DeKalb County Life for Jan. 11, 2016: Welcoming Jessi Haish; Doug Oleson on New Year’s Predictions; Hospital/Mental Health Part III in series; Steve Bigolin’s Fargo Hotel History

Welcoming a new young writer

Hello! My name is Jessi LaRue and I’m a lifelong Sycamore resident and blogger.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember; my stories and musings have filled pages of notebooks and my personal blog, Becoming Mrs. LaRue, which details my newlywed life.

My maiden name is Haish, and I’m a descendant of DeKalb barbed wire baron Jacob Haish. I have lived in Sycamore my entire life; I graduated from Sycamore High School in 2009. I also attended both Kishwaukee College and NIU.

I developed my love of writing throughout high school writing and journalism classes. I went on to study journalism in college, holding every newspaper position possible, including layout designer, reporter and even editor in chief. My passion for journalism earned me a big girl journalism job at the Daily Chronicle before I graduated, so I took the job with only my experience from the Northern Star and 3/4 of a journalism degree.

I soon found out that daily journalism life wasn’t for me, though, so I took my nearly complete degree to a full-time job in proofreading. To satisfy my need for writing, I took up writing on my personal blog in 2015. When I’m not writing, I’m enjoying the simple life with my husband and our two cats at our apartment in downtown Sycamore.

I’m excited to share my stories here at Barry’s blog. Feel free to contact me at Also, try this website at:


From the Doug-Out


A new year has begun, time for resolutions and predictions and all of that.

My only resolution is to not make any resolutions this year. However, I am going to make a few predictions. The following are some of the comments and expressions I predict you will not be hearing this year:

1) Donald Trump: I’m sorry for what I said. It was cruel and I shouldn’t have said it.

2) Haninty on Fox TV: I think President Obama has done a good job in office and deserves credit for it. We’re lucky to have him as President.

3) Whoever is in charge of the Affordable Health Care Act: We really screwed up on this. It’s overly complicated, confusing and doesn’t make sense, not even to us. And it’s a lot more expensive than we ever let on. But it’s the law so you have to live with it.

4) President Obama: I don’t blame anyone but myself for anything bad that happened during my administration.

5) Mrs. Obama: Can I supersize my fries?

6) Hillary Clinton: May the best man win.

7) Mike Huckabee and Carli Fiorina: Yes, we’re still running for president and, no, we don’t know why either.

8) All the other presidential candidates: We really have no clue how to solve any of the problems facing our country. We just want to be president and get free health care..

9) Sylvester Stallone: Haven’t we made enough Rocky movies by now?

10) Cast members of Shark Tank: Hey, it’s only money.

11) The Rolling Stones: We’re really not the world’s greatest rock and roll band anymore. Haven’t been for years. We just make the most money.

12) The Rockford TV news stations: You really can’t tell one of us from the other since we basically all do the same things. Our reports are just as reliable as the any of the others.

13) The Chicago Bears management: We have absolutely no idea what we’re doing when it comes to getting good players. Thank goodness for injuries, which you can always blame your losses on..

14) Quarterback Tom Brady: Catch me if you can.

15) The Pope: I’ll bet a hail marry that the Saints win the Super Bowl. And, yes, I know they’re not playing, but that’s the power of faith.

16) Chicago Cubs fans: We’re really getting tired of all this winning. Can’t we go back to the old days? All we can do is wait ’til next year.

17) My cat: Of course I’ll share with you. I’m not spoiled in the least.

18) Judge Judy: They don’t keep me here because I’s gorgeous; they keep me here because they can’t get rid of me.

19) Any TV Evangelist: Please don’t send any more money to our ministry. We already have more than what we know what to do with.

20) Isis: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and peace on earth.

                                                   —Doug Oleson at


Hospital-related matter concerning our County Mental Health Board – Part III in a series

