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Illinois Country Living


Doyne Miller and daughter

Getting to know Doyne Miller, 2009 Illinois Country Mother of the Year

  • Born Doyne Creasey in 1929 in West Terre Haute, Ind.
  • She was one of 11 children. She continues to help with her
    older sister, Ethel Ruark, 90, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.
  • She was a cheerleader in her senior year at the old Valley High
  • Married Donald “Bud” Wayne Miller in 1951. He died in June 1991.
  • Mother to four: Don Miller (deceased), Janet Ramey, Charles
    Andrew (Andy) Miller and Scott Allen Miller.
  • Grandma to six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
  • First love: Family. Second love: Family.
  • Cooks and bakes. She is known for her apple dumplings, chili and
    ham and beans.
  • One of her role models: “My mom was the most amazing woman that ever lived.”
  • Did she ever leave the rural area where she was born and now resides? Yes. She and her husband lived downtown Chicago in the loop when they first married. They returned to the area in the fall of 1954.
  • Did she have electricity as a child? No. “When I was a child we didn’t have electricity until I was 10 or 11. We had big kerosene lamps. It was so funny (after electricity was installed)… you could reach up and pull a chain and the light came on.”
  • Electric Co-op to which she belongs? EnerStar, with its office in Paris, Ill. She credits it for getting better through the years and says most recently the EnerStar linemen came to work on her electricity on the coldest day of the year.
  • Has lived in rural Dennison by her daughter Janet for almost 18 years. Before that she lived in Marshall.
  • Favorite pastimes include: Reading Christian books and is particularly fond of Guideposts; works crossword puzzles and word has it she’s a pretty competitive Scrabble player.
  • Member of the Sugar Creek Baptist Church in West Terre Haute. She also attends a Bible study at the First Congregation Church in Marshall, where Norris Keirn pastors.
  • Volunteer efforts: School buddy program for children with needs, Bible School Kitchen Committee, Intercessory prayer team, grievance committee, Food and Clothing Bank in Marshall and Helping Hands.
  • Favorite places she’s traveled: Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Alaska.
  • Family tradition: Cookie Day for grandma, daughter, daughters-in-law and the children – termed a “hectic, messy day, but a lot of fun.” Yummy results: cookies, fudge and divinity.
  • Ailments: A little arthritis, a little stiffness in the knee and a heart problem 20 years ago, to which she brushes off, saying, “And I’m still here.”
  • What has helped her persevere? “I’ve overcome. I don’t dwell on anything. I keep moving. You can always find someone else worse off.”
  • Confident in saying: “I don’t have a computer and I really don’t want one.”
  • Worked at Hillman Jewelers as the assistant manager of the Honeycreek store in Terre Haute until 1992. Favorite part was working with the new brides. She says she didn’t start work until her youngest was in school. “I would not leave a baby with somebody else.”
  • Advice in life: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Illinois Country Mother of the Year
Doyne Miller embraces life and her family

by Jonie Larson

The back door swings open and in runs 4 year-old Andrew with three blooming dandelions. Without hesitation, the blonde-headed youngster rounds the kitchen table, bypassing his mom and aunt. These particular “flowers” are for Grandma Doyne.

Grandma Doyne, as she is known by all children – relatives and otherwise – is Doyne Miller of rural Dennison, Ill. While her 80th birthday is May 1, she’s just a couple years beyond adolescence, admittedly saying she’s just a kid at heart. She also is often accused of being a “yes” grandma. She does her best to provide whatever the little ones desire. On this particular day, it was chocolate chip cookies for Andrew – his favorite – and blueberry muffins for Carter, another grandchild.

It’s not only the little tykes in this family that are fond of Doyne. Her grown children and in-laws speak of her with profound adoration.

“Everything she does for everybody else,” is what makes her special, says her daughter, Janet Ramey. “A lot of people pursue their own interests and careers – but she will wait to see what the family needs and who she needs to babysit for,” before making any other plans.

“That’s what moms are for and grandmas, too,” Doyne says, proclaiming more than once that family is simply the “joy” of her life.

It’s that devotion to family that led Janet to submit a letter to Illinois Country Living magazine, nominating her mother for the first-ever “Illinois Country Mother of the Year” honor. Among the applicants, Doyne was a stand-out for many reasons – her commitment to family, her willingness to be involved in the community, and her ability to persevere through some of life’s toughest challenges.

Though Doyne’s husband Don – known as “Bud” – has been gone since June of 1991, her voice still breaks when she speaks of him. He died of lymphatic leukemia after fighting it for five or six years. Just last year, her son, Don, would die of the same affliction.

She chokes back tears, her heart still hurting from the losses, but then she redirects her pain to recall happier times, when she and her husband first started dating.

It’s a storybook tale of course, something in short supply in 2009. As one might guess, they were high school sweethearts.

But not at first.

“I thought he was a smartie-pants. Bud would drive his dad’s new car” on occasion, she says. Doyne wasn’t impressed, or at least she didn’t let him know it.

Eventually, she would give way to courting him. It was around Christmas time when the two teen-agers, who went to the old Valley High School in the west Terre Haute area, would start dating. Doyne gave a reading at the school and afterward she let Bud drive her home. The 1947 graduates were married in 1951, a love that carried them through 40 more years.

Doyne proudly points out their wedding photo on the wall of family fame in her neat and tidy dining room. She recounts all the memories: There are her four children’s graduation photos, the grandchildren and great grandchildren, Doyne’s parents… the list goes on and on, pictures covering the major portion of a wall. Among them is a photo of a lost grandson, Janet’s boy. She, too, knows a mother’s worst pain.

Adam Ramey was 22 when he died. Janet and Doyne tell how he struggled, first with school and a nagging depression.

“I was so happy when Adam graduated. I wouldn’t leave him alone until he got up (in the mornings) and to school,” Doyne said.

“He said he would never have done it (graduated) without his grandma,” Janet says, crediting her mother.

Although Adam successfully completed high school, he continued to struggle with depression. He was on a new medication to help him recover when he suddenly passed away from an allergic reaction.

Both mother and daughter credit their belief in God as their means to surviving these heart-wrenching losses.

“I don’t know how people get through the bad without God. He’s always there,” Doyne says. Her daughter agrees, saying, “The Lord has given me a lot of blessings between then and now,” the grandchildren being some of the best. In addition, Janet has been able to reach out to others at the healing room, a place to pray at New Life, New Beginnings Church in Marshall.

It seems most, if not all, of Doyne’s family share common threads of faith in God. Doyne is another stabilizing factor – a matriarch of sorts, with a loving touch.

In short, she is mom to all who enter her doorway.

“For me, as an in-law, she has always made me feel welcome and a part of the family,” says Carrie, who is married to Doyne’s youngest son, Scott. When asked why Doyne is so deserving to be mother of the year, the same theme resonated time and again.

“She puts everybody else ahead of her, no matter what it is,” says Scott.

“She’s very caring with family and with those who aren’t,” says another son, Andy. Is there a time when mom really came through for him? Yes.

“All 43 years,” he says,

Granddaughter-in-law, Sherri Ramey, and daughter-in-law Dee Miller share similar anecdotes.

“She’s really a big help whenever we need anything. She always puts everybody else first, says Sherri, who has three children and a newborn infant.

Dee also needed Doyne’s help when she had a child. Not only was she going to school, but she had just started a master’s program when she learned she was pregnant. When the baby came, “grandma almost moved in,” Dee says.

Doyne, a woman strikingly young for her years, who doesn’t wear makeup or color her hair, only smiles about all the compliments. As she talks, she fidgets with some Play Doh, left out on the table by one of the grandkids.

