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WE LIKE IT HERE

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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

About this section

RUPERT JOHNSON, HARRISBURG

Nearly four years ago, my wife and I faced a career and relocation decision. We could stay in Indiana, where I was managing editor of The Times of Northwest Metro Indiana or move to Southern Illinois to be the editor of this newspaper. To help make the decision, we spent time here, meeting people and seeing the sights. We ate ribs and brisket at 17th Street Bar & Grill, saw SIU men’s basketball team beat Creighton and had a terrific breakfast, complete with biscuits and gravy, at Mary Lou’s Grill. We also went to the Alto Pass scenic overlook and toured the amazing wine country. Since moving here in early 2007, we’ve run into people who could live anywhere but chose this region. That’s the theme behind the “We Like It Here” special sections. The one you are reading today tells the story of people who wouldn’t live anywhere else. On Oct. 7, we’ll tell the story of people who moved away and then returned; on Oct. 14, we’ll profile those who picked this region as their new home.

‘Everybody knows everybody.’

GARY METRO is the editor of The Southern Illinoisan. He can be reached at 618-351-5033 or gary. metro@thesouthern.com.

Do you ‘like it here?’ Send your story to cara.recine @thesouthern.com.

BY CODELL RODRIGUEZ THE SOUTHERN

HARRISBURG — When Rupert Johnson was about 8 years old, his grandfather took him aside and asked him if he was going to be a cook or a crook. He said to make it in life he needed a trade, and the one his grandfather could pass on was cooking. “I was real young, but it stuck in my mind,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of respect for my grandfather. He was a good man.” For 28 years, Johnson has catered and sold barbecue from his business, Johnson’s Southern Barbecue in Harrisburg. Before that, he dealt with barbecue through his grandfather’s restaurant, Ray’s Barbecue. While he sells barbecue in Southern Illinois, what really keeps him here is the friendly and hardworking people he sells it to. “They’re a close-knit community,” Johnson said. “Everybody knows everybody. That’s one of the things I like about it. You know your neighbor.” For Johnson, hard work is not only an important quality for others, but also for himself. He was born and raised on a family farm in Harrisburg. He did his chores every day and began working in Ray’s at a young age, washing dishes. He said by the seventh grade, he was the head cook on the night shift, doing his homework between customers. “The harder you work, the more rewarding it is in my opinion,” Johnson said.

After high school, Johnson majored in business administration at Sangamon State University, now the University of Illinois at Springfield. After college, he worked in construction and coal mining. He left coal mining to go back to the barbecue business. Fortunately he didn’t have to create a new sauce to start the business. “I guess I’m lucky because (the sauce) has been in my family for four generations,” Johnson said. But that’s not to say Johnson doesn’t branch out. He has created the Sweet and Spicy and In the Mix flavors on his own. He sells the barbecue out of a mobile unit in Harrisburg and also caters and works fairs and festivals. Johnson said the vinegarbased sauce has a unique flavor that keeps people coming back. He said too many barbecue places rely on sauces that taste too much like something that can be bought in a supermarket. “I call them the ‘me too sauces’ because everybody’s got one,” Johnson said. What Johnson really loves to see is the return customers and a smile on someone’s face after biting into some ribs or a pulled pork sandwich. While the recipe to make the barbecue sauce may not be well-known, the recipe for why Johnson loves Southern Illinois is simple. Just add good, friendly people and add a pinch of hard work. “They’re friendly and just downright goodhearted,” Johnson said. codell.rodriguez@thesouthern.com / 618-351-5804

MICHELLE MORRISON, DE SOTO

‘It’s a great life!’ I’m Michelle. I’m 40 years old, am married (18 years) to David and have three kids and one granddaughter. Although I was not physically born in Southern Illinois, I am a Southern Illinoisan for life. I was born in Oklahoma, but at

6 months old, my mom moved us three kids back to Southern Illinois. My grandma lived here all her life as well in Du Quoin. I went to school in Du Quoin, graduated and even had my first child in Du Quoin at Marshall Browning Hospital.

ALAN ROGERS / THE SOUTHERN

Rupert Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Barbecue in Harrisburg, has been in business since 1984.

I did live a few years in Murphysboro, but eventually moved back to Du Quoin. When I met my husband — he is from Murphysboro (born and raised) — we decided to meet in the middle. So we set up “Home camp” in De Soto. I have since had two more kids and they are attending De Soto Grade School and will be

going to Carbondale Coummunity High School when the time comes. I have always had Southern Illinois blood in me, and I don’t think anywhere in the world would make me happier than to stay right in this neck of the woods. Sure people call us “hick” folks, but hey it’s a great life! Thanks for reading my story! MICHELLE MORRISON DE SOTO

BETH ALONGI, DU QUOIN

‘(Southern Illinois) has some of the most genuine people you’ll ever meet. It is hard to meet a stranger here.’ BY JOE SZYNKOWSKI FOR THE SOUTHERN

DU QUOIN — Beth Alongi remembers the moment she realized she truly belonged in Southern Illinois. The moment was actually a series of several simple gestures. Alongi and her husband, Guy, had recently returned to Du Quoin after briefly living in Atlanta shortly after getting married. “At first it seems great to live in a city where there are unlimited activities and, in some ways, you live anonymously,” Alongi said. “But it wasn’t long before homesickness overcame us, and we hustled back to Du Quoin. I’ll never forget our first week back home. While driving down Main Street, I had several people wave to me from their cars. You don’t get that in the city. At that moment, I fully understood what the word ‘hometown’ really meant.” Alongi grew up on a small farm town outside of

Du Quoin. With no computer games or cable television, creativity was a key part of her childhood. “It was a wonderful way to grow up,” Alongi said. “We played outside and made up our own activities and adventures. It was a delightfully simple life, where mom had dinner on the table every night, and we ate together as a family, laughing and telling stories about our day.” For more than two decades, Alongi has worked within the Southern Illinois University Student Health Center. She also ran a small photography business before deciding to pursue a graduate degree in professional media and media management. “Full-time work and grad school leaves little time for my photography,” Alongi said. “But I keep my cameras handy for vacations and try to document our adventures to share with others either through my website

(www.bethalongi photography.com) or my photos at the restaurant.” “The restaurant” is Du Quoin’s Italian eatery, Alongi’s, which has become one of Southern Illinois’ most popular establishments. “As of this year, I have had the last name Alongi longer than my maiden name of Aken, but I am lucky to be a part of two very different, yet exceptional families,” Alongi said. “I am extremely proud of the traditions my husband and brother-inlaw have kept alive through the years with the restaurant … And hey, having Alongi as my last name gets me free Italian food any time I want. Does it get better than that?” Alongi respects the simplicity of the region’s towns. She enjoys a leisurely drive through Giant City Park, a bowl of fruit cobbler from Flamm Orchards and riding her bicycle around the lake at the Du Quoin State Fairgrouds.

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STEVE JAHNKE / THE SOUTHERN

Beth Alongi is a publicity and promotion specialist with the SIUC Health Center.

“I think the small towns of Southern Illinois are really quite charming,” Alongi said. “I recommend people take the time to really explore the distinctive traits that make each town’s main street or downtown so unique. Ornate details on the buildings, bits of coalmining history and quaint

little shops often go unnoticed.” Having traveled around the world, Alongi’s heart has settled on Southern Illinois. What keeps her coming back? “I must say it’s the people,” Alongi said. “I’ve been blessed to see some of the world’s most beautiful places. Southern

Illinois may not have mountains, oceans or ancient ruins, but it has some of the most genuine people you’ll ever meet. It is hard to meet a stranger here. At SIU and at the restaurant, we often hear people from out of the area speak of how friendly Southern Illinoisans are. It’s true.”


WE LIKE IT HERE

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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

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DEBBIE MOORE, CARBONDALE

‘I’ve never really wanted to live anywhere else.’ BY STEPHEN RICKERL

County in 1825 and were some of the founding fathers of the county. One member of the Having traveled to every state family arrived in New Orleans in the union, Debbie Moore still and walked all the way to St. hasn’t found a place she’d rather Clair County. Moore, a historian at heart, live than Southern Illinois. said her family’s history in the Moore, executive director of the Carbondale Convention and region is one factor in why she never left Southern Tourism Bureau, author, foodie Illinois. and columnist, was born in “Many of us find deep, deep Murphysboro and has lived in Carbondale her entire adult life. roots here,” she said. “My roots are here, and I’ve never really Moore’s roots in Southern wanted to live anywhere else.” Illinois run deep. Her father’s Moore said she likes the family arrived in 1815 and settled hometown appeal of living in on the land around Pomona Southern Illinois. She believes Natural Bridge. Her mother’s there is something to be said for family arrived in St. Clair

THE SOUTHERN

the doctor who was once the high school football star. She said she likes having that connection to the community, and without it she wouldn’t be grounded. Part of Moore’s family history that she has retained includes her great grandmothers cookbook, written in cursive handwriting. Being a foodie and a selftaught chef, Moore said her life has revolved around food. She said taking the step to cookbook author was a natural progression. “My life story has a connection with food,” she said.

