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Spirit, resiliency and commitment These are the things that make Herrin a special place to live and work f there’s anyone who really knows Herrin, it is probably Cheryl Ranchino Trench. Not only has she, for 37 years, written “The Paper Telephone” column, which now appears in The Southern’s Plus edition, she is a lifelong resident of the Williamson County community. She says her town is unique. “I know that the people make every town in America, but I think we have some of the best people right here in



Kamera Smith, 4, of Herrin peers out into the pond at Herrin City Park where she and her father, Kody, had gone to feed the ducks. The welfare and education of its children is one of Herrin’s priorities.

our home of Herrin,” she says. “Many people come back here, even after leaving, and do some great and wonderful things. That means we’re doing something right.” She says there is a particular spirit of community in Herrin. It’s a strength that local businessman and pastpresident of the Herrin Chamber of Commerce also sees. SEE HERRIN / PAGE 3

Content written by Les O’Dell / For The Southern


Participants bow their heads as Gary Hernbeck leads a prayer during National Day of Prayer May 3 outside city hall. Churches play a large role in the daily lives of Herrin residents. The Southern Illinoisan (USPS 258-980) is published daily for $178 per year at 710 N. Illinois Ave., Carbondale, IL 62901. The Southern Illinoisan is owned by Lee Enterprises, Inc. of Davenport, Iowa. Page 2 Thursday, November 1, 2012 The Southern Illinoisan

• Bob Williams , publisher


HERRIN: Spirit, resiliency and commitment make it great FROM PAGE 2 “Herrin is a very unique community in that there is a real sense of community that is unusually strong. People in Herrin just seem to pull together to do things that other communities just can’t seem to do,” says Kevin Frost, president of the Herrin Chamber of Commerce. Frost has lived in the community since he was 7. He points to events such as campaigns by the United Way and other charitable organizations as one example. Of course, there also is the annual Herrinfesta Italiana. “How many other communities can pull together the hundreds of volunteers it takes to put together a festival of that magnitude?” he asks with pride.

Not bad for a city that many in the region would call a “bedroom community” to neighboring Marion. “Even if we are a bedroom community,” Trench points out, “what a better place to be than here? We have a great local culture and businesses, plus we have the rest of the area — Carbondale, Marion, the arts, the wine trail, everything — right at our door.” The spirit of community lends itself to frequent cooperation, as well, she says. “I would say the positivity of our civic clubs and churches is great. We’re all doing things to keep Herrin alive and working together to find solutions.” The community has even banded together to withstand tough economic times, but


Great places to relax and unwind are part of Herrin’s charm. Herrin City Lake provides that and more for its residents and visitors.

many would say Herrin has emerged stronger. “I thought we were in for a rough time when Maytag closed,” Mayor Vic Ritter recalls. “But the next year, we had record enrollment in every school in the city. The 2010 census actually showed a

population increase of more than 10 percent. I’ve said many times that Herrin is the resilient town in the state of Illinois.” The mayor says Herrin’s ability to bounce-back is a testament to the resilience of the community and its people.

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(618) 942-4993 The Southern Illinoisan Thursday, November 1, 2012 Page 3


Showing their Tiger pride For the team’s faithful following, high school football is a way of life iger Pride. Unless you are a graduate of Herrin High School or a longtime resident of Herrin, that may seem like a simple slogan or catchphrase. For the faithful followers of Herrin High School athletics, however, Tiger Pride is a way of life. And Tiger Pride shows in the student body, local residents and the Herrin business community alike. “I think it’s at a high level across the board,” says Herrin High School Athletic


Director Mike Mooneyham. “We have great attendance at games and get a lot of contributions from businesses.” The Southern’s Sports Editor Les Winkeler says the people of Herrin are passionate about high school sports, and that means the Tigers can count on a strong base of support within the community. That support carries over to the fields, courts, mats and tracks.

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“Any time you play before a lot of people, the atmosphere is great,” Mooneyham says. “We have almost a playoff atmosphere at our home games. It’s a great thing with lots of things happening before, during and after the games.” Herrin has seen its share of athletic success, too, having won the men’s basketball state championship in 1957, three state championships in track in recent years and a history of strong football and softball programs. “Herrin has had a lot of success in sports over the years,” says John Homan, who has served as the Tigers’ public address announcer since 2001. “The crowds have been very good, and Herrin has always been very supporting of their sports teams.”

