2017 Mother of the Year Nomination Letters

Nancy Agney

Nominated by Kathleen Agney, her Daughter-in-Law.

Nancy Agney is from Shelby Electric Cooperative.

Winner. Her nomination letter is in the 2017 Illinois Country Living Mother of the Year article.

Arlene Jones

Nominated by Gale Heldebrandt, her daughter.

Arlene Jones is from Shelby Electric Cooperative.

Read the nomination letter (PDF) here.

Barbara Jean Schnelten

Nominated by Eric Schnelten, her Son.

Barbara Jean Schnelten is from Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative.

Born Barbara Jean Rabe, my mother comes from a family of hard working farm laborers and homesteaders. All of her life, she has been around cattle, gardens, and crops. For as long as I can remember (and I am now 39 years old), she not only provided fresh eggs and vegetables to her children and grandchildren, but also to friends and neighbors. Recently, her green bean crop was so abundant, I am almost certain everyone in a 5 mile radius got a gallon-sized freezer bag of green beans and potatoes.

My mother is no stranger to anyone in Greene County. Throughout the years, she has shown a strong devotion of love to not only to her children, family, and neighbors, but also to anyone who crossed her path.

Growing up along a busy highway, there were many instances of strangers needing assistance, the use of a phone, or a tool to make a quick repair. Mom has always opened her door (and her arms) to those who were in need. There is not one person who can compare to her. She has a heart of gold and will do anything for anyone.

Barbara Jean married early in life, had six beautiful children, then tragically lost her husband to cancer. Some years later, tragedy struck again when she lost her second husband, the father of her seventh child, in an accidental drowning.

My mom taught me that with faith, love, and strength, one can overcome any challenge God puts before them.

Ladies like my mom are one in a million. And I cannot think of a better mother to receive a phone call to be told “Congratulations, you have been chosen mother of the year.”

Barbara Turner

Nominated by Holly Fleming, her Daughter.

Barbara Turner is from Rock Energy Cooperative.

If I have half the energy when I am 83 years old as my mother has today, I will be blessed. At 83 my mom still jumps on the tractor and pushes branches to the brush pile to be burned or starts mowing five acres. We often pull in the driveway to see her full of mud but showing much happiness pulling weeds. She always enjoys her grandchildren coming to visit and running around the on the golf cart to scare the turkeys away and to pick up the hundreds of turkey feathers.

It was around my eighth grade graduation that I realized my mom was pretty cool. She was the one who handed me my graduation diploma as school board president. And 42 years later she is still a woman to look up to rather it be showing her love to her family or just being a good person in the community.

Growing up with four siblings, you would have thought my mother had her hands full enough. But mom never put a friend second. She always had time to pick up the little old, Italian lady down the street who did not speak any English, and take her to church with us on Sundays. Mom loves to make the new neighbor some home cooked food item when she hears of them moving in or send a dish to someone who has lost a loved one or needs a “pick-me-up”. Today mom still finds time to visit with the church ladies to sew a quilt or knit a hat for cancer patients or serve a funeral lunch in the basement of the church. As a member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church and serving as past president on the Altar Rosary Society, she also taught faith formation children’s classes. She served as chair-person for several Mother and Daughter banquets where she organized a bridal show of wedding dresses.

Mom enjoys the Rockton Women’s Club and occasional field trips. Her monthly birthday club still gets her to some local dinner establishments or nearby travels. And she also still enjoys the group of Rockton ladies who meet every month for an afternoon out and lunch at someone’s home. She keeps busy with making cards, or picking up grandchildren when needed. Fortunately her monthly blood transfusions haven’t slowed her down a bit. She continues to pick up friends who may need a ride, or deliver her canes/walker or whatever someone might need to make their living a little more comfortable. To this day, Mom always makes sure that if she hears of someone sitting alone during a holiday that they are brought to our family for the occasion.

I believe my mother is the Mother of the Year and has been the mother of the year for the last 42 years, when I became a little wiser . If she isn’t running for our family, she is most certainly running for a friend, and sometimes an occasional stranger that may cross her path.

