Franklin Park club has Pacific connection
Tessie Zaretsky of Franklin Parkis originally from the Philippines. She a founding member of Manila Lions Club in Franklin Park. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 6:28AM
FRANKLIN PARK — Tessie Zaretsky helped found the Manila Lions Club in 1992. The club got its name because most members are of Filipino descent — and it draws members from Chicago, Naperville and other parts of the Chicago area.
Zaretsky is active in St. Gertrudes Church in Franklin Park and has helped initiate part of the Simbang-Gabi, a traditional nine-day mass, at the church.
At Dunkin Donuts, over a glazed donut and coffee, the Franklin Park woman spoke about the Lions, traveling internationally and the challenges of immigrating to the United States from the Philippines.
Q: Were you involved with a Lions Club in the Philippines?
A: No. I was employed very nicely there with Asian Development Bank. Secretary.
Q: What did you do?
A: It’s like the World Bank in Asia. We lent money to governments, to countries in Southeast Asia mostly. I was able to travel with the bank. I went to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Q: When was this?
A: I joined in 1969 and traveled from 1971 to 1979. My last trip was to Katmandu, Nepal. These are the travels that made me ambitious to come to the United States
Q: Why did you come to the U.S.?
A: I have an autistic child. There were not services for autistic children in the Philippines. When my husband died in the Philippines that gave me the appetite to come here.
Q: Was it difficult to immigrate?
A: My intention was to work at the World Bank. They get diplomatic visas right away. The Asian Development Bank, however, made a moratorium with the World Bank because (staff) was leaving.
Q: What did you do next?
A: My next option was to go to New York and (find work with) the United Nations. They weren’t hiring at the time. That was in 1980.
Q: What next?
A: I found a friend who had worked in the Philippines who was in Chicago. Without any papers, I was able to travel to Chicago and start working for the lawyer.
Q: How did you meet your second husband?
A: He will tell you he met me on a street corner (laughs). Whenever I walked to the bus stop, I met him walking his dog. I got scared. I had never seen a Rottweiler before. He introduced his dog. I married Jack in 1983 and became a (U.S.) citizen because of him.
Q: You helped found the Manila Lions Club in Franklin Park in 1992?
A: We were Chicago-based before. We were assigned there. The Lions Club is territorial. We were near Touhy and Pulaski. It was mostly businesses. There was nobody to serve there. There was a Franklin Park Lions Club but most of the members had died. That was an opportunity to move to Franklin Park.
Q: It’s named after Manila, the capital city in the Philippines?
Q: What type of activities does the club do?
A: Free Thanksgiving dinners to seniors and the homeless. Honoring the firefighter and police officer of the year. Candy Day. Donating to the Leyden Food Pantry. (Sometimes) buying eyeglasses for people if they meet our criteria.
Q: Anything else?
A: Most of our members are line dancers (to country music). Filipinos really love to dance.
Q: How many members does the Manila Lions Club have?
Q: Club plans for the future?
A: The president is talking right now about a humanitarian mission to the Philippines. We’re going to bring supplies like books, computers if we can afford it, personal hygiene items.