A longtime Wauconda High School teacher is being remembered for putting students first after he was killed last weekend by a suspected intoxicated driver who crashed head-on into his vehicle.
The Wheeling Fire Department and Wheeling Police Department responded around 2:15 a.m. last Sunday to Palatine Road and Wheeling Road in Wheeling for a vehicle crash with injuries.
Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Al Steffen said the incident occurred in the westbound lanes of Palatine Road just east of Wheeling Road.
A car was struck head-on by a suspected intoxicated driver.
Steffen said the suspected intoxicated driver was traveling eastbound in the wrong direction.
The car that was struck head-on was driven by a 53-year-old man, Steffen said.
Both vehicles involved had two occupants inside. The 53-year-old driver was pronounced dead on the scene.
He was later identified as Robert E. Gillen, 53, of Palatine, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
One of the other occupants involved suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
The Northwest Suburban Major Case Assistance Team’s Serious Traffic Accident Reconstruction unit was called to the scene.
No charges have been announced yet against the driver who caused the crash.
Wauconda Community Unit School District 118 Superintendent Dr. David Wilm said Gillen was a math teacher and athletic trainer at Wauconda High School.
“The Wauconda District 118 community is saddened by the unexpected passing of Bob Gillen, a dedicated Math teacher, athletic trainer, and colleague. We join Bob’s family, students, staff, and community members in grieving this tragic loss,” Wilm said in a statement.
Gillen had been an active member of the Wauconda High School community since 1996.
“He dedicated his time to the education of students, the care of athletes, and the growth of colleagues. He loved helping others and was committed to fostering a positive environment for all. Bob leaves a lasting legacy, and his loss will be felt throughout our community,” Wilm said.
An obituary for Gillen said he was an avid sports fan of the Bears, Cubs and Bulls and a former longtime honor caddy at a country club. He leaves behind his wife and dog.
The school district earlier this week encouraged its students, staff and community members to reach out and check in if they need additional support while navigating Gillen’s loss.
A celebration of life ceremony was held Saturday morning into Saturday afternoon at a funeral home in Palatine.
“He put the kids and the school community first before himself day in and day out,” Wauconda High School Athletic Director Mark Ribbens told CBS Chicago.
Students left notes and flowers paying tribute to Gillen in the athletic training room of the school, the news station reported.
“It’s sad but we move forward and take care of the kids,” Ribbens added.