SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013
LIVE LEARN WORK PLAY Our family, our faith, our livelihood, our hobbies and our memories — these are the foundations on which we build a life. In this pages, meet some Central Illinois residents who have not only constructed a good life on these basic foundations, but have taken them a step beyond — achieving dreams and goals that at first seemed impossible.
Here are their stories.
SUPER KIDS CLUB
Curt Carter aims to capture the natural world for all to see with his photography Pages 2-3
Herald & Review photos/Lisa Morrison
Gary Strong looks over a selection of his characters, some of which were used in the recent Super Heroes day at Super Kids Club.
Pulling strings With the help of puppets, Gary Strong has outgrown his shyness, created a show that Decatur children love
Strong had to do some research while creating the Cat in the Hat. His kids are grown and he had not read the series in a while.
Massage therapists encourage people to find a licensed practitioner, enjoy the health benefits
By JIM VOREL H&R Staff Writer
DECATUR — From as early as he can remember, Gary Strong has been a shy person. As a young child, he remembers being intrigued by puppet shows, specifically because the performers didn’t have to be on stage. Rather than focusing on the characters, like the rest of his classmates, Strong was drawn to what was going on out of sight. It was this curiosity that led him into a lifetime passion for puppetry and marionettes, making his handmade creations the stars of the show, while he metaphorically and literally pulls the strings. “I was a very shy child who didn’t like to be the center of attention,” said Strong, known for the past two decades in Decatur as the creator of the ongoing Super Kids Club series of children’s shows. “You couldn’t get me in front of an audience; I always backed away. But behind the puppet stage you couldn’t be seen, and that put me at ease. Your personality can come through in your characters, and it helped me overcome my shyness.” Those first puppetry experiences are now more than 60 years ago for Strong. Back then, he drew an initial influence from the early days of children’s television, watching shows such as “Howdy Doody” and “Kukla, Fran and Ollie.” He first saw in-person puppetry through the school programs of the famous Cole Marionettes, whose founder George Cole learned woodworking from his father, Millikin University professor L.M. Cole. The Cole Marionettes’ shows traveled throughout the Midwest and gave many children their first exposure to puppetry. They were also Strong’s first mentors. “They had five troops that traveled around, and George Cole and his wife performed well into their 70s,” he said. “They performed strictly fairy tale material, but it was very well
Strong uses a variety of donated and dollar store materials to make what he needs including shoes. He does not have a pattern, when he starts, he adapts for the needs of the character. done, and this was in the days when everything was performed live. I finally got up the nerve to meet them when I was in junior high school, and they helped me tremendously. They let me backstage anytime they appeared in Decatur and started teaching me all the tricks of their trade.” It wasn’t long before Strong was putting on his own puppet shows anywhere he could, using “stages” made from old card tables. Before even getting to junior high, he was putting on shows in backyards, basements, schools and churches. He first went on the road with what he considered a “professional” show in the 1980s, with his mother as partner and secondary puppeteer. And for all that time, he simultaneously kept up full-time factory jobs for Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bridgestone/ Firestone Inc., doing what he loved whenever he could make the time.
At the intersection of Interstates 57 and 70 rises an inspiration for passing motorists, a 198-foot-tall cross Page 7
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COMMUNITY CITY: Tuscola COUNTY: Douglas POPULATION: 4,480 MAYOR: Dan Kleiss INDUSTRY: Cabot Corp., Lyondell EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS: Douglas County Museum, Tanger Outlet Mall, Sparks in the Park MAJOR HIGHWAYS: Interstate 57, Illinois 36 and U.S. 45 HISTORY: The founding supervisor of Tuscola Township was O.C. Hackett, elected in 1868. Hackett was elected supervisor with a majority of only one vote over W.B. Ervin. Hackett was the grandson of noted Kentucky frontiersman and Boonesborough resident Peter Hackett. He planted Hackett’s Grove, a sassafras grove situated on Section 31, Township 16, Range 9, on the east side of the township. This 20acre grove is traversed by a branch of Scattering Fork of the Embarrass River, long known as Hackett’s Run, and according to the 1884 History of Douglas County, the grove had been owned by the Hacketts since long before Douglas County had an existence. Hackett’s father, John Hackett, settled in nearby Coles County in 1835. Family legend holds that Abraham Lincoln stayed at the Hackett farm during the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. ON THE WEB: www.tuscola.org; point2tuscola.org non VILLAGE: Hindsboro COUNTY: Douglas POPULATION: 313 PRESIDENT: Kent Douglas MAJOR HIGHWAY: Illinois 133 non CITY: Arthur COUNTY: Douglas POPULATION: 2,288 MAYOR: Matt Bernius EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS: Arthur Amish Country Cheese Festival, Freedom Celebration and Fireworks INDUSTRY: Schrock Cabinet Co., CHI Industries MAJOR HIGHWAY: Illinois 133 HISTORY: In 1850, the Illinois Central railroad pushed two lines south from Chicago across the prairies of Central Illinois. One ran through Decatur to Centralia; the other through Champaign, Arcola, Mattoon and Effingham. People soon settled and established towns every few miles along these lines at water and coal stops. In 1850, Malden Jones and a few others from Arcola filtered west into the swampy land on each side of the Okaw (Kaskaskia) River. They settled on some higher ground about seven miles northwest of Arcola. They received a post office permit for their town of Bourbon. Others went directly west of Arcola, crossed the river and, on a high bank started the town of Bagdad. A bit farther south had a town called Cooks Mill. But other than along the rivers, the Big Slough prevailed. On Oct. 25, 1872, the first train
PROFILE to cross the Big Slough wound its way over track laid following the contour of the land to keep it out of the water. As the track crossed the river four miles west of Arcola, it made its first switch and water tank at what is now Chesterville. Going westward another five miles, it became necessary for another passing switch and tank; so, one was made near a road that crossed at right angles to the route. This passing track was first called Glasgow, but when applying for a post office a short time later, it was found out that there already was a Glascow. The name was changed to Arthur after a brother of Robert G. Hervey, the railroad president. Now with a railroad and a street and a switch, the town could begin. In the summer of 1872, J.W. Sears, who was living in Owasco, decided to move near the new railroad and build a twostory home. He then built a small store. Another house was built that winter. The city’s first child, Olive Sears, was born in Arthur on Feb 16, 1873. In the spring, another large house was built facing the railroad. By the end of 1873, there were 30 buildings in Arthur. Arthur continued to grow, and by 1877, the population was approximately 300, with plans being made to incorporate as a village. This occurred in April in the Moultrie County Court House. The first village election was held on June 12, 1877. ON THE WEB: www.arthur-il.gov
Catching his eye Tuscola photographer wants to capture the world in its raw form area since 1980. “I pretty much wore that one out from overuse. Then I got into girls, TUSCOLA — As Tuscola so I put the camera away for resident Curt Carter first a little while. But ever since became serious about the art the 1980s I’ve been heavily of photography in the early into photography.” 1980s, he sent away for a It wasn’t really until the Time-Life magazine series 1990s that that promised Carter first to teach no less began considthan “everyering himself thing you ever an “artist,” wanted to know however. Over about photogratime, more phy.” and more With some friends began people, this may asking him have been true, for advice but for Carter, about photoghis passion for raphy techoutdoors and niques, and nature photogmore requests raphy has far came rolling exceeded the in for compromise of Self portrait of Curt Carter missioned those early pieces and magazines. copies of his He’s spent the last 30 years work. He slowly began to hiking America’s trails and realize that he might be able exploring its wilderness, to make photography into always with a camera by his something more than just a side. hobby, and it became a sec“My first-ever camera was ondary business after his a Polaroid Swinger in 1970,” main line of work as an autosaid Carter, who has lived and mobile technician and shop worked out of the Tuscola foreman. “I really had to be convinced at first that people would want to buy my work,” he said. “It’s never been a full career, but it’s turned into a huge part of my life. And I think in retrospect it fits with my other work. I have a tendency to say ‘You can’t fix it if you don’t know how it works,’ and that applies to both cars and cameras.” The persistent subject of Carter’s work has been the great outdoors of the American wilderness. He’s traveled to both coasts, taking progressively more stunning photos By JIM VOREL
