DeKalb County Online for Feb. 20, 2017: Fitness center versus the YMCA; Our Bicentennial is coming; Jessi’s husband loves fishing; Craig Rice on a dreaded letter; Doug on dealing with cancer; Steve visits the cemeteries; Doug contemplates final months; Eileen Dubin writes a letter

Fitness center decision coming; may devastate the Y

DeKalb County Life editor Barry Schrader speaks at two public forums regarding the proposed fitness center. Chart below shows financial impact on the YMCA. (Photos found online)

By Barry Schrader, DeKalb County Life Online Editor

The KishHealth Northwestern Medicine plan to construct a massive two story Health and Fitness Center duplicating what is already provided by the YMCA next door is moving through the approval process.
     The 111,000 square foot mega-complex will be built at a cost of $46 million and is expected to open in two years from the start of construction.
Despite substantial evidence of major damage to the existing nonprofit YMCA right next door on Bethany Road, the hospital officials made no mention at the two public hearings about compensating the YMCA for its projected losses or a willingness to pay an impact fee to the Y during the initial startup and first few years of operation.
By hiring an outside firm, Power Wellness LLC, the hospital will have the recruiting and marketing expertise to win over members from the YMCA, crippling the current programs and outreach to low income, underrepresented, and minority populations win the DeKalb County area.
Evidence presented at both public hearings on February 9 showed a consultant’s report from 2013 with the conservative estimate of a $290,000 loss (5 percent of its membership) the first year the new center opens, with a 10 percent loss ( about $580,000) and even as high as 20 percent loss (about $1.1 million) in membership revenue in the ensuing years by this editor’s calculations.
  This editor called for the Northwestern-Kish conglomerate to pay an impact fee over the first five years of its operation so the YMCA could recover some of its losses and reorganize to serve its remaining clientele and downsize accordingly. The fee would be on a sliding scale, depending on the amount of members it takes away from the Y. The biggest loss in memberships will likely be hospital employees and United Health Care insureds who now have their dues paid for the use of the Y facilities and exercise equipment.
By “cherry picking” its members the hospital corporation will be able to profit from the new venture, especially if their physicians can prescribe further therapy and exercise in their own facility. This will also do major financial damage to other therapy centers in close proximity such as Northern Rehab, just across Bethany Road on Resource Parkway, and MoI physical therapy and exercise facility, just down the road on Sycamore Road-Route 23. Four other fitness clubs in the immediate area will also likely be hit hard by the new competitor which is a not-for-profit corporation, unlike the other four businesses. And the hospital pays no taxes on its existing building and most likely will pay very little on the adjoining 111,000 square foot complex.
The State’s hearing officer Jeannie Mitchell (Assistant General Counsel of the IHFSRB) conducted that hearing at the DeKalb Public Library at 11 a.m. She heard testimony (transcribed by a stenographer) from hospital officials, including past Kish Board president Tom Matya, and three members of the public, including Bill ONeal and Barry Schrader. The hearing officer did not permit questions directed at the applicants and additional written testimony is be mailed to the HFSRB in Springfield but must be in their hands by close of business this Wednesday. Also present at the hearing, seated at the head table with Ms. Mitchell, was former State Senator Brad Burzynski, now an HFSRB member. He identified himself to the press only as the Economic Development Coordinator for DeKalb County with the county seal on his business card.
The second public hearing of the day, held at 1 p.m. at the DeKalb County Administration Building in Sycamore was presided over by Hearing Officer Dale Clark of the law firm Slingerland and Clark. He allowed questions from the audience and then directed them to the applicants, some of which they answered and some they did not. KishHealth CEO Kevin Poorten claimed during the hearing that the YMCA had pulled out of discussions and did not want to partner in the new fitness center , something that could not be substantiated by Y officials who chose not to attend either hearing.
The hearing officer took his own notes as people spoke and accepted written material. saying he would render a decision on the variance request (to build a 111,000 square foot facility on property now zoned for only 20,000 square feet) in the coming weeks. His decision had not been announced at this blog went to press (posted online) at 3 p.m. today, Feb. 20.
There is no appeal process through the county board as the variance request only needs approval by the appointed hearing officer. It is unique in that most other zoning matters are handled by the county board zoning committee, then go to the full county board for action.
Stay tuned in the coming days to see the outcome of the hearings. The HFSRB will meet in Bolingbrook on March 14 to decide on the Northwestern-KishHealth application. A group supporting the YMCA (not its board or executives) has been formed and will be meeting later this week to discuss further steps that might be taken to protect the Y and its programs from the expected decimation.
Editor’s email contact:

