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Don Sharko dead: South Side restaurant owner was 94

Don Sharko.

Don Sharko.


Don Sharko pretended not to notice when his 7-year-old son hid in the back seat of his Chrysler as he slid into the driver's seat and pulled away from his South Shore home to head to work at his little restaurant down the street from the U.S. Steel South Works plant.

It was a Saturday habit for the boy, also named Don, who hardly ever got to see his dad because he took just two days off a year — Christmas and Thanksgiving.

When they got to the restaurant, he helped his dad pound out hamburger patties and fill little plastic bags with crackers to go with orders of chili.

"It was one day I could spend the whole day with him," Mr. Sharko's son said.

All four of Mr. Sharko's kids eventually helped out at their father's beloved Don's Drive-ln, 8300 S. Burley Ave., which served a customer base of hungry steelworkers.

"He wanted his family around him," his daughter Madeleine Sharko wrote in a family obituary. "We were never in his way even when we were clearly underfoot. He loved us immensely, and we knew it."

Mr. Sharko died Monday from natural causes, his family said. He was 94.

His business occupied half of its building, and his father-in-law's tavern occupied the other half. A window between the two allowed food orders to be passed to beer drinkers on the other side of the wall that separated the businesses.

In the 1970s, as the steel plant began to scale down, Mr. Sharko closed his resaurant and began working with his older brothers George and Jerry, who ran three Sharko's restaurant locations elsewhere in the city and suburbs.

Mr. Sharko and his future wife Lorrraine Supert met at a church social in 1951. She wouldn't give him her number. But she thought he reminded her of Danny Kaye, her favorite actor.

Mr. Sharko found out she worked at the jewelry counter of a Carson Pirie Scott. So he showed up there and asked to see her during her 15-minute coffee break. Ten months later, they were married.

Mr. Sharko was born Aug. 21,1929, in Chicago to George and Alexandra Sharko, who came to the United States from Lithuania. His father worked in the Union Stockyards until he was able to save enough money to open a grocery store.

Young Don grew up in Marquette Park around other immigrant families from Lithuania. He graduated from Tilden High School and Loyola University Chicago, then served in the Army during the Korean War. Stationed in Japan, he never saw combat.

"He taught me how to work hard and have confidence," his daughter said. "We were a family. We worked together and had each other's backs."

For the 35th reunion of her Mother McAuley High School graduating class, Madeleine Sharko signed on to re-create teen nostalgia by making necklaces akin to Hawaiian leis but made of candy instead of flowers to hand out at the gathering. Overwhelmed with work from her regular job and wondering why she'd signed up to do this, she turned to her father, then 87, for help.

"He was, like, 'No problem, I'll figure it out and get it done,' " she said.

He ended up spending hours stringing together the chocolates and other candies.

In 1973, Mr. Sharko moved to Oak Lawn, where he and his wife first found a Catholic parish they liked before searching for a home.

Following the death of his wife in 2005, Mr. Sharko got a miniature dachshund he named Rascal. The dog would sit in his lap as he steered his Mercury Marquis to the Jewel or to visit his wife's grave.

Mr. Sharko was a diehard Cubs fan who sometimes thought he should have been a sports writer so he could spend his summer afternoons at Wrigley Field.

In addition to his daughter and son Don, Mr. Sharko is survived by sons Paul and Stephen, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

A visitation is planned from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at Thompson & Kuenster Funeral Home in Oak Lawn, with a prayer service there at 8:45 a.m. Monday followed by a procession to St. Linus Catholic Church in Oak Lawn for a 9:30 a.m. Monday mass.

Сергей Брановицкий

Дистрибьюция Музыки. Цифровая дистрибьюция музыка. Дистрибьюция музыки под ключ.

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