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A half century of service to students

May 22, 2019

How long does it take to make a positive impact on more than 1,000 local grade school students? For Eugene “Gene’’ Wachholz, it took a full half century.

Wachholz has taught at St. Paul’s Lutheran School for 50 years, but the end of the current year will mark his last at a school which was once located in Kankakee but has since moved to Bourbonnais.

Last Sunday, members of the school community, as well as St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, gathered to hold a retirement celebration for a man who’s kind, caring nature was saluted by the hundreds who attended.

Wachholz estimated he has taught 1,309 students in five different buildings during his long stay at the school. A Wisconsin native, he actually began his teaching career four years before arriving at St. Paul’s, and his first students would now be in their 60s. He taught fifth-grade homeroom this year, and his latest group is yet to enter junior high school.

He is fond of saying education is the product of three things: The teacher, the parents and the Lord.

He certainly has done his part in the role of teacher. Mathematics is his specialty, and he taught that subject and others to generations of St. Paul’s students. He also has offered math tutoring to students from St. Paul’s and elsewhere, and the price for his services often was no more than an invitation to dinner.

Wachholz also served as scorekeeper at the many athletic events St. Paul’s students have participated in, and was widely known for his keen accuracy.

A humble man and lifelong bachelor, the efforts of Wachholz have not gone unnoticed. He has been honored by the Northern Illinois District of Lutheran Schools and the Iroquois-Kankakee Regional Office of Education, among others, for his work.

Former St. Paul’s principal Richard Nordmeyer might have said it best when he was quoted in a 2004 Daily Journal feature written about Wachholz.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone so willing to serve,” Nordmeyer said. “That’s dedication, but he also loves what he’s doing.’’

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