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Illinois Country Living

Country Mother of the Year …
From one mom to another

By Jonie Larson Gates

Traci Sparrow and her daughter Danielle find blowing bubbles to be quite fun.

Martin Sparrow wraps his arms around his son Monte who watches the ceiling fan.

Lunchtime is a family affair. Here Traci and her husband Martin (back, left) gather with her parents, the children and even a nephew as they eat together at Scanlan and Sparrow Trucking, Inc.

When just 10 days old, Traci Linn Sparrow was taken into foster care in the home of Donald and Dyna Scanlan. They would adopt her a year later, setting a lifetime of love in motion for Traci.

It is Traci’s mom, a woman who would take in many foster children for 25 years, who deems her daughter – not herself – worthy of this year’s Country Mother of the Year title. A letter submitted by Dyna was judged to be the winning entry by a committee at the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives.

The story unfolds at Scanlan and Sparrow Trucking, Inc. – the hub for all things family. Traci’s father started the business in the rural area just a few miles from Carthage in Dallas City, Ill. some 35 years ago. Its 20 trucks are hauling on the roads despite the high gas prices. Traci’s husband Martin maintains them. He often works until 9 or 10 at night. But regardless of his daily duties, he’s a full-time father, too – having made the commitment years ago.

Marc, 24, is Traci’s and Martin’s only birth child. Complications at the time of his birth made it impossible for Traci to carry another child. She miscarried some years later when trying for another baby. Like Traci’s adoptive parents, she and Martin decided to try foster care.

“I had always wanted six kids. I have twice that many now if I count all the drivers,” Traci says, adding a dose of humor to what would be an overwhelming existence for most people.

While Traci and Martin don’t have six children, they are a family of six. They have three adopted special-needs children – each with a unique story.

There’s Bobby. He’s 18 and smiles a lot. He came to live with Martin and Traci as a foster child when he was three. He is speech and developmentally delayed due to a fever of 106 at 6 months of age. When the couple first took him in he wasn’t walking. They made the decision to adopt him and after 4 to 5 years he became one of the family.

Montrous, better known as Monte, creates a lot of activity at the trucking firm. His tall, lanky build is proof that his body has matured like others his age. But he likes to play, peeking under the table at his mom’s shoes and plopping down on dad’s lap, pulling his legs up as a 2- to 3-year-old would do. Occasionally he yells out, laughs and sometimes lunges within inches of your face to proclaim a friendly, “hi.”

He points to the ceiling and Martin confirms what he sees. “Yes, a fan,” he says to his son. The couple took on Monte at age 7, in what was supposed to be respite care. He is legally blind and mentally handicapped because his birth mother changed the cat’s litter box when she was pregnant, resulting in toxoplasmosis.

It’s at this point that Traci launches into her beliefs, rightfully owning her title as our Mother of the Year. She describes Monte and his behaviors.

“He’s been our challenge. He’s most definitely a daddy’s boy. He has put holes in the walls and has fits. … but he can’t say if he’s hurting.

“Our thrill was when he was potty trained at age 12,” she says.

Her heart speaks love about foster children and special needs children, in general.

She urges couples to consider caring for and adopting more than just babies.

“There are children out there who need just as much love, who are older,” Traci says.

As Traci and her mom sit in the offices at the trucking company telling about their lives, the fourth child, Danielle, 7, watches Mickey Mouse on a TV in the background, with her face nearly touching the screen. Her curly, dark hair and sweetness are sure to catch the heart of anyone who stops by.

Although Martin and Traci had already adopted the two boys, the social worker at Lutheran Social Services knew they wanted a girl. When Danielle was 23 months old, the couple got the call. They were told she was missing a part of her brain.

“I said, ‘Sure, I’ll take her,’ ” Traci recounts.

When Danielle came to them, she walked on her knees. She had been kept in a crib with a lid-of-sorts on it, which kept her from standing up. She had Shaken-Baby Syndrome with seizures and other ailments such as asthma. A scan would show that the corpus callosum, a part in the middle of the brain that connects the hemispheres, was not adequately developed.

But with the help and commitment of the couple, she quickly started overcoming the odds.

“Her eyes were so bright and wonderful. Within a week, we had her talking. ‘Cookie’ was her first word, although we don’t know why,” Traci says. The couple was expecting a despondent child, but with a lot of love and patience, they got a “princess” as Grandma Dyna calls her.

Traci turned 45 in April, and has years and years of mothering behind her. She has just as many years ahead because of the kids’ developmental challenges – something she looks upon with tenderness and calmness.

Her mom says it best.

“I do think every day of the lifetime commitment they’ve made to the boys and Danielle. I don’t think there are many people who would do that. Martin is just as special. If there was a Father of the Year, I would nominate him,” Dyna says of her son-in-law.

Martin leans up against the filing cabinets listening in on the chatter. After some urging, he agrees to sit down for a few minutes. Monte takes the opportunity to sit on dad’s lap. With his arms wrapped around his adult son, he talks favorably about his wife’s award.

“I think it’s pretty nice. With everything she’s been going through for 26 years … caring for everybody, no matter what’s going on with her.”

Health issues are on her list of challenges. In 2001, Traci just wasn’t feeling herself. Without telling anyone she went to the Burlington Hospital one afternoon for tests. The results were not favorable.

Traci has Antiphospholid Antibody Syndrome, a hereditary disease. It’s a dangerous condition, one that can cause complications such as blood clots in the lungs, miscarriages, strokes and lupus. When diagnosed Traci had 27 blood clots in her lungs, 13 on one side, 14 on the other. She lives on a blood thinner and has regular checkups. Although this condition can be deadly, Traci sticks to her doctor-prescribed regiment and marches forth.

“You get up, deal with the kids and go on,” she says with determination. “A lot of times you just have to push through it.” She gives her husband and the community a lot of credit for what she has accomplished.

“I couldn’t be the mom I am without him,” Traci says. Her mom agrees, repeating a phrase Hillary Clinton coined. “It takes a village. It is true.” Dyna says it takes schools and doctors cooperating to raise all children, especially ones with severe needs. From her foster-parenting days, Dyna says even a barber, the late Boone Avis, would say, “If you can raise these kids, the least I can give them are hair cuts.”

Trucking firm employee, Alaina Ray – also the family babysitter – is a huge help and Monte is really attached to her.

“Working here, you feel like part of the family,” Alaina says.

A kitchen inside the trucking facility is home for many meals. On this particular day everyone gathers around the dining table and Marc, the couple’s birth son, ventures in. His life has been different from most young men his age. Often, as was the case this day, he is called upon to help care for the other children. As a youngster, he didn’t necessarily understand it all.

“At first, I didn’t know what to think about it. I was young, but I’ve gotten used to it,” Marc says.

He describes his mother as “caring” and says she deserves the title bestowed on her.

“After all the stuff I’ve put her through, yes she deserves it many times over,” he says.

In a really reflective moment, Marc speaks from his heart about whether he could do what his parents have done.

“I don’t know. Deep down I hope I could, but they have more patience than I do.”

It is evident his parents have patience, more than meets the eye. Criteria in choosing the Mother of the Year include obstacles encountered in life. It wasn’t until a visit to Dallas City that an obstacle – not mentioned in the nomination letter - came clearly into focus.

This family of six with so many challenges is living in a garage. Albeit a nice garage, it’s just that. Three overhead doors conceal what is really occurring within.

Entrance is gained on the side, because the three overhead doors are actually being used as exterior walls. Swing it open and there you see it. The two-story garage has curtains as room dividers. The sofas for the family sit up against the curtains, kind of securing an area.

The kitchen/bedroom/laundry room is on the other side. A twin bed is in the corner with a full-sized bed across from it. A table takes center stage, too. Of course a stove is there, with a dryer next to it, doubling as a countertop. As for storage – well, the clothes hang from the ceiling down the middle of the room.

In a scene too difficult to describe and too busy to photograph accurately, this family resides. While clean, the quarters are obviously not sufficient for comfort.

The property is located next to the trucking company and close to grandma’s house, and the garage is next to what might one day be the family home, if circumstances allow.

The story revolving around their living quarters is not about poverty. Complications started a couple years ago and have snowballed since.

At one time the couple lived in a mobile home and were pursuing their dream home, starting first with a nice spacious garage – a fairly common practice. Materials and tools for building the house can then be kept in the garage.

Then the floods of 2008 hit the Midwest. While the Sparrows weren’t flooded out, they saw an opportunity to buy a house for a reasonable cost in a nearby town that had been flooded. The kitchen, baths and flooring had been gutted and the lower portion of the drywall ripped out in preparation for flood repair. Basically, a skeletal home remained.

Traci’s father, known for his carpentry, had every intention of restoring the home’s partially gutted interior, so they bought it and moved it to a foundation on site. However, that same year, her father rolled a bulldozer and was seriously injured. He needed time to recover. The following year, when it again looked feasible to begin, her father was diagnosed with stage four leukemia.

Time is just not on this family’s side. While there are occasional family get-a-ways planned, the rest of the time is devoted to 24-hour care for the kids and just staying afloat.

“For him (Martin) to have time to work on our house is almost impossible,” Traci says.

“I don’t go down and sit at the bar,” adds Martin. More than likely he’s out working on a truck or running errands, with Monte in the passenger seat going along for the ride.

While reluctant to show this part of their lives, Traci and Martin are not focusing on it as a negative.

“I’m warm. I’m dry. I have a roof over my head. I want my kids to have their own rooms and I want to go to sleep without listening to the dryer,” Traci says. And she speaks fondly about someday having a bathtub.

But she shrugs her shoulders as if to say, “oh, well …”

“Someday we will see the reward, it just may not be here,” she says.

Illinois Country Living Magazine personnel, the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, working in conjunction with Western Illinois Electric Coop. are pleased to bestow the title of Illinois Country Mother of the Year to Traci Linn Sparrow and commend her loving mother, Dyna Scanlan, for nominating her daughter.

From mom’s heart …

Nominator: Dyna Scanlan

Nominee and winner: Traci Linn Sparrow

I wish to nominate my daughter, Traci Linn Sparrow for Mother of the Year. To me Traci is the epitome of what a mother should be. Traci became our foster child at the age of ten days old and was adopted by us when she was one year old. For as long as I can remember she has always wanted to give back to others, especially children.

She and her husband, Martin, have been married for twenty-five years. When complications from her first pregnancy prevented her from having more children, she and Martin became foster parents. She wanted to help children who are hard to place because of their disabilities. Therefore they took children with special needs into their home. Eventually they adopted three special needs children. Bobby is now eighteen years old, Monte is nineteen years old and Danielle is seven years old. Marc, their eldest son is a fine young man, now 24 years old, living on his own and working in the family business.

Traci has been diagnosed with Antiphospholipid. This is an inherited blood disorder that causes blood clots. She takes daily medicine and blood tests weekly in order to control this disease. This has not deterred her in any way from being an extraordinary mother to her four children. Traci is an advocate for all children with special needs. She is active in her children’s school activities and spends countless hours working with her children to improve their skills, hoping that some day, to the best of their ability, they will become productive citizens.

Bobby and Monte would normally be old enough now to graduate high school and most mothers would be planning for college. But for Traci, just hearing Bobby pronounce his words more clearly or for Monte to learn a new word is sheer joy for her. Without Traci these boys would most likely be institutionalized. When Danielle came to their home she could not walk, had Shaken Baby Syndrome, a heart condition and was not ever expected to be in a normal classroom. She is now a happy, active 7-year old attending regular grade school classes.

Most of our children grow up and with our blessings move on with their lives but Traci has made a LIFETIME commitment to these children because she loves them with what only can be described as a true mother’s love. Although it is very obvious how much they love her, I wish that they could better vocalize what Traci means to them. Traci has lived as a member of WIEC since her birth 44 years ago. She is co-owner of the family business, Scanlan & Sparrow Trucking, Inc., also a member of WIEC for over 30 years. She is also a special aunt to her nieces and nephews, always being the one with toys or crayons or goodies for them in her purse.

I just cannot express the pride I feel for the mother that she has become. Her unselfish dedication and love for her family is straight from her heart and she definitely deserves to be MOTHER OF THE YEAR!!

Other deserving moms …

Nominated by those who love them:

Nominee: Jackie Andrews, Yale

Nominator: Kirt Andrews, son

My mom is a very caring woman. She takes care of older people who can’t fend for themselves. She’s a regular church goer, she will help anyone who needs her help.

Nominee: Sandy Baum, Waterloo

Nominator: Gary Baum, husband

I would like to nominate my wife, Sandy, for the Illinois Country Mother of the Year award. We are high school sweethearts who have been married 34 years. We have 2 great kids that we adopted from India. Sean just turned 23 and Tiffani just turned 18. Sandy’s whole life has been devoted to caring for her family and others. She was a nurse for 25 years.

Sandy was active in high school and continues being active as an adult. She’s quick to volunteer for our community or school, help a friend or just be a good listener. She attended many sporting events, plays, concerts and meetings for our kids. She’s been there to sew, bake or drive. She can always be counted on to help out in some way. Before she went into the hospital in October, she and Tiffani sewed 23 dresses for Little Dresses for Africa.

From that hospitalization, we learned that she has pulmonary fibrosis. Her condition has worsened and she is now on 6L of oxygen. She has had to quit work and cut down on her volunteering. She tries to find ways to help without expanding a lot of energy. Sandy used to be the costume coordinator for the school plays and musicals. She devoted many hours. Since she couldn’t spend that much time this year, she worked it out to fix costumes at home and sew utters on a stuffed cow. As treasurer of the public library and the school music booster’s organization, she is finding it hard to get to the meetings and bank as often as she used to. She knows she may soon need to give up these positions. Cutting down on her volunteering has been hard on her. She will find a way to stay involved with her kids and community as long as she can.

Sandy sometimes needs to rely on others for help now. Just shopping for groceries, going to doctor appointments or doing laundry can be a struggle. This is frustrating for her, since she’s always been the one to help everyone else, but she remains positive and upbeat.

Sandy is an inspiration to me and our kids. She gives me the strength and patience I need to help take care of her and the kids see how much she is willing to do for them. We’ve always appreciated her, but it wasn’t until she became ill that we realized just how much she did and how much we rely on her to get things done. There are many great mothers out there. Sandy would be very humbled by this award. Sean, Tiffani and I would like for her to see just how much we appreciate her through this nomination. Thank you for considering her for this award.

