Mr. Henning’s opus

  • Written by Tim Hadac


Longtime St. Laurence band leader directs his last stanza

A man widely acclaimed as a giant among school bandleaders and teachers—not only in thepage-1-opusPatrick Henning leads the band in a Legacy Concert in June. Photo by Tim Hadac. Chicago area, but also the Midwest—recently waved his baton for the last time at an emotional farewell concert at St. Laurence High School in Burbank.

Patrick J. Henning, who taught more than 10,000 student musicians during his 46 years in music, led an alumni orchestra of more than 100 former students from St. Laurence, Queen of Peace, Brother Rice and Mother McAuley High Schools, with several hundred former students and their families, as well as colleagues, family and friends, in the audience at the event—dubbed The Legacy Concert--on June 7.

Henning is the son and protégé of the late Leo J. Henning, as much an iconic bandleader and music educator as his son, with a career that spanned from 1942 to his retirement in 2000, eight years before his death.
Like his father, Henning was renowned for building school bands that were “more than a band that plays the school song at football games,” as he said at the farewell concert, imparting class and sophistication to student musicians.

Son salutes father

In written remarks reflecting on his career, the younger Henning gave much credit to his mentor father.
“My college buddies have proclaimed for 50 years, ‘Henning is the only one of us that has never had a job or worked a day in his life,’” he wrote. “I couldn’t agree more. How does one get up every day of his life and get to do what he loves to do, which is my passion for music and teaching, and call it work?

“Professionally, my life could not have been better,” Henning continued. “As I have said many times, one of the greatest gifts I have received in life was being able to work side by side with my father for 30 years.”
He also thanked Susan, his wife of 47 years—“the cute little percussionist Susan Farrell of the Quincy University Wind Ensemble”—for marrying him and being his “soul mate, rock, lover and best friend.” He also tipped his cap to his three children and six grandchildren.

The music, the memories

The concert itself was classic Henning and explored nine varied works, including an “old chestnut” like Franz Von Suppe’s “The Poet and the Peasant Overture,” challenging and ambitious works played beautifully (most notably John Mackey’s “A Hymn to a Blue Hour”) with a bit of pops thrown in (Sammy Cahn’s “Come Fly with Me”) to lighten the mood and get the audience smiling and swaying in their seats.

The concert program noted that in addition to having an impact on four high school bands (St. Laurence, Brother Rice, Leo and Little Flower), Henning’s work touched 20 elementary school bands, including St. Patricia in Hickory Hills and St. Catherine, St. Gerald, St. Linus, St. Germaine and St. Louis de Montfort in Oak Lawn. He started band programs at six grade schools, including St. Germaine, St. Linus and St. Louis de Montfort.

Many of his students have gone on to careers as music teachers and bandleaders, including saxophonist Rich Daniels, who founded the famous City Lights Orchestra more than 40 years ago. Daniels was a featured soloist at the farewell concert.

In advance of the emotional sendoff, a number of Henning’s former students sent him messages of gratitude.
Several agreed to share excerpts with The Reporter.

“In hindsight, it may not have been the wisest of decisions to hand a box of spray paint to a trombone player who spent three years perfecting your caricature,” wrote Rich Bird, an editor with Crain Communications who grew up in Evergreen Park and is a 1990 graduate of Brother Rice High School. “Likewise, the passing years have led me to conclude that painting your mug on the 50-yard line of the St. Laurence practice field, for all the summer band kids to trample on, may not have come across as an expression of respect. Though it should.

“You exercised the patience of a saint,” Bird continued. “You didn’t hand me anything that wasn’t deserved. You encouraged me to reach for more. And you were the first guy to throw the word 'leadership' in my face. I spent the last 25 years working to live up to it. Thanks for everything and congratulations on an amazing career.”

Cathy Claussen Dewes, a 1991 Queen of Peace graduate who lived in Oak Lawn during her high school years, echoed the sentiment.

“Music has been such a big part of my life, all of my life. But the best and most influential years by far were the four years I spent in the St. Laurence band,” she wrote to Henning. “You and Mr. Leo Henning pushed us to achieve things that I never thought were possible. We were always challenged to work hard, to keep improving, to persevere, and to achieve our goals.

