Memorial works to prevent rail deaths




October 18, 2007

By Courtney Greve, Staff writer


Jonathan Siwek spent plenty of time around trains.

The resident of Chicago's Mount Greenwood community earned his living loading containers onto railway cars.

That's why his death really shook those he loved.

On Oct. 20, 2006, Siwek, 28, was run over by a train near his home during a pre-dawn walk with his dogs, Mort and Lady. His death was an accident, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Siwek's mother, Nancy Duffing, said investigators believe Jon slipped on the dew-slickened ground and hit his head. When a train passed, at least one of his limbs was across the tracks. Two hours passed before he was found, she said.

"I got the early morning phone call that every parent dreads," said Duffing, a Chicago police officer. "I've had to handle similar things on the job, but I never thought it would happen to someone I loved. It's a horrible way for a life to end."

To help raise awareness about railroad safety, a fundraiser in Siwek's honor will be held Friday in Merrionette Park.

Siwek attended Pasteur Elementary School in Chicago's West Elsdon community and nearby Curie High School.

"He was a great kid," his mother said. "He had such a good heart and was so caring."

Duffing said she and her two sons, Daniel and James, both of Palos Heights, received a lot of comfort from a nonprofit train safety foundation called Targeting Education Awareness and Railroad Safety.

"They really brought sanity to a situation that was totally insane," she said.

Founded by Ray Zukowski, whose 14-year-old daughter was killed by a train while crossing tracks in Lombard, TEARS assists the survivors of those killed in train accidents and advocates putting up barriers along railroad tracks.

Zukowski said he considers the tracks where Siwek was killed - running between Sacramento Avenue and Mount Greenwood Cemetery - as "high risk" because the stretch is void of protective barriers. Keller Gifted Magnet Center, a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, is alongside the tracks, and at least one street sign warns of deaf children playing.

Jonathan Siwek Memorial Benefit

 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday

115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park

Tickets are $30 and include beer, food, soda and music

Donations also can be made payable to TEARS and mailed to Theresa Bochnak/Dan Siwek Sr., 5660 W. 127th St., Palos Heights, IL 60463