STEPHEN RICKERL / THE SOUTHERN

Debbie Moore has lived in Southern Illinois her whole life.

“It seemed natural to write those stories and weave them around recipes. My cookbooks are as much storybooks as they are cookbooks.”

Moore said she studies food history and enjoys going back to heritage recipes because they are challenging, simplistic and generally better.

DEBORAH ROBERTS, CARBONDALE

‘I ... loved living in Carbondale.’

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERN

Mike Jones is executive director of the John A. Logan Museum.

MIKE JONES, MURPHYSBORO

‘I just loved Murphysboro and wanted to stay.’ BY ADAM TESTA

to stay here.” While he said there’s no profound explanation of Not only has Mike Jones why he chose to stay, Jones’ history obviously of Murphysboro made a conscious effort to become played a role in his lifelong commitment to involved in the civic hometown pride. Through affairs, he’s also had the chance to watch numerous genealogy efforts, Jones has traced his family’s ties of his former students do to Southern Illinois to a the same. time before Murphysboro Jones, a Murphysboro even existed. native, has never left the Ancestors lived in city. After graduating from Brownsville, the former the Murphysboro school Jackson County seat that system, he lived at home burned down, paving the while pursuing an way for Murphysboro’s education degree from creation, and one ancestor Southern Illinois University Carbondale. In worked with Dr. John Logan, father of renowned 1968, he began his career Civil War general and teaching sixth grade, and local hometown hero John while he moved around A. Logan. More than 20 through the next three decades, he also retired in years ago, Jones took a major step in the same role in 2001. immortalizing the Logan “Lots and lots of kids I family’s legacy and story taught are still around, which is great,” Jones said. when he founded the “A lot of times they have to General John A. Logan Museum. In the years move away to find a job.” since, the museum has Often times, people in extended beyond a onesmall towns have a hard building facility to time finding employment encompass the Logan nearby. But having Neighborhood, a Carbondale and the university so close creates collection of historic homes and property a different scenario for surrounding the museum. those in Murphysboro. Learning the city’s Even during Jones’ childhood, however, some history and sharing it with people had their minds set others has always been a rewarding experience for on moving out. “I know there are people Jones and those who know him. who can’t wait to get “It just gives me a sense away,” he said. “I just of belonging,” he said. never considered going anywhere. This is home for me. I just loved adam.testa@thesouthern.com Murphysboro and wanted 618-351-5031

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I’m writing to respond to your “We Like it Here” request. One of your questions was “Did you move away, find life outside the area no comparison and move back?” I have been trying to move back to Carbondale for several years. From the first Roberts minute I stepped on campus back in 1980, I knew I was where I belonged. I absolutely loved living in Carbondale. Everything I liked to do could be found in the Carbondale area and the added bonus was that Carbondale was a small town, not a major city. The list was long of why I liked the area: the natural beauty, the numerous lakes, state parks, the hiking and biking trails, the cultural events, ethnic restaurants,

shopping opportunities, walks around Campus Lake, Saluki athletics. Those things have not changed for me and there’s a longing to be back in Southern Illinois. I met my husband in Carbondale. We both graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and my first child was born in Carbondale. However, my husband’s degree was engineering and he had to look elsewhere for employment. With sad hearts we left Carbondale for sunny Florida. We left Florida for Virginia and now live in Kentucky. You would think that in all these different places that we’ve lived I would forget about Carbondale, but I can’t.

No place has compared. We do manage to get to a Saluki basketball game every year, and I love it when we get to go visit Carbondale. We live close to Western Kentucky University and we proudly wear our maroon among all the red when SIUC plays WKU. My husband’s front license plate says SIU Dawgs. Of course, nobody knows what it means. So far it hasn’t worked out where we could actually move back. In anticipation of maybe someday moving there, I started getting The Southern Illinoisan a few years ago. Just reading the paper helps me feel connected to the area. I don’t know when, may have to wait until retirement, but I won’t feel like home until I move back to Carbondale. DEBORAH ROBERTS FRANKLIN, KY.


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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

DAN JOHNSON, ALTO PASS

‘If I need solitude, it’s automatic. It happens here.’ BY TOM BARKER

of work on his own terms. Owning more than 100 acres in rural Alto Pass, Johnson highly values his Sometimes an artist location as a place for needs a little open air to free his mind for creation, inspiration and solitude. “Having the freedom to and Southern Illinois is a do what I do is really perfect place to settle important,” he said. down for some peace and “That’s what I really love, quiet. is to be able to have a That’s what local artist concept and finish it here Dan Johnson of Alto Pass was thinking when he and on my own property and not have to conform to wife, Molly, moved to Union County from the St. certain regulations.” From pottery to largeLouis area 25 years ago. A scale outdoor sculptors, sculptor, actor and filmmaker, Johnson found Johnson’s work is Southern Illinois to be the displayed in many public places across Southern right place for the job, whether shooting a movie Illinois, from several in the forests or building a places around Carbondale to a large steel and sculpture outside his concrete structure outside home. “I wanted a rural kind of the main entrance at setting to live in,” Johnson Shawnee Community said. “I especially like this College. At his rural home in Alto Pass, Johnson is space because I’ve got able to create art on any both woods and open scale he chooses and the fields; there’s a nice freedom to do so is one variety here in Southern reason he loves Southern Illinois, in terms of Illinois, but another would topography.” be the open-minded Having grown up in St. community in the region Louis, Johnson said there and the acceptance and are artistic limitations in appreciation of his work an urban setting that can he finds in other people. make it difficult for a “If I need solitude, it’s sculptor to finish a piece

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CHUCK NOVARA / THE SOUTHERN

Jacob Swain, pastor at The View church in Carbondale, has stayed in area for the opportunity to be a minister.

JACOB SWAIN, CARBONDALE

‘So many unique opportunities.’ BY CODELL RODRIGUEZ THE SOUTHERN

choices and everyone’s path leads different places, but the church will always be waiting for them when they need it. “We want to stick with them through the poor choices they’ve made,” Swain said. “This is a place where you can come to drop your luggage when you’re tired of carrying it around.” Swain has found a comfortable place in life, settling down, doing a job that he loves in a region that has a lot to offer. He lives in Marion but thoroughly enjoys working in Carbondale. He said kids from the region have a lot to gain by attending SIUC because they will experience a diverse population like they have never seen. “I like the location,” Swain said. “I think Carbondale presents so many unique opportunities.” In addition, he loves that the area can retain such a natural beauty while being a “miniurban environment.” Swain’s experience includes serving as president of the regional board of education in Franklin and Williamson counties. He said with schools facing a lot of adversity in funding from the state and teenagers who need a friend in their toughest times, he is more than willing to stick around. “I think the region has a lot of needs and that’s one reason to stay,” Swain said.

CARBONDALE — As a pastor’s son, the last place Jacob Swain thought he would end up working is in a church. But lo and behold, Swain’s path took him from selling advertising to helping teens at The View church in Carbondale. Swain serves as associate pastor and youth pastor at the church. And working in a Southern Illinois church is the perfect place to be for Swain. “I felt like God turned my heart around and gave me a passion for working with teens,” Swain said. Swain said there is plenty of drawing power to the region. He lived in Harrisburg until he was five and his family moved to Tennessee. The family came back when it was time for Swain to attend junior high school. He attended John A. Logan College and Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He said his interest in the church dwindled, but after the church was built, his path led him back. His brother, Josh, is the senior pastor at the View. But his own drift from the church as a youth helped him understand how teenagers can feel the same way. “I think most teens quit church because, you know, it’s a drag,” Swain said. “That was the challenge. What are we doing wrong?” Now he talks to teens on their level, sharing his own experiences and codell.rodriguez@thesouthern.com reassuring them that 618-351-5804 everyone makes bad

BY SCOTT FITZGERALD THE SOUTHERN

MARION — Business owner Terance Henry has a survivalist motto for life success that he has definitely utilized. “I need to learn to be a failure in order to achieve. It’s like a kid needs to touch the bottom of the pool before he can learn to swim. It’s the story of my life,” Henry said during an interview at Latta Java, which he and others opened in 2008 in downtown Marion. Henry more than touched the bottom of the pool earlier in his life. He almost stayed there, literally. Today, he is an excellent swimmer who is a boon to Marion.

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with the region and the rest of the world through the work he has done in Alto Pass. “It’s a way to take what’s inside you and manifest it in a physical way,” he said. “To be able to create something that can talk to an issue and share it with other people is the ultimate thing an artist can do, I think.” Whether commissioned to build a sculpture for a certain client, or just creating art for himself, Johnson said Southern Illinois allows him to do the work the way he wants to do it. “It may be as simple as a beautiful shape in a space, or as complex as some deep emotional turmoil,” he said. “As an artist, I want to have that freedom to explore all those different avenues.” thomas.barker@thesouthern.com 618-351-5805

‘I’m trying to give back to society.’

