DeKalb County Life for Jan. 18, 2016: New Library Opens; Jessi Haish Debuts; Doug Says Goodbye to Xmas; Bigolin’s Big Mural; VIP Xmas Cards; Hospital Talk Anticipated

DeKalb Library expansion becomes a reality


This poem read by Rep. Bob Pritchard at the ribbon-cutting today, Jan. 18, 2016 says it all about the value of a library. We hope Dee Coover, executive director, will stay around while longer to bask in the glory of this magnificent edifice. Besides, she is watching the mail for the res of the stated money to come from Secretary of State Jesse White.
Speakers at the grand opening from lower left to right are: Dee Coover. Board president Dr. Virginia Cassidy, Rep. Pritchard, and Mayor John Rey; Upper row Rev. Leroy Mitchell, Supt. of Schools Doug Moeller, Dan Kenney, and Don McKay.

by Varda One

It’s only a room with shelves and books,
but it’s far more magical than it looks

It’s a jet on which I soar
to lands that exist no more.

Or a key with which I find
answers to questions crowding my mind.

Building my habit of learning and growing,
asking and researching till I reach knowing.

Here, I’ve been a mermaid and an elf
I’ve even learned to be more myself.

I think that I shall never see
a place that’s been more useful to me.

With encouraging kind friends with wit
Who tell me to dream big and never quit.

It’s only a room with shelves and books,
bit it’s far more magical than it looks.
#   #   #


Growing Up Haish


By Jessi Haish LaRue,

No, I’m not rich. I don’t own a bunch of cool historical artifacts. And a lot of people don’t know the history behind my maiden name.

But growing up, I still took a lot of pride in my last name.

My dad sparked the interest when I was in elementary school. He showed me a family tree that was created by a distant relative, Jeff Marshall, in 1996. He told me that my great, great, great, great uncle was Jacob Haish, and said that if I had been born a boy, my name would have been Jacob.

“Why?” “Jacob Haish was very important to DeKalb and Sycamore.”

From there my father introduced me to local history and told me all about my barbed wire baron ancestor; he showed me the book “From Oxen to Jets,” which has an iconic photo of Jacob Haish’s mansion. I wanted to see the home, but my dad told me it was demolished in the 1960s. I was crushed.

Instead, we took a tour of the Ellwood House. There, I was able to learn more not only about Isaac Ellwood, but Haish’s involvement in the city, such as his contributions to the library and hospital. My dad also drove me to the location where Haish’s mansion once stood. I was instantly convinced that Haish was the coolest of the three barbed wire barons, and that he had done the most for the city. (Maybe I’m a little biased.)

My first brush with “fame” was years ago when my family left a restaurant in Sycamore. Someone was standing near my mom’s car, pointing out the vanity license plate. He wanted to know if we were related to Jacob Haish, and joked about us being rich. It’s a big misconception; Haish didn’t have any children to pass his wealth to, so his money went toward all those charitable projects after his death.

Barbed wire history was only briefly discussed during my time in Sycamore schools; but when Haish’s name was mentioned, I remember receiving some skeptical side-glances from classmates. But when the teacher would ask if I was related I would proudly boast “Yes, he is my GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT uncle!” But honestly, I didn’t know too much more about him. We don’t have a historian in the family, and, to the dismay of many people I’ve met, we don’t have any cool barbed wire artifacts. Those things are usually scooped up by collectors.

Even though I recently got married and decided to change my last name, my Haish pride still lives on. I took my husband on the Ellwood House’s final tour of this last season, and told him as many facts as I could while we walked. Then I excitedly took him to the visitor’s center to show him the Haish furniture collection. It meant so much to me to be able to share that with him. I’ll always be a Haish girl at heart.

Although it may not come with fame, glory and wealth, being a Haish comes with some serious family pride and some neat perks. I’ve met people, through email and in person, who were so excited to learn that I was a descendant of Jacob Haish. And thanks to these people, I’ve learned more about my family’s history than I could have imagined possible. Now that I’m out of college, I want more than anything to dive into my history and learn more about it. Maybe someday, I’ll even write a book.

