SOUTH HOLLAND | About 200 students, faculty and administrators for Thornwood High School and its school district held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night in memory of Richard “the Hulk” Cowser, a security guard who died last week after trying to break up a student fight.
The people gathered on the Thunderbirds’ football field wanted to show their respect for Cowser, who had worked as a security guard at the high school for many years and also was a 1978 Thornwood graduate.
“He was a special one for me,” acting Superintendent Stacey McJunkins said of Cowser. “We’re both alums of this institution, and we both made a conscious choice to want to be a part of the District 205 community.”
Students held candles on the football field while singing “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.” Four funeral wreaths were set up at the 50-yard line, and the stadium’s U.S. flag was flown at half-staff.
Thornton Township High School District 205 School Board President Kenneth Williams said he wants all Thornwood students to learn the lesson from Cowser’s death that their every action in life has the potential to impact someone else’s life.
Cowser hit his head on a locker while trying to break up a fight between two female students. Officials said he began experiencing trouble breathing. He was taken to Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Police have not sought criminal charges against anyone in connection with the incident, and the Cook County medical examiner’s office has not yet issued a cause of death for Cowser.
Williams said it would be wrong to focus on punishment.
“We should not dwell on the past, but instead should learn from our mistakes,” he said. “We do not intend to look upon this as a tragedy, but instead as a learning experience.”
Thornwood Principal Dennis Willis, who said school officials were waiting for police to act first before deciding what kind of discipline would be taken against the students in the fight, said the incident was not typical for the high school community.
“No one expected anything like this to happen when they came to school that morning,” Willis said.
Also present for the memorial service, which was not attended by Cowser’s family, were about 35 members of the South Holland Jets youth football program, for which Cowser played in the early 1970s and which he helped to coach in recent years.
“We felt the need to be here,” said assistant coach Roger Peden. “He loved football and being able to work with the young kids.”