"Not in my 41-plus years here have I seen anything like that."
Roger Karr says he met an angel last week who helped him during a time of distress, then suddenly disappeared.
It happened at, of all places, the county treasurer's office at the Brookens Center in Urbana.
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"I was going in to see if there was any assistance for seniors to pay (his property tax bill) because it had gone up so much in Urbana. I was talking to the lady in the treasurer's office and asking her what kind of help might be available. She said she didn't know of anything," said Karr, 67, who owns a home in Urbana that he inherited after his father died three years ago.
"Then, all at once, this lady standing next to me — I never heard her come through the door or anything — I was saying, 'Well, I can't pay this. What are my options?' The next thing I know this angel — I called her an angel — she paid the bill."
He said he started crying. Two of the office workers started crying. The woman gave him a hug and then she vanished.
"She said, 'Do you think you'll be able to pay the second (installment)? I said I'm going to do the best I can.' It happened so fast. I was stunned. She hugged me and she was gone. By the time I got myself composed, I ran out into the hallway to look for her ... and of course she was gone."
He didn't get her name. He said he doesn't even know what she looks like.
"I couldn't tell you this woman if she walked up to the door right now," he said. "I was so dumbfounded. It just happened so fast."
I asked him what he would say to the woman if he could talk to her.
"I'd tell her that she's definitely an angel and that she's a very special person," he said.
So I told her what he said.
"That's very nice," said the woman, who is married, 25 years old, lives in Urbana and doesn't want anyone to know her name.
"My intention was to help a man, not to get credit for it," she said. "He's a nice man."
She said she was at the treasurer's office to check on her property tax payment, to make sure it had gone through.
"While the lady was checking on it, I was just standing there and listening to this man talk about how he couldn't pay his taxes and I was thinking to myself, 'Wow, I'm just saving my money to add to my home and this man might not even have his home.' So I just decided to pay for it," she said.
There were two reasons she decided to pay his property tax bill, which amounted to almost $1,800.
"Mainly because I think I've been so blessed throughout my life that it seemed kind of unreasonable that I wouldn't want to turn around and do that for someone else," she said.
The other reason was that she felt she could afford it. As a little girl, she recalled, she was advised to pay her bills and save her money "so that when God calls you to do something, then you have the money to do what you want to do. I guess my husband and I have been thinking about that and have been saving up our money so that if something bad happens, then we can pay for it.
"We had a little bit of cash so that we were trying to remodel our basement."
Instead, she gave the money to a stranger to help him pay his taxes.
"I've just been overwhelmingly blessed," she said. "I have a great job that I really love. I don't really lack much. This might put us back slightly on our remodel, maybe a couple months."
She later told her husband what she had done "and he didn't really care. I know that he would have done the same thing."
Robin Leeber, a treasurer's office employee who witnessed the incident, said, "Kudos to that gal for doing that. It was just amazing. It was a real gift to him. I've been here four years and I was just wowed by it."
County Treasurer Dan Welch said that "not in my 41-plus years here have I seen anything like that."
Karr said he lives on a fixed income of a little more than $600 a month and isn't sure how he'll pay his second property tax bill, due in September.
"I get assistance with my power bill. The water bill's minimal. I go to a couple of the food banks," he said. "There are a lot of people probably worse off than I am."
Given that experience in the county treasurer's office, truer words have not been spoken.
Jakobsson's last spring session
After almost 12 years in the Illinois House, state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson's legislative career is winding down. She just completed her last spring session, usually a frenetic time not only in Springfield but back in her district that includes Champaign-Urbana.
She was hardly melancholy about it.
"It's really starting to hit me now because I've been working on bills and other people's bills," the Urbana Democrat said along "the rail" overlooking the Capitol rotunda. "Now I'm realizing that this is my last spring session. It was a tough decision when I made it. I'll miss some of the things. I'll miss the people.
"People ask me, though, what are you going to do now? And I just tell them, I'm here until January. I still have a job to do. I've got a couple of bills left that I'd like to move."
She might even get a chance to vote on the income tax extension that she supported the first time, in 2011. It could come up again in November or, more likely, in January before the new Legislature is seated.
"I certainly supported extending it because of the cuts I saw that we'd have to make," she said, "While people might say that this or that agency was only cut by a certain amount, that doesn't mean that the need isn't there. They're already working on a bare-bones budget. To cut them more, I think it's really hurting the people of the state of Illinois."
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 217-351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.