Good days ahead for Doyne will mirror the good days of the past, if she has her way. She likes to cook for her family and church friends, she goes to Bible study and out with friends to eat.

“Just simple things,” Doyne says. But she won’t do anything at the expense of sharing in family times.

Speaking with a mother’s firm voice, she declared her priority once again.

“Love your children and your grandchildren. You never know when they’ll be gone.”

Doyne Miller of EnerStar Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter, Janet L. Ramey

I would like to nominate my mother, Doyne Miller, for the Illinois Country Mother of the Year. I feel my mother greatly deserves this award with her unselfish acts of kindness and numerous roles she has played in the lives of family and friends.

My mother is a member of the Sugar Creek Baptist Church in West Terre Haute. She has served on the Bible School kitchen committee, the Intercessory prayer team, the grievance committee, and the school buddy program. She is a volunteer at the Food and Clothing bank and the Helping Hands.

My mother is a hardworking and caring mother who made many sacrifices raising 4 children of her own. She was a devoted wife to my father for 40 years. After his death in 1991, she moved to Dennison. At that time she spent many days caring for my two boys in grade school. She was what you call a “real hands on grandma.” She played games with them, fed them home cooked meals, and took them on outings. Because of her persistence to see them through high school, my oldest son was able to graduate.

My mother has been blessed with several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She devotes time and energy to play a role in their lives. She cared for family members and children to see her daughter-in-law through school and her grandson's wife through two high risk pregnancies. Her motto is “I am here to do whatever the Lord wants me to do to help others in time of need.”

When my best friend had family problems several years ago, my mother graciously opened her home to her. She helped her get back on her feet until she could get a place of her own. She treated her like one of her own children. My mother lives the story of the “Good Samaritan.”

My mother has supported and overseen her elderly sister with Alzheimer's for years. She makes sure she takes her for a weekly outing.

My mother lost her oldest son in March of last year. She lovingly cared for him while he spent several years having chemo and radiation. She took him to numerous doctor appointments and other errands. She spent countless late nights on the phone with him encouraging him to be strong and hold on to his faith. She spent weeks by his hospital bedside praying for him.

My mother recently spent four weeks caring for me after foot surgery. She came to my house every day and made sure I had lunch and dinner. She kept me entertained by playing many games of scrabble those weeks I was unable to walk. She drove me to doctor appointments and cancelled her doctor appointments. She has been more than just a mother; she has been a friend, too.

My mother will be 80 years old this May 1. I feel it is time she is recognized for her big heart and the Godly job she has done as a mother to many.

Janet L. Ramey


Other deserving nominees for the title include:

  • Jennie Lou Ayers of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Jo Ann Yeaman)
  • Cleo Braeuninger of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Karen Brockelsby)
  • Trish Wright of Egyptian Electric (Nominated by her daughters, Rose and Emma Wright, ages 11 and 8)
  • Cindy Kelsey of Woodford County (Not on cooperative lines. Nominated by her daughter, Karrie Gerber)
  • Sandra Peper of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Kay Peper)
  • Susan Marie Skaggs of Menard Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Ashley)
  • Mary Ann Woerner of Pekin (Not on cooperative lines. Nominated by her daughter, Leanne Waremburg)
  • Jessica Favier of Southeastern Illinois Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her husband, Jeffery Clerk)
  • Thala Jean Stewart of Menard Country Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter-in-law, Mary Stewart)
  • Erma D. Walker-Price of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Tiffany Price-Saunders)
  • Sheri Pitts of Norris Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Brittany Pitts)
  • Dorothy Farris of EnerStar Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her Daughter, Vonnie Davis)
  • Sandra Shamp of Jo-Carroll Energy (Nominated by her daughter Katie Shamp)
  • Henrietta Ladage of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter-in-law, Cindy Ladage)
  • Jonie Fesler of Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her son-in-law, Robert J. Legate)
  • Karon Inboden of Norris Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Kaiva Riley)
  • Debra Sterchi of Norris Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her son, Sam Sterchi)
  • LaVerne Krebel of Egyptian Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Cathy Krebel-Nevois)
  • Carol Raines of Egyptian Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Stephanie Myers)
  • Cathy Kiper of Corn Belt Energy Corporation (Nominated by her daughter, Kimberly Kiper)
  • Beth Woltering of Madison County (Not on cooperative lines. Nominated by her great aunt, Margaret Kruep)
  • Dorothy Dawes of Egyptian Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Tami Wollard)
  • Valerie Demry of Corn Belt Energy Corporation (Nominated by her daughter, Jennifer Stroyan)
  • Darcey Spenny of Spoon River Electric Cooperative (Nominated by her daughter, Danielle Prohaska)


Jennie Lou Ayers of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter, Jo Ann Yeaman

"I, Jo Ann Yeaman, have the best, loving, caring, sharing, thoughtful, helpful, patient, considerate, outstanding mother anyone could ever ask for. Her name is Jennie Lou Ayers!

This mother cooks, sews, cleans, plays chauffeur, is in charge of two fellowship cook hours at a church of 400. If anyone calls in, she is filling in the spot baking cookies again.

Anytime I have any kind of spot on any of my clothes, I just take whatever top, pants, coat, and she will work on the spot until it's gone.

My mom makes curtains for my home. I pick out the material and she sews them for me.

My mother also helps get 300 newspapers delivered seven days a week.

My mom cleans houses for approximately 12 families for special occasions and some weekly. You can depend on the job to get done when one asks her to do something.

My mother is a bargain hunter. We both love garage sales, auctions, coupon saving, or shopping. Then on the other side, my mom is the most giving person I know. If you needed her sweater, she would take it off her back and put it on yours. The same goes with money. If she had 10 cents and you needed it, she would give it to you. This is just another one of the characteristics that makes her the best mother of the year.

My mother wallpapers and paints. She recently just got done redoing their walls on their 26 year home. I'm just so proud of her and all the talents she possesses and shares.

My mother is the president of our women's group at Sugar Creek Church. Always preparing meetings and refreshments and programs. Very busy woman my mother Jennie is.

My mother also has made the blankets my niece, nephew, and I sleep with. She sews up vinyl seat covers with an industrial sewing machine. My mother washes other people's clothes, curtains, blankets, and coats. All one has to do is ask and she will do her best to accommodate the request.

Advice – Oh my, if I'm upset about anything I can talk to her anytime day or night. She is always there 24 hours, 7 days a week. She usually can tell if I'm bothered about something! I talk to my mom at least once a day. I'm 47 years old and work full time. But my mom is always available when I need, want, or got to get a hold of her.

I'll tell her usually I only have half an hour lunch today. She'll bring me a hot lunch when I want her to. No one could have a mom like I have.

Mother shares her knowledge with anyone. If one needs to know what to put on poison ivy, she knows. What to take blood out of the carpet or glue off an object. She always has the solutions.

My mom always wants to be involved with what her family is doing. If she can be at a special event where her son, daughter, daughter-in-law, or two grandkids are at, she will be there no matter the cost or distance. That is another wonderful way my mom can express her love for her family.

My mom can express the love of God she holds in her heart not only by action, but deeds and sharing her experiences.

I nominate Jennie Lou Ayers as the best mother of 2009! Inside and out there could be no one better!