Becky Miller

Nominated by Tara Gallion, her Daughter.

Becky Miller is from Norris Electric Cooperative.

I believe my mom, Becky Miller, should be awarded the Illinois Country Living Mother of the Year Award for 2017. While there are many areas that I could highlight to explain why she should win, I would like to focus on two. In 2009, my brother suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) from a motorcycle accident. My mom gave up her job as a music teacher in the public schools to be his full time caregiver. From feeding and bathing him, to traveling all over the Midwest for various doctor’s appointments, my mom has set aside her teaching profession to demonstrate the sacrifice of what it is to be a mother. It is humbling to watch my mom care for my brother, knowing that she would do the same for me if I had severe medical problems. I hope that I am able to demonstrate the fierce love that my mom has shown me and my brother to my own three daughters. However, her service to others doesn’t stop there. My mom has continued to find ways to pour into the lives of others through her passion for quilting. With the help of her friends in the Crawford County Quilt Guild, my mom spearheads “Quilts of Valor”, a national foundation that recognizes service members and veterans by presenting each of them with a patriotic quilt. Although I know that this project is a group effort on the part of many individuals donating their time and talents, I also know that it takes a special person with a caring heart to coordinate this event. In addition to coordinating the quilt patterns, finding and gathering the fabric, batting, and other quilting supplies needed for the event, and publicizing in order for people up to participate, she also plans a service for the presentation of the quilts, honoring and respecting each veteran individually in front of family and friends. My mom, Becky Miller, is a shining example of how to care for others. Thank you for considering her for this award.

Betty L. Petzing

Nominated by Connie L. Durbin, her Daughter.

Betty L. Petzing is from Norris Electric Cooperative.

I would love to nominate my Mom Betty Petzing of Altamont for the 2019 Mother of the Year.
In order for you to know how much she deserves this, you will have to know that she is the last person who would think she deserves this because she is always doing everything for others.
She is a widower after losing her husband and my stepdad in 2014 after a battle with lung cancer. She immediately showed me how strong and brave she really is, even though I thought I knew.
Her main focus is on taking care of anyone else that she is able to help in any way, shape or form.
Mom’s big enjoyment is helping kids with horses, as Mom has been glued to horses since she or anyone else can remember. She shows her Appaloosa “Zip” every year at approved shows, achieving invitations to the Fort Worth, TX World Championship show every single year, as well as regional club high point awards in over 6 different events. She shows in halter classes and all the western and english riding classes her and Zip can fit in. Oh, and Mom is only 78 years old….she inspires everyone she meets at the horse events and in daily life.
Mom routinely gives horse magazine subscriptions to children she knows are trying to learn and get more involved with horses. She also has several neighbor kids who love to come work with Zip and ride him and learn from him and Mom, in order to tweak their showing and horse management skills.
Mom and her close companions Zip and dog Uno enjoy their 10 acres of heaven in rural Altamont. Mom’s work ethic has her at any given day mowing, tree trimming, pasture seeding, burning leaves, feeding birds and everything in between.
Once a week she meets up with her “cool kids” (Grief Group Support members) at Altamont McDonald’s to visit and check in. They can get a bit loud at times but who is going to tell a group of cool ladies like this to quiet down??
I have talked about how Mom takes care of everyone but herself, but her family gets the best from her. We are small but tight. She has taught me, her only child, to be tough but kind. She has taught me to know when to worry and when to let it go. Most of all she has taught me love by her example of loving life and all that it brings and to constantly look at ways to live it for all its worth.

Cathie Smith

Nominated by Mary Kate Smith, her Daughter In Law.

Cathie Smith is from Menard Electric Cooperative.

Growing up and thinking about getting married someday I heard the same stories and jokes that everyone hears: beware the monster in law, mother in laws can be so difficult, what if you fall in love with someone whose mom doesn’t love you, etc.

But when I married my Menard County husband, I had the complete opposite experience. Cathie Smith is not like the mothers-in-law from movies or bad jokes…she is the most perfect example of what a strong mom and an even stronger woman should me, not only for me…but my daughter as well.

