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New Victory Light brings old memories at Joliet Catholic Academy

JOLIET – The Victory Light replica at Joliet Catholic Academy’s Heritage Quad spurred memories of the old one at last week’s dedication ceremony.

The new Victory Light was lit Thursday by Max Ziesmer, who was the last person to turn off the original light in June 1990.

Ziesmer was on the Joliet Catholic High School baseball team that finished second in the state tournament that spring.

“They let us turn on the Victory Light,” Ziesmer said. “We literally turned the light on for the last time.”

In the fall of 1990, Joliet Catholic High School combined with St. Francis Academy to form Joliet Catholic Academy. JCA is located on the Larkin Avenue campus that was home to St. Francis Academy.

The old Victory Light still stands in the former Joliet Catholic High School building that now is used for senior housing. The residence complex is called Victory Center, a tribute to the iconic value of the Victory Light in the building on Broadway Street.

Joliet Councilman Pat Mudron was at the dedication ceremony, and he, too, had a vivid Victory Light memory from his days as a Joliet Catholic wrestler in 1967.

“I was fortunate enough to win the state championship. They turned the Victory Light on for me,” Mudron said with the hint of a smile that suggested it remains a special moment for him.

“One of the priests got the call and turned on the Victory Light so everyone would know I won,” he said.

He noted those were the days before social media, and the Victory Light actually served as a news alert to notify people of a Joliet Catholic High School victory.

The school’s location on a hill, with the Victory Light rising above a three-story building, made it particularly useful as a beacon.

“The idea was that you could view it from a distance and know Joliet Catholic High School won tonight,” Mudron said.

The new Victory Light is a replica at ground level but will have high visibility on Larkin Avenue. It features a halo on top to combine the Joliet Catholic High School tradition with that of St. Francis Academy, which used a halo as a victory symbol.

That image has been used as a symbol for JCA since it was formed, Principal Jeffrey Budz noted.

But alumni have long wanted to see an actual Victory Light on campus again.

“When I first came to JCA 11 years ago, I heard rumblings: You’ve got to get the Victory Light back on campus again,” Budz said.

The Rev. Bob Colaresi, principal at Joliet Catholic High School from 1975 to 1988 and now on the Board of Members at JCA, remembers how students in those years often wanted to climb up the tower to the Victory Light for photographs.

Still, Colaresi said, he first thought the plan to replicate the Victory Light was “frivolous” when he heard it.

At the dedication ceremony, Colaresi said, he could see what it was all about.

“The physicality of a symbol means everything,” he said. “It’s a really good replica.”

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