Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Stitch in Time

Image courtesy of the Putnam County Record
This is a story that started over 60 years ago in the tiny town of Hennepin. It began before the steel mill came to town. It began before there was a grocery store and four taverns. It began before the firehouse and the new bank.

Newlyweds Rosemary and Frank Biagi bought a little house on the west end of High Street before there was a street sign to indicate their address. When their daughter, Rosalie, was small, Rosemary would take her next door to Bessie Hollumbach’s house to visit, as neighbors did often during those times.

“She had a tiny little rocking chair for Rosalie, along with a small box containing sewing supplies,” Rosemary recalled.

During these visits, the three of them began to piece together a quilt topper, made from the scraps of various projects that Rosemary had sewn for Rosalie and then her younger daughter, Chris. Over time, the quilt grew larger and larger, but before it could be completed, Hollumbach became ill, and so the project was put aside.

It was packed away in a box, and on the rare occasion it was seen, Rosemary indicated her desire to finish it, but the demands of being a mother and wife left it as a low priority.

Decades passed and eventually Frank grew ill and died. Rosemary was left to live alone in their home. The kids had grown and married and moved on. Though they visited often, it eventually became apparent that Rosemary would no longer be comfortable living by herself, so Rosalie and her husband, Bill Calbow, offered to let her move in with them to their condo in Henry, a short distance away.

Fifty years of memories and belongings had accumulated in the house and the thought of moving it was overwhelming. Rosalie, who battles her own health issues, was unable to do it without help, so she hired a helper to help them sort through and move everything.

Throughout the next few months, the women would all gather at the house and take down boxes and sort through them in an attempt to downsize. Rosemary would sit on her bed as each box came down and would laugh and reminisce and tell stories of the dolls with the ratty hair, and the knick-knacks that were given to her by this person, or that person.

They even found her original wedding gown, complete with a long yellowed veil and her wedding shoes, with her silk stockings tucked neatly inside. There was bittersweet laughter and tears as she made decisions about what could go with her and what had to be discarded or donated.

When they came to the box with the quilt topper, it was decided that since it was unfinished, it wouldn’t be included in the move. The woman helping Rosemary asked if she could take it and see if one of her friends might be willing to finish it for Rosemary. Rosemary agreed.

The helper had no luck finding someone to finish the quilt but felt it had significance and much sentimentality. She attends Willow Springs Mennonite Church and had recently become more active in their Women’s Group, so she decided to approach the ladies and see if they would be willing to tackle the project.

Isabel Bitting, a longtime leader in the group, enthusiastically agreed to help.

She said, “It is so nice to have a project that means something. The quilts we make and donate to the Mennonite Relief Sale are beautiful, but this quilt will have meaning.”

As the women sorted through the various materials that could be used as a backing, Beth Gerig came across an ample piece, which by luck or fate contained the exact colors needed to compliment the hodgepodge, mismatched pattern on the front.

As a bonus, it also contained hearts and small roses to compliment Rosemary’s name and the love that was being put into the quilt. Bitting’s enthusiasm infected the entire church.

She announced one Sunday that the quilt was in the quilting room, and she would love for anyone to come down and put a few knots in the quilt. The list of contributors was long, and included young and old, women and even men. Visitors that Sunday made their way down so they could participate in this labor of love. As they knotted, there was conversation, laughter and much fellowship.

It didn’t take long for the quilt to be completed. Bitting gave the quilt to the helper with a tag reading, “Pieced by Rosemary Biagi in the early 1950s. Knotted and finished in 2016 by her friends at Willow Springs Mennonite Church.”

During this whole process, Rosemary had no idea what was going on. The helper and Rosalie conspired to present it to her when the family was gathering for their Christmas meal. The bag was given to her and her face lit up.

The children, grandchildren and great grandchildren gathered around as she pointed to the different fabrics and told their stories.

“Remember this one Rosalie? I made those Raggedy Ann dolls for you and your sister with this red striped material,” she said.

“And how about this one? I made you that winter coat out of this black and white checked fabric,” she recalled.

Chris said later, “The quilt is stories and memories of life. Each small square has a story. From her favorite dress, to toys she made us. Mom sewed a lot. All of our dance dresses, graduation, etc. I feel the quilt is a memory of life.”

Rosalie said she sat with it on her lap for the rest of the day, remembering and passing on stories.

“I have rarely seen Mom speechless. She was so touched,” Rosalie said.

So a little church in Tiskilwa with a big heart, made a big difference to a happy little old lady they have never met, thanks to a vision, love, dedication, some giving hearts and a stitch — or hundreds — in time.

Source: Putnam County Record


Friday, February 3, 2017

Putnam County Historical Society Acquires One-Time Bar

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
The Putnam County Historical Society has added to its collection.

