Without doubt, the highlight for Louie was hosting President George H. Bush when he came to the Peoria area to speak at one of Caterpillar’s East Peoria buildings in January of 2007. Trilikas was told weeks before the President’s visit his restaurant had been chosen so he couldn’t tell anyone and didn’t tell anyone including me, damnit. Louie is proud of that visit and the honor and privilege of meeting with Bush, one-on-one. The photos of that event that have lined the entrance since then, will leave with Louie when he tearfully locks the front doors for the last time. And he will leave tearfully. Each time for the last four weeks we’ve spoken, he chokes up when the conversation turns to his retirement. Frankly speaking, I don’t think he wants to quit. He leaves with our wishes for a healthy, relaxed, and happy life. I might add you could always pick up a copy of the Community Word at Sterling Family Restaurant.
The Peoria area was not at a loss for Christmas programs. It’s amazing how many organizations, choral groups and churches presented holiday shows from the Peoria Pops Orchestra to the annual production held at Grace Presbyterian Church. Various agencies from Neighborhood House to the Children’s Hospital provided opportunities for families to receive coats and clothes and toys and food. Events like the Morton Police Department’s “Shop with Cops” took place Saturday, Dec. 14, at the local Walmart. Each officer took a child and went shopping for toys. This reflects the character of the people of central Illinois.
The East Bluff Community Center, under the direction of Jim Combs, held a free Christmas luncheon for neighbors at St. Bernard’s School. Turkey, ham and all the trimmings with delicious dessert were enjoyed by all. On hand to greet participants were former Congressman Ray LaHood, Peoria Fire Chief Tony Ardis, Peoria County Clerk Rachel Parker and former teacher, principal and past Dunlap School District Superintendent Bill Collier. Ray reminded everyone where his family lived when he attended St. Bernard’s as a youth. I had the pleasure of serving as emcee. My only disappointment was Santa left me only a lump of coal.
On a serious note, I was disappointed that the Village of Creve Coeur failed to hold its usual Dec. 7 Memorial Service started and financed years ago by former Police Chief Jerry Daughters. He died last year, but Village officials carried on Jerry’s tradition in fine fashion, but dropped the ball this year. I missed emceeing the memorial and listening to the words of General Bill Robertson who was the usual speaker.
2019 person of the year
I nominate two. The first is Vietnam veteran Gary Hall. Hall went to Gene Olson, Director of Airports, for the Greater Peoria Airport Authority, and requested that the POW/MIA flag be flown along with our country’s flag. His request was denied. The board of the authority supported Olson’s decision. The fear, they claimed, was other groups and organizations would then request the same privilege. Airport officials said Girl Scouts and others would make similar requests. Not satisfied with their denial, Hall then went to local Illinois legislators for support and within months, a state law was passed telling Olson and his/our board they had to fly the POW/MIA flag. Olson may not have liked what Hall did, but I’m sure the late General Downing did. Gary, thank you for your service to our military, past, present, held and missing.
My second choice, is Kim Blickenstaff. This creative San Diego businessman came back to central Illinois to announce he was going to recreate Al Fresco Beach on the same land in the Peoria Heights where it once was a center of entertainment and enjoyment many years ago when I was a just a little boy. His vision of what it’ll be is beyond exciting. If that wasn’t enough, he then purchased the Scottish Rite Cathedral on North Perry and plans to give it new life. Blickenstaff wasn’t finished. His next project was to partner with owners of the dreary and nearly dead Armory on North Adams. That structure will soon become a center for youth activities, he told us, for soccer, basketball and perhaps hockey. His plans include an entertainment center for local and national performers.
Blickenstaff was raised in Spring Bay and graduated from East Peoria High School and Illinois Central College. He earned bachelor and master’s degrees from Loyola University of Chicago. We thank Kim for his interest and personal investment in the Peoria area.
Quote of the month
“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.”
– Edmund Hillary