By no longer buying Christmas and birthday gifts for each other, three Illinois alumnae and former Illini women’s basketball players were able to leave a more permanent campus reminder of their 40-year-old friendship.
Marijo Dluzak (BA, ’77 LAS), Susan Bonner (BS, ‘79 ALS), and Becky Beach (BS, ’82 ALS), met during an opening basketball practice in 1975.
More than 40 years later, the three women posed for a photo by their engraved patio paver installed in the spring. Beach brought along matching “We Are Illinois” T-shirts as a surprise, said Bonner.
After participating in an alumni basketball game a few years ago, the three of them decided to save up money to purchase an engraved patio paver. These commemorative pavers are located on the north, east and west patios outside the Alice B. Campbell Alumni Center.
The friendship between “JoJo” (Dluzak), “Bones” (Bonner) and Beach has endured for decades because they’ve always made the effort to keep up with each other, Bonner said.
Dluzak and Bonner played flag football, softball and of course, basketball together for years. They’d see each other at weddings and funerals, tailgates and alumni basketball games. Beach, who works as an assistant golf pro, traveled north in the winter to visit Bonner when Beach got time off. Now retired and living in Champaign, Bonner sees Beach on a weekly basis.
“After 40 years, I have to say I cannot remember what my first impression was of my two teammates but I would have to say it was a good one because we ended up living together in a house in 1976-77 and I even lived with JoJo later on after we graduated,” Bonner says.
When the pavers were offered at half-price over this winter, Bonner said, she “jumped on it” to surprise her friends.
“We had started joking about seeing it when alive rather than having it say ‘In Memoriam,’" she said.