Entering the Media Center of D146’s Fierke Education Center in Oak Forest, you are immediately struck by a colorful and eye-catching bench. Not just any type of bench, but one that is an artistic creation for both use, as well as viewing pleasure. How and why it ended up at Fierke is a story of love, devotion and fond memories. Memories of a former student that stole the hearts of those that knew her.
Amy LaRocque was a student at Fierke starting kindergarten in 1998. Dorothy Pavlick a staff member at Fierke School knew Amy very well. She fondly recalls her time with her the former Fierke student, “I had the pleasure of working with Amy. She was a very kind, captivating and lovable girl.”
Mrs. Pavlick spoke of the love that the Fierke staff had for Amy. She was so sweet, and so very popular that Mrs. Pavlick said, “I used to say she was like the Homecoming Queen of Fierke.” When Amy moved on to Central Middle School, Mrs. Pavlick decided to remain in contact with the LaRocque Family.
Several years later, in September 2010 Mrs. Pavlick recalls, “I received an unimaginable phone call from Amy’s mom. She told me that Amy had been diagnosed with Leukemia. The news devastated our Fierke Family.” Through the next several months Amy endured countless treatments of chemotherapy. According to Mrs. Pavlick, “She handled it like a champ”. Mrs. Pavlick recalls how strong and upbeat Amy was whenever she spoke to or visited with her. Then in May she received a wonderful phone call that Amy was in full remission. Mrs. Pavlick remembers the happiness that filtered throughout Fierke at this wonderful news, “Everyone was elated.”
However, good news did not last long, because a few weeks later, Mrs. Pavlick received another phone call, this time from one of Amy’s teachers at Central Middle School. She had spoken with Amy’s mom and the news was sadly, not good. Amy had a developed pneumonia, but everyone tried to remain hopeful. But, later that same evening Mrs. Pavlick received the call that she had hoped would never come. Amy had passed away. “It was very devastating for our Fierke Staff. Lots of tears were shed for this precious child, and the suffering of her family.”
Mrs. Pavlick, known by her colleagues for her kind ways, was determined to keep Amy’s memory alive. In the fall of 2011 she began raising money to buy a memorial bench for the front of Fierke. “I would make lunch for the staff once a month and any profit I made went towards the purchase of Amy’s Bench Fund.”
In the summer of 2012, Lorrie Staneart, a fellow worker at Fierke, discovered a bench on Oak Park Avenue in Tinley Park. She thought Amy would have loved it. It was colorful, vibrant and very reflective of Amy’s personality. “It became the bench we had to have,” Mrs. Pavlick said.
Mrs. Pavlick wasted no time contacting the Village Hall of Tinley Park, who inquired as to why they wanted the bench. The Village Hall went into action and contacted both the artist and the bench sponsor. Within a few days Mrs. Pavlick received a phone call with news that first shocked her, and then brought her to tears. Both the sponsor, Aero Rubber Company, and the artist, Jennifer Lilly, had agreed to donate the bench, titled Flight of the Bumblebee, in Amy’s memory, and it would reside, as a permanent fixture at Fierke School. “I cried so hard, I was so shocked by the generosity of these people,” stated Mrs. Pavlick.
Amy’s parents, Tim and Nancy LaRocque, were also contacted with the wonderfully stunning news of the donation in Amy’s memory. They were overjoyed at the generosity of strangers and of the dedication of Mrs. Pavlick. She expressed, “I would like to thank Mrs. Pavlick and the staff at Fierke School for this heartwarming tribute to Amy. My husband Tim, my son Brad, and myself are touched by their kindness.”
Fierke School had an official unveiling of the bench in the Media Center on Friday, October 12th after school. Present for the unveiling were the staff of Fierke and the LaRocque Family. Mrs. LaRocque, upon seeing the bench for the first time said, “Mrs. Staneart was correct, Amy would have loved this bench!”
Then the subject came up of what to do with the money that Mrs. Pavlick had raised to purchase the bench. Mrs. LaRocque indicated that back when Amy was in middle school she had begun volunteering her time at the St. Damian Food Pantry, and asked that the money be sent there. Mrs. Pavlick could not have agreed more. She said, “I love how a random act of kindness snowballs into more random acts of kindness.”
Kindness- all for the love and memory of a young girl that personified the very word.