Rantoul teen already has joined National Guard with college plans

RANTOUL – When Sarita Taylor arrived at Rantoul Township High School as a freshman, she decided to leave behind her past attitude problems.

But her freshman year was rocky. She had emergency surgery, missed a month of school and had to struggle to get her grades up to her own standards. She wore only black. She struggled to find common ground with her classmates.

Danville soldier earns Bronze Star for heroism in Iraq

DANVILLE – It wasn't until weeks later, recovering in a U.S. hospital, that Dann Hufford realized his actions in Iraq could be considered heroic.

"I had no idea what I had really done," said the 22-year-old Danville native, whose actions in an ambush in Baghdad, Iraq, saved his own life and those of four other U.S. servicemen.

Medical relief trip a mother, son adventure

DANVILLE – When Dena Sawka returns to Honduras on a medical mission next month, she won't just be taking along suitcases of vitamins, medicine and dental supplies.

She will be taking along her 17-year-old son.

'Chef Ra' enjoyed the high life

Lots of people knew James Wilson Jr., whether they knew him as Jimmy Wilson, Urbana's three-sport star; Rasta James, the reggae promoter; H. Rap Wilson, the radical; or Chef Ra, the High Times food columnist.

"If you're from Urbana and you don't know him, you don't get out much," said Maarten De Witte, an old friend who usually called him Jim.

Urbana man remembers Ford's 1976 visit

URBANA – Roger Grace of Urbana says he'll never forget the day President Gerald Ford visited his family's home in Somer Township north of Urbana in March 1976.

"He was a pretty friendly person, very down to earth," Grace said. "He was very personable and open, and he made everybody feel at ease."

Mother seeks memorial where son died

DANVILLE – The mother of a teen killed in April at a city parking garage asked aldermen to consider erecting a memorial at the garage for her son.

Charles Christopher Gaston, 17, of Danville died April 5 from head injuries when a stairwell collapsed at the city's Walnut Street parking garage, 22 N. Walnut St.

Mahomet couple surprised by premature birth

MAHOMET – Considering that she'd had a trouble-free pregnancy for her first two trimesters, Lori Moore was surprised when she suddenly started feeling abdominal pains in the sixth month.

The next surprise for Lori and her husband, Shannon, of Mahomet: Their baby son, Will, arrived three months early – too tiny to leave the hospital and with severe breathing problems for the first two months of his life.

First sober Christmas together greatest present of all

Lynsi Donnelly sat on a couch between her mother and her mother's boyfriend playing with a cell phone.

A Christmas tree, trimmed neatly with lights and baubles, stood next to the living room's front window in the Hegeler home. Carefully wrapped presents lined the walls along the side, some stacked underneath.

Tiny triplets get special care at hospital's neonatal center

URBANA – Curled up inside his nice warm incubator, Jacob Pickett opens his eyes wide and squirms – all 2 pounds, 15 ounces of him – as his dad reaches in to change his tiny diaper.

Mom is busy at another incubator, changing the diaper of Jacob's brother, Zachary, and in a third incubator draped with a pink blanket, the boys' sister, Katelyn, is sleeping soundly.

Preserve coworkers say land will miss leader

RURAL PENFIELD – For those who worked closely with Don Humphrey at the Middle Fork Forest Preserve, they always knew when the first morel mushroom popped out of the ground.

"When it was morel time, that's when Don would shave his beard off," said Kim Cambron of rural Rankin. "We all knew that he'd seen the first morel of the year."