DeKalb County Life for October 3, 2016: Preventing suicides; Boys will be boys; Sycamore happenings; All about James Waterman; Doug gets political

‘Out of Darkness’ event aims at Suicide awareness


Participants in the “Out of Darkness” suicide prevention and awareness walk last month are shown starting from Hopkins Park carrying the banner.  To learn more about AFSP go to the website

By Barry Schrader, editor of DeKalb County Life Online

Last month the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) held its annual walk in DeKalb to raise awareness about the crisis in suicides and seeking treatment before it is too late. Nearly a hundred people, mostly those who have been impacted by suicides or supportive of efforts to prevent them, participated.
Talking to some of those in attendance, one realizes that many people have lost loved ones, friends or coworkers but it is seldom discussed publicly. Much the same is true for dealing with mental health-related symptoms, before they result in a call to police or self-injury which requires a 911 call or rush to the emergency room.
I did some research on how people can get help during a crisis or when someone needs immediate contact with a trained professional to help them. The first page inside the cover of the Frontier phonebook gives two numbers for help in suicide prevention. But many people only carry cellphones so don’t have a phone book within easy reach. Deanna Cada, executive director of the DeKalb County Community Mental Health Board, suggested the number 1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) which reaches the Suicide Prevention Service out of Batavia. You should call that number even if it is another person you are trying to help, since that person most likely won’t do it alone. Makes no difference whether that person is around when you make the call, but it is a start.
Being a mental health care advocate, each year I try to collect suicide and attempts statistics for DeKalb County, since the Mental Health board, or any other group I know of, doesn’t track these stats. It entails letters, emails and sometimes Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) forms to be filled out before the information is released. Plus that there are four places you have to go—the county, city police agencies for DeKalb and Sandwich, and NIU police. Not an easy thing to do.
Online the stats are available for Illinois and are alarming. In the past year there were 1,398 suicides, the 11th leading cause of death in the state. On average, one person commits suicide every six hours. But thousands more are saved by getting help, either from a doctor/psychiatrist, helpline, clergy member or counseling service through work or private agencies.
But most of the time a person goes downhill over a period of weeks or months, or acts out where family or close friends witness the erratic or threatening behavior. So it really falls upon the family, close friends or associates at work to initiate the process of seeking help. Often the person denies there is a problem, acts out against those trying to help, or refuses to take medications. That is when he or she needs to see a doctor, counselor or be taken to the ER for evaluation. Sometimes this must involve the police, as people in that state of mind too often resist any attempt to help. But if action is not taken SOON the person may end up a suicide or acting out against others that results in an arrest.
Since DeKalb County still doesn’t have a “Mental Health Court” to divert people from the criminal justice system into behavioral health treatment, no other options are available.
  One hope on the horizon is the establishment of a “211 hotline” which differs from the 911 Emergency Line in that it offers help and referrals for many kinds of crises, not requiring an ambulance or police intervention. Cada said it is hoped that by March 2017 this crisis line can be activated in the county. A lot depends on funding.
Getting back to the Out of Darkness event at Hopkins Park in DeKalb, the volunteer coordinator for AFSP, Alyssa Relyea, has had to manage it alone since no local coordinators can be found. Such a shame when there is an ongoing crisis in mental health care in the county already. Alyssa doesn’t even live in the county. So maybe the Mental Health Board could search for someone to conduct this awareness event. Cada talked about partnering with a group called Hope for the Day and the G-K school district last month to set up a mental health/suicide awareness program.
This needs to be done in every school district in the county and could be coordinated between Cada’s office and the Regional Superintendent of Schools. I plan to bring that up at the next meeting of the County Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC) which is finally meeting this Thursday after a six-month gap where no meetings were held and I imagine little was accomplished to improve mental health services during that time.
  If you want to participate in future meetings of the Council, call Cada at 815-899-2080. The public is always welcome, she said.


Alyssa Relyea from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention speaks to the group gathered before the walk on September 17.  (DCL photos)

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Prairie Ponderings


The Black Powder Gang

By Craig Rice (

In the early 1960s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s budget reached to the stars and its publications about the future of space travel often rocketed to a mailbox in Waterman, Illinois.

  Twice a day, my brother pedaled his brown and white Hawthorne bike from our home on the farm at the east edge of  the village to the post office to see what wonderful information NASA had sent about its rockets or whether a science company had sent a catalog. It was about a mile and a half there and back.

The Waterman Post Office was his link to information about how to build a rocket, a project that occupied much of his free time and that of his friends. Together, with thousands of other boys and girls whose dreams were above the clouds, they were caught up in the excitement of the national mission to beat the Russians to land the first man on the moon.

