The North Shore, July 17, 2021

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Tennis coach Tad Eckert reflects on his success at New Trier High School P26

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RACE DAY AFTER A YEAR OFF, THE 9TH ANNUAL NORTHWESTERN MEDICINE LAKE BLUFF CRITERIUM IS SET FOR RELAUNCH ON JULY 24 IN DOWNTOWN LAKE BLUFF.

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RAVINIA.ORG The 9th Annual Northwestern Medicine Lake Bluff Criterium is back on July 24. BY MITCH HURST THE NORTH SHORE WEEKEND

The bikes are back on the racecourse. After being sidelined in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Lake Bluff Criterium is back on Saturday, July 24, from 10 a.m. to 8:15 p.m., rain or shine.

The Criterium will feature 11 professional and amateur men’s and women’s races with 600 riders from more than 40 states and many foreign countries competing in several races for prizes totaling over $6,700. Sponsored by Northwestern Medicine, the event is free and open to the public. “Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital is proud to sponsor this worldclass cycling event and to serve as the official

health care provider for the Lake Bluff Criterium,” says Thomas J. McAfee, President, Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. “Our health system strongly believes in promoting the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle for our community.” Marco Colbert is the Race Director of the Lake Bluff Criterium and a co-owner of Continued on PG 12


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NEWS

INDEX

14 safe haven

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New exhibit at Illinois Holocaust Museum tells the story of Jews who fled Nazi Germany to Shanghai

LIFESTYLE & ARTS

2021

18 'trey' magnifique

INAUGURAL FESTIVAL

International art detective and North Shore native Robert E. O'Connell III has penned a captivating debut novel

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NEWS RACE DAY

From PG 1

the Intelligentsia Cup, a series of 10 criterium races that take place in the Chicago area on consecutive days in July (only nine this year due to a loss of one venue due to COVID-19). The Lake Bluff Criterium is the 8th in the series this year.

Chicago, similar to a Formula One course. Spectators can watch each lap around the course as the race unfolds. “The Tour de France is point to point. It’s starts at Point A and ends at Point B, 100 miles away. If you’re a spectator, the cyclists go by in about 25 seconds and then they’re gone,” Col-

miles long. The Lake Bluff course is .75 miles in length.” The advantage for spectators, Colbert says, is that the riders come around quite frequently, for the fastest riders about every two minutes or so. It provides much more entertainment for those watching the race.

In past years, the event has featured “kiddie” races for little but this year, to achieve social distancing, there will be a Family Fun Ride for parents and kids to experience riding the course. Parents can register their families at the Lake Forest Bank & Trust, 4 E. Scranton, from Monday, July 19, to Friday, July 23, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. or on Saturday, July 24 from 8:30 a.m. until noon. Registration will also be available at the Fire Station on Saturday, July 24, from noon until race time. “The Family Fun Ride is sponsored by Lake Forest Bank for families, Mom, Dad, and the kids to all get on to the racecourse together and ride around just like the pros for about half an hour,” Colbert says. Bicycle racing is heavily reliant on sponsorships and in addition to Lake Forest Bank and Northwestern Medicine, Knauz Auto Park BMW will be sponsoring a pace car. Additional sponsors of the festivities include ULINE, supplying zip ties for the entire Intelligentsia Cup series; The Jane Lee Team RE/MAX Top Performers, (Lake Bluff ); Lake Forest Country Day School, (Lake Forest); Lindemann Chimney, (Lake Bluff ): DiVinci Painters, (Highland Park); Pasquesi Home & Garden, (Lake Bluff ); EJ’s Place Restaurant, (Skokie); David Morris Law, (Lake Bluff ), and Mosquito Joe (Lake Bluff ). “Without Northwestern Medicine and our other sponsors this event couldn’t happen,” says Colbert. “It’s as simple as that,” In addition to the action on the racecourse, there will be a food court set up in Village

“Criterium racing is a very intense form of racing. It's highly competitive. It's a team sport because teammates help each other,” Colbert says. “Sometimes one member will sacrifice himself or herself for the sake of another teammate by getting in the front—providing a draft for the person behind them or blocking out competitors, making it more difficult for them.” For this year’s Lake Bluff Criterium, there will be 11 races throughout the day, staring with amateur races and finishing with women’s and men’s professional races. The races get longer throughout the day, with the professional men’s race lasting 90 minutes.

