Autopsy results show natural causes for Diane Wilke death

By Colleen Lehmann
Autopsy results indicate the death of a Tuscola woman found unresponsive outside her home Friday afternoon was from natural causes. Diane Wilke, age 58, of Tuscola, was discovered lying outside her front door by a mail carrier around 3 p.m. Friday, June 13, 2014.

Douglas County Coroner Joe Victor confirmed Wilke died of liver disease, as reported in autopsy results conducted by Dr. Shiping Bao, Champaign County forensic pathologist. Time of death was listed as 3:07 p.m. Friday, June 13, 2014.

Tuscola Police Chief Craig Hastings said, “It appears Mrs. Wilke was home alone and trying to get to the car, but didn’t make it. While there didn’t appear to be criminal activity involved, because there were no witnesses to the death we called in crime scene technicians to process the scene as a precaution. But, as we suspected, the death was determined to be from natural causes.”

Also that day, both Victor and the crime scene technicians were then summoned to Camargo, where 64-year-old Jerry Clodfelder was found unresponsive in his garage. Victor said his office has not yet received results of the autopsy, but verified time of death was determined to be 7:24 p.m. Friday, June 13, 2014.

Local bicyclist participating in Habitat 500

Now in its 22nd year, the Habitat 500 Bike Ride will embark on a 500-mile journey with 135 bikers and 40 volunteers from July 13-19, 2014 across central Minnesota, all in order to raise funds and awareness to provide low-income families with safe, decent, and affordable homes.

The Habitat 500 gives riders the chance to build a cycle of hope for families across the world from the seat of their bicycle. Participants bike 50 to 100 miles each day on the ride, making six overnight stops around Minnesota. This year’s route kicks off in St. Joseph, and then travels through Osakis, Menahga, Bemidji, Pine River, and Little Falls before circling back to St. Joseph. Riders participate in this experience for a variety of reasons.

For Madalyn Davidson of Tuscola, partaking in the ride is done for a truly inspiring reason.

“I ride the Habitat 500 each year in honor of my mother, who we suddenly lost three years ago. I was encouraged by others who are from the Tuscola area, mostly Bryan Lake and Kim Livesay, to do the ride with them in 2011. I needed to do something active and I ended up falling in love with cycling that year. My first big ride was with Habitat 500 in Minnesota in 2011. It was challenging and fun; I actually had not ridden a bike until then, since I was a teenager. I have grown to love doing the Habitat ride each year, and look forward to meeting up with all the regulars who ride. It’s like adult summer camp!”
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 18, 2014 edition

‘Green’ exhibit spotlights local artists making art from trash

It’s no coincidence that the promotional postcard for the upcoming exhibition “Outstanding in Our Field: 7 Central Illinois Artists Transforming Trash into Art” at indi go Artist Co-op in Champaign features the artist-exhibitors standing in a green field with their art. The image is visual shorthand for the show’s eco-friendly theme. The artists’ work is created using reused or upcycled materials — stuff others might kick to the curb.

On view June 20-28, 2014 at indi go, 9 E. University Ave., Champaign, “Outstanding in Our Field” will showcase the diverse directions artists’ imaginations can wander when creating with nontraditional materials. Those materials range from woven plastic bags, empty beer bottles and cigar boxes to wood and paper scraps, second-hand furniture, farm-implement parts and all manner of discarded post-consumer products.

Exhibiting artists are John McDevitt, Sullivan; Melissa Mitchell and Cindy Sampson, Champaign; Melody Moore-Carlson, Eric Walsh, and Sally Walsh, Farmer City; and Phil Strang, Urbana.

McDevitt is owner and founder of Yellow Dog Studio and owner-founder of the Vault Arts Collective, Tuscola. YDS is a working multimedia studio specializing in rustic urban and industrial-influenced furniture and mixed-media art. McDevitt’s work was featured earlier this year in the Decatur Area Arts Council’s “green” exhibition “Reclaim. Recycle. Repurpose.” In the “Outstanding” show, he will exhibit furniture and home decor built from salvaged, recycled lumber.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 18, 2014 edition

Mark calendars for 2014 Sparks in the Park

By Colleen Lehmann
Strike up the band, light the sparklers, and pull our your red-white-and-blue wardrobe … the Fourth of July holiday is fast approaching and the City of Tuscola will once again host Sparks in the Park on Sat., July 5, 2014.

Ervin Park will be the primary site for most activities, and organizers are excited about the lineup of events for the day—old favorites and some new additions as well. And helping out Tuscola city staffers Alta Long and Anna Marx with Sparks in the Park festival planning are volunteer coordinators Drew and Ashleigh Sterkel.

“We were looking to get some new, fresh helpers involved with the festival, and the Sterkels—both of whom teach in the school district—came to mind. They know a lot of people are great folks, and were gracious enough to accept our request for help,” said Long.