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automatic. It happens here,” he said. “If I need people, it’s not that far to travel to be with people. For me, it’s a very nice, conducive way to work.” Johnson describes the people in Southern Illinois as “down to earth,” appreciative of an artist and very receiving of a local artist’s work. Having that validation and the opportunity to discuss his work with other like minds is critical to an artist’s being, he said. “That’s a real important part of the thing for me, is the people, if they’re willing to take someone like me seriously,” he said. “That’s pretty important for anybody, to have validation of what they do and have friends who are supportive in that.” Art is a form of communication, Johnson said, and living in Southern Illinois, Johnson is able to communicate

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TOM BARKER / THE SOUTHERN

As an artist, Dan Johnson of Alto Pass says Southern Illinois gives him the space and community he needs to do his work the way he wants to do it.

He is president of Marion Main Street and is a board member with Man Tra-Con and Habitat for Humanity. He was chosen in the spring as one of 15 people in The Southern Illinoisan sponsored “Leaders Among Us” Class of 2010. He also is an active member of Southern Illinois Networking Association, which provides referral assistance to area business owners. Henry originated the idea to launch the annual Marion Downtown Hubfest two years ago to stimulate retail activity for downtown businesses. Asked what motivates him to do so much for the Marion community that is

STEVE JAHNKE / THE SOUTHERN

Terance Henry is the owner of Latta Java in Marion.

dangerous and notorious gangs like the Crips. He credits his mother, Elaine Henry, for working two jobs and eventually moving the family out of the projects. They eventually moved to Southern Illinois, where Henry graduated from Carbondale Community High School in 1992. He was restless however. The lure of gang life kept surfacing. He remained aimless until a foreman at Gilster-Mary Lee food manufacturing plant of Chester challenged him. “I was promoted Born and raised in Carbondale. quickly, but a foreman Don't have any desire to move anywhere else. pulled me aside one day Relatives are homebase here, too. and asked me what my — Karen McNeely McMinn lifetime goals were. He said, ‘This is not for you, ’” Henry said he Great views, delicious meals, Terance, recalled of that award winning wines, interaction. cottage suites and He eventually enrolled at John A. Logan College, micro brewery describing it as one of the coming soon! scariest moments of his 1309 Sadler Rd. life. Pomona, IL 62975 “I’ve put myself in some 230 Hwy 127 N. pretty rough situations, Alto Pass, IL 62905 but I was scared of www.vonjakobvineyard.com school,” he said with a (618) 893-4500 laugh. (618) 893-4600 He soon got over that fear, earned an associate degree in nursing and was pursuing a four-year we have been serving degree in the field before falling into a lucrative the area for 125 years. Let our experience business endeavor, helping people sell their help you choose just what you need from our goods via an Internet site called eBay. wide selection of quality name-brand clothing for As he got more involved in the computer world, men, boys, and toddlers, including extended sizes Henry became an for big and tall men. Stop in and visit us soon! information technology specialist and helped found SI Small Biz with an impressive list of clients such as the city of Marion, Black Diamond HarleyDavidson, Saline County and the city of Harrisburg. He eventually married his girlfriend, Laura Beth, 1607 Walnut Street, and settled in Marion, (Between Tippey’s & Subway) where they make their Murphysboro home and raise their family. 684-3011 his home today, Henry answers without hesitation. “We are only here for a short time, so I don’t want to just take resources; I want to leave some behind. I’m trying to give back to society I took so much from,” he said. Although he has lived in Carbondale much of his life, Henry hails from Alton and nearly didn’t make it out alive. Many of his relatives and friends were members of

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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

THERESA HALE, JONESBORO

‘I would love to do this for the rest of my life.’ BY TOM BARKER

for the rest of my life,” Hale said. “This school is what really inspired me to love acting, to love theater, For Theresa Hale of Jonesboro, life in Southern and I want to give back to each and every one of Illinois is like a standing these kids everything I ovation that never ends. Born and raised in Union could possibly give them.” After graduating with a County, Hale has directed degree in history the spring musical education from Southern program at AnnaIllinois University Jonesboro Community Carbondale, Hale sought a High School for the past eight years, a passion she’s teaching position in her had since being onstage at home county and has since taught and acted as the school herself. librarian at Shawnee Hale said she has a special family connection School. During the spring, Hale’s passion for theater to Union County and and music is shared with Southern Illinois, but enjoys nothing more than others through the successful programs at giving young actors and singers at AJCHS a chance AJCHS. “It’s so strange to think to shine in the spotlight in the annual spring musical. that I was on this stage and now I’m out here,” she “I would love to do this

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together, we laugh together and we argue, but they’re a real family by the time the show’s done.” About 50 to 75 people participate in the spring musical each year, including elementary students and stage crews, and as many as 35 cast members are AJCHS TOM BARKER / THE SOUTHERN students. While the spring musical Jonesboro native Theresa Hale has directed the spring is Hale’s greatest passion, musical program at Anna-Jonesboro Community High School there’s something else that for eight years, sharing her passion for singing and theater. keeps her holding on to showstoppers throughout her roots in Southern said. “I get to see the course of the season. everything that went into Illinois. Watching them develop as it, and it brings a lot of Hale had a strong actors and as people is a appreciation for my relationship with her directors; it’s fascinating.” reward she never knew grandfather, who passed until directing the plays The best part about away in 2002, and feels herself. directing the play, she connected to him through “It’s not just about being Union County, his lifelong said, is seeing high school up there for three nights,” home. students transform from Hale said. “We cry shy teenagers to outgoing “Everything I do

reminds me of him and the reason I stay, I think, is because of him,” she said. “He’s the standard to which I live by, and I couldn’t get any better.” Hale remembers hearing stories from her grandfather, all of which were from his life in the Anna-Jonesboro area. Living in the area, she said, is like living in his stories and part of her love for theater is owed to him. The acting bug, Hale said, she received from her father. “Storytelling and music: it’s all part of here; it’s what I think of,” she said. “You could say it’s a family thing.” thomas.barker@thesouthern.com 618-351-5805

A. COURTNEY COX, BENTON

‘This is a community. Our lives are intertwined.’ BY BECKY MALKOVICH

He received a master’s degree in music from Southern Methodist BENTON — A. Courtney University in 1976 and then taught at RLC for Cox “tried to escape a couple of times” but found three years before entering the ties that bound him to law school. He graduated from Southern Illinois his hometown were too University School of Law tight to resist. in 1982. Cox, 58, has lived in Cox joined the Benton Benton the majority of his law firm of Hart and Hart life. in 1985, where he “I tested the waters when I went to school and concentrated on federal litigation, primarily in the settled for a brief time in areas of employment and Springfield, but for us, it civil rights. was a conscious choice to He left the law firm live here and raise our when he was appointed as family here, and I don’t U.S. attorney for the regret it at all,” he said. Southern District of Cox, a 1970 graduate of Benton Consolidated High Illinois in November 2007. He served in that position School, graduated from until Aug. 27. Rend Lake College before He is now practicing in completing his degree in music at Illinois Wesleyan the Carbondale office of Sandberg Phoenix & von University.

THE SOUTHERN

Gontard P.C. Cox remembers his childhood in Benton as “somewhat idyllic.” “I had a great childhood. We didn’t have some of the things that kids in big cities had, but we had fun. It was a very simple life without a lot of distractions. We had each other, a bicycle and a baseball bat, and we entertained ourselves all day long,” he said. He and wife Leslie wanted the same sort of childhood for their four sons. “We wanted a place that was safe, and I think it is safe here, and a place where people care about each other,” he said. “I’ve lived in places where people don’t know who lives next door. This is a

community. Our lives are intertwined. We have a history with each other, common memories, and we wanted that for our children.” Certain things are sacrificed, he said, but with Southern Illinois’ central location, trips to cities are made with ease. “You do give up some things but when you think about what’s important, the closeness of family and friends is really what’s important and we have that here,” he said. “People who are from here who never go away and then return don’t fully appreciate what we’ve got here. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.” beckymalk@gmail.com 618-927-5366

STEVE JAHNKE / THE SOUTHERN

A. Courtney Cox is a lifelong Southern Illinois resident. He recently stepped down from his post as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, which covers the lower 38 counties in the state.


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MARTY THORNTON, HERRIN

‘Herrin’s a great town.’ BY LINDA RUSH THE SOUTHERN

CHUCK NOVARA / THE SOUTHERN

Norris Hagler and his wife, Joan, haved lived in Southern Illinois nearly their entire lives.