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DeKalb County can join in . . .

A great opportunity for homegrown Illinois celebration

By James Nowlan
(Reprinted with permission of Illinois State Historical Society from Illinois Heritage magazine)

The state of Illinois has at long last started thinking about our bicentennial celebration, which begins less than a year from now (Congress recognized Illinois as a state December 3, 1817).
Gov. Bruce Rauner recently appointed sports marketing whiz Stuart Layne (Mariners, Celtics, others) to staff the 40+ worthies the guv named to a bicentennial commission.
Given the short time available, Layne needs our help, and we across the 1,200 or so communities of Illinois can sure use his.
The state has less than no money, so Layne hopes to attract corporate sponsorships that will pay for such as major touring historical exhibits, in return for the opportunity to link companies to the people of Illinois.
  I am a little uncomfortable allowing, say, Anheuser-Busch to take credit for our state’s greatness. But, hey, this is a brave new world where governments, especially broke ones, are often being shorn of what some see as, at best, collateral responsibilities.
I guess we should take help where we can get, and be thankful.
“The bicentennial is a marketing opportunity that comes around only every hundred years,” says Layne, who envisions the state and its bicentennial as somewhat akin to a sports team with a big arena.
      Layne hopes to stimulate legacy projects that will have long-lasting effects, such as a permanent exhibit for the founding in Springfield of the NAACP.
  As a one-man band, Layne lacks the time and “the bandwidth,” as he calls it, to create many big events.
   So let’s us make this a sparkling, homegrown celebration, from Galena to the colossus at Chicago to Cairo.
   That’s what Springfield poet Lisa Higgs is doing. With experience at planning for Minnesota’s sesquicentennial a few years ago, Lisa has brought together scores of history, literature and arts buffs, marketers and others.
  Lisa et al plan, for example, a series of debates about the great issues that Illinois has faced over two centuries, and the group is challenging Springfield area residents to volunteer 200 hours of service.
  “Every community has one or more annual festivals,” Lisa notes. “If, for one year, each festival could focus on local history and culture, we could have a good celebration.”
You and I can play a part, by stirring up enthusiasm—and offering to pitch in—at our local library, historical society, schools, town hall, park, county bar association and service clubs to celebrate all that has made Illinois a linchpin across history for our nation’s growth and greatness.
The obvious luminaries Illinois has spawned are obvious. Just a few include John Deere and Cyrus McCormick (agriculture); Sandburg, Dreiser (in his formative years), Bellow (literature); Chicago “hot style jazz” and the Chicago Symphony (music).
And more than our share of presidents, including of course Lincoln, whose humanity and hallowed leadership still inspire around the globe. Where do I stop?
   And, of course, our own forebears:
In the last half of the 19th Century, Chicago entrepreneurs and the hog and corn farmers of Illinois and the Midwest combined their genius and hard work to generate what may have been the most explosive economic expansion in the history of the world (See William Cronon, “Nature’s Metropolis,” 1991).
The expansion produced the wealth that in turn generated our many world-famous cultural institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, named in 2014 the best museum in the world by TripAdvisor. This wealth also built the strong, vibrant communities such as yours and mine, which helped make us who we are.
But right now, Illinois is in a funk, no doubt about it.
So the bicentennial is an unparalleled opportunity to do what, amazingly, Illinois has never in its history done: Look back, then assay where we are, and think ahead and organize to be where we want to be in 10-20 years and beyond.
Layne tells me his commission will meet in the second week of January, and that a group of creative marketing types will about that time lay out some branding and messaging ideas.
Layne also promises he is building a dynamic website that will link all of our local events for the world to know about, to help sprout a thousand wild and wonderful blooms across the state.
Wouldn’t it be splendiferous if—if only for at least one brief shining moment—the bicentennial can help us reset the pictures in our heads of who we are, where we came from, and then kick us in the tail to make things better for those coming after us.
—Jim Nolan

