Miller joins Ledbetter on OCC softball team

OCC team

Former Lady Warriors Amber Miller (bottom row far left) and Samantha Ledbetter (bottom row third from left) are both playing for the Olney Central College Blue Knights softball team.

By Lenny Sementi
Samantha Ledbetter entered her sophomore softball campaign at Olney Central College this fall, and welcomed another Lady Warrior to the squad. Amber Miller joined Ledbetter and the Blue Knights in August, after wrapping up her career with Tuscola High School.

The duo helped the Blue Knights to a 8-11 record overall in fall ball exhibition season. Ledbetter continued her assault on the Blue Knights stat sheet, hitting .353 with four doubles and 10 runs scored to her credit. Miller checked in at .310 in the fall with one double and five runs scored.

The former Lady Warriors who helped lead Tuscola to a fourth-place finish in the state are now doing their share of the damage in the season that counts. Olney is off to a fast start, boasting a 9-1 record on the year to open the 2014 season.

They swept Jacksonville State Community College in Tennessee to kick off the year. Miller officially opened her career in style at the plate, that included a triple, two RBI, and two runs scored. Miller was solid the next weekend as well, with a two-hit outing over Roane State in Harriman, Tenn. Ledbetter provided her share of the punch in the game, driving in a pair on a 2-for-3 night at the dish.

The duo is now on the spring trip to Myrtle Beach. In the opener of the weeklong trip to the warmer weather, Ledbetter went two for three, with a double in a 5-0 Blue Knight victory while delivering three assists and a putout from her shortstop position. Miller is filling the catcher’s spot for Olney and is also donating at the plate. Against Jackson College the freshman went two for five with an RBI and a run scored.

After 10 games in the book Ledbetter is second on the squad with a .414 batting average while Miller is fourth with a .360 average. Ledbetter is also second on the team in RBI, runs scored and stolen bases. Miller has swiped some bases as well holding the third spot with three steals.

Kohlbecker part of Sophomore Night at Parkland

S-Kohlbeckerweb

Former Lady Warrior Sammi Kohlbecker is pictured with parents Lyn and Tim Kohlbecker at Parkland College’s Sophomore Night held recently.

By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s own Samantha Kohlbecker, Sammi to most who know her and watched her play at TCHS, celebrated Sophomore Night this past Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 at Parkland Community College. Kohlbecker started college at Illinois State in Normal, but found she missed the game she loved in high school, and transferred to Parkland to continue her basketball career.

The sophomore joined her classmates on the floor for their final trip to the floor on the home court, upending a dominating Lincoln Land College 89-45. Kohlbecker turned in a well-rounded effort against the Lady Loggers, delivering a stat line that included six points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal.

“Sammi had a great night,” stated associate head Coach David Ellers. “She is a great player and never stops working.”

The former Lady Warrior All-Area performer played in 26 games altogether, and scored in 18 of them. She made 25 baskets in all, including five from beyond the arc, while hitting 4 of 7 from the line on the year. The speedy guard wasn’t afraid to hang out with the big girls in the lane either, corralling 26 rebound on the year. Probably the top stat that her dad and former coach, Tim Kohlbecker, is most of proud of is her 30 assists and 15 steals.

“It was fun to watch her play again,” said Coach K. “She worked hard to get back into basketball shape and get her shooting touch back after being away from the game for a year. I am really proud of her.”
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal March 5, 2014 edition

Employment discrimination trial verdict favors Douglas County

By Colleen Lehmann
An employment dispute between a former employee and the Douglas County state’s attorney’s office that resulted in a discrimination lawsuit being filed in Urbana’s federal court concluded Thursday afternoon, Feb. 27, 2014 after the jury came back with a verdict that favored Douglas County.

While the nine-man, two-woman jury answered four of five considerations in favor of former employee Carol Henderson, the fifth consideration—was a reasonable accommodation offered for her disability—was answered in favor of the county, and thus negated Henderson’s case against her former employer. The case was tried before Judge Harold Baker.

Henderson worked in a secretarial capacity in the county state’s attorney’s office from 2007 until she was fired in January 2012. The reason given for her firing was that she could not fulfill a portion of her job duties—doing occasional filing in the basement of the courthouse. Henderson maintains that in 2011 she repeatedly told her employer—state’s attorney Kevin Nolan and immediate supervisor Diana Eveland—of the breathing problems and asthma flares she was experiencing when entering the basement, resulting in her seeking medical treatment numerous times, and asked for some type of “respiratory protection.”