NORRIS HAGLER, MAKANDA

‘I really enjoyed my job. I miss the kids the most.’ She laughed, describing herself as a “child bride. He told everybody he raised me like he wanted me,” she Norris Hagler said he said. hasn’t gone far from his They rented a house with roots, even though he’s a coal heater on McKinley driven thousands upon Street on Carbondale’s thousands of miles in north side to make it easier nearly 29 years of ferrying for Norris to get to children to Unity Point Dillinger’s — and to drive School in a bright yellow his bride to Murphysboro bus. every day for school. “We “I grew up about two miles down the road” from were married in February and lived in Carbondale his present home in Makanda, Hagler said. Part until I graduated in May,” she said. of the farm where he grew The couple has four up is now Cedar Lake, he children, sons, Kip, Paul said. He retired in 1999 after a and Nathan Hagler, and daughter, Jewell Cross. back injury made it more difficult for him to work on They also have seven the buses. “I really enjoyed grandchildren to entertain. my job,” he said. “I miss the Paul and Kip both are carrying on the family kids the most.” tradition, driving buses That was evident to the and doing other work for generations of youngsters the Unity Point district. who stepped up onto the Nathan works for The bus and were greeted by Southern Illinoisan. Jewell Norris’ broad grin, and and her husband, Ben, live often by an impromptu serenade as he belted out a next door to Norris and country or bluegrass tune. Joan. Ben Cross was in the “As a bus driver he military for three years in greeted the kids and sent them off with a smile,” said Germany, then did a tour in Iraq. Norris and Joan Joan, his wife of 46 years. traveled to Germany to “He’s normally a pretty visit them for three weeks. quiet fellow, but being around kids brings out the “We were glad to get home,” Joan said. She kid in him.” The children returned to Germany when knew he was their friend, the Crosses’ daughter was so he had few discipline born. problems, she said. Though most kids had Norris did have a couple heard Norris sing on his of other jobs, he said. He bus, few people know what worked for the former a good musician he is, Dillinger Feed Store for Nathan Hagler said. “He eight or nine years after plays in a gospel bluegrass graduating from high school in 1960, and spent a group and plays guitar, dobro and other few months at Prairie Farms creamery where, he instruments. And he doesn’t read music; he said, “I learned to do it all plays by ear.” but make cheese.” Norris’ first dobro was an After retiring from Unity antique with a brass body, Point, he worked for a construction company for given to him in return for several years, first working some work he’d done. He also has a newer dobro, full time, then driving a bought in 1992, that he truck part time. plays when performing The only time he left bluegrass gospel with Makanda, it was for love, “Second Blessing.” Norris said. He and Joan also spent 13 He and Joan had been schoolmates at the former years performing with the Country Aires, another Brown School, one of gospel group. She had been several country schools interesting in learning to that were combined into play a standup bass, and Unity Point district. He walked two miles to school, Norris bought her a used two miles home, each day. bass, then taught her to play it. Joan was much younger, “But I’m not good,” she but thought Norris “was about the handsomest man added with a laugh. The Haglers also sing in the neighborhood,” she together at church, she recalled. said. Norris went to Joan gave up traveling Carbondale Community with the band when High School. He went out Nathan was in high school. for football, he recalled, “but after practice I had to He wanted to play football, so she drove him to CCHS thumb rides home, so I gave it up. One day I had to practices and games. Unlike his dad, he didn’t walk nearly all the way have to thumb rides home. home to Makanda.” After years of raising four Joan started at CCHS, children, Joan wanted to go but then her folks sold to work. Norris suggested their farm and moved to she see about working at Murphysboro, so she Unity Point. After passing transferred to high school all the tests and being there. She thought Norris would forget about her, she certified as a driver, she transported a hearingconfessed, “but he kept impaired girl to Marion and courting me for three back for classes for eight years. He had to let me years. grow up.” Norris was 21 when they linda.rush@thesouthern.com wed; Joan was just 17 and 618-351-5079 still in school.

BY LINDA RUSH THE SOUTHERN

Marty Thornton says she loves everything about Herrin, her hometown since she married Johnie Lynn Thornton in 1973. In July 1975, she had her first child and decided to start a day care home so she could care for her own child while still helping earn a living. Since then, she has cared for more than 890 children in her home, including her own two sons and a daughter. As those kids have grown up, she has cared for their children as well. She even has some thirdgeneration kids in her scrapbook. “I have pictures of all of them,” she says. She has gone to weddings, baby showers, even a few funerals of her former day care kids. And she makes sure they take part in their community. “We have been in every HerrinFesta kiddie parade,” she says. Her kids took first place for 19 years. She has made costumes for the kids, dressed pets in costumes for the former pet parade and generally infused all the kids with her own enthusiasm. Marty and her two daughters-in-law also vie in HerrinFesta’s grape stomping contest, and took first place one year by “bribing the judges with salameats, having silly string fights” and wearing gaudy costumes. “My daughter refuses to do it,” she says, laughing. She also enters the pasta cooking contests. She’s taken second and third place. “My dream is to take first place,” she admits. Her son took first one year — “with my recipes,” she says. “Herrin’s a great town,” she declares. But if she’d been a

ALAN ROGERS / THE SOUTHERN

Marty Thornton runs Marty’s Day Care in Herrin, which she opened in 1975.

better cosmetology student, Marty might still be living in Murphysboro, where she spent her first 21 years and where her parents, Tom and Rosemary Stearns, still live. She entered John A. Logan College, intending to become a hairdresser, “but they said I wasn’t good at finger waving. Six of us got the same news.” Marty was heartbroken until a young man came up and comforted her. He later put a note on her car and they began dating. When they married, she moved to Herrin, where Johnie helped his parents run Thornton’s Market, a restaurant and and a bill-paying center. He’s worked in the family businesses 49 years, since he was 9 years old. “Johnie’s dad is 86 and still works at the restaurant and grocery,” Marty says. “Johnie closes the store at 8, then totals proceeds from all three businesses every night.” Their day begins at 5:30 a.m., when some parents drop their kids off for breakfast before they catch the school bus. She currently keeps eight children in her home. Son Brian is a physician’s assistant in

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Ohio. Son Chris is a music teacher in Paducah, who also is a firefighter and a member of the recently revived Egyptian Combo. Daughter Angela Holton, a pharmacist at CVS in Benton, is married to a former day care kid. Marty used to keep children on weekends, too, and was always looking for events and activities they could attend. One year, her day care kids won a Southern Illinoisan cooking contest. Marty has been entering the contests for years, and usually wins top prizes. “I save recipes all year” in preparation for the contest, she said. “I look for something unusual to catch a judge’s eyes.” She loves teaching the day care kids to cook and to eat well, encouraging them to try fruits and veggies. Most of them love cinnamon, pineapple, hot dogs and corn dogs, bananas, pasta, cottage cheese, peanut butter, melon, homemade chicken soup, pizza. And pudding, but only vanilla pudding. She tries to avoid chocolate because of the mess it makes when spilled on kids’ clothes . “I also encourage the

kids to use good manners,” she says. She has empathy for single moms, and grandparents who find themselves raising their children’s children. “It’s tough to make it, this day and time,” she reflects. She’ll be 58 in October and hopes to retire in four years. Meanwhile, she not only cares for children all week; on Sundays she volunteers in the nursery at Second Baptist Church in Herrin. She formerly ran the nursery at First Baptist Church for eight years and Hurricane Baptist Church for 28 years. She also works in Sunday school and vacation Bible school. On weekends she also does cleaning and laundry for her parents, who are now in their 80s. She and her dad recently climbed to the top of Bald Knob Cross in Alto Pass, paying $20 each for the experience in a fundraiser to complete restoration of the cross. Though the finger-waving class didn’t work out, it’s evident Marty Thornton has found her niche in life. linda.rush@thesouthern.com 618-351-5079

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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

JOHN REDNOUR SR., DU QUOIN

‘We’re blessed by having great politicians.’ BY STEPHEN RICKERL

“I think in Southern Illinois we’re blessed by having great politicians,” he said. “Kenny Gray was a Living in Southern great congressmen and Illinois for 75 years, John Glenn Poshard and Jerry Rednour Sr. believes Southern Illinois is blessed Costello and Paul Simon of course, he was a great with strong leaders, good senator and congressmen. people and unequalled I think they all work for scenery. the betterment of Rednour said he was Southern Illinois.” born into one of the He said leaders in poorest families in Cutler, but has created a good life Southern Illinois are more willing to work together with his wife and three and are in politics for the children, five grand right reason, which is one children and five great grand children. He said his reason you loves the region so much. Rednour said his focus has been on family. favorite place to be in Rednour said he was Southern Illinois is at influenced at a young age to get into politics, serving home. For Rednour, home is on the fairground of the on school boards, county Du Quoin State Fair, boards and eventually six literally. For the past 34 terms as mayor of Du years Rednour and his Quoin, two of which he family have lived in one of didn’t accept a salary for. the 20-room homes built He believes Southern on the fairground in 1941. Illinois has been blessed The other home is now with good politicians owned by the state and working to make the houses the governor when region better.

