DeKalb County Magazine
Genoa Guest House: Making History Home
Comfort Food Gets All Dressed Up at Nat’s On Maple Larry Gregory: The Man Behind the Photos 1 | February 2018 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
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Table of Contents Genoa Guest House: Making History Home.................................... 6
Sycamore Theater: Family Entertainment Since 1925 . .............. 11
Comfort Food Gets All Dressed Up at Natâ€™s On Maple . ...................................... 14 Gilvydis Vein Clinic: State-of-the-Art Procedure to End Suffering from Varicose Veins .............. 17
New Soccer Team Hopes to Unite DeKalb County.................................... 22
Larry Gregory: The Man Behind the Photos......................... 27
Project Manager: Lisa Angel Layout & Design: Allison LaPorta Photography: DM Herra, Stephen Haberkorn, Larry Gregory, Mary and Roger Keys Writer: DM Herra & Stephen Haberkorn Articles and advertisements are property of Shaw Media. No portion of DC Magazine may be produced without written consent of the publisher.
4 | February 2018 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
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Genoa Guest House
Making History Home
By: Stephen Haberkorn
he June 1, 1901 edition of The Genoa Journal newspaper announced the arrival of Dr. Thomas Austin and his wife to the City of Genoa. The article boasts of the fact that along with his medical practice, Dr. Austin would be bringing DeKalb County’s first X-ray machine. According to the paper, “a great factor” in the doctor’s decision to move his family to Genoa from Burlington was his fatherin-law’s purchase of “the handsome residence property on South Sycamore.” Over a hundred years later, that same house at 231 South Sycamore Street has brought a new couple and a new business to the City of Genoa. Roger and Mary Keys from DeKalb are restoring the former home of the Austin family to its past glory and creating the new Genoa Guest House, the town’s first ever bed and breakfast. Roger and Mary are the perfect couple to take on this endeavor. Roger and their son Matt own R W Keys & Son a building restoration and historic preservation company which Roger established, 45 years ago. Mary recently retired from Resource Bank, where she served as the Director of Marketing. She owned a catering business for twenty-five years, and worked for Northern Illinois University food service management. The reception to the Keys’ bed and breakfast venture, which is planned for a soft opening in March of 2018, has been universally positive. “We get so many phone calls here at the Chamber asking if we have any place to stay,” said Cortney Strohacker, Executive Director of the Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce. “People have relatives who come in for weddings or baby showers and the closest hotel that we have is in Sycamore or the Super 8 in Hampshire. We don’t have anything in Genoa.” Strohacker is excited to finally have the opportunity to direct people to the Genoa Guest House, which is just a short walk from Downtown. It has been a long road to get to this point.
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Restoration & Renovation
The Genoa Guest House began inauspiciously in 2010, when Roger and Mary’s son, Matt, purchased the dilapidated old house on South Sycamore Street at auction. There was only one other person bidding on the house and the biggest draw was the property’s carriage house.
Before Mary Keys could begin her dream of running a bed & breakfast, first they had to get the property rezoned from residential to light commercial. They sent out notices to their neighbors about their proposal and informing them about a special zoning meeting at city hall. Eight neighbors showed up to the meeting and every one of them was very supportive.
The full-blown construction on the house started in January of 2017. The scope of the restoration included a great deal of demolition and reframing. Roger Keys has been working at the house seven days a week, including many twelve hour days.
Matt Keys bought the property because he figured if he didn’t have work during the bad economy, he could work on the house. So he began working on demo and restoration. He removed over twenty layers of wallpaper from the hallway and about five from the bedrooms. And then the project was put on hold. No one lived there, because the bathrooms were in too bad of shape. Matt mowed the lawn and the next-door neighbor kept an eye on the house for him, but other than that there was little activity for several years. In 2015, Mary Keys retired from Resource Bank as Director of Marketing. She had always been in the hospitality business in one form or another, though. In her college days while working at Corning Summer Theatre in Corning New York, she became a caterer to movie stars like John Astin, James Whitmore, Maureen Stapleton, Helen Hayes and Patty Duke. Over the years, her daughter and good friends remembered Mary telling them that she always wanted to have a bed and breakfast. After she retired, a lightbulb went on telling her that the house in Genoa was the perfect opportunity. “The location is within a couple blocks of downtown,” she explained. “This town has no lodging. If you come to visit family and they don’t have room for you to stay, you have to go to Sycamore.
Stephanie Bradac, who lives across the street from the guest house, attended the meeting with her husband. “We were really excited about it,” said Bradac. “We heard about their plans and we definitely voiced our support and enthusiasm.” When the bank sent the appraiser for the bed and breakfast, the appraiser met with Matt and Mary and was excited because she had restored an old property of her own. “She was very helpful,” said Mary Keys. “She had lots of ideas that we hadn’t even thought about. So the bank found us the right appraiser.” Another issue that needed to be addressed was that the house required a larger water service. Mary had read in the city’s annual report that they had a grant to resurface South Sycamore Street, so she went to the city to find out how they could get their water service pulled from across the street before they did the resurfacing. They told her exactly what they needed to do without any runaround. “This type of project relies on the support of the city, and the City of Genoa has been the best working relationship that we could have imagined,” said Mary Keys. “Everything that we have talked to them about has been met with enthusiasm. [They] are really here for business.”
A home that they restored in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood was featured in the JuneJuly issue of Old House Journal and recognized by the City of Chicago as the Best Preservation Project in 2010. Roger Keys is deeply committed to preserving the architectural history of Illinois. He was on the Ellwood House board for fifteen years, including two stints as President. He is past president of the DeKalb Landmark Commission, and board member and president for the Illinois Association of Historic Preservation Commissions. He frequently presents slideshows and educational lectures on historic preservation. “I take a lot of photographs so that I can show people step by step that it’s possible to do this,” said Roger Keys. The house in Genoa took a lot of work to get ready for guests, but after working on other people’s homes his whole life, Roger Keys is finally fixing up something that he’s actually going to live in. “When people come for a visit, they can see what Matt and I do for a living,” said Roger Keys. “It’s kind of a good way to show off our expertise.” The restoration has maintained the vintage look on the outside, but much of the interior was rebuilt. They kept the plaster walls, as they were in wonderful condition. A friend of Roger’s who has been a plasterer for 45 year said it was
DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | February 2018 | 7
some of the straightest plaster he’d ever seen. All the ceilings were removed to accommodate all new electrical, plumbing, heating and airconditioning. Both the house and carriage house have new roofs. The foundation of the house was in great shape, though, and the house was straight as a rail.
They tried to preserve as much of the original house as possible, while making it work for today’s style of living. “From the outside people can think that they are going into an historic property and then walk inside and be delighted that it’s a beautifully modern home,” said Mary Keys.
All the mechanicals in the guest house are new. The boiler was replaced and they have installed separate air conditioning and heating systems for each floor. The home will provide comfort on frigid winter days as well as hot summer evenings.
They have private parking spaces in the back off the alley and a private entrance for guests that leads right up the stairs to the guest rooms. There is also a deck off of the back of the house and a large empty lot next door on one side that has a park-like feel to it.
