DeKalb County Life for Oct. 24, 2016: Two awards for blog writers; Joe Maddon for President?; JFK visit recalled; candidates debate Thursday; Jessi on Pumpkin Fest; Doug on Halloweens past; Madigan on the big screen; Bigolin heading to log cabin


How about Joe Maddon for President?

By Barry Schrader, Editor, DeKalb County Life Online (

   When you really think about the qualities needed in our supreme leader of the greatest nation in the free world, doesn’t Joe Maddon come to mind?

With all the disgusting, outrageous, lying, womanizing, and downright vicious campaigning going on right now, isn’t there a way to say ENOUGH ALREADY, and write in a person we could all respect and admire.

It isn’t my idea; I overheard it at the coffee shop this morning and just wanted to pass it on. So after the World Series, let’s think about it again.

Speaking of sports, the best one liner I heard on WLBK during the Huskies lopsided win Saturday was delivered by announcer Bill Baker (I think that was him) who blurted out after a last minute touchdown at the end of the second quarter: “Rod Carey really has the dogs barking!” A week ago some fans were suggesting Carey should be in the doghouse himself, so it was nice to hear something positive. Fame is so fleeting and fickle. If the Cubs had lost the series then Maddon would be under fire like Carey. You can’t win them all and who was it who once said (with tongue in cheek no doubt) “It is not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game…”

   Speaking of fleeting fame, Steve Bigolin and I received two awards last Thursday night at the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association (NINA) annual contest among news media in this part of the state outside Cook County. We were entered in the small papers category since our readership is fleeting to say the least.

   Steve won third place among all those being judged in the category for Best Columns which you will see each issue as he delves into local history like no one else in the county can. I was a bit surprised when they awarded me a second place for Best Watchdog reporting for my lengthy series on the Kish Health sale for zero dollars to Northwestern Memorial.

   I had tried to shed some light on the secrecy and brazen giveaway of a “community-owned hospital” which thousands of residents and local corporations had donated to and paid for over the years.

A handful of power brokers, led by Kevin Poorten and Tom Matya, made a closed-door deal with Northwestern to hand over all Kish Health properties and assets to the big Chicago-based corporation that could someday be swallowed up by an even larger corporate entity. Where would our little health system be then?—out in the cold, that’s where!

   Hardly anyone on the county board or State’s Attorney Schmuck would even question the “sale” of this $340 million asset we once could boast proudly was locally-owned and not controlled by corporate boards elsewhere. That is all gone forever now; no way to get it back.

I beseeched the county board and the state’s attorney last year to have a grand jury impanelled to determine if there was deal-making that might be illegal, or other possible unlawful acts. No one even blinked when I made that impassioned plea at a board meeting, so they deserve what they get—no local hospital board (weak as it was), no say as to what services should be provided locally, no mental health care in-house, and no mercy when they get shipped to the suburbs for medical care whether they like it or not. I must add that three board members did discuss it with me privately and expressed some concern about what the future will hold for health care out here.

  So where can one find solace and a brief reprieve?—at the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival where I will be for three days: Serving a pancake breakfast with Sycamore Rotarians, taking part in the Sycamore Kiwanis Prayer Breakfast, and serving as docents (Kay and I) at one of the six homes on the Sycamore History Museum Homes Tour on Saturday. Then there is the big parade on Sunday, the Cubs World Series, sadly followed by a disgusting national election I don’t want to think about.

  So have a nice week, sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite, Mil…..

P.S. Community Mental Health board executive director Deanna Cada pointed out a typo in my suicide prevention story last issue. Her phone number is 815-899-7080.

(Schrader can be reached via email at or at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115)

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Headline in the Daily Chronicle the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated. It was an evening paper at that time so went to press  shortly after the tragic shooting.

JFK’s 1959 visit to DeKalb playing Tuesday night

(Editor’s Note: Genoa resident Betty Hampa was a coed at NIU when presidential candidate John F. Kennedy came to DeKalb and spoke at the Egyptian Theater 57 years ago. A long-lost recording of that speech will be played at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Egyptian Theater for the public. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Below is Betty’s account of her part in that historical event in 1959.)

By Betty Hampa *(DHS Class of ’59, NIU Class of ’64)

What an amazing time to be in DeKalb on the momentous day that JFK, our soon-to-be-elected President, came to our Republican-dominated county.  My parents were Democrats through and through.  In 1959, however, they were among those who were concerned about a Catholic becoming President.  Their attitude changed completely when I returned home and reported to them about the event at the theater. This was to be my first of many years of involvement in political activities.

