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By Gerry MacKenzie


t’s a lovely Saturday evening, June 21, 2008, the first official day of summer. A nearly full moon and an unseasonably cool evening give it the feel of early autumn, a welcome reprieve to the 3,000 to 4,000 area residents sitting in lawn chairs in front of the outdoor stage in Sesser’s City Park. It’s the last night of the Sesser Homecoming and Moe Bandy is on stage closing out his show with his signature song “Americana” – a very appropriate song to end one of the longest running festivals in Southern Illinois. Consider the lyrics:


The Sesser Homecoming is certainly a little slice of the Americana that Moe Bandy sings about.

“AMERICANA” I’ve traveled all around this country In my time I thought I’d seen it all But today I took a detour down a back road Through a little town whose name I can’t recall

I knew this stop would throw me off schedule But I parked around behind the five-and-dime There’s somethin’ ‘bout a small town in the summer Like a Norman Rockwell picture back in time

Kids were courtin’ at the Rexall soda fountain There were old men on benches playing checkers Like we did before they built the shopping mall I saw so many reasons why I love this country Children playing hopscotch on the square You know some things never really change at all And high above a statue of an unknown soldier Old Glory was waving in the air As I left the two lane road and pulled back on that superhighway Suddenly I realized what I’d too long forgotten I thought back on what I’d seen back in that town Chills rose up like mountains on my skin It hit me like a freight train Overcome with the feelin’ That a stone’s throw from the fast-lane I knew I was seein’ America all over again America is still safe and sound Americana Pictures of a people proud and free I’ll keep holdin’ to the dream You’re still what livin’ means to me


Americana Pictures of a people proud and free Americana I’ll keep holdin’ to the dream You’re still what livin’ means to me

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009


he free outdoor concerts are the main attractions each evening of the Sesser Homecoming, which begins each year on Wednesday and concludes on Saturday night. Each concert usually finds the large area extending south from the stage filled to capacity with folks seated in an assortment of folding chairs which they bring with them. A large contingent of people standing surrounds the sea of lawn chairs. The Sesser Homecoming is very special to me because it’s an event that I believe typifies small town America. I grew up in a small town, smaller than Sesser in fact, and we too had an annual homecoming event each summer, as so many small towns do. These celebrations seem to provide three or four days in mid-summer to take a break from the trials and tribulations of the world and enjoy the fun and fellowship with friends and neighbors and with visitors from other communities as well. Of course the very title ‘homecoming’ denotes visits from those who have moved away to other locales and look at the annual event as reason to visit their old home town. The first Sesser Homecoming was held in September 1950. It was held in June in 1951 and in August 1952. It was not held again until 1956 and has been an annual event ever since. The early homecomings featured political speakers or those Sesserites who had achieved major accomplishments and spoke accordingly. Once it assumed its present its present four-day format the nightly concerts became an integral part of the event. The man most responsible for making these most enjoyable evenings possible is Keith Ward. Keith is a lifelong resident of Sesser and has served the community and the area in general in many capacities. This year was his 49th as the chairman of the entertainment committee. Ward acts as emcee for the entire event, introducing everyone from five-year-old princess candidates to the honoree as Sesser’s most outstanding citizen to the celebrity acts. On each Saturday afternoon of the Homecoming he also emcees the entire parade as it travels down Sesser’s Main Street, noting each entrant and identifying them for the always-large crowd on hand. During this year’s Homecoming Ward said next year’s event would be

his final one as emcee. Knowing Ward as I do I’ll have to see it to believe it. If he did choose to give up his role as emcee I believe the Sesser Homecoming would be akin to the Miss America pageant without Bert Parks. It survived, of course, but it took some getting used to. The four-day event features a variety of attractions that never fail to draw large crowds to enjoy them. A carnival ‘midway’ complete with a variety of rides and food stands is also a key part of the homecoming. Also featured are a horse pull, a horse show, a car show and a big parade on Saturday afternoon. The main food stand which is operated by volunteer workers offers a variety of sandwiches, but the main feature is barbecue sandwiches prepared on-site and sweet corn roasted in the husk. It’s a yearly event that the lines for barbecue and sweet corn are always long.

