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They were two of the finest gentlemen to ever represent Mundelein High School, guys' guys, great educators, better men, Jim-dandys.
She was athletic, fiercely competitive, smart, articulate, pretty. And gone too soon.
Our hearts ache for them and the so, so many they touched.
Before we embrace 2013, a final farewell to Jim Ackley, Jim deRivera and Alex Scarbro.
April 3, 1930-Dec. 19, 2012
Oh, how sharp he was, sharper than the No. 2 pencils that he had positioned next to his scorebook before every Mundelein boys basketball game.
He was in bad health when I called him Dec. 4 to talk to him about his big night, which was hours away. Mundelein would be honoring him for his 50 years of service as the boys basketball team's scorekeeper. I was hoping for 5-10 minutes of his time.
But the man who always had time for everyone gave me much more than that. He gave me a conversation that I'll forever cherish. We talked about his career, his family, Mundelein basketball and his other passion, golf. His memory was impeccable, remembering years and names as if he were reading his life story from a book. He was funny, engaging, candid, affable, informative, humble. That was Jim Ackley. He sounded young. We spoke for a half-hour. He answered every question thoughtfully, with vim, with humility. We laughed. "A lot of people appreciate everything you've done," I told him at the end of our conversation. "Well," he said, his tone turning serious, "it's been my pleasure."
He passed 15 days later.
Two nights after that, the basketball team paid one final tribute to their truly special scorekeeper by beating Zion-Benton on the Zee-Bees' home floor.
I can picture him in heaven smiling about that one.
Heck, he was probably keeping score.
Sept. 20, 1951-Sept. 27, 2012
He coached the great Susan Musselwhite, one of the best athletes Mundelein has ever produced. But if you thought softball hitters looked silly facing Musselwhite, you should have seen high school girls when facing deRivera.
They became speechless, unable to focus, too mesmerized by his Hollywood-handsome looks.
It's a wonder female students in his driver-ed classes never crashed the car.
"Focus on the road?"
Good luck, girls.
"Mr. D" had the great hair, the better smile, the mustache, the broad shoulders, the athletic frame. Above all, he was cool. Never full of himself. Classy.
You want a face for your school?
Jim deRivera's mug should have been on a poster hanging by Mundelein's entrance.
"Jim will forever be one of the legends of MHS," longtime Mundelein teacher Bill Gorski wrote on deRivera's obituary guest book.
Others called deRivera "funny," "nice," "positive," "kind," "patient," "a man of dignity."
He coached Mundelein's softball team from 1976-1989. In his final season, with Musselwhite firing pitches and hitting opposing pitchers' pitches far, the Mustangs advanced downstate for the first time in their history.
At his wake, a former player of his told me he was the reason why she went to college, where she played softball.
His players loved him. His students loved him. His school loved him.
Oct. 15, 1992-Nov. 24, 2012
Alex Scarbro so wanted to quit.
She had lost her passion.
Following a loss to Cary-Grove, angry and frustrated, the tough and talented Grayslake Central athlete told her coach, Steve Ikenn, that she never wanted to play basketball again. She was through. Done. The pain of defeat just wasn't worth it.
Ikenn understood the senior. Which is why they got along so well. Then he told her something.
"Alex," he said, "we just had our 22-game winning streak snapped."
It was going to be OK, Ikenn assured her.
And it would be.
Following that regular-season-finale loss to Cary-Grove on Feb. 9, 2011, the Rams started a new winning streak.
A couple of weeks later, Scarbro and her teammates were celebrating a 69-46 win over rival Johnsburg in the sectional final at Grayslake Central. Ikenn never had seen a team so excited and euphoric, a gym filled with so much energy. Cheeks hurt from all the smiling.
Some decisions that we make, however, we can't take back.
So Alex Scarbro is gone.
Man, she was a cool kid.
She was linebacker-tough, like her Uncle Dallas, the former Round Lake football star.
She was kind and charismatic, like her father, Dave.
Along with Kat Dickson, Rebekah Llorens and Maddy Miller, she was part of the "Fab Four," a nickname given to them by their parents "because we thought they were," Susan Llorens said with a soft smile at Alex's funeral. The four girls had grown up together, playing with each other and against each other in feeder ball. They were the best of friends, and it was never better than that senior year of 2011, when the Rams won 28 basketball games before running into eventual Class 3A state champ Montini in the Hoffman Estates supersectional.
There were six seniors on that Grayslake Central team. On senior night, Alex, a four-year varsity player, gave up her starting spot.
In November, six nights after she passed, the Rams played ... Cary-Grove.
Laid on a chair on Grayslake Central's bench was Scarbro's No. 10 jersey.
The Rams pulled off a 45-44 upset, getting an Alex Scarbro-like defensive stop in the closing seconds.
Tears flowed. A basketball family hugged and celebrated.
They needed that.