H&R Staff Writer
non VILLAGE: Lovington COUNTY: Moultrie POPULATION: 1,100 PRESIDENT: Dennis Garmon (acting president) HIGHWAYS: Illinois 32, Illinois 133 HISTORY: The village was first incorporated in 1873. Moultrie County, in which Lovington is located, was originally part of Shelby and Macon counties. The county was named after Col. William Moultrie by the governor in 1843. James Kellar erected the first building in the village in 1838. It was called the Black Horse Tavern and provided food and shelter. The Decatur and Paris Stage Line passed by the tavern three times daily using the old plowedfurrow Springfield Road. This road was one of the first in the county and extended from Paris to Springfield. Its path through Lovington corresponds closely with current Illinois highways 32 and 133. About 1848 Andrew and John Love moved into town. The first post office was established in the Love’s home and the village was named after the brothers in 1850. non VILLAGE: Humboldt COUNTY: Coles POPULATION: 1,341 PRESIDENT: Leland Warren MAJOR HIGHWAY: U.S. 45
FROM OUR My “Big Thumbs Up” is for the Decatur Family YMCA, which I joined six years ago, shortly after I retired. From the moment I walked in the place to join, when they gave a special sign-up rate, I’ve felt comfortable and knew I was in the right place. Whether it’s the person working at the front desk, the many trainers, the staff maintaining the place or any of the other staff members, they all make you feel good about being there. It’s not only a place to keep your body in shape, but also your mind and spirit. It’s a place to make new friends and talk to old ones, and to get out of the house during the winter when you can’t work outside at home. The YMCA has many youth programs and makes it possible for people who couldn’t otherwise afford it to have a membership. The YMCA truly serves the entire community. The Decatur YMCA is a very special place for me and many others, I’m sure. I’m proud to say I’m a member. I would point both of my “Big Thumbs Up” to honor the YMCA. —Bill Arter, Decatur
non “A Big Thumbs Up” to all volunteer firemen and EMTs, especially, our group in Hammond. These people train dili-
gently and “answer the call” faster than any we hear on our scanner! They do such an excellent job and treat people with respect and dignity. Everyone should realize they put their well-being on the line for us with each call. So, a big thanks, and God bless you to all! —Howard and Norma Rigg, Hammond
non Twenty-eight years ago, on my first day of teaching at St. Teresa High School, I met a young man named Phil McMullen. I knew when I met him he had a very important position at St. Teresa. I knew that, not because of anything that he said or did in my presence — and not even because of his title as dean of students — but because of how students acted in his presence. There was a palpable respect that everyone could sense as soon as he entered a room. Later that year, as I was directing the musicals, I would often go to the stage area to work during my prep hour, and I could hear Mr. McMullen teaching in his anatomy/physiology classroom. Sometimes I would find myself enjoying his lectures or his leadership in class discussions and laughing at his humor in the classroom, and I knew why students held him in such high esteem. Play practices
often allowed me to talk to students on a more personal level, and the general consensus was that if any one teacher deserved respect and admiration, it was Phil McMullen. Phil had already been there 14 years when I first met him. His dedication to this school was immediately evident. His classroom was filled with wild animals that Phil had preserved through taxidermy. His collection of insects, his 2,800 film and television segments of scientific issues, and his eight cabinets of diagrams, notes, and tests were testimony of his degree of expertise in the science classroom. But he invested himself in St. Teresa High School in more ways than as a classroom teacher. If a paper lay on the floor, he would pick it up. If leaves gathered around the doorways, he would sweep them away. It didn’t take long for me to realize that his love for the school and everything it stood for was the reason he demanded student discipline as dean of students and promoted tough educational standards in the classroom. He had a good mentor himself, in the form of Sister Clotilde O’Riley, who also had a great love for the school and for standards of Catholic education. Her influence lived on in Phil McMullen, as her continued her values of excellence in his own classroom and throughout the school.
READERS When a teacher gives his life to a school as Phil has done to St. Teresa, his actions permeate more than his classroom and the minds of his students. Over the last four decades, Phil has worked to make this campus beautiful. Planting trees, mowing, caring for shrubs, landscaping around the new wing — as well as making Jell-O brains and creative experiments on Open House meetings — we owe all of this to his love for the school. His dedication to St. Teresa is proven by so many things, not the least of which is this: over the course of his tenure here he has accumulated 276 sick days — 276 days he could have taken but did not. Unlike other teachers in other schools, teachers at St. Teresa cannot redeem sick days for bonus pay. Many times, I saw Phil not feeling well, but coming to school anyway because he “needed” to teach the lesson for the day. For those of you who aren’t counting, that’s the equivalent of more than a full year and a half of school. His 42 years here represent the longest tenure of any teacher or administrator that St. Teresa High School has ever had. Three generations of students have been blessed to have him as a mentor in their lives. Just before Christmas in 2012, Phil suffered a stroke that has hindered some of his cognitive and motor skills.
Just two weeks later, when school resumed in January, Phil was back at his desk, ready to teach. Over the next few weeks, Phil realized he needed time to recuperate those skills, and he chose to retire. At his retirement celebration on March 1, letters from a plethora of alumni were read as tributes to the many gifts he shared with his students over his 42 years of teaching. There are so many examples of things that Mr. Mac did or said that made me a better teacher and a better person. The halls of St. Teresa will never be the same without his presence here. Thousands of students are privileged to have been his students. I am privileged to have been his colleague. I am blessed to be his friend. —Arlis E. DeJaynes, Decatur
a Positive Direction also feeds kids a meal before they start homework. This program runs Monday through Thursday. I give the program “A Big Thumbs Up” because it has helped children get off the streets and made them want to graduate. Children can also get one-on-one help, if needed. I, myself, have attended this program. It has helped me with my education. As a child I was getting bad grades, but once I enrolled in Youth With a Positive Direction, I got one-on-one help and became an honor roll student. As of today, I’m still enrolled in school and will be graduating May 15. This program and the workers have made me successful and made me want to further my education. —Clairise Campbell, Decatur
In Decatur there’s a program call the Youth With a Positive Direction that’s been running since the year 2000. This program is located at Main Street Church of God, 2000 N. Main St. This program helps young children with their education from kindergarten through 12th grade. Margart Walker, executive director of Youth With a Positive Direction, has hired many adults to help children so they would be able to make it through school. Youth with
I want to give “A Big Thumbs Up” to the dental offices of Dr. Jerger and Dr. Stone for being involved in the “Give Kids a Smile” program. They unselfishly give their time and talent, at their own expense, to kids who would otherwise go without. Thank you, Connie and Jackie, who assist and were instrumental in helping a young friend of mine receive a new front tooth. Kudos! — Lori Cox, Decatur
SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013
PHOTOS Continued from Page 2 as technology improved and made outdoor photography more accessible. “I’ve always been an avid outdoorsman,” he said. “I was born in the state of Maine and loved the mountains and hiking. I’ve hiked most of the Appalachian Trail, and climbed all over the U.S. I moved away from shooting with film in about 2003 because I saw some great possibilities in digital outdoor photography.” In capturing his scenes of wildlife, natural vistas and the small wonders of America’s forests, fields and natural parks, Carter likes to employ a naturalCurt Carter ist
READERS I want to give “A Big Thumbs Up” to the BUILD Community of Richland County in Olney. This is a coalition of church volunteers, about 250 adults, who help the disabled and elderly in Richland County with home repairs, remodeling jobs, building ramps, cleaning gutters and general yard work. The mission of the coalition is to provide these services as an example of a Christian faith commitment. In 2011 and 2012, 64 projects were completed and the average cost of each project was $520. Much of the material costs were donated, and labor was done by volunteers and licensed contractors (who also donated their time). It is the goal of the April 2013 project weekend to conquer 15 projects utilizing more than 100 volunteers. “A Big Thumbs Up” to Richland County and the kind, generous people who are clearly making a difference in their community!