License Haish wire


From the Doug-Out


By Doug Oleson;

It’s that time of year again, the dreaded time of year we all know is coming, yet there is nothing we can do about.

I am, of course, referring to: putting away all the Christmas decorations and other holiday supplies. Which always leads to the inevitable question: where did all this stuff come from? Even more important: what are you going to do with all of it?

My solution is a simple one. I will only keep so much and get rid of the most.

Now, that sounds relatively easy, doesn’t it? But when you get right down to it, it’s a very complicated process. What I do is break everything down into the following categories, such as:

1.) The things I need. This includes my miniature artificial Christmas tree, the while one with the blue, red and green little lights. I also keep the artificial wreath I set outside my front door, some other decorations, Christmas music, wrapping paper and boxes, and a couple
of nativity scenes.

2.) The things I want to keep: This includes my annotated copy of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a lovely nativity scene my sister gave me last year with a scroll like background, a wall hanging proclaiming: “Jesus is the Season,” and a beautiful plastic angel in a maroon robe I set on an end table. I also have a two-foot Santa Claus reading the “Night Before Christmas.” Or at least he’s supposed to, but the battery died and it’s one of those things you can’t get to it to replace the battery.

3.) Things with sentimental value: Like a Santa Claus I found for my mother when I went to Niagara Falls a few years ago. Santa is dozing on a white chair with a cat curled up in his lap. A friend of mine was with me when I saw it on the Canadian side of the falls. I wasn’t going to get it at first because it was too expensive, but my friend urged me to ask the clerk about it, reminding me that it was probably in Canadian money which was more than American. She was right, and I’m reminded of that experience every time I see it. It means even more since my friend passed away a few years ago. There are also some Christmas tree balls that belonged to my late grandmother I also keep, even though the balls are much too large for  my tree.

The nest category is the easiest.

4.) Those things of value: No problem here. I don’t have any.

But now comes the trickier categories.

5.) The things I don’t really need, but I just might be able to use some day so I hate to get rid of them. Like this bag of old stringed lights. I haven’t put them out in years and sincerely doubt I will again. But I just know as soon as I get ride of them, next year I’ll get the urge to put them up. There’s also a box of decorated Christmas glasses that have never been used that are perfect for entertaining. Of course I never use them because I don’t entertain anymore. Again, as soon as I dispose of them, I’ll have a house full of friends or relatives stop by.

6.) The things I really don’t want, can’t use, but I’ll feel guilty about getting rid of because of who gave them to me. I’m not going to list any specific examples here just in case someone who gave me something that falls into this category might be reading this. But I sure could.

7.) The things I don’t know what to do with. Like a cute little snowman face hanging from a wooden perch proclaiming: “let it snow.” I just don’t have any place to put it, yet I don’t have to heart to get rid of it. He’s always so cheerful, it doesn’t seem right unless I can find a good home for him. There’s also a little ceramic Santa with a bag that when you open him up you can see some goodies inside the bag. Again, he’s just a little too big.

I guess, when I look back over everything, maybe the bigger question is: Why don’t I have more stuff than I do?

I know these are just inanimate objects; yet, when you’ve had something for a long time, even if you don’t use them anymore, it’s still hard to part with them. It’s almost like you’re getting rid of a piece of yourself in a way.

All I can say is thank God for empty boxes and a large attic.


Historian Steve Bigolin writes:

The DeKalb Community Mural

Wall History

On the northeast corner of First Street and East Lincoln Highway, is Downtown DeKalb’s first community mural, and the first project of the NIU Art Museum’s “Museum Without Walls” program.  As the renovation/restoration of Altgeld Hall prepared to displace the museum from that building, the staff decided to take their work into the greater DeKalb community.  This was their first effort.
The lead artist was Olivia Gude of Chicago, an accomplished muralist in the city.  She assembled an extensive and talented team of local volunteers to undertake the work involved.  Coming from a broad range of backgrounds, there were those who possessed artistic talent, and people like myself who did not, on the committee.
The figures on the mural are a giant corn stalk and Annie Glidden, both significant to our agricultural heritage.  The other images take the form of historic postcards.  With more than 20 windows or doors the canvas of the mural provided a challenge to say the least.  As work prepared to get underway, a long forgotten sign for the Chronicle – the original occupant of the building – came to light and was incorporated into the mural.
Baron DeKalb, the barbed wire inventors, the old train depot, sunset view of Altgeld Hall, the Egyptian Theatre, the 1906 Post Office, Altgeld Auditorium, a scene along the Kishwaukee River, a large open field, and the arch from above the archways at the east and west ends of Lincoln Highway, are all pictured.  Yearbook-style renderings of people who have come to or left DeKalb over the years appear above the building’s foundation or near a window.  I am one of those images.
Work began on the mural in June of 1999, with completion scheduled for late August, in time for Corn Fest, a goal which was met.  Work even took place in the dark of night.  The mural was formally dedicated on October 10, 1999 with a crowd of 350 on hand for the event.  It bears the title “Its Merits Recommend It…,” a take-off of an old advertising slogan for Joseph Glidden’s barbed wire by I.L. Ellwood & Company.  The mural is said to have a life expectancy of approximately 50 years.
An aside – I was taken up on a lift alongside the building one afternoon, and had quite a view of the surrounding area.  I stared Annie Glidden in the face, and she blinked.
Steve Bigolin, DC Historical-Genealogical Society Historian


White House, Illinois Governor cards on display

Obama2n Obama2nd


Each year the late Gordon Bird, retired Director of Bands at NIU, received a Christmas card from the White House, first when his daughter Carol McKay worked for President Reagan, then later when her husband Rick worked as webmaster for President Obama. After Gordon’s passing two years ago I didn’t get to look at his card, so asked Carol to send one for me to scan and show readers. It is shown here in two parts and is actually 20 inches wide when unfolded.
She sent back a note saying this could be done but that her husband had died in November from cancer. This was a complete shock to their friends from DeKalb where Carol had lived and graduated from high school. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her and family as they lost a grandfather (Gordon), father and husband all within two years.
Below is a Statement from President Obama issued by the White House following Rick’s untimely death:

Statement by the President on the Passing of Rick McKay

“Rick McKay had a knack for telling a good story.  As a veteran photojournalist who became a trusted member of my team as White House Photo Editor, Rick dedicated his life to sharing the American Story through images – moments both expected and unlikely; snapshots both of epic events and everyday kindnesses.

Last night, we lost Rick to cancer.  Michelle and I send our most sincere condolences to Rick’s wife, Carol, and his children, Nick and Ally.  Our hearts are heavy at the White House today.  But Rick’s other family – his White House family – will tell our own stories, memories of Rick’s kindness and humor, his passion for NASCAR, his love for his dog, Kiley, and his dedication to doing the job the right way.  We thank Rick for sharing his joy and optimism through the photos that will live on through history, the stories that will live on in our hearts, and most of all, for making his time here count.”

NEXT shown above is a Christmas card from Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and family.