Thank you,
Jo Ann Yeaman"


Cleo Braeuninger of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter, Karen Brockelsby

"I believe my mom, Cleo Braeuninger, is certainly Illinois Country Mother of the Year. Although she will be 85 years old this year, she continues to epitomize the work ethic of the traditional farm wife. She is well known as a wonderful cook, homemaker, and gardener. My mom's love language is definitely service to others. An outstanding example of her commitment to her family occurred during the summer of 2007. My oldest daughter became engaged and expressed the desire she'd had since childhood – to be married next to Grandma Cleo's flower gardens. Some family members thought it too great an imposition to ask my 83 and 85 year old parents to host an event involving 300 guests. I, too, had concerns about the enormity of the project but my parents didn't even hesitate to welcome Kelly and Justin to plan their wedding on their farm. In fact, they seemed honored. Mom always spends hours daily in her gardens from April to October, but that summer she went into high gear to see that every flower bed, vegetable garden and rock border were in top shape for the big day. With the help of a huge tent and lots of rented tables and chairs, the farm was transformed to a romantic wedding site. It turned out to be a day that our family reflects on as such a wonderful memory that was possible only because my mother was willing to invest her time and energy to see her granddaughter's dream come true.

Through the years, my mom has always been there for whatever I or any of my siblings needed. That need could be for anything from childcare to advice. I still call with cooking and gardening questions. I am usually the host for family Thanksgiving dinner. My mom is often over the day or two before to help with preparations. (Believe me, when Cleo helps clean house, it's done far better than when I work alone.) She's the first one to arrive on the day of the dinner and dives right in to whatever needs to be done. She's the last one to sit down after every dish has been dried and put away. Mom always welcomes any extra guests any of us bring to her table and goes the extra mile to help them feel at home. My mom has taught me far more than I can tell about how to really be there for other people, what it means to look out for the needs of others, and how sometimes the most important thing you can do is to hold your tongue. The world would be a healthier, happier place is all families had the loving influence of a mother like my mom, Cleo Braeuninger."


Trish Wright of Egyptian Electric
Nominated by her daughters, Rose and Emma Wright, ages 11 and 8

"My mom is the ultimate country mom because she loves living in the country. She grows a family garden. She also enjoys sewing and knitting, and being with kids. Mom’s been in a 4-H club, and even as a grown-up she still loves sheep, cattle, small farms, and all the places our food comes from. Read more about the ways my mom is the best country mom.

During the summer, when we grow most of our own fruits and veggies, she’s out there every day, carefully watering and weeding those little plants like only a mom could. On summer nights, during dinner time, Dad will ask, “What went into this?” and it turns out Mom’s made a use of basically our entire garden. My mom loves to find ways to save money and energy, and the garden is one of the ways she does that.

Our mother is one of the friendliest people I know. On days when our friends are coming over to play, Mom makes cookies, brings out the homemade grape juice, and enjoys coming up with crafts or games for us. During the summer, she lets us invite half the neighborhood over to have a “water jump”, which includes us kids jumping on the trampoline while Mom sprays us with water from the hose.

She also sews lots of things. All of her kitchen aprons are sewn, and most of our pillow-cases and blankets, she made also. My sister and I have never had a store-bought Halloween costume, and so being, we have a great dress-up area, that’s well-known among our friends. Having a weaving loom, my sister and I each have cozy shawls made of bright colors. Have I mentioned that she knits? Our cousin, who moved away from the country to Chicago, has a wool sweater knitted by Mom, I have slippers, we all have hats and mittens, and Mom has a plentiful supply of dishrags. She even formed a once-a-month knitting/crocheting group at our church.

When we come home to a steaming-hot house, we know it’s one of Mom’s canning days. Everything we don’t eat from our garden in the end of the summer is canned to make tomato soup, green beans, salsa, jellies and jams, and much more. I often take raspberry-banana applesauce in my lunch box. There is an entire shelf in our basement dedicated to “Mom’s Canned Things”. Mom grew up on a sheep and dairy farm and was in 4-H, so she knows a lot about how to make your own food and have it taste good.

To wrap it all up, my mom is the best mom I know, and her creativity has no end. She’s friendly to anyone and everyone, has a knack for doing things herself, and does her part to support our electric cooperative. These are the main reasons why my mom is a great country mom."


Cindy Kelsey of Woodford County (Not on cooperative lines)
Nominated by her daughter, Karrie Gerber

"I would like to nominate my mother, Cindy Kelsey, for Illinois Country Mother of the Year. My mom is a kind and generous person who always puts others first. My mother has led a life of generosity and giving, and has set an example for her four daughters of living life in a worthy manner. She has been a partner to our father on our family farm for 35 years. Over the years she has played a key role in caring for their swine herd and, at times, was largely responsible for the well-being of the sow and piglet shed. My mom would be the first to tell you that her first choice of occupation would not have been vaccinating young pigs or pressure washing dirty sow crates, however she did it for the good of the family farm and to assist my dad. As most farm wives would tell you, being married to a farmer can consist of not seeing your spouse nearly enough. Today, the farm is no longer in the business of farrowing. I cannot help but think that if my mom had not given of herself during the years that the farm needed her, my parents may not have the luxury today of scaling back (just a bit) and enjoying some time together.

My mom has given a great deal of herself to her four, now grown, daughters. From cooking meals to sewing Halloween costumes, nothing was ever done without giving 100% to her children. She devoted a great deal of time to the extra curricular activities that her children were in involved in. Cindy coordinated special music events and was particularly known for the decadent desserts she created for an annual show choir concert. No one will ever know how many costumes she sewed or strawberry pies she made, but her commitment to her children and the other students in their school is well known in our community.

Since reaching adulthood, Cindy's four daughters continue to rely on her for counsel, advice, wisdom, and support. Her children are scattered around the country, but she continues to give of herself to them in any way that she can.

One might question why I am nominating my mother at this time in her life. Some of her exemplary actions have taken place in the past, and her duties of being an “active” mother raising small children have past. Perhaps it is because I am now a mother myself and have a new perspective on the sacrifices my mother made to give me a wonderful childhood. If anything, it is one small way of expressing my gratitude for all that she has done for me and for others around her. I continue to observe her giving of herself in a motherly way to this day. She gives continually to her children and to other families in her church and community who need a lending hand. It may only be my opinion, nut I believe that my mother is the Illinois Country Mother of the Year."


Sandra Peper of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter: Kay Peper

"We always hear that raising children isn't easy and that is especially true when you have 10 like my mom. My mom is the most hardworking and generous person that I have ever met. Life has not always been easier for her, but somehow through it all she has kept her sense of humor and kind nature. Now she is also the grandmother of 10 and there isn't anything that she would not do for her children and grandchildren.

My mom became a mother for the first time a few weeks shy of her eighteenth birthday and has never looked back. She spent the next seventeen years having nine more. A total of 5 boys and 5 girls. While my dad worked, my mom stayed at home with us running the house better than any drill sergeant could. Chores and schoolwork came before fun and games, nut there was always time for both.

When my older brothers entered high school, and my parents needed extra money for class rings and senior pictures, my mom got a job as a cook in a local restaurant. She would get up at 5:00 am to cook hot breakfast (no cold cereal in our house) and pack lunches before leaving for work. After working an 8 hour shift, she would be home in time to get us off the school bus and make us a healthy homemade dinner.

My mom has been there for every good and bad event in our lives. She was the Cub Scout leader, the cheerleader at our games, and cried at our graduations. How she managed to nurse ten of us through every childhood illness, cuts, bruises, and broken bones, I will never know.

