The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

Celebrating the Life of Pat McHale

A Parker farewell to a beloved PE teacher
Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

There was a clear blue sky and the sun was shining on the day of Pat McHale’s memorial service. The day’s vibrance was a preview to a light-hearted celebration. 

Pat McHale was a renaissance man who had a plethora of experiences in his life.  He was an educator, coach, and mentor. The school he worked at the longest and where he had the greatest impact was Parker. 

The memorial reception was packed with cheerfulness and reconnection in the alcove of the school. Lots of returning Parker students and faculty members were there. Sam Mintz, both a Parker alumnus and a basketball and soccer coach said, “I thought it was a great turnout, and it was nice to see some old teachers and classmates. It’s clear that many people at the school cared deeply for Mr. McHale.” As attendees walked into the auditorium, they were greeted by a slideshow of Pat McHale’s life. It was generally quiet as the audience viewed the slideshow, but the silence was interrupted periodically with emotions and laughter as attendees watched his life unfold on the screen.

The speeches started with Principal Dan Frank. He reflected on the life of Pat McHale  and the effect that he had on the Parker community. He stated that Pat McHale was admired by his students and that he taught them a lot. The last time he saw Pat McHale was at a dentist appointment a week before he died, and Frank remarked that McHale seemed the way he always did when he worked at Parker.

The next person who spoke was Elhajamin “Haj” Young, a Parker alumnus and member of the class of 1995. When Haj was in middle school, he participated in High Jump, a program that helps low-income middle school students prepare for high school, college, and beyond. He talked about how McHale opened up to the High Jump participants, which made him very likable. McHale was the reason Young decided to go to Parker. Pat McHale became a mentor to Young while he attended Parker. 

English teacher Mike Mahany and Bob Cally, one of McHale’s  close childhood friends, spoke next. Both saw McHale as a peer, so they told more candid stories. As they talked it lightened up the mood. Bob Cally told a story that he called “Saved by a Standing Ovation” about how he and McHale had to run from Mayor Daley Sr. as teenagers at an event. Mahany talked about the funny moments he shared with McHale,  including the fact that he would always call him Mahoney instead of Mahany.

Mahany told another story that was memorable for Peg Zerega, a Middle School science teacher. One of the stories I remember clearly is the one about Mr. McHale saying “Walk it off!” to a student who got hit by a ball during gym class. He made sure the student was all right, of course, and [the student] remembers the “Walk if off” lesson as an important one in her life.”

These stories shared a different side of Pat McHale that many weren’t aware of. 

The memorial was filled with both laughter and moments of reflection. The most touching moments happened when Pat McHale’s son and granddaughter spoke. His young granddaughter, Georgia McHale ‘32, ran to the stage, and everyone was ready for something special. She gave an impromptu speech.

Sascha Keller, a freshman, enjoyed  Georgia McHale’s speech. “Overall, Georgia was talking about how much she loved her grandfather, and how much her grandfather loved her, and how much his visits would mean to her,” said Keller.

Georgia McHale reflected on how much he taught her, one of the lessons being all of the soccer moves she learned from him. Her spontaneity made her speech feel real and from the heart. By the end of it, the whole crowd was on their feet and applauding, captivated by her sincerity.

After Georgia McHale finished her speech, her father, Pat McHale Jr. gave her a long hug. When he came up to the stage, it took some time for him to get his words out. As he started to speak, the crowd got a lot quieter. He shared many stories about things that the Parker community had never heard, including Pat McHale’s time in the military and how he was part of a local street gang. As he finished his speech, he shared some of the most important things Pat McHale taught him: Number one, laugh at yourself, number two, stay close with friends, number three, push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and number four, never stop reading or laughing. 

Pat McHale was always an empathetic person with lots of wisdom. He loved to help people out and brighten their day. The impression he made on everyone he met will always be remembered. While he has left our immediate grasp, he will never leave the Parker community or our hearts. 

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