Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com.

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Kathy Lattz of rural Monticello has been named a 2021 State Outstanding Master Gardener.

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Kathy Lattz of rural Monticello has been named a 2021 State Outstanding Master Gardener.

In education parlance, Kathy Lattz would be described as a lifelong learner. In the parlance of horticulture, she would be known as a lifelong grower.

The rural Monticello woman continues to learn, teach and grow in both areas of education and gardening.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. A longtime master gardener, Lattz was awarded a 2021 State Outstanding Master Gardener Award — one of only 1 to 2 percent of active master gardeners in the state who will be so recognized during their life.

The 68-year-old doesn’t let any grass grow under her feet. Or other plant life. Instead, she tends to it in her garden.

A longtime Monticello school teacher now retired, she continues to substitute teach. Lattz grew up on a Will County farm in northern Illinois and was around the green most of her childhood.

“We had a garden. My grandma gardened. It was those days,” she said. Those days when that’s what you did — grow vegetables to feed the family. And flowers to soothe the soul.

Lattz taught her three children to garden.

“They used to pick off green peppers and take a bite out of them in the garden,” she said.

Since 2012, the green thumb has taken an active role with the Piatt County Master Gardeners, contributing more than 500 hours as a volunteer.

She is an active leader in education, nature and gardening.

The State Master Gardener Teamwork Award, which recognizes projects that are impactful, innovative and replicable statewide, went to the Piatt County group. Comprising the team were Mark Bradley, Cheryl Evert, Charles Foran, Mary Hittmeier, Anna Kaczmarek, George Johnston, Chris Keller, Kathleen Lattz, Kent McFarland, Rosi McLeese, Judy Mitchell, Mare Payne, Kathleen Piatt, Mary Kay Randall, Mike Randall, Jane Smith, David White, Jane White and Helen Wilding.

Lattz enjoys doing a great deal of native gardening, including prairie gardening. She brought native plants into the classroom to show her fourth- and fifth-graders what was native to the area.

Among the native plants she grows in her garden is the cup plant, whose leaf makes “kind of a wedge on the steam.” It forms a cup that holds water that birds like to drink out of. The plant also has yellow flowers at the top.

Other native plants in her garden include asters and milkweeds, which help the monarch butterfly population.

The vegetable portion of her growing menagerie is chock full with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant zucchini.

“My husband (Dale) did some lettuce, and that’s up right now. The lettuce and the arugula are coming up pretty good,” Lattz said.

Lattz has been a master gardener for about nine years.

“You either take (the in-person) course, which is about a 10-week course with classes of two to three hours, or you take the online one. It’s probably 30 hours for the whole thing.”

To maintain master gardener status, a person must put in volunteer hours and continue their education. She said the more she learns, the more there is to learn.

“They’re always coming out with new plants, new varieties, new hybrids,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to try something. Most gardeners have probably killed as many plants as they’ve had live. Just try again. Or if that plant’s not happy there, ‘We’re going to have to move you.’”

Gardening is Lattz’ primary hobby, especially during the growing season.

“In winter, you read catalogs,” she said with a laugh, noting she also substitute teaches more then, enjoys reading and volunteers with groups such as Faith in Action and a nursing home foundation.

Lattz and her husband, who is also a Will County native, moved to Monticello from Nebraska so he could take a job with Farm Business Farm Management.

Crites named student of the month

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Anna Crites has been named Rantoul Exchange Club’s student of the month for September.

The senior, daughter of James and Nicole Crites of rural Rantoul, has a grade-point average of 4.951 and ranks 19th out of her class of 177.

Crites has been involved in volleyball, mentoring program and National Honor Society. She is especially active in FFA, including activities ranging from livestock judging to homecoming float to state and national FFA convention. She has served as FFA chapter treasurer, vice president and president. Crites also serves as Royal Ag 4-H club president.

She has been cited for academic excellence, including high honor roll.

She has also been active in her church, Immanuel Lutheran of Flatville, as well as in missions work and in the community. Crites works on the family’s fifth-generation farm as a labor exchange for her FFA dairy goat SAE/project. She also served as a companion/caregiver for an elderly woman.

She plans to graduate early, in December, from RTHS and enroll at Parkland College in the spring to start general studies and major in either nursing or agricultural economics.

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Lance Huber, shown with son Jason, has been named to the Unity Athletic Hall of Fame.

Feinen re-elected to municipal board

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Champaign Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen has been re-elected to the Illinois Municipal League Board of Directors.

The election took place during the IML’s annual business meeting at its 108th annual conference on Sept. 25.

Feinen was re-elected to serve as one of the board’s 34 vice presidents and will serve another one-year term.

“With all Illinois communities facing significant issues due to the lingering effects of COVID-19, it is more important than ever that we all work together for the benefit of everyone in Illinois,” she said.

Three earn real-estate awards

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Jayme Ahlden Fay, a real-estate broker with RE/MAX Realty Associates of Champaign, has been named 2021 Realtor of the Year for the Champaign County Association of Realtors.

The award is based on involvement to the Realtor Association, the real-estate industry and contributions to the community.

Jennifer Hoss McClellan, a broker with Keller Williams Realty, Champaign, received the Affiliated Choice Award in recognition for her service to the real-estate industry.

Bridgett Laid, also a broker with Keller Williams, received the Rookie of the Year Award, presented to a new Realtor who has been in the industry no more than two years but has actively served on association committees.

Trees group honors Brunk

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Trees Forever has named Mike Brunk of Urbana as the recipient of the 2021 Outstanding Advocate Award.

Awards were celebrated at an event on Sept. 8 in Iowa City. Trees Forever leaders cited him for his work toward meeting the goals of the Illinois Forest Action Plan.

“Mike has been instrumental in providing support and continued funding for all Illinois community forestry work through the core funding provided to Illinois by the U.S. Forest service,” the citation read. “Partnerships with other organizations such as Trees Forever help him meet the goals of the Illinois Forest Action Plan as well as provide Trees Forever the opportunity to expand its forestry work in small communities throughout Illinois.”

Taylor joins bank group

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Trevor Taylor recently joined Peoples Bank 7 Trust as vice president of business banking.

He will develop and build business and agricultural credit relationships. He will be based out of Charleston but will service customers throughout central Illinois.

Taylor lives in Champaign with his wife of 23 years, Teitah, and their two children. He volunteers at his church, Meadowbrook Community Church, and at East Central Illinois Youth for Christ.

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Danville Noon Rotary former President Amy Brown, right, welcomed new members, from left, Amanda Galloway, Worth Johnson and Annie Monyok.

Danville Rotary welcomes new membersDanville Noon Rotary welcomed three new members this week: Amanda Galloway, Worth Johnson and Annie Monyok.

Galloway is employed by Country Financial, while Johnson works for NTB Financial and Monyok is owner of Monyok Leadership, a business-training consultant.

‘President’ visits history groupPresident James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution, dropped by the annual dinner meeting of the Ford County Historical Society recently.

Terry Lynch of suburban Chicago portrayed the former head of state. Lynch has entertained the group on several occasions, always as a different historical character.

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The society also honored Cynthia Swanson, museum curator emeritus. Swanson has stepped down as head of the historical repository. In honor of her service, she was presented a small potted evergreen tree as a stand-in for a full-sized tree that will be planted in her honor on the courthouse lawn.

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette’s ‘Our County’ section. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com or 217-249-2404.

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