“This does not go as quickly as building a house,” said Mary Keys, “It would have been much faster to just tear this one down and build a new one. But then you’d have a whole bunch of building material that would go into a landfill somewhere.” They have still maintained the front library with two glass doors that open out, but made the rest of the main floor into as much of an open concept as possible. You can see from the front library all the way through the living room into the kitchen. They have installed a vent-free gas fireplace with a victorian-style mantelpiece in the main parlor. Interestingly, the house did not have fireplaces. Before the boiler, the house had stoves to heat the second floor rooms, which were removed many years ago. Matt had a vision for this property beginning the day of the auction. Over the years he seized every opportunity to salvage pieces with an eye for this restoration. The custom kitchen is repurposed from a national historic register property on Aster Street in Chicago. The maple floor in the kitchen is the old basketball floor from the Chick Evans Field House at NIU. “I probably sold hot dogs and spilled water on that floor,” Mary noted.
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Historic Charm, Modern Comfort Mary and Roger’s daughter, Meghan, owns an accounting business in Portland, Oregon. “She has kept our accounting in order, spear-headed the website, supported our vision with great design input, and made several trips halfway across the country to keep us on track,” said Mary. “She wants to be sure that I don’t make it your grandma’s bed and breakfast,” said Mary. “So when you come, you won’t find lace and roses. Everything you need for your comfort is brand new. It’s a beautiful, clean environment. And, yet, it’s kind of a cool place because it was built in the 1890s.”
The Blue Glass Room is at the front of the house. It offers a queen-sized bed, walnut wardrobe, desk area, comfy chairs and when weather permits, an outside deck with some privacy. The Tower Suite takes its name because of the view of the church bell tower. It has a vaulted ceiling, antiques brass chandelier, and private bath with footed tub, shower combination. Guests may order from a menu of delicious gourmet breakfast dishes, with accommodations for any special dietary needs. Mary has catered weddings and prepared dinner every night for sixty people at a sorority house. In addition, she and Roger both come from large families. “This is like cooking dinner for the fam,” said Mary. “We’re used to a lot of people around and chaos. So to have guest rooms where there could be at most six people, that’s like a no-brainer.” The house will also be available for get-togethers such as showers and anniversary parties. One of their neighbors hosts a family reunion every summer and wants to rent the guest house so that her sisters can stay there, because she doesn’t have enough bedrooms in her house. “It’s a place that you can come, kick back and feel pampered,” said Mary Keys.
Free WiFi is available throughout the house as well as plenty of outlets for people to charge their phones and devices. There are three guest rooms.
Finally, people in the Genoa community have really appreciated the work the Keys have done on the home, both from a beautification standpoint and from the historical/sentimental point of view.
The New York Room is little and cozy. It will have a double bed and is intended for people who travel light. It isn’t roomy, but it has has lots of windows and a view of the park-like area next door.
“We can see the guest house from our living room window and it’s just great to see someone take an old property and bring it back to its original beauty,”
said Stephanie Bradac, â€œIt improved our view. Obviously, it improves the value of the homes in the neighborhood. And it contributes to the beautification and restoration of Genoa. Weâ€™re all for that.â€? During the restoration process, a group of people who are descendants of the Austins reached out to the Keys family through Facebook and they gave them a tour of the house and the work they were doing. One of the women on the tour was in her 80â€™s and was a granddaughter of Dr. Austin. She remembered when her grandmother died and was waked in the front room of the house.
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George & Esther Knaack lived in the house until 2009, when they both passed away. Marya Brown, who lives directly behind the house used to go over to visit with them in their later years. She sees the work the Keys have done as kind of a tribute to the couple she knew and loved. â€œThere are a lot of memories there,â€? said Brown. â€œThey would be happy that the house is being lived in and taken good care of.â€? Marya and her husband, Don, told the Keys that they want to be their first guests when the bed & breakfast opens.
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3232 Pleasant Street DeKalb, IL 60115 (815) 758-3521 www.cityofdekalb.com email@example.com Daily Jet Fuel Price Updates at ďŹ‚ydkb.com
Debbie Kuhn of Genoa might have captured the sentiment perfectly in her post on the Genoa Guest House Facebook page, when she wrote: â€œThank you for making old new again.â€?
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People are able to book online beginning in March. To see the rooms and make reservations visit genoaguesthouse.com.
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10 | February 2018 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
Sycamore Theater Family entertainment since 1925
By DM Herra
movie fans have entered a building in downtown Sycamore and been transported to other worlds - from the glamorous backdrop of Old Hollywood to the dusty streets of the Wild West to the futuristic decks of a starship. Daryl Hopper and her husband, Kenley, have owned the Sycamore State Theater since 1999, but both worked in cinemas long before that. Daryl began selling theater concessions in 1975, when she was still in high school. She continued working for movie theaters through college, and she and Kenley worked different shifts at theaters in the early years of their marriage. “When we had kids, I worked nights, he worked days,” she said. “We didn’t ever need a sitter.” The theater has been an anchor of downtown Sycamore for more than 90 years. It opened Nov. 28, 1925, as the Polka Brothers Fargo Theater and changed its name to the State Theater in 1940. In 1972, the theater went out of business and the space was used as a church for more than a decade. Daryl Hopper said that shift corresponded with a national loss of interest in going to the movies.
DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | February 2018 | 11
“Theaters were failing in the 70s because of TV,” she said. “Studios stopped investing a lot in movies. Then VHS and Beta came out, and movie studios saw an opportunity to make movies and sell them on a secondary market. By the 80s you had the big multiplexes going up.” The State Theater began showing movies again in 1990. Daryl began working there as a manager a few nights a week, which snowballed into buying the theater nine years later. Then in the 2000s, the world changed again. Theaters began switching from film reels to digital projection systems and a few years ago, movie studios stopped releasing movies on film. “Our old projectors here were from the 30s,” Hopper said. “Each digital projector costs $100,000. A lot of independent theaters couldn’t absorb that cost and went out of business. Even the big theaters started shrinking; at $100,000 each they can’t have a multiplex with 30 screens anymore, so they’re shrinking to 10.” After so many years in the theater business, Hopper has seen movie trends come and go. When she was a child in the 1960s, she said, Westerns were popular. In the 1970s, gritty movies about outlaws and gangsters hit their peak. The 1980s saw a spike in movies about aliens and the 1990s were filled with movies about teenage angst. Superhero movies are having their heyday now, but Hopper sees them as just another trend that will eventually wear out. “Because of CGI, as long as animated movies keep up with strong storylines, animation is the one I see keeping on strong,” she said. “It used to be an animated movie didn’t have to have much of a storyline, but today’s audience expects the characters in an animated movie to be just as strong as the characters in a live-action movie, and they expect there to be jokes aimed at the adults in the audience.” The Sycamore State Theater is equipped with three screens showing the latest movies. In 2010, the theater began selling Hopper’s Poppers gourmet popcorns, just one way the historic theater differentiates itself from the competition. Many theater patrons don’t realize that cinemas don’t make a profit off box office receipts, Hopper said. While the formula varies, for most movies, about 60 percent of your ticket price goes to the movie studio and 40 percent is kept by the theater. For the Sycamore State Theater, which sells tickets for $6 and is located in a building nearly a century old, those receipts would barely cover the heating bill.