THE SOUTHERN

he visits Southern Illinois. He said living on the fairground offers a unique perspective on Southern Illinois life and what the Du Quoin State Fair means to that way of life. “This fairground is really one of the greatest things Southern Illinois has going for it,” Rednour said. “It represents to me good, wholesome fun for families to come to at a reasonable price. We’ve got something here they don’t have in Springfield.” Rednour said the people of Southern Illinois have always welcomed him and his family with open hearts, and believes the people, despite living in tough economic conditions, are what make Southern Illinois a great place to live. I think the good thing about Southern Illinois is the people, really,” he said. “In the city a lot of people don’t know their next-

STEPHEN RICKERL / THE SOUTHERN

John Rednour Sr. poses for a portrait at his home on the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.

door neighbor, they don’t have that family network like I feel people in Southern Illinois do.” “With the mines going down in Southern Illinois, it’s been tough on us down here,” he added. “I think the people of Southern Illinois are pretty tough and they have a good work ethic, and that makes the area, even under tough conditions, work.” Rednour said he believes

the outdoor recreation of Southern Illinois cannot be equaled. He said in his younger days one of his favorite activities was horseback riding on the trails through the Shawnee National Forest. He said many people in the state don’t know the forest even exists in Illinois and that’s a big mistake. “When we travel, we tell people in northern Illinois

to come to Southern Illinois to find out what Illinois is all about,” Rednour said. “It’s a beautiful region, a great region and people are friendly. I just think people from other places make a mistake by not coming to Southern Illinois. I just love living here.” stephen.rickerl@thesouthern.com 618-351-5823

MELODI EWING, CARBONDALE

‘A homier atmosphere.’ BY LINDA RUSH

After receiving her undergraduate degree in microbiology from SIUC, Melodi packed her bags “I had a son; I had an and went off to The Ohio epiphany,” Dr. Melodi Ewing said, smiling as she State University for recalled her “spur-of-the- medical school. She opted moment” decision to leave for the residency, and then her practice in Chicago to a staff position, at the Chicago hospital partly return to Carbondale, because Carmel had where she is now a married and was living in physician at Southern Illinois University Student the Chicago area. As chief resident in her last year of Health Service. residency, “I got to Before her son, Evan, experience the was born in 2002, Ewing administrative arm of was perfectly happy practicing family medicine medicine,” Melodi said. in Chicago, where she was For a while, she and Maya, able to teach in addition to who was studying law at Loyola, were roommates. seeing patients at Rush“That was interesting,” Presbyterian-St. Luke’s she said with a dry Medical Center. chuckle. Ewing grew up in Melodi loved the job. But Carbondale and graduated as a mother, she wanted from Carbondale more for her son. Community High School “I wanted a homier in 1984. atmosphere for Evan to Melodi, older sister Carmel and younger sister grow up in — a real neighborhood,” she Maya lived with their mother, Norma, a teacher mused. She’d watched colleagues getting up at who is now retired from 4:30 a.m. to begin the SIUC, where she was commute to work by associate dean in the dropping the children at College of Education.

THE SOUTHERN

day care. She’d seen families who knew their friends, but not their neighbors. Moreover, Melodi wanted Evan to be near his grandmother, Norma, who she calls “the most spectacular role model on the face of the earth.” Before teaching at SIUC, Norma Ewing taught grade school and former students often would come up to thank her for her influence. After a few years at Community Health and Emergency Services Inc. Melodi Ewing joined the Student Health Center staff in 2007 and immediately felt she’d found her niche. “This is where I hope to retire from,” she declared. She loves working with the student population, who offer “a chance to influence their health choices and decisions, while they’re still young enough for those changes to be effective,” she added. “They try whatever will

PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERN

Melodi Ewing, a physician at SIU Student Health Service, grew up in Carbondale.

help them,” she said of her student patients. Mentoring medical students and others in health professions gives her great pleasure, too; with SIUC now offering a nursing school, there’s even more opportunity to share her skills, to “catch ’em young and make them excited,” she said. Based on her own experience, she advises students to base their career decisions “on what you want for the rest of your life,” she said. Seeing Evan growing up in Carbondale’s diverse

community, she recalls her own childhood, where her friends came from all over the world and she enjoyed a variety of cultural experiences thanks to the university. “Now Evan is having that — and he gets to grow up with his grandmother, which thrills them both,” she said. The two go to ball games, work out at the Rec Center together. Evan’s godparents, Bill and Molly Norwood, also are very close to the almost8-year-old. Melodi said SIUC offers “an amazing level of

support” for workers dealing with family crises, and also encourages staff in their career pursuits. She’s learning more about the area outside Carbondale, too, from her patients, many of whom are back in school to pursue new careers after former jobs ceased to exist. Moving back home, she said, freed her to “fully participate” as a mom to Evan — “except Grandma does the homework.” linda.rush@thesouthern.com 618-351-5079


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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

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Flamms are still around, which is another plus. “I guess I’m a homebody, and it’s nice to be around family when raising kids,” he said. Maybe those kids will choose to stay in Southern Illinois when they’re grown. If they do, they could continue a family business that has helped support hundreds of their forefathers. “I guess it depends on what happens with the next generation,” Mike said. “We want our kids to do what they want to do. We don’t want to force it on them.” PROVIDED Like many Southern Mike (from left), Alan, Larry and Jeff Flamm are all fifth-generation farmers with Flamm Illinoisans, Mike and his Orchards in Union County. family are huge Saluki basketball fans. Unfortunately, he said, the hectic fall harvest leaves little time for football games. Natural beauty, Saluki athletics, a successful PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERN business and a large family within miles of his home Flamm Orchards began operating in Union County in 1868. are things Mike Flamm The farm is run by the fifth-generation since then, and the BY D.W. NORRIS likes about Southern “It’s rural, quiet and it Illinois means to his farm has expanded but is still based in the same area. Illinois, which is why he family. Mike is a co-owner seems to be a good place to THE SOUTHERN said he sees himself raise a family,” said Mike, of the orchards and a working for us,” he said. home. The family moved who resides about a COBDEN — The annual lifelong resident of our “These are probably some sticking around for the to the Cobden area in rest of his life. apple harvest is under region, like generations of quarter mile from the of the best people we’ve 1868. Twenty years later, “I think I’d rather travel, orchards. “We don’t have way, which means Flamm Flamms before him. had since I’ve been in the they owned 144 acres. come home and go the hustle and bustle of a Orchards is a hub of The things Mike likes business.” Now the farm is about activity. about Southern Illinois are bigger city. It’s relatively Mike estimates that 75 to somewhere different,” he 2,000 acres. said. “If I have to leave for inexpensive to live in Customers sit on picnic the things that draw The 140 folks who work 100 Flamm family good it’s probably because Southern Illinois tables in the shade, eating people here, keep them at Flamm Orchards during members still live in of a disaster.” compared to other places.” harvest are some peach cobbler on a sunny here or keep the Southern Illinois. Five of The 44-year-old Mike is reasons why Mike likes and warm September picturesque hills of Little those folks are in the fifth dw.norris@thesouthern.com afternoon as Mike Flamm Egypt in their minds when the fifth generation of generation of Flamms. Southern Illinois. 618-351-5074 Flamm to call our region talks about what Southern they’re away from home. “We’ve got good people Three fourth-generation

FLAMM ORCHARDS, COBDEN

‘It’s nice to be around family when raising kids.’

RENDLEMAN ORCHARDS, ALTO PASS

‘All you have to do is look out the window.’ BY D.W. NORRIS

we’re in one of the prettiest parts of the country,” Wayne said. “I ALTO PASS — Even as a live here where it’s very light fog partially obscured hilly, and that’s why we can raise fruit crops the hills surrounding because we take advantage Rendleman Orchards, it of the hills for air was easy to see why the family has called Southern drainage.” Air drainage is what Illinois home for more helps the Rendleman than 125 years. peach and apple trees “All you have to do is blossom during colder look out the window,” months. It also helps cool family member Betty down the fruit when the Sirles said. “There’s Southern Illinois sun nothing better than fall. blazes down, as it did this It’s the best time of the summer with several year.” consecutive days of Fall is the best time of 100-degree heat. year around Rendleman But Southern Illinois is Orchards for a couple more than just a different reasons. Of course, there is the natural topographical and climatic sweet spot for tree-borne beauty. Sitting atop a hill fruit. It’s also a paradise on about 800 acres, for outdoorsmen. Rendleman Orchards “It’s very pretty here; I offers a panoramic view of the lush hills outside Alto like that a lot,” Wayne said. “One of the other Pass. Apples — tens of reasons I like it here is thousands of bushels of them — also make fall the because I’m very much a nature person. I enjoy best time of year for hunting, hiking, different descendents of the types of motorcycle and original Rendleman family, and for the families four-wheeler riding. Of course, my farm provides a of the folks who work at lot of that for me since we the orchards. have so many acres.” Wayne Sirles is a Half of the land on member of the fifth which Rendleman generation of the Rendlemen family to work Orchards sits is not at the orchards. He said he farmable. The other half catches a workout. never really thought of Harvest time around the doing anything else or being anywhere else. Alto orchard is a busy time, Pass and Southern Illinois with about 60 workers taking fruit from the is his home. He wouldn’t branch, to the production have it any other way. house and out to area “I live in Alto Pass, and

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grocers, farmers markets and wineries. Once noon hits, the scene changes from hard work to a picnic atmosphere as folks migrate to multiple picnic tables near the Rendleman farmhouse for lunch. Rendleman Orchards began in 1873 on 88 acres used for raising livestock and feed corn. The orchards have never left the family, and a sixth generation could keep that tradition alive. The 43-year-old Wayne has a couple children who could take over the business, though he doesn’t want to push it on them. A third-generation Southern Illinois University Carbondale graduate, Wayne married his college sweetheart, a girl from St. Louis, and the two grew deeper roots in the Southern Illinois community. Wayne and his wife have degrees from SIU, but moving away wasn’t something either seriously entertained. “I never really had the desire to go anywhere else,” Wayne said. Given the natural beauty, safe communities, and cultural and athletic events provided by the university, it’s easy to see why descendents of the original Rendlemans like it here in Southern Illinois. dw.norris@thesouthern.com 618-351-5074

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Wayne and Betty Sirles, with son, Wayne, pose for a photo at Rendleman Orchards near Alto Pass. The family has been in the orchard business for years.


