DeKalb County Life for March 7, 2016: Meet our new columnist Craig Rice; Media interview with Brian Adams; More columns by Steve Bigolin, Doug Oleson, and Jessi Haish LaRue; Next issue March 21

Prairie Ponderings

By Craig Rice (


In 1970, when I got my first writing job at DeKalb County Press, we published an article about the DeKalb County Farm Bureau’s annual meeting. Hundreds of farmers met at the Egyptian Theatre for the event and broke for lunch prepared at various churches. The headline for the article said something like “Farmers Invade DeKalb.”

Boy! Did we hear about that choice of words. Mike Hayenga, manager of the County Farm Bureau at that time, let us know that farmers do not invade: They are a major part of the economic life of the city and county.

One just never knows what impact words have on others.

Words can lift up a nation:

Like FDR’s: “The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.”

Or Kennedy’s words: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

And George H.W. Bush’s statement: “I want a kinder, gentler nation.”

Words can lift up individuals. My wife Pam received a letter from a childhood acquaintance. The friend recalled how she looked up to my wife. “You were the big sister I always wanted,” she wrote, “but never had!”

She continued, “You mentored me before we knew what that meant. You were a good friend to a very lonely little girl. And even though the gap in our ages prevented us from common activities once we got older, you continued to influence me without even realizing you were doing it. I’ll always cherish that! And thank you for it.”

My wife said she had no inkling that she had been a role model, “I was too wrapped up in my own teenage life to take much notice.”

Of course, words can hurt, too. My wife’s self-concept was damaged by the words of a neighborhood boy who called her “ew, Frankenstein.” To this day, she still feels the sting of those words.
At a reunion of House brothers at my college fraternity, an alumnus recalled a remark I had made to him in 1969. Over the years, it had stuck with him. It was an offhanded remark I didn’t remember making; but, it was a comment that had gnawed on him. At that time, I was concerned with getting my senior year wrapped up, making plans for after graduation and worrying about being drafted into the Armed Forces. I didn’t take seriously the problems of this underclassman when I tossed out a thoughtless remark.

When I hear political candidates hammer each other with mean and possibly untrue words, it makes me quite disquieted. How does one forgive and forget the words with which each has battered the other? My leathery skin would be too thin to handle such talk about me.

It’s not the first time I’ve written a column. In RFD Journal, published by DeKalb County Press, Inc., I wrote a bi-weekly column called “It’s a Rice Day.” I was reluctant to start it because who was I to put my personal thoughts out to you—I wasn’t an authority; but, my boss Jerry Smith encouraged me. That column ended just short of a year when I changed jobs.

Twenty years later, in 1991, Daily Chronicle editor Lloyd Pletsch took me on as farm editor following Don Duncan’s retirement from that position. For a decade, I wrote a column first called “Ag Briefs” and later “Farm Focus.”

It is with some anxiety that I undertake writing a periodic column for Barry Schrader’s online effort, DeKalb County Life. I hope you identify with thoughts and experiences that become words in this project, that you find them informative and uplifting.


First in a series

Putting a face with the voice on the radio

By Barry Schrader, DeKalb County Life Online Editor


Brian and Amanda Adams pose with their twins Maximilian and Cynthia.

(This is a first in a series interviewing the personalities at local media outlets. They will appear in successive issues in alphabetical order by title: B95 Radio this time, Daily Chronicle and WLBK to follow.)