In late grade school years, what we call middle school today, several of my brother’s friends pooled chemicals from their chemistry sets in hopes of finding the right combination of ingredients to make fuel for small paper rockets. They took over the old milk house and called it their lab. Some combinations of chemicals were heated but did not provide the explosive nature they figured should power the cardboard and paper missiles.

  Back then, one could order chemicals through the mail or go to the local pharmacy to solicit the druggist’s help in getting chemicals. Using these methods, the boys eventually settled on a recipe they thought would work.

  My brother had mounted an old bicycle wheel and axle to a small post and set it up in the bottom of the unused, old, white cement block silo. To it, the boys fastened a paper tube filled with the propellant. If it worked, it would spin the wheel round and round. They hoped it would not fizzle.

  I do not recall how they ignited the device. They may have used a battery to heat a Nichrome wire red hot to provide the spark for ignition. On the other hand, they may have used a paper fuse lit by a match and scrambled like mad to exit the little silo door to get a safe distance away.
The propellant was too fast. The rocket turned out to be a large firecracker. The force of the explosion bent the rim of the bicycle wheel. The neighbors told mom and dad, who were not home when the blast occurred, that they heard a big deep echoing boom from the farmstead. Our parents were not happy.

By the time the rocket boys were in high school, they had formed a science club. They built a five-foot tall metal rocket powered by a propellant similar to black powder. They launched it from a cornfield not far from where C. W. Marsh experimented with his reaper. Using trigonometry, they figured it went up at least a mile. The rocket whistled as it came back to earth. It buried itself nearly its entire length in the soil.

The events leading up to the building, launching and recovery of that rocket are forever fused in their individual memories.

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A fall full of fun


Jessi LaRue and Chris LaRue pose for a photo at Jonamac Orchard in Malta.

By Jessi Haish LaRue (

This year, my apartment was decorated for Halloween on Sept. 30, a little late for me. Growing up, my dad was featured in the newspaper for having one of the best decorated “haunted houses” in town. My husband and I chose Pumpkin Festival weekend to get hitched.

To say that I appreciate autumn would be an understatement.

Fortunately, DeKalb County offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the s season. These are just a few.

Jonamac Orchard

Activities like the petting zoo, apple picking, corn maze and apple cannon, (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like,) are fun for all ages. The new Cider House is open for wine and cider tastings, and you can take a peek at their brewing processes. It’s easy to spend an entire day at this gem in Malta. Visit to learn more.

Sycamore History Museum’s Fall Festival

Treats, crafts, and the opportunity to make your own apple cider will be available from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Sycamore History Museum. Visitors will have the opportunity to clean, grind and press apples with an old apple press. Visit for more information.

Pumpkin Train Rides

Walk through a haunted train station before boarding the Pumpkin Train. Pumpkin Train Rides are offered on weekends throughout October in downtown Waterman. After the ride, pick out a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch! Visit for more information.

Howl-O-Ween Costume Contest

To celebrate the opening of the dog park at Katz Park in DeKalb, a costume contest will be held for both humans and canines at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 29. Prizes will be awarded.

Johnson’s Pumpkin Stand & Corn Maze

This family farm is located at the corner of Route 64 and Motel Road in Sycamore, and offers a budget-friendly afternoon of picking pumpkins and exploring a corn maze. They offer more than 50 varieties of gourds, pumpkins and squash and plenty of fall decorations, according to their website,

Bountiful Blessings Fall Family Fun Festival

This festival will be held Oct. 7-10 at Bountiful Blessings on McGirr Road in Hinckley. Food, music, craft sales, and more will be available, and the pink tractors from Pulling for the Cure will be on display.

Halloween Happenings

Games, wagon rides, food and more is part of the Genoa Park District’s Hallowen Happenings from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 29 at Kiernan Park. This event is free and is open for all ages.

Sycamore Pumpkin Festival

Another obvious choice, with more than week’s worth of events. For first-timers, I’d suggest food from the Lions Club trailer, a walk through the Courthouse Lawn to see the decorated pumpkins, a trip to see Wally’s statue on Somonauk Street, and finally the parade on Sunday. (Oh, and attend a Rotary pancake breakfast. And a craft show. There’s just so much to do!) See for the entire list of activities and events, which run from Oct. 22-30.

Harvest Moon Hayrides

From 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 29 at Knights Park in Sandwich, enjoy hayrides, hot chocolate and a campfire. A Halloween Egg Hunt follows after, so make sure to bring a flashlight and wear a costume.

Honey Hill Orchard

This family owned and operated orchard is located in Waterman and offers apple picking, wagon rides, pumpkin treats, pumpkin picking and much more. They host events throughout the season. Visit to learn more.