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“It doesn’t matter if it’s a big theater or a momand-pop like us, the theater’s money is made on concessions,” Hopper said. At $2 for a box of candy and $7 for a tub of popcorn, the theater’s concession prices are still below what many corporate-owned multiplexes charge. Hopper said the business also prides itself in popping high-quality popcorn in 100 percent coconut oil, and it carries candy and drinks in small, child-appropriate sizes as well as the large sizes cinemas are known for. Hopper’s Poppers, in flavors like cheddar, pizza and caramel, sold so well that Daryl and Kenley’s son Ryan and his wife, Stephanie, opened the first Hopper’s Poppers standalone location in Oregon, Ill. in 2016, followed by the Sycamore location in 2017. Both locations sell gourmet popcorn and hand-scooped Hershey’s ice cream, and the Oregon location also has an assortment of homemade chocolates and candy. Ryan Hopper said he has enough equipment to open three more locations once he identifies where they should be. “I knew we had a good product because it took off pretty fast,” he said. “Our Oregon location does really well. It’s a different vibe there than Sycamore; people there sit down and chat while they eat their popcorn in the store. There’s a lot of tourism, so a lot of the people there are on vacation. We have one guy who comes out to Oregon from Joliet once a month to get his popcorn and visit the state parks.” Hopper’s Poppers sells refillable buckets at both locations and in the theater; Ryan says the bucket is especially popular among long-haul truck drivers who come through the Oregon store. “One guy tells me my popcorn has been all across the country,” Ryan Hopper said. “He lets people try it and brings me popcorn from other places to try.” The question customers always ask is if they can take snacks purchased at the popcorn store into the theater. The answer is no. “We sell the same popcorn in the theater, but they’re two separate businesses,” Daryl Hopper said. “The popcorn sold at the store keeps the lights on at the store and the popcorn sold in the theater keeps the lights on in the theater.” In December, the theater added another new facet to its concessions counter: beer and wine. Ryan Hopper proposed adding alcohol sales as a way of boosting revenue and staying competitive. He floated the idea to the theater’s Facebook followers, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“Moms and dads said coming to see a cartoon would be more enjoyable with a glass of wine,” Daryl Hopper said. “Couples thought it would make a nice date.” In order for the theater to sell beer and wine, the city had to create a new class of liquor license, since none of the existing classes applied to a theater. Sycamore Mayor Curtis Lang said the city was happy to help. “It is another way for them to generate revenue and compete with the multiplex cinemas in our area,” he said. The license has specific restrictions – beer and wine are sold from a designated area behind the concessions counter and are sold in different containers than the cups used for soda and non-alcoholic beverages. Patrons buying alcohol must wear a wristband and beverages are limited to one per person per trip. “These restrictions keep it pretty safe as far as maintaining a family environment,” Lang said. The theater has a long history of staying ahead of the times. It was the first public building in DeKalb County be air conditioned, Daryl Hopper said. The owners of the Fargo installed a sound system – basically a record player wired to speakers – in 1928, just months after Al Jolson’s “The Jazz Singer” introduced sound in motion pictures. Lang said the theater is an important part of the city’s quaint downtown. Being involved in the community is important to businesses, Ryan Hopper said. He began representing the theater at chamber events while he was still in high school. When he opened his shop out in Oregon, the first thing he did was reach out to the local business community. He joined three nonprofit boards, and his shop sparked several more new businesses to locate downtown. In its first year, Hopper’s Poppers won the Oregon Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year award, he said. His view is that the business, though owned by the family, belongs to the community – a view he learned from his parents. “Our business won’t stay in business unless patrons feel like it’s their theater,” Daryl Hopper said. “People come in and tell us they saw their first movie here. They had their first date, their first kiss here. They got engaged here. This is part of their history and part of their family. It’s their home, too.”
1007 N. First Street, DeKalb, IL 815-758-4508 www.studioonesalon.com DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | February 2018 | 13
Comfort food Gets All Dressed Up at
Nat ’s On Maple By DM Herra
When customers meet the owner of Nat’s On Maple for the first time, a double take is not uncommon. “People always think it’s Nate, not Nat,” Natalie Waeghe said. “So they ask to speak with Nate, and they assume it’s a man, and when I come out they’re kind of confused.” That reaction doesn’t bother Waeghe – all she cares about is that the customer usually wants to speak with her to compliment the food and atmosphere at the upscale casual restaurant she and her husband, Dave, run in downtown Sycamore. There are no white tablecloths on the shining dark wood tables in the restaurant’s two small dining rooms, but there is romantically dim lighting and the strains of Frank Sinatra and other crooners on the sound system. The atmosphere is both inviting and intimate, leading some customers to consider it their go-to “fancy” restaurant. “Some people refer to us as fine dining. We’re not; we’re casual. But it’s a huge compliment to us that they see us that way,” Natalie Waeghe said. “We try to introduce different things while keeping in mind where we are – we have pot roast and meatloaf on the menu as well as high-end seafood.” In fact, pot roast, that quintessential comfort food, is the restaurant’s top seller, followed by cedar plank salmon. When creating the menu, Dave Waeghe added it over his wife’s objections. Between them, the couple has spent more than 45 years working in restaurants in Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, Boston, Chicago and London. Natalie, 46, thought pot roast was too humble an item for the menu but Dave, 49, knew it would go over well. “He said, ‘This is the Midwest; it’s meat and potatoes,’” Natalie Waeghe said. The potatoes are another story. Natalie Waeghe recalls in the restaurant’s early days, vendors would come in and try to sell the Waeghes bags of premade mashed potatoes. One man was particularly persistent. “Finally, Dave said, ‘Fine, come in and prepare your mashed potatoes out of your bag,’” Natalie Waeghe said. “So the guy did, then Dave served him his potatoes and our potatoes and had him try them both. He never came back.”
