The elections are over … for most. After voters were submitted to countless ads in the media and way too many political interviews, the dust has settled. The winners are enjoying the fruits of their labors and the losers are playing the “what if” game of second guessing their campaigns.
The race for Peoria County Sheriff was one of the mostly hotly contested races in my memory. Last minute mailers and TV ads clearly demonstrated the bitterness between Brian Asbell and Brian Fengel. Asbell was appointed sheriff by the County Board on the recommendation of former sheriff Mike McCoy. Fengel was, and remains, police chief of Bartonville. I doubt they’ll exchange Christmas cards this season or next, but I hope they will.
Speaking of the County Board, Republicans were optimistic about winning enough seats to win control and thus capture the board’s chairmanship. They were “spitting in the wind.” The “country boy” Republican and a couple of his buddies scrambled to get people to run against Democrats and succeeded in names only. As an example, pitting an “Independent” against board chairman and well-known Andrew Rand was as foolish as waiting downtown for the Peoria Rocket to pull into the River Station. Rand won in a landslide. As expected, Democrats retained the majority, and Rand will return as chairman.
It was disappointing to watch the county’s road improvement referendum go down in defeat. The small sales tax increase was the most equitable way to raise money to fix roads and bridges in the county. Thousands of people outside Peoria County drive here to work, play, eat and be entertained. They pay no property taxes. The sales tax is the only way to capture their “fair share” for using our roads. I used the word, “our” even though I live now in Morton.
Nov. 11 was Veterans Day and central Illinois paid fitting tribute to those who served and are serving with parades and special events. The country is doing a better job remembering and honoring our veterans including those who were so disrespected when they came home from Vietnam.
In October, the county held a “Final Salute” ceremony with the unveiling of a memorial honoring veterans who died in Korea and Vietnam. As a member of the original war memorial committee, I was excited to remember how it all began and how it’s grown under the leadership of Steve Sonnemaker. Good job, one and all. I doubt there’s a county in Illinois that can compare to the tribute that stands on the grounds of the Peoria Courthouse.
We lost a local hero, and I lost a dear friend a few months ago when former Creve Coeur police chief Jerry Daughters died. Jerry did a lot for youth sports, but I’ll remember him for what he did for veterans especially with the approach of Dec. 7. Each year, Jerry organized and personally paid the expenses for the annual Pearl Harbor memorial service. Last year, Jerry also arranged for the lighted Christmas Tree on 29, as he called it.
Given the media and entertainment “climate” of opinion today, I thought it would be meaningful to remember some of our favorite actors during World War II and ask readers to compare them to today’s leading men. Clark Gable was a B-17 gunner over Europe, and Charles Bronson was a B-29 gunner who was wounded in action. Art Carney was wounded on Normandy Beach and limped for the rest of his life. Dale Robertson was a tank commander, wounded twice. Comedian Don Adams was a Marine, wounded in the Battle of Guadalcanal as was Denver Pyle. Jonathan Winters enlisted at age 17 in the Marines and served on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific. Jim Arness was an infantryman, severely wounded in Italy, and Jack Palance was severely injured bailing out of a burning B-24. Actor Charles Durning landed on Normandy and was shot three times, later survived the Malmedy Massacre.
Space doesn’t permit me to add other names and the sacrifices they made other than to close with Audie Murphy, recipient of the Medal of Honor for valor under fire.
This is the most beautiful time of the year as Andy Williams would sing. November brings Thanksgiving and then December with celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s a time for family gatherings from shopping to decorating inside and outside the home. Of course, there’s laughter and smiles on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the exchange of gifts and best wishes for family and friends along with delicious food. I’ve always loved Christmas, like most people. As a little boy, I cut out and colored a small village and taped it to our large bay window, and then my mother made some white washable paint I used to create snow. I did it every year until I was 50. Not really, but if asked, I would probably do it again.
This Christmas season will be the most difficult and challenging ever for me and our sons. Nancy, my wife of 58 years, is in hospice. She’s home under our care and that provided by the wonderful people of hospice.
Gone is the excitement of bringing up the holiday decorations and carefully placing them in familiar locations in the home. Yes, we will remember the birth of Jesus, but so too will I remember the joy of meeting Nancy that Sunday morning after services at First Methodist Church in 1959. It was just a few months after discharge from the Army.
While this is a season of gifts, the greatest gift I ever received was my wife and later our two sons, Dan and Zack. I know there are others going through the same experience, but that knowledge doesn’t ease my pain, heartbreak or sadness. I want to thank those who’ve been so supportive. God bless Gloria who’s been a loving caregiver with us for over 10 years and, recently, her Aunt Liz.
I recall some Scripture that says, “Death, where is thy sting?” If you have a couple of hours or a couple of days, I’ll tell you where it is.