Nominee: Esther Viva Bethel, Harrisburg

Nominator: Marla VonLienen, daughter

My mother is very special. She had 19 children and is 91 years old. She has 49 grandchildren, 88 great grandchildren and great great-grandchildren 11. So my mother has been busy giving so much love to her children, grandchildren and to family and friends.

Mother would cook meals and enjoyed feeding her neighbors. She would ask what pies you like and she could sure make good homemade pies and have ready for you. Mother was always on her feet taking care of her children while I was growing up, always cooking, cleaning and remember her using a wringer washer and scrub board to keep clothes clean.

During the summer, remember sitting under shade tree helping out, popping green beans and peeling peaches to help mom to get ready to can. Mother did without for herself to see that her children had what they needed. She now sits in the house and sings songs to her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was diagnosed with dementia and when she sings a song and forgets a word, she would have a word that would rhyme and that what makes things so special. Mother never lets anything get her down. She always says the Lord will take care. Our family is one big happy family with love and caring that mother has brought her children up to be.

Nominee: Beverly Bower, Wheeler

Nominator: Rita Richards, daughter

There are so many words to describe a mom with just one word. My mom is a full time wife, Mom and Grandma. She works a full time job, is raising my 11 year old Nephew, helps with church and community activities and somehow she still finds time for herself. She is in The Red Hat Society and helps with The Relay for Life when she can. In her spare time she likes to knit, crochet, sew, bake and do craft projects. She even finds time to play games with her friends and my Nephew. She is a Mother of 2, a Grandmother of 7, and a Great Grandmother of 1. I couldn't ask for a better mother than what I already have. My mom is my very best friend in the world. She is also my Guardian Angel that prays and watches over me each and every day. My mom has been there for me through the hard and good times in my life and, I hope that never changes. In my opinion I don't want that to ever change. She was there for me when I was taking my cancer (Melanoma) treatment. Without my mom, family and friends support. My treatment would have been harder on me. (My treatment was for 1 year) I am very thankful for my Mom. I hope that I can be as good of a mom to my kids (who are 18 and 19) as she is to me. They always say "Where your treasure is there your heart be also." I consider my mom my "GREATEST TREASURE."  I wouldn't trade her for anything in the world. I am very proud to have as special of a Mother as mine is to me. That is why I think that I am the luckiest woman in the world to have a "GREAT MOM" like mine. I know she would do anything for me, my family, or for anyone else if you asked. We are all lucky to have a "GREAT MOM." I just think that mine is extra special and helpful whenever I need her. I can't even imagine not having my mom around. One thing that we all must remember is that none of us would be here if it wasn't for our mother's. There are some that don't have their moms here for some reason or another. Like everyone else my mom is one of a kind. I'm not saying that my mom is better than your mom. All I'm saying is "I think my mom is the best mom ever." You would think so too if you were me. That is just my opinion and that's the only thing that matters to me.  There is so very much more that I can say about why my mom is "SPECIAL." But, all I can say is she's special to me and, that is all that matters to me. PLEASE HUG A MOM TODAY!!!!!! 

Nominee: Delores Bower, Creal Springs

Nominator: Denise Jones, daughter

Her name is Delores Bowers and she is the most loving, caring, compassionate, unselfish wife/mother/grandmother/friend you will ever find. She is without doubt the most deserving person/mother for this contest. At age 74 mother is blessed to have her parents living, her mother (94), a retired Methodist minister and father (96) a retired oil field worker. They still live on their own, however they are starting to get weak so mom checks on them daily and shops for their groceries. My father is 74 and is a Methodist minister. He has been a diabetic for 35 years, and had open heart surgery 7 years ago. My uncle (father’s brother) isn’t well so mom takes him to his VA doctor appointments, checks to make sure the doctors are doing the best for him, gets groceries, and pays his bills. Mom never wanted to be a nurse but has done the work of one for the past 10 years taking care of my father with un-dying care with no complaints.

Dad and mom are the parents of 4 children, grandparents of 7, and great-grandparent of 5. If you want a true view of a mom and grandma, just ask the children and grandchildren and they will quickly tell you how important she is to them. It is her delight to spend time with her family and baby sit when she can. Mom always attended the activities of her children and attends her grandchildren’s activities. She prays daily for her family.

Mother is a good singer and occasional sings a duet with my father at church. Southern Illinois has a special gospel service on the 2nd Monday each month called "The Day of Inspiration". With the aid of my mother, my father was the President of the Day of Inspiration for over 20 years. He retired from the position last year, but mom still gives so much of her time to the promotion of the day by calling, preparing food, sending cards, and anything else that is needed. She also organizes church activities, family outings, as well as staying with my children when I need help.

Six years ago mom had a knee replacement and is doing well but it bothers her from time to time, however, she pushes through the pain and keeps on going even when she needs a break. She doesn’t sleep well but she doesn’t let that stop her. My mother has such a load on her, but she carries it without complaints, simply picks up her cross and goes on. She is an awesome mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, always giving of herself. I had a wonderful productive childhood, mostly due to my mom, she is an amazing woman. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for my mother. She loves without conditions and has always been there for me even in adulthood. She deserves nothing but the best. The world needs more moms’ like mine!

Nominee: Sheila Bradford, LeRoy

Nominator: Christie Todd, daughter

I would like to nominate Sheila Bradford for the Illinois Country Mother of the Year. She is an amazing woman that is dedicated to God, her husband, her children, her grandchildren, and those who are without food. In 1969, she began her journey as a wife and in 1970, began her journey as a mother. Her motherhood journey brought five children into her life consisting of three daughters and two sons (Shelly, Christie, Steven, Scott, and Courtney). She took her role as a wife and mother very seriously and sacrificed much in order to give her family all she could. She diligently worked a full-time job that she has been with for the last 35 years while she also gave all of herself to her family. She made sure that there was always a meal prepared for her family (cooking is just one of the many ways she expresses her love), a hug and kiss goodnight, a smiling face at extra-curricular activities, and made sure that her children were always being treated fairly (if not, she was right there to make sure changes were being made to ensure it).
As her children grew into adults and then blessed her with grandchildren, she was ecstatic! She is excited for the opportunity to share more of her love! She currently has nine grandchildren that she dearly loves and spoils rotten. She is always willing to have them over for short visits but truly loves the times that they can spend extended time together. Not only does she invite them into her home, but also enjoys taking them on adventures like going to the zoo, discovery museum, and fun trips to Dollar General.
As Sheila’s children grew up and left her home, she felt a calling to help those who are homeless or hungry. She began volunteering at Home Sweet Home Ministries in Bloomington, IL and was well equipped at helping and caring for people in need. As her heart continued to break for those in need, she took the opportunity to take over the director position at the food pantry in Leroy, IL. She continues her service at Home Sweet Home Ministries while she also spends much of her free time seeking donors for the LeRoy food pantry, stocking its shelves, and serving its participants. In addition to feeding the hungry, she shares the love of Christ and the hope of salvation.
Her nurturing spirit lives on in the lives of her children and grandchildren. Each of them continues a special relationship with her and is an asset to their families and community. Sheila’s dedication and servant hood to God, her family, and the community are just a few of her qualities that qualify her for the Illinois Country Mother of the Year award.

Nominee: Karen Bushur, Sigel

Nominator: Amber Kidd, daughter

Country women are many things: helpful; honest; caring; compassionate; enduring; strong. My mother, Karen Bushur, embodies all of these traits. Throughout the journey of her life, she has cared for others, endured pitfalls and high points and always stepped in to help at any time.

Mom’s caring for others began as a child on the family farm. She helped take care of the animals, garden and fields. From feeding hogs and gathering eggs, to planting and harvesting the garden and running tractors in the field, mom was always there. At 19, mom married the neighbor boy and farm life continued. Mom taught her three kids to cook, clean and look out for each other while she helped dad in the fields. She taught us how to plant the garden, reap the benefits, and make it last throughout the winter. We chopped wood, walked the beans and pulled garlic from wheat fields alongside mom and dad. Our country mom taught us the value of hard work and the importance of caring for others.

Mom’s had her share of ups and downs. Throughout each situation, Mom kept the family going. At 26, my brothers were 5 ½ and 22 months and Mom was 6 months pregnant with me. It was at this time, my 22 month old brother was diagnosed with cancer. He would undergo surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Mom never left him. At one hospital, there were no beds for parents to stay; Mom slept under his crib. When the chemo and radiation were taking its toll on him and neighbors began to whisper he was almost dead, Mom refused to give up and he survived that battle. At 34, Mom helped care for her dying grandmother. In October of 1989, at 38, Mom helped care for her dying father-in-law. In February of 1990, Mom helped care for her dying father. That year was tough on all of us, but Mom kept us going. In the last 15 years, Mom has helped care for two friends with cancer; her mother and mother-in-law in their last years and others. She has been there for family weddings; the birth of 7 grandsons; emergency help and care for all of us. Mom showed us to stay positive, even in the toughest of situations.

Mom always stepped in to help. Whether it was on the farm, the neighborhood, school or church, Mom would do what she could to help out. When our church burned down, Mom was on the building committee. When I needed a new dress, Mom would make one. Need a cake decorated for a special event, Mom could do that too. Mom’s given her spending money to those in need, because they needed it more. It didn’t matter who needed help, Mom always helped.

My mom is a true country mom. She deserves to be Illinois Country Mother of the Year for her life devoted to helping and caring for those around her without ever asking for anything in return.

Nominee: Mary Chapin, Colchester

Nominator: Mary A. Barr, sister-in-law

Look in Webster’s Dictionary and you will see my nominee’s picture beside “Illinois Country Mother of the Year.” Beneath the picture will be her name – Mary Chapin. Mary is the mother of six adult children – three sons and three daughters. She is the grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of two.

Mary’s house is small with only two tiny bedrooms, but her heart is big. There is always room in Mary’s home and heart for family – be they hers by blood or love. Open the sofa bed; pull out the sleeping bags. Bring out the books and games and toys.

Mary’s a short-order cook, catering to each grandchild’s, great-grandchild’s, niece’s, nephew’s and friend’s appetites. “I’ll have chicken nuggets, Grandma,” a couple of the children say. Some others order hamburgers and fries. Another prefers spaghetti. I laugh and scold my sister-in-law, as do the mothers of the children. I recall how she catered to my own son years ago when he “placed his order” at his Aunt Mary’s kitchen.

Mary knew hard times growing up and wants to give the children more. Her father grew up in an orphanage, and she recalls his stories of hardship. If she caters too much, it’s from love.

Mary is a caregiver – earning her nursing degree while raising her own family and then caring for residents of a local nursing home for over 115 years. She gave comfort – both physical and spiritual. She retired from nursing a few years ago, but the families of her charges remember her prayers and kindness still. Our family, too, remembers her generous and kind spirit. At the end of each long and stressful day, Mary spent an hour or so with our own dear mother who was a resident in that nursing home for nearly eight years. During those busy years, Mary also taught Sunday School and touched the lives of many children.

She is still a busy wife, homemaker and bookkeeper – managing the books of her husband’s livestock feed business. Her own children are grown, but when a granddaughter and two great-granddaughters needed a place to stay for a while, Mary’s doors were open. She recalls her own struggles when had young children and was alone. She remembers, too, the challengers of a blended family.. She knows that with prayer and her Lord, anything is possible.

My Dad teasingly warned Mary about marrying my brother, Everett, Jr. Daddy was a character, and he knew his son was a carbon copy. We, the family, thank God that Mary did not listen out our Dad. Please accept my nomination of my sister-in-law, Mary Chapin, as Illinois Country Mother of the Year.

Nominee: Alberta Clothier, Jerseyville

Nominator: Sherry Cooper, daughter

Where do I begin? Mom has always been there. Whenever you needed anything, she was there. As a child, when you got hurt, she picked you up wiped away the tears, and made everything okay. Preteen years, wow, she just seemed to know what to do to make you feel like you was somebody when everyone else made you feel like an outcast. As a young woman grown and with a family of my own, she is still always there to make everything feel all right. She was the first to get my daughter to laugh. My Mom is 83 years old and still works full time as head cook at our middle school and feeds over 500 children breakfast and lunch five days a week. She loves being around those children. They brighten her day. She is always putting someone else before herself. Six years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy. She had to go through several treatments of chemo and radiation. She is a survivor. Today she is still cancer-free. She has a strong will power and will not give up. She is always willing to make a dish for the church if they need something or our Elks Lodge for a funeral dinner. She belongs to the VFW Auxiliary and to the American Legion Auxiliary as well. When my grandmother was ill, she kept her and refused to put her in a nursing home. She also took care of my father when was ill until he passed. She has got a tremendous amount of energy. Everyone who knows her says she goes like the Energizer Bunny. During the summer months when school is out, she stays busy with a vegetable garden, lots of flowers, and mows two huge yards. She evens digs post holes. I only wish I can have her energy when I reach 83 years of age. I love my mother. She is my best friend.

Nominee: Gayle Dykstra, Thomson

Nominator: Amy Dykstra, Sara Burns, Andrew Dykstra and Lisa Johnson, daughters

When it comes to country mothers, our mom is the best! Gayle (Biermann) Dykstra was born a ‘city girl’ but married a farmer and quickly adjusted to country and farm life. She has very high morals and values and is extremely hardworking and dependable.

Mom helped Dad with all the farm-work, from feeding hogs, cattle, and sheep to cultivating the fields. She also worked part-time as a nurse while we were growing up. While on the farm, she took great pride in maintaining the property and teaching us how to cook, bake, garden, bottle-feed calves and lambs, and many other skills.

Although Mom and Dad no longer farm, they still live in the country on a farmette. Mom is still an active gardener and now teaches her young grandchildren how to plant seeds and take care of the vegetables she grows. The kids love to go to ‘Grandma & Grandpa’s’ to help with the gardening or cooking in the kitchen.

Mom and Dad still have a huge vegetable garden and Mom also tends to their flowers and apple trees. The garden is always full of green beans, radishes, potatoes, beets, carrots, peas, green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and onions. Mom works hard to keep the garden weed-free and nothing is wasted. She keeps very busy all summer with canning or freezing all the garden produce, as well as making delicious homemade carrot cakes, applesauce, pies, and zucchini breads. Any extras are given away to family or church members.

