At age 96, the Glen Ellyn artist was recognized for his work

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

At age 96, Mary Marchese of Glen Ellyn receives public recognition for her artwork.

The Glen Ellyn Public Library has 50 of her oil paintings on its gallery wall. The paintings feature portraits of four generations of her family, “the people I love,” Marchese says.

She became interested in art in 1934 when she was in fourth grade at St. Petronille School and Glen Ellyn. During her three years at Glenbard Township High School (which became Glenbard West), she earned art awards and was named the official artist for the Girl Reserve Service Club.

Her parents insisted that she attend Immaculate Conception in her final year, where she continued as an artist and drew the cartoon “Isn’t That the Truth” for the school newspaper.

Marchese, wife of Andy Marchese, the 98-year-old legendary band director who retired from the Benet Academy in Lisle, has painted portraits of most of her 39 grandchildren and has requests to make paintings of all of her 41 great-grandchildren.

In addition to portraits, Marchese has made a series of paintings of houses for four seasons for her children and friends.

“I painted so many that I can’t remember them all,” she says. She has given away almost all of the approximately 200 paintings she has made to relatives and friends.

She has never made a dime with work, instead of making them “just for fun.”

For the full story, click here.

Elk Grove Village mom helps American Girl create Eid outfit for dolls

Elk Grove Village resident Yasmina Blackburn helped design the new Eid outfit for 18-inch dolls as part of American Girl's "Cultural celebration" collection.

Elk Grove Village resident Yasmina Blackburn helped design the new Eid outfit for 18-inch dolls as part of the American Girls’ Cultural Celebration collection.
– Welsh Mark | Employee photographer

When Yasmina Blackburn’s 8-year-old daughter Aliya came home crying after a holiday party at school, it broke her heart.

Aliya and her classmates made works of art and sang traditional songs for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. She could not understand why there was no recognition of Eid, the Islamic holiday her family observes.

That prompted the Elk Grove Village mother to write a letter to the doll company American Girl, which sought Muslim representation in its product range so girls like Aliya could see themselves reflected as part of American culture.

And now American Girl, owned by Mattel Inc., has launched an Eid al-Fitr doll outfit that Blackburn helped design as part of its new cultural party collection. Blackburn also edited the short story that came with the clothing for cultural accuracy.

“It’s important for children to feel that their holidays are being recognized in school and in public spaces as well as on toy shelves,” said Blackburn, 53, a longtime civil rights activist from a mixed Catholic-Muslim background.

For the full story, click here.

Four brain surgeries will not keep the runner out of the Boston Marathon

Nicole Wojnarowski from Elgin applied – and was accepted – to the 125th Boston Marathon which runs for a specific charity. She runs to advance her personal goals, but also to raise money for IMPACT Melanoma.

It has also been a health marathon for 46-year-old Wojnarowski, who has undergone four brain surgeries since being diagnosed with an arachnoid cyst at the age of 22 while attending Northern Illinois University.

The headache she masters every day has not disappeared, probably because scar tissue damages some nerve endings after so many incisions in the same place in her scalp, she said.

Wojnarowski found that she could run considerable distances, even with headaches.

“I started running because I wanted an outlet to get some exercise and challenge myself because I hated running when I was in high school,” said Wojnarowski, a 1993 graduate of St. Louis. Charles High School.

“I decided to try it, and after I ran a half marathon, I thought I could do a full marathon.”

After running several other marathons, she counts her acceptance of the prestigious Boston event as an honor.

“When I was selected through the charity application process, I was so excited that I just cried,” Wojnarowski said. “It’s definitely a dream come true.”

For the full story, click here.

Alzheimer’s tour in Libertyville brings participants to the fore in purple

Hikers wear purple shirts and wear colorful flowers at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Oct. 2 in Libertyville.

Hikers wear purple shirts and wear colorful flowers at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Oct. 2 in Libertyville.
– Joe Lewnard | Employee photographer

Independence Grove in Libertyville looked a little more colorful Saturday during the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimers.

The trip aims to raise awareness and funding for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

On the day of the march, the participants honor those affected by Alzheimer’s disease with the gripping ceremony for the Promise Garden. The colors of Promise Garden flower-shaped pinwheels represent people’s connection to Alzheimer’s — their personal reasons for ending the disease.

In addition to wearing the colorful flowers while walking, many of the participants wore purple, the official color of the Alzheimer’s movement.

For details on Walk to End Alzheimers, visit

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