Paul Wood

Paul Wood

Those Who Served | 'My job was how to get airplanes home'

PAXTON — James Paul Lafary stayed on the ground, but saved many bomb crews from crashing after they came under attack.

The 101-year-old World War II veteran served stateside and overseas during the "good war."

As his son, James, says, "He taught how to get bombers back up after they'd been shot up."

Growing up a country boy in Fulton County, Lafary was dirt poor.

Getting Personal: Eileen Borgia

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 74-year-old Urbana resident EILEEN BORGIA, who worked in early-childhood care and education for 50 years, chats with staff writer Paul Wood. Borgia has been an educator and consultant for Head Start and child care workers and has taught college courses on child development and education.

Keeping it clean: Christian comedian, songwriter dishes on roots, family life

CHAMPAIGN — Tim Hawkins had no choice but to be a singing comedian.

"It was pretty much desperation," said Hawkins, who performs Friday at the Virginia Theatre. "I used to say that as a joke, but I really did try a lot of other jobs. I had a drive to do comedy. Everything else as far as jobs, if I failed I wanted to quit right away."

Those Who Served | He put trade skills to work in Navy after enlisting

SAVOY — From freezing in Alaska to boiling just above the engine room in the humid South Pacific, Thomas Labney shipped out to fight the Japanese from one end of the Pacific to the other.

The Chicago native, 98, served in the Navy from January 1942, a month after the Pearl Harbor attack, to October 1945, a month after Japan's formal surrender.

Getting Personal: Kevan Melchiorre

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, Kevan Melchiorre, a wealth manager at Busey Bank and the host of WDWS 1400-AM's "Busey Money Talk," chats with staff writer Paul Wood. Melchiorre is on the Crisis Nursery board and is a superhero fan.

Where did you grow up?

Wired In: Subha Kumar

Each week, staff writer Paul Wood chats with a high-tech difference-maker. This week, meet SUBHA KUMAR, who has a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the University of Illinois and is now a senior research scientist at nanomanufacturer Inprentus in Champaign. She was featured in the 100 Days of Women project for the UI's Urbana campus.

Preserving the past: Winners of PACA's 2019 Heritage Awards

From the bright lights of downtown to a small-town bungalow, the Preservation and Conservation Association's Heritage Awards shed light on those who have saved a piece of architectural history. PACA's BARB GARVEY told staff writer Paul Wood about this year's eight honorees.

End is near for hulking hackberry near Alma Mater

URBANA — The end will come at the break of day Monday for an oft-photographed campus tree.

The hulking hackberry tree that hovers near Alma Mater — that iconic graduation week hotspot for picture-takers — faces its removal early in the morning so as to cause minimal inconvenience to the University of Illinois community.

Gifted youth honored at NAACP'S ACT-SO luncheon

CHAMPAIGN — The NAACP showed off the shiniest diamonds from "diamonds in the rough" at its Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics awards luncheon Saturday.

Bernice Harrington praised the "amazing talents" of high school students from the area who sang, played music, read poetry and danced during the event.

Getting Personal: Dustin Heuerman

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, Champaign County Sheriff DUSTIN HEUERMAN, 37, chats with staff writer Paul Wood. Heuerman, a former community college instructor with a Ph.D., was surprised to be elected last fall but loves his new job.

Where did you grow up and what brought you here?