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Local News

An Extraordinary Life: Former Joliet man and Chicago high school teacher strived for sanctity

Former Joliet man and Chicago high school teacher strived for sanctity

Kevin Hansen
Kevin Hansen

JOLIET – Former Joliet resident Kevin Hansen didn’t care for texting and didn’t watch much TV, said his sister, Mary Catherine Hansen of Joliet.

Kevin, 33, of Homewood, a theology teacher at the all-boys Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, had different priorities.

Occasional weekday Masses. Driving the school bus to – and chaperoning students at – various weekend events so other staff members could go home to their families. Serving as student service coordinator and football equipment manager. Taking students to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life.

“On weekends, he corrected homework,” said Kevin’s mother, Beth Hansen of Joliet.

And yet, Beth wasn’t surprised to see a box of foam footballs in Kevin’s classroom. Kevin understood that boys, unlike girls, weren’t content to sit quietly at their desks all day, Beth said, so Kevin would occasionally toss a football across the room when he asked a question.

“It brought excitement and piqued their interest,” Beth said, “even when learning about their faith.”

That was typical Kevin.

His father, Mike Hansen of Joliet, recalled how Kevin, even at age 10, was the peacemaker at neighborhood baseball games. As the scoreboard operator for Mount Carmel home basketball games, Kevin would speak up if a referee made a wrong call, even if it went against Mount Carmel, Mike added. Kevin even obeyed every street sign.

“His goal was to live by the Golden Rule,” Mike said. “From day one, he was very serious about his faith.”

Dan Sharp, athletic director and head football coach at Joliet Catholic Academy, remembered Kevin from when he had played football at JCA in the late 1990s. Sharp praised Kevin’s humility, ability to befriend teammates and his focus on doing his best. Sharp understands why Kevin made a fine teacher.

“He was a role model to young people,” Sharp said.

Kevin could have chosen another path, Mike said. He was both valedictorian and Man of the Year with JCA’s Class of 1999. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame in 2003 with a degree in pre-professional science studies, although he didn’t readily share that information.

“He was the smartest guy in the room,” said Eric Hansen, Kevin’s brother, “but he didn’t act like it.”

It wasn’t a second career Kevin internally debated, but whether or not he had a calling to the priesthood. That thought remained on Kevin’s mind six months ago, Mike said.

After Notre Dame, Kevin taught biology and chemistry for two years at St. Peter Marion Catholic High School in Massachusetts and earned his master’s degree in education from Providence College in Rhode Island in 2005.

But then Kevin entered Conception Seminary College in Missouri and received a second master’s degree, this time in theology, in 2007. That same year, Kevin began teaching at Mount Carmel, and it appeared he had found his niche. He loved his students and his students loved him, Beth said.

“There was a spirituality about him,” Beth said. “Even if someone was doing something morally wrong, he would try to guide them in a kind way.”

For Kevin, what he did was more than a job. It was his vocation, his ministry, said the Rev. Tony Mazurkiewicz, Mount Carmel president. Kevin showed this through all the little extra duties he quietly assumed.

“Everything he did was part of his relationship with God,” Mazurkiewicz said.

Kevin died April 11 after a weeklong battle with acute myelocytic leukemia. Principal John Stimler said losing Kevin was difficult for everyone. People are still trying to comprehend what happened.

“He did so much,” Stimler said.

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or dunland@shawmedia.com.

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