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Dave Waeghe’s recipes were developed and perfected through his training at culinary school and years of working for both small mom-and-pop restaurants and large corporate chains like Cheesecake Factory and Rainforest Café. Nat’s On Maple describes its cuisine as “trendy comfort food,” where duck risotto shares space on the menu with chicken and biscuits. The lunch and dinner menus are slightly different, and new dishes are tried out as specials to gauge their appeal before being added to the menu. Natalie Waeghe said there’s a delicate balance between keeping the menu fresh and maintaining people’s favorites. “Sometimes people will be upset when something is off the menu, but most of the time – if we have the ingredients and it doesn’t require anything complicated like a sauce that has to simmer – if you ask for it we’ll make it anyway,” she said. “There is one item we run as a special that actually sells more when it’s not on the menu.” Kim Olson, dining with a friend at lunchtime on a cold December day, said Nat’s strikes a balance between being formal enough to feel special and casual enough to feel relaxed. “You could come here for a special date or you could bring your family here,” she said. Both Waeghes have spent their entire working lives in the restaurant business, Dave in the kitchen and Natalie in the front of the house. They met while working at Dave and Buster’s, and as their careers continued to advance they began thinking about opening a place of their own. They nearly went into business with friends in Detroit but it didn’t pan out. They kept looking for the right opportunity, but unfortunately, Natalie said, they had the experience to open and run a restaurant but not the money for the initial investment. “Around this time my parents were looking to move to Illinois from Ohio, and one of Dave’s coworkers at Rainforest Café told him they should look at Sycamore,” Natalie Waeghe said. “So we came to see the town. We were going to dinner at PJ’s (Courthouse Tavern) and there was a sign on this building across the street that listed all this restaurant equipment for sale.” The previous owner of the red brick building at 112 S. Maple St. had remodeled the former garage into a restaurant-store hybrid and was getting out of the industry, Waeghe said. Since the Waeghes were just starting out, he gave them a good deal on a lease and all the equipment. The restaurant business is tough – it’s expensive to start, and most restaurants don’t start turning a profit until they’ve been open at least three years. “It was such a risk,” Natalie Waeghe recalled. “I kept my corporate job for a year just to be sure, which made it even more difficult because I wasn’t here. And I got pregnant three months after we opened – not the best timing. We figured after three years we’d know if we were getting established and hoped, at most, we’d make it 10 years.” Nat’s On Maple crossed that 10-year mark in 2014, and the Waeghes began discussing the possibility of opening a second location. They haven’t set a timeline, but once again, they are looking for the right opportunity. “It’s probably about time to open a second one,” Natalie Waeghe said. “That one will probably not be on Maple Street, so it will probably be just Nat’s. Time will tell.” The name on the restaurant was something of an afterthought meant to correct what Natalie realized was a lack of foresight in selecting the location. While Nat’s is downtown, it is not on the city’s main thoroughfare – and what’s worse it’s on a
DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | February 2018 | 15
one-way street that at the time they opened was under construction. That’s when the idea struck to put the street in the restaurant’s name. “One of the hardest things was coming up with the name,” Waeghe said. “’Nat’s’ just kind of flowed better than ‘Dave’s,’ and we put the street in the name hoping people would at least find us.” Find it they did. The restaurant opened quietly on Oct. 18, 2004, and to the Waeghes’ surprise, business took off. They were profitable and able to buy the building just two years after opening. Those first years consisted of some trial and error, and Natalie Waeghe credits the people of Sycamore for helping to shape the restaurant into what it is. When Nat’s opened, there was very little on the bar because the owners didn’t know what kind of liquor their customers would want. Natalie expected to sell a lot of beer and was taken aback to find a strong demand for wines and martinis. So the bar expanded, with a vast selection of wines and specialty cocktails. “I really listened and really took the time to hear what our guests had to say,” she said. “People really shaped us as we went along.” Manager Judie Gaytan has been along for the ride. Gaytan has been the restaurant’s manager since it opened – an incredibly long time in an industry where staff usually turns over every couple of years. Much of the staff at Nat’s has been with the restaurant for five years or more. “I knew opening a restaurant was a good thing to have on a resume and it sounded like fun,” Gaytan said. “Then I started and the money kept getting better and the community was great and the bosses were great.” Such longevity not only means less training is required, but also that staff can develop relationships with the restaurant’s many regular customers. Gaytan describes it as “a nice family feeling.” Gaytan’s daughter, just a child when the restaurant opened in 2004, also works there as a server. While the Waeghes’ own children, ages 12 and 9, have helped set up for parties or catering jobs, Natalie said there’s not any expectation that they will follow in their parents’ footsteps someday. “We tried to keep them away from work for a long time,” she said. Natalie Waeghe said the restaurant business is not for everybody, but there are lessons to be learned that her children can apply to whatever path they take in life. “People you meet here are hungry and have high expectations. It’s a good business to learn to understand people and be able to work with people,” she said. “It’s a good business to develop a work ethic. I don’t wish this business on them, but if they can get a little overview of life through it, that would be great.” As a restaurant family, the Waeghes live an unorthodox lifestyle. Family time doesn’t come on Saturday night, and holidays are sometimes celebrated on a different calendar date. While those kinds of pressures can put stress on some relationships, they’ve never bothered the Waeghes, Natalie said, possibly because she and Dave were both living the restaurant life before they met. “It takes a certain type of person to like the kind of schedule you get in restaurants, but you figure it out,” she said. “You’re working when everyone else is out having fun. But the best feeling is standing here on a Saturday night, when it’s crowded and people are talking and laughing. I just stop and look around and think, ‘People are here to eat at our restaurant.’ How great is that?” Nat’s on Maple is open Monday - Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday 11am-10pm and Saturday 4pm-10pm. To view their menu visit Natsonmaple.com.
16 | February 2018 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
Gilvydis Vein Clinic: State-of-the-Art Procedure to End Suffering from Varicose Veins
By: Stephen Haberkorn Dr. Rimas Gilvydis has literally felt his patients’ pain. The founder and medical director of the Gilvydis Vein Clinic in Sycamore and Geneva, Gilvydis (pronounced “gill-VEE-diss”) became interested in his specialty in medical school when he started experiencing aching and restlessness in his legs due to varicose veins. He ended up having procedures done on both of his legs to address the problem. While varicose veins have typically been viewed as mainly a cosmetic issue, the symptoms for the malady can include leg fatigue, heaviness, burning, throbbing, itching, and cramping, as well as restlessness. Varicose veins can also lead to leg ulcers and life-threatening blood clots. But for those suffering from vein disease, relief is now in sight. Dr. Gilvydis is excited to be able to improve his patients’ quality of life through the techniques he has learned as an interventional radiologist and his experience performing over 20,000 vein treatments. “I can get rid of people’s aches, pain, swelling and crampiness,” said Gilvydis, “When I treat people, they no longer have this heaviness in their legs. They don’t feel like they need to put their legs up at the end of the day. Restless legs go away. People sleep better. These patients, who before were hobbled by varicose vein disease... don’t feel like they’re bogged down anymore.” Gilvydis and his staff employ a breakthrough, minimally-invasive procedure to treat varicose veins. First, they utilize ultrasound imaging to map out the damaged veins. Then they thread a tiny catheter into the vein and emit light energy to close it down from the inside. The superficial veins are later harmlessly absorbed into the body. This treatment is called endovenous laser ablation (EVLA). “It was pretty much painless,” said patient Betty Snitchler of Dixon, “You get a few pokes here and there. I think my flu shot hurt more than what it did to have my leg done.” The procedures are quick, require no anesthesia, produce little-to-no downtime, and are covered by insurance. The Gilvydis Vein Clinic also hosts free venous disease screenings monthly at their Sycamore location. “I would say go ahead and at least get the assessment,” said patient Linda Hallstrom of Sycamore. “You will be pleasantly surprised at the knowledge level of everyone involved. These people would answer every question. They were local and very down to earth.”
DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | February 2018 | 17
What Causes Vein Disease?
Vein disease, or venous insufficiency, is a medical condition in which veins cannot return blood from the legs back up to the heart because of failure of the tiny valves within the veins. Varicose veins occur when the blood flowing back down pools up inside the veins and causes them to bulge. The condition affects approximately 40 million people in the United States, according to Stanford University. “People have always dealt with this,” explained Gilvydis. “Our grandparents’ generation suffered miserably with this stuff. People didn’t talk about it much before; they just wore stockings to hide it. But now we can treat it. Why suffer with this when we can treat it easily and it’s covered by insurance?”
