Shepard sisters decorate “acorn’ in memory of Oak Lawn girl

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

megan hurckes acorn photo 9-8

Photo by Dermot Connolly

One of Oak Lawn’s Acorns On Parade, decorated by Shepard High School students Emily and Alissa Robinson as a memorial to Megan Hurckes, has found a permanent home among the flowers beside the Oak Lawn water tower, at the western entrance to the village on 95th Street near Harlem Avenue.

Palos Heights sisters Emily and Alissa Robinson spent a week this summer painting and decorating a four-foot long fiberglass acorn memorializing Megan Hurckes as part of Oak Lawn’s Acorns on Parade project.

Megan was 10 years old and a fifth-grader at Kolb School in Oak Lawn when she died Sept. 6, 2009, in an ATV accident while vacationing with her family over the Labor Day weekend in Wisconsin.

The Robinsons attend Shepard High School, where Emily is a senior and Alissa just started her freshman year. Emily said she was offered the chance to work on the project after getting involved with the Palos Heights Public Arts Commission last year.

“My art teacher suggested I get involved so I could do things like this outside of school,” she said. Emily then asked Alissa, who is also an artist, to help her finish it before the big unveiling of all the acorns. The project was modeled after the Cows on Parade exhibit in Chicago some years ago, as well as a more recent project featuring benches in Tinley Park. Local institutions such as Advocate Christ Medical Center and the Oak Lawn Children’s Museum commissioned acorns, but Emily said she liked the idea of doing one in honor of a local girl.  

Megan’s parents, Jerry and Mary Ann, and her sister, Jenna, contributed the $500 cost to commission the acorn, and the girls consulted with the family about how to decorate it.

“Since Megan’s passing, what we’ve tried to do is keep her memory and name alive and on the tip of the tongue. This seemed to fit right into that. Acorns on Parade is a great idea for Oak Lawn too, since the acorn is the village’s symbol,” he said on Monday, which was the seventh anniversary of Megan’s death.

Megan’s acorn is painted purple with an orange cap, which her father said were her favorite colors, and decorated with a softball and glove, surrounded by colorful butterflies and a banner stating “Always in our hearts, Megan Hurckes.”

“Butterflies were her symbol, and she and Jenna loved playing softball for Westside Baseball,” said Jerry Hurckes. Currently the chief of staff for Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd), he was an Oak Lawn trustee when his daughter died in 2009.

The acorn was first displayed along with all the others around the Village Green in Oak Lawn, but has since been moved to its permanent location surrounded by flowers beside the water tower at the western entrance to the village of 95th Street.

“We really appreciate the village allowing us to put it there. We live around the corner so we can see it every day driving home,” he said. “We did borrow it on Sunday and brought it to the annual memorial Mass we had for Megan in Centennial Park. Everyone loved it,” he said.

Hurckes said about 150 people attended the Catholic Mass for family and friends. “We served food afterward, and released purple and orange balloons, and butterflies, in her memory. It is just an informal way to celebrate Megan’s life,” he said.

The family presented Emily Robinson with a $500 scholarship for her work on the project, from the Megan Hurckes Scholarship Fund established after she died.

“I wasn’t expecting to get a scholarship. That was really nice of them to do. I would have done it for nothing,” said Emily, who is considering becoming a graphic designer. Being only a freshman, Alissa said she just appreciated getting the experience. “It will look good on a resume,” she said.