Green featuring fare from five Lake Bluff restaurants, including Bangkok Tokyo, Luke’s, Donati’s, Tacos el Norte, and Suzy’s Swirl. Craft beer from Lake Bluff Brewery will be available throughout the afternoon and evening. “The Village Green is adjacent to the racecourse and an excellent vantage point, a great place to watch the bike racers go by and eat some good food and if you're so inclined, to drink some beer,” Colbert says.

This year's Lake Bluff Criterium will feature 11 professional and amateur men's and women's races with 600 riders from more than 50 states and several countries.

Unlike traditional road races such as the Tour de France, criterium racing takes place on a course set up in suburban towns and in

bert says. “What we’re doing is called criterium racing—a bicycle race on a closed circuit, a closed-loop—usually between a mile and 1.2

Caption TK. PHOTOGRAPHY TK

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For more information about the Lake Bluff Criterium, visit lakebluffcriterium.com. THE NORTH SHORE WEEKEND


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NEWS

SAFE HAVEN A NEW EXHIBIT AT THE ILLINOIS HOLOCAUST MUSEUM AND EDUCATION CENTER DOCUMENTS THE LITTLE-KNOWN JOURNEY OF JEWS WHO ESCAPED NAZI GERMANY FOR DIFFICULT LIVES IN SHANGHAI. BY MITCH HURST THE NORTH SHORE WEEKEND

Judy Kolb remembers living a normal, little girl’s life in Shanghai. Born in 1940 in Shanghai to Jewish parents who escaped the Nazi regime, her family left China and arrived in San Francisco in 1948. When she was 15, in 1955, her family came to Chicago where her father became a Cantor and teacher at a synagogue in Skokie. While she initially viewed her experience in Shanghai through innocent eyes, over the years Kolb has come to understand that the lives of her family and of other Jewish families who escaped the Nazis were often extremely difficult. The story of Kolb’s family and other families who fled to China is told in a fascinating new exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. "Shanghai: Safe Haven During the Holocaust," opened on July 15 and runs through September 5, 2022. The exhibit tells the story of how—with the help of sympathetic diplomats and sheer tenacity—thousands of Jews from Germany, Austria, and other Nazi-occupied countries were able to escape the Nazis and safely make passage to Shanghai. “It's a two-part exhibition of 22 photographs taken in 1946 as part of an assignment by Arthur Rothstein, who was a quite-wellknown American photojournalist, so that’s one element,” says Arielle Weinenger, Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Museum. “The other part of it is we highlight 10 survivors of Shanghai from our local community and tell their stories through objects that they've donated to the museum, so you see objects and photographs.” The Nazis came to power in 1933 and for those that could afford to get out and have what Weinenger calls the forward thought process that it was not going to go well for Jews, could immigrate to a number of different places for a period of time—though it was very difficult to leave. They had to hand over most of their possessions and wealth to the Nazi government. As things became increasingly challenging for Jews in Germany and occupied Austria, the Évian Conference was held in Évian-lesBains, France in July 1938 to see what the world could possibly do in light of the Jewish refugee problem. What came out of the conference was that very few countries wanted to do anything. “The only country that was willing to take a large number of Jews was the Dominican Republic … up to 100,000 Jewish refugees,”

14

Ward Road Heim Inner Courtyard, April 1946. PHOTOGRAPHY BY ARTHUR ROTHSTEIN

Weinenger says. “Shanghai, as a port city, was in sort of a different situation because there were areas called the International Settlement and the French Concession and those two areas were ruled by or governed by other entities.” While visitors to those two areas did not need a visa to enter, Jews needed permission to leave Nazi-occupied territories and documentation that confirmed they had a destination. Two diplomats with posts in Lithuania, Chiune Sugahara of Japan, and Jan Zwartendijk of the Netherlands, took considerable personal and professional risk to write documentation for thousands of Jews to leave the Nazi-occupied territories for Shanghai. Both would later receive the Righteous Among the Nation from the State of Israel, an honorific given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust. The relief of getting out of the danger of staying in Germany and other occupied countries, though, led to major obstacles as they transitioned to their new lives in the Shanghai ghetto. “Early on, the Nazis pressured Jews to immigrate … to just leave. But when you leave, we're going to take basically all your possessions and we are going to revoke your citizenship,” Weinenger says. “So, these people were considered stateless refugees when they arrived in Shanghai and most of them had very limited funds.”

