Nomination Letters

Mother of the Year – JoAn Bollmann

Jeanie Aldrich
Barbara Bennett
Cristen Carlson
Renee Depriest
Irene Franey
Carolyn Hall
Sandra Helmink
Brenda Jenkins
Debbie Johnston
Barbra Khourie
Mary Jean Kraft
Joyce Kuhle
LaDonna Miller
Janice Pasiewicz
Barbara Rawe
Janie Schultz
Louise Shepherd
Robin Shipman
Marlena Siverly
Thala Jean Stewart
Karen Tucker
Amanda Twitchell
Ruthie Jane McGilvry Welty


Nominee: JoAn Bollmann
Town: Ava
Nominated by: Mark Bollman (son)

My special mother….

My mother, JoAn Bollmann, is a member of Egyptian Electric Cooperative. She is 78 years old, been married for 55 years and raised 3 children. My siblings and I were raised on a farm on northern Jackson County. My mother was very instrumental in the farming decisions and she spent most of her days outside farming or gardening along with keeping the house for our family. She showed us the meaning of hard work and working together as a family.

When my sister, brother and I got married, my mother embraced our spouses and welcomed them into our family. Her devotion to her family is shown by the things she does for us all. Every Sunday she cooks dinner for the family members that can make it. The meals she cooks are made with love and talent as she is a great cook.

She goes over and above when asked for her help. As all of her children and their spouses hold jobs, she is there to pick up ill grandchildren from school, run errands and anything else that’s needed. Also she is an avid sports fan. She goes to all of her grandchildren’s sporting events—basketball, baseball, and softball. My mother is the unofficial scorekeeper. She has her own scorebook for each sport and everyone around her goes to her for the scores and individual stats. My mother keeps these scorebooks for each grandchild as a gift of their sports memories.

She keeps very busy with her 4-H Club, Campbell Hill Cherokees. She has been a 4-H leader for 44 years and has helped to mold and influence young minds with her years of service to this great organization. She has been active in Illinois Extension–Home Extension and Livestock programs. She is also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution – Liberty Bell of the West Chapter and the American Legion Auxiliary Unit #1096 in Campbell Hill.

My father became ill due to Melanoma in August of 2012 and had a  cancerous mass removed from his brain stem. In November, we were told to take him home and make him comfortable for the remainder of his days, because his cancer treatments weren’t working. In the 2 ½ months following, my mom took care of my father with such diligence and care that truly shows the love that they shared. The loving care that my mother gave to my father left a very profound imprint on my life and the way I will continue to live it. Her putting my father’s needs a head of her own has impressed me in how to treat others in my life.

When you get to know my mother you see that her faith in God and church is very strong. She attends church regularly and helps with funeral dinners and prepares a breakfast dish for our once a month breakfast. She has been very active in community and family all of her life and is very deserving of this award.


Nominee: Jeanie Aldrich
Town: Sumner
Nominated by: Jenna Bree (Aldrich) Sibert (daughter)

Grateful cannot begin to describe how blessed I feel to have my mother. 

My mother graduated nursing school, but instead of pursing that career, chose to dedicate herself to her family and worked alongside my father on the farm.  Growing up, I can remember a year they grew acres of tomatoes that had to be picked by hand.  My mother was out in the sweltering Southern Illinois summer heat, picking tomatoes with one arm and carrying my little brother with the other.  Even now, she does everything from hauling and unloading grain, to keeping all the records, to moving equipment, even digging ditches and clearing beaver dams by hand – all while ensuring everyone has a lunch and sweet tea.

Though everyone has their struggles, you would never know it from looking at my mom.  Just a tiny little gal, she still packs more spunk than someone half her age.  A fall from a grain bin a few years ago only slows her down long enough to explain the pins during a scan at the airport.  She never hesitates to jump in and get her hands dirty and enjoys the satisfaction of a job well done.  She will often visit my office just to bring a plate of cookies for everyone, and often stay just long enough to dust my office.  If you visit her house long enough, you are a likely to leave with a clean windshield as well. 