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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

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PAM AND ALLAN KIMBALL, BENTON

DIXIE TERRY, GOREVILLE

‘There’s a real community ‘There are hundreds of stories I could share about out there.’ growing up in the area.’ BY BECKY MALKOVICH THE SOUTHERN

BY DIXIE TERRY FOR THE SOUTHERN

Having been a lifelong Southern Illinoisan for more than 75 years, I have never had a desire to live anywhere else. Travel is fine, but returning home is a must. Terry The farthest I’ve ever lived away from Johnson County are the two years I attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the 14 years my husband and I lived on Lake of Egypt in Williamson County. Growing up in Cypress, population at that time being around 400, was ideal. If it takes a village to raise a child, I had many parents. We were free to ride bikes, roller skate, roam the streets and alleys, climb the bluffs that surround the village, play in the backyards or sit on anyone’s front porch whenever we chose. As an only child of two working parents, I had plenty of people keeping an eye out on me, all over town. My mother worked at the local post office, so I dared not misbehave, because she would know about it and very soon. My dad was a diesel mechanic for the Charles Stone Company at Whitehill, most of my growing-up years. There were dozens of us kids, who enjoyed the life in a small community, anticipating Saturdays when all our country friends and cousins arrived in town from surrounding farms. The three blocks of businesses stayed open until late, and this was a big deal, as we dropped in at one of three grocery stores or two restaurants to spend a weekly allowance of 25 cents. There was no organized recreation back then. We made our own by playing hide-and-seek and all those fun games that sometimes included rubber-gun wars, under the street lights each summer night, with 25 or more kids gathering. Church on Sunday morning and again on Sunday night at the Baptist church were really events in our limited social life. Comic books and paper dolls were the fun thing on rainy days, along with listening to the radio. Having 10 cents to buy a new selection of paper dolls or a comic book was a great treat. Most of my paper dolls came from the

Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs. These catalogs could also be found in the backyard outhouse. I thought we had really arrived when my mother brought home real toilet tissue from P. D. Lentz’s General Store. We all traded comic books, after reading them a dozen times. Every kid in town bought different ones that passed from house to house. The school up on the hill was our home away from home after Labor Day. I loved school and reading every book in the library. I also was introduced to Life and Look magazines, along with the St. Louis GlobeDemocrat. My parents subscribed to the six-days-a-week Cairo Evening Citizen that kept us in touch with the world. In the late 1940s, The Southern Illinoisan became our daily. High school was attended at Vienna, where our three-year high school had consolidated in 1948 — the year I graduated from grade school. The four-year adventure of high school remains vivid, going to every home basketball game, Friday night dances in the gym and playing in Austin Gibson’s orchestra are great memories, along with the dozens of friends. Although many of those left the county after graduation, many have returned after retiring, back to their roots in Southern Illinois. Much of our shopping at that time was done in Cypress, where all the necessities of life were available. An occasional trek to Anna or Vienna was a must. And, I loved going to the movies in those towns, the Grand in Vienna, and the Rogers and the Yale, in Anna. A really big deal was going to Cairo, which seemed like a city. I remember going with my parents to a Labor Day parade and eating lunch at an elegant hotel in Cairo and sometimes shopping in the clothing stores on Commercial Avenue. During World War II, I had eight uncles serving our country, to whom I wrote and received mail from around the world. Did I ever feel like “Miss Somebody!” My mother and our doctor’s wife, Bertha Thomson, head of the county Red Cross, would get together Sunday afternoons to make candy and cookies for mailing to the county boys in

service. I loved licking the bowls. Buying savings stamps at school was a weekly event, in order to obtain savings bonds to help the war effort. We all thought we would someday be rich! Collecting magazines and newspapers for the war effort was taken on by our fourth-grade class. We pulled a red wagon to every house, begging for their used publications. These were piled on our big front porch, until a truck arrived to take them wherever. In the meantime, I had enough magazines to keep me busy. Some medical journals from Doctor Thomson were way over my head, but I enjoyed the explicit drawings. And, decided that I no longer wanted to be a nurse. Gasoline ration stamps somewhat limited our travels during the war. Our 1939 blue Ford car remained parked in the driveway for the duration, and we used two of my dad’s motorcycles for going. A big, black Harley-Davidson held my mom, dad and me on our jaunts to neighboring towns. A red Indian motorcycle was big enough for my dad and me on our treks to my grandparents’ farms, a local pond for fishing or necessary errands. My first bike was a used boy’s bike brought home by my dad who was a trader. I did get a brand new girl’s model a few years later. Ice skating at the railroad pond a mile north of town was our wintertime fun, although I never learned how to do the figure 8 as my dad did. I received new white shoe skates for Christmas in 1947, the last year that the temperature remained cold enough for the pond to freeze thick enough for skating. There are hundreds of stories I could share about growing up in the area. Each day was an adventure, until I turned 14, and suddenly, each summer was so boring. In 1955, I married Jim Terry and moved up Illinois 37 and over the Buncombe Hill to his hometown, Goreville. Here, we raised our five, each of whom could write a book about growing up in Goreville, another ideal locale for kids. Now, there are grands and greats, some scattered around the world, but many enjoying the good life in Southern Illinois, and who will some day have stories to tell.

BENTON — Just like Dorothy, a character in one of their favorite musicals, “The Wizard of Oz,” for Allan and Pam Kimball there’s no place like home. And home for the two has always been Southern Illinois. Pam is a native of Carterville, while Allan grew up in Benton. The two met through Pyramid Players, a theater company co-founded by Allan in 1977, and were married in 1984. They make their home in Benton. “Actually, our house is built on the site of my family’s old barn. We’re in the backyard of the house where I grew up,” Allan said. “Obviously, I’ve always liked it here — enough to stay.” Pam teaches speech, drama and English at Benton Consolidated High School and is the school’s speech and drama director. Allan taught speech and drama at Du Quoin High School until he moved to Southeastern Illinois College 14 years ago. He is SIC’s director of theater activities and co-chairman of the humanities division. “We wanted to raise our kids here so they would know our families,” Pam said. What makes the area a great place to raise children, she said, are the opportunities — in the schools and the communities. “There are an amazing amount of opportunities in this area. My children performed all over Southern Illinois. They’ve had great experiences and they’ve gotten to know a

STEVE JAHNKE / THE SOUTHERN

Pam and Allan Kimball have enjoyed living in Southern Illinois all their lives, and their love for drama is even stronger. Pam is drama director at Benton Consolidated High School, and Allan is co-founder of Pyramid Players.

lot of people,” she said. “There’s a real community out there.” In the Benton school system, she said, children can sample a variety of activities to discover where their interests and talents lie. She has offered tremendous opportunities to her students, having coached six students to state speech championships. “We’ve had someone go to state for the last 27 years, and we’ve had a lot of finalists. Our contest play has been in the top four, five or six times in the past few years,” she said. “That is a great advertisement for a small town and its opportunities.” Not that all is rosy in Southern Illinois. “I really dislike the fact that our poverty level is rising so high. Eventually, that is going to affect the opportunities we can offer to the children,” she said. “And I guess small towns have politics but I have not found that to be

a major issue. It means you know where to go for help.” The couple has two children, Justin and Josh. Justin will graduate with a bachelor of arts in theater from Millikin University, while Josh is studying music theater at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. They would love to see both stay in the area, but realize that may not happen. “I wanted them to grow up in this area, but at the same time, if they want to pursue careers, they’re going to have to go someplace else,” Allan said. “They can always come back and visit.” The Kimballs plan to stay in the area after they retire — from their jobs, that is; they’ll likely devote their extra time to Pyramid Players. “We stayed here because we thought this was a place where we could make a difference,” Allan said. bmalk@gmail.com / 618-927-5366

Governor

Pat Quinn for Southern Illinois • Gov. Quinn took over at a time of crisis in Illinois, but as governor he has worked tirelessly to reform state ethics laws and put Illinois back to work. • Gov. Quinn spearheaded the first jobs bill in over ten years, which will put over 439,000 people back to work. • Gov. Quinn created a program to give $2500 to every small business that creates a job. • Gov. Quinn cut $3 billion from the state budget and opposes Sen. Bill Brady's tax cuts for the wealthy because they will add over $1 billion to the state deficit. • Gov. Quinn understands the importance of hunting to the Southern Illinois economy, and has continued to support the creation of a fourth zone for water fowl hunting. This effort will ensure that Southern Illinois remains competitive with surrounding states and receives its share of hunting related revenue.