The result was the creation of the Shanghai ghetto with very little opportunity for upward mobility. A few managed to start businesses but, for example, doctors had to develop a clientele of Chinese to support their practices. “Many were destitute when they arrived; they only had what they had brought with them. Some people had been able to smuggle out or hide a diamond ring or something of value,” Weinenger says. “They would use that to help them with their existence, but they had very limited support from anyone.” Housing was difficult to find, and many Jews who arrived in Shanghai lived in communal housing with up to 150 people in a room. Some who were able to start their own businesses eventually were able to move out to at least one-bedroom apartments. It was these lives and the conditions in which they were lived that brought photojournalist Rothstein to the Shanghai ghetto in 1946. Rothstein had worked for Look magazine and been a photo editor at popular Parade magazine. He is known mostly for his iconic photographs of the dustbowl taken while he was working as the first staff photographer for the Farm Security Administration. While working for the Office of War Information at the U.S. Army, Rothstein made his way to China to cover the World War II theater in China, Burma, and India. When

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Continued on PG 16

TOP TO BOTTOM: Children of stateless refugees; Recreational hall operated by refugees; Matzah balls made on a Chinese fire pot; Reading the Shanghai Herald, April 1946. PHOTOGRAPHY BY ARTHUR ROTHSTEIN THE NORTH SHORE WEEKEND


— 847.461.8856 daveandamychung.com 851 Spruce Street • Winnetka

Dave + Amy Chung is a team of Real Estate agents affiliated with Compass. Compass is a licensed Real Estate broker with a principal office in Chicago, IL and abides by all applicable Equal Housing Opportunity laws. All material presented herein is intended for informational purposes only, is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is subject to errors, omissions, and changes without notice. All measurements and square footages are approximate. This is not intended to solicit property already listed. Nothing herein shall be construed as legal, accounting or other professional advice outside the realm of Real Estate brokerage.

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NEWS From PG 14

he moved to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, he photographed the pictures of the Shanghai ghetto that are part of the new exhibit. Rothstein’s job was to create a photographic record of UNRRA’s enormous humanitarian effort (spending over $518 million) to defeat hunger and rebuild infrastructure in China. “For a long time, the Museum has been wanting to do an exhibition on the Shanghai ghetto and for all of the many people who know about the war, some people have never heard of it.” says Weinenger. “We’re talking about between 17,000 and 20,000 Jews who were saved because they got to Shanghai.” The community of survivors adds an important element to the story and to the exhibit. For Kolb, who worked as nurse for 10 years for her husband, an orthopedic surgeon who has since passed away, it was her retirement seven years ago that prompted her to think about what she could do to tell her family’s story and that of the Shanghai ghetto. “A lot of Holocaust survivors did not talk about it for so many years. It was too painful and there was nowhere to begin. So, stories were not told,” Kolb says. “Eventually stories started to be told, but not so much about Shanghai.” Kolb’s father, despite his involvement and strong ties to the Jewish community in Skokie, was reticent to talk about his Shanghai experience, and after watching a documentary

and eventually she began cataloguing her father’s collection of papers and artifacts about her own family, which she eventually donated to the Illinois Holocaust Museum. The collection is part of the new exhibit. Kolb started volunteering there and has now become a “Second Generation” volunteer to help educate the hundreds of children who visit the museum each day about the importance of remembering the

Gifts of Doris Fogel, in memory of her mother Edith Warschawski.

about the Shanghai ghetto, Kolb was shocked by the circumstances and the living conditions and what it was like in Shanghai.

