March was a tough month for the Leo High School Hall of Fame. Two of its most notable members passed away from natural causes not related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bill Koloseike ’45 was 92 when he died on March 6. Bill Hession ’54 was 83 when he passed on March 30.
“The Leo family extends sincere condolences to the Koloseike and Hession families,” Leo President Dan McGrath said. “Bill and Bill. Two remarkable guys, great Leo Men who embodied Facta non Verba in their unwavering commitment to Leo High School. It was an honor to know them.”
Bill Koloseike grew up in Auburn Gresham, attended Little Flower grammar school and graduated from Leo in 1945. He joined the Marine Corps a month later and was proud of his World War II-era service.
After his active duty, Bill used the G.I. bill to attend college, first at Marquette and then Loyola. Over his 50-year career in the auto industry the Bill Kay Auto Group he created grew to encompass nine dealerships by the time he retired in 2002.
Bill may have retired, but he didn’t slow down. Loyola University and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation were among the many causes he supported in addition to Leo. He was a member of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. He not only offered financial support for the building of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya, he traveled to Kenya to assist with construction of the first school built to serve orphans of the AIDS epidemic that ravaged Africa.
The Leo Alumni Association Man of the Year in 2009, Bill Kay was a generous supporter of Leo, a fact that wasn’t lost on fellow Hall of Famer Ray Siegel ’65. On the day Leo learned of Bill’s passing, Ray sent Leo a substantial check, along with a suggestion that it be used to assist Leo families suffering financial hardships as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
Ray also suggested a name: the Bill Kay Relief Fund, a tribute to Bill’s many years of support. Other alums followed Ray’s magnanimous lead, enabling Leo to offer tuition waivers to families suffering job loss or reduced hours because of the COVID-induced, citywide shutdown. Gift cards for groceries, prescriptions and other household necessities are available to Leo families. Two days a week Leo distributes boxed lunches to its families and its Auburn Gresham neighbors.
Shirley McInerney Koloseike preceded Bill in death. Survivors include sons Mark (Jean) and Bill Jr. (Janet); daughters Judy (John) Spellman and Nina Koloseike; plus 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at a time to be determined.
(Donations to the two Bill Kay relief funds are being accepted at Leo High School, 7901 S. Sangamon, Chicago, Il. 60620. Make checks payable to Leo High School. You can also assist Leo families through donations to Leo via PayPal.)
• • • •
Like his namesake and fellow Hall of Famer, Bill Hession was a Little Flower product. A standout quarterback and lightweight basketball player at Leo, he earned a scholarship to Loras College. After graduating in 1958, Bill began his teaching career at Leo before moving on to Reavis as a guidance counselor, continuing in the role at Moraine Valley Community College. He was inducted into the Leo Hall of Fame in 2011.
Bill was under hospice care at his South Loop home on March 25 when family friend Terry Walsh happened to drive past Leo. He thought Bill might enjoy seeing pictures of the courtyard upgrades and the signage that proudly announces Leo’s presence on 79th Street, so he stopped to take some pictures.
Darryl Wedgeworth, “Coach Debo,” happened to be leaving the building at the time and asked Terry if he were a Leo alum. Terry explained that he wasn’t, but a family friend who is gravely ill was, and Terry thought he’d take some pictures of Leo to show him.
Principal Shaka Rawls joined the conversation, then went back into the building for a Leo sweatshirt. He gave it to Terry to give to Bill. The presentation took place at the Hession home that evening, before Bill’s delighted family.
Bill’s daughter Katie had been busy earlier in the day circulating flyers in the dog parks Bill frequented with his beloved rescue pup Veronica. The flyers explained Bill’s recent absence, described his deteriorating medical condition and asked anyone who might be inclined to gather under Bill’s condo balcony the following Saturday to extend a greeting and maybe sing an Irish song. More than 60 of Bill’s friends, neighbors and fellow dog walkers showed up for a heartfelt tribute that wasn’t at all diminished by the social distancing the participants practiced.
Again, the Hession family was delighted by the outpouring of affection.
In addition to daughter Katie, Bill’s survivors include Joan Hession, his wife of 63 years; daughter Nancy Swanson; sons Bill and Dan, and nine grandchildren. A third son, Michael, died in infancy.
Shortly before Bill Hession died, daughter Katie sent a note to Leo President Dan McGrath. Here’s an excerpt:
“I want the Leo community to know it is because of Leo that my father is who he is. It is because of Leo he received a scholarship to Loras College. It is because of Leo he got his first chance to teach. It is because of Leo that he gained the experience to transfer to Reavis, where he made more money to raise his family.
“And it is because of his South Side Catholic upbringing that he has been married to my mother for 63 years, having met her in the 5th grade at Little Flower.
“It is because of all this he was able to raise four children who love him so.
“Truly a life well lived.
“I’m so sad that he will not have the Irish wake and funeral he so deserves, but we will celebrate his life at a later date when the world is right.
“Please thank your coach and principal for me and my family. They showed Facta non Verba in the most profound way. Their gesture gave us a chance to smile though our hearts are breaking.
Thank you, and thank Leo.”
You’re welcome, Katie.