The teams have been very supportive of the community, too. “We always make it a point to go around and visit businesses,” Mooneyham says. “We send our athletes and cheer and dance teams. We visit the schools in our district and help with special events. It’s a good thing for our people to get out and see the people of the community.” The boosters and supporters of Tiger sports even go to other communities to cheer on their teams. “Herrin is seen as a community that travels well with their sports teams,” Homan says, adding that even as the visiting team, the Tigers can count on a large cheering section. He says that for that reason, Herrin High School is in demand for invitational tournaments.



The Herrin football team (at left) emerges from the mouth of an inflatable tiger before the start of its game against Massac County on Aug. 24; members of the marching band perform on the same day. ‘... Herrin has always been very supporting of their sports teams,’ says John Homan, Tigers’ public address announcer since 2001.


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Open less than a month, The Villas of Holly Brook is an assisted-living apartment complex in Herrin for active retirees or people who might need help with the challenges of daily living.

The Villas at Holly Brook New assisted-living residential complex provides a place to enjoy the golden years nly open for less than a month, The Villas of Holly Brook, a new assistedliving apartment complex on Rushing Road, is already nearing 50 percent occupancy. Kimberly Kemp, executive director of the facility, says the response to the licensed assisted-living complex has been great. The Villas of Holly Brook offers one bedroom, twobedroom and two-bedroom deluxe apartments for retirees or others who may need help with daily living or who are looking to live in a modern facility with peace of mind. “Each resident has his or her own story,” Kemp explains, “but I think the biggest reason people choose to live in The Villas is that it offers carefree living in a safe environment.” Kemp says in addition to the 50 residential units, the complex also offers three prepared meals each day, laundry service, transportation and other amenities including scheduled programs and events,


reservation, he hasn’t ruled it out. “The Villas are beautiful,” he says. “I’m not ready yet, but if I was I’d seriously consider The Villas or Hurricane Creek. We’re very fortunate to have several great living communities in Herrin.” The $4.5 million center was developed by Unique Homes & Lumber Inc., a Charlestonbased company. “We love being in this location,” Unique Homes President Reggie Phillips said during groundbreaking for the center. The facility is adjacent to the THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTO Logan Professional Park, home City and state officials participate in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Villas of Holly Brook in October 2011. to a number of physicians, specialists and medical offices. can come and go as they please, Phillips says that company, call system to summon hairstylists, a movie theater, and they can bring their pets. It which owns similar facilities in immediate help. interior courtyards and an Effingham, Newton, Marshall is just like any apartment with Kemp says residents simply exercise room with classes and Shelbyville, has plans to enjoy the lifestyle that the Villas the added bonus and safety of offered three times each week. knowing that someone is always develop a second residential unit has to offer. Additionally, The Villas has as well as a specialized facility here.” “They don’t have to worry certified nursing assistants on for those suffering from Herrin Mayor Vic Ritter says about mowing the lawn or going site to help with daily living or he is impressed with The Villas, Alzheimer’s disease and to the grocery store when the special situations. Each weather is bad,” she says. “They and, while he hasn’t yet made a dementia. apartment has an emergency

Page 6 Thursday, November 1, 2012 The Southern Illinoisan


Making a difference Brewer Foundation helps students with college cash arie DeLaney does not have to look very far to be reminded of the importance of the work of the Robert N. Brewer Family Foundation. DeLaney serves as president of the organization and surrounding her desk and throughout the interior of the Foundation’s building in downtown Herrin are senior portraits of dozens of area students whom the foundation has assisted with college funding. Since its inception in 2001, the Brewer Family Foundation has awarded scholarships to 484 Herrin and Marion graduates to put toward their expenses for college, university or technical school. As many as 50 awards are presented each year. “It makes a big difference to these students,” Linda Lutz, guidance counselor at Herrin High School says of the scholarships. “There are many students that want to go to college, but may not be able to because of finances. These scholarships make it possible.” The awards, which are $4,250 per year, are for education at approved and accredited post-secondary institutions including four-year colleges, twoyear colleges, technical programs and trade schools. The awards are renewable for up to four years as long as students continue to meet requirements of the award. The specific criteria was established by Robert Brewer.