My specific recollections from that special day in 1959 unfortunately have faded over time.  Here are just a few of my memories.  I do know that a good friend of mine (and relative of Dorothy O’Brien) from DeKalb High School invited me to attend.  She indicated that we would go along with the DeKalb County Young Democrats and hopefully help with the event at the theater.  It sounded exciting, so I agreed.  Never having attended such a major political event, I had no idea what to expect and what a major impact it would have on my entire life.

As a freshman girl at NIU, I was always concerned about what to wear for an event.  I remember precisely what I wore that day—a deep purple wool dress with matching purple and patent-leather heels.  My first reaction was amazement at the large attendance, and my second surprise was that I was going to be among the group who would serve as ushers.  “What an honor,” I thought.  My greatest thrill of the event, however, was when we were invited to go through a receiving line and actually meet and shake hands with JFK.  Wow!  The rest of the event is kind of a blur, but I do know how exciting it was to see a young man running for such a high office and hearing his inspirational words.  All in all, it was thrilling.

Sadly, as a senior at NIU, I was attending a World Literature class when the news came that JFK had just died.  What a horrible shock, and all of the students simply left class as if in a trance.  A few days later, I attended a community-wide memorial service at First Lutheran Church in DeKalb.  This was indeed a very sad ending to what had seemed to be such a promising future in 1959.

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Only one candidates forum – Oct. 27

Due to the lack of competition for most county seats there will be only one candidate forum conducted by the DeKalb County League of Women Voters in conjunction with the Genoa Chamber of Commerce.
  Voters wishing to meet and hear the candidates for states attorney, Rick Amato and Richard Schmack, plus Genoa supervisorial hopefuls Jon Schmarje and John Wett can do so at the Genoa Resource Bank, 310 Route 23 in Genoa. Meet and greet the candidates at 6 p.m. and hear them  speak and answer questions at 7 p.m.

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Sycamore transforms into ‘Wally’s World’

By Jessi Haish LaRue (

As the trees along Somonauk Street in Sycamore start to glow with orange and yellow hues, a sort of magic seems to slowly spread throughout Sycamore.

Pumpkins appear at the feet of the bronze Wally “Mr. Pumpkin” Thurow statue, as well as on front stoops of local homes. Orange flags fly throughout town. Friends and family trickle back to Sycamore for a fall homecoming.

It’s Pumpkin Festival time.

This time of year makes me nostalgic; I can’t help but remember lining up at Southeast School to walk in the parade with my Girl Scout troop, or receiving an honorable mention for entering a Pumpkin Festival theme suggestion. I remember how diligently I would work on my  pumpkin entry, and lugging my creation downtown with my parents. I clearly remember always finding the perfect location on the courthouse lawn to place my pumpkin, and the rush of pride I’d feel when I’d spot my very own pumpkin when my class would take a “field trip” to downtown Sycamore.

Pumpkin Festival has instilled in me love and pride for my hometown. My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary yesterday, and we’re lucky that it will always fall around this special, unique time of year. We’re currently in the process of purchasing our first home, and I can’t wait until the day I can fly a Pumpkin Festival flag from the holder near the front door.

Until then, I’ll celebrate Pumpkin Festival like I always have, with tried and true traditions, like eating lots of sweets, and by sneaking out to save our spot along the parade route just a few minutes too early. And of course, I’ll be doing this with my loved ones by my side.

Happy Pumpkin Festival!

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From the Doug-Out

Too old to Trick ‘r Treat?


By Doug Oleson (

It is the age-old question that has haunted the great philosophers from Plato to today. The question is this: When are you too old to trick or treat?

When I was growing up, I was allowed to trick or treat through the sixth grade. After that, my parents told me I was too old to go myself, but I had to take my younger sister out, which I did for a couple of years. (My mother still doesn’t know this, but my sister had to forfeit the biggest candy bar she got both years to get me to take her.)

Actually, that isn’t true. The last time I went trick or treating was with a friend of mine when we were freshmen in high school – his idea, not mine. Not to be cruel or anything, but he was a little slow and kind of behind everyone else. Not only did he want to get some candy, he also wanted to egg a couple of houses, specifically a teacher who was rather mean to him and an older girl he had a crush on who would’t give him the time of day.

So we did – well, sort of.

The truth is there was a little field behind both houses where we stood and hurled our little missiles of mischief, none of which came close to hitting our objectives. My friend, though, didn’t seem to care; I guess it was the effort that counted.

As an adult, I know a lot of people who object to “older kids” trick or treating. I don’t know how many I’ve heard say they refuse to give them anything but a little lecture.

