Newman woman named Illinoisan of the Day in 84th trip to state fair

Newman woman named Illinoisan of the Day in 84th trip to state fair

NEWMAN — Of the 84 years that Charlotte Wax has attended the Illinois State Fair, this year was extra special.

That's because much to her surprise, the 99-year-old Newman resident was named the Illinoisan of the Day last Friday.

When daughter Martha Burris broke the news, "I thought she was kidding," Wax recalled three days later. "It was quite an honor," she continued. "I've had many people congratulate me — even on Facebook. Martha said I had over 60 messages."

Each day of the 10-day event, the Illinois State Fair Museum Foundation recognizes a resident who exemplifies "qualities and characteristics associated with Illinois, including integrity, dependability and strong ethics" as the Illinoisan of the Day.

Honorees must have made a difference in their community and a significant contribution to agriculture and/or state and county fairs through their service.

Burris was encouraged to nominate her mother by a college friend, who runs the dairy building at the fair.

"We're just really proud of her," Burris said of her mother, a retired teacher and community volunteer who has had a lifelong association with agriculture.

"She's 99 years old, and she's still pretty active, and she's left quite a legacy for us."

Wax was born in Tuscola. When she was 1, her parents — Ward and Zala Maris — moved to Newman, where they farmed.

"My parents took me to the state fair when I was 13, and I've been almost every year since then," she said.

"I only missed twice," she said, adding that once was when she was recovering from a heart attack, and the other was when her granddaughter got married. "I enjoyed seeing the cows and the horses. I also enjoyed eating the food — the funnel cakes and caramel corn. I enjoyed it all."

She and her husband, Ray — both University of Illinois graduates — were married for 43 years before his death. They had two sons — Wallace Wax of Tuscola and Richard Wax of Virginia — and Burris, their youngest.

Ray Wax raised corn, soybeans, Duroc hogs and Shorthorn cattle on their farm. Today, Burris' husband, Bob; their son, Scott Burris; and son-in-law, Adam Milburn, run the farm.

Ray was also one of the founders of the Illinois Association of Farmer Elected Committeemen and served as its state and national president, while his wife served as his volunteer secretary.

Charlotte Wax was a high school business teacher — first at Tuscola and later at the old Newman Township High School — and started the Buttons n Bows Home Economics Club for sewing and food projects.

She was a longtime 4-H leader with the Newman Kum-Joy-Nus 4-H Club. She also chaperoned the dorm at the state fair for 4-Hers who competed in Share-the-Fun competitions, livestock showings, food demonstrations and public speaking contests.

"Back then, (4-H) kids spent the week at the state fair," Burris recalled.

Wax was the Illinois Future Homemakers of America Chapter Mother in 1969.

At nearly 100, Wax is still active, her daughter said.

She's a lifelong member of the Newman Methodist Church, former Sunday school teacher and a United Methodist Women member. She's a 50-year member of the Newman Women's Club and a 44-year member of the Stephen A. Douglas Chapter of the Daughters of the America Revolution, where she served as a past regent.

"She stays active by driving her Buick, playing euchre at the local library, watching Illini sports and spoiling her 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren," Burris said.

In addition to being honored and getting to ride in a parade, Wax said she enjoyed going to the exhibition hall where two of her great granddaughters, Emily and Maggie Milburn, displayed their 4-H projects.

"They got purple ribbons. I was really proud of them," she said.