“He was the most amazing man that I will ever meet,” DeLaney says. “He was a very visionary man who could foresee raising the bar in education and what that would return to the community.” DeLaney says Brewer appreciated students who were able to manage their priorities by balancing both work and studies. For that reason scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate a strong work ethic, have financial aid and make grades of C or better. “He just knew that kids who are working while they are attending school won’t be A-plus students.” DeLaney, who worked for Brewer for more than 20 years, explains. “We’re living in the real world; we know students are busy.” The Foundation was established shortly after the death of its namesake in 2001. During his life, he built, owned and operated 35 Best Inns of America and Best Suites of America in 13 states, before selling the hotels in 1998. Proceeds from the sale provided much of the funding for the foundation. Applications for the awards are available in the fall at Herrin and Marion high schools. “Students start asking for the applications as soon as school starts,” Lutz says. DeLaney says that scholarship recipients have entered a variety of fields. “We have doctors,

FUNDRAISER The Robert N. Brewer Foundation will host its first fundraiser to enhance the scholarship program. What: A performance of the local a cappella group Blend When: Dec. 22 Tickets: Available at the foundation office on Park Avenue or call the organization at 618-988-1234 lawyers, diesel mechanics and business people who have all received the scholarship,” she adds. “They’re all amazing students.” Lutz says one former recipient is not a teacher at Herrin High School, so the Foundation’s work continues to impact even more students in the community. She adds that receiving the Brewer scholarship is more to students than simply receiving a check. “The Foundation follows the students,” she says. “They send birthday cards, Christmas cards and always ask if the student need any help.” And, DeLaney — and anyone else who accepts an open invitation to come by the Foundation’s office — recalls every student, thanks to the portraits on the wall. “Those students are what this is all about,” DeLaney says. “When I see the photos, hear the achievements and the success stories, it gives me cold chills.”


The Robert N. Brewer Foundation building is a beautiful and familiar architectural landmark along Park Avenue in Herrin. Since its inception in 2001, the foundation has awarded 484 Herrin and Marion high school graduates money to put toward expenses for college.

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2704 S. Park Avenue • Herrin • 988-8880 The Southern Illinoisan Thursday, November 1, 2012 Page 7


A good read Herrin City Library maintains tradition while moving into realms of modern technology


Like many students, Tera Meeks uses the peace and quiet of Herrin Public Library to study for upcoming tests.

Page 8 Thursday, November 1, 2012 The Southern Illinoisan

Library Director Mike Keepper works in his office at the library at 120 N. 13th St. and is open Monday through Saturday.

SPOTLIGHT ON HERRIN ichael Keepper has seen a lot of changes at the Herrin City Library during his 20 years there. He’s watched countless patrons move from the children’s section to reading books for teenagers before browsing for titles among the adult stacks. He’s witnessed new genres of publishing develop and seen the lending of audio and video materials really come into its own. But perhaps no change in the library has had as great of an impact as technology. “The only electronic thing we had then was an electric typewriter,” Keepper recalls. “Now, we have six public access computers for Internet use, and we’re tied in with a regional catalog system and interlibrary loan with about 150 libraries on that network.” Keepper explains that through a computer network, the Herrin City Library can access other libraries’ holdings throughout the state and nation. “The biggest advantage is that we are not a standalone library anymore,” he says. “We have access to libraries across the country. If someone comes in with a rare title they are looking for, we’re able to find it about 99 percent of the time. We even borrowed a book from the University of Toronto a few years ago.” Of course, the system means that patrons in other places can also checkout materials from Herrin. He says the library has loaned materials to users in almost every state, even sending one item to Alaska. With the advent of


electronic readers including Kindles, Nooks and iPads, electronic versions of books are becoming more popular. In fact, a cooperative effort of more than 20 libraries has more than 7,000 titles available for electronic development. Keepper says it has been very popular. “In September 2011, we loaned 78 e-books. This September, it was 253,” he says. Of course, he adds, the library will continue to acquire and loan traditional books as well. “Libraries have been loaning books forever and will continue to do that as long as we have space,” he explains. “We have about 52,000 volumes including books, videos, newspapers and magazines.” The Herrin City Library also serves as a center for history. The facility’s History Room is filled with resources pertaining to genealogy, the Herrin Massacre, Williamson County history and the history of the community itself. A community meeting room is often used for area historical enthusiasts. “We try to have educational programs often. The Herrin Area Historical Society has regular meetings here about Herrin and Williamson County. The last one, on the Herrin Massacre had a standingroom-only crowd,” he says. Keepper says even with the available technology, library staff members continue to serve as a valuable resource. “Librarians continue to be information specialists and we try to be proactive in finding out things for people and helping them,” he adds.

