Cover photo for Paul Zaragoza's Obituary
Paul Zaragoza Profile Photo
1966 Paul 2022

Paul Zaragoza

October 20, 1966 — August 31, 2022

                                                                                            Paul Zaragoza

                                                                            October 20, 1966 – August 31, 2022

 

Parents: Dinah & Pedro Zaragoza

Siblings: Pete Zaragoza (June Gatch), Linda Jaracz (Rick Jaracz), Christina Grodek (Jeff Grodek)

Nephews & Niece: Bruce Madurzak (Natalie Wellhausen), Lisa Zaragoza (Noel Jacob), Peter Zaragoza (Megan King)

Preceded in death by his sister Diana Madurzak (Bruce Madurzak)

Great Friends: Josie & Richard

Donations can be made in his name to St. Mary’s of Czestochowa.

Paul Zaragoza died at the age of 55. A warrior, he battled more medical issues than most people since his birth as a spina bifida baby in 1966 when treatment for his condition was in its infancy. 

His mother remembers that after Paul was born there was silence in the delivery room. The doctor said that the baby’s spinal column was exposed, which not only affected his ability to walk but also to regulate the fluid in his head.  Paul was immediately seen by a specialist who performed the initial surgery to close the spinal cord. Incredibly, they had to use liquor as an anesthetic since they had nothing else for babies at that time. Ultimately, he was treated at Michael Reese Hospital for further surgeries to place shunts to drain fluid from his head. As a baby, Paul was more affected by problems with fluid in the brain than his inability to walk. Despite the shunts, at times he still had terrible headaches. One later surgery included a hospital stay to repair his right dislocated hip. Paul spent much time over the years at Michael Reese receiving various treatments.

Initially, Paul stayed at Michael Reese for a month, but then finally came to the Zaragoza home at 21st Place in a bedroom off the dining room. His room was painted light blue with white trim and he had a merry-go-round mobile that played music attached to the little white crib.

Paul was baptized at St. Paul in Pilsen with Mr. and Mrs. Paulino Perez as his Godparents. Associate Pastor Tom Finnigan conducted the ceremony. Later Paul received his First Communion and then Confirmation instruction from Father Thomas Paramo, a first-generation Mexican-American Claretian priest who came to the house in the summer to teach him. They used to sit outside. As his sponsor, Uncle Juan Zaragoza from Mexico gave him $5 to buy a fringed leather vest as a present. Later Paul went on vacation to Brisenas in Mexico along with his older siblings and parents. 

When school-aged, Paul was bused to Spalding School on Washington near Ashland west of the Chicago Loop. At that time Spalding was the only public school for children with disabilities. Per the Chicago Tribune, the school was “a place where kids in wheelchairs or leg braces, blind or deaf kids, kids with heart conditions or hemophilia could go to a neighborhood school set up just for them.” Revolutionary for its time when starting in 1908, it became outdated over the years and closed in 2004.                     

Spalding alerted the family to opportunities that provided disabled kids with normal childhood experiences. Paul went several times to Twin Lakes summer camp in Plymouth, Indiana where he learned to swim. They would drive him to a bus that took all the kids there and then he came back one week later very sunburned. In fact, the second time he came back around age twelve he was so dark at first his mother didn’t recognize him. She also knew that the counselors at the coed camp used to socialize, but didn’t worry about it, figuring it wouldn’t harm Paul. Starting in 1920, the Kiwanis-run camp had a capacity of 50 campers but was closed and the property auctioned in 2011.

Paul graduated from Spalding and for a time attended DePaul University, but did not graduate. He held a series of jobs, but medical problems made consistent employment difficult. His mother recalls that Paul was never a “joiner,” though he did work for a time for Access Living, service and support organization led and run by people with disabilities. Originally a part of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, it now exists independently. Other jobs included being a counselor for students at Morton College and assisting a community administrator for the town of Cicero.

Paul was an enthusiastic uncle and gifted gift-giver, playing with his nephew Bruce, born in 1979 when Paul was only 13. Later niece Lisa and nephew Peter joined in his circle of enthusiasms, which included Star Wars and Batman movies. Lisa is grateful for her introduction to his “nerd” passions. Paul also attended family weddings and participated in ALS walks and fundraisers for his late sister Diana.

From 1992 onward Paul lived with his parents in Cicero with a few stays at outside apartments. The one-story ranch house was outfitted to accommodate his wheelchair. A car with hand controls gave him mobility; he would pivot into the driver’s seat, then load and later unload his own wheelchair using his great upper-body strength. He even ferried around his sisters when needed.

But long-standing medical problems related to diabetes, kidney disease, and infections led Paul to more hospitals and finally, during the COVID pandemic, nursing home stays. This limited his face-to-face time with family. At one point due to lockdowns, he didn’t see his mother for over a year or any other family members except through a window. Dinah managed to visit him on a beautiful sunny day on April 15th, 2021 at Alden on Ogden Avenue, only five minutes away from the Zaragoza home. Alden turned out to be his final nursing home and MacNeal his final hospital.

Due to frequent hospitalizations and medical appointments, Paul made friends with many medical professionals and transport people. Dinah can still be surprised by people who see her last name and say, “I know Paul.” His last stay in hospice was no exception, we witnessed nurses and doctors who knew him previously coming by to say hi and offer encouragement; he was well-liked and will be well-missed.

                                                                      

 

A visitation for Paul will be on Saturday, September 3rd from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at The Sourek Manor Funeral Home, 5645 W. 35th St, Cicero. Funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. St. Mary of Czestochowa Church. Interment Resurrection Cemetery, Justice, IL. For more information call 708-652-6661.


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Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Saturday, September 3, 2022

8:30 - 10:00 am (Central time)

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Funeral Mass

Saturday, September 3, 2022

10:30 - 11:30 am (Central time)

St. Mary of Czestochowa Church

3010 48th Ct, Cicero, IL 60804

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Graveside Service

Saturday, September 3, 2022

12:00 - 12:15 pm (Central time)

Resurrection Catholic Cemetery

7200 Archer Rd, Justice, IL 60458

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