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Fishing during a break in winter weather

By Jessi Haish LaRue (

As temps soared into the 60s this last weekend, my husband walked out the door of our home with a little skip in his step, almost like a kid on the last day of school before summer break. With that sunshine it felt a little bit like summer, even though it’s only February.

But it doesn’t matter to Christopher what month it is, as long as the ponds are thawed.

His love of fishing is pretty similar to how others feel about the pasttime. It’s an escape. Ever since the first snowfall of the season, I’ve heard him mutter the occasional “I can’t wait until it’s spring.” For him, fishing is the best way to soak up a little Vitamin D, and get your mind off of work and other realities of adulthood. Even if he doesn’t catch a thing, he always comes home with a refreshed outlook and perspective. Although I’m no fisherwoman myself, it’s easy to see that fishing is good for the soul. It’s a nice way to get rid of the blues, he concurs.

He’s been hooked on fishing since he was a toddler and caught his first largemouth bass while camping with his family near Mount Rushmore. He remembers the feeling well, although the memory is a little foggy.

“I remember being old enough that I could hold the pole, but young enough that the fish I caught seemed like a giant,” he says, as he holds his hands out to measure like all fishermen do.

Years of fishing have made him a patient man. That’s probably a good thing to have when you’re married to me, I only half-joked to him.

All those hours of patiently waiting, or just casting and casting again, have taught him that sometimes the best things take a little time. After all, how often do you catch a whopper within just seconds of your bait hitting the water? Anything great is worth waiting for. But luckily, Chris didn’t have to wait long to clock in some fishing time already this year.

“But would it be even better if I could just catch a damn fish?” Chris says. “Yes, yes it would.”

(Photo of Chris LaRue by Jessi LaRue)

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When that AARP letter arrives

By Craig Rice (

Several years ago my wife received a critical piece of
mail. I was just pleased that she got it before I did. She’s
adjusted well, I think, to the reality of the message; she
just accepts the fact and she goes with the flow.

However, several of our friends soon will open the
mailbox, sort through letters, and find that watershed
greeting. I expect that, instead of treating it like normal
mail, or even junk mail, they will give it special handling.

They will throw it down, stomp on it, and then set fire
to it. They will treat the temporary membership card and
greeting from AARP, the largest organization for people over
50, as worse than a Selective Service Classification notice.

Like the hippies and flower children from which they
grew, their first impulse will be to burn their AARP draft
card. In spite of their stomping, burning, and denial, there
is no deferment.

  Sagging bosoms, inner tubes of fat encircling the waist,
drooping eyelids, and bifocals and trifocals announce we
have reached the period in our lives where we are senior
citizens. No longer can we claim that seniors are people 10
years older than we are. We are there. The hot flashes
proclaim it. Middle age is behind us, right in the rear.

Used to be that when you hit age 50 you were eligible for
senior citizen discounts. So many baby-boomers are hitting
that mark that stores have moved up the age for discounts to
55, 60 or even higher.
“Dangnabit,” my wife says, “I deserve those senior

  My wife is resentful because, she says, her body
warranty, which guarantees engine, transmission, and drive
train, ran out at age 50. Although her mind didn’t go into
retirement, she thinks that her body did. She points out
that her gall bladder quit. Her knees ache. Her throat has
trouble swallowing.

