214@100: The day Hersey High School closed
In his more than 40 years with District 214, retired teacher Ed Moon accumulated thousands of stories. But the defining moment came on a Tuesday in April 2003 when the John Hersey High School staff got the message that Assistant Principal Robert J. "R.J." Hannon -- whom many referred to as the soul of the school -- had passed away suddenly.
Moon remembers the morning vividly. The students had planned to perform the spring musical, "The Scarlet Pimpernel," for local middle school students. When the initial shock of Hannon's death abated, Moon recalls, theater director John Marquette allowed the student actors to decide what to do.
"They said, 'Mr. Marquette, Mr. Hannon would have wanted the show to proceed,'" Moon says. "And it did."
He also recalls students stopping in the crowded hallway "every 10 feet or so" to alert a friend, relative or Hersey graduate that Hannon had passed away.
Hannon began at Hersey in 1972 as a history teacher and guidance counselor. Several years later, he launched the school's popular marriage and family class. He later was promoted to Assistant Principal of Student Activities. Known and loved for his enthusiasm for all things Hersey and knack for encouraging students, he had received the Arlington Heights Educator Heart of Gold award only two months before he died.
After nearly every member of the Hersey High School faculty requested to attend Hannon's funeral, a precedent was established: the school closed on the day of the service. More than 1,000 students, teachers and friends attended.