in mind. Many of the folks are elderly and of modest means to see the stars they have listened to on the radio for over half a century. Thus this homecoming treat is something they look forward to each year. Look out over the sea of faces in the crowd while the music plays and you’ll see smiles, bobbing heads and tapping feet. It’s evident that while the throngs listen they also reminisce in their own minds how they sang, danced or courted to the old familiar tunes. It’s heartwarming to see the joy on their faces as the evening moves on. Two incidents at this year’s homecoming captured the spirit of the entire event. The first was the honor bestowed to 100-yearold Clarence “Dinger” Jones who was chosen as Sesser’s Citizen of the Year. Dinger drove his own car to the celebration and scaled the steps up to the stage like a man half his age. Emcee Ward said he recently encountered Dinger on Main Street just a few days earlier and inquired what he was going to do on that particular day. “Ain’t gonna do a dern thing,” Dinger said. “And the best part is that I’m not going to get started ‘til after lunch.” That seems to be the right frame of mind for a person in order to live to be 100.

Throngs of people crowd around the outdoor stage to listen to the top-notch entertainment which is always free.

While the midway and tasty food items are a certain treat every year the big drawing card is the free concert held each evening under the stars. Many notables have played the homecoming including Tom T. Hall, Waylon Jennings, Dotty West, Don Gibson, Little Jimmy Dickens, Faron Young, Grandpa Jones, Jim Ed Brown, Porter Wagoner, Jerry Reed, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Kitty Wells, Billy “Crash” Craddock, David Frizzel, Gene Watson, Ronnie McDowell and Janie Fricke. Any fan of the Grand Ole Opry will recognize these names as fixtures on that great show for years. Sesser is made up primarily of good ol’ country folks and the featured concert entertainers are clearly selected with this

The second was the previously alluded to closing number by Moe Bandy. Go back to the beginning of this story and carefully read those poignant lyrics and then ask yourself – aren’t the events just like this one that are so prevalent and important all across our great land really what America is all about? AMERICANA – pictures of people proud and free, I’ll keep holdin’ to the dream, you’re still what living means to me. About the writer: Gerry MacKenzie is a native of Ladd, Illinois and attended high school at Spring Valley. A graduate of Illinois State University, MacKenzie has lived in Southern Illinois for more than two decades and attends the Sesser Homecoming every year. He is owner/ operator of MacKenzie Kennels in rural McLeansboro.

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009



Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009


The Great

Sesser Homecoming

Ticket Heist


By Jim Muir

history of the Sesser Homecoming Rend Lake Days, in my mind anyway, would not be complete if I didn’t include an account of the infamous “Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist.” Let me explain. As a kid growing up in Sesser the annual homecoming, held annually in the third week of June, was always the highlight of the summer. My main goal through the months of April and May was to save as much money as I could mowing yards so I’d have a pocket full of cash when the James Jackson Shows and Rides rolled into town. Actually, back then a ‘pocket full of cash’ might have amounted to $15 or $20 bucks but in those days it was a windfall. And knowing my enthusiasm my mom would always hand me three or four Eagle Stamp books a few days before the Homecoming – books that she now doubt had been saving for weeks. I would happily go redeem them – I think they were worth $1.50 apiece – and add the proceeds to my stash.


Also, every year when the ‘carnies’ rolled into town I would head to the Sesser City Park on my trusty bicycle where I was joined by an assortment of other knuckleheads. There, we would spend the entire day watching the workers assemble the assortment of rides while counting the minutes until the homecoming became alive with excitement. One year, when I was 11 years old, we were at the park and we were all straddling our bicycles very near one of the small booths where ride tickets are sold. Noticing that no one was around one of my friends reached into the booth and grabbed an entire roll of carnival ride tickets. Looking back, there must have been 5,000 tickets on that roll. As he headed out of the park with the stash shoved up under his shirt, for a reason to this day that I don’t understand, I tagged right along behind him. Much like the cowboys in the movies who rob a bank and then head to a safe house to divide the loot, we decided to ride our bikes to Sesser Lake, located a couple of miles southeast of town,

to divvy up the cache of yellow ride tickets. To say that I had visions of endless Ferris wheel and tilt-a-whirl rides on my mind would have been an understatement. As a carnival junkie I had just hit the mother lode. We realized quickly that we had far more tickets than we could use so we played like Robin Hood – steal from the rich and give to the poor -- and began dispersing yellow ride tickets all over town. Soon the word spread in the kid community throughout Sesser and we had guys looking for us hoping to ‘score’ some of the hot (in more ways than one) tickets. Everything was going along without a hitch until the day that the homecoming was scheduled to start. I headed to town that morning and was soon met by my accomplice who was frantic and talking a mile a minute. During times in the conversation when he was coherent he related that he overheard his parents talking about some ‘stolen ride tickets.’ He said the police had been notified and that the color of ride tickets had been changed to

