Just another hockey mom?

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Look and listen closer — this one has a heavy medal background

 A hockey mom from Wisconsin named DR-page-3-2-col-bonnie-colOrland Park’s Christine Collins, from left, Bonnie Blair, Shannon Collins and Amanda Collins pose for a photo with one of Blair’s gold medals after Blair’s speech in Palos Hills. Blair is Christine’s aunt and Shannon and Amanda’s great aunt. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Bonnie Cruikshank was in the area for most of the weekend.
  She spent some time at the Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park with her husband, Dave, cheering on their son, Grant, in a hockey tournament.
  She wore bells.
  She had horns.
  “You have to come with your toys,” she said.
  For the most part, she was able to roam around without people knowing that she was more than just a hockey mom.
  Her maiden name is Blair. Bonnie Blair.
  Yes, that Bonnie Blair.
  Blair is a former Olympic speedskater who is one of the most decorated athletes in United States history with five gold medals and one bronze in her collection. She competed in four Olympics with her last one coming 20 years ago.
  For a span of a decade, fans of the Olympics seemingly watched her grow up before their eyes and then she was gone from the public eye for 20 years, save for winning awards, bring named to various Halls-of-Fame and giving motivational speeches.
  Blair took some time on Friday to stop by in Palos Hills and give a speech to Stagg High School students, hours after watching her son play. She is a couple of months shy of 50 and many people walk by her without knowing they were in the presence of a legend.
  But she said some do recognize her.
  “There are some people who do know who I am and people are very good to me,” she said. “They will come up and either congratulate me for representing the country or compliment me about my son.
  “I’m pretty approachable and I didn’t do anything bad. But there are a lot of people who walk by me and they don’t know. It has been awhile. But the funny thing is that my voice can sometimes be a dead giveaway. People will say ‘I know that voice from somewhere.’ ”
  Around the Orland and Palos area, she is known as Aunt Bonnie to some.
  Blair’s niece is Christine Collins of Orland Park. Her great nieces are Shannon Collins, a former Stagg student now attending St. Xavier University, and Amanda Collins, a junior at Stagg who helped bring her famous aunt to the school to speak to some of her classmates in the school’s auditorium.
  Although Shannon and Amanda never took to ice sports, they are both proud of their aunt’s accomplishments, even though all of her history was made before they were born.
  “It is very cool because you go to her house and she has this huge coffee table with all of her gold medals,” Amanda said.
  Blair also has a daughter named Blair.
  “Don’t worry — she is Blair Cruikshank not Blair Blair,” Blair said.
  Blair Cruikshank is a gymnast and Blair said “It’s different being involved in a sport where you are being judged,” she said.
  And being a hockey/gymnastics mom is a learning experience.
  “There are so many emotions you go through sitting there and you can’t control anything,” Blair said. “Now I know what my mother has gone through all of those years.”

Machak to stay at Dist. 124

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Officials in Evergreen Park School District 124 will not be seeking a new superintendent.
  Supt. Robert Machak has withdrawn his name from the superintendent search in Park Ridge School District 64 where he was one of two finalists for the position.
  “I shared my decision with our board of education and teaching staff last week. I am grateful for the wonderful students, staff, parents and my administrative colleagues here in District 124,” Machak said in an email.
  He added that he is looking forward to seeing projects initiated since he became superintendent 18 months ago come to fruition.
  “I am looking forward to seeing these projects, such as our one-to-one technology initiative and the Central Junior High School transformation into a true middle school, through to their completion,” he said. “I feel blessed to be a member of this school community, and I hope to remain here a long time.”
  Machak met on Jan. 9 with principals, assistant principals and administrators as well as PTO and union representatives, District 64 board president Anthony Borrelli said. The meetings were followed by a three-hour interview with the school board.
  The board was expected to meet Jan. 15 to discuss the candidate visits. Board members will then visit the preferred candidate’s school district. It hopes to announce the new superintendent at its Jan. 28 meeting, Borrelli said.
  Machak is in his second year as District 124 superintendent. Previously, he was superintendent for four years of Emmons Elementary School District 33 in Antioch.
  He also has served as a principal in West Northfield School District 31 in Northbrook for a decade and as an assistant principal in Hawthorn School District 73 in Vernon Hills for a year. He began his career in education teaching English for eight years.
  A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Machak received his master’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University and his doctorate from National-Louis University.

The B-Side — Keeping Megan’s memory alive

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 Hurckes’ spirit sparks annual bowling event

