Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Hurley Education Foundation to hand out honors

HURLEY – The Hurley Education Foundation will honor four individuals at the 20th annual Distinguished Alumni and Friends award ceremony on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Hurley K-12 School.

This year’s honorees are Jeanne Leccia Erickson, class of 1972; Gen. J. Gregory Pavlovich, U.S. Air Force, retired, class of 1970; former longtime school board president Joe Simonich; and Zona Wick, class of 1975.

Erickson has used her knowledge and skills as a nurse and social worker in working with the underprivileged, especially pregnant women, mothers and teens, in Madison.

A member of the National Honor Society at Hurley High School, she went on to earn a degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and nursing degrees from UW-Oshkosh and Fox Valley Technical College.

She has worked with a variety of community-based organizations in the Madison area, including the Harambee Birth and Family Center and Project Babies, working with and advocating for underprivileged pregnant women, mothers of young children and their children. She’s also worked with the non-profits TNT (Today Not Tomorrow) and Youth Safety First, Lock it Up, a pair of organizations working to keep teens safe, build their self esteem and confidence, and say no to drugs, gangs and risky behaviors.

Erickson formerly worked with the Dane County Social Justice Center and childhood brain development project specialist at the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

Pavlovich joined the U.S. Air Force in 1974 and rose through the ranks, being named a brigadier general in 2001.

He retired from active duty in 2005, ending a 30-year career with the Air Force. He had been stationed in Montana, Nebraska, England, the Pentagon and Florida. He commanded three aircraft maintenance squadrons in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In his last assignment, he was commander of the 45th Space Wing and director of Eastern Range, Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida.

In retirement, Pavlovich was a senior program manager at the Kennedy Space Center working with the space shuttle until 2011 when he joined Boeing, where he worked with the Global Satellite Communications Network, modifying and retrofitting military aircraft, and executive transport services including Air Force One.

Pavlovich is already a member of the Hurley Quarterback Club’s Hall of Fame as part of the 1968 football team and 1969 state finalist baseball team. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and a member of the school’s choral program, earning several State First awards at solo and ensemble festivals. Before joining the Air Force, he earned a teaching degree from UW-Superior, where he joined ROTC.

Simonich served for a 27 consecutive years on the school board, 25 of those as president from 1995 to 2020. During his leadership of the board, the district saw some big challenges including a collapse of the roof due to snow load, a fire, and a $1.3 million building expansion, doubling the size of the Northwoods Manufacturing footprint in the school. Along the way, there were many upgrades in technology, including instituting the one-to-one program where every student in the upper grades was issued their own laptop computer.

Simonich has worked with with Avanti Health Systems for 43 years and is now COO. He started with the local ambulance service when he was 16 and 52 years later is in charge of that operation as part of his position at Avanti. He holds a Masters in Business Administration Benedictine University in Chicago and is a licensed nursing home administrator. He was honored by the Wisconsin Health Care Association in 2016 for his contributions to long-term care in the state.

A 1973 graduate of Ironwood Catholic High School, he serves on the St. Mary’s Catholic Church finance committee.

Simonich said he worked with many strong members of the school board over the years and some excellent school administrators. “It’s a group effort. We always tried to do the things that gave the students the best opportunity to succeed out in the world.”

Wick was a National Honor Society member at Hurley High School and went on to become Iron County Health Department director and health officer. Along the way she earned a nursing diploma in 1978 at St. Luke’s School of Nursing. She worked as a pediatric nurse in Chippewa Falls, before taking a position as a staff nurse at Grand View Hospital in Ironwood for a year and then becoming director of nursing at Sky View Nursing Center in Hurley for seven years. She returned to Grand View as a supervisor while working on her bachelor’s degree in nursing from UW-Green Bay.

In 1993, she moved to Gogebic County Community Mental Health holding three different positions over a dozen years, first as a nurse at a group home, then a psychiatric nurse and then as, what she called the most challenging, an infant mental health specialist working with children and families. During this time she earned her social worker license and master’s degree in natural health.

In 2006, she went to work at the ICHD as director and health officer, retiring in 2016 after 38 years of nursing. She returned to the health department for a few months during COVID to assist as the public information officer and participating in vaccination clinics.

Wick serves on the Iron County Board of Health, and assists with the Paavo Nurmi Marathon and Sisu Ski Fest first aid stations. She is also president of the Ironwood Theatre board of directors.

As a Master Gardener volunteer, she was instrumental in starting the Hurley community and school gardens, and helps maintain public gardens at the Iron Horse Trailhead in Hurley and the Pocket Park and Miners Memorial Heritage Park in Ironwood. She also works with Hurley elementary students each spring as they plant flowers in Montreal and downtown Hurley.

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