“I didn't ask my parents what it was like in Shanghai because I thought my life in Shanghai was normal. My uncle had a bakery,” she says. “I had no idea when I watched that documentary, I was blown away. I was shocked to see how difficult life was for

everyone.” Kolb began reading books that documented the experience of Jews in Shanghai

Holocaust. “This is an important place and an important story, a horrendous story that needs to be constantly told so people will not forget about it,” she says. “For me to keep this alive, to say that six million Jewish people were killed, which I've never been able to get past that number, is so horrendous that we need to keep telling the story.” “Shanghai: Safe Haven During the Holocaust” runs from July 15 through September 5, 2022, at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. For tickets, visit ilholocaustmuseum.org.

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The Matlin Group thematlingroup@compass.com 847.951.4040

The Matlin Group is a team of Real Estate agents affiliated with Compass. Compass is a licensed Real Estate broker with a principal office in Chicago, IL and abides by all applicable Equal Housing Opportunity laws. All material presented herein is intended for informational purposes only, is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is subject to errors, omissions, and changes without notice. All measurements and square footages are approximate. This is not intended to solicit property already listed. Nothing herein shall be construed as legal, accounting or other professional advice outside the realm of Real Estate brokerage. 320 Tudor Ct, Glencoe, 60022.

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LIFESTYLE & ARTS

‘TREY’ MAGNIFIQUE INTERNATIONAL ART DETECTIVE ROBERT E. O’CONNELL III PENNED HIS DEBUT NOVEL, THE ART OF SPIES, GIVING READERS A TASTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL THRILLS AND INTRIGUE THAT HE’S EXPERIENCED ON THE JOB FOR OVER 35 YEARS. BY BILL MCLEAN THE NORTH SHORE WEEKEND

Robert (Bob) O’Connell’s path to the purchase of his first work of art—and, ultimately, a fascinating career as an international art detective—began with a $20 bill and an order from his mother, Carole, who had handed the cash to her then-13year-old son at Cinderella City Mall in Englewood, Colorado in the 1970s. Mom’s order to O’Connell and his four siblings, who had also received $20 each: “Meet me back here in two hours.” O’Connell wandered into an art gallery at the mall and stayed there, for a while. “For two hours,” recalls O’Connell, North Shore native and President and CEO of O’Connell International Arts Inc., a firm of internationally recognized fine art experts within the insurance industry, the art world, and legal community since 1997. “I fell in love with a watercolor painting of a sailboat at sunset. The art dealer was patient enough to explain medium to me and I had to have the watercolor. I gave my $20 to the gallery owner, and he told me that he’d hold the painting for me. I then paid what I could when I could. The owner ended up shipping the painting to me when I was a sophomore in college at the University of San Diego, after my final payment. I think the total cost wound up being $1,200.” Decades later, O’Connell produced an entirely different kind of art—his debut novel, The Art of Spies. It set sail in November 2020. The book paints the exploits of an international art detective named Trey Hansen. The first-time novelist, born Robert E. O’Connell III, chose that name for the protagonist because he was nicknamed “Trey” and his mother’s maiden name is Hansen. Hansen, the character, is the man they call to investigate multimillion-dollar art heists … but what happens when a CIA-trained assassin starts tying up loose North Shore native and debut novelist Robert "Bob" E. O’Connell III is shown in front of an oil on canvas painting by Wesley Kimler, an etching by Fernando de Szyszlo, a photograph of John Malkovich as Hamlet by Sandro Miller, and a Jackie Kennedy pink screen print with diamond dust on linen by Russell Young, all from the art collection he shares with wife, Darci. PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARIA PONCE BERRE Continued on PG 20

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LIFESTYLE & ARTS 'TREY' MAGNIFIQUE

