Roselandites who made it big

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World War II hero Fred Olivi

If you’re talking with Roselandites about popular folks we grew up with you’re going to hear mention of local baseball players, teachers who were unforgettable, well-known cops, popular bar or restaurant owners, and community leaders. Through these conversations, I began to wonder what about Roselandites that made their mark outside of Roseland. I looked on the internet and Wikipedia gave me a few names, but nothing that I didn’t already know. When I don’t know, I know where to go — my readers! Thanks to everyone who made the time to contact me with suggestions of those that were from Roseland and the surrounding towns or communities and achieved notoriety outside the community,

I’m going to start the list with one of my favorites and one who many with roots in the ’40s and ’50s will remember: Dick “Two-Ton” Baker. Two-Ton was a bon-vivant entertainer and fun-loving musician who graduated from Fenger. He played on the radio and in many Chicago nightclubs and had his own TV show on WGN. His major legacy to Roseland was through his attending the opening of the remodeled Roseland Theater, where a double-wide seat was installed just for him.

Born in the Kensington community but well-known around the world is Elliot Ness. In the 1920s and afterward, the Ness family was known locally for its bakeries. The original location was at 373 E. Kensington Ave. and that original building was torn down within the past five years. The family also owned a bakery on both the south and north ends of Michigan Avenue.

Fred Olivi, a graduate of Pullman Technical School of Manual Training, joined the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II where he became a pilot. Three days after the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Bockscar dropped its atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Fred Olivi was one of three pilots. His book “Decision over Nagaski: The Mission that Almost Failed,” reveals how the flight ran into bad weather and had to turn from its original target of Kokura, Japan, to Nagasaki.

Sammy Esposito was a Fenger graduate who played third base for the Chicago White Sox. In his 10 years with the Sox, Sammy helped them win the pennant in 1959, which was the year Chicagoans were alarmed when the air-raid sirens were set off by then Fire Commissioner Quinn.

Fernwood produced one of the most well-known representatives of the area: Dick Butkus. He is remembered as a pretty decent guy by those who knew him when he attended Chicago Vocational High School.

The accordionist Lino Frigo was a well-known band member and product of Pullman. Lino played in many of the high-end hotels and clubs in downtown Chicago with the Stanley Paul Orchestra. He also was a part of the “Barn Dance” show that aired on WGN radio and TV in the 1960s. For many years, he was a regular on the “Noon Show” on WGN-AM.

Nearb, Blue Island actually had a couple of famous people who came out of Raceway Park. That was where Gary Bettenhausen started by racing stock cars before moving on to midget racecars, where he was very successful. He also raced in a couple Indianapolis 500s.

Born in Blue Island’s St. Francis Hospital, Marcia Lynn “Marcheline” Bertrand was brought up in Riverdale. Though people think she is French, her father was of French Canadian descent and her mother Dutch and Polish. She attended Seton High School for her freshman year and worked at her grandfather’s Dolton bowling alley, which her father managed with his brother. When her father was offered a position as manager at a Beverly Hills Hotel, the family moved to California. It was there that Marcheline became an actress and met and married Jon Voigt, with whom she had two children James Haven and Angelina Jolie.

Musically speaking, a number of people pointed out Chicago and Styx. Both bands are known the world over for their unique style and creativity ever since their early years. The group’s members have changed over the years but each of them still has a few original members.

Chicago’s singer, songwriter, and bassist, Peter Cetera, grew up in Morgan Park, attended Quigley Seminary for his first year before completing high school at Mendel and is the only original Chicago member with anything close to a Roseland connection. The band members actually met at DePaul University when they were students,

The band Styx, on the other hand, started with Chuck Panozzo, John Panozzo, and Dennis DeYoung in Roseland. The fraternal twin Panozzo brothers had a large extended family that lived “down the hill” in Kensington, but the three of them lived “up the hill” near 108th and State Streets.

The other members of Styx came from different areas of Chicago.

As the creator and performer of the one-man show “George Pullman: The Man and his Model Town, I often have the opportunity to talk about the ongoing importance of Pullman and its relevance in current times. That works out great because it gives me the chance to mention Roseland-born movie director Robert Zemeckis. The list of popular films he’s directed includes “Forest Gump,” the “Back to the Future.” “Castaway,” and “Romancing the Stone.” However, the one most closely related to Pullman is “Polar Express.”

The little boy’s train trip ends at the North Pole with the curved glowing red brick buildings reminiscent of Pullman’s Market Hall. As the young boy is returned to his house, the address sign appears on a post in front of the house: 11344. That’s the address of Robert Zemickis family’s house in Roseland. However, the house two doors up and next to St. Willibrord’s parking lot was used because it was better suited for the movie’s graphics purposes.


This project is beginning the leasing process as a low-income-supported artist residence. Occupancy will begin in the late summer/early fall. The process is very thorough and requires some time. If you have the talent and the prospect of living in an artistic community appeals to you, I suggest you promptly begin the process. If you are the least bit interested, you should investigate. You can go online for complete information on requirements at or send an email tp

Robert Zemeckis’ childhood home, on the silver screen and in reality


My book “Roseland — The best of ten years of Petals from Roseland” by CJ Martello is nearing publication. I will be establishing a Kickstarter campaign to assist in funding this nostalgic look back at our lives in Roseland. To do the book justice, the publishing cost will be in the $5,000 $6,000 range. It would be of great benefit if I was made aware of the interest in purchasing a copy of this 200-250 page book. The sooner I can meet the goal of my publication costs, the sooner I can publish the book. The book will take you back, time and again, to the Roseland you’ve loved throughout the years which resides in your heart.

Thank you for your support throughout the years. CJ

Contact me at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756; or

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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  1. Cool! Thank you, CJ!

  2. Interesting information from our Hometown in Roseland area of Chicago, CJ!
    Thank you.

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