Vein disease is a chronic condition that often starts when you are a teenager. When you’re lying in bed, you can’t tell anything is wrong, but when you stand up, your varicose veins let the blood pour back down like a waterfall. And then the good veins in your legs get over-worked. People who have the condition get used to their legs feeling this way and just kind of accept it, said Gilvydis. They may think it’s normal to have to put their legs up at the end of the day because they are aching and cramping. “When I treat patients, not only do their veins disappear, but their symptoms go away. A lot of them are just, ‘Wow, I should have done this years ago. I didn’t know my legs could feel this good,’” said Gilvydis. “And, yeah, cosmetically it looks great and psychologically they’re in a better place. When they come back, they are all very happy.” Dr. Gilvydis can also treat spider veins, which are small red and blue veins that look like spider webs. They are considered less serious, but could be an indicator of vein disease. Spider veins can be eliminated through a procedure called sclerotherapy, using small liquid or foam injections to achieve the same effects as EVLA. The main cause of vein disease is genetic predisposition. Most people who suffer from varicose veins have a history of it in their family. Other factors that appear to contribute are pregnancy, leg trauma, frequent periods of prolonged sitting or standing, and obesity. It’s a little bit more common in women, but as far as severity, both are exactly the same, said Gilvydis. The increased incidence in women may be due to the fact that they go through pregnancy, which accelerates the process. Many women think they should wait until they have all their children before getting their veins treated, but Dr. Gilvydis strongly advises treating them as soon as possible. A lot of people get clots in varicose veins, which can lead to the life-threatening condition of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Getting rid of the varicose veins lowers your risk of blood clots in your legs that could eventually migrate to your lungs.
Varicose Vein Treatment
While doing a fellowship as an interventional radiologist in the catheterization (cath) lab at Rush Hospital in Chicago in 2001, Dr. Gilvydis learned about the new procedure to treat varicose veins using catheters and lasers to seal the faulty veins from the inside. This was a cutting edge treatment, ironically, because no cutting was involved. Traditionally, surgeons would cut out varicose veins through a procedure known as stripping. The problems with vein stripping are many. Patients have a lot of down time afterwards. Typically, they only remove one big vein or maybe two. And with surgery, you’re causing scar tissue, which is very vascular. This promotes the formation of clusters of small veins, and these veins get bigger and bigger and don’t have valves in them. “Cutting the veins out is old school,” said Gilvydis. “Everyone’s kind of shying away from surgery and trying to do things minimally invasive.”
After doing a few of these minimally-invasive procedures at Rush and seeing how well his patients did, Dr. Gilvydis accepted a position at Swedish American Hospital in Rockford in 2001 and founded the Northern Illinois Vein Clinic in 2004. They eventually became the largest vein clinic in Rockford and the go-to destination for vein disease patients in the area. About four years ago, he opened the Gilvydis Vein Clinic in Sycamore independently. And last July, they also opened a location in Geneva. Dr. Gilvydis and his staff work out of the Northern Illinois Vein Clinic in Rockford on Mondays-Wednesdays. On Thursdays, they are in Sycamore at the Gilvydis Vein Clinic and on Fridays they are at the Geneva location. Even though Dr. Gilvydis was trained to do a broad range of interventional procedures in the cath lab, such as angiograms, biopsies, and tumor treatment, as of five years ago he strictly does vein work. This is in part because of his personal experience with vein disease, but mainly due to his tremendous success with EVLA treatment and the impact it has on the quality of his patients’ lives.
18 | February 2018 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
“For most people I treat, this is almost a life changer,” said Gilvydis. “It’s nice to know that if I go in there and treat these varicose veins on these patients, not only do they look good, but their legs feel amazing.” According to Gilvydis, there are a lot of clinics out there that do varicose vein treatments, but 90% of them are not run by interventional radiologists, because this is something new. So a physician who doesn’t have catheter and ultrasound skills will get some training and learn how to do a few veins and then go to work. Clinics run by physicians who don’t have a high level of training and experience with these new treatments are probably going to focus more on old school injections or phlebectomies (using small incisions to remove veins). “The level of care is all over the place,” said Gilvydis. “The care that I provide, you can’t beat it; it’s top notch. When somebody comes to me, they’re going to get very comprehensive, very thorough care.”
As a school teacher and administrator, and now a real estate agent, Linda Hallstrom of Sycamore has sustained an active lifestyle. At 68, she is still selling homes and substitute teaching, along with watching her two small grandchildren.
About five years ago, she started to have pain in her legs when she was walking or standing, due to varicose veins. But she was hesitant about having anything done because of what her mother went through. “My mother had such a horrible history with varicose veins, with pain and then years ago they stripped [them],” said Hallstrom. “She would be off work for weeks on end. It was just miserable, so I remember it vividly. She had both legs and several strippings done. That was what was in the back of my mind. Of course, nobody likes pain, but I didn’t want to be laid up that long.” She had checked with a popular doctor in St. Charles about having the laser treatment done, but put it off because she was busy and also a bit anxious about going through the relatively new medical procedure. After seeing a newspaper ad for the Gilvydis Vein Clinic in Sycamore, she decided to give them a call and set up her initial assessment. In March of 2017, she finally had the EVLA procedure done. Her anxiety was lessened when she found out that Dr. Gilvydis, himself, had EVLA treatment of varicose veins in both of his legs. According to Hallstrom, the treatment was more comfortable than she had imagined. Dr. Gilvydis put her at ease with his humor and allowed her to pick her own music from an extensive playlist. She said the previous patient had played AC/DC, but she selected classical music. After her veins were quickly marked, the procedure took no more than 15 minutes. “It’s not as dramatic as I thought it was going to be,” said Hallstrom. “It really wasn’t painful for me. I don’t have a high tolerance for pain, so I feel comfortable saying it’s a low-pain type of procedure.” As she had been told would happen, her skin was “a little bubbly” with some redness after the procedure. Before she left the office, they helped her put on support hose with instructions to wear them for about four days. After a follow-up ultrasound appointment, she elected to have a sclerotherapy treatment to remove her spider veins, which cost her $300 out of pocket. “My legs are not only pain free, they look like they did when I was thirty,” said Hallstrom. “Now, my legs are basically clear. It exceeded my expectations, totally. My daughter, when she saw the results, was very surprised. This truly seems like a landmark procedure.” Betty Snitchler of Dixon also came in for her free consultation after she saw an ad for the Gilvydis Vein Clinic. Snitchler had spider veins as early as high school. As she got older, her legs would feel tired and heavy. She also had restless legs. “It just all seemed to kind of go together,” said Snitchler. After getting the laser treatment (EVLA) to fix the varicose veins in her right leg and sclerotherapy to treat her spider veins, she noticed a big difference. “I had pretty severe restless legs,” said Snitchler. “The leg he fixed that had varicose veins, I really haven’t noticed any [restlessness] to speak of since I had the surgery. That was a good result, which was unexpected. Also, my legs are not as tired.” DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | February 2018 | 19
Dr. Rimas Gilvydis Dr. Rimas Gilvydis grew up in Franklin Village, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit known for its historic Franklin Cider Mill. He was inspired to go into medicine by an uncle who was a neurosurgeon. He earned a B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Michigan and his M.D. at Wayne State University Medical School. He did his residency at St. Joseph Mercy Health System in Pontiac, Michigan in diagnostic radiology, where he learned to do all kinds of imaging, such as CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound. He became interested in using imaging to do procedures, which is known as interventional radiology or vascular interventional radiology. Gilvydis then did a two-year fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, where he practiced neuroradiology, or interventional radiology of the brain and spine. He completed a second fellowship at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where he did interventional radiology on the rest of the body outside of the brain and spine. It was then that he learned how to treat arteries and vein disease with catheters and lasers. A friend of his from Washington University took a job at Swedish American Hospital in Rockford and invited Gilvydis to join him in 2001 when they were looking for an interventional radiologist. Even though he still works out of Rockford half the week, he eventually relocated his family to Naperville, where they currently reside. Dr. Gilvydis is a board certified vascular and interventional radiologist. He was also one of the first physicians in the U.S. to be certified by the American Board of Venous & Lymphatic Medicine (ABVLM) to treat varicose veins. Gilvydis does a lot of educational lectures—literally every week he speaks to family physicians, OB/GYNs, orthopedic specialists, podiatrists, dermatologists and other doctors about treatment for vein disease. “The reason I do it is because this is poorly understood,” said Gilvydis, “This information has not been disseminated correctly to all the different medical practices.” All of Gilvydis’s clinics are run the same way and do all of the vein procedures. All the staff he hires are cath lab and surgical people. They employ highly-qualified ICU nurses and accredited vascular ultrasonographers. “Everyone that I hire loves to do this, because they see the results and they realize the work they do is really valuable,” said Gilvydis. Gilvydis hopes to expand even more by bringing in other interventional radiologists to work with him and opening up locations throughout the Chicagoland area. “I feel comfortable in doing what I’m doing,” said Gilvydis. “It’s a growing field. I could open up this clinic anywhere. I think the way we treat is the way everybody should treat in the future.”