By Barry Schrader, editor
The DeKalb County  Community Mental Health Board (aka 708 board) has been in existence for decades and has tax-laving authority, collecting about $2.1 million to $2.4 million each year to fund and coordinate mental health-related services for the county’s residents.
There have been some instability issues, maintaining the board at full strength, finding consumer families who are even willing to apply for board seat, which is heavily weighted with providers, and dissonance that has resulted in frequent turnover in the Executive Director position, four people having filled that job in the past decade or less.
First off, I want to keep a promise to the current Executive in charge Deanna Cada, who detailed some of the good work she has been able to accomplish in her two-year tenure in the staff position. They fund a number of social service agencies and monitor the performance of these providers to see that the funds are spent wisely. Their biggest problem being the Ben Gordon Mental Health Center which has been in disarray and swallowing huge amounts of money with questionable results. Now that the Center has been bought by KishHealth-Northwestern the 708 board had to keep the $1 per year lease in place until 2017 for the building and grounds of that building, as long as KishHealth decides to keep the counseling center in that location.
Cada has been spending a lot of time working with the Fairdale Longerm Recovery Corporation headed by Bill Nicklas, serving as cochair of the Spiritual and Emotional Subcommittee along with Kirkland Methodist pastor Rev. Kay Wuu. Cada also serves as secretary for the group. Now that Nicklas is stepping down as president they are meeting Jan. 13 to decide how to proceed without him, and who might take the reins of the group that is winding down its operation. Another major effort for Cada has been setting up a County Mental Health Coordinating Council with Circuit Judge Robbin Stuckert. Their eventual goal is establishing a Mental Health Court to offer people with those problems an alternative to prosecution or jail time. Other parts of the Coordinating Council will be working on other behavioral health issues such as creation of a 211 Help Line which operates 24/7 to answer calls from residents needing all kinds of urgent help. It is a referral line with a live person answering and directing the caller to the appropriate agency or source, even calling an ambulance or the police when necessary.
Cada said the 708 board will also be conducting some focus groups among consumers and families to see what needs are the greatest.
I must interject that I participated in the 2009 Needs Assessment survey which clearly identified the critical need for inpatient mental health care beds in the county, and that has gone nowhere as most everyone, except Kish Hospital, recognizes. They just want to ship mental health patients off to Central DuPage where their new owners can soak up the dollars from insurance and Medicare clients and fill the new 48-bed expanded unit they boasted about at the public hearing before the State Health Facilities Board. Dissuading the new owners from continuing that practice will be a monumental task that our county board is probably not willing to confront. But the DeKalb and Sycamore city councils have a tool at their disposal to bring Kish-Northwestern to their knees if they just have the intestinal fortitude to exercise their options. More on that later.

As can be seen in the accompanying letter our Citizens for Better Mental Health Care provided information that helped the 708 board decide to vote to bring the inpatient beds back into this county. But the chair of the board, Mr. Rose deliberately distorted and deleted that motion with the letter he directed the staff to prepare and he then signed on behalf of his board and mailed the last minute to the State Health Facilities Review Board before their final decision-making meeting on the sale of the hospital. We have the evidence, the recordings of the meetings, the motion made by Dr. Stromborg and seconded by Dr. Kirts, and the Minutes of the vote of 5-3 with one abstention. Yet he blatantly disregarded the intent and wishes of his board (probably to please his KishHealth friends and squelch any opposition to the sale or mention of the return of beds to the county).
When we filed a complaint with States Attorney Richard Schmack, including evidence that violations of the Open Meetings Act had occurred with behind-the-scenes emails and phone calls to subvert the law, the states attorney chose to only give Mr. Rose a slap on the hand with a letter advising him and the board of the Open Meetings Act, then denying there was any wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Rose, his client as a county official served by Mr. Schmack.
  So our next step is forwarding the complaint of alleged misconduct to the Attorney General’s office and awaiting a ruling, which could take months. It should be a slam-dunk decision with all the evidence we have already collected, plus testimony from board members Stromborg and Kirts, as well as staffers Deanna Cada and Kathy Ostdick. The AG should certainly interview all parties in this case. Only time will tell if Mr. Rose is found guilty and removed from that office.
Attached are the pertinent letters to the States Attorney and his response, basically sweeping the offense under the rug. The compiled evidence we have assembled will now go to Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s appropriate investigative arm.
By Barry Schrader, editor of online

Dec. 18, 2015
Mr. Richard Schmack
DeKalb County States Attorney
200 N. Main St.
Sycamore, IL 60178

Dear States Attorney Schmack:

After a review of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act pertaining to the DeKalb County 708 Community Mental Health Board from Oct. 16 through Dec. 2, 2015, I find more than one instance of a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
As discussed in my previous letter of Nov. 30, 2015 questioning the conduct of the 708 Board president Charles Rose, this validates my concerns about his actions. Do you act on Open Meeting Act violations or should this go to the Illinois Attorney General’s office for action?
This is just further evidence that Mr. Rose should resign his position or be removed by the DeKalb County Board which approved his appointment.
I look forward to hearing from your office in a timely manner regarding both my Nov. 30 letter and this latest finding. I understand Mr. Rose has already had a conversation with you regarding the Open Meetings Act violations so it should be clear that it occurred.
When Eileen Dubin and I met with County Board Chair Mark Pietrowski in his office prior to the November 708 board meeting we expressed concerns that Mr. Rose would use some tactic (Parliamentary Procedure)  to avoid discussion of the issue brought up in Ms. Dubin’s earlier letter pertaining to his altering the intent of the motion and sending a letter to the State Health Facilities Review Board that misrepresented the motion made by Dr. Stromborg and passed on a 5-3-1 vote. Dr. Stromborg can verify this if you need further proof. From the FoIA-obtained emails it is evident that 708 Board Executive Director Deanna Cada made the changes in the letter to suit Mr. Rose since staff performance evaluations were underway and he evaluates both her and Kathy Ostdick in the board office. If under oath I believe you find that Ms. Cada would verify that is what happened. She has to be concerned about her job since there has been considerable turnover of people in her position and she no doubt wants to remain with the 708 board office.
So I await your timely action on this matter.

—-Original signed—-

Barry Schrader
Cochair of the DeKalb County Citizens for Better Mental Health Care

Dec. 31, 2015

To ‘Barry Schrader’
CC: Klein, Stephanie
12/31/15 at 2:43 PM

Mr. Schrader:  In response to your letter dated December 18, 2015, please find attached a copy of the letter which my office prepared and sent to our client, the DeKalb County Community Mental Health Board, earlier this month. I presume that the OMA violations which we noted were the same ones referred to in your letter. Since the plan to circulate drafts of the letter between the members, by e-mail,  was discussed in the previous open meeting, it is clear that these were not intentional violations and do not reflect any invidious motives. We expect corrective actions to be taken, and do not anticipate need for any further action by our office.
With regard to you previous complaint that Mr. Rose in some way misconstrued, or misrepresented, the position of the 708 Board in the letter that was sent to the  State Health Facilities Review Board, my Chief Civil Assistant Stephanie Klein  and I reviewed the e-mail exchanges in the material which was provided to you under FOIA. Based on these exchanges it seems clear to us that Mr. Rose cannot be said to have distorted the view of the 708 Board in his letter.

(Signed) Richard H. Schmack, State’s Attorney DeKalb County, Sycamore, IL  60178


Office of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney

DeKalb County Courthouse
133 W. State Street
Sycamore, Illinois 60178

State’s Attorney

December 15, 2015

Mr. Charles Rose
DeKalb County Community Mental Health Board
2500 North Annie Glidden Road, Suite B
DeKalb, IL 60115

Re: Open Meetings Act / Email discussions

Mr. Rose:
In reviewing a FOIA request received by Ms. Cada, we became aware that a discussion had occurred between members of the Mental Health Board via email.  As attorney for the Community Mental Health Board, I would like to remind you that the Open Meetings Act broadly defines “meeting” and specifically includes email discussions in the definition of “meeting.”  As such, email discussions of public business between a majority of a quorum of the members would not be in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.  I am enclosing a copy of the definitions section of the Open Meetings Act for your reference.  As your attorney, I do advise that you guard against future email discussions and also invite you to contact my office with any questions you may have regarding the Open Meetings Act.

Very truly yours, Richard H. Schmack

SIDEBAR TO Hospital Series Part III

In the last issue of DeKalb County Life Online we promised an article looking into the real estate and buildings possibly held by Kish Health, Ben Gordon, Valley West and related appendages. It has become a lengthy and complex search of records and site visits to see what buildings may have been torn down or converted to other uses.
But for starters, here is a list of properties being researched: No proof of ownership has yet been determined for some, and recent sales or transfers may have been recorded in the past 60 days since we filed the FoIA with the Recorder of Deeds.
1) Kishwaukee Hospital, 1 Kishwaukee Drive, DeKalb
2) Kish Health Corp., 1740 Mediterranean Drive, Sycamore
3) Kish Physicians Group (old DeKalb Clinic) 1850 Gateway Dr. Sycamore
4) Medical office building (vacant) 2240 Gateway Dr. Sycamore
5) Medical office building, 1630 Gateway Drive, Sycamore
6) Three residential lots (2 houses recently demolished) in 700 block of Oakland Drive, DeKalb (one lot now owned by Oak Crest DARC NFP)
7) Kish Health building, 21193 Malta Rd., Malta
8) Reality House, 631 S. First St., DeKalb
9) Gurler Apartments, 313 Gurler St., DeKalb
10) Kish Hospice, 2727 Sycamore Road, DeKalb
11) Windmill Shopping Center, 2700 block of Sycamore Road, DeKalb
12) Ben Gordon Center, 12 Health Services Drive, Sycamore
13) Kish Corp. Health, 3251 Commerce Drive, DeKalb
14) Family Service Agency building/lot, 14 Health Services Drive. Sycamore (hopefully still owned by FSA)
15) Family Health Center, 1170 DeKalb Ave., Sycamore
16) Medical Office Building, 760 Foxpointe Dr. Sycamore
17) Valley West Hospital and related properties, Sandwich
17) Genoa properties still being researched
18) 190 acres of agricultural land south of Twombly Road, DeKalb
(purchased by a blind trust for $2.7 million)
EDITOR’S NOTE: If anyone is aware of other possible KishHealth or related appendages ownership of properties, houses or other buildings, please send them to DeKalb County Life online, P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115.