‘I just go for stuff that really catches my eye, things that I consider to be awesome or inspiring.’
approach. He edits his digital photographs very sparsely, with a philosophy that aims to capture the scene in exactly the same way that he viewed it, without added touches or embellishments. Much of his work can be viewed at www. cacarterimages.com. “I just go for stuff that really catches my eye, things that I consider to be awesome or inspiring,” he said. “You can always take a big vista shot, but you can also extract one small detail for artistic pursuch as hunting. He’s discovposes. I like to see in the photo ered that he would rather shoot what I was seeing when I was wildlife with his camera than a there, to leave things as they rifle, and developed a deeper were, so appreciation for when people the environment. say ‘That “I would just as doesn’t look soon photograph real,’ I can the deer now, I say ‘That’s get more enjoyreally what ment out of that,” it looked he said. “It is like.’ ” very peaceful, In fact, away from the Carter’s pashustle and bustle sion for the of the world, and hobby has you can have grown to some experiences such an you never forget.” extent that One of these he now takes experiences came Submitted photos more pleasduring a photogure out of simraphy and hiking ple exploration and observatrip to Yellowstone National tion in the wild than he does Park, where Carter turned from former outdoor hobbies down a trail to find
—Sarah House, Olney, volunteer with BUILD Community of Richland County
himself facing down a mother grizzly bear and her cub. Instead of backing up immediately, Carter went for his
camera, standing still for around half an hour, taking photos of the pair. Only then did he finally retreat.
“I was lucky not to be on the lunch menu,” he joked. “But I got some good shots.” firstname.lastname@example.org|(217) 421-7973
I want to give “A Big Thumbs Up” up to the current graduating class at Futures Unlimited. These students come to school with more baggage than any teenager should legally be saddled with. Sometimes, it’s poor choices made simply because teenagers often make bad choices. But most of my students come to us from parents who have really worked hard to mess up their kids’ lives. Often, they come to us because they can’t bear the pain of going to a regular high school on a daily basis because they are bullied, confused, undereducated, passed over, learning disabilities are not addressed and a plethora of other reasons. Each student is a unique individual with a unique set of problems. But these students come to school here, knowing it is their last chance for a real high school diploma. They may not always act like it, but deep in their hearts they want that diploma so very bad. In the graduating class of spring 2013, there are moms and dads. Many have full-time jobs. Many do not have a home. Some have no living parents, or parents who are not around. For some of these students, we are their only support system. I am lucky to have the privilege of watching these young people mature in to young adults. One thing is certain to all the baggage these students carry with them every day. But on March 11, they added their high school diploma. When I see their joy on graduation day, I know the load seems much lighter. So, a great big thumbs up to these graduates and to all of those graduates who have come before and those coming in the future. —Connie Moon, Decatur
CITY: Arcola COUNTY: Douglas POPULATION: 2,990 MAYOR: Larry Ferguson EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS: Broom Corn Festival, Hippie Memorial MAJOR HIGHWAY: Interstate 57 HISTORY: In the mid-1800s, a group of pioneers established a settlement along the banks of the Okaw River and named it Bagdad. There, those pioneers laid the foundation for one of the most historically-rich towns in Central Illinois. The 1850s brought the announcement of the construction of a railroad that would connect the cities of Chicago and Centralia and run just to the east of Bagdad. In 1855, the Illinois Central Railroad surveyed and plotted a tract of land along both sides of the newly completed railroad so a city could be built. The new city was called Okaw. After applying for a post office, railroad officials were surprised to hear that the state of Illinois already had a town named Okaw, so a new name had to be found. James Kearney, a local citizen, proposed that the new city be called Arcola. Business boomed in Arcola, and
in the winter of 1856, the residents of Bagdad loaded the entire town — buildings and all — on wooden sleds and moved the whole settlement to Arcola. In 1860, the Presbyterians built the first church in Arcola, a structure located on the same lot as the current church. In 1865, The Arcola Herald newspaper was established by John Gruelle. At about the same time, a local man named Col. Cofer was experimenting by planting 20 acres of broomcorn. The crop did so well that the popularity of broomcorn took off. Soon, nearly half of the broomcorn grown in the United States came from the Arcola area. While broomcorn was becoming big business across the United States, another man was sowing the seeds of another Arcola legacy. Johnny Gruelle, born in Arcola in 1882, loved to write and draw cartoons for his young daughter, Marcella. Her favorite character from her father’s tales was Raggedy Ann. After Marcella’s untimely death, Johnny Gruelle had a hard time coping with the loss. He found that the best way to overcome his grief
was to write and publish the stories he created for her, and so, Raggedy Ann became a beloved character of children and adults throughout the world. ON THE WEB: www.arcolaillinois.org non CITY: Villa Grove COUNTY: Douglas POPULATION: 2,500 MAYOR: Thelma Blaney EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS: Ag Days MAJOR HIGHWAY: Illinois 130 HISTORY: Settlement begins in “Villa in the Grove” in 1852, with the first home being built by George Warren Henson. In 1887, a branch line of the railroad is laid from Tuscola to Danville, and the first depot is built on the south side of Front Street near Henson Road. It burnt down in 1903. In 1888, Henson sells land to the railroad, and the original 2½ block lots of “Old Town” were plotted the following year. The 1890s saw the city’s first schoolhouse erected on North Henson Road. In 1903, managers of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad observe that Villa Grove is exactly halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, an
ideal location for steam engine repair. Plans begin for “New Town” Villa Grove, which includes the present-day business district, near the planned new depot and roundhouse. The village’s first election is conducted in 1904. J.A. Richman is elected the first village president. Between the years of 1905 and 1912, the city begins a growth spurt, with plans for a village hall, sidewalks, fire trucks and a new subdivision. Meanwhile, new churches, a new grade school, the city’s first newspaper, The Odd Fellows, Rebekahs and Order of the Eastern Star also are established. An election to incorporate Villa Grove as a city is held in 1913. One of the earliest floods on record also is reported in this year, creating a two-mile lake. During the years of 1913 to 1920, work begins on a city water works system and storm sewers are constructed. The Farmer’s Elevator is organized, and plans are made for the construction of a new high school. In the 1930s and ’40s, the local VFW post is established, as well as the Lions and Rotary clubs. The city’s filter plant is built. The 1940s also saw a large
flood that created three days of havoc for residents. It is a prelude to an even worse flood that leaves one-third of the homes surrounded by water and without heat in the winter of 1950. Another flood in 1959 closes the Front Street bridge. A serious flood in 1974 closes all links to the outside area for days; 1979 also had a mentionable flood. In the 1960s, a tornado travels from Decatur to Indianapolis, leaving major destruction in its wake. Another would hit the city in 1990. The 1990s was eventful decade for the city. The city’s worst flood ever occurred in 1994, again cutting the city off and endangering the water supply. Both 1996 and 1997 brought floods of lesser severity. Three of the four weather storms were declared state and/or federal disasters. Major projects are undertaken by the city to prevent future flooding. A new water tower is constructed, and a major upgrade to the wastewater treatment systems is started in phases. In 2003, Villa Grove discovers the strange phenomenon known as a snow roll on Feb. 11. ON THE WEB: Villagrove.org
non “A Big Thumbs Up” to Anita Buckner. Anita has dedicated her life to youth. I first met her at Futures Unlimited; then, at the Boys and Girls Club. She can be in a very loud group of youth and, in her sweet, kind, quiet voice, speak to them. They all quiet down and listen. It is truly like magic. She is willing to listen to anyone, anytime, and try to find a way to help or find help for anyone. She is an amazing person who is able to find the positive in everyone. Sometimes, it would take me a very long time to find even a tad bit of good in a person. Anita is able to find it right away. With her sweet, kind spirit, she never speaks ill of anyone. “A Big Thumbs Up” to a really great lady with a heart of pure gold! —Resa Benz-Spiker, Decatur
SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013
Hippie at heart Bob Moomaw’s memorial in Arcola tells story of how movement impacted his life By DONNETTE BECKETT H&R Staff Writer
ARCOLA — Hippies come in all ages. In fact, some people don’t even realize they are a hippie. When Bob Moomaw created the Hippie Memorial in Arcola, he didn’t consider himself a hippie. In the ’60s, Moomaw had the beard and the wild curly hair, but “he had five kids to raise,” said his wife, Sherron. “So he couldn’t really be a hippie.” The 63-foot-long rusty metal sculpture is at 135 N. Oak St., Arcola, next to the Visitors Center. The Hippie Memorial, made from scrap pieces of old, rusty metal mostly from old cars, symbolizes the artist’s life, one foot for each year of his life. Sherron remembers her husband saying: “Your life is composed of junk that you get from other people.” To go along with the natural order of life, Moomaw left the metal bare in order for it to rust. The beginning of the sculpture memorializes the first 26 years of his life. At 3 feet tall, Moomaw was quoted as saying “it was like living in a coal mine with a 3-foot ceiling.” The era running from the Depression to the 1950s “forced society to stoop.” The center section, representing the ’60s and ’70s and the hippie movement, is 6 foot tall. “It was like growing up,” he told others. The metal shapes are varied and in bright colors, expressing love, freedom and individuality. A small metal peace symbol and a WOODSTC license plate sit at the top. “The hippies,” he said, “gave us room to breathe.” As the era came to end, Moomaw’s life returned to oppression. Likewise, the sculpture returns to the 3-foot height and drab colors. As life passes through time, “other peoples’ junk stuck to him and made him what he was — the product of leftovers from a previous existence,” said his wife. Moomaw died in April 1998 at the age of 63, two years after he stopped working on the memorial because of health problems. During the creative process, the Hippie Memorial was displayed on his shop’s fence on Main Street in Arcola. Moomaw created signs for other businesses, but was known to express his own opinions on the wall of his business. Bob thought “he had to help people get over their ignorance,” Sherron remembers. The Chicago Tribune reported one
FROM OUR I would like to give a “Big Thumbs Up” to Sue Hemp for the work she has done with DIGG (Decatur Is Growing Gardeners). Her dedication has been outstanding, not only from a gardening standpoint, but from her willingness to share her knowledge and to promote a concept we have not seen since Al Dobbins managed Green Thumb back in the ’70s: To find empty lots in the city and turn them into working gardens for folks who could use the work and the good food. What a “WINWIN!” Sue excels in this project, which requires hard work, for she is dedicated to the truism that fresh vegetables promote better health. I believe her unselfish endeavor deserves a “Big Thumbs Up.” —Margaret M. Evans, Decatur
non “A Big Thumbs Up” for our pastor, the Rev. Russell Weise, at St. John’s Lutheran Church. He makes you want to have God in your heart. His sermons are like a conversation over a cup of coffee, and you leave wanting to hear so much more. My husband and I always have a quick giggle, along with the other members in our congregation, when Pastor Weise does one of his famous fishing stories during the sermon. We are sure they are all true because God would know if he was lying. For the last several years, Pastor Weise has been mentoring vicars from the Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis. Each year, I have seen the vicars grow both spiritually and comfortably with their sermons and duties of the church — all because of the encouraging words of Pastor Weise. He is the pastor I pray will never accept another calling until God calls him home.
Herald & Review photos/Jim Bowling
Sherron Moomaw shares stories of her late husband Bob Moomaw that led to the creation of the Hippie Memorial on display in downtown Arcola.
Artist Bob Moomaw stands next to the Hippie Memorial he created. of his signs read, “America you’re turning into a nation of minimumwage hamburger flippers. Rebel. Think for yourself. It works!” Moomaw was also an artist
READERS Pastor Weise is attentive to the needs of the congregation and the community. He was with my family when my nephew died in the middle of the night. He helped by leading us in prayer when our minds were focused on grief. My family’s story is one of many I hear in the church. He feels everyone’s pain and rejoices in everyone’s blessings. He loves to hold the babies after their baptism and will high-five the little kids as he greets them after services. Hugs are often requested from the older generation. He is what makes our congregation feel like one big family. His favorite words of encouragement are “You Rock!” always given with his Thumbs Up. Many times Pastor Weise will end church services with his “Thumbs Up” for the glory to be given to God. “A Big Thumbs Up” Pastor Weise and God’s blessings — “You Rock”! —Becky Wortman, Decatur
non I would like to give “A Big Thumbs Up” to Dianna Myers of Decatur. She has been a volunteer women’s Bible study leader for 40 years. She has held the Bible study at church, at her home and back at church again. Her Bible study is very ecumenical, and there are women from many different religious backgrounds involved. Currently, she leads a wonderful, inspired and spirit-filled study of the Bible on Thursday mornings at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur. Hallmarks of Dianna’s study include the love and caring that she imparts to each lady who joins her group. I know that I speak for the countless women who, over the years, have been touched and encouraged by Dianna’s kind, patient and passionate sharing of God’s Word. —Kathleen Jensen, Harristown
designing jewelry, paintings, sculptures and old cars. He also pinstriped buggies for the younger Amish. But he supported his family with other, more stable jobs such as
tax assessor, railroad clerk and an oil well driller. The city was offered the sculpture, but wouldn’t accept it. As his health began to decline, Moomaw sold the business on Main Street. So he gave the large structure to his friend Gus Kelsey who was living in Michigan. Kelsey was a similar character to Moomaw. Mutual friend Pat Monahan remembers the two as “very engaging and artistic.” Kelsey knew it needed to be saved. “If he hadn’t agreed to take it, it probably would have disappeared,” Monahan recalls. But Kelsey never displayed the Hippie Memorial in Michigan. Knowing the sculpture belonged in Arcola, he returned it. Friends of the artist came together to bring the memorial back to life where it belonged. Monahan donated the small patch of land across the street from his business, coincidently next to the Visitors Center. Kelsey
designed and built the concrete wall in which the sculpture is now displayed. Although the sculpture wasn’t meant to last, it has been at the same location for more than 13 years and still draws attention. Visitors hear about the sculpture and bring mementos and pictures to place at the memorial. Monahan notices the cars as they drive up to the memorial across the street from his office. “People go almost every day to take pictures,” he said. The artist called the sculpture the Hippie Memorial because he admired their artwork and the movement they created. Moomaw may not have been a hippie. “But he was raising his children then, to use the freedom of their minds to search for knowledge in education as he did,” his wife recalls. “To his shame, he was no hippie.” email@example.com|(217) 421-6983
SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013
PROFILE VILLAGE: Beecher City COUNTY: Effingham POPULATION: 500 MAYOR: Renee Schoenfeld MAJOR HIGHWAY: Illinois 33 HISTORY: T.L. Miller arrived from Chicago in Washington Township in 1862 and began purchasing land with the intent of raising Hereford cattle. He knew the area offered good grazing lands, and he was convinced that the Hereford breed showed great promise for the future. While living in Chicago, Miller was in the fire and insurance business. He was a great admirer of Henry Ward Beecher, a famous orator of that time, and named the new village after him. non
LEFT: The seat on the Oliver model, left, is made from a kitchen spoon. Often, Janvrin uses what he has on hand to craft the pieces. MIDDLE: This large tractor made of various nuts and bolts, is a yard ornament with the wagon serving as a container for potted plants. RIGHT: These finished pieces are made from the first eight sewing machines that Janvrin collected. Each takes several days to complete.