“All of the practices, the band camps, the concerts, the was what I lived for,” she continued. “It was hard work, but I loved every minute of it. You were never concerned with how we placed in a competition. Your biggest concern was that we kept improving, so that each performance was better than the last. You taught us to compete with ourselves and to never accept mediocrity.

“The work ethic and the lessons that I learned in band have transferred to every aspect of my life, both personally and professionally,” she concluded. “You and your dad have left a tremendous legacy, and I was extremely fortunate to have been a part of it.”

Colleen McCoy-Cejka was a Queen of Peace student living in Oak Lawn when she first encountered Henning.

“I am grateful to have been part of your program for so many reasons,” she wrote. “You taught me music and marching and leadership, but I think most of all what I learned…was that high expectations are non-negotiable. What you accomplished with your students year after year is a result of your gift for being visionary and believing in others. Thank you for doing that for us and for teaching me so I could do the same for others.

“I am grateful for the experiences your program gave me,” she added. “I learned to win and lose, to be proud and to be humble, to work hard and have fun at the same time. I traveled to Ireland and Phoenix and all over the cornfields of the Midwest. Until I started traveling with students myself as a teacher, I had no idea how brave (crazy?) you were to travel with such large groups of kids year after year. Thank you so much for having the courage (or high level of insanity) to give us the gift of travel together!”

Today, McCoy-Cejka serves as assistant superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Phoenix.

A video of the concert is in editing and will be posted in the weeks ahead, according to a spokesperson for St. Laurence High School.


Wiener take all

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

  A.J. Pasek certainly didn’t dog it after he tasked himself to come up with a new attraction for Palos Hills’ Friendship Fest.

In fact, Pasek’s idea is one he hopes many fest-goers will surely relish.
  The longtime third-ward alderman told members of the city council on June 18 of his hope to incorporate a hot dog-eating contest into the annual fest, which will take place from next Thursday through June 12 at 107th Street and 88th Avenue.
After the idea was well received by the council – aldermen Pauline Stratton and Michael Lebarre both publicly Page-1-or-jump-page-hot-dogPalos Hills Alderman A.J. Pasek is the force behind a hot dog eating contest to take place at Friendship Fest. Photo by Jeff Vorva.supported it – Pasek said he would reach out to Durbin’s to gauge their interest in sponsoring the competition. A few days later, Pasek said Durbin’s was on board with cooking and delivering the dogs to the fest.
Contestants will have 10 minutes to eat a maximum of 25 hot dogs, with the first to do so receiving a $50 cash prize, Pasek said. Medals will also be awarded to the top three finishers. If no one is able to eat all 25 dogs in 10 minutes, the person who has consumed the most will be declared the winner.  kkkkkkkkk
“This will be fast and exciting,” Pasek said. “Hopefully it will become an annual event. I think it will be a great addition to Friendship Fest.”
He thinks enough contestants will want to wolf down the hot dogs for money and fame.
“I’m thinking there is going to be 10 or 20 people who are going to come out of the woodwork and want to compete to be our first hot dog-eating contest winner,” Pasek told the council. “I know it seems funny, but you will see there are people that are going to take this dead serious because they are hot dog-eating champions, or at least they think they are.”  
The contest, which will take place at 7 p.m. on July 12, will be capped at a maximum of 20 contestants, Pasek said. Information on signing up will be available near the beer tent once the festival opens on Thursday. An entrance fee of $15 will be collected to cover the cost of the dogs.
All participants must sign a waiver releasing the city of any liability should an injury occur during the competition, Pasek said.
As he would like this to turn into a fundrasier for the city, Pasek said he is trying to find a company or two to donate the hot dogs and buns but said if that does not happen he would make up the difference between the entrance fee and the cost of dogs and condiments.
Pasek said the idea for the contest came to him last month while he was watching the Food Network and a discussion on the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest came up. That contest is held annually in Coney Island on the Fourth of July and since 2003 has been broadcast live on ESPN.
“I thought if they can do it [in Coney Island] we can do it here in Palos Hills,” Pasek said. “I’m always thinking of ways to help the city and the Friendship Fest become more successful, and I think this would be pretty cool.”

