It’s a legend in Flossmoor’s Heather Hill neighborhood.
For years, longtime residents have talked about the day that Muhammad Ali came to Heather Hill School.
The stories differ. There may have been an assembly. He may have put on a boxing exhibition, or helped conduct gym class.
But he was really there.
Ali’s second wife, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, lived close to the school in the 1980s and 1990s. The couple’s three girls and one boy — Maryum, Jamilah, Rasheda and Muhammad Ali Jr. — all attended Flossmoor District 161 schools, as well as Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
Susan Mack, a learning center aide at Heather Hill in the mid-1980s, remembered the day that “The Greatest” came to school.
“I recall that he just walked into the learning center,” Mack said Monday. Mack was helping students with assignments when one of the world’s most famous people turned up in the room.
He stood there for a few minutes and talked to some of the children, Mack said, adding that after a short while, he went to a meeting in the school office.
“It was very exciting,” she said.
Mack does not remember a school assembly or any other school-wide event involving the three-time heavyweight boxing champion. After he left, she continued working with her students and stayed in the learning center the rest of the day.
But she has never forgotten his brief appearance at the school. Mack, a former Flossmoor resident who now lives in Homewood, eventually became a fifth grade teacher at Western Avenue School, where she served for 13 years.
“I’ve been watching a lot (about Ali) in the last few days,” she said. “It made me remember what it was like when he was at our school.”
In the past few days, other local residents have shared their memories of Ali and his children.
On Facebook, Susan Verley Farias said Ali’s daughter Maryum was her senior leader in gym when she was a freshman at H-F and the twins — Jamilah and Rasheda — graduated with her.
“I still remember the limo and bodyguards that followed Muhammad in the gym,” she said. “It was a night to remember.”
Keturah Harper-Sline, on Facebook, said many H-F alumni from the 1980s “grew up with the Ali children and had the pleasure of meeting Muhammad Ali.”
Farias and Harper-Sline asked members of the H-F community to keep Ali and his family in their thoughts and prayers.
According to the Guardian newspaper, all four of Ali’s children who grew up in Flossmoor were with him in Scottsdale, Ariz. when he died Friday.