Tractors sow imagination Thanks to Neal Janvrin, old sewing machines get a new life as models By PHIL JACOBS For the Herald & Review
CITY: Effingham COUNTY: Effingham POPULATION: 12,384 MAYOR: Mervin Gillenwater EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS: Cross at the Crossroads, Kluthe Aquatic Complex, Lake Sara and Ballard Nature Center INDUSTRY: Sherwin-Williams, Peerless of America Inc., Southeastern Container Inc., Mid America Motorworks, HN Automotive Inc. MAJOR HIGHWAYS: Interstates 57 and 70, U.S 40 and 45, Illinois 32 and 33 HISTORY: More then 150 years of growth and there’s no slowing down now. Effingham has a proud history made up of hardworking people with a sense of pride in community. Folks first started making their way to Effingham, first called Broughton, in the early 1800s when settlers moving west along the Old Cumberland Trail stopped to work in the rich soil along the Little Wabash River. The trail became The National Road, which is now recognized as a Scenic Byway. In the mid-1800s, the new railroad brought with it a “boom” of not only new people and homes, but also new business. During the 1900s, Effingham continued to grow at a modest pace, until the 1960s when the area’s second population explosion occurred. It was then that the Interstate Highway System was initiated, placing Effingham in the center of the juncture of Interstates 57 and 70. I-57 links Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico, while I-70 connects the East and West coasts. Effingham’s prime location prompted the construction of travel centers, restaurants, hotels and a variety of manufacturing businesses and distribution centers. A third growth spurt is now underway. The world of communication breakthroughs has opened up doors never before thought possible, and you can be sure that Effingham keeps pace with the latest in technology. A complete fiber optic infrastructure connects the city to a worldwide communications network. Effingham is literally at the crossroads of the interstate system and the information superhighway. Effingham has a deep sense of pride in its history. Many families here come from a long line of descendants who have called this area home. They have been joined by many new residents who are pursuing the opportunities available here. Today’s citizens are building their legacies as pioneers in their own right and making history right here in Effingham. ON THE WEB: www.effinghamil. com non CITY: Altamont COUNTY: Effingham POPULATION: 2,300 MAYOR: Larry Taylor EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS: The Dr. Wright House, Alwerdt’s Gardens, Altamont Living Museum, Ballard Nature Center, Effingham County Fair, Illinois High School Rodeo State Finals, Mill Road Thresherman’s Association Steam, Gas & Threshing Show, Schuetzenfest MAJOR HIGHWAYS: Interstate 70, U.S. 40, Illinois 128. HISTORY: An early pioneer of the area was Griffin Tipsword, who dwelt among the Kickapoo Indians. The area was settled by German immigrants by way of Pennsylvania and Ohio. The name Altamont, meaning “high mound,” was chosen because of the elevation or “mound” that lies to the northwest. ON THE WEB: www.altamontil.net
DECATUR — It could be said that Neal Janvrin embodies the old adage, “you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” Maybe this explains why the 64-year-old Decatur man, who grew up on a farm near Bearsdale, is so fascinated by tractors that he fashions sculptures of them out of almost everything — especially old sewing machines. “When I walk through the kitchen opening drawers nowadays, my wife, Kay, gets a little nervous,” said Janvrin. Indeed, nothing is off-limits for his hobby. “You use whatever you can find,” Janvrin said of his artwork. “It might be a gas line from a lawn mower, a push rod from a pump or a small part from a gas engine. I keep a lot of stuff other people throw away.” He once raided a junk pile and came home with a small, cylindrical leather piece that he fashioned into a tractor seat. For the backrest, he sorted through another pile of scrap until he found a small steering lock lever that had once been part of a large forklift. Not only is Janvrin artistic, but he’s an artist in the garage as well. He is employed by Wiese USA as a resident mechanic at Tate and Lyle in Decatur. But he looks forward to the day when he can spend more time in his own garage, pursuing his art. Janvrin first started fashioning his sculptures from nuts and bolts. He made 35 of them and painted them in the colors of the real machines — John Deere, Oliver, Minneapolis Moline, Case and International Harvester, among others. After reading a story in the Decatur Herald & Review about a farmer who was making tractors from old Singer sewing machines, he couldn’t resist. It was a defining moment. Within a few days, he found himself at a garage sale where he discovered four machines. Two were vintage treadle machines in wooden cases, circa 1895. The two others were Singers from the early 1920s. He bought all of them and hauled them home. There was just one small hitch. His wife, Kay, who has encouraged him in all of this, had spotted the old treadle machines and told him she had to have one of them, which he eventually refinished for her. The others, though, soon emerged like butterflies into new lives as
Photos for the Herald & Review/Phil Jacobs
Neal Janvrin has spent the past year tuning old Singer sewing machines into farm tractors. To this machine, a Vogue Stitch made in Japan, he added a hay wagon with rack. He used the old base of the machine with the gold filigree for the bed of the wagon. toy farm implements. Once the word was out, several people began offering him their old machines, including, Carol Eichel of Decatur, a classmate who graduated from Warrensburg High School with him in 1967. “I ran into Neal at our 45th class reunion last September,” Eichel explained “and he showed me some pictures of his work, which I thought was exceptional. When I told my family about the creative pieces, my son, Andrew, who is now 30, found an old Singer near a Dumpster, and we gave it to Neal.” Another friend found a machine at an antique store and brought it to him. In all, 10 machines have found their way to Janvrin’s workbench. “Usually, people give them to me to haul away,” Janvrin noted. “Most of them have no real value. In the beginning, I looked some of them up on the Internet to make sure they were basically worthless. I certainly didn’t want to tear into something that could be sold for a higher dollar than what I was going to do with them.” Janvrin usually cleans up the old machines with soap
As a matter of safety, the wheels on his tractors do not move. “These machines weigh about 17 pounds or so,” he said, “and if a child were to accidentally roll one off a table, they could be seriously injured.” As Janvrin looks to the future, he sees more old sewing machines in his life,
but said he plans to take some of the work out of the process. “Until now, I have removed the rust and the grime from the machines by sanding each one by hand, which is timeconsuming work. In the near future, I hope to purchase a soda blaster which is like a sandblaster but less abrasive, which should make that part of the job a lot easier.”