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009

blue. According to his story, anybody with a yellow ticket would be arrested. As I listened to him talk, and my 11-year-old mind surmised the situation, I realized that was my last day of freedom on earth. I was certain that I would be sent to prison and celled up with a guy with tattoos, body odor and no teeth. It goes without saying that his name would be Bubba. Life as I knew it and enjoyed it would be over. Actually, the thought of being arrested, sent to prison and branded as a thief paled in comparison to what I knew would happen if my dad found out. The thought of the police and sharing a cell with Bubba was one thing, but the thought of Bill Muir planting a boot in the seat of my pants was something else. For those of you who consider that child abuse, my dad would quickly tell you it was the most successful way he found to deal with a heathen child. After a few minutes of remorse followed quickly by panic we decided that we still had time to try and round up the stolen tickets. We must have ridden our bikes 50 miles that day trying to recover those blasted yellow tickets and were successful finding everybody but one person. Only minutes before the rides were scheduled to start we found out that the one person we were looking for was already at the homecoming, so we made a frantic run for the park. We found him happily standing in line at the Ferris wheel with a yellow ticket clinched in his hand. We managed to get to him before he got to the ticket-taker, and in the process spared ourselves a lengthy prison sentence. I’ve attended the Sesser Homecoming virtually every year since that fateful summer in 1964, always enjoying one of those delicious barbeques and some roasted corn. While I have many wonderful memories from the Homecoming I still vividly recall that harrowing June day 45 years ago when “The Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist” scared me straight and quickly ended my life of crime.

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009



Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009

By Jim Muir It’s a clear-cut case of saving the best for last. While quality entertainment, good food and old fashion hospitality have been staples of the Sesser Homecoming throughout the years the culmination and highlight comes at 11 p.m. on Saturday night when all eyes are focused on the main pavilion at spacious Sesser City Park for the crowning of the Homecoming queen. From the outset of the Sesser Homecoming scores of beauties have participated in the coronation and without exception those moments are still treasured.

“I was so nervous I threw up before I walked to the stage. I was just a nervous wreck and I didn’t think I had a chance.” – Conner Benedict – 2008 Homecoming Queen –

Phyllis (Van Hoorebeke) Ward was the first-ever Sesser Homecoming queen and also holds the distinction of being the only queen ever crowned by Illinois’ top-elected official. Ward was crowned by then Governor Adlai Stevenson. Ward said she still recalls the details of the first coronation vividly. “I remember the crowd at the city park,” she said. “I still count it as an honor to be the first queen and also the only queen to ever be crowned by the governor of Illinois.” The 77-year-old Ward who lives in Chula Vista, California provided from memory a long list of details about that first Homecoming including her queen’s court, the person that drove the car she rode in during the parade and the fact that she didn’t get a new dress for the event.

“My parents were funny and they didn’t want us to think we were something we weren’t,” she said. “I also remember coming back the next year to crown Mary Ethel Hammond queen. The Sesser Homecoming has always been a first-class event.” While Ward reigned over that first Homecoming in 1950, Conner Benedict is the latest Sesser teenager to feel the pressure, thrill and excitement of those frantic minutes before the coronation begins. Benedict said she “was not expecting to win” which made the victory even that much more special.

I walked to the stage,” she recalled. “I was just a nervous wreck and I didn’t think I had a chance. When they called my name I asked by boyfriend (who had escorted her to the stage) ‘did they just call my name?’ It was just very exciting.” Benedict was also crowned princess during the 1998 Homecoming making her one of several Sesser girls that have won both princess and queen titles. “I think the fact that it was such a good experience when I ran for princess made the decision easier to run for queen,” said Benedict.