Steve Bigolin’s walk through history

Sycamore’s Fargo Hotel


Henry B. Fargo of Geneva, Illinois spent $500,000 having a trio of business buildings constructed in Sycamore’s downtown district from 1925 to 1927. The most expensive of these being the $250,000 hotel at 355 West State Street, now known as the Jane Fargo Hotel.
The earliest structure located here belonged to Civil War veteran Timothy Wells, a stage coach owner. Subsequently. Reuben Ellwood, Sycamore’s first mayor, agricultural implement dealer, and U.S. Congressman, acquired the property and around 1882 erected a stately $28,000 red brick mansion on the site. The 1885 Portrait and Biographical Album of DeKalb County, Illinois said of it: “The structure is tasteful and elegant, and is fitted with a steam heating apparatus and gas for lighting purposes.”
      In Nostalgia and Glee in the 1960s Luke McLagan described it as “a showplace…decorated and furnished in a style and beauty that made it something to be proud of in that era.” Reuben died in 1885, and his wife in 1896, after which two other families owned and lived in the venerable residence. Then came Henry Fargo.
There had not been a new hotel built in downtown Sycamore since the mid-1870s, and so Mr. Fargo’s interest in erecting a new hostelry was most welcome by the business community. As with his theater, however, there was no vacant land or near downtown, and he was diametrically opposed to building on a side street.  The most appealing  location to  him was the northeast corner of State and California streets, when the more than 40 year old Ellwood home stood.  Spinster Mary Whittemore had lived in the house with her parents for many years, and alone following  their deaths.
Henry Fargo approached Miss Whittmore about buying her property as the site for his planned hotel. She had such a strong sentimental attachment to it though that she could not bear to see the mansion torn down. Negotiations eventually concluded with an unusual arrangement being worked out. For $20,000 Mr. Fargo did indeed purchase the building and grounds, but agreed to only remove a portion of the historic residence. What remained would be converted into Miss Wittemore’s suite in the hotel for the rest of her life. Based on the one time surviving rooms or areas in the hotel today, from 4-6 rooms comprised her special suite. (Meanwhile, it has been said over the years that the section taken off was relocated elsewhere and rebuilt, but this claim has never been substantiated.)
     From the alley behind and east of the hotel the roof of the mansion can be seen rising above the 1970’s banquet room addition. This is as much of the old house as you can see from outside. Inside though other vestiges of it remain in public areas of the hotel. The second floor executive suites were both part of the house, as well the Fireside Room — a small private dining room off the lobby, where there once was a marble fireplace. The restaurant and bar areas contain woodwork, trim and a door out of the mansion.
Miss Whittemore’s suite eventually fell into disrepair, after many years of neglect. With the $1 million renovation of the hotel in 1983 the building and its older historic spaces were brought back to life again. The structure’s name was then changed to the Stratford Inn and today is the Jane Fargo Hotel, although there was never a family member named “Jane.”

Steve Bigolin, DC Historical-Genealogical Society Historian


History Mystery photos…


Where is this, and what did it used to be called?


What new building has tots and adult toilets together?

See answers at the bottom of blog post.


Fav Foto of the Week…


This is the entry to the children’s reading room in the new DeKalb Public Library, also known as the Tree Room.


History Mystery photo answers

This sign is inside the Kishwaukee Physicians Group at 1850 Gateway Dr. Sycamore, formerly known as the DeKalb Clinic.

These two toilets are located in the children’s section on the second floor of the new DeKalb Public Library.


Barry’s no Saint, but he can preach….


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