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non VILLAGE: Mulberry Grove COUNTY: Bond POPULATION: 696 MAYOR: Douglas Enloe HIGHWAYS: Interstate 70, U.S. 40, Illinois 140
and water, unless their condition is so rusty and grimy that it requires more drastic measures — such as a cleanser. With his very first sculpture, Janvrin found out the hard way that acidic cleansers can remove more than intended, such as gold filigree paint off some of the fancier old machines. “The ones that are in bad shape, which is most of them,” he said laughing, “are the ones that get repainted in tractor colors.” One exception was the tractor sculpture he crafted from an old Vogue Stitch sewing machine made in Japan in the 1920s. “After I got it cleaned up, I saw that I really liked it just the way it was, so I made the modifications — added a new base plate to hold the axles, an exhaust pipe and muffler made from various spare parts, a drawbar and a seat. Otherwise, I left it like it was. The original base plate with the gold filigree I saved to make a floor for the rack wagon, which I attached to the rear.”
This Singer treadle machine, from about 1895, was one of the four early machines Janvrin acquired at a garage sale. When his wife spotted it, she had him restore it as an antique furniture piece.
Classes begin April 1st For Details Call 428-8424 or visit www.maconcountycasa.org
Send gifts to: CASA 140 S. Water St. Suite 100 Decatur 62523 or donate online at: www.maconcountycasa.org
SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013
Healing hands Professionals encourage people to be certain massage therapist is licensed By ALLISON PETTY
Massage therapists say the health benefits of their practice range from the more DECATUR — Chris Henobvious relaxation and stress neberry gives massages for a relief, to improved circulation living, but you’d better not and alleviation of migraine call her a “masseuse.” headaches. The word brings with it “You have more flexibility. exactly the kind of illicit conSome people, it helps them notations that Henneberry sleep. It helps them calm and other licensed massage down. Other people, it helps therapists in Central Illinois revive them, work daily to so it does correct. both sides of To earn that,” Hentheir licensneberry said. es, massage Christine therapists Cutler of must comMacon said plete a proshe’s been gram with seeing mas500 hours of sage theratraining. pist Bob They must Jelks Sr. pass a backonce a week ground check for about 10 and pay a years. Until $175 fee, and her recent they must retirement, renew their she worked licenses in a highevery two stress enviyears. They ronment, and also carry she also sufliability fers from Jelks gives a massage. insurance. arthritis and “Not every high blood place in town pressure. that offers The massage massage has helps with all licensed masof that, she sage therasaid. pists “It’s so employed,” relaxing, and Henneberry it helps you,” said, pointing said Cutler, out that this 62. “I exeris a violation cise six days of state law. a week and “That’s a big Bob Jelks Sr., massage therapist try to eat issue with right, too, me, and so I but it’s just instruct peopart of being healthy.” ple, if you’re going anywhere, Jelks offers massages out and you’re asking for a masof two different locations, sage, ask to see their license.” Hair Nest and Mount Zion There are more than 30 Chiropractic, and he also licensed massage therapists makes home visits. Clients working in Macon County contact him at all hours, but according to Henneberry, who he said the work is rewarding has attempted to start a proand he feels lucky to love fessional organization to help what he does. unite them. Some work out of “(The stress) could be jobbusinesses or salons, while related, relationship-related, others practice in medical whatever ... It tightens you. offices or offer home visits. You see people tighten down, H&R Staff Writer
Herald & Review photos/Mark Roberts
Bob Jelks Sr. gives a massage to one of his usual customers, Christine Cutler, in The Hair Nest in Decatur.
‘(The stress) tightens you. ... You get a 15-minute chair massage, it really takes that away.’
COMMUNITY VILLAGE: Teutopolis COUNTY: Effingham POPULATION: 1,530 PRESIDENT: Jerry Weber TOURIST ATTRACTION: Teutopolis Monastery Museum, Veterans Memorial MAJOR HIGHWAYS: Interstates 57 and 70, U.S. 40 and 45, Illinois 32, 33, 37 HISTORY: Teutopolis, City of the Teutons, or Germans, was established in 1839 and is located on the Cumberland Trail known as the Old National Road and now U.S. 40. Teutopolis is located in the northeastern segment of Effingham County. It is the only town in the United States with this name. Teutopolis did not evolve as the accidental byproduct of a trading post, church, inn, stage coach relay station or junction of roadways or railroads, but was the result of much thought and controversy, hard-headed economy, investigation, planning and a vast amount of patience. Clemens Uptmor from dukedom of Oldenburg and kingdom of Hanover, Germany, came to the United States in 1834, along with his brother Herman H. Uptmor and a few neighbors. They settled first in Cincinnati, then the gateway to the west for German Catholics. In 1837, they formed a land company for the purchase of government land under the name of “Deutche Land-Compagnie Oder Ansiedlungsgesellschaft.” John F. Waschefort, Clemens Uptmor and Gerard H. Bergfeld were named to find a location for settlement and then give their recommendations to the land company. The committee opposed settling in Missouri because of slavery and discouraged from settling in the north-central area of Illinois because of the swamps and the black soil. The northeast part of Effingham County was recommended because of the woodlands, well-drained uplands and plentiful game. Gerhardt Meyer and Heinrich
Jelks gets ready for one of his clients. and they can’t turn their head,” Jelks said. “Oh, man. You know what I’m saying? You get a 15-minute chair massage, it really takes that away.” Steve Naylor is the lone massage therapist at St. Mary’s Hospital, where his clients include patients, patients’ families and sometimes other hospital employees.
Naylor, who is blind, said he prayed for guidance during a series of personal and professional life changes eight years ago and was led to massage as a career. He is passionate about the health benefits and said he works constantly to correct misconceptions about what he does. “(Massage) has been accepted for over 5,000 years as far as we can tell, in the
Far East and has been treated as a very bona fide therapy,” Naylor said. “Now, as we move forward, Western society and, in particular, Western medicine, are more and more beginning to embrace massage therapy and not be threatened by it.” Jean Titus opened her own shop, Jean’s Therapeutic Massage, in Sullivan after entering the profession six
years ago. She, too, said some people still consider massage as something “taboo,” but the benefits are becoming more widely recognized. She’s given massages to all sorts of clients, including babies. “I personally have a feeling of I am totally connected with this client. When a person comes in for massage, I am in tune with them,” she said. “I don’t think about what I’m going to fix for dinner or what happened yesterday with a child, or blah, blah, blah, I am totally — that’s their moment, that’s their time. I feel like if you’re not connected with that person and giving everything you’ve got, then they’re not going to receive what they need. It’s a very important moment for them.” All the massage therapists agreed that their best form of advertising has been word of mouth. Some, such as Jelks and Henneberry, also perform massages at businesses or at some community events. The American Massage Therapy Organization (www. amtamassage.org) and Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (www. abmp.com) offer the ability to search for members on their website. firstname.lastname@example.org| (217) 421-6986
PROFILE Roennebaum accompanied the original trio back to Illinois to inspect the proposed site. The location was approved, and in July 1839 in Vandalia, the land was claimed for homestead purposes in the name of John F. Waschefort. Ten thousand acres were purchased at $1.25 per acre with an additional 80 acres being purchased for $5 an acre. The town site was surveyed and platted by William J. Hankins. The plan of the two was very similar to the plat of the original town of Cincinnati. Back in Cincinnati, the land was allotted at a drawing held in a fire engine house. For each $50 a member contributed, he received one “in-lot” and one “out-lot” or “garden lot” in the town and an additional parcel of farmland for a total of 40 acres. ON THE WEB: www.teutopolis. com non VILLAGE: Dieterich COUNTY: Effingham POPULATION: 617 PRESIDENT: Burl Griffith INDUSTRY: E.J. Water, Advance Powder Technology, Higgs Welding, Probs Autobody, Garden Scape, Ideal Machines, Niemerg Construction, James Backhoe/ Septic Solution, K and A Lewis Construction, D.J. Masonry EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS: Dieterich Community Veteran’s Memorial MAJOR HIGHWAYS: Illinois 33 ON THE WEB: www.dieterich illinois.com non VILLAGE: Shumway COUNTY: Effingham POPULATION: 217 (according to 2000 census) PRESIDENT: David Thies INDUSTRY: Southern Illinois Machinery Co., Kremer Precision Machine Inc. MAJOR HIGHWAY: Illinois 33
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Herald & Review photos/Lisa Morrison
The 198-foot-tall cross is seen from a multipurpose room used for meetings, conferences, services and weddings by the community. The cross near Interstates 57 and 70 is viewed by more 50,000 people daily.