“Winning the homecoming queen is something that has always been very special to me. This is something that I have always looked back on with a lot of pride.” – Mary (Hammond) Piacentini – 1951 Homecoming Queen –

“I was so nervous I threw up before

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009


Mary (Hammond) Piacentini’s eyes still light up when she recalls the June night in 1951 when she was named queen. The 75-year-old Piacentini said she recalls the excitement of the first homecoming in 1950 and that prompted her to get involved during the second annual event. “Winning the homecoming queen is something that has always been very special to me,” said Piacentini. “I remember Bill Schettler (longtime Sesser mayor) used to call me ‘queenie’ every time he would see me. It was a great time.” Piacentini used a familiar word often associated with the Sesser Homecoming – ‘pride’ – when describing

her moment in the spotlight in 1951. “This is something that I have always looked back on with a lot of pride,” Piacentini said. “It’s a much bigger event now than it was when I was named queen but it’s still very special to me.” And the queen candidates, and later prince and princess candidates, have also provided a financial boon to the Sesser Homecoming Association. In the early years of the annual event queen candidates sold chances on a variety of items until recent years when $1 chances have been sold on a trip to Hawaii. Lisa Kay (Woll) Muir was crowned queen in 1978 and not only distinctly remembers the night, the weather and her crowning moment she also knew in detail what she wore that night 31 years ago.

“I just remember being very, very excited. I thought I had a chance to win but I wasn’t sure. It was a special night.”

– Lisa Kay (Woll) Muir – 1978 Homecoming Queen Princess is Jamie Dorris and the prince is Dale Eubanks

Lisa Kay (Woll) Muir was crowned queen in 1978. Also pictured is Jamie Dorris, left and Dale Eubanks, right, who were named princess and prince.


“Shelia (Dublo) Lappin was my best friend and she won the year before me so she crowned me. That’s something that was special that I will always remember.” – Tina (Woll) Bauman – 1983 Homecoming Queen

“I remember I wore a blue gunny-sack dress and a yellow daisy choker,” said Muir. “I just remember being very, very excited. I thought I had a chance to win but I wasn’t sure. It was a special night.” Muir said she lived only a few blocks from the Sesser City Park as a youngster and said the anticipation of the third week in June was always a summer highlight. “We used to wait on the Sunday before the Homecoming for the trucks with the rides to show up,” she said. “I can remember all the kids from my neighborhood jumping on our bikes and everybody was saying, ‘the rides are here … the rides are here.’”

Muir’s 1978 coronation began somewhat of a family tradition that saw her sister Tina (Woll) Bauman crowned queen in 1983 and then her daughter crowned princess in 1988 and queen in 1999. Bauman noted that it was also a tradition that if a family member opted to run then it was a non-stop effort selling tickets to try and secure the crown.

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009

“I was never so shocked in all my life when I won. I remember that I had a paper crown that was made at the old Charm Shop and it was spray painted. But I still have wonderful memories from that Homecoming.”

Homecoming Court 1961 -- Pictured left to right, Glenda Hammonds, Barbara Rone, Reba Hutson, Billie Moore and Mary Eubanks.

“We always took the approach that if we get in … we’re getting in it to win,” said Bauman. “Nobody has an advantage, it just comes down to how hard you want to work at it.” Bauman called the night of her coronation “very special.” “Absolutely, it was special and very exciting,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I would win, I thought I had a chance, but wasn’t sure.” Bauman also noted that the coronation ceremony carried another special moment. “Shelia (Dublo) Lappin was my best friend and she won the year before me so she crowned me,” said Bauman. “That’s something that was special that I will always remember.” Mary (Eubanks) Morefield was the 1961 Homecoming queen and said she still carries fond memories from that summer.

“I remember that I didn’t expect to win because there was some tough competition that year,” she said. “I remember back then that we were selling chances on a go-cart … did you ever try and sell an old lady a chance on a go-cart? We sold tickets at the four-way stop in Sesser and I believe they were five for a dollar.” During a short span the Homecoming was moved to the business district area and Main Street (the main artery through town) was closed down for the carnival rides and other activities. Morefield said the long bed of a semi-trailer truck was used for a stage that year and was placed north and south across Main Street where the Bank Lounge currently is located. “I was never so shocked in all my life when I won,” said Morefield. “I remember that I had a paper crown that was made at the old Charm Shop and it was spray painted. But I still have wonderful memories from that Homecoming in 1961.”

– Mary (Eubanks) Morefield – 1961 Homecoming Queen –

Morefield said all the queen candidates and their chaperones were taken to Raleigh Robinson’s Steak House for a steak dinner prior to the coronation. “I remember that I had never eaten a steak in my life and my older brother in Peoria gave me a lesson over the phone on how to cut the steak,” she said. “And I remember that I rode in Marguerite Page’s convertible in the parade. It was just a great experience.” Morefield said she has had five grandchildren run for prince, princess and queen throughout the years with three winning. “So, I’ve sold lots and lots of tickets for the Homecoming through the years,” she laughed. “I think anybody who decides to run for queen or prince or princess in the Homecoming will come away with good memories.”