At card club we used to spend all evening talking about
our kids and other people’s children. We played Euchre in
between talk-sessions at the snack table. At our last
gathering, as we munched on baby carrots and low fat
veggie-dip, we talked about our new ailments, our most
recent hospitalizations, and hardly mentioned our grown

Speaking of grown children–our daughter is just
beginning to make her way in the adult world. She recently
applied for her first credit card. She was denied a card
because someone else is already using her Social Security
number. Now she has to contact credit referral agencies and
the Social Security Administration to get the facts
straightened out.

If that isn’t enough, after she went to the clinic for a
physical, the clinic billed our insurance instead of hers.
Our company promptly denied the claim. To aggravate the
situation, the clinic charged her a new patient fee because
she has been so healthy she hadn’t been to the doctor for
two years. She has been going to the clinic since she was
born. Don’t that beat all.

All I can say to our daughter is: Welcome to the world of
adulthood. We dealt with snags while you were a child. Now
you get to experience them on your own. That’s the benefit
of pushing you out of the nest. You deal with these catch
22’s instead of us.

Heck. Our kids won’t know what a snag is until they get
their own AARP cards in the mail. That snag will be us.

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From the Doug-out

By Doug Oleson (

It’s the one thing they never tell you about.

There are plenty of books and pamphlets and printouts – even well-intended seminars – on how to deal with certain diseases, like what to expect and what the doctors are going to do and what side effects that may occur. But there’s nothing on how to wait: specifically, what do you do while waiting for the scheduled operation to take place or the results to come in or the recovery period to start.

In some cases, waiting can be one of the most difficult aspects of any operation.

Not long ago, someone special to me was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite all the recent developments in research and treatment, it is still the one disease that immediately strikes fear in most people’s hearts, the one you’re afraid to acknowledge out loud for fear it’ll make the condition worse. It’s the disease they hold relays for and wear pink ribbons to bring awareness to it, which is just a discrete way of raising money to fight it.

Cancer is the one disease that most of us have had to deal with at one time or another. Personally, I can think of about a dozen people who have succumbed to it, including two family members, as well as an equal number who have beaten it. In fact, until you say something, you’re often surprised to find out who has dealt with the disease that you never knew about.

Like everyone else who has ever gone through it, my friend was told she had to have her affected lymph nodes removed as soon as possible, so a time and date and place was set for the procedure.

Now, the rational side of my brain fully understands there are others who are ahead of her and who may be worse off so they naturally go first. You also know that the medical team knows what they’re doing and are taking all the needed rests and gathering all the pertinent information so they can make an informed decision on the right course of action. Which is exactly what they should do and what you want them to do.

Yet, when it’s someone close to you who needs surgery, you don’t care. Logic takes a back seat to impatience. You want it done, and you want it done now, not next week or even two weeks from now. If she needs the surgery so badly, why can’t it be done now? It’s a helpless feeling.

In the end, all you can do is wait your turn, which I know is only fair, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Since no one tells you how to deal with it, you try to do the best you can. You do the normal things you usually do to try to make the time go faster, you try not to think about what could happen, you offer encouragement to the one having the surgery, and you pray – if you believe in Him – and you hope like heck you haven’t done anything so terrible it nullifies your request.

But mostly, you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I am still waiting.

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Steve Bigolin writes about . . .