This time, instead of memorabilia of days gone by, the group has acquired what used to be SAMM’s Bar in Hennepin, turning the one-time bar into a meeting room, storage space and exhibit room.

“We’d been talking about building a new building, because we are out of storage space,” said Sid Whitaker, PC Historical Society president. “When this became available ... we thought, well this is a building that is already insulated, and the cost of doing renovations to it and the purchase price would be equivalent to building, insulating and servicing a brand new building for storage.”

The recent purchase of the building also gave the society a sense of continuity, as all of its current Hennepin properties — the Pulsifer House, and Ag Museum along with the new building — now sit in a row along Old Highway 26.

The building offers 900 square feet of meeting room, 1,300 square feet of display area, and almost 800 square feet of storage space, not to mention allowing the society to use parts of the Ag Museum, previously designated for meeting space, for displays.

“There are two separate bays (in the area that used to house the main bar) that would be good for independent display areas,” Whitaker said. “We’d like to use one of the bays at the front to have a rotating display of things from the individual villages (of PutnamCounty).”

The group is currently in the process of clearing out, and trying to sell, all the kitchen equipment, updating the HVAC and electrical systems, and making a plan for exhibit layout.

They also are trying to find out the history of the building, which, over the years, housed an implement dealership, a boat store, and multiple different bars.

“We’re hoping we’ll be able to be actually doing things with displays in April or May,” Whitaker said of the project’s timeline.

The group will host its quarterly meeting in the back space on Feb. 12, with a program on Abraham Lincoln presented by Randy Keller.

For more information, or if you can provide the society with information on the history of the building, contact them at (815) 925-7560, or visit their website at www.putnamcountyhistoricalsociety.org.

Source: News Tribune


Friday, January 27, 2017

Sheriff: Copper Wire Thieves Caught in the Act

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
An observant Washington Mills employee helped Putnam County Sheriff’s Office catch three would-be thieves before they got too far with their loot.

A call came in to the sheriff’s office at 8:51 p.m. Thursday about a suspicious vehicle driving without its headlights on near Advanced Asphalt outside of Hennepin.

Upon arriving, a deputy spotted a Ford SUV leaving the scene, and was able to stop the vehicle, which was filled with cut lines containing copper wire and tools, according to the sheriff’s report.  The occupants of the SUV, Justin D. Gilbert, 34, of Spring Valley, Billy Ray Tillotson, 48, of Bureau and Christopher M. Matthews, 42, of Spring Valley each were charged with misdemeanor theft, with the possibility of other charges pending. All three were released. They will appear in court on Feb. 23.

Officials at the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said the call from Washington Mills was Appreciated and helped deputies.

Source: News Tribune


Thursday, January 26, 2017

New Enterprise Zone Established in Bureau and Putnam Counties

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
The newly reformed Bureau-Putnam County Enterprise Zone has new life, and officials from towns, schools and the counties were asked to grandfather in projects that did not receive a full 10 years of tax benefits from the expired zone.

Kevin Lindeman, economic director of North Central Illinois Council of Governments, said the zone is administered by Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities. It encompasses 12.5 square miles with room to expand to 15 square miles, and is made for the purpose of targeting new and growing industries in an area by providing state and local incentives.

Lindeman asked the officials to begin thinking about passing resolutions by April or May to provide continued benefits to the projects that may not have received the full 10-year tax abatement from the expired zone, and also to provide the new zone a 10-year tax abatement for qualifying projects.

That tax abatement is sometimes a point of contention among school districts and emergency management agencies that rely on tax money to survive.

While real estate tax is being paid on the property, just not the improvements, Lindeman said, the zones still do affect the school districts, contrary to some information out there.

“The fact of the matter is, the state appropriates money for general state aid,” said Princeton Elementary School district superintendent Tim Smith. “All the general state aid has to be paid out of that. All this money (tax abatement incentives) is taken off the top across the state. Even if you’re not a part of the state that has these enterprise zones, you’re going to pay for these enterprise zones.”

However, later in the meeting, Smith said the school district supported the enterprise zone, realizing the business and industry it brings does benefit the area in the long run.

“We make a sacrifice to support the enterprise zone, but we always have,” Smith said.

Timeline and coverage

The zone started on Jan. 1 of this year, and officially ends on Dec. 31, 2031, but can be extended to Dec. 31, 2041. It covers portions of Bureau and Putnam counties, including Princeton, Granville, Hennepin, Ladd, Mark and Spring Valley.


The new zone is in the same boundaries as an older zone that had projects totaling almost $1.1 billion since 1987, including 18 Bureau County projects, and 15 Putnam County projects.

In Bureau County, some of these projects include wind turbine projects Providence Heights, Big Sky Walnut Ridge, Crescent Ridge and Agri Wind for $1 billion since 1990.

In Putnam County, these projects include Color Point and Marquis Energy for $355 million since 2005.