20 | February 2018 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
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DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | February 2018 | 21
New Soccer Team Hopes to Unite DeKalb County By: Stephen Haberkorn
Many heated athletic rivalries exist among towns in DeKaLb County, such as DeKalb/Sycamore and Hinckley-Big Rock/Somonauk. But this summer, a new team is coming to the area that hopes to unite all of DeKalb County behind a common banner. The DeKalb County United men’s semi-pro soccer team officially launched on July 19, 2007 with their website (www.dkcunited.com) and social media platforms. They will host tryouts December through March, begin pre-season games in April, and kick off their first season as a member of the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) in May. Their logo, featuring a yellow soccer ball in a corn stalk and also a section of barbed wire, pays homage to the area’s agricultural and manufacturing roots. It was designed by Sycamore native Mike Figueroa from FiGsigARTS and Spider Tattooz, who is an NIU graduate and has done work for the Chicago Blackhawks and the United States Military Academy at West Point. Club President, John Hall, hopes that the soccer team can one day be as synonymous with DeKalb County as the famous icons depicted in their logo. “When you think DeKalb County, you think the Ag,” said Hall, “You think the yellow ear of corn and then hopefully you think about our logo and going out to a game in the summer time.”
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The two men driving this new venture, Hall and team Vice President, Colby Newquist, have extensive ties to the local soccer community. Hall grew up in Sycamore, but moved to DeKalb when he was in 8th grade. He attended DeKalb High School, where he played soccer. He also played at Kishwaukee College. He currently plays indoor with Shockers SC and outdoors with Sycamore Rovers FC. In addition, Hall has coached for DeKalb High School, NIFC, Kishwaukee College and Spectre Soccer Club. Newquist has played for Sycamore High School, Kishwaukee College, Aurora University and Aurora Borealis SC. He has coached for Kaneland High School and Aurora Borealis. He currently plays indoor and outdoor for Sycamore Rovers FC. Hall and Newquist have known each other for a long time and have played with and against each other in different leagues. The idea came to them over the last few years as other teams got into the semi-pro league that began in 2015 and branched out into their geographic region. When Hall and Newquist starting discussing and researching the feasibility of beginning a team in DeKalb County, they determined that there were close to 5,000 soccer families just in Sycamore and DeKalb, without even taking into account towns like Genoa and overflow communities like Rochelle and Kaneland. In addition, there are several soccer-only towns in the area like Earlville and Hinckley that have no football programs. Hall pointed out that the summer Hispanic league he and Newquist play in drew 300-400 spectators for this year’s final in Sycamore. Also, you can regularly see hundreds watching games in the upstairs area at the DeKalb Sports & Rec Center on weekends throughout the winter. “We thought the market was large. The population is definitely there,” said Newquist. “They take their soccer seriously here.” The club will be a part of the Midwest Conference of the UPSL, along with 12-14 teams from Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, including Elgin and Aurora. The teams in their conference formerly made up the Premier League of America (PLA) before merging with the UPSL for the 2018 season. With the Aurora Borealis beginning play in the PLA two years ago and the Elgin Pumas joining last year, the geography of the league made it doable for DeKalb County, as they will be able to keep their travel costs down and have a couple great local rivals within a 25-30 minute drive. The league’s season runs from mid-May until late-July, which Hall believes fits perfectly into the local athletic calendar. “It’s kind of a dead time for sports around here,” said Hall. “The papers want to cover something. Facilities are available. Other than summertime baseball, there isn’t a whole lot going on. We think the time frame for this league really does well for us.” The new team will play their 8-12 home games at the 1800-seat Northern Illinois University Soccer Complex. Most of their games should be on Saturdays around 4:00 P.M., although they may have a Friday or Sunday game occasionally. Tickets for the family-friendly events will be extremely affordable, with admission for single games only $5, and adult season ticket packages for $50, which includes a scarf they normally sell for $30. The season ticket card itself will also allow patrons to get discounts at local businesses. In effect, it will be a season ticket card with the added benefits of a fundraising card. The United can process recurring payments through their website, so people can pay for individual season tickets $5 per month, or family season tickets $15 per month. The DeKalb County team wants to make their games into family events. Local clubs can bring their team to games and give their kids the opportunity to serve as ball boys and ball girls. At halftime, kids will get to play on the field and receive shirts. Local businesses will run tents and sponsor activities like bouncy houses, face painting, and a grassy play area. Fans will also have the opportunity to win money in a 50/50 halftime crossbar challenge or score giveaway items like scarves. For the adults, beer and possibly other alcoholic beverages will be sold at the games as well. “We want to make it as professional as possible,” said Hall. “We want to attract soccer people to the games, and then we want them to bring a friend who maybe isn’t.”
DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE | February 2018 | 23
A Pure Cause A unique aspect to this semi-pro soccer organization is that the team will function as an Illinois non-profit corporation and has applied for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. “That’s a testament to our intent. It’s a pure cause; it’s not a money-making scheme for us,” said Hall. “It’s a passion project.”
