ROCK FALLS – Officials at Rock Falls High School now have a way to pay tribute to a former teacher and help students at the same time.
The former Rock Falls Elks Lodge recently gave the school $54,736, which will be used for a scholarship in memory of Donald “Smoky” Stachowiak, a longtime teacher at RFHS.
Stachowiak, 77, died in January after falling in icy, snowy conditions.
“With Smoky being an ex-school teacher, we decided that we would donate the money to RFHS to be used as a scholarship,” said Bill Denny, a member of the former Elks Lodge.
Stachowiak received the nickname Smoky from his classmates in grade school. He used to sell cigarettes to his grade-school classmates when he was a young student in LaSalle-Peru.
Jason Sands, counselor at Rock Falls High School, said criteria for the scholarship were still being worked out.
“Our goal is to disperse the money over the next 8 to 10 years,” Sands said. “This money will be placed in a fund specifically for this scholarship and won’t be used in any other way.”
Each year, RFHS awards more than $500,000 in scholarships to students.
“The majority of our student body relies on scholarships and financial aid to pay for their schooling,” Sands said.
Jamie Leech, a counselor at RFHS, said the school was grateful for the scholarship money.
“From a school standpoint, we are honored and humbled to be chosen to have this money to give to our students,” she said.
For 31 years, Stachowiak taught biology and driver’s education and coached freshman football and basketball at Rock Falls High School. He retired in 1994.
“He was a real genuine person,” said Sands, who was a student of Stachowiak’s. “Regardless of the type of student you were, when you entered his classroom, he expected the best out of you.”
Sands said Stachowiak would go out of his way to help students.
“He’d go to the end of the earth for you if he knew you were giving him effort,” Sands said. “He was a very hard worker, and he was passionate about the things he did.”
Bryan Berogan, head of maintenance at RFHS, described Stachowiak as an all-around good guy.
“He was hard, but he was fair,” said Berogan, who played football for Stachowiak. “He was a very good guy, and he was always involved with the kids.”
The scholarship will be given during Senior Awards night in May.