Mary Fabis (right) shows her award from Anita Cummings. --Greater Southwest News-Herald photo by Dermot Connolly

Mary Fabis (right) shows her award from Anita Cummings. --Greater Southwest News-Herald photo by Dermot Connolly

Honored for service to business

Fabis earns UBAM award

By Dermot Connolly

The United Business Association of Midway recently honored founding member Mary Fabis with a Lifetime Membership Award for Outstanding Service for her 35 years of work with the business organization she continues to serve as a board member.

Fabis, now 92, has owned and operated Archer Travel agency for more than 40 years and counting. Back in 1985, a few years after starting her business, she joined forces with several other business owners in the Midway area, where she lived.

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Mary Fabis (right) shows her award from Anita Cummings. –Greater Southwest News-Herald photo by Dermot Connolly

She has remained a board member all these years, upholding UBAM’s mission of encouraging, supporting and developing a strong and active business community in the Midway area.

Early board members, in addition to Fabis, included Jack Weglarz, founder of the Weglarz Company and builder of the Midway Hotel Center, and Anita Cummings., a human resources and business consultant.

Cummings often stresses how keeping the local business community strong helps the surrounding residential neighborhoods remain vibrant as well.

“We were all just diehards, Fabis said. “We saw all the good we could do for people in our area and even outside the area.”

“I was UBAM’s treasurer. It was very easy in the beginning—we were not computerized,” she added.

UBAM, whose reach now stretches throughout the Southwest Side and southwest suburbs, was instrumental in the revival of Midway Airport in the 1980s, as well as developing local parks and the Illinois Main Street Corridor centered around 63rd Street west of the airport.

Fabis liked her work as well, helping people make reservations and plan trips. At 92, she is still doing it, as well as being active in UBAM, but now she does it out of her home office in Lemont, where Cummings presented her with her Lifetime Achievement plaque.

“I was really surprised by that. It was very nice of them to think of me,” said Fabis.

“I’m doing fine. I just won’t be ice-skating,” she said, explaining that her only nod to age is the use of a cane. She and her husband, Joseph, who died in 2007, had five children. She now has nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Fabis said she has remained active in the always-changing travel industry because she likes helping people, although she said some of the changes have made it more difficult for travel agents to make a living.

“People are computer savvy now and can make their own reservations online. And of course, with COVID-19, most people weren’t going anywhere for most of the past two years,” she said. “We no longer get fees from airlines. But thankfully, I have always had a good reputation and people still come to me for planning bigger trips and package tours.”

Fabis enjoyed traveling as part of her job as a travel agent, but doesn’t feel the need to go anymore. She said she has been to too many places to pick a favorite.

“My husband was very understanding. He couldn’t always come with me—remember I had five children at home,” she said. “The trips weren’t free either. But it was helpful for me to go, so I would have first-hand knowledge. It’s easy to read a brochure but customers want more than that.”

Fabis said that as with being a travel agent, helping people through UBAM is what has kept her active in the business organization.

She enjoyed spearheading some of UBAM’s first fundraising efforts, which are traditionally held around Christmastime. The group now holds a “Something for Seniors” benefit to raise money and provide gift baskets of food for elderly people in need.

But originally, Fabis led similar efforts to collect gifts for young people in Misericordia and, she particularly helped collecting donations from business owners of everything from toys to warm clothing to the St. Theresa Mission that was run by nuns at a church on the South Side.

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