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24 | February 2018 | DeKALB COUNTY MAGAZINE
While doing their research on how they wanted to organize their club, they talked to people who had experience running soccer organizations in town. They learned about many different templates, but ultimately decided to become one of the few teams in the league that will be community-funded. “All of that molded the way we wrote the bylaws, the decision to be non-profit,” said Hall. “It’s kind of a European model. We want the community to rally behind it and feel some ownership of it, so that it lives long beyond our own involvement.” All five members of their board of directors are volunteers, putting in many hours on this project in the evenings and on weekends, despite holding down full-time day jobs. They all view themselves as servants who are doing this as a community enhancement venture. What they have found is that once businesses understand that, they have been very supportive. They have already lined up a large number of sponsors and are signing up more all the time. “Everybody agrees that the community needs something positive to kind of focus on,” said Hall. “We are hoping to fill that void.” One of the more significant company sponsors to sign on is New Balance. The athletic shoe and apparel brand learned about the DeKalb County United through the team’s networking around the country and their social media presence. New Balance reached out to them and was eager to form a partnership. They will be the kit (uniform and equipment) provider for the team. “Our vision aligns, because we’re trying to grow the game here and they’re trying to grow their presence in the game,” said Hall. “That partnership should turn out to be fantastic for us.”
When reaching out to local businesses for sponsorships, the club has had tremendous success because they’ve known most of them for over twenty years. That has been a huge advantage over having a single club owner come in with no ties or roots in the community. Some of the team’s early sponsors include Molly’s, Burritoville, Stomp, First Midwest Bank, First State Bank, Heartland Bank & Trust, American Midwest Tax & Accounting, Oncken Law, and Stu Fotog.
With the abundance of local players, the team hopes to build off a core of homegrown talent to form a local all-star team. They also have plans to start up a women’s team down the road.
“We want to canvas the area and anybody that would like to be a part of it, we would like to engage that,” said Hall. “In a perfect world, we could get every business to give us $50 or $100 and then we could fund the whole thing and everybody’s in.”
“What makes our club teams strong is that we don’t have a Sycamore club and a DeKalb club,” said Hall. “When you bring people together from wherever, you take the best possible players. It grows them individually and it grows the teams. We’re doing that on a little higher level.”
They are also looking into a local service to livestream their games. There could be an opportunity for Molly’s and other establishments to broadcast their games. Hobnobbers in Sycamore already livestreams Sycamore High School football games. “Those are the kinds of things that will help local businesses,” said Hall. “If there are a couple soccer fans in the bar and they want to watch, we can give them that opportunity to engage and follow along with what we’re doing.”
One of the club’s most-important decisions to ensure the success of the team was hiring a head coach. They were looking for someone with the right character and the same passion for the community that they have—someone to run the program, establish a culture right out of the gate, and be the face of the organization.
Although there are some more-established clubs in their league that do financially compensate their players, at this point, the DeKalb County United is not planning to pay their players. They will, however, be able to cover their travel costs and provide them with uniforms and equipment. The positive aspect of being an amateur club is that they will be able to have current college players on their roster. “If there are eight or nine players at NIU who want a place to play pre-season, we might have a spot for them,” said Hall.
On December 18th, they announced the signing of Michael Gecan to serve as the first Head Coach of the DeKalb County United. Gecan is an NIU alumnus who coached at Kishwaukee College and Burlington Central High School. He has also worked for the DeKalb Park District. “When I first heard that DeKalb was starting a semi-professional soccer team, I immediately reached out to John as I knew that this was something I wanted to be involved with,” said Gecan. Gecan said fans should expect to see dedicated, passionate, and hardworking players that want to represent their communities with pride each time they step on the field.
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Their plan is to roster 10-12 players before open tryouts in January, local guys who they’ve seen in leagues and know they are the right caliber of player. Then they will let the coach select the rest of the roster. They are aiming for a roster of 30 players. The core group of local players will be supplemented by talented players they discover through tryouts, as well as some college players looking to get more experience. They are planning to practice two days a week—Tuesdays and Thursdays in the evening—with the games being on the weekends. For most players, the team feels that should be a manageable level of commitment. “We want to balance it being a community club and a competitive club,” said Newquist. “We want to win the league and make it entertaining and score goals.” Growing up playing soccer in DeKalb County, Newquist has seen a lot of talent come through the area. He also played for the Aurora Borealis in the PLA for the past two years and knows the level of competition they will be facing. “This area definitely has what it takes to compete and get to that level,” said Newquist. The team’s first signee, goalkeeper Tim Smith, grew up in Sycamore. He played on the first team in Sycamore High School history to go to state. While in high school, he played for the Olympic development program and backed up Brad Guzan, who later played on the U.S. Men’s National Team. After stints at Kishwaukee College and the University of Dubuque, Smith had tryouts with a couple professional teams in the U.S., before going to Iceland and playing for a professional team called Huginn FC. He got injured after half a season, returned home and got a job with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, where he has been since 2008. “In high school, some of the best players I ever played with in my life didn’t get scouted because we were just too far away from a big city,” said Smith. “If we were closer
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in to Chicago, I think there would have been a few more offers. If we can get these kids who are coming out of high school or coming out of college and put them on a stage where there could possibly be scouts, we could help them get to the next level.” John Hall wishes an opportunity like this had been available fifteen years ago to give him something to push for when he was a young player. He pointed out that he was a better student when he was active in soccer, because it kept him focused and motivated. “There is all of this talent that just never gets showcased,” said Hall. “We’ve got 110,000 people in our county. If we can showcase what we have to offer here, maybe a few players can get noticed by a little bigger club. We’re asking guys to come in and act like professionals, represent the community well … and part of it is we want to give them that platform.” The DeKalb County United also hopes to promote local soccer development by interacting with kids through youth program partnerships. Whether it’s park district, recreational, or very competitive club programs, they want to help those organizations promote the game—by setting up camps and clinics, volunteering to referee games, or showing up at events and being role models in the community. For Newquist and many of the other local players they’ve brought in, they probably don’t have a chance to go to the next level at this point, but they are excited about playing in front of the home fans and the people they grew up with. “This is like a dream come true to be able to play in front of our home town,” said Newquist. “For me, soccer gave me everything. It’s all my friends. It’s what I look forward to all the time. I’ve never been so excited to play for a team like this in my whole life.”