The dispute stems from Henderson’s position that as early as July 2011 she began asking for but never received a “reasonable accommodation” for her condition, even after providing a letter from her doctor (at Nolan’s request) in September 2011 verifying that she was suffering asthma flares and should refrain from entering the basement unless or until a breathing apparatus was provided for her. Henderson submitted a letter in October 2011 asking that the basement be tested and/or “fixed” so that she could go back to doing basement filing. It was agreed to by all sides that basement filing typically involved a time commitment of up to 20 minutes per week.

Nolan testified he asked Eveland to research breathing masks, and that an N95 mask was purchased for Henderson on Nov. 25, 2011, but Henderson refused it. After that, the mask sat on a desk in Nolan’s office. Evidence included a dated receipt and the mask still in its unopened packaging.

Nolan said that changing job duties among the staff in the office would place an undue burden on office workings, and it was around this time he gave Henderson a written warning. Henderson claimed that she was not aware of the mask until at the time of her firing, when Nolan brought up the matter of her allegedly having refused it.
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal March 5, 2014 edition

Candidates square off at forum

By Colleen Lehmann
Monday night’s candidate forum at the Ag Services Building drew a healthy crowd, nearing a standing-room-only situation as the 7 o’clock hour approached. The Douglas County Republican Women sponsored the March 3, 2014 event, which featured the two Sixth Circuit judge candidates and two hopefuls for Douglas County sheriff.

DCRW president Laura Henry opened the gathering with a prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. After a brief welcome and introduction of county and DCRW officials, the forum got underway. Judicial candidates Lorna Geiler and Richard Broch led off, each presenting a five-minute introduction of themselves, with Geiler winning the coin toss to take to the microphone first.

Lorna Geiler:
Geiler, an attorney with Urbana-based Mayer Capel law firm, noted she had copies of her curriculum vitae on hand for attendees to read, so as not to use up her allotted time. How to distinguish between the two candidates, she said, was the real question.

“I surround myself with good people, and have run a campaign that is aboveboard. Neither I nor anyone involved with my campaign, has been rude, or bullied anyone or shown any disrespect. I have not used the Bar Association poll to make myself look good or anyone else look bad.”

Geiler said she is “not a political insider, and though I am a lifelong Republican, I have not formally been associated with any political activities or campaigns. This may have hurt me politically, but I’m OK with that. I owe no one, and don’t feel I’ve ‘earned’ this job, that I’ve ‘put my time in’ for it.”

She continued, “I think public service is a calling, at least it should be. The difference between a good judge and a great judge is an intrinsic commitment to true public service, a call to something greater than ourselves. That’s the difference as I see it. This will not be just a job, a career, or an occupation, but a true calling. I hope you allow me the opportunity to take on that calling by voting for me in the March 18 primary.”

Richard Broch:
Broch, currently serving as an associate judge in the Sixth Circuit, offered his thanks to Laura Henry and DCRW. In his position, Broch said he gets to see the way a lot of different court systems work. And having been asked if and/or how his way of working would change when he became judge, Broch said he always answered, “Except for the robe, nothing much has changed with me and my behavior. We are the sum total of all our life experiences. This is what I’m doing.

“As a judge I make rulings based on the evidence heard. What has helped me is my vocation for 32 years in courtroom and trial law. It is an adversarial process, and I have been on both sides of the situation. I learned criminal law very well as a prosecutor, and learned more as a defense attorney. A defendant’s history, character, and condition are what help determine the outcome as both sides of the law are presented. This allows me to make rulings based on experience, rather than on sympathy, bias or prejudice.”

Broch said he has taken the oath of office very seriously, and in regard to the Illinois Bar Association polls to which Geiler had earlier alluded, Broch said, “I am very proud to have received a 96 percent rating from these attorneys who have appeared before me. This is my experience, what I have to offer, what I’m doing now, and what I will continue to do.”

Galey concluding remarks:
“I think my law enforcement experience speaks highly. I’m a good investigator on lots of hard cases. Of course I will have to adapt to the specific rules and regulations of Douglas County, but with my open-mindedness and open-door policy I think can get the job done and do it well. I would come in with an open mind about everyone at the county now—everyone’s a blank slate as far as I’m concerned. Again, I think we need more patrol in rural areas to help take care of the entire county. Vote for me and we will do good things here.”