Bobs Column - The B Side  I vividly remember the moment I learned that Megan Hurckes had died.
  My daughter and I were returning from the grocery store and before I could pull the car to the curb, my wife stepped onto the front porch to deliver the news. I was beyond shocked. What happened? How could this horrific news be true? But, sadly, it was true no matter how hard it was to believe.
  The news quickly spread throughout Oak Lawn. Megan Hurckes, 10, died in an ATV accident on Labor Day weekend in Wisconsin. Purple ribbons were tied around trees throughout the community to commemorate her short life. Social media was flooded with messages from friends and family offering their condolences and support.
  Megan was a sweet, adorable girl who had a smile you couldn’t forget. My daughter, Brigid, played softball with Megan on a team coached by her father, Jerry. Those were good times that I’ll always remember.
  Jerry Hurckes is a former Oak Lawn trustee, who ran for mayor several years ago. I know him as a politician, a coach, a community activist. He was always a good news source when he represented District 6 on the Oak Lawn Village Board. He and his wife, Maryann, are good people.
  Perhaps one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done is offer Jerry and Maryann my condolences at Megan’s wake. Hundreds of people stood in line at Blake and Lamb Funeral Home for more than two hours to offer the Hurckes’ their sympathies.
  When I approached Jerry, we embraced and he said, “She was a good girl, Bob. She was a good girl.” My heart was pounding. I had no idea what to say. What could I say? This family was grieving over the loss of their 10-year-old daughter, their baby girl. There were no words.
  More than four years have passed since Megan’s death. She would have turned 15 in February. She would have been a high school freshman. I have no doubt that the Hurckes’ deeply miss Megan every day, but what they’ve done to honor her life is remarkable. The family has gone beyond grieving to celebrate what Megan meant not only to them but to so many others who knew her from the community, St. Louis de Montfort Parish, Kolb School and Westside Baseball.
  Jerry Hurckes once told me, “To keep her memory going is much more important.”
  The Hurckes’ will do exactly that on Feb. 1 when they celebrate Megan’s 15th birthday at the annual Megan Hurckes Memorial Candlelight Bowl. The event begins at 7 p.m. at Arena Lanes, 4700 W. 103rd St., Oak Lawn. Tickets for bowling (which is optional) are $10. You can also sponsor a lane for eight bowlers for $150. A cash bar is available and raffles and chances will be held throughout the evening.
  The event is a good time, I guarantee it. Come out and see some familiar faces, bowl, eat, drink and, most importantly, take a moment to tell Jerry and Maryann Hurckes that Megan’s lives on, not just in our hearts and memories, but in the lives of so many children who’ve benefitted from the scholarship foundation, which was formed shortly after her death.
  The foundation has raised thousands of dollars for scholarships awarded to students from Oak Lawn Community High School, Simmons Middle School, Kolb Elementary School and Saint Louis de Montfort. Money also has been contributed to Westside Baseball and the Oak Lawn Children’s Museum, where the Megan’s Maze exhibit is on display for thousands of children to enjoy.
  The Hurckes’ have said they never would have survived the tragedy of Megan’s death without the support of friends and community members. Let’s show them that love and support once again on Feb. 1 while remembering Megan as well.
  For information or tickets, call (708) 599-7302 or visit If you can’t make it, donations can be sent to the Megan Hurckes Scholarship Foundation, 7036 W. 96th St., Oak Lawn, Ill., 60453.



WHATIZIT? 1-23-14

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Any chances of shutting out the gallery two weeks in a row DR-COLOR-WHAZ-1-16were turned to powder right away when Willow Springs’ Harrison Debre came right out of the box with the correct answer.
  Some other folks got it right — it was chalk that is used by gymnasts. Some got it wrong. But spirits were a little brighter this week after the WHATIZIT? wunderkinds was shut out two weeks ago.
  Scoring perfect 10s were Chicago Ridge’s Kathy Higgins, Dana Oswald and Patty Vandenberg, Hickory Hills’ Jack and Griffin Burke Faddis, Worth’s German Cordova and Robert Solner, Oak Lawn’s Jane Foley, Evergreen Park’s Tom Fitzpatrick and Palos Hills’ Lois Faragher,
  Those who fell off the balance beam were those who guessed flour, baking powder, a tub of ice cream from the Plush Horse and a pan full of powdered sugar “just like the ingredient my wife and I put on our homemade Christmas Kolaches.’’
  This week’s clue: Icon.
  Send those guesses to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Put WHATIZIT in the subject line by Monday night and don’t forget to provide your name and hometown.

Palos Hill changes fence ordinance

  • Written by Kelly White

  Corner-lot homeowners in Palos Hills now need to seek permission from the city council before making changes to their fences.

  Amendments to the city’s fence ordinance went into effect after a vote during Thursday’s city council meeting, altering the ordinance wording slightly, yet significantly.
  The changed portion of the ordinance pertains only to front and side yards of homes and says the constructed fence must still remain six inches inside of the homeowners’ property line.
  Alderman Joan Knox (2nd Ward) said the phrasing being changed in the ordinance pertains solely to corner-lot exceptions. “The property owner must now appeal directly to the city council before any construction of an otherwise permitted fence takes place,” she said.
  Prior to the change, a homeowner was allowed to make the change with permission from his or her neighbor, by having them sign the permit request indicating they had no objections to the changes as long as the homeowner already previously obtained a permit for the fence.
  “The major change to the fence ordinance is now a homeowner needs to come before the city council before making any changes to an already permitted fence,” Mayor Jerry Bennett said. “Before they were able to do so with just the permission of their neighbor; however, now any changes must first come directly before the city council.”
  Knox added that nowhere in the ordinance is there a legal written description on what constitutes the front of a house. Ald. A.J. Pasek felt not determining what constitutes the front of a house may cause future problems for the city.
  “We need to eventually determine what the front of the house is and include it in the ordinance,” he said.