The biggest event in the life of B95 (WDKB-FM) news director Brian Adams’ life this past year has been the arrival of twins. His wife Amanda delivered Cynthia Rose and Maximilian Robert on June 25 and their lives have not been the same since.
Brian still maintains his wakeup time at 4 a.m. in order to get to the station by 5 a.m. to begin collecting news for the broadcasts he must produce and air. He said the twins have adopted the same schedule. Having them to care for, plus a foster son, keeps them busy balancing family responsibilities with work. He said they have built a network of people to help out, including his mother-in-law, for which he is grateful.
Amanda, an attorney with her own practice in DeKalb, likewise has had to adjust her daily schedule.
They were married in 2006 after meeting through their respective careers. She had filled in for him when he was out with a broken ankle, then she worked for WNIU/WNIJ. But later she went to law school and changed careers.
Brian is a native of McHenry and graduated from Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock. He then earned a BA in broadcast journalism from Marquette University in Milwaukee. He has worked in radio  several places including Milwaukee, Wisconsin Dells, and Sterling. He also worked in cable television as director of local programming back in his hometown of McHenry. He even spent six months working for a Waukegan newspaper, before returning to radio.
He came to DeKalb to join B95 in 2006, just six years after it was founded. He said he enjoys working for a sole owner station and getting the broad-based experience of being a one-person news operation. Since arriving in DeKalb he has covered some major news stories such as the Monster Truck accident which earned him the 2007 Illinois Associated Press Award for Best Single news story. Other big events included the shootings at NIU, the 2015 Fairdale tornado, and an interview with then-Senate candidate Barack Obama in 2004 at Hopkins Park where the fledgling politician appeared at a Democratic event.
  Brian has a long list of community involvements. He said his philosophy is “you can’t cover a community unless you are a part of it.”
Among his outside activities are Pay-It-Forward House where he happened to volunteer to work the first shift when it opened. He also raises funds for charity in the Toys for Tots campaign each December at the House Cafe,  volunteers at TAILS Humane Society, Feed ‘em Soup, the RAMP Wheel-a-Thon, Big Brothers—Big Sisters, DeKalb Cornfest, CrimeStoppers and does literacy tutoring at Kishwaukee College, along with a few other areas.
But his longest and most time-consuming community involvement is the Sycamore Rotary where he has worked many projects, since joining in 2001, and eventually became club president. He has worked on the Shelter Box project, EarlyAct, Grants, and was named Rotarian of the Year by his club for 2006 and then District 6420 Rotarian of the Year in 2010.
Getting back to his family life, I asked him about the twins and if they have spoken their first words. Brian responded that Max has uttered “Hey.” With the “Voice of B95” as their tutor they should be delivering radio promos in no time.


From the Doug-Out

By Doug Oleson (


And now it’s our turn.

  Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and more—they’ve all had a turn at selecting who they think should be our next President. Now it’s up to us to tell the rest of the nation what we think. Will we make a dent, or simply add to what others have already started?

The Illinois Presidential Primary Election will be held on Tuesday, March 15.

If I was going to vote in the Democratic primary, I guess I’d have to choose Hillary Clinton. It was reported recently that comedic actor Will Ferrell has switched his allegiance from Bernie Sanders to Hillary.Those who reported this turn of events seemed to imply that if he was going to do this, then it was my civic duty to follow him.

Now, on the other hand, if I was going to vote in the Republican primary, those same reporters made it seem I had no choice but to go with Marco Rubio since actor Mark Wahlberg is leaning in his direction. From what I understand, it’s the first time he plans to vote Republican. Mr.Rubio is also the candidate that Rick Santorum threw his support behind after he dropped out of the race himself last month. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how much influence someone with less than one percent of the vote is supposed to have.

Personally, I never quite understood political endorsements. They never really made any sense to me. Why do I care what someone else is going to do, or who they’re going to vote for? As long as I still have the brain God gave me, I’m going to use it without any help from anyone else. To borrow a popular phrase from another failed candidate, I guess that’s just the maverick in me.

   (Ironically, I just got one of those recorded surveys on the telephone asking if I would be influenced by whomever Jeb Bush or Chris Christie might support.)

A few years ago I used to cover Ogle County. Whenever there was a judge’s race, a group of local attorneys would endorse whatever candidate they felt would make the best judge. On the surface, it just made sense to follow their advice since they dealt with the candidates a lot more than the rest of us.

But then I got to thinking about it. Is the candidate they chose really the best one for the job, or is he/she just someone the group happens to know who would make life easier for them in court?  As with most things in life, you have to question the motives behind anyone’s actions.

