were offered courtesy of Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, a nonprofit. Springs served in the U.S. Navy from 1943-1946. Patrick Kunzer for the Daily Herald

 
 
Updated 9/12/2021 7:54 AM

This is Good News Sunday, a compilation of some of the more upbeat and inspiring stories published recently by the Daily Herald:

Aleck Johnsen grew up on a farm near Green Bay, Wisconsin, milking cows until he was 19 years old.

 

That was when he was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps on Dec. 7, 1943, exactly two years to the day after the Pearl Harbor attack.

"We were at war, and I didn't want to milk cows anymore," Johnsen said.

What he wanted to do was fly airplanes.

Johnsen, now soon to be 97 years old, got a chance to experience the exhilaration of flying again Sunday, Sept. 5, when he and fellow suburban World War II veterans traveled to Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling for a "dream flight" aboard a 1943 Boeing Stearman. The single-engine propeller plan was used to train military aviators in the 1940s.

"We went all the way up to 5,000 feet," Johnsen said, before adding his signature to the plane's rudder, alongside that of other veterans who have taken part in the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation's dream flight program.

For the full story, click here.

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'Miracle' baby now a teen who 'always gives it her all'

Zoe Koz was one of the smallest surviving babies ever born in the United States. The 17-year-old, with mom Tammy, dad Eric and sister Faith, 12, left, at their home near Joliet, just started her senior year at Plainfield Central High School.
Zoe Koz was one of the smallest surviving babies ever born in the United States. The 17-year-old, with mom Tammy, dad Eric and sister Faith, 12, left, at their home near Joliet, just started her senior year at Plainfield Central High School. - John Starks | Staff Photographer

Zoe Koz came into the world weighing a mere 10.8 ounces, so tiny she could fit in the palm of a hand. Her size made her one of the smallest surviving infants ever born in the United States.

Zoe's parents celebrated every hard-won gram of weight she gained in the NICU at Edward Hospital in Naperville, every little milestone. Her mom, Tammy Koz, then 25, couldn't hold her firstborn child until three weeks after she was born.

"She was in there for 153 days," Tammy Koz said. "It feels like a lifetime ago in some ways, but then emotionally, it feels like yesterday. I can relive every minute of it. I just remember everything about it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Today, Zoe is a thriving 17-year-old who just started her senior year in high school.

"This is really an important landmark for Zoe," said Dr. Bob Covert, who oversaw her care at Edward.

"Zoe is capable of doing anything like anybody else," Tammy Koz said. "And that's just how we've always raised her and always believed it, and she's living that today."

For the full story, click here.

Former U-46 teacher's scholarship foundation sends Kenyan kids to school

Brett Weiss talking to Phancy at Kadika Girls High School in Kenya. They are reviewing her report card and talking about ways to overcome her challenges. Weiss, a Naperville resident and retired Bartlett High School teacher, started a scholarship foundation to help students in a Kenyan village attend high school.
Brett Weiss talking to Phancy at Kadika Girls High School in Kenya. They are reviewing her report card and talking about ways to overcome her challenges. Weiss, a Naperville resident and retired Bartlett High School teacher, started a scholarship foundation to help students in a Kenyan village attend high school. - Courtesy of Brett Weiss

Brett Weiss taught social studies for more than 12 years at Bartlett High School, where he lined his classroom walls with meaningful quotations from around the world.

Among his class load was teaching international relations, and now, in retirement, he is promoting what he taught: that children around the world need access to a quality education.

While Weiss was still teaching, he took what turned out to be a life-changing trip to the small, rural village of Dago in southwestern Kenya. Visiting one of its schools and meeting the students haunted him until 2011, when he set out to help them.

For the last 10 years, Weiss, a Naperville resident, has run the HOPE Weiss Scholarship Foundation, which enables children in this poor village to attend high school.

"Most children quit school around the fourth grade because they do not see the point in continuing an education that will not extend past primary school.

"Instead of attending school," he said, "they try to get a job working in the fields, making around $1 daily."

Weiss created the foundation with the goal of sending the village's children to high school. Since its creation, more than 70 children have continued their education.

For the full story, click here.

Four Northwest suburban libraries are state grant winners

Four Northwest suburban libraries will share more than $361,000 in new state grants, a state lawmaker has announced.

The Schaumburg Township District Library will get about $187,102. The Des Plaines Public Library will receive more than $86,086. The Elk Grove Village Public Library will get about $32,603. And the Park Ridge Public Library will receive $55,283.

All four of the libraries are in the 28th state Senate District. State Sen. Laura Murphy, a Des Plaines Democrat representing the district, revealed the grant winners in a news release.

"Local libraries are a major contributor to literacy in our neighborhoods," Murphy said. "With the school year starting back up, the resources libraries offer -- computers, meeting spaces and helpful librarians -- will be in even greater demand."

For the full story, click here.

• Good News Sunday will run each weekend. Please visit dailyherald.com/newsletters to sign up for our Good News Sunday newsletter.

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