Mom is always ready to lend a hand wherever needed. While we were in school, Mom served many times as a room-mother and field-trip chaperone. All the kids liked her and knew she would always have fresh-baked goodies for them. Mom was also instrumental in getting donations and prizes for our high school after-proms.

Mom is an excellent cook! She still makes home-made rolls and breads. They are a favorite at family events and are requested at nearly every get-together. No matter when we stop in for a visit, we know there are plenty of fresh-baked treats waiting for us.

Mom is also very active in our church. She and Dad served as youth leaders while us kids were in high school. They were well-liked by the group and hosted many bonfires and hay rack rides over the years. She has served on many committees and currently serves as the Prayer Chain leader, Coupon Counter for an overseas military mission project, and visits the shut-ins.

Mom is a great listener and we have all gone to her on occasion to get her advice for different situations. She always puts her family first and others before herself.

Our mom is honest, hardworking, faithful, loving, caring, and committed to her family. She and Dad have a strong marriage and have been excellent role models to us. She is well-liked and respected in our community. We hope you will consider her to be Illinois’ Country Mother of the Year

Nominee: Emma Englund, Shelbyville

Nominator: Terry Prasun, daughter

Emma Englund, became a farm wife upon her marriage to Norvel Englund and continues to live on the family farm to this day! My parents raised three children on the farm and also shared their love and family values with numberous foster children. My mother has shown unconditional love to so many people in her life.
I cannot remember going out to eat much, for my mother always cooked our meals. During harvest or planting time, meals were cooked and brought out to the men. Many times mom would work in the field and then come in and prepare food! 3 meals a day and washed dishes by hand!
Mom taught us the value of education. She made sure homework was completed, reading was practiced daily, and volunteered for school activities! She never missed a school program, sporting event, or a parent/teacher conference!
My mom was the household nurse, gardener, maid, planner, and shopper! She canned every summer, made sure we had family vacations, and taught us the value of faith in God. She played a part of our vacation Bible schools, school fundraisers, 4-H clubs, and blessed us with her musical talents. She encouraged us to do our best and to care about others.
As everyone knows, life is not always easy. After the tragic loss of a daughter, my mom immediately stepped into the role of raising her three granddaughters. As her granddaughters became teenagers, my mom experienced another great lose, her husband, to cancer! And to this day she is assisting with the raising of a great grandson that lives in her home. I cannot think of a more deserving person to earn "Illinois Mother of the Year" title. She will always be the Mother of the Year in my eyes.

Nominee: Diane Flesner, Plainville

Nominator: Kurt Flesner, son

Thank you for the opportunity to nominate my mother for this honor. She is the mother of seven children and since I can remember, has always sacrificed herself for the sake of her kids and the success of the family farm. I am the youngest child @ 38 year old and after raising all of us up to teenagers and cooking for hay help, among all of the other duties of a farmwife, took a job off the farm cooking for a nursing home and eventually ended up working as a veterinary assistant.
She continued at this job while still raising teenagers and tending to duties at home and farm until recently, at age 71, health issues caused her to retire. She loved working at this job because she enjoyed talking to the other farmers or farm wives and learning what was new in their lives and it kept her up on the local "gossip".
When my father passed away due to an accident, she was strong for her children and did what she could to try to ease our pain while trying to hide her own. She was very supportive of my brother and myself in our attempt to carry on the farming operation which we have done and continue to do. We have what we call "board meetings" at her home on the main farm and discuss what has been happening with the farm and our families. She still insists on cooking meals for us and any additional "mouths to feed" even though we tell her that she doesn't have to. She just says "it gives me something to do" and goes on about her day. I guess a mother never stops giving!!!
In conclusion, thank you mom. We love you!! and thanks to all of the mothers who have to deal with kids like us !!!!!

Nominee: Ruth Ann Flowers, Carrollton

Nominator: Nick Flowers, son

Hi, my name is Nick Flowers. I was reading our Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative’s magazine when I spotted the nomination form for Illinois Country Mother of the Year. Immediately, I thought of my mother, Ruth Ann. My mother, Ruth Ann, and father, Jim, have been longtime rural residents of Carrollton. When I came across the nomination form, I just had to smile. I do not have a lengthy, sad story to share, rather a story of how rewarding and special the last thirty years of my life have been. I am nominating my mother, Ruth Ann, for the Illinois Mother of the Year for numerous reasons.

My mother, Ruth Ann, has successfully raised five children, and she is now enjoying the life of a grandmother with twelve grandchildren. Life growing up was an adventure! My mother was and is a selfless individual. She always put my sister, brothers, and me ahead of anything else in her life. We children meant the world to her, and so did all of our friends. All of our friends would call her Ruthie, and the name Ruthie still sticks today. The lifestyles of five busy children growing up were stressful, tiresome, and expensive on my mother, yet she showed no mercy. Day by day, my mom worked and parented full time. My mom has continued a tradition of a Sunday lunch that my grandmother started before I was old enough to remember. My mom always says that it takes a mother to keep the family together. My siblings and I enjoy all the time on Sundays that our children can spend with their grandparents and cousins. We had to build an addition on my parent’s house because they outgrew their out-dated home. My mom wanted a huge dining room where she could continue to prepare Sunday feasts for her family. She also wanted a large open basement where her grandchildren could leave their toy farms assembled.

My mom taught us the value of stretching our money. We bought into the idea of wearing clothes from county-wide yard sells. She even bought us yard sell jeans without holes, unlike the style today’s teenagers wear. My mom always made sure that we had an outfit to start the school year off, a pair of school shoes, and at least a couple pairs of jeans. My mom also taught me that wearing hand-me-down clothes from my older siblings was a way of life. I am now a teacher and one of my students showed me a picture of my older brother in a yearbook. Needless to say, this student then went on to show me a yearbook eight years later of me. Yes, I was wearing the same shirt. I exclaimed to my student that I thought the shirt was just starting to be broke in. The lack of fancy clothes did not blemish my image, yet the life lessons my mother taught me were lifelong lessons that I still value today.

My mom has raised her children to live their lives on simple principles and values: Treat others like you would like to be treated. If you do not have anything good to say, do not say anything at all. My mom always says that nothing in life is fair, nor is anything in life free. My mom always says: live your life free of guilt and do the best you can at everything you do.

I could write on and on about how much I admire my mother, but I want to wrap up the essay with one last sentence. I think my mother Ruth Ann Flowers deserves to win the Illinois mother of the year award because she has spent an entire life putting others in the spotlight; now my mom deserves the spotlight to be shined on her!

Nominee: Beth Fransen, Decatur

Nominator: Mitchell Fransen, son

I believe that my loving mother, Beth Fransen, has every right to earn this title.

For many years, she has served God and helped out greatly during all of our Sunday School activities. She has also enjoyed devoting time in the summer days toward our Vacation Bible School at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Alongside this, she has stayed every night at our church lock-ins, which are very fun. She is always there for us.

In my early years, my mom would take to create the best Cub Scout Pack around. She would come out every Tuesday night to help with programs, skits and lessons for many boys.

My mother has also always believed in using her skills in designing and baking homemade birthday cakes or for all occasions. Everybody enjoys them, and at this time not many people do that and it is quite unique.

My mother has always supported my brother’s and my education and has supported us both to becoming Eagle Scouts. She was always willing to learn a bit more and join us on school field trips. Many students in my grade and school think she is a very fun and kind person.

My brother and I have always loved participating in the sport of football. Because of this, my mother has always enjoyed helping out in the sign-ups and preparing Gatorade for game days. She has also served working in the concession stand and making sure all Meridian Hawk fans got what they wanted. She was involved in this for about seven years.

My mother is also a very strong believer in Christ and always attends church with out family on every single Sunday. Because our church members knew she was dedicated toward Holy Cross Lutheran Church, they voted her on for a term. Turns out, her total time on our council was up to nine years. She still continues to find out every way to help out with our church. Her work has been greatly appreciated in the past years.

I cannot explain enough about my mom and reading. She is an extremely avid reader and serves on the Blue Mound Library Board. She has been involved in the library board for over six years and is continuing her service toward the community. Along with this, she holds family reading nights for youngsters to come out, have some snacks, discuss books and have a story time. This has always been a great addition toward our community’s education and learning.

Alongside all of my mother’s acts of kindness, she has been able to provide us with great food due to her wonderful canning, cooking and baking skills. We always have plenty of grape juice because of our well-maintained vineyard. Cherry pie is always made off of our tree that was planted the day I was born. My mom has always taken the duty to hold upon herself, 17 years of Thanksgivings.

She also takes time preparing and preserving sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, green beans, potatoes and peaches, all of which are grown somewhere in our backyard.

My mother is also quite active, outgoing and interested in what I do. She has attended all of my band concerts since I was in the fifth grade, along with the track meets, football games and scholastic bowl tournaments. Also, when I was a young scout, she even worked and watched my pinewood derbies.

She is also quite fond of art and in her earlier years has sold some artwork.

She enjoys skiing with us also whenever we go on trips and enjoys every minute of it.

She enjoys her life and always is cheerful. She is my wonderful, loving mother, Beth Fransen.

Nominee: Dorothy Glover, Raymond

Nominator: Ginger Glover McCullers, daughter

My mother, Dorothy Glover, is truly an extraordinary woman. She is a saint in my eyes and in the eyes of many others. She raised ten children, the second child being born with hydrocephalus and had to live his life in a wheelchair, paralyzed on the left side after an unsuccessful operation to correct his condition. His name was James Daniel Glover.

My mother cared for my brother all of his life and could not bring herself to place him in an institution, as many suggested, even after she got up in age. My mother never saw her son as disabled and treated him with the same love as she did all her children. His life expectancy was only to the age of twelve, but he lived to be sixty-five. Without her loving care, he would not have lived as long as he did. She taught him independence by letting him make his own cereal, make his own instant iced tea, and take his bath and dress himself on his own.

We have a picture when my mother had seven children at the time and she placed all of them in a baby contest, even Jim. My mother is standing in front of the stage, looking so proudly at all of her children!

Having ten children really didn't allow her much time for herself to join any clubs. She gave her time unselfishly. She lived on a farm on the Nokomis Blacktop and later in the sixty's they bought a house in Raymond and moved to town. Of course our dad was a farmer and didn't have the time to help her out with child care. I never saw my mother sitting down or watching television. There was always laundry to do, meals to prepare and cook, dishes to do, children to bathe, hair to brush and a house to clean.

Looking back, I certainly wish I had helped her out more. As a child, you think life is all about you. Growing up and raising my family made me realize so much, especially what a saint my mother is and how I didn't appreciate her enough. She celebrates her 90th birthday, ironically on the deadline for this contest, March 11th. It would be such a dream come true if she were awarded this title as "Mother of the Year" even though in my heart she is "Mother of the World".

Nominee: Kathy Goldsborough

Nominator: Barbara Boehm, daughter

When I read about your Illinois Country Living “Mother of the Year” contest I never gave it much thought as I, as well as most every daughter, would consider her mother a worthy candidate. I laid down your magazine and began my usual Saturday activities. However, as I cleaned that day I could not get her off my mind. Thoughts of her and her extraordinary attributes kept flooding my mind. I had to write them down.

First, let me introduce you to her. Her name is Kathy Goldsborough, she’s 69 and she resides in Cowden, Ill. She married Bob Goldsborough at the age of 18. He was a young pastor and they began their lives together in Irving, Ill. She lived in several different communities as pastors are often called to new circuits. She was not only my dad’s earthly mate but had a passion for his calling and became his ministry mate. They were inseparable. He passed away four years ago and left an irreplaceable void in her life. Her family wondered what she would do and how she would go on.

Four years later, as I look at what she has done with her time, I am in awe of how God uses her to help people. She loves people of any kind, rich or poor, happy or sad, healthy or hurting, clean or dirty, saint or sinner. It makes no difference to her!

Finding her can be a problem. Here’s why:

She goes to Springfield, Ill. to care for a woman from another church (whom she does not know) who has no one to stay with her after recent knee surgery.

She goes to California to care for her niece’s new baby, as her and her husband are in the Navy and he is at sea.

She leaves her home to:

Work weekly at the concessions stand for the Upwards Basketball Program for children grades kindergarten through fourth, praying some of the children and their parents find Jesus in their hearts through this ministry program.

She tutors weekly in the after-school program at Cowden Grade School hoping to help a child who has trouble keeping up.

She weekly volunteers in the Cowden first grade working individually with students who need to master the skill of reading.

She works at each community blood drive.

She works in the kitchen scrubbing roasters during benefits for children, adults or families who have the misfortune of health or financial burden.

I could go on but there is no need. What does she get paid for all her efforts? The joy she receives from being a servant of God.

As I reflect over her attributes I know that her love for God is where her love for people comes from. Any daughter would aspire to be a woman like her. I pray her qualities, which she has shown by example, will be inherited by every generation to follow her, beginning with mine! I love you Mom! Barb

P.S. This puts me over 500 words so I am just dropping this note to you. Right after I finished typing this, she walks into my office and says, “Hi, are you feeling any better?” (I had a cold) “I brought you a meatloaf, potatoes and a cheesecake for supper. Is your car unlocked?” That was my affirmation that I was entering a worthy candidate.

Nominee: Tammy Grah, Ellis Grove

Nominator: Alison Lingle, daughter

My mom, Tammy Grah, is an absolutely amazing person and my best friend! She plays an active role in the church, her school, and community. This is evident in her daily life.

She volunteers at our church in various capacities. As the treasurer for the Ladies Aid, she organizes many fundraisers, including 100 advent calendars each year for children to open during the month of December. She hand makes many of the gifts and organizes which gift is to be wrapped for which day. She also spends many Saturdays during the summer selling RADA cutlery at local picnics and a variety of local businesses. She plays a key role in organizing the annual Church Bazaar. Besides ensuring everything runs smoothly, she will grind the chicken for chicken salad sandwiches for those who are unable, as well as making chili.

The Ladies Aid also goes Christmas caroling each year to nursing homes. Every year she puts together a gift for each church member in the nursing home. This year she called each family to see what their loved one especially enjoys in order to give them personalized gifts. Just this past Sunday, while sitting in church, she turned to me and said the Ladies Aid should host a pot-luck on Ash Wednesday. By Tuesday she had already created the flyers to take to the Ladies Aid meeting so word would be spread. Mom and I are also the janitors for church, cleaning before each service, funeral, and wedding.