Personally, I don’t care how old someone is. The way I look at it, you never know what their circumstances may be. Maybe they don’t have any other means to get a treat, or maybe they’re getting the treats for someone else, I don’t know. Another thing: I figure the older ones are more likely to do something to your property if you don’t give them something. So I always do, although I must admit it was a little interesting last year when three young ladies – who I judged to be in junior college rather than junior high – came to my door, sporting more cleavage than I’ve seen in some time.

As I have since found out, those young ladies aren’t the oldest trick or treaters I’m aware of.

A woman I know named Carmen told me this story once of how she took her friend out trick or treating about 30 years ago, when they were both 25. Her friend, who I’ll call Karen, had grown up on a farm near Waterman and never got to go trick or treating as a girl.

To give her a chance to see what trick or treating is like, Carmen and Karen dressed up as a clown and a gorilla respectively, then went to five houses in DeKalb, where they were expected. “They gave us full-size candy bars,” Carmen laughed.

But how could that be any fun, going somewhere where they were expecting you?

To get the full experience, Carmen decided to take Karen to the homes of a couple of strangers and “see what it was really like to go up to the door and ask for candy.”

“We went on the (Northern Illinois University) campus area where I thought we’d fit right in,” Carmen explained. “We got our candy, along with a couple of uncertain looks. I think they were trying to figure out how old we were. We are both only 5’2″ so could kind-of pass as older kids.”

To top off the evening, the ladies then went to an old funeral home in DeKalb that is no longer there.

“Karen had a friend who lived upstairs,” Carmen told me. “He had the key to everything downstairs. He took us to the slab room, which was a cold slab of marble, where the deceased are laid out. . . It was not being used, of course, at the time we were there. It seemed like a fun and a creepy thing to do to wrap up Halloween night.”

In the end, Carmen says they both had a good time. “It was a lot of fun,” she said. “It was exciting going to the strangers because there was always the chance they could ask how old we were and yell at us. But all worked out well. It was the most unusual Halloween I ever had. It just proves that you’re never too old to trick or treat.”

It also proves you’re never too old to have a little fun.

(P.S. If  fate should decree and the Cubs win the World Series by Halloween night, have I got the perfect costume! So don’t be surprised if some “really big kid” comes to your door that night.)

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On the left is the historic marker at the cabin, dedicated by the Ney Grange and Forest Preserve District. At right is the front entrance side of the cabin.

Log cabin tour for public set Sunday, Nov. 6

By Steve Bigolin (

  The Miller-Ellwood log cabin is the only original vintage log cabin surviving anywhere in DeKalb County.
Dating from the Spring of 1835, it was the first home of William and Patience (Allen) Miller who came west from New York state in May of 1835. They were married May 4 of that year on his 25th birthday.
Arriving in DeKalb County, they saw to the building of the cabin on the banks of the Kishwaukee River in Kingston Township. Sometime later the structure was relocated to the west side of what became Pleasant Hill Road, a mile south of present day Route 72. Subsequently a new larger farmhouse was erected around the small cabin. Oral tradition meanwhile preserved the fact that one room of the farmhouse was the old cabin.
    The 1,000 acre Miller farm eventually passed into the Ellwood family after their daughter — Harriet Augusta (namesake of Augusta Avenue in DeKalb) — married hardware dealer Isaac Ellwood on January 27, 1859. It is among a small number of local properties still owned by family descendants 150 years later. Harriet was born in the cabin in July 1837. Ownership later went from Isaac Ellwood to his youngest son Perry, then to his oldest son Isaac Ellwood II, then to sister Patience Ellwood Towle, to her son Joseph Ellwood Towle — who long oversaw the farm’s operation for his mother.
Members of the Nelson family have lived on the farm and ran its day-to-day operations for more than 90 years. Late in 2005 the house was no longer occupied. It sat empty for three and a half years until Mr. Towle made the decision to tear it down. Knowing full well that his great-great grandparents’ cabin was encased inside the structure, plans were set in motion to carefully tear down the farmhouse so as to preserve the historic cabin inside. This was in the Spring of 2009.
Due to Towle’s longtime association with the Ellwood mansion in DeKalb, he initially offered to donate the cabin there. The DeKalb Park District is the legal owner of that property, and they declined the offer. Enter the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District and its Superintendent Terry Hannan. He looked upon the historic cabin as an educational learning tool, and planned the moving of it three-quarters of a mile to the east side of Pleasant Hill Road to the Hoppe sisters farm, another Forest Preserve District property adjacent to the Russell Woods Forest Preserve. The Natural Resources Center there could then partner on the project.
Tim Kilby, a log cabin restoration expert who had been involved with some 80 similar projects over the years, was enlisted to help; thus began the dismantling of the logs, numbering of each piece and moving it, allowing for an accurate reconstruction of the cabin.
By the fall of 2014 enough work had been completed that it was time for a formal dedication. That notwithstanding, the cabin continues to be a work-in-progress for the forest preserve district.
On Sunday, Nov. 6 members of the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead Historical Center, as well as the general public, will have the opportunity to visit the Miller-Ellwood log cabin. The bus will depart for the tour from the Glidden Homestead (921 West Lincoln Highway in DeKalb) at 11 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. that day. Cost is $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers. Space is limited, so contact the homestead soon for reservations by calling 815-756-7904 or email


This portrait of William Miller appears in an early county history.