Added Marx, “Drew and Ashleigh have been great to work with. They have helped out with nailing down the schedule of events and will be around on the July 5 to help the event run smoothly. They are very excited to be a part of the festival and their help is very much appreciated.”

The Illinois Army National Guard’s 144th Army Band will make a first-time appearance on the main stage at the north end of the park at 11 a.m. Stationed at Camp Lincoln in Springfield, the band boasts some of the area’s finest professional and amateur musicians, who meet one weekend a month for rehearsals and performances, and spend an additional 15 days a year supporting military and civilian events.

Says Tuscola marking assistant Anna Marx, “I am very excited about the National Guard Band performance. They will be recognizing all local veterans and members currently serving. We hope to have many veterans come out and enjoy the upbeat and uplifting patriotic music performed by those currently serving.”

But the 144th Army Band isn’t the only game in town when it comes to skill sets. It’s all about homegrown when the Tuscola’s Got Talent show plays out on the main stage at 12:30 p.m., emceed by Wes Wheeler.

Organizer Maurine Flenniken noted, “Tuscola’s Got Talent is open to anyone, from age 1-100. We want any kind of talent–singing, dancing, magic, comedy, and drama, just to name a few. If you can juggle or do a trick, we want you. I know Tuscola has the skills to put on an awesome show; we just need them to sign up! And if you don’t have the talent, please come out and enjoy the show on the main stage.”

City Treasurer Alta Long noted the idea for a talent show—not contest, just a show—was the result of “seeing clips from talent shows at East Prairie and Tuscola High School. We were blown away by how much talent there was at that level, and figured that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so we’re hoping those folks and many others come out, sign up, and show us what they’ve got!”

Marx noted a “strong man act” featuring feats of strength by Tolono resident John Beatty is another new addition to this year’s schedule of events. Beatty is the only strongman to make through the preliminary rounds and become a finalist on “America’s Got Talent” television show. He was a professional strongman for 10 years, and a strength competitor for over 20 years.

“You can find some of his ‘acts’ on YouTube; he does some really cool stuff,” said Marx. Beatty will be muscling his way on the main stage at 2:30 p.m., and he will be followed by Andrew’s Show of Wonder magic act at 3:30 p.m. Andrew is a popular draw at many events, large and small, because of his amazing sleights of hand and other unique talents.

Music acts will rule the stage the rest of the evening, including the Bob Crossman Band at 6:30 p.m., and Albert Flasher Band at 8 p.m. Once dusk falls, fireworks courtesy of Jamaica Pyrotechnics become the star of the show. Marx also stressed that, once the fireworks are finished, both of the roads in the park can be used to leave—at that time only. Volunteers will be in place to help direct the traffic.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 18, 2014 edition

Council members learn Lamb retiring from TPD

By Colleen Lehmann
After spending the last 35 years in the employ of Tuscola Police Department, Lieutenant Rich Lamb is pulling the plug on his law enforcement career. City Administrator Drew Hoel informed council members at the June 9, 2014 city council meeting that Lamb just announced he will be retiring, effective June 27.

“Rich just recently tendered his resignation notice, which will be effective approximately two weeks from now. He has been a long-serving officer for the city, and I would expect Chief [Craig] Hastings and the department will arrange some kind of send-off in recognition of that. I will keep you informed,” said Hoel.

The police department will not just be down a police officer, but two vehicles as well, thanks to the May 21 hailstorm. Two cars received substantial damage, but were likely not going to be totaled out. One of those cars had been on schedule to be replaced later this year.

A motion was made and approved to purchase a police-package 2013 Chevy Impala from Miles Chevrolet for $21,779—the best deal Chief Hastings could find, with the caveat that, if said car was no longer available—the city would buy a 2014 Ford Taurus for $24,381 from Tim Mooney Ford.

On a related note, Hoel told council it appears there are 34 roofs on city-owned buildings that will need to be replaced due to hail damage, according to the insurance adjustor.

Several contracts were approved at Monday’s brief council meeting, including a low bid of $558,846.20 tendered by the Otto Baum Company for Phase II of Amishland Development road construction. Hoel noted several of the five bids received were lower than the engineer’s original estimate of $689,000—a welcome surprise.

A professional services agreement with engineering firm Clark Dietz, at a cost not to exceed $81,250, was also approved for providing oversight on infrastructure improvements to support the new Justice Street that will connect Barker Street and Northline Road in the subdivision being built along Barker and Prairie streets.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 11, 2014 edition

Let homeowner beware when choosing contractor for storm damage repair

By Colleen Lehmann
It’s been three weeks since the infamous hailstorm hit Tuscola on May 21, 2014, causing considerable damage to vehicles, roofs, siding, gutters, and more.