Leave fireworks to the pros

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Don’t lose an eye on the 4th of July

People in the eye – and injured eye – business are flummoxed about the way people choose to protect their eyes.
As Independence Day celebrations are nearing in our area – the first fireworks show is tonight, Thursday, in Evergreen Park following a 6:30 p.m. parade and other activities – safety is a key.
The San Francisco-based American Academy of Ophthalmology conducted a survey and found that more people in the land of the red, white and blue will wear eye protection when cleaning the house than those who set off fireworks. Furthermore, a lot more Americans would let their kids play with fireworks than let them light a birthday cake.
Some of the highlights of the survey:
Almost three times as many people wear eye protection for housecleaning and home repair than for fireworks: Of those polled, 28 percent say they use eye protection such as goggles when cleaning with chemicals and 26 percent report wearing protective eyewear when doing home repairs such as plumbing or carpentry. Yet, only 10 percent say they wear protective eyewear when using fireworks, as recommended by the Academy.
Five times as many people say it’s OK to let kids play with sparklers/fireworks versus light candles: While only 11 percent say children age 5 to 10 should be allowed to light birthday candles, 54 percent say that it is OK for children that age to play with sparklers and other fireworks.
Many Americans report being injured or know people injured by fireworks: One-third of those polled have been injured or know someone that has been injured by fireworks, yet one in five still plan to use fireworks on Saturday.
According to the latest U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission report on fireworks injuries, more than 11,000 injuries occurred in 2013, with 1 in 6 fireworks injuries damaging the eyes.[1] The most severe eye injuries include ruptured eyeballs, chemical and thermal burns and corneal abrasions, all of which can permanently impact a person’s vision.
“We now keep an operating room open on call just to treat Fourth of July fireworks eye injuries, and unfortunately anticipate having to treat multiple ruptured globes as well as numerous thermal and chemical eye burns this year,” said Russell N. Van Gelder, M.D., Ph.D., president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and chairman of the ophthalmology department at the University of Washington. “Many if not all of these fireworks eye injuries could be prevented if people more carefully consider the life-changing risks they’re taking by playing with fireworks.”
The Academy’s audio public service announcement, “It’s not worth the risk,” features Jameson Lamb, 19. The Chicago college student explains how he was blinded in his right eye by a Roman candle at age 16 and is now offering advice to others about fireworks safety. (30s PSA)
For more fireworks eye safety information from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, go to
Nearly 40 percent of fireworks injuries hurt children age 15 and under according to the 2014 fireworks injury report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. To help families educate their kids about fireworks safety, the academy has created a fun, child-friendly public service announcement featuring Suzy the Sparkler, Freddie the Firecracker and their friends, which could be found at
For those who do have an eye injury due to fireworks, the academy has these guidelines before seeking medical attention:
Do not rub, rinse or apply pressure to your eyes.
Do not remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.
Do not apply ointments or take any blood thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Finally, the academy recommends that people:
Attend a professional fireworks display rather than using fireworks at home.
Young children should never handle fireworks, including sparklers.
Those choosing to use fireworks at home should always wear protective eyewear even if watching as a spectator since many of those injured are bystanders.
Follow the fireworks laws for your region.  


Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Glennon geared up for Marist-to-Marist ride

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Jeffs Col Impressions

Last week, I wrote about my kid in my column.

This week, I am keeping in the family.

My cousin-by-marriage is a guy by the name of Owen Glennon.

There are three things I know well about the man.

1—He has a dry sense of humor and a wit so sharp, when you talk to him you need to have bandages and a gallon of Mercurochrome nearby.

2—He teaches high-level math at Marist High School and has done it since 1976.

But I have one math problem I can stump him with. It’s a simple addition problem but he’ll never solve it. Heck, John Nash from the film “A Beautiful Mind” won’t be able to get this one.

Add up all of the income of every student Glennon has helped with their calculus and integers skills in close to 40 years of teaching. That would be an astronomical number. Heck, add up the number of students he has helped put hypotenuses to good uses and I’ll bet that number is staggering, too.

3—He loves cycling.

Long-distance cycling.

