Hannah Hayes

Hannah Hayes

Hannah (Anne) Hayes, daughter of the South Side, writer, teacher, activist, beloved Hyde Parker, sibling, wife and mother was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Hyde Park, Monday evening, July 11. 

Born in Chicago on Feb. 26, 1960, Hannah spent her early childhood in Oak Lawn. In 1966, Hannah's parents were asked by a group of their Oak Lawn neighbors to remove a poster of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from the front window of their home. They didn't, and soon relocated their family to Chicago's Beverly neighborhood.

Hannah's mother, Joan Leahy Hayes, a nurse at St. George, County and other hospitals, and her father, Bill (William) Hayes, a Professor of Economics at DePaul, were admirers of the social activist and journalist Dorothy Day. The couple hosted many political discussions and meetings in their home. Aunts, uncles, neighbors, precinct captains and political organizers were all part of the mix.

It was in this milieu that Hannah and her seven siblings listened and learned. Skills of argument and analysis were honed around the table and Hannah excelled at both. Hannah also did a lot of babysitting in Beverly. Her love of babies, and them for her, was such that later in life she was dubbed "The Baby Whisperer."

Hannah attended St. Barnabas Elementary School in Beverly and Mother of Sorrows High School for Girls in Blue Island. She developed life-long friendships at St. Barnabas and Mother of Sorrows. In 1978, Hannah and a group of her Mother of Sorrows' girlfriends visited Ireland. Ireland would eventually become her second home.

Hannah graduated from North Park University (1987) and received a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing from DePaul University (1995).

Hannah's writing-for-a-living life began as an education reporter at the collective All Chicago City News, where she worked alongside the Uptown organizer Slim Coleman. She served a stint as the paper's managing editor.

Hannah continued pursuing her career as a journalist, as a staff or freelance writer, for a number of publications, including The Andersonstown News (Northern Ireland), Chicago Reader, Chicago Defender, Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Sun Times, City Bureau, Education and Parenting, Hyde Park Herald, San Francisco Examiner, Smithsonian Air and Space, Perspectives Magazine (American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession) and The Journal of the American Bar Association.

One of the articles Hannah was most proud of was her 1998 Chicago Sun-Times article "No More 'Getting On With It,'" which she wrote shortly after the horrific bombing in Omagh, Northern Ireland. She was living and working as a freelance writer in Belfast at the time.

 In that article, she wrote, "Anger and grief, once it is spent, must be replaced by whatever remnants of shattered hope arise from the rubble in Omagh. The mindset that ended the lives of 28 people — Catholics, Protestants, Spaniards, women, children and the unborn — must not be supported by idealistic Americans. Individual aspirations at some point must remain in the heart and be surrendered to the political will of the majority. The people in the North of Ireland are resilient, and deserve our respect, our support and our prayers for the path they have chosen."

As a young person, Hannah had high ambitions for herself as a writer. Her siblings tell the tale that one day, while imagining herself being interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR, she thought that her name, Anne Hayes, didn't sound quite right. She didn't want just two syllables, she wanted three. So, she changed her name to Hannah Hayes. Since then, she has been known as Hannah.

Hannah's latest article, "Forced Labor? Migrant detainees claim exploitation at corporate-run detention centers," will appear in the August issue of the Journal of the American Bar Association (JABA). It is about immigrant detainees being denied fair pay while working at detention centers around the country.

Hannah's editor at JABA, Liane Jackson, wrote of her, "Hannah was a professional, positive, receptive, smart journalist to work with and she was an excellent writer. I am happy I was able to work with her for the time she did contribute, and I am sorry for the loss of an amazing woman and talent."

At the time of her death Hannah was working on another article for JABA, tentatively titled "The Myth of Voter Fraud." The article was to explore wrongful accusations of illegal voting against two women in Texas who are facing prison time, voter suppression efforts based on fear mongering around election fraud, false narratives that arose out of the 2020 election regarding vote counting and machines, among other topics.

As she started her education and career in journalism, Hannah also got involved in Harold Washington's mayoral campaigns (1983 and 1987) and Helen Schiller's campaign for Alderman of the 46th Ward. Eventually, she served as Schiller's chief of staff and as a staff member of Chicago City Council's housing committee.

Hannah's support for Harold Washington provoked discussions and arguments in her parent’s home, but eventually the Beverly house sported a Harold Washington poster, the only one on a block that otherwise was awash in a sea of Jane Byrne posters.