In the 12 years I was the editor of the Ogle County Life, I only made one endorsement. I figured my opinion was no better than anyone else’s. I may have known the people who were running, but that didn’t necessarily mean I knew how good they would be in whatever office they were seeking.

     The only time I ever endorsed someone was in a local state’s attorney’s race, and only then because I felt I had to. The incumbent wasn’t the most popular person in the world, but he was a decent enough person who I felt was doing a pretty good job. The challenger was someone who —well, let’s just put it this way — I knew was playing games with the truth. If he was doing that to get elected, I reasoned, what would he do once he was in office?

In this case, the person I endorsed did get elected, which he probably would have, regardless of what I did.

As far as the upcoming primary, I would never consider endorsing anyone. First of all, no one cares; secondly, they shouldn’t. The biggest reason, though, is that I haven’t decided myself who to vote for. In fact, I probably won’t make up my mind until I actually step into the polling booth myself.

Nevertheless, it is still a rather intriguing election.

On the Democratic side, we have someone who may just become our first female President, which would be an historic event, similar to eight years ago when we elected our first African American president. We also have a senior citizen running against her who apparently wants to change our government into a more Socialist one. Like all candidates, they are both making big promises they can’t possibly —or that Congress will let them— keep.

On the Republican side, we have two gentlemen vying to become the first Hispanic president in our country’s history, although the national media hasn’t made a lot about that. Of the two, I have to question whether the one (Ted Cruz) is actually a natural-born U.S. citizen since he was born in another country, even if it was only Canada. The other one doesn’t seem to realize he isn’t winning. Every time he comes in second, or even third, he makes all these big pronouncements about how great he’s doing.

And then there’s Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman who is currently the front runner. Since more than enough has been said about him, the only thing I’ll add is this: SIgmund Freud may have coined the term ego, but Mr. Trump has certainly perfected it. One of my concerns with electing him is what it will do to the White House. Will we have to make it bigger to house his enormous ego?

Whoever you vote for, I hope it’s the right choice for you.

Good luck.


Steve Bigolin writes about. . .

Veterans Memorial Park in DeKalb


 The DeKalb Community  Mural at North First Street and East Lincoln Highway overlooks a small piece of property known as Veterans Memorial Park.
This corner once had a house on it, visible in some pictures from the 1899 “Three Crimson Days Parade,” which celebrated the opening of Northern Illinois State Normal School —now NIU — then comprising only Altgeld Hall.  For many decades after that, gas stations were located there, until with the removal of the last of these, the City of DeKalb purchased the corner, after the EPA confirmed that no soil contamination issues existed.
  The centerpiece of the park is the 1921 “Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Clock.”  It was a World War I commemorative which cost $2,900, originally standing just off Lincoln Highway as one turned onto North Third Street.  E. Howard & Co. of Boston designed the clock.
Following a 1929 traffic accident in which a little girl from Ellwood School was injured, the clock was moved onto the sidewalk in front of 237 East Lincoln. I am told that once upon a time it was painted red, white and blue, and later plain white, as I first saw it.  As the years went by, it began falling into disrepair.
In 1992 the Village of Waterman raised $12,000 to repair its 1919 town clock also made by E. Howard & Co.  So DeKalb City officials decided it was time to do the same thing with their clock.  The City of DeKalb Landmark Commission, of which I served as chairman, was given the task of raising the necessary funds.  We had a bid of $17,000, and generated $13,000 in donations by our deadline, the difference being made up by the City.  The site for the clock was readied for it as work on it was underway, and it was rededicated at the park on Nov. 11, 1996.  The park is a joint effort of the City of DeKalb and DeKalb Park District.
  The so-called World War II tank is also located in Memorial Park.  It has been a fixture in downtown since its dedication Nov. 6, 1949.  In point of fact however, it is not a tank, but a Stuart Recon M-5 Vehicle, with a 37-mm cannon.  It was intended to get in and out of an area of combat quickly.  Prior to being moved to the park it had long been on the south side of the 300 Block of East Lincoln, close to the Fourth Street railroad crossing, from which it occasionally was dislodged by train derailments.  The name “Donna” painted on it is believed to be that of the squadron commander’s wife.  DeKalb American Legion Post #66 owns the vehicle.
Assorted limestone balustrades and other such fragments are also in the park.  These were salvaged from the demolition of the 1906 Post Office in 1995 for the parking lot of Walgreens.  That historic building is seen on the mural.


