Polish immigrant, now in Paxton home, had to grow up fast in World War II slave labor camp

PAXTON — Richard Kostrzewski holds up a zig-zag finger, made crooked by some calamity years ago and can't remember why it is so.

Champaign police sergeant who led liquor effort retiring

CHAMPAIGN — To those who have criticized him for cracking down on underage drinking for 16 of his 26 years with the Champaign police, Scott Friedlein has two words: Joseph Irey.

Mr. Irey was a 19-year-old University of Illinois student who plunged to his death in 1989 after boasting while drunk that he could go down a fire escape ladder head-first.

Getting Personal: Jan Chandler

Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli chats with Jan Chandler, 54. The Urbana resident owns and operates Heartland Gallery, a Celtic-themed art and craft gallery and small performance venue. Getting Personal appears first in print., in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. In the Jan.

Studio Visit: Lisa Cerezo

Melissa Merli visits with Lisa Cerezo, of Psychic Joker Entertainment. Studio Visit appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. In the Jan. 1 newspaper, a visit with Caitlin Caruso-Dobbs, winner of the ACE student award.

Q: How are your efforts going to establish Cafe Extraordinaire?

More than five years after son's death, Wilhelms still advocating

For the first time since their son was killed by a distracted driver in 2006, Chuck and Gloria Wilhelm sent out a Christmas letter this year.

Noon Day New Years

The Noon Day New Year's celebration at the Orpheum Children's Science Museum in Champaign on Saturday, Dec. 31 , 2011. Over 500 balloons were dropped from the ceiling of the theater after a countdown to the strike of noon. 

Programs need a few volunteer tax preparers

A lack of volunteers has previously caused the Tax Aide programs in Champaign and Vermilion counties to reduce the hours that preparers are available to help taxpayers with filings.

But coordinators hope to find a new crop of volunteers willing to help people with their state and federal taxes.

High school students learn by helping at nursing home

DANVILLE — Sam Simonson doesn't hesitate giving an answer about how often he looks forward to visiting Vermilion Manor Nursing Home.

"Every day," says the junior at Catlin High School, who spends a couple hours five days a week visiting and helping residents and staff at the county-owned nursing home on Catlin-Tilton Road.

St. Thomas More cheerleaders to help at Capital One Bowl

CHAMPAIGN — Cheerleaders from the High School of St. Thomas More are en route to their first bowl game — a Florida trip powered by flamingos.

In this case, pink ones. When submarine sandwich magnate Jimmy John Liautaud comes home to Champaign to his Armory Avenue manse, he'll find a couple dozen of them, and a note that says "You've been flocked."

Months after fire next door, JR's Lounge back in business

VILLA GROVE — It took more than four months, but a Villa Grove bar and restaurant is back in business after suffering smoke and water damage from an August fire.

JR's Lounge reopened this week at 18 S. Main St., to the delight of customers who frequented the place for 29 years.