In the wake of that storm, a wave of contractors, glass repair specialists, roofers and other construction or damage repair-related businesses have hit town as well, hoping to pick up work that the local businesses may not be able to get to immediately because of sheer volume. While some of these are–no doubt—legitimate and reputable enterprises, it’s equally likely some are less deserving of your trust and money.

Kris Clodfelder, a Country Financial representative, has had over 500 claims pass through his Tuscola office. He noted they are paying for a lot of new roofs, and that the hail was “brutal” on cars as well—with numerous total losses and thousands of dollars in damage on others.

Said Clodfelder, “I think homeowners need to be extremely careful when hiring a contractor. Most people want to utilize someone local, but their calendars are filling quickly. A few of them may be booked up past Spring by now. You want the work to be done correctly, so if there are no leaks, waiting on good contractor may be smart. Personally, I will not use a contractor unless they are referred from a trusted source. The roofers with a good reputation probably don’t need to go door-to-door or cold call.”

Follow-up service is another important consideration, says Clodfelder.

“If you have any problems with the repairs in the future, some people want the same contractor to inspect or repair. Will it be easy to get a roofer from two hours away to replace a few shingles? Some people might take this for granted because they have a good relationship with their contractors, but I have heard repeated compliments that the local roofers’ response time and service has been incredible the last couple of weeks.”

Tuscola Do It Best owner Jim Higgins offered similar advice to local residents considering work being done to their homes in the aftermath of the hailstorm.

“Unless your roof is leaking–most are not, the shingles are just damaged–there is no big rush to get the roof replaced. Tuscola is inundated with out-of-town contractors (many unscrupulous) trying to make a quick buck by telling people their roof needs replaced immediately, and that all the local contractors are too busy to do their roof right now. While that part may be true, since there is no rush, most could wait.

“Like everything else in life, all shingles are not created equal. While the local contractors use a quality product, we have had some out-of-town contractors ask specifically for ‘the cheapest shingle you have.’ People think that since their roof has been ‘totaled’ and that a great number of roofs are being replaced, there is great urgency. All it really amounts to is that the roof will not last as long as the warranty was for … thus the plight of the lemming,” Higgins said.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 11, 2014 edition


Paddock taking over helm of MRC

MRC_20140604_143836webBy Colleen Lehmann
Serving as director of nursing for the Douglas County Health Department is a challenging endeavor, even for someone as organized and capable as Susan Hays, but despite the demands of this job she loves, Hays agreed three years ago to also “temporarily” take on duties as director of the county’s Medical Reserve Corps.

Because of her belief in the mission and purpose of MRC, Hays agreed to lead on an interim basis when the MRC coordinator left the position. That was in 2011, and it’s only now, in June 2014, that she is finally able to turn over the reins to someone else.

Julie Paddock, an Arthur resident who has worked at Douglas County Health Department since 2012, will take on the challenging role, and Hays says the MRC couldn’t be in more capable hands.

“Julie started here at DCHD in April of 2012 working at the front desk, and then I lured her away to the nursing division to serve as a support specialist. She is very organized and detail-oriented, which is critical with all the documentation necessary for MRC,” says Hays.

Not unlike Hays herself, according to DCHD Administrator Amanda Minor.

“Susan has been overseeing the MRC for three years, and she was able to keep it organized and even more viable than it had been before she took it over. Julie Paddock will now oversee the MRC and I am confident that she will be able to keep the organization and movement continuing in an upward fashion for even more growth and opportunity. I feel that this is a continuous path of greatness for the Douglas County Medical Reserve Corps and can’t wait to see what they do in the years to follow.”

The MRC unit in Douglas County is comprised of approximately 83 members from a number of communities throughout the area. Their regular activities include providing first aid for festivals, fairs, and parades, as well as participating in the county fair. They also partner with Douglas County Emergency Management Agency for drills and responses, and in their relatively short history have been called out several times to assist with federal disaster relief. Because of its high level of activity, the Douglas County MRC received federal recognition last year.

Paddock previously worked in Moultrie County, and has experience in dealing with bio-terrorism related issues. That, coupled with her administrative and organizational skills, make her a perfect fit for the job, says Hays. For her part, Paddock said she is impressed with the MRC structure.

“I’ve been very impressed with the Douglas County MRC setup. There are a lot of volunteers, and a very active advisory board, which always helps with the success and longevity of an organization. Our volunteers are already stepping up for the events scheduled in June and July, and with a lot of good people come good ideas, so I’m excited about what’s ahead,” said Paddock.

She noted that helping with her comfort level in the new position is that, “Susan is right here and more than willing to be a sounding board and resource for anything that might come up, especially as it relates to nursing and medical issues.”

