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Frank Schuch, you’re the b-e-s-t

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By Joan Hadac

Your correspondent in Clearing and Garfield Ridge

(708) 496-0265 • joan.hadac@gmail.com

So many signs of life as we pull out of this pandemic, like early-blooming daffodils after a long, harsh winter.

One of those signs is the return of the annual spelling bee at Byrne Elementary School, after a two-year absence. It was held earlier this semester.

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Byrne Elementary School’s champion speller Frank Schuch (right) shares the spotlight with runner-up Oriana Augustyn and Byrne Principal Elizabeth Gallo. –Supplied photo

I was unable to attend because of my day job, so I’ll let one of the best educators on the Southwest Side—sixth grade teacher Robert Gebel of Byrne—tell the tale.

“It was wonderful to see the gymnasium filled with students, parents, and teachers all under the same roof for the first time since the pandemic began.

“In two separate bees, 32 students from third grade through eighth grade competed. In the first intermediate bee (grades 3-5), Oriana Augustyn (fourth grade) won first place, with Ava Pena (fourth grade) placing second.

“Oriana had a choice of resting easy with her trophy or competing in the Byrne Championship Spelling Bee against the middle grades (grades 6-8).

“Oriana chose to compete with the middle grades, so she was placed in the 17th seat on the stage for the Byrne Championship Spelling Bee.

“The winner of this bee would go on to compete in an online spelling bee test, where the top 50 scorers would participate in the CPS Citywide Spelling Bee Championship on March 9. The champion of that bee will advance to the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., sometime in May.

“In the middle grades bee, nerves overwhelmed some of the Byrne spellers; and by the fourth round, seven students remained. By the sixth round, they were down to four. Soon, only three spellers remained: Anabelle Zamarron (sixth grade), Frank Schuch (seventh grade), and Oriana Augustyn (fourth grade).

“They battled for 10 more rounds, including the words, blasphemous, cirrhosis and fumatorioum–then Anabelle misspelled a word. From there, the battle intensified. Frank Schuch and Oriana Augustyn battled it out through the 35th round.

“The crowd was stunned by the battle between Frank and Oriana. It was inspiring to see Oriana rise up from the fourth grade to nearly winning the bee. Their poise, grace and sportsmanship were also on display as they high-fived a few times after spelling a difficult word correctly.

“Frank Schuch then clinched the bee on the final word: blunder. Blunder is something Frank never did as he earned the Byrne Spelling Bee championship crown of the 2022-2023 school year.”

Wow! Thank you, Mr. Gebel, and a pat on the back to all students who competed.

Finally, congratulations to Byrne’s new champion speller. Frank Schuch, you’re the b-e-s-t.

Coming up

  • If you’re not baking for Easter, yet want to enjoy some absolutely delicious cakes, breads, kolacky, cookies, cupcakes and more, head over to Pticek’s, 5523 S. Narragansett, and place your order before Saturday, April 1.

As much as some will tell you about grocery store cakes and other baked goods, they can’t compare with what you’ll find in an independent bakery—and Pticek’s is as good as it gets.

  • A Lenten fish fry is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 31 in Brennan Hall at St. Daniel the Prophet, 54th and Natoma. Admission is $13 for adults ($11 for senior citizens), $6 for children age 5 and up. Enjoy a menu of fish, cole slaw and tater tots (or pasta)

This event is hosted by the Cardinal Cody Assembly of the Knights of Columbus.

  • Two hours of Easter-themed fun are set for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 1 at Hope Church Midway, 6059 S. Archer. There will be an Easter egg hunt, a bouncy house, face painting, petting zoo and pony rides, as well as refreshments for all.

Looks like Pastor Jj Molodecki and crew have some old-fashioned family fun lined up for the community’s boys and girls. Special thanks to Jose Yanez of Amigo Pest Control and Geno Randazzo of All Exterior Contractors for helping fund this neighborhood event.

  • Join the Clear-Ridge Historical Society and Chicago History author John Schmidt for a trip down memory lane at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 5 at the Clearing Branch Library, 6423 W. 63rd Place.

Schmidt will lead a discussion of the history of bowling in Chicago. Learn about the history of your favorite pastime and hear stories from some local bowling greats. Hear about some old memories or share some of your own.

  • In my backyard this week, I heard the happy chatter of small birds I haven’t heard since 2022. A sure sign of spring! Another sure sign is coming up on Saturday morning, April 22, when the boys and girls (and moms and dads) of Clear Ridge Little League have their Opening Day parade down Narragansett. I love seeing that. It’s a real sign of a healthy community.

While the team rosters are all set, I believe, it’s definitely not too late for adults to step forward and volunteer to serve as coaches, concession stand workers and more. If you own a local business, you can help by purchasing a sponsorship for the season. For complete details, find “Clear Ridge” on Facebook.

Well, that’s all for now. Have a great week.

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