Beacon to the weary 200 volunteers minister to travelers, locals drawn to 198-foot-tall cross By DONNETTE BECKETT H&R Staff Writer
EFFINGHAM — Travelers are always seeking something. Whether it be rest, some kind of fulfillment or a home, people are on the road to get somewhere else. At the intersection of Interstates 57 and 70 in Effingham, drivers just may find it. It’s estimated that more than 50,000 travelers a day pass by the Cross at The Crossroads, a 198-foot-tall cross built south of Effingham. “When you come around I-70, it’s a sight to behold,” said Christy Hakman, a Cross Foundation board member. More than 12,000 visitors a year will walk the campus of the stark white cross that is easily seen within miles of the city. The curious will find a welcome center, granite markers depicting each of the Ten Commandments and, of course, a giant cross, which is unofficially considered the world’s largest. IF YOU GO “When its right WHAT: The Cross there in at the Crossroads your WHERE: 1904 face, you Pike Ave, Effinghave to ham; (217) 347think 2846 about WHEN: NovemChrist ber through March, and his 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ultimate daily; April through sacriOctober, 10 a.m. to fice,” 7 p.m. daily. Volunsaid teers are usually at Hakthe site during man. these hours, but Citicall ahead to make zens of sure. EffingON THE WEB: ham and www.CrossUSA.org the surrounding communities of all denominations understand the importance of their local attraction. More than 200 volunteers maintain the cross and its grounds, taking on jobs such as landscaping, welcoming visitors or serving on the board. “They learn how to be part of a community that is bigger than just themselves,” Hakman said. Lee and Emil “Shorty” Beals have been volunteering at the cross for more than 10 years. The retired couple answered an advertisement in the local newspaper and have been greeting visitors ever since. “When we hear (some of the stories), it is worth our time to get up and come into town,” Lee said. The Beals and other volunteers hear stories from weary travelers — many despondent, depressed or broken-hearted — who found peace at the foot of the cross. Other visitors leave more than a story. At the base of the cross, volunteers find flowers, notes — even whiskey bottles and cigarette packages — left there by visitors vowing to change their lives. The cross and its surrounding grounds were the ideas of John Schultz, an Effingham businessman and a Christian. While driving through
Volunteer Ruth Hoene keeps a eye out for visitors to the Effingham cross. More than 200 volunteers and staff maintain the cross campus on a monthly basis.
Many people have donated to the creation of the cross and the visitor’s center nearby. This smaller cross has the names of some of those people on the bricks supporting it. Groom, Texas, Schultz saw a similar cross and was certain something like it was needed in his hometown. He thought Effingham was the ideal place to share the message of forgiveness, love and grace through the symbolism of the cross because of its large number of Christians and the high traffic from the interstates. According to Hakman, Schultz approached others in the community with his idea and a foundation was started to promote it. “More than $1 million was collected, and construction began with the people in Groom, Texas, even supplying their architectural plans,” she said.
The land was purchased by Schultz and other Effingham merchants. The cross was designed by engineers to the maximum height of 198 feet, equal to a 20-story building. The builders stopped at 198 feet because of an FAA requirement stating that structures 200 feet or taller must have a red light on top. The horizontal arm span would be 113 feet across and the base would be 15 feet into the ground. Wind tunnel tests were performed on the structure in Canada. The idea was made a reality five years later. Construction of the cross was completed on June 27, 2001. Four 1,000-watt bulbs were added and have been illuminating the cross
from dusk to dawn ever since. On Sept. 16, 2001, just five days after 9/11, the cross was dedicated and lighted for the first time. The Cross Foundation board met to discuss the possibility of canceling the dedication, but unanimously voted to continue with the celebration. “They estimated 200 visitors, but got over 2,000,” said Hakman. Funding for the cross relies completely on private donations. Many in the community have left money to the Cross Foundation in their wills. Businesses throughout Effingham display blue boxes accepting free-will offerings to support the cross. In the future, the foundation hopes to apply to Christian organizations for grants. The grounds surrounding the cross have expanded since its construction. At the base of the cross are granite stones for each of the Ten Commandments. Alongside each display is a push-button speaker that contains a devotional and how the Commandment relates to today. In 2005, a 3,600-square-foot welcome center replaced the office trailer for visitors and volunteers. The center offers a media room, chapel and restrooms. As they walk into the 50-seat chapel, visitors may feel the cross has been magnified through the wall of windows. “That’s God’s little miracle,” Lee said. “It’s like (the cross) followed you in here.” The chapel has hosted weddings, bible studies and other events, all free, although board approval is necessary. Other events are held at the base of the cross, such as Easter services, charity events and the Corvette Fest. The popularity of the cross has grown over the past 10 years, not because of the events, but because of the impact the big cross has on the locals and those just passing through. “You see that God is great, and you are so little,” said Lee. email@example.com| (217) 421-6983
I would like give “A Big Thumbs Up” to the A&M Wrestling Club wrestlers, coaches and parents. Since it began in 2010, the children involved in the program have demonstrated a goal-oriented, work-to-succeed attitude. When the volunteer coaches, including legendary high school wrestling Coach Fred Burckhartt, began, their goal was to help develop the youth club into a premier wrestling organization. I feel that they have succeeded. Each season, this club has had a roster of more than 30 wrestlers. Ages of the wrestlers range from kindergarten to eighth grade. Participants have come from a wide area in Central Illinois. Wrestlers have joined the club from the Sullivan school district, the Meridian school district, as well as the Central A&M school district. The volunteer coaches have come from an equally wide area in Central Illinois. In their three years of competition, the club has already produced five state qualifiers. This success has been made possible by many hours of volunteer work by several individuals. The first season, the wrestlers were able to practice in a shed owned by a local farmer. The past two seasons, the wrestlers have been able to practice in a shed owned by one of the coaches. The practice mats that the club uses were generously donated by a local university. The parents of the wrestlers have also worked hard in many ways to help facilitate the club’s ability to continue to offer this sport to youth. While academic achievement should MORE always be our LETTERS: youth’s main www.heraldfocus, sports review.com/ also teach outlook children to set goals, and work as hard as they can to achieve them. Wrestling does this in an individualized way that some team sports may not. I feel that offering this extra, particular way for the children of our community to grow can only be beneficial to them. Please join me in giving “A Big Thumbs Up” to the A&M Wrestling Club wrestlers, coaches and parents. They deserve it. —John Vidmar Jr., Assumption
