EDGEWATER — One of Edgewater’s most beloved residents, lovingly referred to as “Ms. Ollie,” has died after a battle with cancer, according to those who knew her.
Ollie Latiker was in her early eighties and passed away after a fight with pancreatic cancer some time between Monday night and Tuesday morning, friends said.
“You would never know it from her outward disposition,” said Ald. Harry Osterman (48th). “She always had a smile, even though she was going through chemotherapy and going through a lot of pain. She dealt with it with grace and determination and was never really thinking about herself, but other people.”
Latiker co-owned and ran the popular Ollie’s Lounge at 1064 W. Berwyn Ave. in Edgewater for 40 years. She also served as a landlord to apartments atop the eclectic dive bar.
A sign above the residential entrance to the building refers interested renters to “See Ms. Ollie In [The] Bar.”
John Koch, who has used space in Ollie’s building for 17 years, walked by Tuesday afternoon with a bouquet of red flowers to honor his friend.
“It really is the end of an era,” he said. “She knew everyone, and everyone knew Ollie.”
Her longtime building maintenance man, Anatolio “Natty” Jimenez, said he worked for Ms. Ollie for over a decade and described her as a boss and friend who was never harsh with him or her tenants.
Remembering her, Jimenez clutched his heart and recalled that Latiker had “always taken care of me” and those who lived in the apartments — including giving people late on rent extra time to pay the bills.
“She gave me anything I want,” he said. “And not only that, she took care of every tenant. She was really nice, really, really nice.”
Customers began noticing Ollie’s was closed over the weekend. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Koch said it had been a tough morning since getting the call regarding Ollie’s passing.
The bar served as a social center for many of the neighborhood’s loyal older customers, who would gather there to share a pitcher of beer and chat.
Without Ollie’s Lounge, and nothing else quite like it, he’s not sure where those folks will go.
One thing for certain is that Ms. Ollie’s passing has already spread quick throughout the community.
“Stand here for five minutes and I bet you tons of people will walk by and ask out Ollie,” Koch said.
Within minutes, a passerby stopped to ask, “Did you hear about Ollie?”
That neighbor said she expects information regarding Latiker’s funeral would be posted in the bar’s window in the near future.
Ms. Ollie has long been a pillar in the neighborhood.
Osterman honored Latiker in 2015 with the honorary “Ms. Ollie’s Way” street sign in front of the lounge.
On Tuesday the alderman said the neighborhood lost a “dear, wonderful friend” in Latiker, who was an “anchor” in the community.
“Ms. Ollie was an incredible woman and incredible leader …and is really going to be missed by everyone who knew her,” Osterman said.
A woman with “grace” and “humor,” Latiker was “tough, but always had a warm heart for everybody.”
She played a crucial role in the neighborhood, in particular when it came to safety around her bar.
Latiker worked with Chicago Police, Osterman and members of the community to ward off gangs who would frequent the area, especially at Cedar Playlot around the corner from the lounge.
With Latiker’s help, crime at the park and around her bar declined, Osterman said.
She had also earlier taught Sunday school at Epworth United Methodist Church, where later in life she served as a regular member of the congregation.
Ms. Ollie’s loving nature shone through in the way her establishment attracted a diverse range of regulars and newcomers from across the city and community.
At Ollie’s, many felt at home. And to Latiker herself, the community was like “family.”
“Her bar has always been that kind of place where it always felt like family to her,” Osterman said. “It was like Ms. Ollie was looking out for everybody.”