You could probably never add up all the miles his skinny legs have pumped over the decades. A couple of years ago, the man rode 3,200 miles from Anacortes, Wash., to Brunswick, Maine.

Glennon, who hails from Orland Park, has ridden across the state of Iowa a dozen times. Why anyone would want to ride across Iowa even once is beyond me, but he did it 12 times in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which is also known at RAGBRAI, not to be confused the Ames Brothers hit “Rag Mop.”

This summer, Glennon is going to use his cycling prowess to be true to his school.

He is going to take what, for him, will be a jaunt around the block starting this weekend.

Glennon will take off Sunday from upstate New York back to Sweet Home Chicago and figures to ride 1,004 miles to raise money for the Financial Aid Endowment, which helps smart kids whose parents don’t have enough scratch to attend his school.

 “Owen’s commitment to his students both in and out of the classroom is well known, but this trek takes it to another dimension,” Marist President Brother Hank Hammer said in a news release. “Owen is well aware of the financial challenges that many of our students’ families face, and he has made a commitment to help them through this remarkable effort.”

By the way, in bike terms, ‘hammer’’ means to ride strongly in big gears. But I digress…

This event should also be called a Marist-to-Marist trip.
The journey starts in Esopus, New York which is the home of the Marist Brothers Retreat and plans on being back July 12 at the Mt. Greenwood campus.

Glennon won’t be taking the superhighways, though.

It will take him a couple of weeks as he will go through some of the heart – and armpits – of America and he has an itinerary planned with a lot back roads and rural towns of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.

Another challenging math problem: How many items of laundry on clotheslines and old tires on the ground will Glennon see during his back road trek?

His to-do list will also include stops at 15 Catholic churches and shrines, including Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel at Marist College, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame, and the Shrine of Christ’s Passion in St. John, Ind.

He will stay overnight at several parishes along the route, as well.

The longtime mentor talked about “Marist moments” driving him to this ride. 

“The best of those moments have shaped what we do and who we are,” Glennon said. “We, the Marist family, become ever more blessed if, in our own ways, we look out for the youngest members of Marist…so that they, too, will have those special Marist moments that help to shape what they will do with their lives and who they will become.”

As if he’s not going to be busy enough, he will be overseeing a blog. Anyone who wants to throw a little cash his way for the cause can visit

So good luck, Owen. May you have no chain sucks or crash rash on this ride.



Rauner makes a point – actually five points – about battling budget

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

When Gov. Bruce Rauner gave a speech at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest on June 15, he was met with protests outside from workers and officials from services who fear their state funds will be slashed.

But inside, the mood was friendlier as he talked about his five-point ‘turnaround plan’ that he wants the state legislature to implement before he considers tax increases to close the $4 billion gap in the budget that was just passed for the coming year.

“We are battling for the future of Illinois,” he told the business leaders and local officials.

“Are we going to stay on the path we are on, a long slow decline, or are we going to make changes? This is not about Democrat or Republican. It is about good government vs. (entrenched) insiders.”

The new state boss made a reference to some of the protesters outside the building.

“Change isn’t easy,” he said. “If you’re not upsetting somebody, you’re not making changes.”

Rauner also talked about the potential of the state and this area.

“We should be kicking tails in Illinois,” he said. “Business should be booming. Here in the Southland is the best location, we’re at the crossroads of America, with easy access to Chicago and Lake Michigan.’’

Rauner listed his five-point plan of workers comp reform; tort reform; a property tax freeze unless agreed by referendum; term limits for state government; and redistricting reform.

He said that Illinois, with New Jersey, has the highest property taxes in the country, and business owners leaving the state consistently point to the taxes and workers comp regulations as the reasons why.

“Are we going to protect the political class or the middle class?” he asked.

He said that despite what his detractors say, all five points on his plan are “directly linked to the budget.”

The event was sponsored by area chamber of commerce officials and Rauner suggested the chamber members to contact their state representatives and senators to urge them to pass the bills.

“Five new bills isn’t much,” he said, considering that 500 bills were already passed this year.

“This is all about the budget and fiscal responsibility,” said Rauner, adding that he would be open to a wide range of revenue increases, and getting an infrastructure bill passed quickly, if they were passed.