Individual cities contributing to the total shown:

Princeton with AmericInn, L.W. Schneider, and the McKeown group for $21 million since 2005

Granville with PC Foods at $1.2 million.

Ladd had seven projects for a $1.5 million investment since 1987

Mark had four investments for $5.3 million between 1994 and 2002

Sping Valley has had 15 projects for investments totally $12.7 million since 2005.

Source: News Tribune


Monday, January 23, 2017

IDOT Seeks Contractor to Repave Power Plant Road

Only one local project made the docket for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s January job letting.

The project is the repaving of Power Plant Road in Hennepin. The project consists of repaving and widening of the road between the Hennepin Power Station entrance and Route 26. The project received a lone bid from Advanced Asphalt of Princeton for $1,185,737.04.

IDOT’s next job letting will be March 3.

Source: News Tribune


Friday, January 20, 2017

Hennepin Park Pool Ideal for Winter Exercise

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
It’s a new year, time for a new you, right?

That’s the usual resolution for most people. But sometimes it’s hard to get to the gym, the machines are hard to understand, and running is hard on the joints.

Fortunately, the Hennepin Park District Pool offers myriad different activities — both in and out of the pool, for those looking to get fit, for residents of Hennepin, Putnam County and beyond.

“The water aerobics have been (available) for well over 20 years. The aqua zumba, they started about two years ago, the yoga about 2½ years ago,” said pool manager Sandy Hrasch.

Each of the classes ranges in prices from $2.50 for aqua zumba to $5 for yoga and silver sneakers, with some insurances paying for the latter, a discount from other gyms. The pool also does not charge for monthly memberships.

“We get (people) from all over,” Hrasch said. “Not so much from LaSalle, but Putnam County, Bureau ... a lot from Henry, Tiskilwa. During the day, during our adult swim and open swim, we get them from DePue, Princeton, we even have two ladies that come on lap swim night that are from Chillicothe. They drive here because they like it and it’s affordable.”

The pool also offers lap swim 5:30-8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and adult swim 1-2 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

Those who take advantage of the pool workouts say its better on their muscles and they’d enjoy the punch card plan available at the pool and the camaraderie with the other exercisers.

“The staff is wonderful. They feed us great, cookies, breakfasts, awesome gifts,” said water aerobics participant Vicky Jambor.

For details, visit www.hennepinparkdistrict.com or call (815) 925-7319.

Source: News Tribune


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hennepin Begins Street Plans for the Future

Hennepin Village board began discussing possible street projects at Wednesday’s meeting, with plans for up to six blocks to be improved in the coming years.

These blocks, on parts of Front, Third, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth and 11th streets, most between Market and High streets, total approximately $90,000, as estimated by village engineer Bill Shafer.

Shafer identified a portion of 11th Street as the first needing attention, followed by Eighth and Ninth streets to begin the projects. The board did not make any decisions this month, but will revisit the plan next month.


Kevin Lindeman and Austin Taylor of the North Central Illinois Council of Governments spoke at the meeting, discussing help they can potentially offer the village, including bringing speakers and programs to the community. They also explained the new enterprise zone and discussed the resolution that will be brought to the board next month asking for a 10-year tax abatement for businesses building or expanding in the zone.


The village asked for removal of cars from streets if more than 2 inches of snow is forecast.

WIPFLI will once again complete the village audit at a price of $11,950

Mike Gibbs won the bid for the 1986 town truck at a price of $33,071

Trees are dying throughout the town, and the tree committee will need to decide what trees, and how to replant them, in the town

The village donated $100 each to Illinois Valley Center for Independent Living and the Voluntary Action Center.

Source: News Tribune


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Marquis Energy Employees, Company Donate Big to Bureau County United Way Campaign

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
The Bureau County United Way got a late Christmas present from Marquis Energy in Hennepin. 

The employees, in combination with a matching company donation, presented a check to the non-profit for $29,000. 

A press release by the company explained the donation, stating that at the end of each year, Marquis and its employees give to a deserving charity that will use the funds to better the community.

“Marquis employees generously gave to this great cause, to make a lasting impact on the lives of those in our local community,” said Mark Marquis, CEO. “We are proud to invest in the future of our community and know Bureau County United Way is a group helping lead the charge.”

The BCUW’s goal this year is $102,000. With Marquis’ contribution, the organization is now at 60 percent, or approximately $61,000 for the year.

Last year, the organization was only able to raise $86,000, an amount the new executive director, Kim Scott, is hoping to blow out of the water.

“I’m looking to hit goal,”  Scott said. “The contribution from Marquis and its employees was extremely generous and will have a huge impact on our community and the agencies we serve.”

Scott will next host a beer and wine tasting in mid-February at the Barn at Hornbaker Gardens and will return to the annual BCUW golf outing in late June.

Source: News Tribune