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Local News

An Extraordinary Life: Morris resident was a prolific accompanist for many Joliet-area musicians

Joliet-area accompanist leaves behind a legacy

Hettie Wysocki
Hettie Wysocki

MORRIS – Hettie Wysocki of Morris was a great accompanist with a perfect ear for pitch.

“She was easy to work with, but she did not suffer fools gladly, that’s for sure,” said Karen Sobero, Joliet-area vocalist and administrator at Sunny Hill Nursing Home in Joliet. “She had no problem telling me I was off pitch or asking me where I was going with a song.”

Casey Wysocki of Morris, Hettie’s husband, said he scheduled his wife’s memorial service for Nov. 17, the date of their 28th wedding anniversary. The service is at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Joliet, where Hettie served as church organist and choir accompanist for more than 20 years, Casey added.

He said Hettie played for many weddings and funerals through the years, along with numerous events and shows.

“She was just an all-around great person, always willing to help whenever someone needed something musically done,” Casey said.

Hettie was just 14 when she began playing professionally at her home church, Westminster Presbyterian in Joliet, Casey said. While still in high school, Hettie became the rehearsal accompanist for a New York company’s theater-in-the-round production at the former D’Amico’s 214 in downtown Joliet, he added.

After studying music for a short time in college, Hettie proceeded to build her musical career. By her mid-20s, Hettie was playing for the shows produced by the Kiwanis, the former Curbside Theater and the Joliet Drama Guild, Casey said.

Another local musician, retired Will County Circuit Court Judge Dick Siegel of Crest Hill, said he met Hettie in the early 1970s in conjunction with those Kiwanis shows. He praised Hettie’s musical abilities as well as her personality.

“She was an incredible musician, technically good. She had the ability to sight-read instantly,” he said. “As a person, she was very, very nice, very outgoing, and she got along with people very well.”

Casey said Hettie was the choir accompanist for the late Bob Howell, former choir director for Joliet Township High School District 204. Hettie also helped out at student musical productions for the school district, he added.

Hettie’s music even brought Casey and Hettie together. Casey said he was a restaurant owner when he met Hettie. She was the accompanist for Just Us – the Joliet singing duo of Jim Chuporak and Cheryl Foster – whom Casey had hired to play at his restaurant.

In fact, Chuporak said, Hettie taught Jim how to lose his vibrato as he transitioned from ballads to rock. She turned the duo into a six-member band – Just Us & Company.

“She was a wonderful woman,” Chuporak said. “If she had a gut feeling we should do something, we did it.”

Chuporak said he first met Hettie in 1978 when she provided accompaniment for a summer music program at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Joliet. He called Hettie musically phenomenal and said she became a dear friend, one that played for significant events in his life.

“She was always there for you,” Chuporak said.

Hettie lost a 15-year battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Oct. 29 at the age of 66. Sobero fondly recalled how, several years ago when she sang in a show (“Hettie loved show numbers,” Sobero said), Sobero heard Hettie shouting, “Go, Karen! Karen, get it!”

“Oh my god, I’m going to miss her every time I sing,” Sobero said. “I just know she’s going to be up there yelling, ‘Go, Karen! Karen, get it!’ ”

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or dunland@shawmedia.com.

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