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009


Past Queens of The Sesser Homecoming

1950 – Phyllis Van Hoorebeke 1951 – Mary Ethel Hammond 1953 – La Donna LeVault Harris 1954 – Elizabeth Roberts Meyers 1960 – Linda Robbins 1961 – Mary Eubanks Morefield 1962 – Beth Boyd Emerson 1963 – Karen Loman Reeves 1964 – Linda Jones Bowman 1965 – Wanda Curry 1966 – Shelia Cross Conner 1967 – Karen Basso Shurtz 1968 – Kathy West 1969 – Debbie Garascia 1970 – Kathy Stacey Wingo 1971 – Tresa Sulser Dame 1972 – Sheryl Darnell Wilson 1973 – Vickie Bates 1974 – Janice Hutson 1975 – Lee Ann Eubanks 1976 – Michelle Lovelady 1977 – Pam Smothers 1978 – Lisa Woll Muir 1979 – Tammy Jones 1980 – Sandy Pitchford Hicks 1981 – Marcia Pitchford 1982 – Shelia Dublo Lappin


1983 – Tina Woll Bauman 1984 – Tammy Nutt 1985 – Tina Reichart 1986 – Angie Cook 1987 – Michelle Chamness 1988 – Tina Wright 1989 – Dana Dame 1990 –Carrie Palmowski 1991 – Trisha Smith 1992 – Jan Ray 1993 – Brandi Miller 1994 – Bobbie Nutt 1995 – Amie Petro 1996 – Amanda Zettler 1997 – Sara Shurtz 1998 – Breanna Hawk 1999 – Ginger Conner 2000 – Ranee Robinson 2001 – Megan Miller 2002 – Amanda Heine 2003 – Mallory Mallo Miller 2004 – Bethany Miller 2005 – Amber Queen 2006 – Kristen Wilson 2007 – Alyssa Laur 2008 – Conner Benedict

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009

JULY 8. 2008 By Jim Muir It might not have been love at first

sight, but it’s definitely love.

As part of the 1978 Sesser Homecoming 5-year-old David Bates and 4-year-old Audra Wangler strolled down the center aisle as part of the queen’s court. The Sesser youngsters, who were part of an adorable group vying for prince and princess that year, couldn’t have known on that warm June night that 22 years later on a July night they’d be strolling down the aisle together again. However, that July 8, 2000 walk down the aisle holds much more significance – it was their wedding day. Looking through old photos the Sesser couple realized that they had both been a part of the 1978 Homecoming coronation. According to Audra, even though she and David never dated in high school they always seemed to end up in pictures together – perhaps an omen of things to come. “We were just good friends and sort

of hung out with the same people,” recalled Audra. “But after we go married we found so many school pictures from band and prom and other things where we just happened to be together.” David graduated high school in 1990 and went into the military serving in Korea, Germany and in North Carolina and Georgia before being discharged in 1999. Audra graduated in 1992 and then attended Rend Lake College and Eastern Illinois University. Both David and Audra both said they were very unaware of each other during the rehearsal and coronation ceremony during the 1978 Homecoming. In fact, David said he had his priorities in order much like any other five-year-old boy. “If it didn’t involve a bicycle or basketball I probably didn’t know it existed back then,” he said with a laugh. Audra said the two old friends reconnected by chance in June 1998 – exactly 20 years after that June Homecoming in 1978.

“We actually didn’t see each other for several years and then we ran onto each other at Scott and Dena Kirk’s wedding and started dating then and the rest is history,” she said. “We hadn’t seen each other in eight years when we met again.” As Sesser natives David and Audra both agreed that the annual Homecoming is important both personally and for the community. “It’s something we’ve enjoyed throughout the years and I think everybody in the community is proud of the event,” said David. “As a young boy I enjoyed riding the rides and now I enjoy the sweet corn and barbecue.” David and Audra are the parents of two children, Peyton, 7, and Asher age 4. Ironically, Peyton is a candidate for prince in the 2009 Sesser Homecoming. Perhaps a word of advice to young Peyton and all the future prince and princess candidates: take a good look and be very nice to your escort and other members of the court because someday that person might be the love of your life.