In the early 1990s, Hannah became interested in the Troubles in Northern Ireland and moved to Belfast to pursue that interest and her writing career.  

In 1993, she moved back to Chicago to earn some money to buy a laptop. She worked as a bartender at the Hot House, an institution that primarily showcased artists who were working in non-commercial genres, and it was there that she met Jesse Sinaiko, her husband-to-be. In 1994, Hannah moved back to Ireland, Jesse followed, and in 1995, their son Zach was born. 

Interwoven with Hannah's career as a journalist was her career as an educator.

While working on her MFA at DePaul, Hannah taught kindergarten at St. Pius V Elementary School in Pilsen. She also taught at the college level in adjunct roles, often online, at Columbia College, Bellevue University (Nebraska) and DeVry University.

At DeVry, she taught for more than 20 years. English Professor Margaret Murphy said of Hannah, "When I think about Hannah as an educator, I think of her selflessness." 

"It was very evident when I walked into (her) classroom that her students had developed two things, a sense of community among themselves and the self advocacy skills necessary to be a good student. It wasn't ever about her. It was always about her students gaining skills." 

In 2001, a few years after she and her family had returned from Ireland and had settled in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, Hannah became involved in local politics and education reform.

"I met Hannah in 2001 when my oldest Sam and (Hannah's son) Zach were both in Kindergarten at Ray," recounted Joy Clendenning, one of Hannah's closest Hyde Park friends.

"Hannah loved babies and swooped down on me and my double stroller with screaming newborn twins in it and asked if she could pick one up. I was thrilled and lucky to connect with someone who stepped in to help me out when I was completely overwhelmed."

Together Hannah and Joy became involved in the William H. Ray School parent support group, Friends of Ray. They attended meetings and helped organize the school's presence at the 57th Street Art Fair.

Hannah and Joy were involved in the unsuccessful fight to save Canter Middle School and were founding members of the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Action Council (an effort by Chicago Public Schools to engage school staff and community members in its strategic planning process). They were also involved with the progressive group Raise Your Hand for IL Public Education; they supported the Dyett School Hunger Strikers and strikes by the Chicago Teachers Union.

Jhatayn "Jay" Travis, community organizer, and former executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, said, "Hannah was enormously generous with her talent, resources, and support of communities most impacted by injustice. Whether it was supporting neighborhood schools, advocating for equitable distribution of resources or supporting efforts to elect accountable political leadership, she was a steady force and source of inspiration." 

"I will also remember her smile amid struggles for just representation and her as someone who rolled up her sleeves to build a better world.”

Jawanza Malone, current executive director of the Wieboldt Foundation, worked with Hannah on many issues ranging from equitable education to public safety and community investment. “Hannah’s passing is a tremendous blow because among all of her accomplishments, talents and connections, she was a staunch advocate for the residents of the Kenwood-Hyde Park community. I hope those of us who knew her continue to elevate her spirit as we continue the work she cared about so passionately.”

In 2016, Hannah was elected as community representative to the Reavis School Local School Council. In that role Hannah led an effort to get a library in the school. That effort was successful and just recently Nicole Perkins, the school's LSC president, announced that the library will be named in Hannah's honor.

Hannah and Jesse purchased a house in Ireland 2019. It's in the village of Dooega on Achill Island. Hannah's desk is in a room with windows that face the ocean and the main road.

In that house, Hannah saw the world of the village walk by as she worked. "She loved that," said Jesse. 

Hannah's son Zach, who has a bachelor's degree from Bard College and a master's from Brown University, wrote of his mother, "I am so happy and thankful and proud to be following in her footsteps in our passions, and as much as anything else, she was my friend."

Hannah leaves behind her siblings Mary Hayes-Grecko (Minneapolis), Joe Hayes (Houston), Bill Hayes (Minneapolis), Patrick Hayes (Chicago), Peggy Dunleavy (Chicago), John Hayes (Chicago), Teresa Hayes (Chicago), her husband Jesse Sinaiko, their son Zach Hayes, and a community made richer by her presence.

Hannah's Memorial Service will take place Saturday, Aug. 6 at 2 p.m. at Reavis Elementary School (outside in the park by the school) with reception after at Haven Entertainment Center, 932 E. 43rd St.

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