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Madigan worth watching on the big screen

By Scott Reeder, Veteran statehouse reporter

SPRINGFIELD — In my 30 years in the news business, I’ve never written a movie review, but there is a first for everything and I have to tell you “Madigan. Power. Privilege. Politics” is worth the watching.
The movie is geared toward casual political observers, ones who wonder how Illinois has become the fiscal train wreck it is today. And the film answers that question with two words: Mike Madigan.
To be sure, there are other folks to blame. Some are Republicans. Some are Democrats.

The film reminds us that governors come and go. But Madigan remains. He is the common denominator of the state’s fiscal woes.
Some folks have taken to criticizing the movie for its lack of “balance.” It’s a silly argument. Most well-done documentaries have strong points of views.
When Ken Burns did his terrific series on the national parks, he didn’t turn a “balanced” view by interviewing miners, loggers and petroleum workers who would like to harvest some of the great wealth in those set aside lands. Instead, he focused his film on the views of preservationists.
There is nothing “wrong” with that. And besides, anyone going to see a movie titled, “Madigan. Power. Privilege. Politics” has a pretty good idea it isn’t going to be a fawning profile.
The bulk of those interviewed in “Madigan” spoke frankly, often critically, of the state’s most powerful politician.
They spoke of legions of patronage workers that the longtime speaker of the Illinois House has at his disposal to campaign for his candidates. And they talk about the millions of dollars he has collected through his private law practice by exploiting Cook County’s property tax appeal system.
“Make no mistake, this was political propaganda, timed for release just before the Nov. 8 election,” Natasha Korecki of Politico writes.
No kidding, Natasha.
I believe it was the great folk singer Pete Seeger who once said: “A lullaby is a propaganda song and any 3-year-old knows it.”
My point? Most films, songs, books, and, yes, newspapers columns promote a point of view. There would be little need for the First Amendment if that wasn’t the case.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you I used to work for the Illinois Policy Institute, the sister organization of Illinois Policy Action, which put out the flick.
And I spent many years covering the Illinois General Assembly for several newspapers before that. So I know Illinois politics pretty well. And I didn’t detect any inaccuracies in the film.
And like many longtime political reporters, for me, the movie didn’t contain many surprises. Yes, we know, no bill gets voted on in the Illinois House without Madigan’s say so. Old news.

And, hey, we know he makes boo-coo bucks as a private attorney working Cook County’s godawful property tax system. Nothing new there. You can almost hear the political pundits yawn.
And yes, he draws up the legislative maps so that Democrat lawmakers always will control the House and Madigan will always control them. Yeah, we get that. He’s all about power.
But, hey, this isn’t a movie written to please pontificating pundits or in-the-know insiders. It’s written for the ordinary fella who wants to know why his property tax bill keeps going up, or for the gal who wonders why election after election she never has a choice in legislative candidates.
And to that extent, “Madigan. Power. Privilege. Politics” does an excellent job.
The movie is well-written and professionally produced and is showing in theaters across the state. Diana Rickert, a spokeswoman for Illinois Policy Action, tells me airtime has also been purchased for the 57-minute movie in a variety of Illinois television markets. The website tells when and where it can be seen.
Whether you love or hate Madigan’s brand of politics, it’s a movie worth seeing.

SCOTT REEDER is a veteran statehouse journalist, who has covered government for almost 30 years. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. He can be reached at His column has been reprinted here with his permission.

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Underground Railroad historic sites marked

Three sites prominent in the Underground Railroad up to the Civil War were marked and dedicated October 15 around the county.

The DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society erected the markers at the Mayfield Church northwest of Sycamore, the former Deacon David West farm on East Old State Road near Sycamore, and at the United Presbyterian Church north of Somonauk on Chicago Road.  Shown in this photo at the former West farm are from left: Sycamore Methodist Associate Pastor Rev. Harlene Harden, DCHGS president Sandy Lyon, farm co-owner Linda Dumdie, great-great grandson of Deacon West Harlen Persinger, and Underground Railroad author Nancy Beasley who spoke at each ceremony. (DCL photo)

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Craig Rice is out in the field

Columnist Craig Rice will return when he gets all of his soybeans and corn harvested.

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