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updated: 11/15/2010 3:15 PM

Driscoll community says last goodbye

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  • Former Driscoll student Veronica Togtman hugs family friend Dave Faydash as demolition work began Monday morning at the former Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison. In about two weeks, Driscoll supporters can pick up bricks from the building at Addison Public Works.

       Former Driscoll student Veronica Togtman hugs family friend Dave Faydash as demolition work began Monday morning at the former Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison. In about two weeks, Driscoll supporters can pick up bricks from the building at Addison Public Works.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Demolition work began Monday morning at the former Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison.

       Demolition work began Monday morning at the former Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Former students, parents and staff members were on hand Monday to watch and take photos as demolition began at the former Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison. Watching, from left, are parents Guy Bush and Dave Faydash, former students Frances Sikorski and Amanda Faydash, and parent Joe Cortina.

       Former students, parents and staff members were on hand Monday to watch and take photos as demolition began at the former Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison. Watching, from left, are parents Guy Bush and Dave Faydash, former students Frances Sikorski and Amanda Faydash, and parent Joe Cortina.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Demolition begins

 

They all parked on the north side of the former Driscoll Catholic High School building Monday, which still bears a sign telling the world it's the "Home of the Highlanders" and another message board reading "Live Jesus in our hearts forever."

Then roughly 30 Driscoll alumni, former staff members and Addison officials trekked to the south side of the building at 555 N. Lombard Road to watch it begin to crumble.

"I'm so sad," Georgianne Prince, of Addison, said as she greeted a classmate at the site. "It's a big deal."

Alumni like Prince, who graduated in 1988 from the 43-year-old school, gathered with cameras and video recorders to say goodbye at the start of the school's demolition as the village of Addison makes way for new athletic fields.

Many donned Driscoll jackets, pins and sweatshirts with slogans such as "Best of the Best" that celebrate the school's seven consecutive state football championships.

Driscoll closed in 2009 when the Christian Brothers, who ran the high school, said declining enrollment and financial woes made it unsustainable. Supporters rapidly raised money and created a proposal to buy Driscoll, but their offer was rejected.

This fall Addison purchased the land where the building stands for $2.9 million from the Joliet Diocese. It will lease the 19-acre property for $1 a year to DuPage High School District 88, so Addison Trail High School students can use the football and baseball fields for athletic practices and parking.

The building, officials said, was too costly to repair and maintain.

Village President Larry Hartwig called the demolition "bittersweet."

"Driscoll was always such an integral and important part of Addison," he said. "But on the other hand, we always have to be looking forward ... our goal is to make good out of something that was a problem."

When the shears of the demolition excavator made their first tear into the building, a former classroom turned into a tangle of metal, wiring and piles of bricks.

Veronica Togtman of Lombard dabbed tears as she said farewell to the school she and her three siblings attended in the '70s and '80s. Her mom, she said, worked hard to afford Driscoll tuition for her four children after she was widowed at age 39.

But the price was worth it, Togtman said, because Driscoll "was like family."

Monday's work will allow crews to bring equipment into the structure to begin internal demolition, which will take about two weeks, officials said. After that, demolition of the school's exterior will continue.

Addison will make exterior bricks available to anyone in the Driscoll community in about two weeks at its public works building, 1491 W. Jeffrey Drive. The bricks will be accessible for one month during daytime work hours and for a few hours on Saturday mornings.

Togtman and Prince agree that mementos like the bricks and the Driscoll Legacy Corridor inside village hall help make losing their alma matter a bit easier. But they also said nothing can fully replace Driscoll.

"It was just the best school," Prince said.

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