Buckley concluding remarks:
“I firmly believe that to judge an applicant is to review past experience, and I’m a proven leader. As I’ve campaigned, I’ve been fortunate enough to have met someone from every community in Douglas County. These are good, decent people that I work for, and I don’t want to let any of them down. My objective is running a progressive, citizen-oriented agency, emphasizing training, and maintaining solid relationships. I will always remember the citizens of Douglas County are my boss, and I won’t let you down.”
–Full story in The Tuscola Journal March 5, 2014 edition

Conflict-of-interest probe for local Democratic leader

An investigation of a director with the Office of Mines and Minerals, into a possible conflict of interest regarding campaign contributions, was being conducted by the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources.

Reports surfaced last week that Michael Woods of Tuscola–acting director for the Office of Mines and Minerals and also the head of the Douglas County Democratic Party–was included in an investigation of campaign contributions to the local county Democratic party made by Foresight Energy Services of St. Louis. Foresight is a coal mining company that operates at four sites in Illinois, and as such would come under regulatory jurisdiction of the Office of Mines and Minerals.

Documentation of campaign records shows a $10,000 donation to Douglas County Democrats in August by Foresight. Half of that sum was passed on to Gov. Pat Quinn’s re-election campaign, $1,200 to the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association, and $250 to the campaign fund of Sen. Mike Frerichs of Champaign. The campaign fund of Tony Mayville received $1,000. Mayville, a Democratic candidate for the Illinois House in southern Illinois’ 115th district, is a state mine safety officer for IDNR and was also under investigation.

Chris McCloud, director of communications with IDNR, on Feb. 27, 2014 responded, “The investigation involved potential conflict of interest, and the employee (Woods) has since resigned.”

As of press time, Woods had not responded to an email request for comment.

Violet Ramona McGuire

1-Violet McGuire birthwebSara and Ben McGuire of Lake Forest are proud to announce the birth of their daughter, Violet Ramona McGuire, on Feb. 9, 2014 at 7:30 a.m. at Highland Park Hospital.

Violet weighed 6 lbs. 1 oz. and was 19 inches long.

Grandparents are Jan and Tom McGuire of Charlotte, North Carolina, formerly of Tuscola, Ill.; and Bronya and Anatoly Kantarovitch of Vernon Hills, Ill.

March 5, 2014

TEN YEARS AGO
MARCH 2, 2004
TCHS senior Lesley Hettinger was working with Student Council to spearhead a Cystic Fibrosis Walk in memory of her sister Erin, a 1997 TCHS grad who succumbed to CF on March 20, 2002.

The diligence of city building inspector Steve Hettinger was reflected in a recent rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). The company recently started rating building code enforcement, and Tuscola’s rating went up five levels soon after Hettinger’s start in the job.

Cindy Lamb was feted at a recent luncheon to celebrate 20 years of service in the office of the Douglas County state’s attorney.

The Tuscola boys basketball team moved into the semifinals of its own regional tournament by virtue of a 60-53 victory over the Purple Riders of Arcola. It was the second time in less than a week the Warriors beat the Riders, after dumping them in the final game of the regular season.

TWENTY YEARS AGO
MARCH 1, 1994
Husband-and-wife team Tom Wold and Dr. Sally Foote had a dream when they, along with Wold’s father, purchased Jarman Memorial Hospital building at auction in September 1990. And after $900,000 in remodeling expenses to convert the building into a senior living complex, and in February of this year a dinner was held to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the center’s opening.

Five lucky finalists elected to split $18,000 in cash that was part of the ABC car raffle. Said winners were Dennis and Sue Obrecht, Myron and Nola Pangburn, Tom and Ruthie O’Brien, Jim and Judy Brannon, and Ann Hilgendorf and Alan Michener.

It was an ugly scene Feb. 25, as snow and high winds caused a chain-reaction collision near Tuscola on I-57. Approximately six semi-trailers and 30 cars were involved in the accident, with 20 cars being totaled. Fortunately, no fatalities or life-threatening injuries resulted.

Travis Dobbs, a senior at TCHS, was elected president of the Illinois Junior Quarter Horse Association for the second year in a row.