Some thoughts before the Hospital Spectacular

This week is the big rollout by the new owners of KishHeath and its related appendages around DeKalb County when they have accepted the gracious invitation of County Board chair Mark Pietrowski and vice chair Tracy Jones to drop in an assuage everyone’s fears about what will happen next to our health care system in DeKalb County.
You can be sure of one thing: The million dollar men who head Kish Hospital Not-for-Profit Corporation and Northwestern Medical, won’t be doing the Powerpoint. They hire $150,000 PR flacks and marketing mavens to do their dog and pony shows. I do need to correct myself on one fact: Kish CEO Kevin Poorten is the only one making more than $1 million a year, while it is reported (not on his IRS Form 990 though) that his big boss Dean Harrison makes between $2 million and $5 million.
Not even the prestigious newspaper Chicago Tribune has ferreted out the true figures as of the beginning of this year. I just checked with them. Besides, they are too busy ferreting our corruption and terrible crimes in Cook County, while DeKalb County  and its miniscule email exposes are small potatoes in comparison.
I decided to “put on hold” the next part in the hospital series this issue so as to absorb all the facts and figures they will present to the county board on January 20 at 6 p.m. in the Legislative Center just north of the county jail. Maybe they can correct some of my outdated facts about their salaries, their intentions to keep mental health care out of Kish and deliver it to Central DuPage, and even dispel rumors that they would raise many of their fees and charges for services now provided at Kish, formerly covered by Blue Cross.
You can be sure their handlers have prepared them well: I once did media training for corporations as part of my job as Manager of Public Affairs and Employee Communications for a large government institution in California. I even media-trained people having to appear on “60 Minutes” which is the greatest fear of any swindler, corporation, governmental unit or public personage who might get “toasted alive” on television when millions of viewers are tuned in Sunday nights.
I can imagine the hospital “spin doctors” are using the same training material I did 15 or 20 years ago, just updated a little to deal with social media and instant communications like Twitter and Facebook. If they are really worried they will bring in contract consultants who really know how to look smooth and unflustered. They may even suggest makeup so they don’t appear to be sweating or grimacing when tough questions flow from the studio audience (those citizens in the county board room not part of the political “Combine”).
They will be aware they have a friendly (for the most part) and pre-briefed audience on the county board. They may even send their carefully composed script to their supporters on the board ahead of time for comment and approval. But I doubt that. You will recall they did engage in privately-arranged telephone conference calls with the leaders of the county board already (it was reported here that this occurred between the two leaders and hospital execs to avert any negative letters or motions before the “$340 million asset for no dollars” deal was closed).
The other reason I am delaying the “Hospital Sale—Tip of he Iceberg” series is I have to prep for a very stressful interview for a position on the 708 Mental Health Board. My interview with three board members and staff is slated for Tuesday, Jan. 19. I am one of four candidates for this open seat (left vacant when the beloved Dr. Thomas Kirts stepped down) and I am sure that the other three candidates are just as qualified and sincere about promoting better mental health care as I am.
  I must admit I have a fear of being selected and then expected to correct all the ills in the mental health treatment system my first year “in power.” I had this illusion when getting elected the first time to a community college district board in the SF Bay area in 1989, and after 12 years on that august body gave it up and retired, having fulfilled probably only half of my campaign promises to clean up the system and  find the right people to run the colleges.
But I am proud to say one campaign pledge, to create and have the state approve a second fully-accredited college in our Bay Area district, did pass. So today Las Positas College stands as a shining example of what can be done if enough people, like my board colleague Elva Cooper and other community activists, join hands and make it happen.
However, the next edition of DeKalb County Life Online will have detailed coverage of the dog and pony show Wednesday night, Jan. 20, facts and figures (and opinions) you may not read or hear in the mainstream media.
So have a good week and if you want live, well-rehearsed entertainment, stop by the county board meeting Wednesday and you will witness a pitch smooth as silk. Just look at the labels in their suits and you can tell they don’t shop at Kohls or Carsons…
(Just an aside; if you want expensive labels at rock-bottom prices, just go to the Country Store across from Lothson’s in downtown DeKalb. They get donated items from hospital executives and other generous people so we can pick out clothing at a fraction of the cost new. I have two jackets and one trench coat from there that each cost $4.)
—-Barry Schrader, editor-in-chief


Matya attack on Chronicle columnist is chilling

It is seldom the public gets an inside look at the emails between high-ranking officials, both at NIU and Corporate executives. This exchange between Tom Matya of Zea Mays Corporation LLC holding company and NIU President Doug Baker points out how damaging inquiries might impact the career of an untenured faculty member, in this instance Jason Akst of the NIU Communications Department, and also how pressure can be exerted to get a Chronicle columnist in trouble. Matya used this subtle approach to go after Akst with NIU President Doug Baler.
To Baker’s credit he rebuffs Matya, citing First Amendment rights of faculty to express their opinions freely in the public and in the press. It is disturbing that President Baker even went to the trouble of investigating Akst and his newspaper column, as mentioned in his reply. We wonder if the Dean or Department Chair was contacted by Baker’s office. Someone should ask them.
The NIU Faculty Senate should be made aware that this occurred. The public is never told of these dealings at high levels via private emails. Contacted about this email exchange, Akst expressed surprise as he had never been advised of the matter. He has since given up column writing anyway due to a busy academic schedule
We wonder if the Daily Chronicle was ever contacted by Matya or Roberts about Akst’s column. Someone should ask them. In the least, it deserves a “Thumbs Down” to Matya in their editorial page column, then a “Thumbs Up” to President Baker for rebuffing Matya’s attempt at censorship or intimidation of a faculty member.
Enough said. Read the emails from bottom to top to get the right sequence of the communications, obtained by another government watchdog through a Freedom of Information Act request, and forwarded to me this past month.
—-Barry Schrader, DeKalb County Life online editor