Two years ago, I found out that I needed ankle surgery and would be on bed rest for four weeks. I called my mom having no idea how I was going to be able to spend four weeks without being able to work and take care of my house and dogs, and being the great mom she is, she said “Don't worry.” She took off work to stay with me at my house even though it was financially tough on her and Dad. During that time, she did everything for me from cooking, cleaning and laundry to helping me shower and get dressed. Boredom set in pretty quickly for me, so she tried her best to keep me entertained. Even though she hates to drive in St. Louis, she would say “Let's go to Target today” just to get me out of the house. Eventually I was able to take care of myself, but she would call every day to see how I was doing. One day, I was so upset because I could not climb up and down the stairs, so she and Dad came to pick me and my dogs up and take me back to their house until I was able to walk better.

My mom is the best mom in the world because she would sacrifice anything in her own life, if it would make life better for one of her children or grandchildren."


Susan Marie Skaggs of Menard Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter Ashley

"I just wanted to let you know about our mother, her name is Susan, but she has eight children that call her Mommy and one that calls her Grandma. Susan married her high school sweetheart 25 years ago, gave birth to six children and took two special children in of her family members that weren't able to care for them. She also has a special needs son. This isn't the first time she has helped. She volunteered at Ciedc Community Action for several years delivering and bagging up government commodities or sometimes unloading the truck. She also helped a young woman from our town with her two children when she gave birth, caring for one for three months while setting the young mother up with employment, an apartment and necessities. Susan was a Tri-County Americorps member and a tutor at our middle school. Mom never failed to remember treats, book orders, and 99% of all our school functions were attended. She helped with the raffle fundraising for Petersburg girls softball and boys baseball for several years. She always donates everything we can't use. She was room mother at school several years and one year two rooms. She rarely ever asks for anything. She took care of our grandma for 11 years as a caregiver of a cancer patient and the last three years of Grandma's life she was the sole provider of care for her and worked a job as well. Our mom is very dedicated, loving, and loyal mom, grandma, sister, daughter, wife, aunt, and friend."


Mary Ann Woerner of Pekin (Not on cooperative lines)
Nominated by her daughter, Leanne Waremburg

"Mary Ann Woerner, “Mom”, deserves to be Illinois Country Mother of the Year because of her caring, loving, and giving spirit. With seven children (four of her own and three step-children), eleven grandkids, and one great grand son, Mom is always doing something for one of us and always with a willing heart.

Mom has been active in church all her life. She teaches Sunday School, plays the organ, directs the choir, plays in the hand-bell choir, has served on many different ministry teams, and coordinates our funeral meals ministry.

Divorced when I was six years old, Mom sometimes worked two part-time jobs in addition to her full-time job to make ends meet. Then 19 years ago, after being single for about 25 years, she remarried and couldn’t be happier. After retiring a couple years later, Mom started her “dream business,” Merry Bee Farm and Greenhouse. With Fred, “Dad” right beside her, they have 3 greenhouses and a very large garden. Mom grows numerous varieties of perennials and annuals and starts a lot of the veggie plants for the garden. Living in Pekin, IL, the Marigold Capital of the World, she has grown marigolds and many other flowers for the Marigold Festival flower beds and the Pekin Park District.

I can’t remember a year when Mom didn’t have a garden. She always encouraged us to be in the garden with her and I’m sure there were times when we weren’t always the “help” she hoped for. Sometimes playing in the dirt or walking barefoot in the freshly tilled soil was more fun than the actual planting. But Mom never seemed to mind when we left the garden covered from head to toe in dirt. I think she was happy we were in the garden with her. She also taught us helpful gardening hints and I’m sure her love for gardening is where mine came from.

With over an acre of garden (some years it’s been closer to two acres), Mom helped organize Farmers Markets in Tremont, IL and Pekin to be able to sell extra produce. Mom and Dad pride themselves in the fact that their fruits and veggies are grown chemical-free. That’s probably why at age 76 and 79 they are in such great shape and have so much energy. None of us kids ever want for fresh veggies all summer and the grandkids know that they can earn some money by helping in the greenhouse and garden anytime. After canning and freezing what they need to get them through until the next summer, if there is an over abundance of veggies, Mom often donates them to one of the local missions or gives them away at church.

After all this, Mom still makes time to attend concerts, ball games, plays and musicals that any of us and the grandkids is involved in. You won’t find a mom more loving, caring, giving, and hard-working than mine. That’s why she deserves to be Illinois Country Mother of the Year."


Jessica Favier of Southeastern Illinois Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her husband, Jeffery Clerk

"My wife deserves to win this honor because she is the most loving, selfless person that I have ever met. She is a 46 year old mom of two boys, one is 20 years old and the other is 12 years old and still lives at home. I am permanently disabled and do not/cannot work. In order to try and improve our finances and quality of life, my wife decided to go back to college full time to become a nurse; on top of already working a full time job and all of the other things that she does. I am proud to say that she will be an LPN by the end of summer 2009 when she graduates. She has managed to get straight A's at college. Phi Theta Kappa sorority invited her to be an honorary member of their sorority because of her excellent grades. So she is now also in that. My wife does volunteer fundraising for the sorority. She also does volunteer fundraising for her 12 year old son's school.

My wife has kept our son in Boy Scouts through the years. Together, she and our son, through scouting; collect food for the hungry every year, help clean up the Wren lake area every year and do numerous other volunteer projects throughout the year. My wife has also taught our son to help the needy by volunteering to help at the homeless shelter in preparing/serving meals to the homeless. She has helped some of the needier families in our neighborhood by giving clothing/shoes to their families. My wife takes our son to church every Sunday and she voluntarily cleans the church on a regular basis. Plus, she offers to help some of the elderly folks with their chores/shopping.

On top of everything that she already does; work, school, church, volunteer work, homework with our son, his grade school functions, quality time with our son an me, and our son's healthcare needs; she somehow finds time to keep our home clean, run all of the errands of everyday life (shopping, gas for cars, groceries, etc.), prepare most of our meals, pay bills and be a loving wife and mother. She even looks good all of the time.

I do not know how she finds the energy to do all of these things, but she does. She always has a smile and a hug for our son and me. I know that she doesn't sleep very much or have any time to herself, but she is always in a good mood. I tend to be a pessimist and see the glass half-empty while she is the optimist and sees the glass half-full. She just never lets anything get her down. I think her faith in God carries her through when a normal person would just give up and quit.

Our son(s) and myself do not get to see her as much as we would like to. That will get better though after she graduates and gets her LPN and Associate Degree in Science. Though I figure she will still stay very active because she always has been high energy.

My wife is a super-mom and a super-wife. She is our very own Super-woman in real life. I and my sons are very proud of her. She has already earned our title of Illinois Country Mother of the Year.

Thanks for your consideration of our Super-Hero."


Thala Jean Stewart of Menard Country Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter-in-law, Mary Stewart

"I am sending you a story today about Thala Jean Stewart. She was named after her Father, Thales. Her friends only know her as Jean. Jean lives in Petersburg, Illinois on a farm which is closer to Atterberry, Illinois. Not many people, even in Illinois know where this little town is without looking it up on a map.

Her family knows her as Mom and Grandma. I met this lady in 1984. I married her son a year and a half later. Jean made sure her son met me by leaving my number in his checkbook or on the visor of his car. After many months, he called me and we went out and now three kids later and two grandkids ourselves the rest is history. Had I not met this lady and her husband twenty five years ago my life would have been a lot different. I am happy to call my mother in law—MOM.

Jean is a very giving person. She loves to give and help others, but does not like to admit others would like to do the same for her. She likes no fuss, so if she does win this award, she will not think she should have—someone else is more deserving in her eyes. Jean is retired but you would never know it. When she went back to work after her kids were in school, she started in the local Nursing Home as an activity director. Later she moved to Menard County Senior Services until she retired a few years ago. Now she volunteers at the Menard County Food Pantry, the Petersburg Elementary School, the Petersburg Library, and New Salem. She serves on the boards of Menard County Housing Authority and Sunny Acres Nursing Home. She is an election judge and last but not least she helps many local people attend a needed appointment by driving them when they are not able.

