The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Nov. 12, 2017

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Nov. 12, 2017

Over the next several Sundays, we'll honor loved ones lost in 2017 — folks who didn't work in the spotlight or appear regularly in the paper — by sharing stories from sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. If you have a story you'd like to tell us about someone special who passed away this year, email us at jdalessio@news-gazette.com.

MARY MARGARET BOLAND, Ivesdale
By her eight kids — Barbara, Frank, Jim, Joe, John, Margaret, Marilyn and Paul

"Our mother farmed with our father near Ivesdale for their entire married lives. That may not sound so amazing to some, but a visionary and dedicated mother of eight, who managed the accounting for a farm and household, researched and acquired land in her own name, and capably operated every tractor, combine or large grain truck on our farm was an inspiration to all in our community.

"She was often in the field when we came home from school and always left a spiral notebook on the kitchen table with her whereabouts and plans for the remainder of the day. The note, in her beautiful script, often read something like this:

Hope all had a good day. Enjoy some graham crackers and milk. Get started on your homework and please start supper — remember: the dishes do not jump in the dishwasher themselves. Dad and I are planting at the Griffith Place and will be home about dark.

"Dad came home from World War II in 1946 and began farming where he grew up, just a few miles north of Ivesdale. Mom and he married in 1954, and they continued that love of farming as full partners, together until Dad passed away in 2004. Mom continued her role, perhaps more quietly in the background, as her sons assumed more active operations.

"It is somehow odd and bittersweet to think this is the first harvest season in over 70 years that neither Mom nor Dad are on hand to see the beauty of the maturing crops, the rumble of the combine in the fields and their quiet joy of their small role in helping feed America ... and the world."

BEVERLY GERMAN, Champaign
By husband Fred German

"Without a doubt, the happiest memory of our nearly 25 years of marriage was our 10-day trip to China in 2005. Beverly and I began that trip as a couple, and returned as a happy family with our beautiful 20-month-old daughter, Jane.

"On the trip home, Jane was amazed at the whole new world she was experiencing and Beverly and I were amazed at the miracle that had entered our lives. It was a life-changing trip for all three of us that we often looked back on with joy and gratitude for the family that it created. It was a trip that we relived over and over with Jane, who to this day never tires of hearing her adoption story.

"There have been many trips since then, but none compared to that momentous trip that created our family. Beverly loved being a mother more than anything else, and her memory lives on in our lives every day."

JOHN BUTTITTA, Champaign
By daughter Marina Buttitta

"My father had the typical immigrant story — he left his small town in Sicily in 1964 to look for a better life for his family — not speaking a word of English.

"This community was very good to him. He had a special craft — he was a master tailor. He did it right up until the end — making clothes for people who were still calling him 20 years after he closed his shop. He added a room to the house for his sewing machines because he wouldn't let them go.

"He lost his own mother when he was 8, and his father worked for a railroad and was gone a lot. So family was very important to him since he didn't have that typical wonderful family life growing up, like I did.

"I'm lost without him. He could look at me without speaking, or me speaking, and ask what's wrong. He felt pain when I felt pain. The bond we shared is what I remember most. I couldn't have a better father."

RENEE RENFRO, Urbana
By close friend Patricia Lewis

"We were both recruited to attend the University of Illinois in 1968 as students in the initial class of Project 500. Renee was recruited in Chicago, and I was recruited in my hometown, Danville. But we became friends after graduating from college.

"She attended a program at Carrie Busey School in which my son was participating. My son Shawn had survived meningitis, but lost his hearing and had other disabilities. He started school when he was 3. She saw him participating in a play given by his sign language class. Assuming I was his mother, she approached me talking about my cute little boy. We remembered each other from college and began to connect after that day. Our husbands knew each other, and we found that we had many things in common.

"As we became older and our responsibilities with our jobs and helping aging parents became more time-consuming, we would often talk on the phone and catch up by meeting for lunch. Since her sisters live in Chicago and my sisters live in Danville, we adopted each other as sisters.

