‘He meant everything’: The profound legacy of a small-town swim coach felled by COVID-19

MONMOUTH, Ill. – The Monmouth College natatorium was as empty and gray as the sky beyond its towering windows on a Friday afternoon in December, the gloom pierced by one striking burst of color — a pair of lemon-yellow Crocs placed on the Lane 4 starting block as a memorial to a man never seen on a pool deck without them. Tom Burek, a retired Illinois State Police lieutenant who coached just about every swim team that exists in this part of western Illinois, died Dec. 12 after a 42-day struggle with COVID-19. He was 62. His death was met by a flood of reminiscences from his swimmers, who recal…

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