Jean is the type of person who everyone knows and who is well respected in our community. She has been married to her husband, Jack, for over fifty years. She has been blessed with three children of her own, eight grandchildren and three great- grandchildren. She can make the best roast I have ever eaten and to top it off an even better coconut cream pie—FROM SCRATCH. Jean is happiest when family is around.

For all she does for others this part will sum up her view on life perfectly:

Last summer when she and Jack celebrated their 50th anniversary, Jean and Jack only wanted family to celebrate their happy day. We did and we smiled, and laughed and every child and grandchild took part in this special day. We also celebrated with them and returned as a family to the place they went for their honeymoon—Wisconsin Dells. What a week we all enjoyed.

So I hope you see in this small picture I have painted of this lady what a wonderful person she is to many people."


Erma D. Walker-Price of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter, Tiffany Price-Saunders

"My nominee for mother of the year is my wonderful mother, Ms. Erma D. Walker-Price.

She goes by Erma Price but she was born Erma Deloris Gloria Jean Walker to Mr. Mose and Ms. Alice Foyl Walker (Robinson). Then on September 12, 1965 my mom married her high school sweetheart, Willie C. Price. They were married 42 years until his death November 20, 2007. Erma was the third of 14 children. Mom was the one who helped her mom keep everything together when her dad was away at work. Many hardships came their way but mom still kept a smile on her face. That smile raised myself and many others. I have three sisters and a brother with blood we share but my mom helped raise many more children. My mom was the best babysitter around. September 21, 2003 my mom had to deliver my baby at home and I named my daughter Destiny. That was a great day for all of us. My daughter is 5 years old now and she wants to be just like her grandma when she grows up. I had a great life growing up. I have seen children my age not having half of what I had. Not that my parents want to be better than than everyone else. It's just that they know what we need to survive and I thank them for it.

Yes, I had a wonderful life and I owe it all to my mother for holding it together. My father was the bread winner and Mom made sure dinner was on the table. Mom would fix meals big enough to feed an army. She said it's better to have too much than not enough. Her meals were never wasted. Many people stopped by to eat and that made Mother happy. She fed all she knew and she would even take her meals to the church where she attends. My mom was a missionary, Sunday school teacher, secretary on the pastor aid committee and a great youth advisor in her local church in Joliet, Illinois. She also made robes for the choir and dresses for my wedding as well as others. She makes the best lemon cakes ever. She moved back to southern Illinois with her husband Pastor Willie Price after he retired from Caterpillar. She was a good help mate to her husband and pastor until his death. Now my mom is the pastor of the church and keeping the vision alive my mom belongs to the Church of the Living God the Pillar and Ground of the Truth.

My mom is the community emergency contact at the school for many children. Single working moms and dads trusted my mom to take care of all school matters when they couldn't be there. She was at the PTA meetings, violin recitals, track meets, and Christmas programs, etc. in Joliet and here.

My mom didn't have a 9 to 5 job that she got paid for but she could step foot in any job big or small and manage any position because she has done it all in her life. Whatever she did, it was to the best she knew how. She strives for the best. She says do your best and God will take care of the rest.

My mom grew up on the farm in Missouri. It wasn't easy but it taught her the value of hard work. She had suffered through many hard times but she kept a smile on her face. 2007 was the hardest year for my mom. In March of '07, her nephew (on her husband's side) was killed in a train crash when his brakes failed. Another nephew on her side of the family was killed in a hit and run crash September 4.

Also in September, Mom and Dad's house burnt down. They lost a lot. October, mom's oldest grandchild was killed on his 21st birthday. He was in the US Army, and November 20 my dad passed away after over two weeks in the hospital. They were workers together in God. He will be missed.

Now to top it off, we were just informed that my mom has breast cancer and waiting to go for surgery. So for mother of the year I vote Ms. Erma D. Walker-Price. Please pray for her.

Thank you,

Tiffany Price-Saunders"


Sheri Pitts of Norris Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter, Brittany Pitts

"I am nominating my mom for Illinois Country Mother of the Year. She is a 38 year old mother of 3 daughters, farm wife and full-time Radiography student, soon to be a grandmother. I am the oldest of her children; during my senior year in high school I was telling her I wanted to become a lawyer but didn’t think I could do it. She was so good at convincing me that I could do whatever I wanted if I was willing to work hard and really want it; she convinced herself to go back to school.

She has always supported all three of us, no matter what it was we are striving for – she is always there 100%. I was a cheerleader in junior high, which means lots of practices and games as well as late nights for all of the away games. I played softball every summer and was involved in 4-H for 10 years and FFA for 4 years.

My sister, who is now 13 years old raises about any animal you can name (cows, sheep, goats, horses, chickens, rabbits, dogs and cats). Naturally she is extremely busy and being only 13 has to be driven wherever it is she needs to be next. She is now only in one 4-H group, however for the last 2 years she was in two, she was asked to help start a horse based 4-H club in our county. She is a member of the local Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, and managed to be named the 2008 Cowgirl of the Year by riding her horse for over 250 hours last year. This year her goal is for her and my dad to ride from Missouri to Indiana on horseback.

My youngest sister is 6 years old and we all know how much of a handful a 6 year old can be. I am currently in college and have told my mom on numerous occasions that I really admire her, I don’t know how she can do it – jungle and manage being a farm wife, mother and full-time student and still be there for all of us.

I think our mom should win this prestigious title to show her we are all so very proud of her and that we are there for her just like she is for us. It would be a good start to show her just how proud we really are of her!"

Dorothy Farris of EnerStar Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her Daughter, Vonnie Davis

"My mother is Dorothy Farris from Kansas, Illinois and she deserves the title of “Mother of the Year” because of her selfless acts of giving of her time and herself to help anyone that needs help. Her whole life has been spent care giving and helping others without a thought of herself.

Growing up I was fortunate enough to have a stay at home mom who was always home when we got home from school to see that we were fed and helped us with homework if we needed it. We lived on a grain and livestock farm and my father worked a full-time off-farm job too, so she helped him with the livestock while he was at work and she helped in the fields during planting and harvest.

When my aunt (my mother’s sister) opened a restaurant, my mother worked for her on the weekends for free to help her business get off the ground. That wasn’t for just a few months, it was for nine years. It was an opportunity for my mother to get out of the house and socialize, but her focus was helping her sister’s business to be successful.

My father passed away a year ago after battling cancer for two years. During that time, she took him to all of his treatments and doctor’s appointments while trying to look after my grandmother (her mother) who is now 92 year old and she was working weekends at the restaurant. During my father’s illness, the more the cancer developed, the weaker he became, the more she had to do for him. No matter what the task at hand, she did it without grumbling because she felt it was her job. I was very concerned about whether she could withstand all of the pressure that she was under. Her concern was about seeing that everyone was taken care of and that their needs were being met and not about how it was affecting her or her health. She felt they needed her and she couldn’t let them down.

She has now retired from the restaurant but spends the majority of her time looking after my grandmother. She and her siblings don’t want to put Grandma in the nursing home and the doctor says that she needs 24 hour care. So they are working together to see that Grandma has 24 hour care.

Dorothy is a very strong Christian woman who feels that God put her here to help others. She likes to see that people are healthy and happy and have all of their needs met, and she will give of her time and resources to see that is accomplished.

