'The person we all strive to be': Glenbrook North alum remembered as kind, hardworking
For a school and community that has already experienced severe loss, the June 19 death of 2020 Glenbrook North graduate Tim St. John presented more pain.
"It's devastating. It's brutal. It's unbelievable," said Glenbrook North athletic director John Catalano, who struggled to get the words out.
Timothy Wayne St. John, 20, was killed Sunday about 10 miles north of Jamestown, North Dakota, when the bicycle he was riding was rear-ended by a pickup truck.
A 2016 Chevrolet Silverado driven by a 78-year-old man came up behind St. John's Canyon road bike, struck the rear tire and sent St. John and the bicycle into a ditch, according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol.
St. John, who had been wearing a helmet, was declared dead at the scene, police said. As of Tuesday afternoon, the crash remained under investigation.
Catalano said St. John -- a former team captain of the Spartans' boys cross country, wrestling and track and field teams -- had started competing in triathlons and may have been on a training ride when he was struck.
The athletic director said he believed the Purdue University mechanical engineering student was in North Dakota for a summer internship with Collins Aerospace, which has a location in Jamestown.
"Tim was a wonderful kid," Catalano said.
"He was just a nice, pleasant kid all the time, a hard worker. He was just a respectful kid, and everyone respected him because he worked so hard and tried so hard. Just a really good kid.
"I don't know if I can pick out a couple nicer kids in the 20 years I've been here at Glenbrook North. He was just a wonderful, wonderful kid," said Catalano, who already suffered the 2021 deaths of Glenbrook North senior Dylan Buckner and previous graduate Miles Thompson.
"He was a brilliant kid academically. Everything that you would want in a student-athlete to represent your school, from freshman year and all the way through. Our coaches are heartbroken," Catalano said.
A three-time Central Suburban League Senior Scholar-Athlete Award honoree, St. John was the rare modern student who competed in three sports all four years of high school.
Catalano recalled that, in 2020, St. John won the Spartan Sportsmanship Award, selected by Glenbrook North coaches as the senior athlete who best demonstrates fairness, respect, kindness and discipline.
St. John's sterling example was further acknowledged by his earning the Glenbrook Parents' Association's Paul Pryma Award for Courageous Kindness, named after the former Glenbrook North principal.
Quoting the intent of the award, it is given "to one senior student who has made a gallant effort to offer kindness and inclusion to their peers. Kindness is courageous when the person who is extending a hand or a kind word goes outside of their comfort zone to make others feel accepted and included. The recipient of this award has grown over their four years into a confident, friendly, senior who is generous with their efforts to welcome, support and encourage all those they encounter."
That was shown by St. John twice being named cross country team captain and winner of the Spartans' leadership award at the end of the 2019 season.
St. John "exuded warmth and benevolence," said cross country coach Bill Race.
"Tim was the epitome of the ideal Glenbrook North student-athlete: kind, hardworking and absolutely selfless," Race said. "He elevated everyone who came into his light. He made a lasting imprint on the school community and the cross country program.
"I am devastated and heartbroken," Race said.
St. John's wrestling coach at Glenbrook North, Jason Erwinski, called him "a coach's dream" and leader by example. A four-year starter at a variety of weight classes, Erwinski said "our hardest worker" came in before school and stayed late after practice while maintaining outstanding grades.
"He was the standard," said Erwinski, struck by St. John's character, kindness and work ethic, and praising him for all of it at the Spartans 2020 wrestling banquet.
"He was an extremely strong student, a very good athlete, but, most importantly, he was just a great person," Erwinski said. "I remember saying to those in attendance, he's exactly the type of kid you want your son to grow up to be. I've got four boys right now, and it's no exaggeration -- Tim was exactly the type of boy you want your son to grow up to be."
In other words, Catalano said, "This kid was special."
Those feelings were echoed by other academics fortunate to have encountered St. John.
"Tim St. John was an exceptional young man who positively impacted everyone lucky enough to have him in their lives. He was a gifted student and talented athlete who demonstrated character in everything he did," said Dr. Brian Wegley, superintendent of Northbrook/Glenview School District 30, in a release.
Wegley recalled that at the end of the 2019-20 school year, teachers at Maple School asked their former student to provide a speech that shared tips to graduating eighth graders. Instead of a canned speech, Wegley recalled, St. John "went the extra mile" to record a lively video "loaded with caring, thoughtful advice" on preparing for high school; working with teachers, coaches and friends; taking risks; and even suggesting the younger students FaceTime their grandparents.
Wegley relayed the thoughts of Kitt Kopach, the former Chicago Cubs pitcher who since 2013 has been a physical education teacher and coach at Maple School.
"He was a student first. A young man who was more driven, responsible and intrinsically motivated than any other individual I have interacted with as a teacher or coach," Kopach offered.
"Tim embodied the person we all strive to be. He was the kid you hope your own turns out to be as a parent. His heart was filled with kindness, his mind with undeniable resilience, and his impact on others immeasurable."
Tim St. John was among the five children of Jeff and Julie St. John.
"We will remember his influence and will miss him terribly. We grieve with the St. John family and our entire community in Tim's tragic loss," Wegley stated.
A visitation will be held from 2-8 p.m. Friday, June 24, at The Village Church of Northbrook, 1300 Shermer Road. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. June 25, also at Village Church, with an accompanying livestream of the service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Tim St. John Memorial Scholarship Fund.
"This is a tough one," Catalano said. "No question about it."