Paddock also reiterated that more volunteers are always welcome to become part of the MRC, and you don’t have to be a Douglas County resident, or have a medical background, to be of service. Help is always needed for paperwork and other support duties. To learn more about MRC and volunteer opportunities, contact Paddock at 253-4137.

DAR recognizes history students with awards

For over 120 years the Daughters of the American Revolution has had three primary purposes: historical preservation, patriotic endeavor, and promotion of education, in particular to encourage the study of American history.

Annually, the Stephen A Douglas chapter recognizes a junior high student from each of Douglas County’s schools for their interest in, and enjoyment of, American history. Their interest may show in their knowledge of current events, the presidential election, projects and posters, or perhaps in the books they read. To recognize that special history student, chosen by the junior high social studies teacher, a certificate and a medal that is inscribed “DAR Award, Excellence in History” is presented. This year’s recipient from Tuscola is Caleb Stumeier, son of Dave and Michelle Stumeier.

The history award is due to the generosity of a former Stephen A Douglas chapter member, Grace E. Jared. She was a writer and contributor to newspapers and magazines, plus her interest in genealogy led her to write a history about her ancestors. Her interest in Illinois, and in particular Douglas County, and her conviction that young people must develop a sense of patriotism and pride in their heritage, led to her generosity in sponsoring this award. Although Mrs. Jared died in 1978, the Stephen A. Douglas chapter continues the tradition she began.


School awaits how hail damage affects roof project

By Colleen Lehmann
A wise scribe once said every cloud has a silver lining, and while hail took Tuscola by storm on May 21, 2014, there’s a possibility one of those silver linings might belong to the Tuscola School District, and by extension, its taxpayers.

Supt. Michael Smith reported at the May 28, 2014 monthly board meeting that the district may have as much as $1 million in damages from the storm—including severe damage to several roof buildings, 16 skylights, siding, window screens, football field lights, and the TCHS greenhouse. While that certainly doesn’t sound like good news, the fact that the East Prairie roof was one of the storm victims could be.

The first of a two-phase East Prairie reroofing project (total cost–$667,200) was already set to commence in a few weeks, and Smith said that while it appears there may not be much consideration by the insurance adjustors to help offset phase one, there’s a good chance the other half of the reroofing—which was not going to be undertaken until Summer 2015—might be paid for through the school district’s insurance claim.

“We are working through the process, and getting the most immediate concerns taken care of first—such as securing the skylights so that water does not get into the building. Regarding the East Prairie roof—it’s looking like because we were about ready to start the phase one reroofing, there may be little in the way of insurance compensation for that portion, but the other half was a year away from being done, so it’s reasonable to expect that’s a different story. If so, that would be very good news for local taxpayers,” said Smith.

Asked later, Smith said there is a $10,000 deductible the district would be responsible for on the storm damage claim.

Speaking of insurance, approval was given to the coverage package put together by Butch Price of The Hillard Agency with a total annual premium of $72,737. The 2014-15 premium is only $775 higher than last year and covers the following areas: property, inland marine, equipment, crime, electronic data processing, general liability, educators legal liability, auto, workman’s compensation, and a $2 million umbrella. Additionally, there will also be a total student accident premium of $24,549.32 and a treasurers bond of $2,197.

•No resting on laurels
Even as the 2013-14 school year draws to a close, signaling the start of the much-anticipated summer vacation, school board members had a number of agenda items to entertain regarding the 2014-15 school year.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 4, 2014 edition


Make a ‘Dash’ for health of it in downtown Tuscola June 14

By Colleen Lehmann
Dashing down a two-block section of downtown Tuscola doesn’t sound very entertaining on the surface, but in practice, it absolutely is. At least, if that “dash” is the Marilyn Davidson High Heel Dash event, now in its third year.

The 2014 event will take place Saturday, June 14 at 8 a.m., with registration starting at 7:30 a.m. As the name suggests, high heels, or at least festively decked out shoes, are strongly encouraged footwear for all participants, regardless of gender or agility. Fun is the overriding factor … throw in that entry fees will help to purchase laptop computers for the Tuscola school district and you’ve got a win-win situation.

The High Heel Dash is a nod to the memory of former school board member Marilyn Davidson, who was a committed crusader for all things educational. She was passionate about searching out the best methods and practitioners of teaching for students of District 301, and her family is now equally passionate about upholding that legacy since her unexpected death in March 2011 at age 57.

There are always some surprises in store at the dash, and competition can sometimes be fierce for honors handed out afterwards, such as Best Heels, Best Legs, and Best Costume. Novel Women Book Club is the reigning champion in the costume department, and members have issued a challenge to participants to do their best to take away that title this year.

Something new added to the mix for 2014, a perfect accompaniment to the dash, is a health fair being held immediately afterwards in and around the downtown and Community Building until noon.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal June 4, 2014 edition