I am very proud that Dorothy is my mother. She is loved and respected by all those who know her best – those people whose lives she has touched. She is not only my mother, but my best friend and I thank God for blessing me with her."

Sandra Shamp of Jo-Carroll Energy
Nominated by her daughter Katie Shamp

"In a world where times are hard and family is everything, there needs to be one person to be the so called “family glue.” My mother, Sandra Lynn Shamp is that person. Over my 22 years of existence, I have been able to count on my mom for anything and everything. In my first year of college, I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. It was benign, but its presence still required treatment which included several trips to the hospital for MRI's, blood work, and numerous doctor visits. Even though I have been in the treatment phase for many ears, there is no end to this in the near future. However, my mom was there in the beginning, giving me love and much needed support, and I know she'll be there in the end, again providing love and sharing tears of relief. My tumor is not the only medical problem that required my mother's love and support. Last winter I had to have two separate surgeries for kidney stones, and had to make what seemed like a million doctor appointments. However, no matter how busy my mother was, she took me to every appointment.

My mom has always been very family oriented. Recently she and I traveled to nearby cemeteries to take pictures of gravestones which mark the resting places of long lost family members which she has discovered while doing our family's genealogy. My mom lost her own mother many years ago, and we lost her father to cancer a little over a year ago. Through both deaths, my mother did her best to stay strong for the rest of the family. She grew up in Clinton, Iowa, and is one of nine children. Having fond memories of the river town, she frequently loaded my siblings and me into her car, and we would take day trips. On our trips we did many things, including going to see the animals at Eagle Point Park (which are no longer there, unfortunately), visit our grandparents, get cookies and other treats at the Sweetheart Bakery, or go swimming at Clinton's public pool. She still likes to grab lunch and go sit at the dike to watch the river where she may see the occasional barge passing through. One value that has become a part of me and my siblings' lives is the love and appreciation of nature: a value she holds dear.

When we were young, my parents decided to divorce. My mother had no college education, and so she now had to look for alternative ways to start a new life on her own. Over the years she has been a daycare provider, Home Interiors representative, Brite Music representative, she has helped with the physically and mentally challenged, been a grocery clerk, and a factory's assembly line worker. Often she held two jobs simultaneously, and she always did so without complaint because she wanted to make sure we had the extras and luxuries that every other child had. At the time, we took our day trips for granted, along with going out to eat at McDonald's trips, and having our individual pets. Through the tough times, Mom has always managed to be optimistic, and she found that she had a knack for writing. She is a published poet and has thoroughly enjoyed being part of a writer's group in past years. My mother has shown us the meaning of graciousness and selflessness over the years, and we all thank her for it.

My mother has always been known as the funny and sweet mom to all of our friends. While planning road trips to Indiana with my pal LaRae, Mom always insisted that we use her vehicle, which is safer and more trustworthy, even though it inconvenienced her. One summer years ago, I was feeling particularly lonely as I was not on speaking terms with two of my closest friends. Without m knowledge, Mom called both of them and surprised me with a visit with the two of them with her. My friends and I spent all night being kids and having fun, and spent the night rekindling our friendship. I have never forgotten how loved I felt at that moment by my mother.

Over time, Mom has taught us unconditional love and friendship. Through family tragedies and being laid off, she has kept her spirits up. The word “me” is never on my mother's tongue. Instead, she is always thinking about what she can do for others, regardless if it takes away from her personal time. She is an amazing woman and I can only hope when I have children I can show them the amount of love my mother has shown us."

Henrietta Ladage of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter-in-law, Cindy Ladage

"Many readers of Illinois Country Living probably recognize Henrietta Ladage’s voice because for years she was at the end of the line when they called to let a volunteer know that their electricity was out. Callers were always relieved to reach such a caring person on the other end because she met their needs with friendliness and concern and always has treated everyone friend or stranger with consideration. In fact, Henrietta is probably hands down, the sweetest woman I know. Growing up on a farm outside of Virden, Illinois Henrietta has lived her life mostly in the country and enjoys the beauty that nature has to offer and the privacy of country life.

When I met Henrietta twenty-nine years ago, my only concern was that she would like me because I was marrying her son. Little did I know what a wonderful woman she is and how lucky I was to a have mother-in-law like her. I will hear women complaining about how their mother-in-laws interfere and tell them how to run their lives, how to handle their children and husbands, I never remember a cross word from Henrietta or advice not solicited in almost thirty years. Although she is not my mother, I love her like one. Henrietta has five children and with in-laws and grandchildren and now a new great- grand daughter, her house runneth over!

Most Saturday mornings, one can find an array of the Ladage clan darkening her door. She usually has cinnamon rolls, cookies or some other treat to make the visitor linger a bit longer than they planned. No one ever turns down food offerings from Henrietta. I recall once when my daughter Carrie was young and I was traveling. My husband Keith offered to take her and my son Jason and daughter Allie out to eat anywhere they wanted. Carrie replied, “I want to go to Grandma’s and eat her fried chicken.”

There are no great heroic stories to tell, only the tale of a woman filled with great love for her family who is always there to listen without judgment to the outpourings of her kin. With quiet dignity Henrietta shares her strong Christian faith and instills God’s love through her actions. Many women probably qualify to be the Country Mother of the Year, but in my eyes, the only true candidate is Henrietta Ladage."

Jonie Fesler of Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her son-in-law, Robert J. Legate

"Jonie Fesler is the name that I would like to submit for Illinois Country Mother of the Year. Jonie would never want this attention brought to her. Her humbleness remains because of her constant attention to others. She never puts herself before anyone. Her unrelenting commitment to others can be seen far beyond the six children that she and her husband, John, have raised on their family farm in Barry, Illinois.

While her marriage of over 50 years stands as a test of time and commitment, her most recognizable quality is her giving attitude and spirit. Her extraordinary capabilities can be seen, whether she is baking for charities and local fund raisers, providing gifts and free seamstress services, working her garden only to give her produce away, taking time to play games with the younger generation, caring for ailing livestock, or simply encouraging others. I must include that her vita also includes driving tractors, grain trucks, feeding livestock and other farm chores.

She remains steadfast that everyone eats healthy and has plenty to eat, but don’t forget you must have a least one piece of her homemade pie or cake that is always available. Extended family and friends feel welcome and comfortable in the Fesler home. Whether it is birthday celebrations, famous Easter Egg Hunts, Christmas Productions or simply making treats to send to family out of the area, every detail is critical so that each person has fun and feels unconditional love.

While I am challenged to get all the details in this essay, I should add that Jonie has her entire life chronicled and archived in hand written hard bound diaries that she has maintained since she was a little girl. I write this essay probably more on behalf of my sister in law, Annie. Annie, age 48, is the second eldest child and most exceptional. The reality about Annie is that she is mentally challenged with the mentality of a three year old. While the qualities I have shared are noteworthy, I feel that the unequivocal love, devotion, commitment and support that “Mommy” according to Annie, has given to her is beyond measure. The true measure of this lady’s success can be seen in the smile and level of comfort that Annie has enjoyed. Given Jonie’s seemingly unending energy, Annie has been involved with all family activities including the energy required for her to attend sporting events for family members, simply going shopping or helping with household chores. So, I share this narrative on behalf of Annie and the many people who have been touched by the sharing that Jonie Fesler has given to all. She and her husband have been long standing members of the Rural Electric Cooperative which would be properly represented by Jonie. Thank you for your consideration."

