Each week, we offer an email Q&A with a local personality. Today, Melissa Merli chats with birthday girl Jill Rannebarger, 55, of Champaign. She works at the University of Illinois National Soybean Research Laboratory and is the event chairwoman for Relay For Life of Champaign County.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
I'm up without an alarm clock by 5 a.m. I pick up The News-Gazette on my front porch, start the coffee and relax to read the paper, then check email.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?
Being the event chair for Relay For Life of Champaign County for two years and working with an amazing group of committed volunteers on the Relay committee. We worked together and made Relay For Life of Champaign County a success. In 2012, we won four state awards and three national awards, and in 2013 we have surpassed our donation goal for the American Cancer Society. We're filling out applications for awards for 2013, and I'm hopeful we will be selected for state and national awards again.
What do you regard as your most treasured possession?
Both of my parents have passed away, and I have their wedding rings. Christopher's Fine Jewelry designed a beautiful ring out of the two rings for me.
Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?
My addiction to "Downton Abbey." Love the series. As soon as I watched the first couple of episodes, I went out and bought all three seasons.
What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?
Right now, I'm reading a book by a local author, Jennifer Smith — "What You Might Not Know: My Life as a Stage IV Cancer Patient." My favorite book from childhood is "Little Women."
Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?
Scotland. The countryside is gorgeous and serene combined with an amazing history.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
I have two favorite pets. They're my German shepherd, Tuck, and my old English sheepdog, Arley. Both were wonderful pets and companions. I had Tuck when I was a teenager growing up on the farm, and Arley was my buddy through my early adulthood in the big city of Champaign.
What's your favorite sports team?
Chicago Cubs. My family has followed the Cubs for many, many years. Another avid Cub fan and good friend, Charlie Phelps, would say as do most Chicago Cubs fans, "Wait until next year."
What would you order for your last meal?
Papa Del's pan pizza with extra cheese, Monical's salad with French dressing and the Dairy Barn's Hard Top Jeep ice cream.
If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?
I would like to come back as my daughter's cat. Her cat is extremely spoiled and treated like royalty.
Who are your favorite musicians and why?
Musicians of the 1970s and '80s are my favorites: Chicago, Pure Prairie League and Neil Diamond, to name a few. I know this dates me.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
The birth of my two daughters, who have become amazing, independent young adults.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite? What would you serve?
President Obama because he is the president of the United States. Carol Burnett because I think she is one of the funniest comedians ever in my lifetime. And last, George Clooney, just to look at. I would have it catered because I don't like to cook.
Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?
John F. Kennedy because of his initiative for civil rights.
What personality trait do you most hate in other people?
Most hate in yourself?
When I let myself get wrapped up in other people's petty attitudes.
What's your best piece of advice?
Never, never give up!
What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?
Walking soybeans and cutting or pulling weeds. I made 65 cents an hour.
What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?
Going back to school when I was in my 40s to earn my bachelor's degree. I decided it was important to me but equally important for my daughters to experience. I want them to understand how significant it is to earn a college degree.
Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?
I had the opportunity to earn my college degree right out of high school and thought it wasn't important, so I waited.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
Taking long walks. Now, my family says I handle stressful situations different, but this is what I'm going to place in the article.