It’s ‘Happening in Herrin’ Town hall meetings are an opportunity for input into the future f you think a community with such a strong sense of history such as Herrin is content to live in the past, you’re wrong. Herrin’s sights are set on the future and, thanks to a series of town hall meetings, that future is coming into focus. Under the banner of “Happening in Herrin,” four open forums have been hel for community input on the future of the community. The meetings are a joint project of the city and the Herrin Chamber of Commerce. The goal is to develop a strategic plan for the city. “I think the driving force behind this is we look at our community and realize that we are not the same community as we were 30 years ago,” says Kevin Frost, past-president of the chamber. “We don’t have the manufacturing base that we had even 15 years ago and we don’t have some of the same retail, so ‘Now what?’ becomes the question.” Frost, who serves on the steering committee for the gatherings, says everyone’s input is important. “We realized that we needed to involve the entire community in this discussion,” he explains. “It goes beyond the chamber. We’re trying to determine as a city, what do we want to be when we grow up; where are we going next?” Liz Lively, executive director of the chamber, says response and input has been good. “We had 24 people at our first meeting, scheduled for 7 a.m. the


day after the Columbus Day holiday.” She says the meetings and the resulting strategic plan will focus on four areas: the city’s infrastructure, a vision for growth, bringing prosperity to the community and how to make Herrin a city with more vitality. “We’re coming up with something new; deciding how do we market our community and how do we tell our story,” she says. “Our priorities are infrastructure for Herrin, branding and marketing, how to revitalize downtown and how we

can bring prosperity to Herrin.” She says discussion about downtown revitalization could include everything from new lighting and green spaces to attracting new businesses. Lynn adds that a focus of the strategic plan will be finding ways to encourage existing businesses to locate in Herrin and means to encourage entrepreneurs within the community to start new businesses. Frost says the ongoing discussion is one of energy and ideas. “I don’t really know where this is heading.

While the framework is laid out, we’re asking for help from the community,” he says. “This is where Herrin is so fantastic. The people are obviously excited about this. I expect we’ll go in a direction that I haven’t even thought of yet.” Lynn says the citizen involvement is key. “We’re putting ourselves as a community in a good place with citizen engagement to take us to the next level. We’re creating a vision for what we can be and you have to have a vision, otherwise you can’t take steps to get there.”

The Southern Illinoisan Thursday, November 1, 2012 Page 9


Downtown Longstanding businesses and entrepreneurial efforts keep Park Avenue thriving


How Jimmy Ray’s Came To Be

My husband Mike and I purchased Pizza Mike’s in Herrin in September 2011. Soon after, we decided to make it more personal. We wanted to edit the menu and change the name. The main thing we wanted to change was the pizza crust. It was a parbaked traditional crust. Many of our customers said they really liked the crust and didn’t want it to change. However, we had many people tell us that because they did not like the crust, they didn’t order from Pizza Mike’s. I really wanted something that didn’t taste like the pizza from the chain restaurants. We finally decided that home made crust was the only way to go. In January of 2012, we began experimenting with different dough recipes. Finally, in July, we had a recipe that I was happy with. We do still offer the Pizza Mike’s traditional crust in the 14” size for the customers that prefer it. New items have also been added to the menu. We now offer Calzones and Stromboli, plus a chicken BLT sandwich, which is one of my favorites. The new products are selling well! In choosing our name, I considered quite a few but Jimmy Ray’s Pizza kept coming back to mind. Jimmy is for my husband’s father, James Bird (called Jimmy,) y and Rayy is for fo my father, Ray Griffith. They both passed awayy in 200 2001. I thought it would be an easy name to remember and a good way to honor them. We welcome any comments or W suggestions and thanks for trying the all new Jimmy Ray’s Pizza.


908 South Park Ave. • Herrin Tues-Sun: 4pm-8:30pm No Seating, Pick Up or Delivery Only Page 10 Thursday, November 1, 2012 The Southern Illinoisan

n an era when many oncethriving municipal business districts are full of dilapidated buildings and shuttered windows, Herrin is different. Business is good in downtown Herrin. Not only are long-running businesses doing well, entrepreneurs are finding the city’s business district to be a great place to start and grow a new enterprise. “We’re very pleased,” says Herrin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Liz Lynn. “Park Avenue has very few empty spaces. It’s almost to the point that we don’t have any space for those looking to locate a new business.” There’s a nice mix of businesses along Park Avenue, says Bruce Steh, owner of Baldwin Piano, a fixture in Herrin for 75 years. “It’s a nice, wide street and it affords all of us nice storefronts and such,” he says. “Plus, many of us own our own structures, and, as stand-alone structures, that gives us uniqueness and flexibility.” Steh says the downtown benefits from having both new and older businesses; nearby residents, including people who live in apartments above some of the shops; and niche retailers.