Karon Inboden of Norris Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter, Kaiva Riley

"I think my mother should be nominated for Illinois Country Mother of the Year because she is truly a country woman plus good mother. We have always lived in the country all through my childhood years. I am now 48 years old. There were 5 of us children and my mother stayed home and took care of all of us throughout our childhood.

We raised chickens every summer to eat during the winter months. Dad would purchase 50 chicks, feed them, then he would start butchering when they were ready, 5 of them a day. Mom would do the cleaning and cutting up of them and us kids would help clean the pin feathers off them.

She would also help Dad put out a big garden and then do all the canning and freezing of the vegetables, tomato juice, frozen corn, green beans, and dill pickles. Lots of dill pickles. Back then dill pickles were a favorite snack for us kids and some of our cousins. We could eat 2 or 3 quart jars at a time.

There was always lots of laundry to be done with 5 kids. I know she had some to do every day. I really don't remember helping with laundry but I do remember helping clean the house. Helping my mother with chores when I was young, helped me to be the person I am today when it comes to housework. I like a clean house and I even kind of like doing it.

We always butchered our own pork and beef. Dad did all the outside work of butchering but Mom was responsible for the inside work. Sorting the different cuts, stuffing the sausage, wrapping, marking and of course the clean up. It was always a fun day for us kids on butchering day. We would do 3 or 4 hoop on that day, and a lot of our family, uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents would come help too.

My mother still lives in the country of course. She will be 66 years young on March 26. My dad passed away on November 16, 2006 of cancer. My mom took care of Dad all through his cancer plus took care of the yard, house, and anything else that came up. My dad was able to stay at home throughout his battle with cancer and died at home because of Mom's help.

My mother mows about 1.5 acres of yard, helps with our local Relay for Life, feeds her birds all winter, and summer also, cuts all her 4 sons-in-law hair and grandson's hair too. Once in a while she will clip a dog or two's hair also for someone.

She's always attended church and so does most of her family. We fill up 3 pews at church when we are all there which is usually every Sunday.

My mother has always been there for us and would do anything she possibly could if we needed her to. I wouldn't trade her for any other mother in the world. She means the whole world to all of us."

Debra Sterchi of Norris Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her son, Sam Sterchi

"Eight thousand seven hundred thirty eight days. As of May first, this is the amount of time Deb Sterchi has been a mother. Boy, I have sure put her through a lot in that amount of time. My mom has had many ups and downs in the past 24 years, but I am sure she has no regrets and wouldn’t want her life any other way.

Much of Deb Sterchi’s motherhood has been spent at the old Sterchi farmhouse, known locally as the house of seven gables, located eight miles northeast of Olney, Illinois. During this time she has worn many hats from being a farmer’s wife to school teacher to beautician, it seems like she has done everything. With all these different hats to wear, she was still grounded with the same set of shoes; the motherhood shoes.

Although I am almost 24 years old, Mom still treats me like a child, and I’ve accepted the fact that she always will. She will still call to remind me of appointments, make sure I have found my way on a trip (though I never get lost), and always tells me to watch for deer.

Every person is unique and every mom is unique. I know I could write a book on my mother, but have decided just to entertain with some of my most memorable times with her.

Living on a farm will produce good stories by itself. There was always something unusual happening. One evening when I was young, we pulled into our driveway and Mom noticed some commotion in the hog pen. Before I could unbuckle, she had the Oldsmobile flying down the field like we were in the Baja 1000. Wild dogs had jumped the fence and were after our hogs. Well, these dogs hadn’t planned on meeting Mama Sterchi. She sprung out of the car and chased these oversized coyotes back to the woods, hollering and swinging her purse the whole way.

As many of you know, it seems like there are always some sort of insect plague on a farm each year. When I was younger, I remember having an over population of ants, houseflies, grasshoppers, and horseflies all in different years. Nothing tested my mother’s patience like the year the ladybugs came. I believe these nuisances were actually Asian beetles, but they looked similar to the ladybug so that’s what we called them. Every evening when Mom would come home from working in town, we would have a collection of several hundred of these bugs. After several days of sweeping, swatting, and squashing, we found the best way to debug was by the vacuum cleaner. At the time it wasn’t funny, but I think about it now and remember my mom all stretched out with the vacuum hose trying to reach the bugs at the top of the windows, I just have to laugh.

Probably the strangest incident my mom has had on the farm occurred in the wee hours of the morning. Dad was working the night shift at the dairy in Olney. Mom went to the kitchen for a drink. Much to her surprise, she found a snake sprawled out across the floor. Instinct allowed her to grab a boot rack from the porch and whack the slithery out of the creature before it could escape. Next morning as I came down the stairs, I saw the dead trespasser belly up in the floor with the boot rack on top. She threatened to move to town if that ever happened again. We tease her, but hope it never does happen again.

Through all of her duties, jobs, and volunteer work, my mom has done a great job in raising her children. She doesn’t get the recognition she deserves, but she doesn’t mind. She might be the typical country mom, but I think she deserves praise and thanks for it. She might come home to a room full of ladybugs, a table piled high with garden produce, or some other bizarre creature on the loose, she still enjoys living in the country. She enjoys it so much that she wants grandchildren to live the memories over again with. I wonder if they make grandmother-hood shoes?"

LaVerne Krebel of Egyptian Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter, Cathy Krebel-Nevois

"My mother, LaVerne Krebel, deserves to win the title "Illinois Country Mother of the Year" for more reasons than I can write in 500 words. She is the epitome of a country mom. She works tirelessly not only for her family, but for her church, community and nature. I like to think of her as a combination of Betty Crocker and Martha Stewart (without the jail time!) with a little bit of Mother Theresa. After spending years cooking, cleaning, sewing and keeping a warm home and garden for me, my sister and my dad, she now spends her retirement doing much of the same simply because she enjoys it.

My mother is the best all around chef. All of her food is made from scratch. We actually make fun of her a little bit because she makes her own pancake syrup! She makes a chocolate layer cake to die for, coffee cake that makes my mouth water just writing about it, lasagna so thick you can barely lift the pan, cobbler that I have actually seen people fight over, and she has even made chocolate truffles. Not only does she cook, but she also cans most of the fruits and vegetables that she grows. To name a few, she cans tomatoes, green beans, salsa, jellies, jams, applesauce, apple butter and baby dill pickles that certain family members now call "Bernie's famous pickles". And let's not forget the home made dandelion wine and kahlua that she is also known to brew. I know a lot of people love to cook, but this woman simply loves to feed her family. She has a special way of always cooking everyone's favorites when they come to visit. Who else would make chocolate layer cake and chocolate truffles when they don't even like chocolate? Who else would make applesauce for her grandson with special labels for "Nate's applesauce" (his favorite)?

If you ever visit my mom's home and garden in the summer time, you would understand why I compare her to Martha Stewart. Imagine a huge garden and yard filled with wonderful fruits and vegetables, cherry trees, an apple tree, blackberries, pumpkins and more. Her garden and home is surrounded by more beautiful flowers and plants than I care to count. In fact, she has so many that when my husband and I built our home, we got most of our flowers and plants from her garden because it was so abundant. Her home in the summer is filled with the aromas of freshly baked cobblers and pies with fresh flowers from her garden on her table.

I have often suggested to my mom that she open up a little shop and sell all of her wonderful fruits, vegetable, baked goods and flowers. She always tells me "But then it wouldn't be fun anymore." Of course she usually has an excess of all of the wonderful things that she grows and bakes. She just gives them away to family and friends, never asking for anything in return. So when I saw the advertisement to nominate a country mother of the year, I figured it was about time that I gave my mom the recognition that she deserves. She is, quite simply, the best!"

