Quinn Administration Honors Families of Fallen Illinois Heroes with Gold Star Mother’s Day Ceremony

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–September 26, 2011.  Gold Star Banners were presented on Sunday to 10 Illinois mothers whose sons died in combat while serving their country in the Global War on Terror. More than 70 Illinois Gold Star families, who lost family members on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, attended the ceremony at Chicago’s Cultural Center.

The ceremony, which was co-sponsored by the USO of Illinois, marked Gold Star Mother’s Day. The day has been commemorated on the last Sunday in September since President Franklin Roosevelt declared the first Gold Star Mother’s Day in 1936. On Aug. 16, 2009 Governor Quinn signed legislation to formally designate the fourth Sunday in September as Gold Star Mothers Day in Illinois. A list of the 2011 Illinois Gold Star recipients is attached.

“Gold Star Mother’s Day honors those mothers whose sons or daughters gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Governor Quinn said. “It is important that everyone in our state takes this opportunity to express our reverence and respect for these families and their loss.”

“Illinois and our extended veterans’ community have great respect for the men and women we honor on Gold Star Mother’s Day,” said Erica Borggren, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “We will forever honor these heroes and their families for the personal sacrifices they have made for all of us.”
Presenting Gold Stars to mothers is an American tradition dating back to 1918, at the end of World War I. At that time, President Woodrow Wilson suggested that instead of wearing conventional mourning black from head to toe, families of men and women who had died in service to their country should wear a black armband with a gold star to signify their loss and their pride. Bereaved families also displayed Gold Star banners – gold stars on a white background with a wide red border – in the windows of their homes.

Verizon Wireless also co-sponsored the Illinois 2011 Gold Star ceremony for the fifth straight year. Starwood Hotels provided the accommodations for the out of town guests.

Director Borggren was joined by Dan Grant, former director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs; Brigadier Gen. Steven Huber, Director of the Joint Staff, Joint Force Headquarters, Illinois National Guard; and Patti Smith of Blue Star Mothers Illinois. Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein recited the poem “To Illinois’ Gold Star Mothers, Who Lost a Child in Service of Country.”

2011 Gold Star Recipients 


Areta Chiappini  (Chicago)              U.S. Navy Commander Adrian B. Szwec                    

Julie Bessa  (Woodridge)               U.S. Army SSG Jeremy E. Bessa

Camille Felton (Markham)              U.S. Army SFC Christoper D. Shaw  

Susan Weikert (Jacksonville)         U.S. SSG Matthew W. Weikert

Rubelia Vazquez (Melrose Park)     U.S. Marine Corps LCPL Frederick Vazquez                

Lenora Sparks (Chicago)                U.S. Marine Corps LCPL John T. Spark

Gretchen Catherwood (Byron)          U.S. Marine Corps LCPL Alec E. Catherwood

Rebecca Isles (Barnhill)                 U.S. Army SGT Michael Bartley

Elizabeth Wade (Antioch)              U.S. Army SPC Andrew P. Wade

Joanne Olivieri (Homer Glen)          U.S. Army PFC Michael C. Olivieri

For more information about these and other soldiers, please visit