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Longtime Kahok Mentor John Ostanik Passes

By Mark Jurgena

On February 17, 2021, Collinsville lost the dynamic John Ostanik, a retired teacher and coach in the Collinsville school district.

Ostanik, 74, died after a long illness.

A 1964 graduate of Collinsville High School, Ostanik graduated from Eastern Illinois University. He returned in the fall of 1968 to teach business and be the head cross country coach of the Kahoks.

After four years in the United States Air Force, he came back to CHS for the 1972-73 school year. He returned to his former positions and added a new one, assistant boys soccer coach at CHS.

It was also during this year that he would meet a colleague he would teach and coach with for the remainder of his career in Bob Hollingshead.

“I met John back in 1972,” Hollingshead began. “John basically was a very likable person. He did whatever he could for people. He had funny stories that he’d tell over and over. Each time they got a little longer… He just lit up the room when he came in with a smile and stories. He was a kind, caring person.”

Ostanik expanded his coaching resume into basketball under coach Gene Catalpa and coached boys track under Frank Pitol as well.

When Hollingshead took over as the head football coach for a decade beginning in 1984, Ostanik became an assistant football coach, a job he would occupy until after he retired from teaching.

The duo would also coach boys and girls track for the Kahoks.

“He enjoyed being around the kids and coaching them,” Hollingshead, a former Collinsville athletic director, said. “He just loved the games. He wasn’t really an athlete (in high school) he did go out for baseball and football, but that was about it.”

The last coach Ostanik worked for was former CHS football coach Mike Liljegren.

“My first interview with Johnny I remember I learned quite a bit about everything having to do with Collinsville in that interview,” he said. “He really had a lot of good stories and a lot of good anecdotes to talk to me about. He did a really good job for me. He was just a good friend.”

Ostanik retired from teaching in 2002 and coached through the 2006 season.

“What a really fine person to be around kids,” Liljegren continued. “I’ve been reading some of the posts that some of our former players made online and it just brings tears to the eyes thinking about the kind of person he was. Every day he had a different saying when the kids were warming up and the kids just loved hearing how positive Coach Ostanik was about life and that day’s practice. I don’t know how you could be in a bad mood around him.”

Longtime Kahok girls basketball coach and current teacher at Kreitner Elementary School, Lori Billy, had the unique experience of being in his classes at CHS, being a colleague of his as a coach, and grew up for a time on the same street, East Country Lane in Collinsville, as the Ostanik family.

She took Business Management with him at CHS.

“He was just that teacher that you wanted to go to that class,” Billy began. “He made it engaging, he made it fun, his personality always shone through; it was just a good class. It was a fun class, it was relevant. At the same time, he was teaching us at a point where we really enjoyed being there and learning with him.”

The lessons from that class still stick with her today.

“One of the things we always laughed about with him was he always used to say, ‘T.M. It’s all about T.M.’ We learned from him it was all about time management. You’ve got to have good time management to be productive and have a positive day.”

The lessons he taught the students of Collinsville High will continue on through generations. So will his legacy of caring.

“What I want the public to know about him was that deep down he was an honest caring person about his students, about life,” said Hollingshead. “He was a very good Dad and husband; always talked about his family and how much he cared for them. Also, he had a love for Collinsville.”

He is survived by his wife, Mary Jane, two daughters, and four grandchildren.

To read the posts about Mr. Ostanik please see

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous on February 27, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    sorry for your loss. He was my current events teacher in the late 70s.
    great teacher

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