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009


Honoring the Past … Anticipating the Future

A new Coal Miner’s Memorial will greet visitors to the Sesser City Park and will serve as a reminder about the Southern Illinois coal industry’s historic past while looking ahead at its promising future An artist’s sketch shows what the proposed Coal Miner’s Memorial will look like.

By Jim Muir For decades coal tipples virtually surrounded the city of Sesser and the mining industry and the perils that went along with it were woven deep into the fiber of the community. Beginning in 2009 visitors to Sesser and to the four-day Homecoming event will be greeted by a Coal Miner’s Memorial to honor the miners who toiled in the mines an also to recognize those who lost their lives underground. Ground was broken for the


$100,000 miner’s memorial on May 14 with a dedication scheduled for June 20 during the final day of the 2009 Sesser Homecoming. The design of the new structure calls for the hexagon memorial to recognize six mines near Sesser including Freeman mines Orient 3 and Orient 6, Inland Steel/ Consol, and Old Ben mines 21, 24 and 26. Additionally miners who worked at Keller and North mines, as well as Old Ben mines14 and 22 will also be recognized. Names of miners killed while working at the six mines will be etched on the

monument while names of those who worked in the mines will be on engraved bricks surrounding the monument Sesser Mayor Ned Mitchell said the memorial is being constructed to recognize both the past and the future. “This is an opportunity for us to recognize the invaluable contributions of miners who paved the way in the industry,” said Mitchell. “But also to take note of what coal could mean to us in the future.” Former Congressman and cur-

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009

rent SIU President Glenn Poshard took part in the groundbreaking ceremony and told those in attendance that coal could play a huge role in helping solve the nation’s energy problems. “In the Illinois Basin alone, there is enough coal to run the entire energy needs in America for 300 years but we can't mine it because it doesn't meet Clean Air Act standards,” Poshard said. “We often think about our soldiers going abroad to protect America’s interest but internally there is probably no group of people that contributed more to the success and the safety of this country than coal miners.” “They went down into the belly of the Earth every day and risked

worked . o h w s r e in d m te to those s and to those that die n u ib r t a is l ria er tte “This memo e way for younger min hat we have not forgo t th and paved t their families know le .” We want to sacrifices they made g industry – he f the minin o n ra te them and t e v 39-year ple, Sesser

m – Danny Sa

native and

their lives for this country. One time coal was king and it’s our responsibility now to find a way to clean this coal up. That would be the greatest way to memorialize these miners.” Poshard noted that the SIU Coal Research facility continues to explore methods to clean coal and also talked about renewed attempt to land Future Gen – a proposed coal-fueled, zero emissions power plant in Mattoon, as steps toward a

brighter future for the Illinois coal industry. Danny Sample, one of the driving forces behind project, said the names displayed are the key to the memorial. “We’re going to have approximately 325 names on that monument and to me that’s the most important aspect,” said Sample. “It’s about those people because they paved the way for younger miners. I was able to work for 39 years in the mines because those miners fought for better conditions. They paid the price and that makes this very special. Any time a safety measure was gained it was usually because somebody died and then laws were changed.” Sample said the oldest name recognized will be a miner killed in 1907.

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009


“Coal miners are a brotherhood that reaches all the way back to then,” said Sample. “This memorial is a tribute to those miners worked and those that died and to let their families know that we have not forgotten them and the sacrifices they made.” Jerry Jones, a Sesser native who began his mining career at Old Ben 21, located near his hometown,


also helped break ground for the memorial. Jones climbed the union ranks to become secretary-treasurer and later president of District 12 and then was named UMWA International vice president. Jones said the memorial is important for the region but particularly important for the Sesser community.

“It’s very important to this community,” said Jones. “Unfortunately some of those honored here lost their lives and we certainly want to memorialize those people.” Jones said it’s also important for younger generation to remember the impact of coal and the importance in played in Southern Illinois and in Sesser, a community he referred to as “a coal mining town.”

Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009

“I think this memorial is really important for the younger people because with the loss of mines in Southern Illinois we’ve almost skipped an entire generation of coal miners and a lot of young people don’t know much about mining,” said Jones. “A lot of people don’t know that Sesser was a thriving coal mining town when all the mines were in operation. It’s very important for us to keep that legacy alive.”

Anybody wanting to make a contribution to the miner’s memorial can call Sesser Monument Co. at


Sesser Homecoming Commemorative Issue • June, 2009


Sesser Homecoming part 3  

sesser, homecoming