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Saturday, March 1, 2014

To my wife Jo: Thank you for everything, and for saving my life

By Ted Slowik

Since my heart attack on Feb. 17 I've been overwhelmed with support from family and friends. Thank you for all the cards, visits, meals, flowers, phone calls, messages and prayers. There's one person I need to thank above all others: Jo, my wife.

Jo made the 911 call that saved my life that night. It was close. Remember I flat-lined for six minutes. Brain damage starts at seven, they say. In all my years writing I've purposely avoided saying too much publicly about Jo out of respect for her privacy. But today I feel compelled to publicly thank her for saving my life.

I met Jo when we both attended Lewis University in the 1980s. I was editor of the student newspaper and she was in theatre performing roles like Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire." It took some encouragement from our friends John Creighton and Linda Gjerde, but I asked her out on our first date on Valentine's Day 1985. I was 19.

We dated for five years while she finished graduate school and I worked at a newspaper in LaGrange. We married at Lewis on Aug. 4, 1990. Our wedding was in the chapel; the reception was in the dining hall. Our wedding day was one of the handful of times when all 12 Slowik children and Mom and Dad were together.


We lived in DeKalb, then in an apartment on Comstock Street in Joliet's St. Pat's neighborhood. Jo grew up in Lockport and Joliet. Her dad, Jim, taught biology and coached football and other sports at Joliet West High School. She's the second-oldest of five kids. When we met her family lived on Oneida Street near the high school.

She's been my muse since early in our relationship. I wrote the song "Coming Back For More" while driving back and forth between DeKalb and LaGrange in 1988. Our friend Hound Dog recorded this demo of "More." Others originals written about or inspired by Jo include "Back To You," "Drama Queen," "I Don't Wanna Fight" and "Sparks Fly."

We bought our first house together in 1992 on Cowles Avenue in Joliet's Cathedral neighborhood. (Jo was raised Protestant but converted to Catholicism prior to our wedding). Later that year our daughter Hannah was born.

Jo worked for AlphaBet Soup children's theatre and in the office for Bud's Concrete when I worked for Bud during the 1990s, jobs that allowed her to be with the kids most of the time. (While pregnant and playing the cow in a production of "Jack and the Beanstalk" she once passed out and had to be rushed to the hospital). She's always worked in addition to running the household and raising the kids. The kids grew up theatre brats.

Before the 1990s were out Jo was working full-time at Lewis University. As box office manager and later theatre manager she's managed the house, ticket sales, supervised student workers, handled publicity and other operational duties that go along with running a theatre.

She's also taught theatre classes as an adjunct instructor--sometimes as many as three courses a semester--and directed one of the Philip Lynch Theatre's five mainstage shows every year for about the past 15 years. She also founded the Heritage Theatre Company, a troupe of Lewis acting alumni, and directs the company's annual Christmas show.

By 2000 we outgrew the little bungalow on Cowles Avenue and moved into a much bigger house on North Wilcox Street. We lived there for eight years as well. Throughout the 2000s, while I worked as a reporter or editor at The Herald News in Joliet and Naperville Sun, Jo worked at Lewis and was the kids' primary parent, getting them off to school, making sure they did their homework and projects, and everything else involved with kids in elementary and later, high school.

Jo's been the most important person in my life for nearly 30 years. As I started to write thank you notes to all the people who offered support following my heart attack, it seemed silly to proceed with a single note without first properly thanking Jo for everything. My love for Jo know no bounds. We've been through a lot together, and if it weren't for her I wouldn't be here. It's as simple as that.