Chanute aftermath is subject of upcoming series

Chanute aftermath is subject of upcoming series

On Sept. 30, 1993, the Air Force officially closed Chanute — a military base since World War I.

The inactivation ceremony that day — shown in The News-Gazette photo here — drew an unexpectedly large crowd.

According to former N-G reporter Greg Kline, who covered the event, the crowd that morning "was swelled by Rantoul area residents who came to see the end, many of them civilian and military retirees from Chanute."

Among those there that clear fall morning was Jim McGavock, who had worked at Chanute for 31 years.

"It's like seeing an old friend go," he told The News-Gazette.

Hazel Kirchhoefer of Paxton, 28-year Chanute employee, had tears in her eyes.

"Words can't express it," she said.

An Air Force color guard lowered the American flag and folded it. The flag was passed along a line of former Chanute commanders and vice commanders. The last in line: Virlon Suits, the civilian engineer who would become the former base's overseer. At that point, Chanute — which had been selected for closure by a Pentagon commission in December 1988 — was officially closed.

Shortly afterward, then-Mayor Katy Podagrosi and Suits raised the American flag again, along with the village flag.

"Today we're saying that redevelopment is on its way," Podagrosi said.

In the last 20 years, redeveloping Chanute has been the No. 1 goal for Rantoul leaders — an effort that has had some successes and many examples of unfinished business.

Coming in October, November

The Rantoul Press and The News-Gazette will publish a series of articles on the former Air Force base.

The schedule:

Oct. 6: How has Rantoul fared?

Oct. 13: Married to the Air Force

Oct. 20: Chanute and Rantoul's schools

Oct. 27: Putting down roots

Nov. 3: What needs to be done?

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