VOTE GOVERNOR PAT QUINN ELECTION DAY TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2 Paid for by the Southern Illinois Waterfowl Association, Inc.


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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

RICH HERRIN, BENTON

‘I’m ... the luckiest guy in the world.’ BY SCOTT MEES THE SOUTHERN

Rich Herrin amassed 902 victories coaching basketball in the state, and all of those wins came as the head coach of teams in Southern Illinois. The Missouri Valley Conference and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer earned a lot of the victories as the coach at Benton Consolidated High School. Herrin led the Rangers from 1960 to 1985. At Benton, Herrin racked up 521 wins from 1960 to 1985, and the high school gym was named in his honor. He had offers to coach other places around the state and outside of it, but never really wanted to leave. “I could’ve gone to the suburbs, and other schools called,” Herrin said. “But I really like the attitude and friendliness of the people in Southern Illinois.” The Rangers advanced to the state tournament four times under Herrin and only suffered two losing seasons. “Once I was at Benton for 20 years, I figured I’d finish my career there,” Herrin said. But Herrin received the rare opportunity for a high school coach to jump to the top job at a Division I college basketball program when Southern Illinois University came calling in 1985.

games that first year.” Slowly but surely, Herrin brought the Salukis back into the Missouri Valley Conference picture. The team finished below .500 in his first three seasons but earned a berth in the National Invitation Tournament in 1989 when the squad finished 20-14. Herrin guided the Salukis to four consecutive NIT bids. But things really started to heat up for the Salukis when they won three straight MVC tournaments from 1993 to 1995. SIU earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament in each of those years. The school hadn’t been to the Big Dance since 1977. “They were all so exciting and rewarding,” Herrin said of his team’s run to the NCAA Tournament. “To win it three times in a row is the THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTO reason I’m in the MVC Rich Herrin directs his players during a game at SIU Arena. Hall of Fame. But it was my players that won it The Salukis hadn’t been would work very hard to three times for me. And be successful. But it was doing well on the nobody had done that in difficult to leave Benton.” basketball court, and the history of the MVC.” SIU won only eight Herrin got the chance to The Salukis won 225 turn things around. It was games in Herrin’s first games during Herrin’s season as head coach. He also a positive for Herrin tenure at the university. also needed to get more because he didn’t have to Herrin’s head coaching fans to show up at the leave the area to change history began at Okawville jobs. It was a simple move games. High School in 1956, “I didn’t have any idea from Benton to which led to the job at what was I getting into,” Carterville, where he still Benton. After his run at Herrin said of the resides today with his SIU ended in 1998, Herrin transition from high wife, Sue. took several years off. He school to college “I knew it would be got back into the game as basketball. “The starting exciting and a real the coach at Marion High five were all gone and we challenge,” Herrin said of School in 2002 and had very little. I don’t taking the SIU position. coached the Wildcats until know how we won eight “There was no doubt I 2007. Herrin said one of the biggest reasons he’s stayed in the area for his entire life is his family. Herrin and his wife have four kids and six grandchildren. He still makes it out to three or four prep games a week. He also enjoys going to SIU and McKendree University ballgames. He played for McKendree in the 1950s and is in the Hall of Fame there as well as at SIU. “I like to go see the guys that get their teams to play hard in high school basketball,” Herrin said. “It’s great to go to the tournaments because you can see four to six teams play every night.” Herrin credits all of his assistant coaches and the good players he’s coached over the years with his success in the sport. “I am very thankful that I had good help and a good family to help me,” Herrin said. “I think I’m probably the luckiest guy in the world.” scott.mees@thesouthern.com 618-351-5086

STEVE JAHNKE / THE SOUTHERN

Kelly Stewart has been superintendent at Benton Consolidated High School for more than 10 years.

KELLY STEWART, BENTON

‘I want our best and brightest to stay here.’ BY SCOTT FITZGERALD THE SOUTHERN

naturally fell into coaching jobs during her teaching stints at Vienna and Carterville. She was successful, producing winning teams and building a framework of durability and strength that she came to rely on during the bureaucratic challenges of becoming one of the state’s few women school superintendents. “I always ask young women applying for teaching jobs if they have ever coached or played sports. I think the experience gives them the ability to work on a team, take constructive feedback and develop resiliency when you get knocked down. Those are life lessons. You become better family members and teachers,” Stewart said. Stewart gives much of the credit of her success in public education to women mentors like Charlotte West, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale stalwart in women’s athletics from coaching to associate athletic director, who has a campus stadium named in her behalf — Charlotte West Stadium. “She (West) led to my ability to become comfortable in those positions. I wanted those challenges,” Stewart said. Stewart believes in Benton and all of Southern Illinois for that matter. She wants young people to stay here. “I want our best and brightest to stay here. Economic development and school systems have to be close partners. We can market our quality of life. We can market our solid public school systems,” Stewart said.

BENTON — During a Southern Illinois Society for High School Achievement banquet in May 2008, Benton Consolidated High School Superintendent Kelly Stewart posed a challenge in the form of a question to hundreds of area high school students. “What are your dreams? Have you set them high enough and are you willing to go for it?” Stewart asked the students. Stewart said the answer was threefold. People who succeed set their goals high. They are willing to work hard and they have to be brave enough to go for it. The Benton native has lived here nearly her entire life with the exception of teaching and coaching in Vienna, Harrisburg and Carterville and getting her higher education degrees from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is an example of that threefold answer. “I love Benton, Franklin County and Southern Illinois. I am proud to be from here. We’re basic Midwest people — kind and considerate. We never give up. We do a lot with a little bit,” Stewart said. She came from an athletic family, her father Harry Stewart a successful high school football coach who was inducted in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame. Stewart played high school sports not too long after federal legislation in the form of Title 9, allowing for sexuality equality in school sports, was passed. Stewart played softball scott.fitzgerald@thesouthern.com at Rend Lake College and 618-351-5076

• Shopping • Restaurants • Roscoe Misslehorn Art Gallery • New Memorial Park • Sparta Public Library


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RALPH SPRAGUE, THOMPSONVILLE

‘It’s all been about work. Work won’t kill you.’ BY SCOTT FITZGERALD

Thompsonville was a brief stint in the U.S. Navy, where he was stationed in Chicago before getting THOMPSONVILLE — discharged because of a Working and living in ruptured ulcer. He stayed in Thompsonville nearly his whole life go hand-in-hand Chicago for a brief period, working at a ring for former mayor Ralph galvanizing company. Sprague. “I hitchhiked back here “I’m proof of it. I’ve lived to be 89. I’ve had a good life with $7 in my pocket. I here, and it’s all been about slept in a room. That was in 1945,” Sprague said. work. Work won’t kill you. He was in the trucking You may kill yourself, but business and excavated or work won’t kill you,” said cleared land to build ponds Sprague, who has done a for about 30 years. little bit of everything in In fact the trucking this town of nearly 600 business helped land the residents that’s tucked away in the far southeastern house he’s lived in for about 60 years. corner of Franklin County. Sprague hauled a store He was born in Marion, building from nearby but moved here at an early Corinth in Marion County age with his mother to live for Thompsonville with his grandparents. postmaster Herbert His only time away from

THE SOUTHERN

SCOTT FITZGERALD THE SOUTHERN

Ralph Sprague, 89, has lived nearly his entire life in the small town of Thompsonville.

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTO

Bob Butler listens to a presentation from state Department of Revenue representatives at John A. Logan College.

BOB BUTLER, MARION

‘This is my home.’ BY JOE SZYNKOWSKI FOR THE SOUTHERN

MARION — Bob Butler says it’s strange to be asked what has kept him in the region for such a long time. It is second nature to him to wake up in his cherished hometown of Marion. “This is my home,” said Marion’s 83-year old mayor. “My family and friends are here. Rather than leave because the town, the area is lacking, I choose to stay and try to move to help make it better. We are beginning to see success as more people make a similar commitment.” Butler has been mayor of Marion since 1963. He was raised here, and other than time spent in the military or attending college, he has always lived in Marion. Serving the citizens of this city has helped him better appreciate the region and its people, all while helping him become a respected, revered politician. “Perhaps my penchant for politics is in the genes,” Butler said. “My grandfather on my mother’s side was mayor of Marion in the early 1920s. My father served in the state Legislature both as representative and senator. I served as a precinct committeeman for 22 years. “I suppose it is obvious I have always had a keen interest in government and politics generally; I became a candidate for mayor because I believed Marion had great potential that would not be realized by the then-current leadership. I thought that with some luck and perhaps divine intervention I could help lead Marion in the right direction.” Butler underplays his own role in making Marion such a vital cog of Southern Illinois. He credits the people he serves and the committed workers who help him

make sure Marion stays on the right path. “I would describe the typical Southern Illinoisan as a friendly, God-fearing, independent-minded individual who is always generous in charitable endeavors,” he said. “I have been too busy trying to keep the city progressing to reflect on what, if any, influence I have. Sometimes I think no one hears what I say and if they do they soon forget. My policy has been I don’t want to hear why something good can’t be done. I want to hear only how to make it work. Furthermore, I don’t care who takes credit as long as the job gets done.” It’s obvious the job has been getting done in Marion, thanks in no small part to Butler’s leadership. He is proud to be part of something that is helping improve his overall community — the community he has been so dedicated to for so many years. “The progress and expansion experienced by Marion in the past few years has been gratifying,” Butler said. “That has demonstrated how important it is for the people in a community to come together and pull in the same direction. Cooperation between the city and the business community has been exemplary.” Just because he stays focused on Marion and its business doesn’t mean Butler never enjoys other areas in Southern Illinois. “I can look in most any direction from Marion and find a place of interest to visit,” Butler said. “There are many natural wonders for one to admire. Giant City State Park and Ferne Clyffe State Park are two examples. Of course, there is the Garden of the Gods, Bell Smith Springs and Cache Run Basin. I am always impressed by the two major rivers. Perhaps if I lived on one it would be old hat.”