non “A Big Thumbs Up” goes to all the workers and volunteers at The Macon County Animal Shelter and The Decatur Animal Shelter Foundation. These people work very hard to find forever homes for dogs and cats, and occasionally, a turtle or Guinea pig. Everything is done to make sure these animals are well taken care of and put out there to the public to give them a better chance for their own home. They are great people, and I’m privileged to be a part of them. Off-site events with the animals are a great way for the public to see what animals are available. Sometimes, this involves every day on the weekends, which we are happy to do. Volunteers and workers walk the dogs and brush cats in their spare time — sometimes on their lunch hours. Once you see those faces in the kennels it’s easy to become involved. So here’s a really big thumbs up to all of you, especially my breakfast club volunteers! Thanks! —Darla Zinn, Decatur
non At St. Mary’s Hospital, we all strive to be exceptional. From my vantage point at the information desk, I have the pleasure of watching our valet team achieve exceptional service every day. Amy, Billie, John, Ramon, Toby and Zack are the first people that you encounter when you come to St. Mary’s Hospital. The valet team is there to park cars, but they do so much more. They will greet you with a warm smile and an offer to park your car. If you need a wheelchair, they will get you into the chair and assist you into the hospital. They learn your needs
READERS and have it ready for you when you pull up the drive. They will go out to your car to retrieve a needed paper or item with no complaints or grumbles. If you decide not to have them park your car, but are not able to go out to it after you are done, Amy, Billie, John, Ramon, Toby or Zack will still be glad to get it for you. In the winter, they clean snow and ice from your car. More importantly, they joke, laugh, cry and care about the people they help. At St. Mary’s Hospital, our core values are: “Respect, Care, Competence, Joy.” The valet team has those values covered from A to Z. That’s why I give them “A Big Thumbs Up.” —Judy Dulaney, Decatur
non Opening in April is the M.E. Allen Youth Center at 617 E. Decatur St. This center will be open to grade school children in the community for after-school activities. It will be a highly chaperoned and guarded facility. The youth center will provide snacks, games, computers and crafts. The M.E. Allen Youth Center (fun, faith and fellowship) was built in the memory of the former pastor of First Church of God in Christ. He had a vision for the youth center for the young people to have a safe place in the community. After his death, within a year and a half, the church purchased the building and had it remodeled. The congregation worked hard and continues to work raising funds and making pledges. We welcome interested adults to bring their children and sign them up. —Jeanette Jelks, Decatur
non The year was 1976. Helen Ervin was asked to start a Kitchen Band for the Illiopolis Bicentennial Celebration. Several talented individuals fashioned instruments out of cake racks, washboards, teapots, funnels, spoons, bedpans, etc., to play along with Helen’s lively piano music. The group stayed together and started playing at Vonderlieth Living Center in Mount Pulaski. Some from Mount Pulaski joined the group for a while. Later, with the help of pianists Peggy Dunn, Sharolyn Griesheim and Rosella Young, the band started entertaining at other retirement and nursing homes, banquets, birthday celebrations, and nine times at the Illinois State Fair. With Rosella Young as their informal leader and Ed Bliler as their present, talented pianist, the group of Illiopolis residents have entertained with a singalong consistently at 12 or more homes a year. Every summer, the Illiopolis Christian Church sponsors a birthday party for the Vonderlieth residents and the Illiopolis Kitchen Band, along with some youth, provide the entertainment. The group limits their engagements to places where we have Illiopolis residents. This group of loyal and dedicated people, in the past as well as the present, deserve “A Big Thumbs Up” for their part in providing music with a smile for many others. An invitation is always open for others to join our group. —Rosella Young, Illiopolis
non I want to give “A Big Thumbs Up” to the pastors of New Beginnings Church of God. They are all true servants of God, and their main goal is to win lost souls. Our church motto is “Win the Lost. Disciple the Winners.” I think this says it all. There are so many outreach services available to the members of the church and to the entire community. We welcome people with open arms. Our pastors know God’s Word, and they deliver inspired messages, dissecting God’s Word so we can better understand what God’s will and purpose is for our lives. If you haven’t visited New Beginnings Church of God and listened to a sermon there, you are totally missing a huge blessing. Come join us! —Normajean Lewis, Decatur
SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013
Continued from Page 1 “My mother was the other half of the show for many years before she stepped down from the stage in 2005 at the age of 83,” Strong said. “Since then, I’ve been working on my own. We are talking about putting together a workshop, though, to introduce kids to puppetry, and I’d be quite willing to show them how.” Presumably, some of the young people interested in learning would be audience members from “Super Kids Club” shows. Currently hosted once per month on Saturdays at Decatur’s Lincoln Square
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Theatre, these events have become synonymous with Strong’s marionettes. Created in 1993, Strong has hosted Kids Club appearances everywhere from The Avon Theatre and Masonic Temple to the Decatur Celebration before settling into the Lincoln Square Theatre in recent years. He believes in puppetry as ideal child and family entertainment, harmless stuff that can also convey age-appropriate messages. “The bottom line is that our shows are good, wholesome family entertainment that is not violent and has a good moral to it,” he said. “The shows teach lessons like patriotism, good citizenship and generosity, and they’re
entertaining to parents as well. The goal of Kids Club shows has always been to put all the elements of your childhood into one package, and we have so many wonderful volunteer performers such as Granny Giggles and SpiderMan who have been with us for years.” Debbie Ford, the Lincoln Square Theatre’s executive director, said Super Kids Club has been a boon to the venue over the years, and that its board members have always tried to support Strong because they feel he plays an important role to his young audiences while providing a show free for all local children. Adult admission is $5.
“The whole board is really stepping up whenever they can to pass out fliers for Kids Club because we want Gary’s show to succeed,” she said. “At the last show, there were hundreds of people there; it was really amazing. I think it was their highest attendance ever, and I don’t think Gary stopped grinning the whole time.” Ford initially met Strong back in 2000 and was surprised to see how energetic and assertive the normally reserved performer could become in the course of a show. “He’s usually very quiet until he gets on stage, and then he’s really dynamic,”
she said. “He’s very kid-minded and really cares about entertaining them. The Lincoln is his home now, but if he couldn’t do it here, he would find somewhere else and never stop. He’d probably be performing in Central Park.” Strong agrees — he has no intention to stop performing anytime soon, and will continue exploring new puppet and marionette work for as long as he can. He is still creating new marionettes on a monthly basis, most recently an articulated “Cat in the Hat” for a Dr. Seuss-themed edition of Super Kids Club. Characters such as Spunky the Squirrel and Ferdinand the
Frog remain in use after decades, while others like the Cat in the Hat may be packed away for years before they’re used again. But Strong loves every minute of it, and hopes there are some young kids out there who will show the same passion to learn the art of puppetry. “There are a lot of opportunities for the average kid to learn what we call recycled puppetry,” he said. “You can make puppets out of just about anything, and it’s a shame for kids to throw away materials that could become characters. There’s still a lot more that can be done with puppets.” firstname.lastname@example.org|(217) 421-7973
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