Cathie has become more than just a mom to me. As a transplant from the big city, Cathie has guided me through what it means to raise three children in a rural county. Our cattle farm children have known the life of growing up on and around the farm because Cathie has taken their hands (and mine) and led them through it. She’s taught me the work involved in being a mom, the balancing act of being a good teacher and a good mother, the importance of finding friends that become family and all the really important things…like the difference between supper and dinner.

Cathie Smith survived a traumatic brain injury during the Lake Petersburg tornado years back, and that was when we all saw what a truly incredible force of nature she is. She rebounded from a life threatening injury with the courage and grace that she handles all things. And she did it with the perserverenace that make her a good example every single day.

I am blessed to have Cathie as a mother in law, blessed that she raised a wonderful son who honors and supports women, blessed that she is an integral influence in my own three wonderful children, and blessed to be part of a community that has been shaped in part by her kindness, hard work and dedication. We love you, Cathie!

Cathy Russ

Nominated by Lori Russ, her Daughter.

Cathy Russ is from Jo-Carroll Energy, Inc. (NFP).

Mother of the Year 2019

Generous, nurturing, compassionate, and loving are just some of the words I could use to describe my mom. My mother, who is also my best friend deserves to be the “Mother of the Year” for 2019. As the oldest sibling in my family, I have watched my mom pour out her love for us. After a long day of teaching, she always had plenty of energy and love to make our favorite dinners, play board games, help us with our homework, and read with us each night. My mom, along with my dad were always our best “fans” and supported every activity we joined in school. My mom made sacrifices for our family, by giving up what she liked to do and took on a second job so that we could enjoy family trips together in the summer and take fun day trips to the zoo, museums, or parks. Her hard work ethic taught us that money doesn’t grow on trees and that we have to work hard and prioritize what’s most important in life. She always put others first and was always volunteering at the hospital, our church and of course at our grade school and high school by being an active parent and President of our parent organizations. My mom is a very talented woman who has shared those special gifts with her students by being an advocate for their future and with us by encouraging us to reach for our dreams and providing us with the opportunity to go to college and earn our degrees. She is a very creative and organized individual who takes the time to make every holiday, birthday, and family get together extra special. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a gift made with love from our mom. One year, our special quilts were literally “stitched” with love. When you enter our house, it’s a warm and loving atmosphere with the aroma of fresh baked goodies and a delicious dinner ready to be served. You would never leave our house hungry! My mom has taught us to enjoy the simple things in life and that is why we look forward to spending family time together, whether we’re on a day trip, playing games, watching movies, or just relaxing on the deck. I often teach my young students about gifts that are “priceless” and think back to all the special memories I have from when I was growing up. The special memories are the gifts that will last a lifetime and mean more than anything. I’m honored to have such a wonderful mom and best friend and thankful for all the family memories that are engraved in my heart. Every mom deserves to be “Mother of the Day” because they are special gifts to us. But I believe my mom deserves to be Mother of the Year for 2019! I love you, Mom!

Charlotte Scharpf

Nominated by Charlene Scharpf, her daughter.

Charlotte Scharpf is from Jo-Carroll Energy, Inc. (NFP).

About 6 months ago or so my Mom had a stroke but it went unnoticed cause she had the one that hits the back of her head that affected her eye site and hearing, Not that, that wasn’t bad enough she already had matriculate degeneration of her eyes, she can barely see anything, and she wears hearing aids but still has a very hard time hearing, and a three time survivor of cancer, but that doesn’t stop her, she keeps on going, since the stroke she has to rely on others to take her places because she has lost her license. I hear her comment to people when she is asked how she is doing and she says my health is perfect now if I could only see or hear I’d be perfect. She never complains about her misfortune, only says that their are others out there that are worse off than she is, she can take and live with whatever comes her way. She is always worried about all her kids, like any mother, but she is the strongest woman I know for she just keeps going on in her life to make the best of all that there is to offer to her. She is loved by all 6 of her children and each does their share to help when they can, but its my sister who does the most for her she is retired and can make the time for it.(thank You) A day never goes by when my mom doesn’t say she loves us and ask if we need anything, she is always there for all of us. She is the strong hold of the family. We love you Mom and thanks for showing us how to be strong and hold on to life.

Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson

Nominated by Bradley Ross Jackson, her Son.

Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson is from Corn Belt Energy Corporation.

My Mother, Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson, is extraordinary. She is very special because she has helped hundreds of people in every city where she has lived. She always extends a helping hand for the less fortunate. For example, my mother donates clothes, shoes and food to the poor. She visits the jails and has even spoken at jails in the areas to help inspire. She is so dynamic that she has been recognized all over the world:

• Received the President George Bush Points of Light Award
• Received NBC’s Woman To Watch Award
• Received the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Service Award
• Received the Spirit of State Farm Award
• Received the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award
• Radio Personality for 94.9 FM

My Mother was raised by a single Mother in Saint Louis, Missouri. She beat the odds and obtained her Bachelor’s Degree, MBA and her Ph.D. I am so proud of my Mother. Every day, my Mother makes sure I understand how blessed and fortunate I am. I have seen her assist so many people that now I am in the “giving and helping” business, as well. This past December, I was chosen as Illinois’ Kindness Ambassador and was featured on the front page of the Pantagraph newspaper. I received 100 new toys from the Hasbro Toy Company and I was honored to provide all of those toys to the children of the Bloomington Housing Authority. My Mother was there to assist me every step of the way. A few weeks ago, my Mother and I spent time at the Salvation Army in Bloomington, Illinois. We provided care packages for those in need. My Mother and I also provided tons of toys, clothes and book to the Goodwill.

My Mother does not judge others in a negative way. Even though we are blessed to have a beautiful home and beautiful cars, my Mother does not treat others as if they are not important. Instead, she treats everyone she meets with dignity and respect. She has even taught me the importance of always treating everyone kindly and she shares how people should not engage in any bullying activity.

This past weekend, I participated in a Speech Meet and won the title of SUPERIOR! My Mother practiced with me every day, even when she was tired. My Mother helps me to do great things. She also helps any of her family members and friends and will travel miles to make a difference in their lives.

Even though my Mother is a business leader at a Fortune 500 company, she always makes time for me. She attends all of my concerts, plays and Speech Meet. She loves her family and she loves to praise God, as well. My Mother should definitely be chosen for the Illinois Country Living’s 2017 Mother of the year. She deserves this title because she helps everyone who crosses her path and she does it with a beautiful smile on her face. My Father and I love Dr. Carla Campbell-Jackson!


Nominated by GAIL HELTON, her DAUGHTER.

GENEVIEVE CAMPBELL is from Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative.

Genny Campbell, our mother of the year, is mom to 3 kids, 7 grandkids & 3 great-grandkids. She sets good examples for others, always there to lend a helping hand to friends, family & even strangers. She volunteers & is a very active member of the Women of the Moose and for many years she has judged 4-H cake decorating along with giving classes to anyone who has even a little interest! She was always there for us as we were growing up, whether teaching us things like cooking, family values or other important things in life like “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all”. She not only has enough energy, time & love for us but also for others who need it.

Our family has always had the comfort of having home canned food which of course was also grown by our family. Something that all three of her children also now do and will hopefully pass on to all of our children. She shares her love of cooking & many, many recipes! She always finds the time to help my sister & I can homemade pie fillings, teaching her 7 year old great-granddaughter to make jams & jellies and her grandson’s wife to make rock candy and anyone else who asks.

Mom was home with us as we were growing up and then decided to stay home again when her first grandchild was born. She has been there for all of her grandchildren & is currently the bus stop for some of her great-grandchildren. Hanging out at Grandma & Grandpa’s gives the grandkids opportunities that not all kids have these days from helping in the garden, going fishing, caring for livestock, climbing trees to home cooking. Every grandchild has done cake decorating to some degree from simple cupcakes to 4-H Grand Champions!