Mom works as a teacher’s aide in a special education classroom for grades K-2, with special needs ranging from Down Syndrome to ADHD. She tells story after story of how different kids tell her how much they love her! When I ask why she thinks they are so partial to her, she says, “Because I treat them like any other person, paying attention to them, and showing them I care.” Just last year, some of the children she taught 16 years ago graduated high school. She was there at the graduation with a warm, congratulatory hug and a gift for each student. I know it takes a very special person to do the job she does and I’m very glad she has been given the opportunity to help so many children!

As busy as she may sound, she is always there for her family at a drop of a hat. I work full-time, as well as having a weekend PRN job, so sometimes I catch myself falling behind on house work. Just when I’m wondering how I will catch up, I come home to a clean house with freshly folded laundry. She watches my brother’s sons, who are 2 and 6, as often as possible. She fits the cliché of “Going to Grandma’s house” perfectly. She always has many fun activities planned for them such as baking cookies, finger painting, feeding the bottle calves and chickens, or making gifts to take home to mom and dad.

As you can tell, she is very giving to everyone else and never asks for anything in return. I hope she knows how much she is loved and appreciated! Thank you so much for everything you do!!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!

Nominee: Paula Hatfield, Wayne City

Nominator: Dianna Hatfield, daughter

Paula Hatfield, a caring member of the community, always a helpful resource and lending hand and most importantly a great mom. I feel that my mother is a great asset to my life as well as many people in our area.

Through her job she has done many things to help people out. Her official title is Hamilton County Community Worker-4-H/Youth/Family. She has head up a HOPE bag program. In this they collect donations from members of the community and put together bags for the children taken out of meth homes and put into Illinois Department of Family Services care. These children get taken from their families and all their belongings all at once this can be hard for children to handle. The bags give the kids something that they can have as their own. She has a lot of responsibilities as far as collecting, to sorting by age group and gender, putting them all together to the final stage of delivering.

My mom also spends lots of her time teaching in Hamilton County Schools about anything from nutrition and health to working in the real world. 4-H takes up a lot of her time at work. With all the recent budget cuts, she has never given up on the program. She donates many hours of her time to make sure that Hamilton County 4-H gets enough donations to cover their expenses. This year the premiums were also taken away and my mom went to everyone she knew to get enough money collected to have enough to still pay the 4-Hers their normal premiums. They have recently been able to replace the livestock shed at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds, with lots of financial help from companies as well as labor help from other members of the community. She does have a lot of helpful people that she can turn to, but she takes care of a lot of the behind the scenes business. Hamilton County has now had numerous successful Community Safety Days. This is a day where grade school students in the county come out and learn about how to be safe around everything from medicines, to riding in a car, to tractor safety.

Paula is a mother of four children, Dianna (22), Katie (21), Emily (20), and Billy (17). So she has definitely had her hands full from day one. Now Dianna has graduated college and moved onto a full time job, Katie and Emily are still in college, one at Murray State University and the other at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. And then we have Billy who has high hopes of getting into University of Illinois. With all these different things going on in different places all the time, my mom has done a great job keeping up with all of us and helping us whenever possible. All in all, my mom has been so helpful to the community. People know that they can count on her. I am blessed to have come from such a great family and surroundings.

Nominee: Mary Ellen Heins

Nominator: Nickie Heins, daughter-in-law

Mary Ellen Button Heins has lived and worked on a small farm in rural Murphysboro her whole life. As the only child born to Rewn and Alma Button in 1939, she began her life with strong family values and a stronger work ethic learned from helping her father milk cows. In August of 1946 Rewn bought his daughter her first tractor, an International A and modified the seat to fit only a child. Mary raked hay and cultivated ground with her tractor. In 1959 she married Willard Heins and a new chapter began. They settled on the other side of her parents’ property and began their family. With their parents growing older, Willard and Mary continued to work her family farm and maintained Willard’s family farm in Gorham as well. During this time they decided to stop milking cows and raise beef cattle along with sheep and hogs. Anyone involved with animals knows the hard work, long hours and dedication required. Along with her responsibilities to the farms, Mary became a mother in August of 1960 to their first daughter Linda. In April of 1967 their second daughter Jane was born and in September of 1969 their son Willard Rewn “Junior” arrived. Her children were her pride and joy. She quickly passed on her faith, family and farm values to her children. Mary has been a lifelong member and served on the board of the First Lutheran Church in Murphysboro, has been active in the Jackson County Farm Bureau since the 1970’s and was very involved in 4-H as her children were growing up. Mary was a stay at home mom and farmer until her youngest turned 14 years old. Mary then went to work at the Murphysboro Middle School as a cook and retired from there in 2008 all the while still running the farm. Now retired she once again puts in more time on the farm than any other and at 71 years of age is a detrimental part of the farm. Still raising beef cattle and sheep she is helping the 3rd generation, her son Junior and his wife Nickie maintain the legacy. With both Junior and Nickie working full time jobs outside of the farm, Mary herself mows, rakes and bales almost all of the 600 round bales used a year to feed the livestock all the while training our 4th generation. Rewn is “Grandma’s tractor buddy” and is soaking in all the knowledge he can. Aside from working on the farm, Mary is very involved with her grandchildren, Jennifer, Justin, Crissy and Rewn. Wither it is basketball, baseball, volleyball, cheerleading or ballet, Grandma Mary is there showing her love and support. Mary is also an avid gardener growing a bigger garden each year. Last year alone her tomato plants were over 6 feet tall. She also has a green thumb when it comes to flowers. People who may not know Mary by name can landmark her house by the large holly hocks planted at the fence or by the extensive decorations she displays for each holiday with Christmas being the biggest. Thru all the trials and tribulations of life, loosing her spouse of 50 years in 2010 and the changing ways of the world, Mary has kept a smile on her face, a kind word on her lips and a huge love in her heart. As her daughter-in-law I strive to become like her in more ways than one and know in my heart if I can achieve half the world will be a better place for it!

Nominee: Phyllis Hepner

Nominator: Laurel LeSage, daughter

I think many people feel their mother would be qualified for this award, but I believe my mom would be the best recipient for this honor because of her devotion to her family, the community service she has contributed and her generosity to others.

Family has always been very important to Mom. I have four sisters and one brother, so our house was always a busy place. We learned by the example Mom set to help when seeing the need, -- not waiting to be asked to help. When I was younger we had a large garden which everyone helped with. I remember many summer days we would all sit under a shady tree stemming green beans for hours. Mom reminded us how good they would taste that winter. “Many hands make light work” was mom’s motto. We thought all that work was exhausting, but didn’t think about all she had yet to do to can all those beans!! We would can about 100 quarts of beans in addition to other garden produce and orchard fruits. While we worked, Mom told stories and taught us many songs.

After all of that group singing, my siblings and I found ourselves performing musical programs for community groups. Mom was the creative genius behind the whole program and coached us to learn recitations and skits. She accompanied us on the piano as we sang many of the songs we learned under the shade tree. I only hope the audience enjoyed our amateur presentations as we enjoyed “performing”. I do know we learned a little bit about music and public speaking and a whole lot about working together and having fun!

Mom shared her love for music with the church, too. She attends the Church of Peace, a small rural church, where she has directed adult and youth choirs for many years. Her strong faith is evident through this and other volunteer work at church and she is a role model for many.

Mom not only set a great example for her family, but she helped others when she volunteered as a 4-H leader. As a leader, she influenced many members as she encouraged them to learn new skills and challenged them. Her grandchildren have been fortunate to benefit from her teaching and guidance as well.

Mom was active in the community with the American Cancer Society. Previously she volunteered collecting contributions in the rural area and eventually having more responsibilities as a local area board member. This was another way mom helped others and inspired me to be an area volunteer as well.

Her devotion to family, generosity to others, and service to church and community make her deserving of this honor.

Nominee: Patricia M. Herpstreith

Nominator: Robert Herpstreith, son

I think my mother is the best!! She deserves to win this award for many, many reasons. She raised 8 children (7boys and 1 girl) while doing the farm work. She worked in the fields all day, taking care of the livestock twice a day, plus milking 20 cows morning and evening.

She did all of this even after going through open heart surgery, back surgery and total shoulder replacement. She kept us going while losing two of her sons (my brothers) in separate car accidents.

She’s worked very hard all of her life, starting at age 13 at a restaurant. At 15 she started working at the hospital as a nurses aid. She finally retired from a nursing home at 75 years of age. She has suffered many tragedies during her lifetime.

She cared for her mother and took her into her home to nurse her back to health from cancer. This lasted for four years when she finally had to put her in a nursing home on doctor’s order even when she didn’t want to. When she did this, she got a job at the nursing home so she could still take care of her. Grandma lived to be 100 years old. She is always there for us and always helps anyone who is in need.

I can’t put into words all that she has gone through, but one thing I do know. She’s the best and deserves to win. She even took a friend for cancer treatments five days a week for eight weeks, 82 miles roundtrip without a complaint to anyone. Anyone can call her, any hour or night and she’ll be there for you. Please consider her very carefully. Thank you.

Nominee: Elma M. Hodges, Lawrenceville

Nominator: Della L. Hodges, daughter

My mother – Elma Hodges is a very special lady and my best friend, she is truly “one of a kind!” She is not only a superb mother, grandmother and great grandmother, but a best friend and an example for others. She has always lived her life by certain standards:

  1. To treat others the way you want them to treat you. Remember – what goes around comes around.

  1. To be the BEST you can be – always and in all things you do and say. Be an example for others, you never know who is watching and when you are impacting another person’s life.

  1. Don’t worry, Be Happy – Why worry, it only upsets the one doing the worrying and it really doesn’t solve the problem – it only creates more “wrinkles, gray hairs and sleepless nights.” Be Happy, God has chosen another day for us to be the best we can be and to always strive to “make a difference.”

Mother continues to work hard at the soon to be “young age of 93.” She keeps active both physically and mentally. Family is important and she shows us in many special ways, always going that “extra mile.” Whenever a sitter is needed on a moment’s notice, she is always available, or flower beds become weed patches and she does the weeding just “because,” when sharing her garden fruit and vegetables with others (yes, she still plants and tends her garden), or one of the many other things she does for us on a regular basis. When baking special desserts or her delicious yeast rolls – she always makes enough to share with family. When one of the grandchildren spends the night with her, they know that Grandma Elma will always give them her undivided attention and breakfast is always of their choosing.

When asked the “secret” to her good health and longevity, she will respond “Hard Work and Clean Living. I eat when I’m hungry; I drink when I’m dry. If hard times don’t kill me, I’ll live until I die.”

Mother has been a “hard worker and caregiver” her entire life always a “living example” of her principles. From when she first helped care for her blind mother as a young adult and on down through the years. Caring for aging parents and father-in-law as a young wife and mother and still yet today when she will gladly give of her time, her many talents, her “years of experience,” or “whatever” is asked of her. She hasn’t held any public office nor done anything of “real importance” to the world, you might say she is “just an ordinary mother, grandmother and great-grandmother” but so “extraordinary” that she has set the “standard” quite high. Although she will not long be remembered by many, by those of us who know and love her she will not soon be forgotten, her impact will last for years. Mother is an inspiration for all both the young and the young at heart!

Nominee: Jean Hunter, Jonesboro

Nominator: Julie Shofner, daughter

My mother, Jean M. Hunter, is nominated by myself, her daughter, Julie Shofner, for being IL Country Mother of the Year. She is a very giving and loving person. She is a member of the Jonesboro, IL First Baptist Church, and is willing to help anytime they need her. She helps cook for the church and visit many sick people in the church. She is willing to give the shirt or coat off of her back to someone in need. She loves to talk to people and make them feel welcome. She is also a member of the American Legion of Auxiliary 344 where she diligently and tirelessly gives of her time and talent to help wherever needed.

She is a wonderful mother as she is a good listener and gives greatly godly wisdom and advice to her family, especially her daughter. She is a wonderful grandmother as she is willing to keep her grandchildren anytime and spends lots of time with them. She is very affectionate and will kiss the skin off of her family if you would let her. She loves the Lord and is a witness wherever she goes and lets everyone know to whom her Savior is.

My mother is a wonderful cook, and loves to entertain others in her home and make delicious meals for those less fortunate. She has taught me everything I know about cooking, especially old family recipes. She is very thrifty and has taught me how to live on less and be thankful for what you have. She has always done without as us kids were growing up, so that we could have more. We never thought we were poor, for she gave up so much for us to have so much.

She has been a wonderful mother and support to her son, whom had a traumatic injury as a child in a car accident. She has been my brother’s advocate and stood up for him despite his disabilities, and he now is going for his bachelor’s degree. She never gave up on him and pushed him to excel and never doubted him. She is an inspiration to us all and we look to her for guidance and wisdom even as adults for she is always ready to help or love.

Nominee: Vickie Jayne, Newton

Nominator: Dorma Schafer, daughter

I would like to nominate my mom Vickie Jayne for this mother of the year award. She deserves this award for all the outstanding things she has done and continues to do for her family and her community. She is a 25plus year member and outstanding volunteer of the Carpenters Local 347 out of Mattoon IL. She is as well chairmen in the Adopt A Highway program for the Carpenters Local. She has been in the Adopt A Highway program for 12 years. As a mom she taught all of us kids and teaching her grandkids that you can accomplish anything you want in life if you get good grades in school and try and try till you succeed.

My mom has been called many names in life such as boss, foreman, stewerest, mom and best of all Grandma. She has had various jobs that I believe has help the communities in one way or another. A few of those jobs were working at Marathon Oil Refinery, build bridges, schools, assisted living for the elderly, and her latest job is the new Jasper County Aquatic Center. Every time any of my children’s classmates talk about the new pool my kids say proudly my grandma built that.

As well as a very hard worker in life she’s a one of a kind mom. This is why I’d really like for her to receive this nomination, to thank her for being such a great mom and outstanding person.

Nominee: Mary Evelyn Jenkins, Marshall

Nominator: Connie Mason, daughter

My mother is the most terrific lady ever! She is always there for family and friends. She loves being involved in The Optimist Club, and has been a past president. She loves being involved in church. My mother is 75 yrs. old, will be 76 and you could never tell it. She is Always on the go, busy all the time. She loves caring for her family- children and grandchild. She worked 30 years in the Emergency Room, and always seemed to have extra jobs plus caring for our house and her 6 children. My mom is a wonderful, loving, caring person, and is always there when you need someone to talk to. She continues to do many things throughout our community, whether it be Optimist, Church, Helping with the police cloth a child. There are many things she does and loves gardening, flowers, being outside. I’ve never seen a more active 75 year old, that doesn’t even look 60! Thank you for letting me nominate my mom, she is a wonderful person and has very little in life but gives and gives to her family!!!! Please have my mother Mary E. Jenkins as mother of the year.