The Annex Theater on Park Avenue has been renovated and is now a coffeehouse and deli.



Bryan Furniture (left) is one of Herrin’s most successful and longstanding businesses, drawing shoppers from throughout Southern Illinois, along with the Merle Norman store (above).

“We have some very select shops or what you might call specialty stores,” he adds. “It makes for a downtown that is unique and quaint.” Lynn says all of the businesses help one another. “There’s a really neat mix of longtime businesses supporting newer businesses,” she explains. “Many have weathered the storms, while others are making a very strong first impression.” They also benefit from location. “With so many of our businesses being on Park Avenue or near Park Avenue, everything is easy to find. It’s easy to give people directions to your store and having businesses located close to each other or across the street from one another makes cross-marketing very, very easy.” Steh says even the location of the community itself is a benefit to Herrin businesses. “We’re very central to I-57, I-24 and I-64,” he explains. “Our location near the highways and the Route 13 corridor makes it very easy for people to access us. I wouldn’t dare think of moving. It wouldn’t THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTO behoove us. Herrin has always been Baldwin Piano is a familiar site to anyone who visits good to us. It’s a good place to do Herrin. ‘I wouldn’t dare think of moving,’ says owner Bruce Steh. ‘It’s a good place to do business.’ business.

The Southern Illinoisan Thursday, November 1, 2012 Page 11


Growth = Housing Providing affordable, quality homes becoming a priority Herrin is a growing community. Every census tally taken since 1960 has shown more people living in the community than in the prior decade, and it is a trend that continues. The availability of quality, affordable homes has grown along with the population. From apartments and rental properties to luxurious houses, Herrin has somewhere for practically anyone to call “home.” “We have new, active subdivisions in all directions,” says Mayor Vic Ritter. “There are homes going up to the east, south, north and

to upper-end homes.” See says she sees a need for even more homes in Herrin, especially those priced above $175,000. “There almost needs to be more upper-end homes. I think there actually are more people looking for those types of homes in Herrin than there are homes. That’s a good sign for our community.” She adds that people looking to rent a house or apartment have lots of choices in Herrin, too. “There is a lot of potential in the rental market, also,” she says. “I think we are a community that is growing.”

west. They’re building everywhere.” In fact, Ritter says there are five or six homebuilders actively engaged in new construction now — homes that will be placed on the Herrin real estate market as soon as their finished. “There are some beautiful new homes,” he says. Real estate agent Teresa Camarato of Property With TLC says there are homes for every need and budget. “In Herrin, there is a wide range of homes on the market, from the very low end around $20,000

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Page 12 Thursday, November 1, 2012 The Southern Illinoisan


The latest technology in school Herrin Elementary School third-grade math teacher Julie Lingle watches as Blake Lawson moves solves a problem on the school’s Promethean board.

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A volunteer spirit Example after example: ‘Here, it’s easy to help your neighbors’ ith a strong sense of community as a guiding principle, residents and businesses of Herrin often go out of their way to help out charities, causes and individuals in their community. In essence, it’s a way of making Herrin an even better place simply by giving back. “Herrin is an easy community to give back to,” says Kelly Green, senior vice president of operations and cashier for Herrin Security Bank. “As a whole, I think the community has a volunteer spirit. Here, it’s easy to help your neighbors, and we understand that if we can’t or won’t help each other, we won’t succeed in the future.” From churches to community organizations and elementary


school classes, Herrin is always doing something. “The people of Herrin will help anybody,” explains Mayor Vic Ritter. “The churches are always willing to help individuals and each other.” He points to the efforts among religious congregations to develop a communitywide soup kitchen that will have a real sense of community outreach as one example. “There is a sense of giving back in Herrin, and it seems to be above that sense in other communities,” explains Teresa Camarato of Property with TLC, a Herrin-based real estate agency. “I think the spirit just catches on, and there are a lot of people who just get involved. They

don’t do it for personal reasons or gain, they do it just for the benefit of Herrin. Period,” she says. Camarato points to the bocce courts as one example. “The courts were donated to the community, and they provide a great place for nonprofit organizations to hold tournaments that raise funds for charities,” she says. “It goes full-circle.” Green says there is a sense to involve all ages in giving back within Herrin. One of her favorite projects is efforts by advanced placement history classes at Herrin High School to interview local war veterans and then sharing their stories in published books. The group has completed two