The youngest great-grandchild has food allergies to gluten & yeast yet she never feels left out or different. Mom finds ways to create recipes (even though it requires fixing 2 complete meals at times) from bread to Camille’s favorite s’mores to birthday cakes!

Our Mom is a big supporter of our Dad, from going dancing (which is one of Dad’s favorite past-times) to being the “manager” of his country music band! Our parents have been married for 58 years in March!

We feel that because of the kind of person that Mom is, full of energy, love and kindness, we have been given so many opportunities in life! We have been taught values & important life lessons that we can all pass on to the next generations!

That’s just some of the reasons we feel our Mom is “Mother of the Year”!

Jane E. Stinebaker

Nominated by Julia B Eberlin, her mother.

Jane E. Stinebaker is from Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative.

My mother, Janie Stinebaker’s life, has been one of hard work, sacrifice and service.

Shortly after I was born, Mom made the decision to leave the field of cosmetology for different fields: farming and parenting. Mom and Dad worked side by side raising crops and livestock, while also raising their family, which includes my two sisters and me, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild with another due any day. Mom worked with Dad tilling fields, driving the grain truck and raising cattle and sheep. While Mom no longer drives the tractor or grain truck, she and Dad still have cattle and Mom has a small herd of sheep. In the house, like many women of her era, Mom spent untold hours cleaning, washing, canning and cooking, which brings me to Mom’s greatest claim to fame—pie baker.
Many years ago, Mom and the other ladies of the Perry United Methodist saw a need in the community when the local restaurant was closed on Monday. They decided they would serve lunch so people would have a place to gather. Well, the church ladies have long outlasted that restaurant and several others that followed.
Mom serves as the pie baker. Early every Monday before the hungry crowd arrives, she makes six soft pies and four fruit pies. One best not be late or the pie will be gone! (I arrived at Monday dinner last week at 11:40, which I consider early for lunch, and only three pieces of pie remained!) It’s not uncommon for diners to number over 100. The ladies take a hiatus in August and December, but most Mondays they can be found in the church basement serving dinner and donating the profits to local charities. In Perry and the surrounding communities, Mom is legendary for her pie although one might not get a consensus on which one is best. Personally, I like the cherry, but many prefer her apple. The ladies of the church also serve luncheons for funerals and, in a community with an aging population, these are an all too frequent occurrence.
This summer, Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. As is typical of my mom, she kept the news close to the vest. She didn’t even tell my sisters and me until after her first surgery had confirmed it was indeed cancer. She had a second surgery and twenty consecutive days of radiation. While Mom didn’t serve at the dinner during her treatment, she still made the pies.
On the phone one night, fearing the side effects of the treatment might be getting the best of her, I asked if she was tired. She admitted she was. “So your treatments getting to you?” I asked.
“No,” she replied, “it was because I raked leaves all afternoon.”
That quote pretty much sums up Mom–she works hard, she thinks of others and not even cancer is going to stop her from the task at hand, be that raking leaves or baking pies.

Jane Lang

Nominated by Amy, Rutger, & Eli Smith, her Daughter & Grandsons.

Jane Lang is from Rock Energy Cooperative.