The Tuscola Warriors fought back from a 13-2 deficit to take the lead in the third quarter of a regional semifinal matchup with St. Joe-Ogden, but a last second three-point play by Spartan Scott Scharlau handed the Warriors a 57-55 loss to end their season.

THIRTY YEARS AGO
MARCH 6, 1984
Supt. of Schools Jack Williams reported there have been 80 inquiries into the Tuscola High School principal opening resulting from the resignation of Bill Butkovich.

Rudy Huber of Tuscola won first place in the 10,200-lb. farm stock tractors class at the 1984 National Farm Machinery Show championship tractor pull in Kentucky. Chris Little of Tuscola won third place in the 12,200-lb. class at the same event.

Wayne Rideout–formerly of Tuscola and current athletic trainer at A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, Texas—developed a new technique in knee protection for athletes, particularly football players. He fashioned a two-hinged brace to protect the knee of a player who had suffered a moderate sprain to his MCL.

Kim Waugh pumped in 23 points to pace the Warrior gals in a 50-26 victory over Atwood-Hammond. Tuscola was now 9-8 on the season heading into regional play.

FORTY YEARS AGO
MARCH 28, 1974
Former [and famous] Tuscolian and Olympian Linda Metheny was now, along with her husband Dick Mulvihill, the owner/operator of a gymnastics academy in Eugene, Oregon. There they couple trained Olympic hopefuls.

Cheryl Page, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Page, was crowned queen of the Tuscola FFA Sweetheart Dance Saturday evening. She and her escort, Craig Hastings, danced to center floor where they released a barrage of heart-shaped balloons.

Though the Warriors might have expected a relaxing waltz vs Unity in the regional opener at Broadlands, the Rockets persuaded Bill Burress’ squad to do the “jitter”bug by comgin as close as six points. However, when the final buzzer sounded, the Warriors were on top 71-59.

Kenny Burke of Tuscola, a sophomore at Eastern Illinois University, received an athletic award for cross country achievments at a recent awards banquet.

Cancer diagnosis spawns Team Kika bracelet blitz

–Order pickup set for 1-5 p.m. Sunday, March 16 at TUMC
By Colleen Lehmann

Colon cancer picked the wrong family and community to mess with when it entered Erica (Holmes) Kremitzki’s life.

The 38-year-old Tuscola resident received the unsettling diagnosis early last month, and has spent most days since then in medical appointments, but Kremitzki has taken the news, processed it, and made up her mind to fight the disease as much with a joyful and positive spirit as the many medical interventions she will also be facing.

Meanwhile, Donna Dietrich Williams–another Tuscola resident who has had a firsthand view of cancer in her own family–decided she was going to take on a project on Kremitzki’s behalf that would help bolster that approach. And thus was born Team Kika—a veritable knockout punch of support, love, laughter … all those intangibles that heal as surely as the chemotherapy Erica started this week.

“Kika is what my daddy, Chuck Holmes, has always called me, and that’s how my immediate family always refers to me. Kika means home to me; it is the love that I feel when I’m with my family, and there is nothing better than a reminder of the love I’m surrounded by as I fight this battle,” explained Kremitzki.

And she is certainly not fighting it alone by any means. Kremitzki has by her side her husband, Mike; daughters Sarah (12) and Sophie (10); parents Chuck and Sara Holmes; her siblings; and the Kremitzki family. Additionally, her work family at Riddle School in Mattoon where she is a second-grade teacher, Mike’s work family at Cabot in Tuscola, and a wide variety of community members have all come forward with any number of expressions of concern and support.

The initial project Dietrich came up with were blue rubber bracelets imprinted with the words Team Kika.

“Years ago when my dad (Denny Dietrich) was sick, he spent a total of a year in an isolation unit, with people unable to come into his room to see him. I never wanted anyone to have to go through that kind of isolation and loneliness,” said Dietrich. “When my cousin Jo Huber was diagnosed with cancer, she said the Team Huber bracelets that people wore really encouraged her and kept her spirits up, so I thought it might do the same for Erica—a visible sign of support she could see when she went to the grocery store or out on the street, wherever she might see people wearing them.”

After talking to Kremitzki about the project, Dietrich put in an order with a company in Texas for 100 bracelets. Her plan was to distribute them, free of charge, to anyone who wanted one. That made Kremitzki nervous—“I thought, ‘I don’t think I even know 100 people.’ I was afraid Donna would get stuck with a bunch of bracelets.”