works and is not beginning to compile a list of interviewees for a book on memories of the Vietnam War. She says she understands the difficulty some veterans may have in talking about their experiences, but it is one way for the community to say thank you. “It is important that these men and women have the opportunity to tell their stories,” she says. “We know that maybe they weren’t treated right when they came home, but we are a different generation. We’re their children and grandchildren, and we do care for them. We appreciate them.” She says the efforts benefit everyone. “Of all of the things I’ve done

with the bank, this is the most rewarding and satisfying experience in working with the community. It’s been wonderful to watch a younger generation meld with an older generation and see both of them respecting each other.” She says veterans who would like to be interviewed for the new book may call her at 618-942-3151. Green points out that businesses and individuals give back to the community in lots of ways. “It’s not just that we give money, we also give contributions of time,” she says. “We are a bootstrap community. It is up to us to make sure that our city is what we want and need it to be.”

The Southern Illinoisan Thursday, November 1, 2012 Page 13


Keeping kids healthy Middle School students benefit from daily intramural sports program pace — or a lack of it — at Herrin Middle School doesn’t allow students to get as much exercise as they should. In fact, only half of the students in the school are able to participate in physical education classes at a time; the other 50 percent do health-related classroom work. In an effort to keep kids active, physical education instructor Maura Ingel established a daily intramural sports program nearly 10 years ago. Today, more than 100 students are involved in the activities, which can range from soccer to whiffle ball and kickball, even bocce. Each sport lasts about three


weeks and any students who wish to participate can sign up. Those in sixth and eighth grades take part in the intramurals after they have finished their lunches. Seventh-graders participate during their home room period, if they’ve completed their school work. “It’s another 20 or 30 minutes of exercise a day,” Ingel says. She says she polls the student body to see what sports they want offered for intramurals. Students are playing intramural soccer for the first time, and it’s proven to be very popular. That means Ingel will probably offer it again. “If they want to play an

activity, and they love this activity, and I can get 300 kids to do it, I’m going to do that activity again,” says Ingel. The intramural sessions are fun for the students, she says. “The students don’t even realize that they are exercising,” she says. “They don’t think about it that way. To them, it’s just running around with their friends, having fun.” But Ingel and other teachers see the benefits of the extra exercise. “Just the mental part of it is important,” she says. “Their grades are better and they feel better. Honestly, they want to do something and be active. That’s the whole goal.”

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The Coal Miners Memorial on North 14th Street is a memorial to miners throughout Southern Illinois. Families purchased bricks to honor loved ones, living and dead. The inscription reads ‘In memory of coal miners who gave so much that future generations may benefit with a better life. They labored, served their country, sacrificed for their families and some lost their lives. We honor and salute them so that they will never be forgotten.’

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The mission of the Herrin Community School District is... • To create a safe, orderly learning environment conducive to preparation of highly motivated students. • To work to ensure that all students achieve to the maximum potential of their abilities. • To prepare students to be successful in their career/ technical training or higher education and in the workplace.

Building a solid future for the community of Herrin. Mark G. Collins, Ph. D. Superintendent


A rich Italian heritage Large part of Herrin’s population claims its roots in early 19th century immigration, and the whole region celebrates it talian touches and influences are common in Herrin, especially given the community’s annual celebration of Herrinfesta Italiana. A large population of Italian descent is one of the things that makes the community unique. It is a heritage that can be traced to the 19th century and one that parallels the growth of coal mining in Southern Illinois. “Coal mining is what brought the Italians to Herrin,” says Linda Banks, Herrin librarian. “In the very late 1800s, mines were opening, and jobs were available. That’s when they came.” Local historian Gordon Pruett says while no one is exactly certain who the first Italian to arrive in Herrin to mine was, he — and he says it was almost certainly a male — must have found the area and work to his liking because he started a wave of immigration to St. Louis and Herrin. These men, who were mostly from the small towns of Cuggiono and Inveruuno in the Lombardi area in northern Italy, came to America in search of a life different from the poverty and travails the faced as tenant farmers. “They came to Herrin, became miners and did better for themselves,” Pruett explains. “Initially, it was an all-male exodus from Italy to Herrin, but later they sent for their families, their wives and girlfriends.” He says Herrin grew from a town of 1,000 in 1900 to about 12,000 in 1920. Pruett estimates a third of the residents were Italian, at that time. Many were employed in the mines in the areas surrounding the community. Banks says during the heyday of the mines, a person could stand in the city and hear the whistles from 27 mines every morning. “I remember my father telling me that many of the workers didn’t have any transportation, so they all walked to the mines,” she explains. “He said there were worn footpaths from the city going out every direction to the mines.” The Italian immigrants not only brought a new labor force to Southern Illinois, they brought their heritage and culture along with food items, faiths and other traditions. “They brought their culture with them,” Banks says. “We have a very large population of Italians, and many of their descents are still here. They’ve helped to make Herrin what it is today. “Even though mining is much smaller here now, many of the descendants of those immigrants and the culture they brought remains,” she continues. “Mining and the Italian immigrants are a very definite part of the history of Herrin, and it’s still going on. They both are very much here, and they are certainly intertwined.”