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Steve Bigolin writes about . . .

James S. Waterman: Merchant, Banker, Philanthropist


James Waterman and his brothers were among Sycamore’s earliest settlers, arriving here in 1838 from Herkimer County, New York.  He was Deputy County Surveyor in 1839, when he surveyed and platted what is now Sycamore.  By 1844 we find him engaged in the mercantile business, first in Genoa, then in Sycamore.  By 1857 Waterman had turned his full attention to banking. He established the Sycamore National Bank, originally the town’s second oldest, chartered on November 11, 1871.  At that time his personal fortune was placed at $300,000, making him the wealthiest citizen
   In 1850 Waterman had three wooden buildings erected at what today are 202-2012 West State Street – Waterman Block.  This was where his bank started.  It was all destroyed by fire in 1870, supposedly the town’s worst blaze until the 1902 fire which burned down the historic Wilkins Block at State and Somonauk.  New buildings took the place of the old ones, and still stand today.
   St. Peters Episcopal Church will forever revere the name of James Waterman.  He was an early vestryman, and donated the lot on Somonauk Street for the first frame church in the summer of 1856.  Based on conflicting sources, he provided somewhere between $700 and $1,00 for its construction.  When plans were made public in 1877 for replacing the frame church with the present Batavia limestone building, he announced his intention to pay whatever it would cost to the tune of $17,000. (Some sources say $19,000, others say $15,000.)
Before his death in July 1883, Waterman laid the groundwork for erecting a new bank building at 307 West State Street.  Sycamore National Bank opened there on January 1, 1884, under the leadership of General E. F. Dutton, who served until his death in 1900.
James was twice  married.  With Mary Ferson he had a son Douglas, who died in 1855 at the age of seven.  James and Abbie Cushman Waterman had no children. As a result he chose to make St. Peters the beneficiary of his wealth.  Extensive farmland and cash would pass to the church, providing a decades-long endowment.

In the St. Peter’s Parish Hall can be seen a pair of small portraits of James and Abbie Waterman, and the room in which they hang is known as Waterman Hall.  I am told that every year on her birthday the spirit of Abbie Waterman lets her presence be felt at the church in a friendly way.
Sycamore History Museum has a large framed portrait of James S. Waterman in their collection, which has been on display the past year with the exhibit “Connecting A Community: How One Railroad Shaped A Small Town.”  Waterman had been a major stockholder and supporter of the Sycamore and Cortland Railroad.

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From the Doug-Out


Expressing a political opinion, or two

By Doug Oleson (

I’ve come to dislike Tammy Duckworth.

I have nothing against the woman personally.  In fact, she may be a great woman, I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I still can’t stand her.
What I do know is that she is running for some office in next month’s election, but I couldn’t tell you which one, nor do I know what Party she represents. I also don’t know her stand on any of the issues, except she has something to do with the military and immigration.
The reason I’ve come to dislike her is that every five minutes or so an ad pops up on TV either for her or against her. They are all the typical political ads you see right before an election. Those in favor of her think we should put her on a pedestal and get down on our knees and worship her: how can we possibly live without her since she is single-handedly going to save our country? Those against her apparently feel we should take her out back and string her up because she is so outrageous she will obviously ruin our country.(Obviously, the truth lies somewhere in between.)
That’s the problem with politics these days. Whoever runs these campaigns bombards us with so many ads, it gets to the point of who cares? There’s so much hype and false promises – which any sane person knows are impossible to keep – that  I lose interest. Instead of gaining my enthusiasm, they are so relentlessly irritating, all they do is turn me off to the point of total indifference.
It’s called overkill.
I mean seriously, is there any more we need to know about the two major presidential candidates in this year’s election? For that matter, how much more is there to know? Hillary is dishonest and plays by her own set of rules, and The Donald shoots off his mouth at the slightest provocation. I got it, alright? I think the brain-dead national media has not only scraped the bottom of the barrel, they’ve started a new barrel.
The one news channel that gets me the most is CNN. They’ll flash a “news alert” at the bottom of the TV screen, only to inform us that Donald Trump is about to speak somewhere and – guess what? –  he’s going to call Hillary Clinton a liar, Oh my, gosh, what are the odds of that? Fifty-fifty? Then the brain-dead national media will try to make it sound like that’s front page news, even though he’s been doing that for the past nine months or so. I was listening; weren’t they?
  In Trump’s defense, I have to admit I almost feel sorry for him, which I never felt was possible. As the Republican nominee, not only is he running against the Democratic nominee, he’s also running against an ex-president, the current president, most women and Hispanics, all of Hollywood (I heard several jokes about Trump at the recent Emmy Awards but none against Hillary), and even top-ranking members of his own Party, who are almost as clueless as the brain-dead national media.
The national media is so biased towards the Democrats I’m surprised the nightly news anchors aren’t wearing cheerleading outfits with Hillary’s face. Now, granted, Trump deservedly brought most of this on himself, but still hasn’t anyone in the media heard of being objective, let alone fair?
Personally, I can’t see either candidate becoming President. I have nothing against a woman president – in fact, I think it’s long overdue – but there’s just something about Hillary I don’t trust. She’s such a professional politician it isn’t funny. How can you declare Republicans as your bitter enemy, then announce that you’re going to unite the country? Exactly in what universe does that work? Are we supposed to forget everything she said in the past and only accept what she’s feeding us at the moment?
By the same measure, how did the leaders of the Republican Party, who tried to oust Trump from the nomination a few months ago, think that was going to work? Did they think the 10 million Republicans who voted for Trump in the primaries were automatically going to tow the party line with whoever the party leaders could scrape together? Don’t they realize a large part of Trump’s appeal is that he doesn’t let the Party dictate to him what he does?
But still, having written all that: Trump? Are you kidding?