Nominee: Lavanda Joergens, Dieterich

Nominator: Stanley Joergens, son

Lavanda Mae (Bannick) Joergens was born May 19th, 1931 in the house of her parents Earl and Catherine (Budde) Bannick in Lucas Township in Effingham County Illinois. She had two older brothers and then received three younger sisters and they moved several times until she met Art Joergens and they were married on January 23rd, 1949 at St Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Lucas Township. They moved into the house of Art’s parents that had been in the family for 3 generations. On November of 1952 they were blessed with their first born child, a girl they named Judy Mae. Then in March 1954 they had their second child Susan Ann. Then in April 1957 they had their third daughter, Karen Lou. Then in August 1959 they had a son, Stanley Ray. Then in September 1967 they had a son, Stuart Lee. They continued to live and raise their family in that house and she still resides in that same house to this day.
I believe Mom should receive Illinois Country Mother of the Year because this sounds exactly like how Mom spent her life. When Mom was a young teenager at home, there was an distant relative that had twin boys and the mother was very sick and unable to take care of the new boys and herself, Mom went to live with them and take care of their house and the mother and children until they were big enough and healthy enough to take care of themselves. Mom personally did not receive any money for this act of love. Mom’s mother Catherine had a stroke and passed away before my oldest sister, her granddaughter was born. Mom always told us she sure wished we could have met her Mom because she thought she was the best Mom ever. Mom would tell stories about her mother caring for babies at home and if there was a time that she was taking care of someone’s child and it needed a diaper change and there were no clean diapers. Catherine would use one of her good towels for a diaper so that the baby could be clean and dry. Mom took this loving care and consideration with her in life as she cared for Dad’s mother who lived with them for a time.

Mom always worked alongside Dad on the farm as she would get up early in the morning and fix breakfast for our family and do the dishes and laundry as Dad went about the chores and when she was needed she would put on her scarf and gloves and go outside and help Dad with the farm as she would drive a tractor farming, or putting up hay, to driving a two ton truck load of grain to town to the elevator. Mom occasionally took a cleaning job in town on weekends to help cover some family bills. Mom made a lot of homemade clothes for the family and was kept busy patching up Dad’s favorite bib overalls. She would sew up matching clothes for the family and occasionally make clothes for the entire group of 4-H club members that were going to be in the Share the Fun Act at the Effingham County Fair. Mom became the Leader of the Sunshine Pals 4-H club in the 1950’s and she is still a leader of that same club in 2011 over 50 years later. Mom had become a Sunday School teacher at St. John’s shortly after her first child was born and she is still a Sunday School teacher today almost 60 years later. And what is amazing about Mom is that she can remember the children she has led in the 4-H club and also the students she taught in her Sunday School Classes throughout the year. It is astonishing that she can remember their names and faces and this is through-out 3 generations now. She has taught and led Grandparents, Parents and now the grandchildren of the same families and she can tell you their names and their project specialties and a lot of the most amazing events of their carriers as they grew up next to her. To this day she can remember the names of the small children in the church that are part of her legacy. In her Sunday School class they had their regular Sunday School lesson and memory work but went a step further she would also have her class memorize the 10 commandments and the books of the Old and New Testament.
Dad always encouraged her in everything she did especially in 4-H and at church. Dad was always quick to mention her or brag on her in public to people he was talking to or met. Dad was a man of few words but there were always words of praise of Mom to others. Mom has continued to serve others as she has been a member of the Homemakers extension and also the St. John’s Ladies Aid as they meet once a month at church and sponsor the Lutheran Woman’s Missionary League in the Synod. Mom has constantly worked with the Quilting group at church. This group not only gets together regularly at church to make quilts for Church Auctions but more importantly they make lots of quilts every year to be donated to the needy and homeless. They occasionally make quilts to be sent abroad to people in countries that have had devastation such as earthquakes of tsunamis. She would work at the church with the rest of the ladies sewing all day and then bring the quilts home where her and Dad would put some finishing touches on the items of love from her hands. Mom would spend a lot of Mondays at St. John’s Effingham where a group of people would meet and punch out Braille bibles for the blind. She would talk about the book of the bible they were working on that day and stress how long some of those books were and how the dots would be punched in the paper in a certain way and the right depth for touch reading. Every other Saturday she would spend her mornings at St. John’s Lutheran at Effingham as an assistant at the EASTER class for the Mentally Handicapped. EASTER stands for Effingham, Area, Special, Teaching, Every day, Religion. She enjoyed serving others so much and never accepted praise or expected any mention or thanks for her work for the Lord.
All this I tell you that she did for others than her family to try to show you how her life was committed to serving others, because the time she spent away from the family was a very, very small amount of her total time that she spent most of it at home with her husband and her children and family. Mom always made time to read stories or play games or play cards or play ball with us boys at home when she was not helping us with our homework or religion classes. For each of our special interest, Mom was in the middle of our experience. If it was a sewing project with one of the girls or a bird house building project or trying to teach a steer how to lead for the fair, Mom was there with us, helping us and encouraging us. I remember one time that I was in Track at High School. I told her we were meeting in a park in a town down south for a track meet at a certain time. That day our team road the buss to the park and it was a different park than what I had told Mom that we would be at. So I knew she would not be there to watch me run or do the hurdles. But Mom was resourceful and found out where we were before the track met started she was there to video record the events. Keep in mind she had to really hustle to get to the meet on time after being told the wrong place to go. So when she got there, I was getting ready to run the high hurdles and she was right along the sidelines with that recorder. I saw here taping the event and I ran like I had never run before in my life. I cleared every hurdle and came in first in my heat because I knew this was on video. Well even though I was first in my heat the first heat had some runners faster than me but on that event I was in it looked like I won. After the event Mom put the video camera away and then noticed that because she was so rushed to get there and video her son’s event she forgot to put a film in the camera. We laughed and laughed about that for a long time and still laugh about it today. I am sure I ran faster that day knowing I was getting videoed and I felt good about myself but I felt like a winner because my Mom had made sure to make it to the meet in time to video her son running the hurdles in track and that felt better to me than any winning or video could have ever been.
Mom and Dad always read a Devotion and the Portal of Prayers before bed every night for as long as I could remember. September last year Dad had a needed surgery and the Dr. told us to keep our fingers crossed for Dad to pull through the surgery and recuperation. Mom asked the Dr. why cross our fingers, why not pray about it. Mom and Dad always knew where the real hope is based, on the Grace of God as Jesus Christ as our only Hope. Dad was called to Heaven as he passed away at the age of 87 and they had been married 61 years. The loss of Dad has been tough on the entire family of children and grandchildren and especially on Mom, but she has been the strong one and encourages us all and has kept the Faith of Jesus Christ in her Heart and our family.

Nominee: Vivian Kessler, Stewardson

Nominator: Twilla Kessler, daughter

My mom, Vivian Kessler, has shown admiration, admonishment, forgiveness and unfailing love to her children. She has had a life of happy times and some tragic times. It is through these times that I have seen the woman and mother that she truly is.

Being raised by a “country mother” is definitely one of the things that I am very proud of. Many were brought up sleeping in, watching TV, or shopping for the newest styles, (and they considered this quality time!) However, at our “country home” things were quite different. My mother got up at dawn each day, milking those beautiful black and white Holstein cows, and then getting us ready for school. In the summertime, our duties began early, no sleeping til noon for us, teaching us the importance of work before play. I worked daily beside my mothers, cleaning the barn, working in the fields, helping in the enormous garden that she grew and maintained (with little or no weeds). I also learned the importance of cooking and canning. My mom canned everything! She is an amazing cook, and the compliments I receive on my home cooking now are attributed to my mother. Mom would cook a meal at breakfast, dinner and supper. And no, it wasn’t a pop tart, frozen pizza, or a TV dinner.

Mom taught me the importance of faith, as we prayed together each day. She cares for others in her special way, remembering birthdays, anniversaries, births, and any occasion that should be recognized. Her strength in time of tragedy was a life lesson for me. 35 years ago, my father was killed in an auto accident. My mom and I were at home when the news arrived about dad, she immediately called to check the condition of the three other men that were in the vehicle with my dad. Thankfully, they survived. The strength that she possessed at this time was unimaginable. She uplifted our family and held us together. She was from that day on, my mom and my dad, and she fills those two pair of shoes like no one else can!

I challenged her at times, and made mistakes along the way, but she never walked away from me. Because of my mom, I know the true meaning of unconditional love.

Years ago, she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable lung disorder. Now, she is limited to what she can do, spending her days crocheting, embroidering, or working on puzzles. Her independence makes it difficult to ask for assistance, but she never gives up. She is still at the farm when other avenues may be easier, but easier sometimes isn’t better!

Mom managed the farm for many years after dad was gone. She loved her country home and raised her family there. My mom strengthens our family with her love and determination. I thank God that he has blessed me with my mom. She is my “Country Mother of the Year”!

Nominee: Lynda Koerice, Sumner

Nominator: Kourtney Herren, daughter

My mom doesn’t belong to any impressive organizations and has never won an award that I can think of, off hand. Instead, she is the type of person that moves through life with so much efficiency that many probably miss most of what she can accomplish in just one day. My mom makes a big difference in the lives of others with her actions. There is a population in rural communities easily unnoticed. No by anyone’s fault, but more a result of a shift in our society being more mobile, involved in additional activities and opportunities outside of our own communities. These overlooked residents are the long-time neighbors who now live in the senior care facility, the friend who lives three farms away who is not feeling a hundred percent or maybe the struggling young family who has just moved into the rental house down the gravel road. To hose unseen people and others, she makes a warm and friendly mark on their lives.

My mom’s deeds are sometimes minor gestures while other acts turn into massive projects. She may send a get-well card to a friend and invite another to see a movie in town. She might whip up a fancy dessert or bake a casserole for a grieving family. Several years ago, she stopped by to visit with an elderly neighbor who was up in arms about getting the gingerbread trim painted on his two-story farmhouse. Mom came to the rescue at once and quickly announced that she could solve the problem. Within the next few days, mom had the trim work painted a dazzling white once again at no expense to the neighbor!

The most precious commodity you can share with others is time. More than ever today, our jam-packed schedules make her willingness to share herself with others an impressive commitment. Most of her friends have lived their entire lives on the farm, growing their own vegetables, mowing the year and making homemade pie crusts from scratch. It is a difficult move for elderly folks to make the transition into a senior care facility knowing full well that they are leaving their unique way of lie and independence behind. Nothing is more refreshing than a visit from a familiar face to talk about the past, discuss current events and nurture positive thought of the future. By calling on her old neighbors, she makes a positive impact in their quality and comfort of life.

Living in rural America is unique in so many ways. To truly understand the workings of a small farm community, you really have to experience the close human relations first hand. My mom makes gestures each and every day that just come natural to her because of how she was raised to care for others and share her time. She doesn’t have to make colossal gestures to be a special mom. She is extraordinary because of the precious time, energy and genuine love she shares with her family and community.

Nominee: Karen Koons, Tower Hill

Nominator: Jessica Miller, daughter

My siblings and I have truly been blessed. We were raised on a small farm southwest of Tower Hill by two loving parents where the values of hard work and devotion were instilled upon us from an early age.
My mother has dedicated herself to her family. She humbly tends to everyone’s needs before her own. My mother has always believed in us and served as our greatest supporter. She has stood strong and courageous while battling challenges in her own life with little fear.
As the devoted wife of my father, married now for thirty-one years, she has served the role of farmer’s wife. I remember driving to the field each fall and spring to deliver home-cooked meals to Dad and my uncles as they worked long hours. I remember riding with Mom in the ton truck to the elevator hauling grain. I cannot think of too many tasks around the farm Mom would shy away from.
For the past thirty-five years my mother has served her community as a registered nurse at Pana Community Hospital. She continues to serve the public on a daily basis providing the upmost in medical attention. Countless times my siblings and I have been approached by members of our small community and commented on how compassionate my mother was during their time of need.
Her strength was tested in the spring of 2009 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Some people may let this news defeat them, but my mother fought this disease with little fear. She continued to work full time during much of her treatment. Many mornings she would drive herself to Decatur to receive a treatment and then return to the hospital to complete a twelve hour shift.
And the majority of her life outside of supporting her husband and serving her community, my mother has worked to raise four children she is more than proud of. She stops at nothing to make sure our needs are cared for.
You should see how her face lights up in the presence of her four beautiful grandchildren.
In closing, it is with great honor that I nominate my mother, Karen Koons, for Illinois Country Mother of the Year.

Nominee: Teresa Lehman, Cuba

Nominator: Dakota Lehman, son

My mother is the definition of hard work, caring, and humble. She is the reason why I have grown up to be the person that I am. My whole life she has shown me how to care for other when they need it most. She does more for others even if it means giving up things she may want. She has three daughters and did a fantastic job raising all three of them to be successful young women. Now that I (my mother’s youngest) is off to college she should have plenty of free time but because working is what my mother does best she is raising two young boys.
I can remember growing up and always have an extra person living with us. My mother was the lady who wanted to make sure everyone had shelter. Well about seven years ago my cousin at a young age became pregnant. My mother was there for her because she didn’t have the best relationship with her own mother. In 2003 my cousin had a beautiful little boy named Collin. My mother found herself babysitting him a lot. Eventually my cousin moved in with us and my mother seemed to be the main provider for Collin and his mother. If one baby wasn’t enough for my mother to take care we soon found out Collins mother was pregnant again. In 2005 Collin became a big brother to a little boy named Cole. Once again my mother became the provider for three more people on top of the family she already had.
Now it’s 2011 and my mother is still the primary provider for two young boys. They are now seven and five. My parents have had guardianship of them for about two years. My mother has been the main woman in their life. My mother has given up a lot in her life to take on the role of a mother of two young boys.

I don’t know what I would do without my mother. She is not just my mother she’s my best friend and the woman I go to. My mother deserves to be the women of year because of how much she cares about everyone else and for once she deserves to be the one everyone is looking at.