HerrinFesta Italiana is the best-known celebration of Herrin’s immigrant history. Celebrating during the annual event, over Memorial Day weekend, are (clockwise from left): Harley Hardin rides his tricycle, decorated for the Kids Bike and Pet Parade; Steven Tacchi collects bocce balls from the court during play in the International Campionship Division Bocce Tournament; contestants give it their best footwork during the grape stomp competition; and Julie Mohr and Zoe Williams, both of Herrin, scream as they ride the giant slide.

The Southern Illinoisan Thursday, November 1, 2012 Page 15


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Business is good, thanks What makes Herrin such a great place to do business? It depends on who you ask; but the answers are always a positive reflection of the community


Blint It On features unique jewelry and accessories. Kelly Reed, the owner of the shop is one many people who left Herrin and came back because of all it has to offer.

‘It’s the people.’ “The primary thing that makes us grow and attract business is the people of Herrin,” says Mayor Vic Ritter. “I think the people here are friendly and will help anybody. It’s a town of good people who back up what they say.” Kelly Reed, owner of Bling It On, says there is a lot of community spirit within the Williamson County city. “We have a lot of community support, both with school spirit and with people in general.” She adds that many people who have grown up in Herrin and whose careers have taken them elsewhere often find a way to come back home. In fact, she says she is one of them. “There are a lot of us who have left and came back,” she adds. “There’s nothing like being around people you’ve known your whole life.

‘A Strong Chamber of Commerce.’ Many people point to the activities of the Herrin Chamber of Commerce as a real plus for business. “The membership and the board of the chamber really has a desire to try new things and our business owners have lots of great ideas,” Lynn says. “The membership is never afraid to give us input. There is a lot of flexibility in both the chamber and the businesses in Herrin.” Reed adds, “I think the chamber does an excellent job. Plus, community leaders have been very supporting of business.”

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‘A Spirit of Cooperation.’

Businesses in Herrin tend to work together. “There is a 100 percent spirit of cooperation among the businesses in Herrin,” Reed says. “It spans all ages of people and all ages of business. It is “The number one thing, I think, that makes business strong in our community something that I, as a relatively new business owner, am enjoying.” is that Herrin supports Herrin,” says Liz Bruce Steh, owner of Baldwin Piano, Lynn, executive director of the Herrin simply says that businesses in Herrin Chamber of Commerce. “People in Herrin want Herrin to be successful, and tend to be “very kind, congealed and considerate.” He says that approach is one way they make that happen is by good for the bottom line as well as the shopping in our stores and eating in our community as a whole. restaurants.” “I think we’re a good, cooperative bunch: government, the chamber, retail and our citizens,” Ritter explains. “We all work together and that makes us different.”

‘Herrin is for Herrin.’


Joe Leenerts smiles after being surprised by his children and grandchildren after he received the President’s Award at the annual Herrin Chamber of Commerce awards banquet Jan. 27. A strong chamber is one reason people feel Herrin is heading in the right direction.

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For Appointments call 988-1877 The Southern Illinoisan Thursday, November 1, 2012 Page 17


Caring for community Logan Professional Park is making Herrin a destination for a myriad of needs n unassuming area of Herrin near the junction of Illinois 13 and 148 is becoming a destination of sorts for all things medical. Logan Professional Park, a collection of medical and other professional facilities is a sort of “onestop-shop” for everything from preventative health care to specialized practices, even rehabilitation and surgeries. “There are doctors of every sort out there,” says Herrin Mayor Vic Ritter. “It has become



Logan Professional Park is home to many health-care professionals, including the groundbreaking practice of Orthopaedic Institute of Southern Illinois physicians and surgeons.



