Letter from Birdland: Taking a little time to respond to readers

It's damp in Birdland, but yesterday's drizzle seems to be taking a breather. The sky, though, is full of low-hanging clouds, and the dogs are just as happy to lie around inside on their respective pillows.

Studio Visit: Austin Duncan

Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, Austin Duncan, 24, of Champaign. Duncan, a Parkland College student, musician and part-time sound engineer at WDWS Radio, recently chatted with Melissa Merli.

What will you be doing Friday at Mike N Molly's?

Getting Personal: Barbara J. Ford

Getting Personal is a Q&A with a local personality. Here, 68-year-old Champaign resident Barbara J. Ford, a distinguished professor emerita of the University of Illinois Library Mortenson Center for International Library Programs, chats with The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli. Ford describes herself as a librarian interested in international issues.

For the retirees, Dec. 6-13, 2015

For information about services available to older adults, contact Karen Graves, director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and Helen Mary Stevick Senior Citizens Center, 48 E. Main St., Champaign, IL 61820, phone 359-6500.

RSVP and the Stevick Senior Center are administered by Family Service of Champaign County.

Mass appeal

CHAMPAIGN — Actor Jim Dobbs didn't have to acquire much for the nun's costume he'll wear as Mother Superior in "Nunsense."

"This is my Edna equipment from when I did 'Hairspray,'" he said, lifting his fake bosom as costumer Esther Nixon adjusted his veil.

Wired In: James Langer

On Sundays, staff writer Paul Wood spotlights a high-tech difference maker. This week, meet JAMES LANGER, 36, president of Serionix, which makes high-performance filtration materials for removal of toxic chemicals from air and water, with a large number of customers — from the Army to an appliance maker.

The team

'Gibraltar of the North' a great place to explore

By Vivienne Mackie

Sometimes it's nice to visit a well-known city, like Paris, London, Rome or Jerusalem. But other times, it's fun to visit one that is not at the top of tourist lists. That way, you get to see new buildings, lovely architecture and historical sights without the sometimes-oppressive crowds.

Area history, Dec. 6, 2015

Today is Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. Here are news reports from this date 100, 50 and 15 years ago: 

In 1915: Charles Ashbrook was released from the Champaign city jail — after three months' confinement there — to the Champaign County Jail. The former police officer and fish dealer was charged with a state count of bootlegging.

So you want to be coroner?

In 1973 when Joe Victor was 18, his maternal grandfather, Angalo DiGiacomo, shot his mother and Victor's great-grandmother, Mary DiGiacomo, then turned the gun on himself.

Victor recalled how the Sangamon County coroner's office made the Springfield-area murder-suicide even more traumatic for the family by the way it handled the case.

St. Patrick: Room to grow

URBANA — As the drywall came down at historic St. Patrick Catholic Church, a small miracle: stained-glass windows that had been covered up for decades.

"It was amazing to see what had been covered up," said Father Joseph Hogan, who helped oversee renovation and expansion of the 1901 church.