DeKalb County Cemeteries

Based on research done over the years by the Genealogical Society of DeKalb County, if they all still existed 19 townships would contain 57 or more assorted cemeteries – family, church, and township.  The 1885 Portrait And Biographical Album of DeKalb County, Illinois referred to them as the city of the dead.
     Already by the early 1830’s and early 1840’s, cemeteries began being established in outlying areas.  Before this, it was common practice to bury someone on their own property or in a place where it was safe to do so.  Generally then bodies would later would be reinterred in a cemetery as soon as such places came into being,
It is recorded in the 1899 Chronicle Illustrated Souvenir Edition that early Paw Paw township settlers Reverend Benoni Harris and wifeThankful Miles were buried on their farm in 1845 and 1836 respectively, and their bodies never relocated to any cemeteries.  Their land later became the property of William Atherton in the northern half of Section 19, and is still owned by family members.  Do Reverend and Mrs. Harris continue spending eternity there?
   Many of the early cemeteries are remembered for their colorful names.  The Old English Cemetery near Shabbona on Route 30 dates from early 1850’s when a group of five Englishmen located there Freeland Cemetery of 1879 in Somonauk Township was on Chicago Road east of Somonauk Roan and historic Freehand Corners.  There is no longer any trace of it however.
  Little Red School House Cemetery from 1856 was northwest of the Village of Kingston.  Remains of those buried there are thought to have been moved to Kingston Cemetery over a 30-year period between 1918 and 1948.  Only one stone at the original site was able to be sound years ago, the land being plowed over.
Cronktown Cemetery in Franklin Township dates from 1862, and still exists pn the Irene Road south of Route 72. The land had belonged to Daniel Cronkite since the late 1830’s and in the 1840’s and 1850’s the need for a cemetery in the general vicinity  had been recognized.  The Cronkite family is buried there, as is William Kirk – namesake of Kirkland.
Oakwood Cemetery in DeKalb was established in 1865 to supplement Evergreen Cemetery which was at the corner of South Seventh and Taylor streets. One noteworthy grave marker there is that of Solomon Hollister who died in 1850. An early DeKalb township settler, he owned the land north of 13th Street and Sycamore Road, where Hollister Avenue is located today. Evergreen was DeKalb’s first cemetery, begun in 1855, so where had Solomon been buried before, when he died five years earlier?
  Probably the most overlooked cemetery in DeKalb is the old DeKalb County Cemetery of 1881. It occupies property which was at one time part of the DeKalb County Poor Farm, now accessible off Sycamore Road near Michael’s craft store. It was intended as an indigent burial ground. Until this past summer I always knew it existed, but never explored it. There are row after row of neatly arranged markers, all identical, with names and dates on most of them. One would not expect them to be all the same, and the oldest bears an 1896 date, not 1881 as is listed on the entrance marker.
As I recall, the administrator of the county nursing home had charge of the cemetery when the facility was nearby. Some 30 or 35 rears ago the administrator at that time raised the eyebrows of genealogists by removing many of the tombstones to make improvements to the cemetery. The current layout may be the result of that earlier work.
  Two of the most unusual cemeteries you could ever imagine could once be found in DeKalb, one of which can still be seen. On a portion of the site now occupied by Bethlehem Lutheran Church on North First Street, the Ellwoods buried their prize-winning Percheron horses. John Ellwood sold them the land in spite of the fact that a protective covenant existed prohibiting its sale because of the burial ground. For a long time the congregation planted a cross of flowers where the entrance to the area was. Years ago I had seen this when I first heard the story, but late last summer when I went to photograph the cross, I found no trace of it anymore.
   Since the late 1980’s a pet cemetery has existed at Fairview Cemetery, adjacent to the grave of Jacob and Sophia Haish. Iv’e been told that when it was first started only dogs from he DeKalb County Sheriff’s Canine Unit would be interred there. Now the general public has access to it as well. I even know people whose pets repose in this plot.
  (Photo shows rows of markers in the DeKalb County cemetery) (Steve Bigolin can be reached at

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DARA candidate forums set

The DeKalb Area Renters Association (DARA) is hosting three separate events and the public is invited.

  The first one is for the Mayoral Candidates on Sunday February 26 at 2 p.m. The second will be Sunday, March 5 at 3 p.m. for the DeKalb School Board candidates. The third will be Sunday, April 2 at 3 p.m. for the school board candidates. All three events will be held at 1500 Sycamore Road in DeKalb (previously Finest Furniture).
All three events will begin with a one hour meet and greet session followed by a Q & A session with open mic questions from the audience and questions from the candidates.
  To RSVP use this email:

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Contemplating his last few months of life

By Doug Oleson

(Editor’s Note: Doug read over the comments about what people would do in their last few months of life and added his own.)

Barry Schrader has posed an interesting question: If you only had so many months to live, and you knew it, what would you do?

It has really gotten me to thinking. What would I do?