Nominee: Trisha Christine Markley, Carthage

Nominator: Carol Mann, mother

I would love to tell you about my daughter Trisha Christine Markley. A “stay at home mom” is kind of unheard of in these times and she is always saying how blessed she is to be able to be at home, but the truth is she is home, school, church, boy scouts, girl scouts, school board member, township official and does volunteer work with first and second graders to help them read. She helps in the cookie and popcorn sales for the scouts and gives equal attention to the young people in each activity she is involved with. The Markley home is always welcoming to her children’s friends and she has helped with the humane society in the area many times to shelter homeless animals and even help clean at the My Mathews House for cats. She is politically active in her party’s organization and helps with the polls at voting time.

Her summers are spent with Little League baseball as a coach and the three oldest children went to church camp and had wonderful vacations to see the USA. They are among the few to see the “Biggest Ball of String”!! Trisha does homework, computer updates to all her various committees and community jobs.

I am blessed to see her patience and kindness to all. I am her mom, but I would think she qualifies as The Greatest Mom of many years. In her life she has had loss of one little boy, Matthew, but she uses his loss to help others with their great loss to cope and offers compassion and friendship at any time of need.

She and Jerry Markley have 4 children, Aubrey 18, Autumn 16, Max 11 and Aria born December 17, 2010! I am very proud to nominate Trisha Christine Markley as Illinois Country Mother of the year.

Nominee: Jamilyn Marks, West Salem

Nominator: Sadie Marks, daughter

Moms are great! They achieve things that seem downright impossible. But, you can always count on a trustworthy mom such as my own to get the job done. No matter what the task, she can accomplish anything if she has her mind set on it. What’s not to love about that?
My mom, Jamilyn Marks, has been active in many things including, Edwards County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee, school PTO, 4-H, and Ag in the Classroom. In School PTO she helped with the fish fry and carnival held every year. She also helped raise money for our school! The School PTO was an excellent experience for my mom because it gave her the opportunity to help purchase extra items for the school and to encourage kids to do better in school. In the women’s committee my mom participated in activities such as the Ladies Spectacular! She also served as chairman for about ½ of her term. They also did classes on card making, cookies and garnishes. The group did activities for 4-H, such as safety classes.
She also participated during Farm Week in schools and helped the Ag in the Classroom. Ag in the Classroom is when people go to schools and teach kids about agriculture and agricultural products. She put up a booth in the schools with her husband, Kent Marks, about corn and wheat. She is always very helpful and works as hard as she can.
If even that is not enough, she attends Zion United Methodist Church and is on the 4-H poultry committee with me. In the poultry committee people will call and ask questions about chickens. She is very open with them and answers their questions as fully as she can. My mom also enjoys traveling with me while I show my chickens in four different states.
She works part-time in the Edwards County Tax Assessors Office. And also works full-time on our grain farm that we own and operate! She can do most anything from driving a tractor, semi, and combine. She also hauls seed, anhydrous, and chemicals to keep the equipment running. My mom also provides delicious meals everyday when we are in the field and when we are not!
She should be the special mom because she works very hard; she encourages and helps people as best as she can. It is amazing what my mom can do!!

Nominee: Ines McLaughlin, Blue Mound

Nominator: Phyllis Herring, daughter

My mother, Ines McLaughlin, is 83 years old and has lived on a farm for all but two years of her life. She grew up in Blue Mound, Illinois on her family’s farm which became a part of the Rural Electric Association in 1941. Today she owns that family farm and the one she and my father moved to in 1952. Both of these farms are now a part of the Shelby Electric Cooperative system.
I can’t say that my mother has ever done anything really extraordinary other than be a kind hard working person. After high school in the 1940’s mother obtained an emergency teaching certificate and taught school for six years. Two of those years were spent teaching in one room country school houses. The remaining four years, she taught at the Blue Mound Elementary school. Sixty years later she still has former students who tell us how she made them eat at least one bite of everything on their plate at lunch time. She gave up teaching in 1952 to become a full time mother to me. That same year she and my father moved to the house and farm in the country where she still lives. Through the years she and dad were grain and livestock farmers. Mom could drive a stock or a grain truck with the best of the farmers and took care of all the considerable bookwork required to run a farm. My father was not an easy man to keep up with as he had a fairly large cattle business and was known to dabble in other money making enterprises. In 1973 she and dad opened up McLaughlin’s Home Killed Beef, a meat market and grocery store, in our home town of Blue Mound. Mother was the chief operator, accountant, butcher and general jack of all trades for the business. Mom and Dad were well known throughout central Illinois for the high quality of beef they sold. In their spare time they built floats to enter in the local Blue Mound Fall Festival Parade and entertained their grandchildren.
When my dad became ill, the business was closed after 27 years of serving friends, neighbors and family. True to my mother’s nature, she selflessly took care of my dad until he passed away in 2005. To say that my mother is a kind, giving person is an understatement. Through the years she has supported my brother and I helping us with schooling, finances and anything else we needed. She’s the same way with her grandchildren. In many respects, she’s just being a good mom.
Although mother is in her eighties, somehow she doesn’t exactly fit the picture of a little old lady. She has a very busy social life. So if you happen to see a blue Dodge Ram pickup truck headed toward Blue Mound down Christian County highway14 and the driver waves at you, just wave back. It’s probably my mother on her way to Rotary. She waves at everyone!

Nominee: Reba Menke, Waterloo

Nominator: Heather Griffin, daughter

A mother is defined as, “A woman who conceives, gives birth to, or raises and nurtures a child.” While this is an act that any woman can partake it takes a special woman to be an extraordinary mom. Fortunately, I was blessed with the most amazing mom. Not only is she my mom, but my best friend, my hero, and my role model. I have always known that I have a wonderful mom, but it was not until I became a mom myself that I realized how astounding my mom truly is.
When I was 33 weeks along in my pregnancy I began to have seizures at work and was rushed to the hospital. Due to a placental abruption and dropped heart rate I underwent an emergency c-section to save my baby. When my mom received the call from my husband she made the 40 minute drive quickly enough to be there when my baby came out of the operating room. When I woke up in the hospital my mom was there and she remained there all day and only left at night. My daughter was in the hospital for 15 days and my mom was there every day. My mom was a lifesaver. She brought my husband meals since he was staying in the hospital room with me and she bought smaller clothes and diapers when we realized our baby would not fit in the items we had previously purchased. Once I was discharged from the hospital my daughter would remain in the hospital for an additional 11 days. Since my husband had to return to work and I was unable to drive due to the surgery I was stuck at home unable to get to the hospital, but an extraordinary mom would not let her child suffer. My mom would leave work whenever I asked her to and drive me to the hospital. There were days where my mom would sit with me for hours in the Special Care Nursery. No matter what time of day or night my mom was more than willing to drive me to the hospital. On the weekends my mom would split the day with my husband and me so my daughter would have someone sitting with her all day. In the evenings when my husband and I came home from the hospital my mom would have a home-cooked meal sitting on our table. It was only because of my mom that my husband and I were able to maintain some sanity in our lives during a very difficult time.
I count my blessings that my mom has always been there for me and now she is there for my daughter. I am confident that I will be a great mom, because I have the perfect role model. I will always honor my mom by following the example that she set of what it means to be an extraordinary mom. In my eyes my mom will always be mother of the year.

Multiple Nominations

Nominee: Colleen Miller, Cowden

Nominator: Amie Carter, granddaughter

My Grandma is the most selfless person I know. I remember dozens of stories my Dad has told me about times when she gave someone the last bit of money she had because she thought they needed it more, just to get home and find an envelope with money taped to her door or an unexpected check in the mail. She never worried about being able to provide for her family because God had showed her time and time again that he would provide for them. She's a wonderful example of faith. She's so caring and loving. I remember sitting on her lap far past the time I got too big for it. She loves having her family near, and is the first to take my babies, her great-grandbabies, from me when we visit. We've lived out of state for most of my life and some of my favorite memories are of trips to visit Grandma and Grandpa Miller. Grandma always fixed up a goody bag for us to take on the trip home: a can of pop, an apple, an orange, snack cakes, something fun to do. Grandma Miller is one of the sweetest and most beautiful women I know.

Nominator: Jodi Hogue, granddaughter

My Grandma Miller deserves this award because she is an extraordinary person. She has always been there for me. My earliest memories are of staying at her house when I was little. She’d always have ice cream for me on Saturday nights, take me to church with her on Sunday mornings and then out for Sunday dinner at the local restaurant.
When I was in grade school I had the privilege of living right next door to Grandma Miller. It was not something I realized at the time but looking back I realize it’s helped me develop into the person I am today. Grandma is an extremely virtuous woman and a great example.
She cared for those that could not care for themselves. She looked after some elderly women in the community; checking in on them to make sure they took their medication, had food for lunch, ran their errands and for years my Grandpa Miller and her mowed yards around town for people who couldn’t do it themselves.

She was a wife who stood by her husband and stood up for her children. Through every difficult thing our family faced grandma kept her cool and always turned to God for strength when she couldn’t understand things.
Grandma would have a snack waiting for me everyday after school and took a genuine interest in hearing about my day. She was one of my biggest fans. She constantly supported me and gave me advice to follow my dreams.

She never put herself first. She always gave to those in need even when giving meant she might be without. I can’t remember a single time when Grandma wasn’t a prime example of a Godly woman.
Grandma Miller deserves this award for all of her hard work and dedication to our family and community.

Nominator: Emily Hovis, granddaughter

My grandma should win this award because she is a very kind, generous woman who loves her family very much. She is always going out of her way to help someone in need, whether they are a good kind of people or not. She is always worried for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She never speaks an ill word about anyone and very rarely raises her voice. She takes care of us when we need it. I remember her cooking chicken noodle or tomato soup for me sometimes when I was home sick from school. She’s always there for us kids. Before I got my license, she would always drive me to the library so that I could get books. She didn’t have to, and she probably didn’t want to, but she did it anyway because she loves me. My grandma loves flowers and birds. She loves animals and she sure likes cooking. She’s a great cook. When I was little I would go over to her house for lunch after church on Sundays. That food was super yummy. I don’t get over to her house too often on account of school stuff and work and friends, but when I do go, we usually sit and watch game shows and try and figure out the puzzles and questions. That’s always my favorite part of going over there: just sitting there talking and solving the puzzles and questions together. My grandma is amazing and she is loved by so many people, family and non-family. I love my grandmammy.

Nominator: Hassan Hovis, grandson

Well I think grandma should get it because she has the best grandsons and granddaughters in the world. She’s an amazing cook and a lovely lady she’s always been there for us and for grandpa and i remember when we were little she would bring us apples over and oranges and in Emily’s case bananas lol she loves grandpa and always compliments me on my good looks she is a good mother to all u kids and grandma deserves to win this award

Nominator: Jalen Hovis, grandson

I think my grandma should win the mother of the year because not only is she a wonderful grandma but she also is a good mother to her kids and she would be pleased to win this award. My grandparents are special to me and they both are the best grandparents you could ever have. My grandma has been there for me since I got adopted at age 4 and has help my mom out a lot with us 6 kids. And if you know the Hovis family you would ask how my grandma did it all because we are one big handful. The thing I like about the most with my grandma is love she gives her grandkids and her kids and the stories she tells us about her kids when they was little. I’m glad I was chosen to be the grandson of Colleen Miller because I got the best grandma in the world and wouldn’t trade her for anything. I also look up to my grandma in a variety of ways. For one she is a good person and that’s what I want to be as I grow up and live life. Two she never gets tired of her grandkids and that’s hard to do dealing with 10 plus grandkids running around in a small house and she never says a word about it she keeps a smile on her face because she loves having her grandkids be able to come around. And finally not only do I look up to her as my elder but I look up to her as my number 1 grandma in the world. I hope my grandma wins mother of the year because she deserves it more than anyone I know. I love you grandma.

Nominator: Mary Hovis, daughter

I believe my Mom, Colleen Miller should be named Illinois Country Mother of the Year. She isn’t the kind of person you see making the headlines or that everyone notices when she is around. In fact, without knowing her you might not even notice the person she is as she humbly believes she is no one of importance. She would never recognize the influence her life has had on the world. As she raised my siblings and I, she quietly set an example of giving of herself to others that has inspired her children and her grandchildren to make a difference in the world today. When she thought we weren’t looking, we noticed that she went without meat for supper many times, so that we would have meat to eat at meals. When a friend or stranger would come to the door, she would invite them to stay and eat with us, even if it was only an elegant meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or macaroni and cheese. If someone needed her car, she loaned it to anyone that asked, even a couple from church going on vacation for a week (and who kept it an extra week when they returned). If the neighbor needed eggs or money, it didn’t matter. She generously gave anything she had without expecting anything in return or without complaining. If someone needed a ride, she gave up her own time to take them to doctors or shopping. My Dad was a pastor, so living in the parsonage always brought strangers to our door needing help and my Mom was always willing to do whatever she could. She helped buy bus tickets for those who were stranded, helped get electricity or gas turned back on for some who were behind in their bills, or even helped get gas for those traveling through on their way somewhere else. Even in recent years, on her limited income, although we are all grown, she continues to be an example for us with the same pattern of giving that we grew up with as children. When my own children were younger and we home schooled them, she helped them learn to read by taking the time to have each child come over to her house and read to her each day. Even today, because of the needs my Dad has with his failing health, she has postponed a much needed eye surgery of her own, to be able to take care of him instead. She may not be famous, or well known in our communities, but, my Mom is someone who has always been there not just for her family, but for anyone and everyone who came knocking at her door. She taught us by example how to give to make the world a better place and I hope someday my children will be able to say the same of me as I try to continue on the legacy that she is leaving with each of us.

Nominator: Carla Miller, daughter

I believe one of the most important components of being a good mom is having Unconditional Love. As a mother and grandmother myself, I realize that is not always an easy thing to do. But I didn’t realize how hard it could be at times because my Mom was so good at it and made it look easy. No matter what road we have chosen or what mistakes we have made she has always been there lending her support and blanketing us with her unconditional love.