Movie: Wonder Mom
Leading Actress: Jane Lang
Supporting Actors: Jon Lang, Michael Lang, Amy, Jon, Rutger, & Eli Smith
Before she was Mom or Gamma, she was Jane. The little princess of the Bud & Shirley Tester and sister to Tom & Dave, she was raised in Beloit with the world at her finger tips. Jane loved fashion and friends. She worked hard to pursue a career after college only to learn that her heart belonged to Jon a pig farmer/firefighter. She disliked the crazy hours so while feeling worlds apart she went back to school to get her teaching degree in Family & Consumer Science (Home Economics). She married Jon and began a career in teaching. Loving everything she was doing to shape young minds, she found herself throwing up in her classroom sinks learning that life was going to change her path again. Convinced that she could do both Mom and Teacher, Jane left her home daily to shape young minds for 7 months to realize the love of being a mother was something far bigger than teaching. Instead of fighting the battle of being a working mom, she dropped her dreams to stay home to raise her babies where she finally discovered her full powers and true destiny. She was meant to be a mom that put her children first being the chauffeur, play date organizer, fashion designer, seamstress, personal chef, laundry master, boo-boo fixer, number one fan/cheerleader, homework master, 4-H leader, and never missing a big moment for her children even after she went back to teaching High School Foods classes. She continues to defend her selfless mom title in being there for both her children and now her grandchildren to this day.
She has been hiding the shadows of her children to let them shine, but truly who is she? She is the Wonder Mom the star of the show. Her emotional and physical strength to protect her family makes her Wonder Mom. This last year was a rollercoaster from her losing both her parents 40 days of each, retiring from teaching, still balancing being wife, mother, and gamma along with her church activities and VetsRoll fundraising, she handled it with grace and faith. She learned it is time for her to take time for herself so we all can enjoy life this blessed life together. Her faith has made her stronger and taught all of us that is the leading lady in our lives. She may appear to play the supporting role, but her actions speak volumes. You are our Wonder Mom! We will love you forever, we will like you for always, as long as we are living our wonder mom/gamma you will be!

Jane Lucht

Nominated by Denise Heller, her daughter.

Jane Lucht is from Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association.

Read the nomination letter (PDF) here.

Janet Cruse

Nominated by Stanley Treat, her Son-in-law.

Janet Cruse is from Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative.

Read the nomination letter (PDF) here.

Kathadale M Harris

Nominated by Sarah Harris-Travelstead, her daughter.

Kathadale M Harris is from Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative.

My name is Sarah Harris-Travelstead. An I am nominating my wonderful great won’t find or meet another lady like her. My mother grew up in town of Metropolis, IL. Yes, she was a city girl. She married my dad in 1969 and they moved to Pope County. An my dad was and still is a farmer so she got used to the country in a hurry. An they bought a farm in 1970. 160 acres in Pope County. Man did my mom have to do a lot of changing, lol. She still says, man did I cry many many of night, she said. She like to never got used to the farm life. Well she went on an they opened a feed store in Brookport IL in 1986. An she ranthe store for 28 years. An then the tornado destroy it in 2013. An when her and dad opned it there was my brother & sister an she was 6 or 8 months prego with me. She had me one day back to the feed store. She went to go back to work 2 days later. So yes, I was a feed store baby. They called me. An she worked like a man and she still does. She be came a grandma of my kids. An when I worked she would watch all my kids at the feed store plus work on top of it. She is one very strong lady. She has always been very crafty and involvd in lots of extras. 4H leader, church, youth fair, farm bureau, River ag, Southern FS, and a mother and grandmother an a farmers wife. She is very special to me and my kids and my hole family. She is very loving caring she can play a part of just about anything or anyone. She could of not did anything better in life growing up an now. Mom always know how much I love you and the kids think that you hang the moon. Love, ur baby daughter Sarah

Marilyn Kerchenfaut

Nominated by Kristi Nottingham, her daughter.

Marilyn Kerchenfaut is from Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative.

Read the nomination letter (PDF) here.

Mary Lee Allen

Nominated by Barbara Bush, her mother.

Mary Lee Allen is from Corn Belt Energy Corporation.

I read about your contest in the January 2017 issue of “Illinois Country Living” and immediately my daughter came to mind. Being a single mom nowadays makes you wear many different hats, which she does so well. My daughter works full-time and cares for her eleven year-old daughter. This includes basic care, school events, play dates, dancing lessons, and out-of-town trips to dance competitions, besides regular trips to doctors, dentists and the like. She shows us how well she uses the ideas we tried to teach her growing up and does us proud. She automatically does what is right and best for her daughter and for the rest of us as if she has already had a dress rehearsal. My heart so goes out to her as she sets an example for her daughter and for me too, her mom. There are many worthy mothers as well try our best, but she is silently deserving. Thank you for reading and your consideration.


Nominated by Me, her Son.

Mom is from Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives.

Mom is the best