From: Tom Matya <>
To: Douglas Baker <>
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:48:54 +0000
Subject: Thank you


Thanks for the opportunity to meet with yourself and Ron this morning.  I look forward to working with NIU on additional action  for the northwest side of campus and the downtown project.

As a resident of DeKalb, I appreciate your leadership on these initiatives.
Tom (Matya)

From: Tom Matya <>
To: Douglas Baker <>
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:43:31 +0000
Subject: RE: Today’s Chronicle Article

Thanks Doug for your reply.  Hope plans for the upcoming school year are going well.

Best regards, Tom (Matya)

From: Douglas Baker []
Sent: Monday, July 28, 2014 9:40 AM
To: Tom Matya
Subject: Re: Today’s Chronicle Article

Tom, thanks for the note.  I had not seen the article.  After some investigations, my sense is that Jason was not trying to present an NIU position, just his own.  Of course, we can not abridge first amendment rights, but we can ask that opinions be expressed as personal positions.  We will work to make that clearer.

Best, Doug (President Baker)

>>> Tom Matya <> 7/25/2014 9:49 AM
(Email to NIU President Doug Baker)

Good morning,

This morning Doug Roberts and I were visiting about the Guest Column written on page two of today’s Chronicle by Jason Akst.  Mr. Akst is a journalism and public relations instructor at NIU.  Today’s article was a very negative piece against the recently approved referendum question for the Sycamore Park District which will be on the ballot this November.  We disagree with his opinion.

Both Doug and I realize that each citizen has their right to voice their opinion, but with Mr. Akst byline stating his teaching position at NIU, I do not think this is a good “PR” move for NIU.  It could be interpreted as NIU  taking a negative position on an important community initiative.  We know that is not the case as clearly this is just Mr. Akst personal opinion.   It would have been better for the Chronicle to place this article in the “letters to the editor”.

We strongly support your challenge to the community to “step up and be a welcome mat for students”.  Through internships to NPO’s and financial support for NIU planning we feel good about the impact we are contributing to NIU’s mission.  Unfortunately it is communication like today’s column that lead some to question if NIU staff understand the role they have in shaping and supporting our communities.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Best regards, Tom  (Matya)

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Douglas Baker <>
To: Doug Roberts <>
Date: Tue, 27 May 2014 04:59:25 +0000
Subject: Fwd: Re: Gearing up
Doug: Sorry to fill your in-box with email from Jennifer and me, but this note and the linked video are nice hints at what we might have happen in the Hillcrest area.


Doug (President Baker)


YMCA Opens Expanded Fitness Center

YMCA ribCut

A ribbon-cutting for the newly-expanded health and wellness center at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA was held last week. Wielding the largest scissors was Mark Spiegelhoff, CEO of the Y. Standing tall in background is Matt Duffy, executive director of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce. Sycamore Chamber officials and Ambassadors also took part. My wife and I took advantage of a one-day free offer to try out their fitness center and pool, spending an hour paddling around the shallow end. (Barry Schrader photo)


Yummy Pancakes coming Feb. 4


Methodists and other faiths wait all year for the widely-acclaimed Sycamore United Methodist Men’s pancake supper that guarantees a full stomach before you leave. Tickets are $7 for adults and $3.50 for children 5 to 10; those under 5 are free.
Hours of serving are 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4 at their 160 Johnson Avenue church.



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.