"We loved each other as sisters."

VERNON BILLMAN, Tuscola
By daughter Cindi Haake

"My sisters, Anne and Cassie, and I would help my dad haul grain to the elevator. He had six daughters and one son, so we girls had to help on the farm. After the truck and wagons were unloaded, we would go into the office and he'd buy us a bottle of pop. That made our day.

"The other memory that stands out is after church on Sunday — we'd get in the car and hope he would turn left. If he went left, we were going to the Hen House for breakfast. But if we went right, we were going home."

LOUISE KYSE, Champaign
By son Amos Kyse

"When we were growing up, we didn't have a TV. The first one we got was a black-and-white TV my mother won at work, in a little lottery at SS Kresge. She won the TV they had in the lounge.

"So when it was bad outside, we'd play board games when she came home from work. When it was nice, she took us fishing — there used to be a lake out there in the wooded area on Bradley. My mother loved to fish — and was good at it, too."

DEBRA OSTERBUR, Royal
By son Tim Osterbur

"Mom and I had a pretty fun relationship. Being the youngest of four, I couldn't help but give her a hard time sometimes.

"I used to prank call her from other rooms in the house — with her being hard of hearing, I'd whisper in the phone as she couldn't hear anything and got frustrated. Sometimes, while watching TV, I would mute the volume. She'd look over at me and ask if I could turn it up because she couldn't hear it. We laughed so hard, we cried at times.

"But some of my favorite memories are from the summer of 1993. I was involved in a bad accident and, with mom being a nurse, she took a leave from work to care for me. She wouldn't leave my side. I'd always hear people talking about the quality of care she gave as a nurse; I can attest to that."

CHARLES 'BEAR' AHRENS, Danville
By son Doug Ahrens

"By the accounts of many, my dad was a very good football player at Schlarman High School in the early '50s. Good enough to receive a scholarship to the U of I, but he chose not to stay. He played for Coach Paul Shebby, whose name we heard often as children due to Dad's admiration for him.

"Fast-forward to 1980 and back to Schlarman. I was a junior playing for Coach Greg Colby, and Dad, along with his brother Pat, was volunteering on the chain gang. Over the next two years, Schlarman achieved back-to-back state championships. I cannot express how fun and rewarding it was for dad and I to be on Schlarman's field at the same time. I was inspired to be a better player by having Dad and Pat so close."

JACK MAY, Savoy
By daughter Carrie May-Borich

"My dad was the kind of father everyone wanted. First and foremost, he loved his God, my mom — they were married 63 years — and his family so much. Most of my friends called my dad their second dad. He was my rock. If I ever needed advice about anything, he would be the first person I'd go to.

"We went on a big extended family trip in 2000 to Disney World. I will never forget spending that time with all of us together. Dad really wanted to go on the flying Dumbo ride. I couldn't wait to take him on it. He laughed and smiled the whole time. I wish that ride would have lasted a lot longer.

"My Dad is so missed. I know he's not suffering anymore but to those he left behind, we miss him dearly. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this."

WALTER SPLITTSTOESSER, Urbana
By wife Shirley Splittstoesser

"We have been to all seven continents to see the unique and the ordinary. A unique experience was seeing lemurs in the wild in their native Madagascar. We learned that there are over 60 species of lemurs.

"The one most often featured is the ring-tailed lemur, which lives on the ground. The ones we saw live in trees. They jumped from branch to branch and came cautiously to accept bananas from our guides. The males were black. The females with their babies clinging to them were brown, with white fluffy ears and white ruffs under their neck.

"Animals in the zoo are nice to see, but nothing compares with the lively antics of animals in the wild where we are the visitor and they are the resident — and they know it."

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Homeboy wrote on November 12, 2017 at 9:11 am

Very refreshing reading an article like this after all the trash thats in the news. Thank you N.G.