Seven Past Champions Return for 40th Anniversary Orland Park Open Spelling Bee

Seven Past Champions Return for 40th Anniversary Orland Park Open Spelling Bee
Posted on 10/18/2018
Seven Past Champions Return for 40th Anniversary Orland Park Open Spelling Bee

Two final words closed the 40th anniversary Orland Park Open Spelling Bee --- queue and chandelier --- with a past winner emerging victorious.

Judy Rice, of Frankfort, was named 2018 champion after spelling the word queue correctly, followed by chandelier. Rice last won the competition in 2014. The bee is sponsored by the Presbyterian Church of Orland Park and the village.

"This was the first time I served as a judge for the Orland Park Spelling Bee," said Mayor Keith Pekau. "I congratulate everyone who was a part of it, from Dr. Smith and his volunteers to the brave participants who came in and did their best."

Second place went to Patricia Kurz, also of Frankfort, with Orland Park's Brian Sullivan and Carol Gianoli, both past champions, claiming third and fourth respectively. Sullivan is a five time winner with Gianoli being the 1990 champion.

"Spelling bees have always held a special place in my heart and even more so the history downs and geography downs in school because I was better at history and geography than spelling," said Dr. Bill Smith, the retired school superintendent who has spearheaded spelling contests for more than 40 years.

Brendon Born, a student at Lincolnway Central High School, won the high school division.

Honors in the junior high division included first place going to Carter Stiglia, of Oster-Oakview School in New Lenox; second place to Ava Kronenberger, of Orland Park's Jerling Junior High School; and third place to Palos South's Kevin Budz.

"We had seven former champions return for this year's contest," Smith said. "And, the great grandson of our eight time champion, the late Kathleen Foley, competed too." Smith added, "Brian Sullivan, a five time champion, competed this year and brought other Sullivans."

"It has been my pleasure to judge the spelling bee many times," said Trustee Patricia Gira. "It's inspiring to watch the kids come up to the microphone to spell and then we see the adults smile as they remember the spelling bees of our childhoods."

Gira added, "Thank you to Dr. Smith's retiring helpers --- Margie Burnett and Amy Goebel --- and to everyone from the Presbyterian Church who made this event happen for the last 40 years. Margie and Amy are retiring after 15 years of volunteering and we're grateful for the time, talent and enthusiasm they've both given to a wonderful Orland Park tradition."

Trustee Carole Griffin Ruzich also served as a judge with her village board colleagues. "It's not easy, getting up in front of a room full of people watching you spell," Ruzich said. "I commend everyone who took time out of their day to be a part of this historical contest. It was a fun afternoon."

Winners in the age eight to 10 year olds included Kenda Mishal of Palos Park, a student at Universal School; Orland Park's Jack Hovey of High Point School; and Ella Restivo, a student at Navajo Hills School in Palos Heights.

"The intergenerational aspect of the contest, seeing families with three or four generations signing up and shaking hands with dozens and dozens of people noting that we only meet one day a year for this unique event mean a lot to me," said Smith who will turn 90 on November 10.

Smith added, "We had a good turn out --- despite having it the same time as the Bears game. Fifty-five people came to an event knowing that one would win --- all 55 are winners in my book."

"Dr. Smith has spent the last 40 of his almost 90 years organizing this event for the community," Pekau added. "We congratulate and thank Dr. Smith and his many helpers for all that they've done to make this unique hometown contest happen every year for the last four decades."