Home/News /Burr Ridge Honors Forgotten Local Hero with Public Pond Dedication July 6th
Burr Ridge Honors Forgotten Local Hero with Public Pond Dedication July 6th

Exactly 85 years after a daring air rescue ended with the death of local resident Bruno F. Schustek, the North American Spine Society (NASS) publicly will unveil a plaque and dedicate a pond to him. The community is invited to attend at 10:00 a.m. on July 6, 2015 at 7075 Veterans Boulevard in Burr Ridge, IL. Local historians discovered this fascinating story of courage along Route 66.

"NASS is pleased to commemorate the courageous spirit and ultimate sacrifice of Bruno F. Schustek," said Eric Muehlbauer, Executive Director of the North American Spine Society. "We hope the neighboring community and travelers along nearby Route 66 will stop by to read the commemorative plaque, enjoy the pond's tranquility, and draw inspiration from the extraordinary courage of everyday heroes."

On July 6, 1930, 20-year old Chicago heiress and novice parachutist Mary "Merry" Fahrney took off in a plane from Stinson Airport on Route 66 in what is now McCook, IL. During her jump, her chute caught on the plane's wing, causing her to dangle 1,000 feet above the ground for a harrowing two hours. Several rescue attempts were made while her plane circled the area overhead, drawing spectators from miles around. Bruno F. Schustek, a former German WWI flying ace and parachute instructor, and pilot Charles “Bud” Geiger carefully flew their plane above her. Schustek, 30, climbed down a knotted rope and attempted to free Fahrney's parachute. Within minutes, her chute was freed, sending her drifting safely to the ground. Weary from this herculean effort, Schustek lost his grip on the rope and fell 600 feet to his death as he tried to climb back to his plane. Fahrney went on to a brief career in Hollywood, married several times (once to legendary fashion designer Oleg Cassini) and had a son. She died in 1974. The site of the accident is approximately one-quarter mile from the pond that now bears his name.

This pond was officially named "Schustek Pond" by the United States Board on Geographic Names on April 9, 2015. This compelling story of heroism was discovered by Maria R. Traska, Joseph Kubal and Keith Yearman, amateur historians and authors of the forthcoming book, The Curious Traveler's Guide to Route 66 in Metro Chicago. Despite being the very beginning of the iconic road that leads from Chicago to Los Angeles, they contend that the 44-mile stretch from Chicago to Joliet is often overlooked by historians and travelers. For more information on their book, visit curioustraveler66.com.

"Route 66 is a uniquely American story, rich with fascinating stories of our developing nation," said Keith Yearman, associate professor of geography at the College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, IL. "It would be impossible to commemorate each and every beautiful site or every amazing act of courage and kindness along its meandering path, but it is fun to try." It was Yearman who proposed to the Board on Geographic Names that the pond be named for Schustek. The North American Spine Society is a multidisciplinary medical organization dedicated to fostering the highest quality, evidenced-based and ethical spine care by promoting education, research and advocacy.

NASS is comprised of more than 8,000 members from several disciplines, including orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, neurology, radiology, anesthesiology, research and physical therapy.

Press Release provided by Maria Traska.