My first response, I suppose, is a rather selfish one, mainly the things I would like to do and see but haven’t. For instance, I’d love to see a Giants’ baseball game in San Francisco, overlooking the Bay, or the Indy 500, or a Packers’ game in Green Bay, or eating turkey while watching a Detroit Lions’ football game on Thanksgiving Day. I’d also like to see the Cubs one last time at Wrigley Field.

On a grander scale, I would love to visit Charles Dickens’ grave at Westminster Abbey in London, and the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the part of Norway where my great-great-grandparents came from, and Ireland, Part Irish on my mother’s side, I have always felt something for Ireland. Whenever I see a movie set in Ireland, I always feel drawn to it somehow. The land and the people speak to me in a way I don’t totally understand and can’t explain. I wonder if maybe I should have been born there, but through some cosmic mistake I ended up here instead.

More than anywhere, I would like to see the Holy Land, specifically the site where Jesus is believed to have been born. I can’t imagine what that must be like, to walk the same land He once did, breath the same air and see some of the same things He might have seen.

But I know I wouldn’t do any of those things. Rather than spending the money on myself, I’d rather leave whatever I can to various charities, specifically the blind, the homeless, abandoned animals and children with diabetes. That would be more important to me.

Actually, when I think back on my life, it might be nice to look up my first girl friend, who moved away when I was 11, to see whatever became of her. There are also a couple of people I wish I could apologize to if I ever saw them again. They knew me when I was right out of school and couldn’t find a job or my place in the world and I’m afraid I wasn’t being very cordial or likable.

Realistically, though, if I knew I only had a few months to live I think I would spend most of it getting everything in order, going through drawers and closets and cleaning out the garage. What I didn’t give away, I would simply trash. I can’t stand the idea of my relatives having to sort through my junk and wondering why I was keeping what I have over the years.

Besides being with family as much as possible, the one thing I would do is finish my novel. Actually, there are a couple of them, the one I’m almost done with, the other needs some more work. Neither will set the world on fire, they’re just something I would like to finish for my own satisfaction.

But, more than any accomplishment I could possibly achieve, I think the biggest thing I would like to be remembered for is simply being a decent person, who didn’t judge others because he was a person himself and understood what others were going through, and that I tried to be the best person that I could, although I wasn’t always successful.

In the end, what more could anyone want?

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Eileen Dubin concerned about mental health

Dear Editor:

  I served on the DeKalb County Board from 2000 to 2010 and during that time was a member of the Heath & Human Service committee for many years and concerned about how the DeKalb County funding was allocated.  I was particularly interested in services for those in need, from family services, health care, to mental health treatment, and over the years have seen inadequate funding for mental health even though supplemented in part by the 708 Mental Health Board.
It is a growing problem and now finding out that the KishHealth branch of Northwestern Medical is about to build a $46 million, 111-thousand square foot mega-complex for health and fitness right next door to the Kishwaukee Family YMCA I feel sad for our community.  First and foremost KishHealth has neglected developing the Ben Gordon Mental Health Center to meet the growing crisis. Furthermore, this newly-proposed Kish-Northwestern facility not only competes with our non-profit YMCA but puts many of the smaller health and wellness providers in our community at risk.
   This is all happening at a time when the city crime statistics for 2016 demonstrate a growing demand upon our police and others in responding  to attempted suicides and mental health crises in the DeKalb area.  Indeed, police responses to mental health crises in DeKalb alone rose 25 percent in 2016 over 2015.  They were called over 200 times, a dramatic increase from the 156 the year before.  So, the need is evident for better mental health care and should include crisis intervention beds at the hospital or at the Ben Gordon Center. At the same time we need to be sure we are meeting the health and fitness needs of the poor and middle class and not just those of the country club set.
  I would hope that the community at large will join in demanding that the YMCA be compensated for the devastating impact this new mega-facility right next door will have on them.

Eileen Dubin
DeKalb, Illinois

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Guess what? They had to close the sledding hill at the Russell Woods forest preserve due to the heat wave this month. (DeKalb County Life photo)



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