Carol Raines of Egyptian Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter, Stephanie Myers

"Why my mother deserves to be nominated?

My mother (Carol Raines) is the greatest person in the world. This woman is not only my idol but my best friend was well. She is someone that would lend a helping hand to anyone in need. I have always looked up to my mom since I was a little girl, and she has made me what I am today. My mom has guided me to pursue my dreams and has always told me to never give up. I remember telling my mom that I could not do something, her response would be “Of course you can, you can do anything you put your mind to.” And guess what, I did it. Of course, she would be there to guide me through my problems or turmoil in my life. My mom would never push me to do anything I didn't want to do. She knew that she raised me right and that I would do the right thing.

My mother and I do a lot of fun things together that usually friends do together, but like I said, my mother is my best friend. For instance, we go shopping, deer hunting, ride our horses and motorcycles around and have a blast. So this is just a couple reasons Carol Raines should be nominated for Illinois Country Mother of the Year. Everyone that knows her would tell you the same. She is a very special lady to me. I wouldn't know what to do without her! Love you, Mom."

Cathy Kiper of Corn Belt Energy Corporation
Nominated by her daughter, Kimberly Kiper

"I would like to nominate my mother Cathy Kiper for mother of the year. My mom raised my brother and I in a single family home she always put us first and her needs last. She in her life has also cared for my grandmother which passed away 3 years ago this April. My grandmother was a renal dialysis patient and again my mother put her life on the back burner to care for our grandmother and made sure she made every dialysis treatment which was 3 times a week. My mother Cathy now resides at Phoenix Towers and is very active with Church as well. She is president of the council at Phoenix towers and has had several fund raisers to make money for activities and prizes for the residents whom reside there. My mother always has a smile on her face but what people don't understand is my mother has numerous medical issues to many to name. She has given so much to others and not enough to herself. I feel she is most deserving of this honor. I just want her to know how much everyone in the community appreciates everything she has done and given in mine and others lives. With my mothers wonderful smile and caring heart she will always be my Mother of the Year!!!! Please consider my mom for this honor."

Beth Woltering of Madison County (Not on cooperative lines)
Nominated by her great aunt, Margaret Kruep

"My great niece, Beth, now 45 years of age is the mother of 2 sons, whose husband left her while the boys were very small. Beth was lucky to find a job with UPS. Hard work, long hours, but good pay. She bought a home in Highland, Illinois. It's closer to her job.

Her one son decided he'd try it on his own after turning 18 and got a girl pregnant. She had nowhere to go so Beth took her and her son in and even gave a shower for the soon to be delivered girl, Beth's granddaughter. Beth's son lost his job and the girl left with the baby and left to another state with another Beth and her parents and all felt so bad. Beth lost her job with UPS after much shoulder pain and surgeries to help her. UPS made a settlement, but she's only 45 and has many medical bills and is also helping her son. Her youngest son does odd jobs to go to college. He tries to help his mom with all the home payments, taxes, INS, and all of the utilities. Beth has to use her settlement money to survive. She does any odd job she can find and not lift more than five pounds, but with the economy as it is, she will try to get disability as her money will be used up if she can't find work.

She never complains but like all mothers, she says they are her boys so she keeps them even though they are of age now.

She has no idea that I'm writing but my heart goes out to her and her wonderful parents and family.

I'd be a happy great-aunt (and mother) to see Beth get the prize she deserves. She always says “I count my blessings.”"

Dorothy Dawes of Egyptian Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter, Tami Wollard

"I know that everyone feels like their Mother is the most special Mother of all, and I am no exception. My mother, Dorothy Dawes, practically raised 5 children by herself, as my Father was gone working out of town, coming home on the weekends. She learned how to make clothes for all her children, as money was tight at times. Later, she taught herself how to re-upholster furniture and was very successful at it. She opened her own business in Goreville, and had many friends in our little town. If anyone ever needed work done on furniture, car seats, airplane seats or just some worn coveralls sewn up, Mom did it and took pride in her work and charged a very fair price where others charged high prices for the same service.

She always put her children and grandchildren first. If she found out (and she seems to always find these things out) that one of her kids didn't have groceries or one of the grand-kids needed a coat or shoes, whatever was needed, would mysteriously appear at the needy ones home.

Approximately 6 years ago, Mom was diagnosed with kidney cancer. The "Doctors" gave her 6 months to live, but Mom and God had other plans. She faced it head-on, going through kidney surgery then through several different types of chemo. I never saw her cry for herself. She told my siblings and I that "It is harder on you kids than me." She kept fighting the battle as we watched her little body, get thinner and thinner. Because of the weaken state of her immune system, she had so many illness's to fight along with the cancer. During these times, all her children and grandchildren were with her through the many hospital stays. The nurses said she was a joy to take care of. She had a wonderful sense of humor and wanted everyone to be happy. Mom never used her nurse call button, as she didn't want to be a bother. She showed her children and grandchildren, strength and grace as she was slowly slipping away from us. On her final day on Earth, she was surrounded by all her children, grandchildren, brother and sisters and several nieces and nephews. We sat around her bed singing Christian Hymns to her as she went to be with Jesus on the morning of July 31, 2009. Since our dear sweet Mother went to Heaven, her legacy of the love she passed on to her children thrives. We are a very close loving family because of Mom and I know she is looking down from her Heavenly home and smiling.

Mom's name is Dorothy Dawes and she and I both live in Goreville and served by an electrical co-op. If my essay should win, I would live to donate the winnings to Hospice, who took wonderful care of my beautiful mother."

Valerie Demry of Corn Belt Energy Corporation
Nominated by her daughter, Jennifer Stroyan

"Selfless. There is no better word to describe my extraordinary mother, Valerie Demry. For as long as I can remember my mother has always put her children first (three biological and numerous childhood friends in need of a temporary meal, home, advice, or listener). Whether it was braces, clothing, a replacement pair of eyeglasses, or our college educations - she made it clear from day one that we were the most important piece of her life. Now that we are all grown and raising our own families, she continues to amaze me with her selflessness. On a moment's notice, my mother drops whatever she has planned to take care of a sick grandchild, help re- organize an already organized kitchen because her pregnant daughter feels it's necessary, drive an elderly aunt for her daily cup of coffee, or simply listen as I vent about my latest struggles. She has never asked for anything in return. My only hope is that I may one day be half the mother to my children as she has been to her own children."

Darcey Spenny of Spoon River Electric Cooperative
Nominated by her daughter, Danielle Prohaska

"My mother's name is Darcey Spenny. She is an amazing woman in so many ways. Darcey has three children, Damon, Danielle, and Devon. She has been married for 40 years. She also is the very proud grandmother of three boys. She has been working at our local Grain Elevator for 33 years. She does so much in our community. She is involved with so many different projects that goes on. She takes care of the Elevators, local Church, School, and Fire Departments financial books, and volunteers her time when they have special events. Her most outstanding volunteering achievement is the work she does with the 182nd Airlift Wing, Family Readiness Group with the United States Air force. After my sister joined, our mother started volunteering with the Family Readiness Group. We are so proud of the work she does. She has helped so many people by opening her home when they need a place to stay for a couple of days, or for the summer. We now think of the people that come to stay with her part of our family. And they always seem to come back and visit just for her amazing dinners. When my sister's husband leaves for deployment she makes everyone on the flight line breakfast, and also makes bags upon bags of caramel corn. They all seem to know who the caramel lady is.

We have such a wonderful, open hearted, helping family because of our mother. I know that between my brother and my sister, that we have learned to be better people because of having a mother like Darcey."



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Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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