Blast It! They Can’t Take the Memories Away!


By Nick Reiher

Parents love to see their kids put in the best light possible. Sometimes, it catches you by surprise.

Until she took up her psychology doctor duties a few years ago, our daughter Jillian had been involved in figure skating for years. Longtime friend Cindy Cain was so enthralled in the sport (She’s related to Evan Lysacek), she named her first-born Scott Hamilton Cain.

Cindy signed up Scott for figure skating lessons at Inwood Ice Arena in Joliet when he was 5 or so. She suggested we sign up Jillian as well.

Long story short, Jillian fell in love with figure skating; Scott, not so much. That led to years of lessons, some at 6 in the morning; some in the evening; a lot of weekend competitions throughout the region, and coming to realize “real” figure skates come in two pieces, and not advertised at K-mart.

Skating came naturally to our son Andy, but he was uninterested until later when he was large enough to play hockey. Even then, he preferred soccer, and was pretty good at it.

We met many friends through both soccer and figure skating. As sports parents know, they become your second families. As the lessons, camps and competitions build up, you notice your bank account heading the other direction.

But that competition, that socialization becomes part of who your kids are. They realize any kind of improvement takes work and commitment. Losing offers lessons; great lessons for life.

As such, Tammy and I never regretted a cent we spent on our kids’ sports, or the time we spent with them at lessons and competitions. Well, the 6 a.m. lessons during the winter were iffy, but, hey, we got ‘er done. (Ever go into an ice arena to warm up?)

And there was that one soccer game when the rain was coming down sideways.

But you can hope the kids appreciate the time spent as much as we did. And the memories. The satisfaction of winning usually was kept among the kids and the parents. Sometimes, media would have enough room or time to let the public know, but these are club sports, and not always high on the list.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t buttonhole whomever I could to tell them about Jillian’s first-place award for a performance that included a couple of perfect axels.

Or a goal Andy scored or helped prevent during a tight soccer contest.

But, again, sometimes life surprises you.

About 20 years ago, Jillian had just turned a teenager, still deep in the throes of figure skating. Tammy and I started to hear from people that they saw Jillian in Downtown Joliet.

Wow. Just turned 13, and she’s hanging out already.

Finally, someone told us she was on a mural on Clinton Street just west of the viaduct, ironically, only a few feet away from the building where Tammy works now.

We took a drive down, and sure enough, there was a larger-than-life mural of Jillian in a skating pose. Turns out, Joliet artist Kathleen Farrell and her group, wanting to honor younger athletes in addition to the famous Joliet names already on murals, used photos from the Joliet Park District activity guide.

We were pleased to see Jillian’s photo in the activity guide; it was really cool to see her on a mural for all to enjoy. That became part of our tour for anyone who was visiting.

Of course, we had to get a photo of Jillian next to the mural, which you see at the end of the column here.

And it’s a good thing. Within a few years, moisture coming from the viaduct began eating away at the murals, including Jillian’s. Kathleen explained to me years ago that not only didn’t they have the money to repair them, the moisture would ruin them once again, anyway.

So, Jillian’s mural continued to deteriorate. A couple weeks ago, Tammy saw workers ready to sandblast the murals off the wall. One said it would be pretty tough to skate without knees, which had worn away years ago.

Within a day or so, the wall was clean; maybe ready for a new mural. Kind of sad, but it’s time for someone else to have a chance for fame.

We do have some photos of Andy playing soccer … Just sayin’.

Nick Reiher is editor of Farmers Weekly Review.


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