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a sort of community of health care.” The park, which includes large practices such as the Orthopaedic Institute of Southern Illinois and Logan Primary Care, as well as offices for very specific care, has proven to be very accessible. “This location is more convenient for our patients,” explains chiropractor Angela Baxter of Alternative Health Care. Baxter recently merged tow office locations into a single facility inside Logan

Professional Park. “This is such a great location with great visibility.” Baxter added that patients benefit not only from the ease of getting to her new office, but also from the presence of all of the nearby providers. “If I need to refer a patient to another physician or if I need imaging, patients can just go across the street,” Baxter says. “Right here, we have almost everything. When a patient drives into Logan Professional Park there is almost nothing that is not

SPOTLIGHT ON HERRIN available here.” The development also is a benefit to Herrin, says Kevin Frost, past president of the Herrin Chamber of Commerce. In addition to being convenient for patients, the park brings job opportunity and benefits the community in other ways. “Logan Professional Park is helping put Herrin on the map as a medical destination. With pharmacies and dozens of doctors, the area I a center piece that — along with Herrin Hospital — is making us a large medical community in Southern Illinois. It is a great resource and asset for the community.” Frost adds that there is an economic boost from Logan Professional Park as well, as the medical facilities draw in patients and clients from throughout the region. “Economically, it is a tremendous asset,” he says. Baxter says she’s looking forward to being a part of the development for a long time. “This is a wonderful area, and I think it is going to be a great thing for us,” she says.

Joint Camp joint venture: OCSI, Herrin Hospital J

oint Camp, a new program at Herrin Hospital, is giving joint replacement patients more information about their surgeries, faster recovery times and a sense of camaraderie as they recover. The program is a partnership among the hospital and its acute rehabilitation program, as well as the Orthopaedic Institute of Southern Illinois. Since beginning earlier this year, almost 200 patients have gone through the camp, and the results have been nothing short of extraordinary. The program, which mixes thorough education before surgery and group therapy after, was brought to the region by Dr. Bret Miller of OISI. Miller had worked with a similar program in Texas. “Joint Camp is a comprehensive course of treatment that is geared to the patient and family, so they all get involved in the care while they are in the hospital or undergoing therapy,” says Stephanie Banks, orthopedic program coordinator at Herrin. For patients facing knee or hip replacement, Joint Camp involves a new way

of educating patients about their upcoming surgery. Patients and a family member or other “coach” participate in a one-time educational class before admission. “They learn the ins and outs and things they can do to prepare, as well as what to expect during their hospital stay,” Banks says. “They learn about procedures, equipment and discharge planning. It relieves a lot of anxiety.” The information presented in the class is also provided to patients in a binder that they can keep. “Patients in the past have had hospital stays of four to five days, now we’ve reduced that to two or three days,” Banks adds. “The educational class gives them a mindset that this is the expectation, not thinking that it will be a week.” Banks says a second key component to Joint Camp is the way two-times per day post-operative physical therapy is handled. “The difference now is that therapy is in a group setting,” she says. “Everybody’s learning together, and they see

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Herrin Hospital continues to grow and expand its services, including Joint Camp. The program is a partnership among the hospital, its acute rehabilitation department and the Orthopaedic Institute of Southern Illinois. Since it began this year, almost 200 patients have participated.

other people who have had the same surgery, what therapy they’re having and how they’re doing.” Miller says this aspect of post-operative treatment leads to faster improvement. Patients are scheduled in group therapy sessions with others who also have undergone joint replacement. In the therapy sessions, friendships are formed, and there is some level of healthy competition.

Miller says the friendships are even more important. “The camaraderie is probably the biggest thing,” he says. “When you go through something like this, it can be very isolating. It helps to know that other people are going through it and knowing that you are not alone.” Miller says Joint Camp requires a large amount of coordination among physicians, nurses and hospital staff, but he has

been very pleased with the results and with Herrin Hospital’s eagerness to adopt the new program. “Herrin has been the perfect place for this,” he says. “The hospital has stepped up to the plate and done what they needed to do. I am very impressed with the hospital’s forward thinking.” Miller adds that as the program continues to grow, the hospital is considering assigning Joint Camp its own set of

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Spotlight on Herrin  

Spirit, resiliency and commitment make this a special place to live and work