Why the Township of Vernon named the pool after the late Buffalo Grove man

When we name a public place in memory of a person, that honor is often reserved for someone who has spent decades working for the institution. Today, the Township of Vernon names its swimming pool in memory of a Buffalo Grove resident who died in February at the age of 22.

“It’s unusual,” concedes Jon Altenberg, supervisor of the canton. But Altenberg quickly adds that the Jacob Grossman Memorial Aquatic Center makes perfect sense to anyone who has met Jacob or knew him as Jakey.

“He inspired so many people with his optimism and zest for life while facing adversity,” said Altenberg, noting that Jacob was present in Buffalo Grove and Vernon Township. “It’s about the community.”

Jacob’s community is a wonderful place, filled with music and mischief, Judaism and joy, fun and friends.

Jacob was born into the family of parents Rachel and Alan Grossman and big sister Talia. He spent his 2.5 months in the newborn intensive care unit with kidney failure and other problems caused by Fanconi anemia, a rare inherited condition that prevents the bone marrow from producing enough new ones. healthy blood cells for the body to function properly, resulting in increased risk. cancer and other disorders, and causes premature death. This left Jacob with cognitive and physical problems, and lots and lots of pain.

“Jacob was in pain every day,” said Talia. Jacob had a bone marrow transplant at age 3 and a kidney transplant at age 10. But none of this has stopped her family from giving her all that life has to offer.

“Jacob has been around the world. He has been on several cruises. He’s been to Israel twice, ”said Talia, 25, who donated bone marrow to her brother. “My parents made sure that we lived normal lives as much as possible.”

Courtesy of The Grossman Family Born with a rare blood disorder, Jacob Grossman, left, enjoyed the love and support of his big sister, Talia, and his parents Rachel and Alan Grossman.

Even while traveling, Jacob made friends. During a trip to Israel with his grandparents in the summer of 2011, Jacob marked the Western Wall.

“There was a circle of dancing Israeli soldiers, and they opened their circle just for him,” Talia recalls.

She remembers once, when Jacob was about 9 years old, her brother asked their mother if she would say Kaddish, a sacred Jewish prayer for mourners, for him when he died. But he was concentrating on the thrill of living fully. The devastating effects of Fanconi’s anemia never defined it.

“In Jacob’s world there was no room for disability,” says his mother. For Jacob, the word “inclusion” best described his efforts to bring all of his diverse friends together, greeting friends from one part of his life to meeting friends from another part of his life.

When the family went on a ski vacation, Jacob used suitable skis to hit the slopes. He liked to swim. He was deeply religious and loved Jewish music and, well, all kinds of music and karaoke. He sang Broadway tunes with his mother, 1980s rock songs with his father, Taylor Swift songs with Talia, and had a special relationship with each of them. He made every friend feel like he was their best friend.

“He knew what you liked and he had a heart of gold,” said Talia.

Jacob changed lives. Talia, about to graduate from DePaul University Law School, has already done extensive legal work on disability and health law issues. “A lot of people went into education or the medical field because of Jacob,” she says.

Courtesy of the Grossman family's Still Having Fun, Jacob Grossman befriended this monkey during one of his trips to Kids of Courage camps for children with health problems.

Courtesy of the Grossman family’s Still Having Fun, Jacob Grossman befriended this monkey during one of his trips to Kids of Courage camps for children with health problems.

Jacob died at home this year on February 12, just after the start of Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath. Coronavirus guidelines limited crowds at Jacob’s memorial service, which included tears, laughter and lots of music. But that could not prevent people from participating in the celebration of his life. The service at Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook, where Jacob was involved in many groups, was viewed online by 10,000 people.

“We didn’t realize how many connections he had until his death,” Talia says. “He connected with people.”

Jacob has been involved in the Best Buddies in School program, which creates one-on-one relationships between disabled and non-disabled students, and similar programs and camps through Congregation Beth Shalom. He was popular with programs for children with disabilities including Kids of Courage, Chai Lifeline, and the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah.

A resolution passed by the Illinois House of Representatives honored Jacob’s life and “his strength of character, his compassion, his love for his fellow men and his dedication to his family and friends; his life has been a true inspiration to all in his community who have encouraged and supported him in his many challenges. “

At Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, a tree was planted in memory of Jacob. “Everyone knew him,” said Talia, who was two years ahead of him. “I was Jacob’s older sister. He was a popular kid. He hung out with the cool crowd.”

During his 22 years, Jacob had enough impact for an aquatic center to bear his name. At Sunday’s inauguration, 100% of profits and donations will go to the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund.

“I think it’s just a beautiful thing that the community honors him as he deserves,” says Talia. “He just had a personality that attracted a wide range of people. He would light up a room.”

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