Mama Minnie: Joliet West staff member battled cancer
By Tony Graf email@example.com November 12, 2012 4:02PM
Minnie Bates-Hervey | Supplied photo
Updated: December 14, 2012 6:20AM
JOLIET — Minnie Hervey managed the store, built positive relationships with young people, and enjoyed an active life until the end of her 58 years.
Hervey, a staff member in the Joliet West High School athletic department, died of cancer on Oct. 5. Volley for a Cure — the cancer awareness fund-raising event held at the school — took on added importance this year after her death.
“I first met her my freshman year, when I first got involved in sports here,” said Shaniqua Brown, a junior cheerleader and track athlete. “Right off the bat, she was an awesome person. Whenever I needed something, or I needed advice, she was always here for me. She was kind of like a second mom to me.”
“As I said at her eulogy, she was Mama Minnie,” said Steve Millsaps, athletic director at West.
The foundation of Hervey’s legacy was her sense of organization. She was capable and confident in her duties as an administrative assistant in the West athletic office.
“She was the face of our athletic department. She was the first one you interacted with when you came to this office,” volleyball coach Al Mart said.
“She was your righthand man, as a coach. She made sure we got what we needed. She took care of the paperwork,” Mart said. “If we forgot something, she didn’t let us forget that we forgot it. She stayed on us until we did our job. She made this office run. She made my job a whole lot easier.”
Upon this foundation, Hervey built a legacy of caring for students — and of living an active life.
“She was really nice and caring. If you ever came in, whatever you needed, she had it,” said Elexis Coleman, a sophomore athlete in volleyball and basketball.
“She was an avid bowler, enjoyed traveling and loved to dance the night away in her ‘fierce’ high-heeled shoes,” according to the memorial published for her funeral last month.
“I’ll always remember her high heels. She never stopped wearing high heels,” said Andie Zadorozny, a junior in volleyball and badminton.
Hervey battled liver cancer and breast cancer. She had surgery in the spring, and was able to return to work. She also was able to attend a family reunion this summer: She was the 15th of 19 children born to the late Jacob Sr. and Henrietta (Williams) Wright.
When the cancer returned, she had surgery the day before fall sports started. She was scheduled to return to work on Oct. 11, but died the previous week.
At Volley for a Cure — held only four days after her death — student-athletes remembered Hervey. Joliet West varsity players ironed her initials on their jerseys, which were pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
For the sophomore team, Natalie Mander made T-shirts reading: “We Volley for Peg and Minnie.”
These shirts memorialized both Hervey and Peg Bryan, a longtime scorekeeper at Joliet Township High School who battled cancer for 14 years. Bryan died on Jan. 16 at age 62.
Both women graduated from Joliet Central High School: Bryan in 1967, Hervey in 1972.