Family, former students remember Dist. 15 trustee Richard Bokor
Richard Bokor, a longtime Fremd High School teacher and District 15 school board trustee, died Sunday morning of complications from colon cancer, according to his family.
B.J. Jenkins, Bokor's stepson, said after his stepfather was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in September, hundreds of Bokor's former students reached out to him with words of encouragement and support. When news of Bokor's death began to spread Sunday, Jenkins said the family was overwhelmed with condolences from the former students, who refer to themselves as "Bokor's Army."
"I think it's a measure of a man when you see the number of lives he has impacted, and just in the last 24 hours there's been an incredible outpouring," Jenkins said. "I think that's a testament to him and who he was."
Peggy Babcock, the Dist. 15 board president and Bokor's friend, was overcome with emotion when speaking about what kind of person Bokor was.
"His life was education," Babcock said. "He cared deeply for the students and the community and he will be sorely missed."
Bokor was first elected to the Dist. 15 board in 2009 and served as vice president after his re-election in 2013. Bokor and Babcock ran for their positions on the Dist. 15 board together in 2013, and shared campaign signs. Babcock said the two spoke together every day.
Dist. 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson said Bokor worked tirelessly to make sure kids had the best education possible.
"Rich always had a big heart for kids," Thompson said. "He really impacted the entire community."
Jenkins said one of the reasons Bokor may have fought so hard for students, especially at-risk children, was because he himself needed help from others to complete his education.
Jenkins said Bokor's father died when Bokor was just 16 years old, and if it hadn't been for a track scholarship from DePaul, he might not have been able to afford to get a degree and become a teacher.
Bokor was inducted into the DePaul Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 in recognition of his sparkling collegiate track and cross country career from 1965-1969 that included getting one of the top 20 fastest results in the 600 yard dash in the world one year, Jenkins said.
Bokor taught history and coached track at Fremd from 1978 until 2003. Before working at the high school he spent five years teaching at schools in Dist. 15.
Despite Bokor's stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis, Jenkins said his stepfather's death was still a shock to the family, who thought they had more time.
"It was thought to be curable and he was handling chemo well," Jenkins said. "We were thinking years rather than what turned out to be months."
Jenkins said the family, which includes Bokor's wife Ann Bokor, daughter Courtney Thomas and stepdaughter Shannon Jenkins, has been touched by the kind words from Bokor's former students.
"That's made all of us feel a little bit better," Jenkins said. "As better as you can feel."
Bokor was 67 years old. Funeral arrangements are pending.