Being a mother means being a good Role Model. My Mom is a good Christian woman. She has always set a good example not only for my siblings, foster kids, and I, but for our friends growing up, the children she babysat for over the years and her grandchildren, nieces and nephews, etc. I think she invented the statement, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all,” for this is something she taught us when we were small and she lives by still today.
Being a Good Listener is another important job of a mother. My Mom has always been a great listener. I remember when I was in grade school, we would sit down as a family for dinner (which was pretty much every night), she would ask all of us how our day was. We would all share our stories. I can even remember times when she would be on the couch with her eyes closed and we would want to talk. She would say, I’m not sleeping, I’m just resting my eyes, and by golly, she could repeat the whole conversation.
Two other components of being a good mom are Selflessness and Faith My Mom always goes that extra mile to help anyone in need. She would give someone her last loaf of bread or her last dollar if they needed it. I remember from my younger years growing up with my 4 siblings and sometimes up to 5 foster kids, if Mom knew of someone in need she would help, even if she didn’t have anything to spare. She would always say, Give and you shall receive. When I was a kid I thought my mom didn’t like meat, because she always fixed meat for our plates but she rarely ate this herself. Now as an adult, I realize she wasn’t a vegetarian, she was providing for her children.
My Mom is a kind and gentle person, caring and forgiving. She always has a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen, no matter how big or how small the problem might be. She is always encouraging. It doesn’t matter whether you are her child, friend or a perfect stranger. She will offer her motherly love. It wasn’t hard to come up with the reasons, because she is the best Mom in the world. Even if she wasn’t my mom, I’d pick her!!

Nominator: Christina Miller, granddaughter

Colleen Miller, loving Mother and Grandmother to many is without a doubt “Mother of the year”. She’s a true Christian woman with tremendous strength and faith that never falters. Anyone that meets her can see that her eyes shine with kindness and her heart is full of unconditional love. Never have I met a more kind or compassionate woman that lives not only for her family but those in need. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done, Grandma Miller has a way of finding good within you and bringing it out for the world to see. I can’t help but smile when I think about my Grandma Miller.
Grandma Miller, I want to say thanks for just being you. You are such a special lady. I admire the way you have always gone above and beyond to help those in need even when you were in need yourself, continuously relying on faith to get you through the tough times. You amaze me. It takes a mighty woman to forgive and forget and you do. But you also go one step farther; you love. That is the most important lesson you could ever teach our family. We must always love with all our heart because without love what do we have? Even though you don’t realize it, you truly are the glue that holds our family together. I’ve heard people say that grandparents are our link to the past and grandchildren are their link to the future and that very well could be true. I feel so lucky to get to spend the present day with you and cherish our time together. I love you!

Nominator: Bill Miller, son

What can I say about Mom that other people haven’t already said about their moms. When you need someone to keep the peace Mom is always there. When you’re really angry Mom is the one who calms you down. When you really want to sleep the day away Mom is the one who wakes you up no matter how grouchy you seem to be. Mom is the one who seems to keep this house from falling apart. She loves everyone who comes into her house especially her children and her grandchildren. Mom takes care of dad even when he doesn't want her too. I know this isn't the best essay in the world but I truly love my mom.

Nominator: Phil Miller, son

My Mom, Colleen Miller, has instilled in me many simple small town lessons during the fifty plus years that I have had the pleasure of knowing her. Three in particular come to mind. First, my Mom has often been the brunt of our jokes calling her Gladys Kravitz, after the nosey neighbor from the TV show Bewitched. Mom likes to keep an eye out for her neighbors, noticing when things aren’t the way they should be. She has taught me and my siblings that we need to watch out for the needs of others. Second, although never a Boy Scout, she exhibits the motto always prepared to a tee. When going on trips she always made sure the house was cleaned before we left so when we returned home, dog tired, we could just settle right back in. She taught us the valuable lesson that a bit of preparation can pay big dividends in the future. And finally, she portrayed very vividly for us the fact that you can’t out give God. Being the small town wife of a preacher, wealth just hasn’t been in the cards for our parents. But any time she has seen a person in need, she steps out on faith, often giving all that she has to help someone else. But she always does so knowing that God will not leave her in need and time and time again we have witnessed Him taking care of her after her moments of generosity. There’s no doubt in my mind that my Mom, Colleen Miller, deserves to be named Illinois Country Mother of the Year.

Nominator: Matthew Rentfro, grandson

My grandmother’s name is Colleen Miller. If anyone asked me who I thought was the kindest most trustworthy and honest person I know I would have to say it’s her. She would never judge someone based on appearance or their opinions. She is willing to try to help others more than she is herself! Grandma is the glue that holds our family together. She looks after all of her children and grandchildren and that was not always an easy job as a few of us are "black sheep"! She keeps a clean house and always makes sure she looks after grandpa, sometimes I think it frustrates him but he couldn't possibly have a more doting, loving wife. I hope that I am able to grow old with a woman who loves and cares for me like my grandma does my grandpa. I was pretty unruly as a teenager and when no one else knew what to do for me or how to even talk to me my grandma was there to try to help me get my act together! I love her with all my heart! These are the reasons I feel she should receive this special gift and win this contest!!

Nominee: Susan Morgan, Mount Carroll

Nominator: Sarah Bogue, daughter

I am nominating my mother Susan K. Morgan as “Illinois Country Mother of the Year,” she is beautiful inside and out. She is a caring and strong woman. My mother who has raised four children with perseverance has always done her best in making sure her family came first before herself. She extends herself to the fullest in any task and is loyal to friends. My mother is a woman of simple things; she sees the beauty in life’s gifts and has always maintained composure during life’s struggles. She never hesitates in helping either the community or among family and friends. She is not only a care-taker to many around her but a multi-tasker. She is an employee of the well-known mascot manufacturer established in Savanna, Illinois named Facemakers Inc. and takes great pride of her position as a care taker of the corporate employer who owns the company. She enjoys every moment spent with her four grandchildren and is taking the necessary approach in giving structure, stability, and love to “her angel baby” that she has been raising for the past eight years. My mother was given Alivia when she was only eight months old and is currently raising Alivia. Her love for all and her love for babies has guided her in the direction to nurture so many and sacrifice herself at times for the well-being of others she loves and holds dear to her heart.


Times have not always been easy for my mother and she has endured hardships but she has always remained strong and un-breakable. Now as a grown woman and a mother I feel she is my inspiration to strive in giving my daughter the best I can. My mother has taught me to apply patience, confidence, and kindness in my life. I too will share this with my daughter. My mother says “if you want a smile, you must give a smile.” My mother is wise and loves tradition; I enjoy listening to her stories of her childhood and the times she spent with her grandmother and grandfather. I never leave a conversation with- out a full belly laugh when we talk about her “younger” years in high school and the mischief that tagged along with it. She was humorous then too as well as today. She is always pulling a prank or doing her best to frazzle someone. All with- in good means of course, she loves a good laugh. I have determined that my mother doesn’t have to be on several different committees or belong to any certain group to make her extraordinary. She is simply an extraordinary woman and as my mother I am proud of her and would like her to be recognized for how much she does and how much she is loved by her family and friends. My mother, Susan K. Morgan well deserves being honored the Illinois Country Mother of The Year.

Nominee: Vivian Rimbey, Rockbridge

Nominator: Tera Smith, granddaughter

My granny, Vivian Rimbey, deserves to be mother of the year every year. She has been cooking Sunday dinner for her family for over 38 years. She makes everything homemade. Most of the food is what she has grown or raised over the year.

On any given Sunday there can be up to 20 family members or more. Aunts, uncles and cousins just drop in to visit. We sit around the dining room tables and swap stories of recent or long ago. The best stories are the ones she tells of growing up in a large family and learning to cook at a young age. This has been her tool to keep our family together. To maintain a gathering place for all relatives to meet, visit and enjoy each other’s company over delicious home cooked meals.

Cooking, baking and gardening is her passion. She puts in a garden every year that provides enough produce for the entire family. Now that she is getting older and her eyesight is slowly failing, she is unable to gather the produce. But she still provides all the canning materials for us and continues to teach us every summer the importance of family togetherness, tradition and homegrown food. After 100s and 100s of jars are filled, she divides them evenly between her children, grandchildren and their families.

Over the years I have watched her take care of everyone else. If someone needed a ride, she took them, if we need a babysitter, she is the first to offer, if the church needs food for a dinner, they call on her. The kids in the neighborhood stop by all summer for homemade cookies. They know her door is always open.

She has taught our family how to be kind to others, healthy eating and the importance of family.
My granny is the strongest woman I know. She lost two brothers and a niece years ago in a fatal car accident. She lost not only her parents, but four other brothers and recently a sister. I have watched her struggle with these losses over the years.

She was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago but still never missed cooking a Sunday dinner. She makes it her duty to keep us close. With the price of groceries and the cost of loving I do not know how she continues to feed us all.

Vivian Rimbey should be mother of the year because she mothers her family, friends and neighbors. She continues to keep our family together by feeding our stomachs, hearts and souls.

Nominee: Bobbie Ring, Westfield

Nominator: Lisa Ring, daughter-in-law

Twelve and half years ago, I was fortunate enough to become the daughter-in-law to a fantabulous woman, a woman who treats everyone with respect.

My own mother passed away June 1998. I married my husband in December 1998. My mother-in-law has taken place next to where my mother would be. This wonderful woman has the best Christian disposition ever seen. She has never made anyone feel unwelcome and everyone is always welcome in her home. She welcomed me in the family and has treated me like a daughter ever since.

Bobbie Ring has been a nurse for over 45 years. Moving here to be close to family, she thought she was going to retire. Instead, she continued pursuing her nursing career for a home in Paris. She teaches employees how to manage client medication, update certification and other necessary training needed. She is a member of Eastern Star, Home Extension, taught Sunday school, volunteers for VBS at Westfield Baptist, volunteers for the Shine at 4th of July and Popcorn festival in Casey.

Get the monthly calendar out, she takes her, her sister-in-laws and grandkids to any appointments or activities. One of her own sons is special needs and lives at home. A heart of gold mom has. Four of her grandchildren come to visit for 3-4 weeks in the summer. She tries to plan activities from going to Dairy Queen, the park or even a fun filled day at the waterpark or pool. Rainy days make consist of playing games, baking yummies or even sledding with the kids in the winter. This past summer she borrowed a horse for the kids (she sold hers a couple of years ago).

Her mother lives down the hill from her. When grandma is here and not a winter bird, mom is taking care of financial records and anything else for her. Items are in order for her mothers’ yearly trip to Florida and she drives her down. She goes to visit about 2-3 months after she leaves. When grandma is ready to come home, usually before tax time, there mom is packing a suitcase to fly down to get her and drive her home.

Mom is the fix-it person; I do not sew, so everything goes to her. She cans the garden goodies in the summer and I may be fortunate to bring some of those home (I don’t can, either)! Homemade pies and cakes are always on the counter with a nice glass of brewed tea. There’s a bed for anyone who needs it and a meal on the table.

Mom is very deserving of this honor, whether she receives it from Illinois Country Living or not, she is our winner! A woman that has so much energy, next to her mother, love, compassion and does it all with a smile. She is always a phone call away for anything anyone needs.

Mom is the best mother I could have, next to my own. I am extremely blessed to be her daughter!

Nominee: Connie Sanchez, Ottawa

Nominator: Sheree Linn, daughter

I would like my mother to win this award. She hasn’t done much for the world or anything, but she has changed my son's life forever. My mother is the most caring woman alive, she'll do anything for you if she can. My mother had a head injury when I was about 9. So really everything i knew about my mother disappeared. That was in 1997. Us kids were taken away and we lived with our families. It was a hard time for all of us. After about 4 yrs. our mother was somewhat back to herself. She tried her best; being a single mother and with her brain damage and all. She never gave up on us 4 kids. After that everything got a lot harder she turned to alcohol. Which took most of her years away from us. In 2005 I had my son Ajay Robert. My mother was there for the birth but shortly left afterwards. The next few months were hard; she was still drinking. And things didn’t seem to change much.... I never thought Ajay would get to know his grandma. Now it’s 2011 and thank god for that it’s has been the best so far!!! Ajay finally knows his grandmother and spends tons of time with her. My mother has been sober now for 9months. Now Ajay and my nephew get to see that wonderful mother I once had. I’m so very proud of her. I hope she wins this so she knows we love her and truly care about her. My life has been nothing but hell and to show my mother the paper with her in it as the winner would be the all-time greatest. I really don’t think of the years back then now cuz we know our moms back and here to stay for good.

Nominee: Elaine Schenck, Sonora

Nominator: Debby Wear, friend

I'm nominating Elaine Schenck because I admire her. She is an amazing woman and does it all. Elaine is in her seventies. She is a loving mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She is extremely proud of her children and grandchildren and their accomplishments. She is a great friend to all her friends and would do just about anything for them.

God and Church are an important part of Elaine's life as well. She is on the church council. She helps out on St. Patrick’s Day. Elaine and her other church members cook and bring corned beef and cabbage to the church where they sell it. She is a fantastic cook and will cook and take food to friends and neighbors who have lost a loved one. She has painted and did other things as well towards the up keep of the church she belongs to. She is quick to lend an ear or hand to help out. She is never too busy to listen to ones troubles.

She is involved in several committees as well as being on the church council. She also is on the Sonora election committee. She takes classes for the election committee at the Carthage court house. She was involved in the Senora Fund raiser and she is also involved in the Blood drive in Nauvoo.

She is a very giving person. Her elderly neighbor’s air conditioner broke down during the hottest part of the summer and she let them come to her home out of the heat and take naps until they could get their air conditioner fixed. She has helped neighbors get their riding lawn mower out of the mud. It was stuck and she helped them free it. She has helped others with their trucks and cars when stuck in the snow or shut in because of snow in the winter. She has helped another neighbor in past years pick her asparagus and put it up. She calls and checks on her neighbors also. Elaine also helped me last summer to paint my house. I learned things about home repair etc. from her. She is so energetic that it made it fun and interesting and the work was done in no time. She went to her granddaughter's in Cedar Rapids last summer and helped strip wall paper off several walls. She has helped her grandson with painting at his house. She has helped her daughter when she remodeled her house and she has helped her son on projects at his house.

Last year when I had a spinal migraine I drove myself to the hospital and they had to close the opening with a blood patch and when she found out I was there she rushed to the Burlington hospital and was there for me. She even sat in the dark for hours with me until it finally let up enough for me to leave. She then took me to get my medicine at the pharmacy and took me back home and saw to it that I was comfortable before she left. She came by and called checking on me for the next few days.