Recalling my days as a Girl Scout

By Jessi Haish LaRue (


It’s that time of year again: people are eating Girl Scout cookies or trying to hunt down a box of their own.

Me? I’m elbow deep in a box of Thin Mints as I write this, but seeing as it’s officially Girl Scout Week, I have no remorse.

Girl Scout Week began March 6 and ends on March 12, which is the 104th anniversary of the first Girl Scout troop to ever register in the United States. To me, Girl Scouts is about a lot more than just cookies. It was a decade of my life.

   I became a Brownie in first grade; as a shy, quiet kid I quickly found friends in my fellow scouts and mentors in my leaders. Over the years I forged friendships that would get me through the drama of middle school, and the tough times in high school. Our troop always stuck together, even as the group whittled down to just a few of us in high school. After all, it wasn’t “cool” to be a Girl Scout. But it turned out to be pretty cool for those of us who chose to stick it out for the long haul.

When I wasn’t making new friends or trying something new, I was connecting with my mother. My mom consistently assisted my troop, drove us around, and helped out in any way she could. Some kids find it embarrassing to have their mom “hanging out” with them, or at their group sleepovers, but my mom was always the cool and fun one at Girl Scout events. Plus, she always made everyone’s favorite veggie dip. Some of my most treasured Girl Scout memories involve my mother.

After putting in countless hours of volunteer work and community service, together the troop earned our Silver Award, the second highest award in Girl Scouts. (For those familiar with Boy Scouts, it’s essentially one step below the Eagle Scout ranking; the gold award is similar to being an Eagle Scout.) We gave back to our community and in return, we matured, developed and learned more about ourselves.

We learned about a variety of topics: cooking, camping, tying knots, leadership, morals, first aid and more. We became mentors to girls younger than we were. We earned badges for our vests and badges in the study of the real world.

When it came time to applying for college and scholarships, our tenure with the scouts gave us an incredible edge over others. We put in the time and effort, and it not only showed on college applications and job resumes, but it showed in our passion and work ethic. Girl Scouts prepared me for the real world.

When you receive your box of cookies from your local scout, or you buy a box from the group sitting outside Walmart, take a minute to ask the girls where the money goes. Ask them what outings they have planned this year. Encourage them to stick with scouting, even when may not not the “cool thing” to do any more. Being a part of the Girl Scouts is life changing; it surely changed mine.


StarStaffMarch 7

Clockwise from top left: Scene Editor Darius Parker, Photo Editor Nick Bosshart, Assistant News Editor Leah Nicolini, Digital Editor Margaret Maka, Digital Editor Jessica Plessner, Managing Editor Rachel Scaman and Editor in Chief Jackie Nevarez pose with the Northern Star’s eight Illinois College Press Association awards Saturday in Chicago. (Star Photo)

Northern Star tops Northwestern, U of I and WIU

NIU President Doug Baker now has something more to boast about in his weekly column online.
The Northern Star received first place for general excellence among daily college newspapers at an Illinois College Press Association conference recently.
  The Daily Illini of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign received second in general excellence, The Western Courier of Western Illinois University received third and The Daily Northwestern of Northwestern University received honorable mention.
The Star was judged on newspapers published in the spring and fall 2015 semesters. The Northern Star won eight awards at the ceremony in Chicago.
The Star also received first place in the online news site category.
Former columnist Dennis Muxlow received first place in the column, excluding sports dailies, category.
  Alumna Kelly Bauer received first place and honorable mention in the news story category. The Editorial Board received second and third place in the editorial category. Former Scene writer Arthur Aumann received honorable mention in the critical review category.
Faculty adviser Shelley Hendricks said, “It’s rewarding to the students when their hard work and dedication is recognized.”


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