However you look at it, this whole campaign has been ridiculous, which unfortunately typifies professional politics in this great country of ours.
In the true spirit of the whole thing, I’m going to vote a little differently this year. Instead of voting for the lesser of two evils, which has really gotten old, I’m going to do something new. I’m going to vote for the candidates whose TV ads irritate me the least. I really don’t care what they say in their ads – it’s how seldom they say it.
Either way, it’s still a tough choice.
Good luck with yours!

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How about a Regional History Center tour?

  The Regional History Center at Northern Illinois University is hosting three events this month that are free and open to all.
The center will be conducting public tours on Saturday, Oct. 8 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in its inaugural year of participation in Chicago Open Archives.
As part of Chicago Open Archives 2016 the Center will also be providing behind-the-scenes tours with show-and-tell. Tours last approximately 45 minutes and begin at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1p.m., and 2 p.m.. To register, go to
Chicago Open Archives: Yours to Explore takes place over three days from October 6 through October 8. It is an opportunity to discover unique historical materials and engage with archivists, librarians, and curators. This is an opportunity to see sites, spaces, and materials that are normally not open to the public! For more details visit
  Tours are subject to a 24 hour prior cancellation due to low registration.
Contact Sarah Cain at or 815-753-9394 with any questions.

Activism Exhibit and Open House
The Regional History Center is also presenting ‘Sometimes We Must Interfere: Activism in Northern Illinois.’ It starts with an open house On Oct. 8 from 10 a.m. to 1p.m.
The exhibit focuses on how and why people in Northern Illinois have promoted change. It showcases collection materials that promote discussions and actions of change such as strikes, labor issues, boycotts, demonstrations, and voting behaviors. The exhibit is on display all month in the foyer of Founders Memorial Library. A small display is also in the Regional History Center on the 4th floor. Shown in the cases are radical pamphlets and other media outside of Rare Books and Special Collections.
Online go to:

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Underground Railroad markers to be dedicated Oct. 15

  Three sites significant on the Underground Railroad in DeKalb County will be recognized on Saturday, October 15, with the unveiling of historical markers by the DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society.

The ceremonies, open to the public, will begin at 8:30 a.m. with light refreshments at Mayfield Congregational Church, 28405 Church Road, Sycamore. Rev. Martha Brunell of the Mayfield Church will give the invocation before the marker unveiling. The featured speaker at all three sites will be Nancy Beasley, author of The Underground Railroad in DeKalb County, Illinois.

The second marker dedication will take place immediately following, about 10 a.m., at the former farm home of Deacon David West, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, 15241 Old State Road, Sycamore. Pastor Harlene Harden of the Sycamore United Methodist Church will give the invocation at the West site.

The third dedication will take place at the United Presbyterian Church, 14030 Chicago Road, Somonauk at around 11:30 a.m. Pastor Anne Hoflin of United Presbyterian will officiate at that site.

For those interested, the day will continue with lunch on their own at Rambo’s Bar & Grill, 140 W. Market St., Somonauk, followed by a tour of the Marie Louise Olmstead Museum in downtown Somonauk. The Olmstead Museum is one of DeKalb County’s hidden treasures, with holdings of more than 10,000 artifacts, some dating back to prehistoric times. The collection includes Indian tribal pieces, taxidermy, weaponry, and a large variety of local artifacts. Access to the second floor museum is not handicapped accessible. Everyone is welcome to attend all or part of the day’s events.

For more information about program offerings of the DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society, contact Marcia Wilson at 815-895-9424.



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