The Man Behind the Photos
By: Stephen Haperkorn As part of an elite group during the Vietnam War, Larry Gregory of DeKalb was given the responsibility of shooting many important people—with his camera. After completing his M.F.A. Degree in Photography from Ohio University in 1968, Gregory was drafted into the U.S. Navy and served for four years as a Navy photographer. While assigned to the Naval Photographic Center in Washington, D.C., Gregory was placed on the shooting crew, a public affairs photographic unit. Out of 250 rated, mostly Navy-trained photographers, he was one of only four ultimately selected for this elite photographic group. Gregory photographed parties, events, award ceremonies and official funerals at the White House, The Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery and other famous sites around the U.S. capital. Among the well-known people he photographed during his time as a Navy photographer were Richard Nixon, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Apollo 11 moon-landing crew of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, Admiral Hyman Rickover, the “Father of the Nuclear Navy,” Admiral Thomas Connelly, whom the F-14 Tomcat fighter plane was named after, Two Chiefs of Naval Operations— Elmo Zumwalt and Thomas Moorer, and many other notable military and political figures. For the last part of his time in the military, Gregory was sent to Newport, Rhode Island to join the Atlantic Fleet Combat Camera Group. His duties took him to South America, Africa and Europe as a member of this group. He also did aerial photography at sea upon the orders of an admiral who wanted to document the location of Russian ships in the area. He didn’t do any actual combat photography, but that was simply luck of the draw. Had he been assigned to the Pacific Fleet Combat Camera Group he would have done six months in Vietnam and six months in Guam. After being discharged from the military in November of 1972, Gregory got a call from a college friend who was then teaching in the Department of Art at Northern Illinois University. His friend was going on sabbatical for one semester and wanted Gregory to cover his classes in the Spring of 1973. After that semester, Gregory moved back to his hometown of St. Louis, but somebody retired unexpectedly from NIU while Gregory was still on the faculty and he ended up being retained. At NIU, Gregory taught all levels of photography, including one of the first color photography classes and also historical and special processes. He eventually served
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as the Assistant Director of NIU’s School of Art before retiring in January of 2011 after thirty-seven years of service. Gregory described his mission as a photography professor: “My job isn’t to tell you, ‘I like your picture.’ My job is to try to get you to understand it, think about it, think of other ways you might have done it. What can you do with the photo that can inform other people about your subject?” If you visited the Midwest Orthopedic Institute (MOI) Physical Therapy building in Sycamore during 2017, you may have seen a collection of about thirty of Larry Gregory’s prints in the facility’s waiting area. The prints spanned almost the entirety of Gregory’s artistic career, with the earliest being a part of his master’s thesis exhibition from the late 1960s and some recent photos from an exhibition he did at the Art Box Gallery in DeKalb in 2015, several years after he retired as a professor from Northern Illinois University. The selection included numerous photographs the artist took around the area, such as the Ellwood House grounds, The Egyptian Theatre, an auction in Sycamore conducted by their former mayor, Red Johnson, an abandoned train car near the old Wurlitzer factory, the old Lehan Drugs storefront in Downtown DeKalb, and a commercial photo of brake parts he did for the DeKalb Forge Company. Daniel Grych, Owner of the Art Box Gallery, is both a connoisseur and purveyor of fine art. A large part of his job is educating people who are not trained in the visual arts about what an artist is doing in a particular work. “It’s not just a pretty picture,” Grych explained. “There is a story behind everything that artists do.” Grych first came into contact with Gregory in the mid-70s, when he took an independent study class with him at NIU. He later became familiar with his work when Gregory did commissioned photos for the Ellwood House Museum. Gregory was on the Ellwood House board for fifteen years and photographed many of the houses they used on their house walk for their pre-walk publications. Grych said that he enjoys Gregory’s work very much and called him “a master photographer.” “His compositions are excellent,” said Grych. “He’ll photograph things a lot of people take for granted...I would have to say there is, sometimes, some humor involved. And there is a lot of artistic presence in his work.” Gregory’s favorite subjects include structures in the landscape, particularly older buildings like churches and glass edifices. He does some still life photography and portraits as well. He also likes to do “street photography,” taking candid photos of strangers in public places such as Downtown DeKalb, the Sandwich Fair, and Michigan Avenue in Downtown Chicago. It was Gregory’s street photography that led to a 2015 exhibit at the Art Box titled, “Coming Out of the Sun.” The eighty or so photos in that exhibit were taken during the previous year’s Corn Fest. They capture people’s expressions as they emerge from the bright light of the late afternoon. According to Grych, you can see the techniques commonly used in black-andwhite photography displayed even in Gregory’s color photographs. “There are different elements in black and white, like patterns and shadows and some other subtleties that maybe a layperson wouldn’t get,” said Grych. “But he also does that with his color. I find his work to be very brilliant in that regard.” Grych explained the difference between a good photographer and a photographic artist. He said that a good photographer will often like to talk
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about what his camera and equipment can do, but a photographic artist is more concerned with the work that a photograph itself can do, not simply the mechanics behind it. Said Gregory of his artistic medium, “I like to make pictures and I never tried to develop hand skills or other processes like printmaking or painting or drawing. This was my way to do that.” One interesting aspect of Gregory’s artistic career is that someone not familiar with his works might have a difficult time determining which are his early photographs and which are his more recent. Because of Gregory’s early influences in contemporary fine art photography and his use of abstract images, many of his earliest prints are avant garde in nature. However, many of his more recent photos have a nostalgic feel to them because of their Midwestern, small town subject matter. Growing up in St. Louis, Gregory developed his interest in photography through his father, who was a union welder and pipefitter but did photography as a hobby. Upon enrolling in college, his early influences included some of the most-respected artists and educators in the field of fine art photography. Gregory attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He decided on SIU because they had a range of courses that covered lots of different facets of photography: scientific, industrial, portraiture, color, and press photography. Gregory wanted to get into commercial photography, particularly advertising and industrial, and he was not interested in photojournalism, which was the primary focus at other schools like the University of Missouri. (The term “photojournalism” was coined at the University of Missouri.)
the photography program at Ohio University, which was the first degree-granting program in photography at a major university. Another mentor to Gregory at Ohio University was Arnold Gassan. Gassan was influenced by prominent fine art photographers such as Minor White and Ansel Adams, as he was an informal student and colleague of both. Gassan wrote a number of textbooks, including the “Handbook for Contemporary Photography” and “Exploring Black and White Photography.” During his three years at Ohio University, Gregory married his wife, Carme, and completed his M.F.A. Degree in Photography. Upon graduation, he landed a job in a commercial photography studio in Toledo, Ohio, where he worked for a couple months before being drafted into the U.S. Navy. While his primary job was teaching during his thirty-seven years at NIU, Gregory also did commercial and editorial projects on the side. A long-time client of his was Scholastic, the educational publishing company. He photographed students assembling art projects step by step for a magazine, in order to help art teachers duplicate the projects in their classrooms. He did a few jobs for Ford Motor Company for their magazine called “Ford Times.” He photographed owners of Ford cars in a series that depicted how they used their automobiles. He also took photos in Dixon, Illinois for an article about their celebration of Ronald Reagan’s birthday. And he did a portrait for the magazine of Violet Hensley, a famous fiddle maker, at Silver Dollar City Theme Park in Branson, Missouri.
Gregory has enjoyed his retirement, as he’s continued to do photography as both a hobby and a business. He does his own work, which he exhibits and sells, and also takes photos for clients. If one were to capture an accurate portrait of Larry Gregory, it would show a very talented, yet unassuming man who has been fortunate to do what he really loves as his life’s work.
Gregory additionally did commercial work for Bethlehem Steel, Bristol Steel, and Butler Aviation. He has had photographs exhibited at the Norris Cultural Center in St. Charles and the Spiva Center for the Arts in Joplin, Missouri.
If you are interested in purchasing prints or have inquiries for commercial, architectural or editorial photographs for your business, you can contact Larry at (815) 748-3869.
“I really didn’t want to be locked into one thing and I still kind of resist that,” said Gregory. At SIU Carbondale, he served as President of the SIU Photography Society while studying under C. William Horrell, a leader in photographic education in the 1960s. Gregory went on to graduate school at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. They had a well-known photography program, with a strong artistic component in addition to photojournalism. At Ohio University, one of his mentors was Clarence H. White Jr., whose father founded the renowned Clarence H. White School of Modern Photography in New York. After beginning the Navy photo school during World War II, White Jr. established
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