From PG 18

ends? And what if that assassin might be his father? Did we mention O’Connell’s late father, Robert E. O’Connell Jr., was a career CIA agent? “My father was military tough and a man of very few words,” O’Connell says. “His silence certainly could be intimidating. I remember returning from a business trip to Cuba and having a conversation with my father. One of his early comments was, ‘Glad you got out of Cuba alive.’ On my trips all over the world—before the pandemic I’d typically travel 100,000-plus miles each year—I keep journals, writing what I saw, smelled, heard, and felt. People on planes ask me what I do. After I tell them I’m an art detective, they often ask me, ‘Like the one in The Thomas Crown Affair? My reply is, ‘Yeah, kind of.’” “The novel I wrote was cathartic; I’d had it in my mind for decades. I love telling stories.” His story about the late Raymond Bushell, a lawyer and collector of Japanese art, is a favorite because a belief uttered by Bushell during an investigation mirrors one of O’Connell’s staunch tenets. O’Connell cherishes every piece of his eclectic collection of art and considers his relationships with the artists just as valuable. “Bushell has lost two, maybe three, Japanese carved ivory and wood netsuke and inro,” says O’Connell, who earned his Master of Arts in Art History at San Diego State University and founded another OIA entity, O’Connell International Advisors, in 2013, to provide his clients rare market counsel and coverage. “I was investigating for Lloyd’s of Lon-

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get my Ph.D., then teach at a prestigious university in a tweed blazer with elbow patches,” admits

don, and I’ll never forget what Bushell told me. ‘It’s never about the money; it never has been. I can tell you what I was wearing and what I ate on the day I acquired these objects of art. They are my children.’” “That’s exactly how I feel about my art collection, beginning with the first painting I bought in the mall when I was teenager.” O’Connell investigated the case of Los Angeles ophthalmologist Steven G. Cooperman in 1999. Cooperman was convicted of fraud for arranging the theft of two paintings, a Picasso and a Monet, from his Brentwood, California, home in an attempt to collect $17.5 million. O’Connell, working with the FBI, recovered the paintings years later, leading to Cooperman’s arrest and sentencing of 37 months in jail. Born in Evanston, O’Connell moved to Colorado with his family in 1968—married Darci, also an avid collector of art, in 2005; Darci’s brother, Dave, and her future husband were best friends in high school in Littleton, Colorado. Bob and Darci have a 7-year-old daughter, Finnian, and 26-year-old twins, Billy and Matt (who were born at Evanston Hospital). “I always thought I’d

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O’Connell, who moved to Chicago in the 1990s and settled in northern Chicago suburbs about six years ago. “But I’m thrilled about my career choices, as I have been able to pursue my passions for art and utilize my academic research and investigative skills on a daily basis. I love thinking on my feet and having that sixth sense about my work, especially knowing when people are lying to my face.” “What I like about the job is each case is unique, a puzzle, with a whodunit aspect,” continues O’Connell, whose television hero was the inimitable character portrayed by the late Peter Falk in the show Columbo. “The best moments in Columbo were when Lieutenant Columbo, who was getting ready to leave the room, paused and said to the guilty suspect, ‘I have just one more question …’” The Art of Spies by Robert E. O’Connell III. The book cover’s art work is Marilyn Crying Suicide Pink by Russell Young (c) Bankrobber LLC

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LIFESTYLE & ARTS

NORTH SHORE FOODIE

MANGO LIME SORBET BY MONICA KASS ROGERS THE NORTH SHORE WEEKEND

July 22 is National Mango Day. When my boys came home with a celebratory box of very ripe mangoes, they had to become sorbet. This juicy version is incredibly smooth and refreshing, spiked with Citron vodka. We’ve garnished the treat with skewers of chili-salted fresh mango for a flavor spike like spicing the rim of your margarita glass! To keep homemade sorbet from crystallizing into a mass of snow-coney ice crumbles, you need only add a splash of alcohol to the base. Matching the lime juice in the recipe, I used Absolut Citron for delicious results, but you can substitute rum for the vodka if you want to add a darker spice note. My recipe makes 12 cups (6 pints) of sorbet, the amount it takes to reach the fill-line on my Mom’s old hand-cranked ice-cream maker. But you can easily halve the recipe to fit the volume of whatever ice-cream maker you prefer. The only fiddly part to this recipe is cutting the bright orange flesh from the mangoes. My best method is to slice each washed, unpeeled mango into three lengthwise pieces (leaving the large seed in the middle slice) Cut whatever flesh you can from the seed slice and then discard the seed. Then, with the sharp point of a knife, score the flesh side of the two remaining fleshy pieces into a crosshatch of cubes (like tic-tac-toe.) Next, pop the skin side of each slice upward (turning them inside out) and the cubes will separate, making it easier to slice them into a bowl. To blend the mango with the other ingredients until very smooth, I used a hand-held immersion blender, but you can also use a blender. Once you’ve made the sorbet base and done the ice-cream cranking, the sorbet will need to rest in the freezer for a good six hours. The results are well worth the effort.