That worry, it turns out, was quite unfounded. In the first hour after Dietrich posted on social media about the “bracelet blitz” she received 310 requests, which climbed to 400 shortly thereafter. Dietrich was forced to call the company—repeatedly—to up her orders as the requests continued to pour in.

Fast forward to Tuesday, March 4 … and Dietrich now has a total of 3,500 bracelets ordered and scheduled to be delivered to Tuscola for distribution on March 16. Granted, some of them are extras, but a majority of the bracelets are spoken for and will be going to all 50 United States and at least 13 different countries.

“I think that speaks volumes about Erica and her family, the kind of people they are, that we have had this kind of response,” says Dietrich.

But the Kremitzkis say it is another in a stream of much appreciated gestures of comfort and support they have received since diagnosis day on Feb. 3, 2014.

“We have been, quite literally, overwhelmed by what has come our way since my diagnosis. We have had the blessing of family, friends, community, and in some cases complete strangers, showing us we are not alone in getting through this. There have been cards, visits, phone calls, gifts, hugs and smiles—those are the things that can get you through anything. Riddle School and Cabot each have purchased bracelets for every employee as sign of support. People have been so great about bringing dinners to the house. We have honestly shed as many tears of joy as those of sorrow,” said Erica and Mike.

Another gesture of kindness, which came on the heels of a difficult day during which Kremitzki endured a painful lung biopsy procedure, was being honored by the East Prairie eighth-grade volleyball team, on which her niece Mia Phillips plays.

“I was absolutely speechless, which doesn’t happen often. After a very long and painful day, I attended my niece’s eighth-grade volleyball game. Each girl handed me a flower, along with being presented a special ribbon pin and matching ponytail holder. The girls each wore matching bows and wore blue socks during their game. The hugs and smiles, and yes, tears, were a wonderful way to end an otherwise difficult day. I am so fortunate to be a part of a community that rallies around those who need it. I’m so very blessed,” said Erica.

For her part, Erica says she is taking on the challenge with a can-do spirit and sense of humor as her best defenses.

“I’m not just a cancer patient—I’m a wife and mother, an aunt, a daughter. I’m not going to miss out on anything that’s going on. As long as my legs are still moving, I’m going to be at events and participating in life. Half the battle with the word cancer is the emotional one. All the goodness that has come our way, the love and support being shown our family, is truly a gift. It’s a tough way to be reminded of all the blessings you have in life, but that’s okay.”

And Kremitzki says she has a goal for her post–cancer life.

“I admit to questioning at first, why me? But it came to me, after a while what the answer is. I have a voice, and I’m passionate about children and others who may not have a voice or a strong support system like I have. I feel my role someday is going to help the process for other patients, so that when a cancer diagnosis is given, I can help ensure the right things are being done for them to be starting the treatment process in a timely fashion,” said Erica.

•Team Kika Day
The Team Kika bracelets will be available for pickup at Tuscola United Methodist Church on Sunday, March 16 from 1 to 5 p.m. There will also be Team Kika car stickers there, and a silent auction of donated “gently used” Coach purses will take place that day as well. Nine full-size bags, three cross body bags, one wristlet, three wallets and some accessories are up for auction, as well as a Dooney & Bourke bag—all courtesy of Deb Flock.

Dietrich also notes there has been a bank account set up for the Kremitzkis.

“The reality is that cancer, besides sucking, is a money eater. As you can imagine, this will be a financial burden for the Kremitzkis. A bank account for the Kremitzkis has been established at First State Bank of Tuscola, 801 South Main. Anyone wishing to make a donation may do so by dropping it off at or mailing to the bank.”

To keep up with Team Kika and/or follow Kremitzki’s cancer journey, look for Team Kika on Facebook.

Deborah Allen

1-Deb Allen obitweb

Deborah D. Allen, 60, of Tuscola, passed away at 11:40 a.m., Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at the C-U Rehab Center, Savoy.

Funeral services celebrating her life will be held at 10:30 a.m., Monday, March 3, 2014 at Hilligoss Shrader Funeral Home, 705 South Main Street, Tuscola, IL. Visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m., Sunday, March 2, 2014 at the funeral home. Burial will be in the Tuscola Township Cemetery, Tuscola.
--Full obituary in The Tuscola Journal March 5, 2014 edition