You could have heard a pin drop.
More than 300 people sat in stunned silence.
What started out as a festive Tinley Park Business Breakfast, May 6 turned into a shocking ending when Mayor Ed Zabrocki concluded the affair with his comments.
Zabrocki, overcome with emotion, struggled to finish his remarks, announcing that he was resigning his position as mayor, effective June 1. He has served the village a total of 36 years, two as trustee and 34 as mayor. Locally, he had strong ties to Brother Rice High School, serving at the Chicago school for four decades.
With his voice breaking several times as he spoke, he cited health reasons as a major factor in his decision to resign as mayor.
“Ten years ago I battled cancer and it went into remission. I recently learned that the cancer has returned and a specific treatment plan was recommended," he said. "Treatment will begin this month and will be intensive and time-consuming. It will continue for 10 weeks.
Zabrocki said that he and his wife, Emily, have endured a very challenging year as they cared for three of their grandchildren enabling his son and daughter-in-law to remain at the hospital with his granddaughter, who suffers from spina bifida and has been in critical condition for several months.
“We realized with the challenges facing us that it is time to make this very difficult decision. he said.”
In addition to serving as Mayor of Tinley Park, Zabrocki was employed at Brother Rice for 40 years, retiring in 2005. He began his career there in 1965, teaching American literature. He then served as both a teacher and a counselor and in later years he became the director of counseling.
“Those were golden years for me,” he said. “It is a great school with great students. Both of my sons graduated from there and went on to college; one to Georgetown University and one to Northwestern University.”
Zabrocki said he believes in the school and continues to support it through its foundation.
“I try to give back what I can,” he said.
His years at Brother Rice have left him with quite a legacy. Among his students at Brother Rice were Dan McLaughlin, now mayor of Orland Park and Gerald Bennett, mayor of Palos Hills and president of the Southwest Council of Mayors.
“Yes, four or five kids I taught or counseled are now either mayors or legislators,” Zabrocki said.
Zabrocki recommended that veteran Tinley Park Trustee Dave Seaman, currently Mayor Pro-tem, be elected to serve out his remaining term.