Getting Personal: Lila Jeanne 'Shorty' Eichelberger

Getting Personal: Lila Jeanne 'Shorty' Eichelberger

Getting Personal appears in Sunday's News-Gazette. Here, a chat with Lila Jeanne "Shorty" Eichelberger, 85, of Champaign, a retired vocational educator, philanthropist, volunteer for the University of Illinois College of ACES, member of several local boards, financial supporter for many local groups, Meals on Wheels driver and passionate Illini fan.

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?

I get up at 5:15 a.m., feed my cats Ebony and Lucky, make my bed, get dressed, brew coffee and check emails.

What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?

Grilled salmon, baked sweet potato, green beans, mixed green salad and milk. Alone at home.

Best high school memory?

Being elected my high school's May Festival Queen when I was a senior.

Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.

I don't have a favorite. Shoes are my weakness. I have quite a collection.

What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?

One where I'd relax, take a nap, snuggle with the cats and watch the birds play in the backyard.

Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?

Growing up during the Depression, my only access to books was my one-room school library. In it was a set of World Book Encyclopedias. On many weekends, I checked out a volume, and Dad and I perused it from cover to cover. As an adult, my first library purchase was my own set, which we referred to regularly until I bought a computer.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

No place. Unless the Illini schedule a game there.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

I have had four — each at a special stage of my life. As an only child, Black Kitty was my preschool buddy; after the death of my husband, Jet brightened my life for 10 years; after her death, I visited the Champaign County Humane Society's Kitten Shower and found her clone, Lucky, and a little sister, Ebony. Lucky and Ebony are my present family.

Have you discovered that you are like one of your parents? Which one and how?

Mostly my mother: Always busy and involved, well-organized and conservative.

What would you order for your last meal?

Beef pot roast with veggies, carrot-pineapple salad and pecan pie.

What can you not live without?

My cats, neighbors, family, friends, ACES activities and Illinois athletics.

Who do you have on your iPod?

I don't have an iPod. So far, my younger friends haven't convinced me that I need one to survive.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

When my husband returned from Korea. We had been married one year when he was drafted. He spent 18 months in Korea without a furlough.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?

President George W. and Mrs. Laura Bush and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

When an invitation has been accepted for a particular time, keep that promise, even if a "better" opportunity surfaces.

What's your best piece of advice?

Treat everyone with respect. Always smile and be friendly. Acknowledge others in your environment, even if they are strangers.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

Detasseling corn at 35 cents an hour. It was hot, muggy, muddy and we walked — no machines.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

I came to college to study dietetics. Soon I realized I enjoyed people more than labs, so I changed my major to education. I was a teacher/administrator 40 years: Six in Fisher and 34 in Champaign. I enjoyed every day, some more than others.

Do you have a bad habit? What is it?

Several. Getting involved in too many things. Speaking before thinking how it may sound. I find myself needing to apologize.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

Take a deep breath, relax my shoulders, mentally organize the situation, react.

Sections (2):News, Local
Topics (1):People
Categories (2):News, People