INGREDIENTS • 3 cups pure cane sugar • 3 cups water • 1 tsp salt • 9 ripe mangoes, plus 2 for the garnish • Juice of 9 fresh limes, plus one lime for the garnish • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp Absolut Citron vodka FOR GARNISH: Bamboo skewers, salt, chili

powder, cubes cut from two mangos, and lime juice.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY MONICA KASS ROGERS

METHOD In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, sugar and salt, stirring for 3 minutes until completely dissolved. Remove simple syrup from heat and set aside. Slice each washed but unpeeled mango into three lengthwise pieces (leaving the large seed in the middle slice) Cut whatever flesh you can from the seed slice and discard the seed.

Then, with the sharp point of a knife, score the flesh side of the two remaining fleshy pieces into a crosshatch of cubes (like tic-tac-toe.) Next, pop the skin side of each slice upward (turning them inside out) and the cubes will separate, making them very easy to slice into a bowl. Repeat with all mangos. Juice nine limes and pour through a strainer into the mango bowl. Add the simple syrup to

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the mangos and lime juice. Add the vodka. Blend the mixture until smooth. Pour into ice cream maker and process according to device instructions. Place processed sorbet into the freezer for six hours. TO MAKE THE MANGO-SKEWERS: Cut flesh from two mangos into cubes. Slide cubes onto skewers, sprinkle with lime juice, salt and chili powder; serve with sorbet. THE NORTH SHORE WEEKEND


THE NORTH SHORE WEEKEND

SATURDAY JULY 17 | SUNDAY JULY 18 2021 |

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S U N D AY B R E A K FA S T

TREV FOREVER NEW TRIER TENNIS ALUMNUS—AND AVID GOLFER—TAD ECKERT REMAINS DRIVEN TO DEVELOP COURT KINGS. BY BILL MCLEAN ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITT

The coach who guided New Trier Township High School’s boys tennis team to another state championship last month—32 years after he won the state singles title as a Trevians junior at the school—is nearing the end of a four-hour drive to Nekoosa, Wisconsin, when he answers his phone in early July. “Heading to Sand Valley,” Tad Eckert says. “You should see this place. It has grass tennis courts, if you can believe that. Grass tennis courts. “Really cool setting,” the fun-loving, easygoing 49-year-old adds on a day when lawns in England are serving as surfaces for professional tennis players at Wimbledon. But Eckert hadn’t packed a tennis racket for the trip to the resort in central Wisconsin. Tennis shoes? Tennis shirts and shorts? All at home, back in Wilmette. Relics. Eckert, who grew up in Glencoe, is geared up to play … golf. For four days. Sand Valley is also home to three golf courses. Acing holes, rather than tennis foes, drives him now. “I don’t play competitive tennis anymore,” says the scratch golfer. But the man—whose parents, Ted and Libby, first met on a tennis court in Oak Park and are huge Roger Federer fans—certainly knows how to coach tennis. The netter-turned-golfer would have been forgiven for shouting “Four!” after the boys’ tennis state tournament at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights on June 12. That’s the number of state titles he has won as a coach at his alma mater since landing the job in 2008. A two-time (1987, 1988) state championship team member under eight-time state championship coach John Schneiter, Eckert helmed NTHS to state titles in 2010, 2011, and 2016, before his 2021 edition topped the field at the state tourney behind senior Max Bengtsson’s singles championship. “Coach Schneiter (who died in 2014, at age 80) was a supreme motivator,” recalls Eckert, a 1990 NTHS graduate. “He had quite a presence and gave his teams so much confidence. He was more of a basketball coach, and that’s why his tennis teams were conditioned like his basketball teams were. His hoops and tennis teams, because of their fitness, were always tough—I try to instill similar toughness in my tennis teams. “I remember he made us scrim-