Watching my mom work so hard alongside my dad, doing without to be able to give us more, that is what has driven me to be successful.  My mother has always had the absolute most genuine caring attitude.  She is known by everyone in our small community and I have never once heard anything but the most sincere compliments as to her personality, her work ethic, and her inspiration to others.  Now, as I find myself an adult in this community, complete strangers frequently walk up to compliment my striking resemblance to my mother, and always gush at what a remarkable person my mother has always been and continues to be.

An aunt once told me during my teenage years that my mom would one day be my best friend.  Only now do I see how true that really is, and I am so fortunate to have such a special person in my life to call my best friend.               

My mother is truly an extraordinary example of everything a person, especially a mother, should try to be.


Nominee: Barbara Bennett
Town: Cowden
Nominated by: Heather Wade (daughter)

I was raised in the time of the small farmer, when each and every family member, children included, had a job to do.  Those jobs big or small, contributed to making the farm run.  We were taught the importance of hard work, to never stand around you can always find something to help out with and when you couldn’t find it for yourself someone else surely would.

My mother raised three kids on a rural country farm in Southern Shelby County. She taught myself and two brothers how to work whether it be gardening, walking beans with a cane hook, baling hay, hauling grain or running the tractor.  She took us to church every Sunday morning and whipped us when we deserved it.  Her meals were the kind of country meals most people will never have the pleasure of experiencing.  There has always been an open door to her kitchen and a homemade pie never to far away. That’s not what my mother is.

My mother has been an enthusiastic Republican for as long as I can remember.  She has served on the Shelby County Board since November of 2002.  When she was first elected she was only one of two women and only the eighth Republican on a twenty-two seat county board.  She has fought long and hard for her constituents, if she believes in something or someone she will not back down. I truly believe her only fear is the Lord. That’s not what my mother is.

Twenty-two years ago she made a decision that would change all our lives for the better.  While raising twin boys and a somewhat difficult teenage daughter, she made the decision to raise someone else’s child.  The mother of the child had discovered her daughter was born with microcephaly.  The mother of the child was young and decided she did not want the responsibility of raising a child with special needs and was going to give her up.  My mother had been helping with the child since she was born. My mother knew it was unlikely the child would be adopted and the little girl would be raised in a state facility with no family.  Her decision was not easy by any standard. It was a decision she made with God and my step-father.  My mother chose to love and care for the little girl and has been raising her now for twenty-two years.

I have watched her sacrifices, hard work and love with my sister over the past twenty two years.  I have also seen her frustration and determination to make sure this now young woman will have the best possible future.  I will not lie and say that it has been easy sharing my mother; my sister requires her full attention.  I will say that her love for all of us has been unwavering, she has always been there for us and the lesson she has taught myself and my own children by blessing our family with this beautiful young woman has been the greatest gift she could have ever given us.  What I believe my mother is: one of God’s angels.


Nominee: Cristen Carlson
Town: Harvard
Nominated by: Jim Carlson (husband)

Although I feel that all mothers should receive Mother of the Year for all their hard work and dedication to their family and community, my wife Cristen is the elite.

I have been married to my wife Cristen for 15 years and each year I am more amazed than the next at how great a mother she is to our daughter and son Avery ,12 and George 9. She does this on top of being executive director of two veterinary clinics, homeschooling Avery and managing the busy activity schedule for all of us. She was diagnosed with having the BRCA2 gene for breast cancer in 2012 and was faced with difficult decisions involving surgery to prevent the dreaded and potentially deadly breast cancer. As a committed wife and mother, she survived two major surgeries and came away cancer free and safe.  Cristen never once complained about this hardship as we faced this challenge with only the emotional support of family. Her first words out of surgery were never about herself but was always “are you and the kids ok, do you need anything”. Cristen faced an even greater challenge , receiving news of her own mother’s sudden death as she was being released from the hospital  after surgery. I have never saw anyone handle such adversity with such grace and perseverance. Even though I married to this great women, there is no one more deserving to be Mother of the Year than my wife Cristen Carlson.


Nominee: Renee DePriest
Town: Harrisburg
Nominated by: Kayla DePriest (youngest daughter)

My mother, Renee DePriest, is the most awesome mother ever!  She is a stay-at-home mom, and has homeschooled all four of her children; two have already graduated from high school, and the remaining two, myself included, are in our sophomore year of high school.