Bauman, who planned to construct a home from it. “There was enough lumber there to build two houses,” Sprague said about eventually purchasing the structure from Bauman and making his own home from it. “It was a hull of a house when I bought it from him,” he said. His real passion was oil field work. Thompsonville had seven wells. And Sprague got involved, gaining mineral rights in nearby acreage and eventually drilling a 1,300-foot well on farmland he purchased. With the excitement of oil in the air, Thompsonville also was known as rail shipping destination for horses. “They would ship horses

out here by rail from Montana. They were wild horses that were sold to farmers. I was always kind of afraid of them,” Sprague said. The rail industry left around 1980. Before it left, Thompsonville was thriving with lots of twostory buildings in the downtown retail sector. There was a lumber yard, a bank and three-year high school. Sprague served on the town board for 12 years. He remembers a bulk of the work centering on issuing permits to drill oil wells. “The wells have been plugged for 20 years almost. This little town almost folded up,” Sprague said. Different kinds of

industry come and go, but Thompsonville will always survive, because as Sprague says, “This is a little old farming community. It’s always been like that,” he said. Philip Mabry, a friend who has known Sprague all his life and is a year younger, admires Sprague for his integrity to never shy away from a challenge. “He (Sprague) has had to work hard all his life. We still run around together,” Mabry said about his friend, who still drives a motorcycle around town. Both men stay active with Thompsonville, attending Masonic Lodge and American Legion meetings. scott.fitzgerald@thesouthern.com 618-351-5076


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THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

GLENN AND JO POSHARD, CARBONDALE

‘It was our privilege to represent ... Southern Illinoisans.’ BY JOE SZYNKOWSKI FOR THE SOUTHERN

Glenn and Jo Poshard can rattle off a great number of things they enjoy about their home region of Southern Illinois. But perhaps the thing they enjoy most is giving back to the communities that helped shape them into the individuals they are today. They possess a passion for the people they have represented over their many years of public service: Glenn as president of Southern Illinois University and Jo as a retired school teacher. “We love the people,” the Poshards wrote in a joint e-mail. “It was our privilege to represent over a half million Southern Illinoisans for many years in both the state and federal legislatures. We traveled every back road and visited nearly every town in 40 counties and met thousands of people who became our friends. To meet people where they lived, to hear their concerns, their hopes and aspirations for their families and their communities was a rich and enjoyable experience for us.” Glenn grew up on a farm in White County and graduated from Carmi Township High School in 1962, while Jo spent many years teaching in Carterville. They have raised their family here and developed longlasting friendships over the years, all while acquiring a deep respect for the area and its history. “Southern Illinois is unique in many ways,” the Poshards said. “The diversity of its people who came here from all over the world to work the coal mines, settle the small towns and farm the land.

THE SOUTHERN FILE PHOTO

SIU President Glenn Poshard and wife, Jo, have served the people of Southern Illinois in many ways over the years.

Its unique geography, including a great national forest, the confluence of the two largest rivers in America, and rural scenic beauty is unmatched in other areas of the state. “It is also the history of Southern Illinois that we appreciate. The explorations of Joliet and Marquette and the early French settlements. Our connections to the beginning of the Lewis & Clark expedition. The pivotal role we played in the Civil War including the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Grant training his army at Cairo, and our ‘divided family’ over this great conflict.” The Poshards attribute

their successes to their educations and understand how important learning is to the children of Southern Illinois. They have helped countless amounts of abused, abandoned or neglected children through their well-known Poshard Foundation, making a difference in the region they love so much. “Over the course of our public service careers we have become alarmed at the growing problem of child abuse in our country. Our Foundation for Abused Children has as its motto, ‘We believe every child deserves a safe place, a safe person, and a safe community.’ Knowing in

our hearts that our Foundation and the volunteers that serve it help protect these vulnerable children is one of the greatest blessings we have.” Through their work with the foundation and various other charitable endeavors, the Poshards have met many people from outside of the region. They are never short on advice for their newfound friends. “We suggest many places for someone outside the region to visit, but we suggest SIU as the starting point. It is the largest and we think the most beautiful institution in the region which

captures the academic, cultural, artistic and athletic attributes which are so important to Southern Illinois.” The Poshards enjoy exploring the far-reaching corners of the region, from the natural beauty of the Shawnee National Forest to never-ending options of eateries and food choices. “We enjoy exploring the Shawnee and spending the weekend in Hardin, Pope, Johnson and Union counties, the most scenic parts of Illinois. Garden of the Gods, Panther Den, Bald Knob, Burden Falls, Bell Smith Springs and other wilderness areas are our favorite places to hike.

There are many excellent restaurants that serve ‘home-cooked’ meals, enough antique shops to take up a day of wandering, and the Chocolate Factory to please the sweet tooth.” But all in all, it comes back to the great people of Southern Illinois. “We have our roots here. We have family and friends that love us, a people who have favored us to serve them through a lifetime of rich experiences, a love for the beauty of this area and as graduates of SIU, a great university which has given us all the opportunities we needed to have productive lives.”


THE SOUTHERN ILLINOISAN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2010

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PAUL NEWTON / THE SOUTHERN

Laura Chamness came to school at SIUC, and after moving out east after graduation, she came to Carbondale and is the coordinator of Carbondale Civic Center.

LAURA CHAMNESS, CARBONDALE

‘I wanted a hometown. I wanted neighbors.’ BY ROB CROW THE SOUTHERN

CARBONDALE — The easy way to tell the story is that Laura Chamness moved back to Carbondale for a man. But there’s much more to it than that. After growing up in the Chicago suburb of Glenview and making a brief collegiate stop in Iowa, Chamness moved to Carbondale to finish her education at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. When she graduated in 1990, she moved away, never looking back. “I never thought I’d be back,” Chamness said. Twenty years later, Chamness is back in Carbondale — and this time, she can’t imagine ever leaving. The manager of Carbondale Civic Center for the last four-plus years, Chamness was originally a photographer upon her graduation from SIUC. Her work moved her to Boston and New York, cities far removed in most ways from those in Southern Illinois. But a trip back to this region to visit her sister changed Chamness’ life. It was on that trip she met Dave Chamness, the man who eventually became her husband. For a little more than a year, the

couple dated longdistance, with several trips between Carbondale and New York. When the relationship moved past the dating stage, Laura Chamness had a decision to make — and that’s when the appeal of her college town started to show its appeal as a place to raise a family. “It was a big decision, because it was my career, and photography was all I cared about,” Chamness said. “But I knew that, down the road, if we had kids, Southern Illinois was the place I wanted to raise them. “I wanted a hometown. I wanted neighbors. I wanted my kids to have neighbors. And that’s what I was missing (in New York). … It was really about making a home for my children and my family.” It’s that sense of family and community that Chamness said she loves most about Southern Illinois. Unlike New York or Boston, she said, people wave to each other on the street, whether walking or driving. Rather than dealing with the chaos of Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chamness can enjoy a leisurely day at Cedar Lake or stop by University Museum. And that desire to raise a

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family has become a reality. Laura and Dave Chamness have twin 3-year-old daughters, Marin and Gavin, and Laura Chamness said she is thrilled to be raising them in Carbondale. The rest of Chamness’ family feels the same way, too — her parents and siblings all now make their homes in Southern Illinois, a far cry from the Chicago suburb in which they shared a house. Chamness still has many friends in the larger cities she’s lived in, and several of them make trips down to Southern Illinois to visit her. When they do make the trip, Chamness has some go-to locations to take her friends: Mary Lou’s Café, Harbaugh’s Café and some local wineries, among other places. And it hasn’t taken long for the city dwellers to figure out why Chamness is happy to spend the rest of her life in Southern Illinois. “They had no idea … they realized this was God’s country, a little hidden gem, and they had no idea,” Chamness said. “Once they visited, they continued to visit, because they love it down here, too.” rob.crow@thesouthern.com 618-351-5080

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