26

mage in basketball against his state runnerup girls’ basketball team (1988-1989 season). That gave tennis guys the chance to see Coach Schneiter in his true element. We also saw a different side of him, a side that made all of us glad that we played tennis for him instead of basketball.” Two other players on Schneiter-coached state championship teams in the 1980s— Kevin Andersen and John Gridley—coach in Eckert’s program today. Andersen serves as a varsity assistant; Gridley heads the sophomore crew. “New Trier tennis, in that era, was pretty special,” says Eckert, who finished third in singles at state as a senior, after downing W e s t Aurora

High School’s Paul Pridmore for the state championship in 1989. “Our players, probably every season, get sick of hearing New Trier tennis stories from the ’80s.”

Tad Eckert

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New Trier was an amazing place when I was a student there. And it still is.

Eckert picked the perfect time to tell a dated New Trier tennis yarn to Bengtsson at the beginning of the state singles championship match last month. Bengtsson trailed another Max, Hersey’s Sheldon, 5-0 in the first set. During the changeover Eckert noted another state entrant in singles had fallen behind 5-0 in the first set of a fourth-round match in 1989. That other entrant? Eckert, Tad Eckert. Second-seeded Jim Panagopoulos, another West Aurora HS combatant, zipped to a 5-0 advantage versus the future state champ more than 30 years ago. Eckert then chipped away and chipped away some more, winning four straight games before Panagopoulos secured the first set by taking the 10th game. Eckert’s message, via his resilience and resolve, to the Blackhawk: You’re going to have to earn every point in every game for the

rest of the match. Eckert won the next two sets, sending Panagopoulos to the back draw. Northwestern University-bound Bengtsson mirrored his coach’s path to victory on the big stage, winning three straight games after the changeover and then claiming New Trier’s seventh state singles title in program history with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 decision on Sheldon’s home court. “All Max needed to do was to hit his shots a little harder and win a couple of games in that first set,” says Eckert, whose strong mind deflated opponents as much as his crosscourt winners did in his prep days. “The longer a match goes, the more advantageous it is for him. He’s such a hard worker, and he’s in such great shape. You could sense the match turning in his favor toward the end of the first set; the entire crowd could.” Eckert took his tennis game to the University of Notre Dame and played four seasons for the Irish. Mostly a No. 3 doubles player while majoring in English, he also found success on the courts without a partner, achieving all-time top-10 honors at ND for winning percentage in singles. Years later, in 2004, he earned his MBA in South Bend. Eckert was a boys tennis volunteer assistant coach at New Trier for several seasons before succeeding Tim Kajfez as varsity head coach 13 years ago. “I’ve always been a big New Trier fan in general, not just a follower of the school’s tennis teams,” says Eckert, also president of his family’s Skokie-based business, Inventive Manufacturing, which is a part of Harig Manufacturing. “I loved all sports at New Trier. And I was a girls basketball color analyst for the high school radio station. Hey, I had inside information, thanks to Coach Schneiter making us scrimmage his team. “New Trier,” he adds, “was an amazing place when I was a student there. And it still is.” But none of the teams at the Winnetka school will ever top his in-house bunch: wife Laura, a former No. 1 singles player in tennis at Forest View and Prospect high schools; their son, Griffin, 7; and Tad’s stepsons, Ryan and Casey Fenner. Ryan Fenner, a senior-to-be at New Trier, is a powerlifting state champ; Casey will be a freshman this fall at NT’s Northfield campus, not far from where the new tennis courts pay tribute to all of the program’s state medalists. “Those two gifts from my wife welcomed me with open arms,” says a grateful Eckert, who got married in 2012. “And then Griffin came along. “I love fatherhood. I love my family.” Love, love. Tennis-speak—still par for the course for Tad Eckert. THE NORTH SHORE WEEKEND


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