Chicago loses a great friend in Alys Lavicka

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Developer and preservationist Bill Lavicka is well-known to Chicagoans for his crusades, from working to save historic homes on the 1500 block of West Jackson Boulevard to forcing developers to preserve a small piece of Maxwell Street as they demolished the historic market.

People know Bill Lavicka because he has always enjoyed a good fight and a good cause, and if that meant standing in the spotlight, well, that was just fine too. Bill’s wife, Alys, fought a quieter but no less tenacious fight as a preservationist and an educational volunteer on the Near West Side for more than 35 years.

Alys Lavicka, 58, died yesterday after a long illness, and the city is poorer for her passing.

“Alys helped co-found the preservationist movement for urban pioneering of the 1500 block of West Jackson Boulevard, now listed as a national landmark on the National Register of Historic Places,” Bill Lavicka said.

She also helped him launch and maintain Historic Boulevard Services, which worked to save more than a dozen Chicago churches and to build or renovate 200 homes in Chicago.

Alys, who was born in San Francisco, earned both her bachelor’s and masters degrees in public administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She and Bill raised three children: U.S. Army Captain Kelsey Lavicka, Harvard graduate Amber Lavicka and construction worker Corey Lavicka.

On June 13, Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) asked Mayor Richard M. Daley and the city council to pass a resolution saluting Alys Lavicka for her devoted years of volunteerism. Alys was especially proud of her volunteer work at Andrew Jackson Language Academy, 1340 W Harrison St. Her children had a continuous attendance record there for 15 years, and Alys personally volunteered more than 10,000 hours at the school.

Although wheelchair bound, she attended the dedication of the Mary and Alys Garden at the Andrew Jackson School on June 8. More than 100 friends attended the dedication, including Mayor Daley, who spoke about Alys’ great commitment to Chicago Public Schools and beautification.

Bill created a sculpture on the garden’s 60-foot wall – with three six-foot-tall flowers of marble and onyx, three Carrara white marble clouds and a four-foot onyx sun – to honor Alys and the 36-year career of retiring Principal Dr. Mary Zeitmann.

Services are private, but a memorial event is being planned to celebrate Alys’ life. In lieu of flowers, Bill Lavicka would be happy to accept contributions for the perpetual care of the Mary and Alys Garden.

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