She is also a self-employed full time farmer and she works just as hard as a man. Elaine and her son farm twelve hundred acres. She drives the tractors, mows ditches, runs the combine, runs the cultivator. She changes the oil in the farm machinery and paints some of the farm equipment. She also blades snow off the driveways and her road sometimes in the winter.

Elaine does all this and still finds time to be there for her family, friends and neighbors. This is why I’m nominating her for this honor as I feel as though she deserves recognition for all of her accomplishments. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Nominee: Crystal Smith, Farmer City

Nominator: Cody Smith, son

My mother helps out everyone she meets. She takes care of our family which consists of me, my brother Austin, My disabled sister Autumn and our dad Brian. She has seen dad through Testicular Cancer, Me through severe asthma as a child, Austin through BiPolar Disorder, ADHD and other mental health issues and my sister through years of testing, waiting and still not knowing why she isn't growing like she should. Mom has worked in group homes for deaf children with mental and behavioral disorders, is always only a phone call away from a friend in need and is still here to maintain a happy family life with us. When the phone rings, mom is always going to answer it. "It might be something important" she'll say to us and she'll RUN across the house to get it. She answers phone, text and email off and on all night! My mom not only helps out those we know but has raised us to want to help as well. Even my sister Autumn likes to help others. Having a family of her own has never stopped Mom from helping others. Her willingness to help others is so great that she joined the DeWitt County ESDA Ground Search and Rescue team shortly after we moved from the city in 2006! She is always there to lend a hand to those in need, whether she knows them or not. A mom is someone that nurtures, cares, loves, listens, gives advice whether you want to hear it or not and knows that sometimes, all you need is cookies and milk. Our mom is exactly that! I think our mom should get the "Illinois Country Mom of the Year" because not only is she a great mom to us, but she has become a great mom to so many others as well. No matter if she wins or not, she will always be "Mom of the Year" to me, my family and those she's helped.

Nominee: Doris Sue Smith, Creal Springs

Nominator: Angela Powell, daughter

I want to nominate my mom because of her giving attitude. She is a blessing to our family by babysitting my sister's children that have special needs while my sister is going to school to get her teaching degree. She also keeps them on the week-ends some so my sister can have a break and watch her oldest son in wrestling. Also, my parent’s house is very welcoming to friends and family. You don't have to call and say you are coming over. People know they are welcome to come any time. My mom goes to the nursing home each month with their church for services and also goes on her own to visit friends there. She fixes meals for neighbors and friends going through a rough time and every Sunday, she invites a widow lady over for the noon meal because she knows it is a long day for her. When our kids were small, she came to our house to watch our 3 kids while my husband and I went on mission trips to Mexico. She also came to our house to help care for our two older children while our third child had to stay in the hospital for a few weeks after he was born. She and my dad kept my grandpa with them for about seven years, because he didn't want to go to a nursing home. She has always been a stay at home mom and babysat while we were little. She still babysits some of the neighbor kids and loves every minute of it. She has taught Sunday school for many years and is active in their church's visitation program by sending out cards and making visits. She loves living on the farm and growing a big garden. Family and friends reap the benefits of their big garden each year. They have two blackberry patches, and we look forward to homemade jelly each year. She is not afraid of hard work and taught her children that hard work never hurt anyone. I think the fact that she grew up on a farm and came from a large family taught her that you don't need a lot of material things to be happy. Having a loving family and good friends is something money can't buy. I'm glad she instilled that into us too. Neighbors and friends call her if they have a prayer request and she is faithful to pray for them. I'm glad she instilled a love of God and family in us. I'm proud of her helping others every chance she gets and her love for people shines through every day.

Nominee: Thala Jean Stewart, Petersburg

Nominator: Mary Stewart, daughter-in-law

I am sending you a story today about Thala Jean Stewart, my mother-in-law. She was named after her Father, Thales. Her friends only know her as Jean. Jean has lived in Petersburg, Illinois on the same farm with her husband of nearly 53 years her entire married life.

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 phone 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 and two grandkids later ourselves, the rest is history. Had I not met this lady and her husband twenty seven 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. She has volunteered at the Menard County Food Pantry, the Petersburg Elementary School, the Petersburg Library, and New Salem. She still serves on the boards of Menard County Housing Authority and Sunny Acres Nursing Home. She has been an election judge and last but not least she has helped 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 blessed with three children of her own, eight grandchildren and four 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 her family is around.

About a year or so ago, Jean's health began to fail. Three times a week now, she travels to Springfield for dialysis. An outsider would never know Jean is not feeling well. She still gives to others 100%. She never wants to be a burden to friends or family and maintains that warm and giving attitude to others and often asks, "How are you--need anything?" No matter how tired she may be or how she may feel, it does not matter as she would rather worry about others than herself. This is Jean--a lady that I admire and love.

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

Nominee: Stacey Jo Swisher, Stronghurst

Nominator: Samantha Swisher, Kristin Swisher and Jessica Swisher, daughters

My mother has held a full time paying job since I was born. On top of her dedication to her work life, she is a full time mom, wife, and volunteer to our community. My mom is Stacey Swisher. When I was little, I remember my mom taking me to the nursing home to visit all my grandmas, who knew one child could have 15-20 grandmas! We would take our pet dog to visit sometimes too. When we were little my mom always volunteered as our Girl Scout Leader where she planned activities, took us on trips, and kept us involved in community service activities. She always stressed the importance to each of us girls how good it feels to help others. For the past 7 years, my mom volunteered her time and gathered her Girl Scouts to volunteer at the annual Pancake and sausage supper in Stronghurst for the MST Fire Dept. We served food, washed tables, and picked up trash. Mom was helping from start to close. She helped us during 4H meetings the one year we attended 4H. My mom has been the PTC president for the Pre-K, Elementary, and Middle School for as long as I can remember (at least 6+ years). As the president, she always made sure all the kids were looked after. She made extra efforts to ensure teachers were getting what they needed. She personally would deliver their Subways every year for teacher appreciation day at each of the three schools, she would make the purchases of supplies, go shopping for the holiday supplies and treasure boxes. She also was the one that has organized the PTC Halloween Carnival for so many years. My mom enjoyed every minute of everything she did for all of the kids of Henderson County. Not only has she been involved in the school activities, she also was a member of the Henderson County Economic Development Committee, helps with the younger age groups of organizing the Girls Youth Basketball program, and for the past 2-3 years she has helped organize the Stronghurst Summer Youth Softball program. Recently, she is retiring from the Softball, Basketball, and PTC organizations; however she is still always helping them out when needed.

I think my mom should win the Mother of the Year because no matter what happens in her life, she is always willing to put others in her community before herself. She is so nice and kind to everyone, even when sometimes they aren’t very nice to her. My mom has taught all three of her daughters to always be considerate to others and to help others when possible. Any person can come and ask her for her help in a committee, organization, or just a single person needing assistance and she will do whatever she can to be the person to lend a hand. When she cannot help out, she will find someone that can! We love our mom and she has proven that one person CAN make a difference.

Nominee: Beulah Stremming Ulmer

Nominator: Martha A. Mathis, long-time friend

The mother I would like to nominate for “Illinois Country Mother of the Year” is one of my special friends, Beulah Stremming Ulmer of rural Strasburg, Ill. Beulah is a member of Shelby Electric Co-op as are her three children who live close by in rural Strasburg. Beulah is a wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and a friend to many people. Her parents were Louis and Edna Stremming of Strasburg. She has one sister, Vivian Kessler, who is also a Shelby Electric Co-op member.

Beulah is a faithful member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Strasburg. Beulah attended grade school at St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Strasburg. I attended public school in Strasburg and I knew who she was, but didn’t know what Special Friends we would be until our freshman year at Strasburg High School. Beulah helped me thread my sewing machine, wind my bobbin, change my typewriter ribbon and helped style my hair for my senior picture.

Beulah married her childhood sweetheart, Richard Ulmer, after our high school graduation in 1952 from Stewardson-Strasburg High School. Richard served in the military during the Korean Conflict. They later moved to a farm in rural Strasburg and Richard farmed and worked at Caterpillar in Decatur, Ill. In 1987 Richard was diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed away in 1989 at the age of 57. Beulah cared for Richard in their home with the help of her family. Their son took over the farming operation and Beulah still lives in their rural farm home west of Strasburg.

Beulah sees that her son and farm help have food and drinks during the farming season and runs errands when needed. Beulah still plants a garden each spring and shares her garden produce with family, friends and neighbors. She mows her own yard and has a beautiful yard all year with the American flag flying most of the time. She decorates the graves of her relatives with flowers during the seasons of the year. She does sewing and hand-quilts for family and friends. She makes pieces, cakes, sugar cookies, cinnamon rolls, noodles, caramel corn, sweet pickles, etc. She shares all of these homemade goodies with so many people and organizations all year long. I know because I have received many of her special goodies in the last few years. She helps her church group, two times a month, makes blankets to send to missions overseas. She visits friends in local nursing homes, takes family and friends to appointments, grocery shopping, etc. She has attended her grandchildren’s school activities over the years and is now attending her great grandchildren’s school activities. She now babysits her great grandchildren two days a week.

About two years ago, my friend Beulah was diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery. After her recovery, her doctor told her what she was able to do and it didn’t take her long to start doing the things she had done before the surgery. Beulah had her 76th birthday in February.

Beulah fixed three beautiful rose floral arrangements for me to give to my three daughters when they lost their father last December. She brought one of the arrangements to my apartment in Shelbyville for me to see and so I could sign the cards for my daughters. Beulah also brought three red roses in a vase for me to keep. I told Beulah that that day that God had given her angel wingers here on earth. To my special friend Beulah: When your work here on earth is done, God will be waiting for you at his Heavenly gates, and will say to you: “Enter my good and faithful Christian Servant, Beulah Stremming Ulmer. Job well done!” Then he will put on your Heavenly angel wings! God Bless!

Nominee: Bernice Von Bokel, New Baden

Nominator: Marilyn Tudpro, daughter

My mom is 80 years old. She was married to my dad for 55 years. She was raised on a farm near Breese and was one of 10 children. She married my dad in 1951 and was a farm wife. She has always maintained a positive outlook her entire life.

I have many good thoughts about my mom and when I was growing up. I may talk about my mom but I also want you to know that my dad was just as important in my life.

One of the first thoughts that pops into my mind is the care she always shows. We were always neat and clean. We had the attire of white socks, school shoes, dresses and skirts that had to be washed, ironed and pressed every school day. That was a lot of work for five kids in school. The wash was done with a wringer washer and three tubs to rinse. We always helped with ironing and hanging the clothes on the clothesline. Ironing would take two or more days to complete.

My mom would fix and prepare four meals a day. This would include a breakfast, dinner, lunch and supper meal. The dinner and supper meal included a meat dish, potatoes and a vegetable. The lunch was summer sausage and bread. All the meals were good.

Sanitation and cleanliness was an important issue for my mom. Dairy farms had strict sanitation guidelines that included cleaning the milking portion daily – cleaning and sanitizing the pipelines for the milk, cleaning and sanitizing the tank. She did the job, every day. This helped me with my job career as an inspection control coordinator. My mom encouraged us to make good grades, helped us with homework – spelling, reading and history. She did not have that opportunity because she was in school during the depression and money for school was not a priority.

She also showed us how to conserve or how to use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. We were raised by her recycling standards before green earth or carbon footprints. Water from scrubbing the kitchen floors was put on outside plants, flowers, grass, etc. Plastic bags were rinsed and reused. Glass jars were used instead of Tupperware or other containers. Coffee grinds, eggshells, nut shells were put on the garden as an easy compost. Everyday clothes were always patched. Unnecessary trips to town were not routinely done.

I do not think we would have energy issues if some of the same guidelines were followed. Decisions, life-long plans, topics and issues that related to schools, college, marriages, were always discussed and reviewed. She has great insight and encouraged us to do what was best.

We all grew up, left home, moved on, married, had careers and family. But we always came home for visits or to just check on things.

Life changes that occurred included when my dad was terminally ill and required extensive care. My mom was the one who took care of him. We all helped, but she was the one we leaned on during those difficult times. To summarize, I was lucky to have the mom I had. We all were. I would not change a thing!

Nominee: Laura Josephine York

Nominator: Julie Ann Reese, daughter

I chose to nominate my mother for the Illinois Country Mother of the Year because of what a wonderful role model she is to both myself and my community. My mother is Laura Josephine (Moffitt) York. She has 6 children, 13 grandchildren, 1 great-grandchild with 2 more arriving shortly. My mother is also raising her great-niece whom she has cared for the last 10 years. My mother takes care of my father who is handicapped and has difficulty walking. She is always patient with him and seems to anticipate exactly what he needs before he asks for it. My mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor who always has a positive attitude about each day and each person she meets. She always puts her family first before herself even when she is tired and does not feel well.

She is a farm wife who is constantly helping with the farming and the livestock that they care for. You will often see her out working in her vegetable or flower garden in the early morning or evening. My mother helps raise and sell sweet corn, but many times she finds a person without this delicious treat and makes sure she sends some home with them without paying. She helps care for her elderly neighbors often taking them shopping, dr. appointments, or just stopping by with food to check on them. Her kitchen always has wonderful smells in it. She makes the best pumpkin and cherry pies. Those pies she often takes to elderly neighbors, funeral dinners, birthday parties, or reunions. She is also known for her jams that she makes and gives away to neighbors, relatives, friends, and anyone else who happens to stop by their farm. She always has a baked goodie and a cold drink for each salesman that stops by.

She volunteers for both the Oblong Athletic boosters raising money for school sports as well as volunteering her help with 4H activities for the past 20 or so years. I often enlist the help of my mother for classroom projects that I want to do with my students. My mother assisted with the kindergarten class at church for several years so she has the patience of a saint. She often assisted with my nephew’s class by reading to the kindergarten at Willow Hill School. My mom was instrumental in promoting the renovation and addition of Oblong Grade School. My mother keeps the softball scorebook for her great-niece’s team. She says it keeps her young and makes her pay attention to the game. Our school has a volunteer after school program called “Thursday Club” which my mother has helped with for many years. My mother has a hard time saying, “no” to anything or activity that will benefit the kids in our community.

She is a great listener and comforts others in need. Mom always has a smile on her face when you see her. When asked how people can pay her back for her good deeds, she always says, “Do something nice for someone else and pass it along.”

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