Firefighters, jail workers assisting co-worker
PESOTUM – Jim Black has spent much of his life battling fires with the Pesotum Fire Department. Now the 41-year-old is in the midst of his biggest battle of all – against cancer. Firefighters from five southern Champaign County communities and employees at the Champaign County Jail are organizing a benefit to help Black, who is undergoing treatment at Provena Covenant Medical Center in Urbana.
The benefit chili supper will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the St. Patrick's Church Hall, 212 E. Washington St., Tolono.
The event is being organized by the Pesotum, Ivesdale, Philo, Sadorus and Tolono fire departments and the Champaign County sheriff's office. Before joining the Pesotum Fire Department, Black also served with the Tolono and Sadorus fire departments.
All proceeds will go to Black's family – his wife, Rita, and his stepdaughter, Denise Richardson.
Black's battle with rectal cancer that has spread within his body comes three years after his stepson, Unity High School football player Nick Richardson, died from injuries sustained in a two-car crash in November 2004.
Friends and fellow firefighters said that Black never let his grief over Nick's death affect his devotion and dedication to firefighting.
"He is a very good man, and he will do just about anything for you," said Tolono Fire Department Lt. Chris Humer. "This dinner is our way of doing something for Jim's family when they need us most."
Pesotum firefighter Robert Russian said that Black helped teach him firefighting skills when he first joined the department four years ago.
"He took all the new guys under his wing, trained them and made sure everything flowed smoothly," Russian said. "Jim is great about recruiting new people to join the department. He represents the heart and soul of everything we do to protect the lives and homes of the people in Pesotum and the surrounding area."
Tolono Fire Chief Doug Dillavou recalled working side by side with Black when Black served with the Tolono Fire Department several years ago.
"Jim's a good guy who will do anything for you," Dillavou said. "He always seems to put other people's needs over his own."
Black is a correctional officer at the Champaign County Jail.
"Jim is an excellent worker and a good friend for all of us," said Sgt. Rhonda Tarr, who worked with him at the jail.
"He is a very well-liked individual, and we wish him the best," said Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh. "We wish Jim back with us as soon as possible."