Millionaire’s wealth surprises heirs worldwide, winter storm warning in effect and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Attorney Ken Piercey unrolls an heir tree, showing more than 119 heirs, in his Barrington office, as he works to distribute an $11 million estate of a Chicagoan who died with no will and no immediate relatives, yesterday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will see widespread blowing snow with a high near -2, wind chill values as low as -28, and gusts as high as 45 mph. Similar weather will continue into tonight with a low near -2 and wind chill values as low as -27. Christmas Eve will be partly sunny with a high near 8 and wind chill values as low as -24. Christmas will be mostly sunny with a high near 13.

Editor’s note: if you’re a print subscriber, the weather could impact newspaper delivery for the next few days. You can read the E-paper as part of your subscription here.

Top story

South Side millionaire’s wealth set to ripple through lives around the globe

What would you do if someone out of the blue told you to expect a check for about $100,000 in the mail, no strings attached?

In New Jersey, John Wisinger will pay down debt from his daughter’s wedding at The Park Savoy. It’s fancy. His wedding speech concluded with a mic drop that slayed. “My Girl” was played for the dad/daughter dance. On Chicago’s Northwest Side, a construction worker, who asked not to be named — coming into money will do that — plans to make a sizable dent in the loan he took out for a luxury German car. Mike Griglak plans to retire to Florida, waving a final toodle-oo to Canada and its bitter winters.

Dreams like these are set to play out around the globe. And if you stick a thumbtack in each of them and trace with a string to their origin, they’d all lead back to a modest brick bungalow about a mile east of Midway Airport in Gage Park.

It was the home of Joe Stancak.

In 2016, Stancak, described as a hermit and a recluse by the few who knew him, died at 87, leaving behind no will, no immediate relatives and $11 million in the bank — the largest unclaimed estate in the nation’s history. His fortune remained forgotten for years. Then letters began showing up in 119 mailboxes around the world — each belonging to a distant relative of the South Sider.

Details on Joe Stancak’s life are, indeed, hard to come by.

Stancak lived on the block for decades and was one of the few residents who stayed as the area changed from Polish, Irish and Italian to mostly Hispanic. Neighbors were shocked to hear of Stancak’s wealth. He was notoriously frugal. He regularly tinkered with his electric lawn mower and beat-up 1985 Oldsmobile.

“Nobody knew him. You’re chasing a ghost,” said Joe Mallack, a longtime neighbor of Stancak’s on the 5700 block of South Troy Street.

Mitch Dudek has more on Stancak and his estate here.

More news you need

  1. Despite a fatal shooting outside Benito Juarez high school in Pilsen last week, teachers, parents and students said yesterday they do not want police officers stationed inside the school. WBEZ’s Sarah Karp has more from the special Local School Council meeting, where members of the school community voiced their concerns.
  2. Chicago Public Schools admitted that it was slow to respond to complaints of peeling lead paint in a special education classroom and two other rooms at a Bridgeport elementary school. Teachers were left hanging for months before CPS followed up on testing and addressing the problem, our Brett Chase reports.
  3. The Chicago area remains under a winter weather warning, with high winds kicking up snow and driving down temperatures. We catch up with Chicagoans striving to stay warm as dangerous conditions continue here.
  4. Icy roads and bitter cold made travel hazardous this morning and caused significant delays — whether you were driving, taking a train or bus, or flying. We’ve got the latest on the winter storm transportation woes here.
  5. Supporters of Chicago mayoral candidates Ja’Mal Green and Willie Wilson have dropped dueling efforts to remove the candidates’ names from the ballot in February’s municipal election. The ballot spots for community activist Green and millionaire businessman Wilson are expected to be secured at a board meeting next week.
  6. Preserving and revitalizing Chicago’s historic Bronzeville community — also known as the “Black Metropolis” — got a big boost yesterday when Congress sent President Joe Biden a bill to sign establishing it as a National Heritage Area. The designation will help preserve over 200 historical assets in Bronzeville and bring up to $1 million annually to the area over a 10- to 15-year span.
  7. This year, Sun-Times photographers covered everything from mass shootings in Chicago and Highland Park to Chicagoans’ protesting the war in Ukraine and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. They share their picks for the best photos they took in 2022 here.
  8. Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper has shared his favorite films of 2022. Some of the most enjoyable viewing time this year was spent with a horse rancher, a fledgling director and a symphony conductor, Roeper writes.

A bright one

Thousands show up for South Side coat, toy giveaway

Joseph Nichols braved the cold today in search of a toy. And it paid off.

“This is the last one I needed,” said the 10-year-old, holding up a Black Panther figurine. “I already got Spiderman, Ironman, Hulk, She-Hulk.” Trophy in hand, Joseph followed his grandmother to the room where winter gear and food were being given out.

The Apostolic Faith Church at Indiana Avenue and Pershing Road has held a coat and toy giveaway for decades. More recently, the church has started distributing food, too. Pastor Robert Tillery said the church started the coat and toy giveaway in the mid-1980s.

The church’s 3,000 members support the giveaway, which in recent years has come to include only new items.

“We have a great responsibility to the community,” Tillery said. “Because of the pandemic, people’s economic and financial situations have really been impacted.”


Adalynn Hughes, 8, receives a free toy during a Christmas giveaway organized by the Apostolic Faith Church in Bronzeville today.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The church expected to give away as many as 2,000 coats and around 3,000 toys.

“It looks like the Christmas version of ‘The Price is Right,’” said Tee Bruce, standing between the several racks of puffy coats and stacks of toys watched over by Santa Claus.

The downtown resident, who began attending the historic church in the past year, was volunteering at the event with her husband and daughter.

“It’s a family affair to come together and give back to the community, to put a smile on people’s faces and a coat to keep them warm,” George Bruce said.

Michael Loria has more on the giveaway here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What’s the best way to be a good neighbor amid a winter storm?

Send us an email at and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: What did you stock up on ahead of the snowstorm?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Filled my gas tank up. Making chili that will last me a few days.” — Audrie Hicks Washington

“Bourbon, frozen dinners, bacon, firewood — did I mention bourbon?” — George Castillo

“Nothing!! It’s ridiculous!! It isn’t going to be bad for more than a day or two!” — Sandra Riegling

“Made sure my tires and gas tank were filled.” — Janice Valenzio

“All I wanted was a bag of carrots for my soup. None to be found. Everyone must have bought them to give to Santa’s reindeer.” — Janet Bissing Hohn

“Recipe items for the Gumbo!” — Cheryl Housing-Jones

“I always do winter stock up — however, for this snow storm, I got eggs, bread, milk and pop.” — Glynis Meeks

“Soup, water, lettuce, fruit, cereal, milk, bread. Hoping our electric stays on. Have battery lanterns and extra blankets. Better to be safe than sorry!” — Rhonda Rowe-Skolnik

“Egg nog and chex mix.” — Jackie Flinchum

“Tequila. It keeps you warm.” — Raul Ruiz

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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