Mom always does her best to make the house look clean as a whistle.  I can remember several times when I would just get in the kitchen and cook or clean with her.  She always does her best to make people feel at home. 

Mom grew up on a farm near Galatia, Illinois.  When she was fifteen, she met my dad, a preacher, at a church event.  She graduated from Galatia High School.  Soon after graduating, she started working as a secretary at various places.  When my dad and her got married, she was working at the Harrisburg Bank as the vice-president’s executive secretary.  They saved their money for years in order to build the home that we now live in.  When my oldest sister was one, Dad and Mom made the decision to homeschool their children.  Mom sacrificed her job so that she could instruct me and my siblings in the way that we should go.  We have benefited from that decision ever since.

Throughout the years, Mom has faithfully stood by Dad.  She tries her best (as all of us can only do) to ignore the faults of those around her, and you hardly hear a negative comment about those around her come from her mouth.  It takes great strength and patience to be a pastor’s wife, I commend her for strengthening Dad through the trials they have been endured.  When problems arise or something is needed to be done, Mom will be there.  All you have to do is ask. 

Mom has always been there for me and my siblings.  The greatest gift that she has ever given me is her example. She is self-sacrificing, and I know that she loves Dad very much.  She wants to honor GOD in all that she does, and loves HIM with all her heart.  Mom has taught me and my sisters, by example, how to be women that are hard-working and courageous, how to be ladies that are sweet and tender.

My mom stepped up to help when my great-grandma broke her hip last spring; and again when my great-grandma broke her shoulder she helped out.  I can only compare her to the Proverbs 31 women.

Though you may not think that my mother deserves to be the Illinois Country Mother of the Year, I do.  I admit that she is not perfect, and that she has her faults.  But don’t we all have our faults?  “We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23 says.  All I know is that God gave me to my parents for a reason, just like he gave you to your parents.  In my eyes, I couldn’t pick a better mother. I love you, Mom!


Nominee: Irene Franey
Town: Chatsworth
Nominated by: Thomas M. Hammen (good friend)

(No essay attached)

Nominee: Carolyn Hall
Town: Buncombe
Nominated by: Lisa Hall (daughter-in-law)

Carolyn Hall is the strongest woman I know. She started a business with her husband over 40 years ago and has ran the office ever since along with raising three sons. Her husband is now retired and the sons run the business but she still runs the office every day. She always makes time to help with the grand kids. She makes sure every family members gets a family birthday dinner at her house and she still cooks for all the holidays. She is the oldest of six kids and is there for whatever she can do for them. Her mom lives around the corner and she takes care of her each day. Through all this she has had both knees replaced and still handled the office. This past year her father was very ill and pasted away. Her parents had been married 72 years and it was so hard on her mother, but she stood strong for her. She was there with him and had cared for him and her mother for months before that. She manages to hold our family together, hold her mom up, referee her sons in business issues, run the office, take care of grandchildren, help her siblings and never complains. She does it all with love and grace. She is definitely under-appreciated by some but I know she is the backbone of her marriage, our business and our family. I know this is late but this is so important to me. She has survived so much and is still a Christian woman who holds strong to her values and her family and I know she makes me a better person and makes me try harder. She deserves to be honored for all she does. She deserves to know we all appreciate her and love her and know she is the strong one. I respect and admire her and hope she knows she is loved and very special.

Thank you to Miss Carolyn for being who you are??


Nomineee: Sandra Helmink
Town: Sigel
Nominated by: Jane Helmink (daughter)

My Mom is an oustanding country mother, and I would like to nominate her for the Illinois Country Mother of the Year. My Mom is a very busy and active country woman on a dairy farm in Sigel, Illinois. She is 68 years old, and she is up everyday at 5a.m. and milks cows in the evening at 5 p.m. She feeds the calves, pulls off newborn calves, calls the vet when needed, helps with all the farm chores, and drives the tractor. She is busy cooking food for her family, and she is busy cooking for neighbors/relatives when they are sick. Also, she plants a beautiful garden every Spring, and she cans and freezes food. Then, she will give extra garden produce to her neighbors, family, and Grandma and others in the community. Also, she is active in her church and cooks food for the community and always works every year at their local Spring Breakfast.


Nominee: Brenda Jenkins
Town: Hidalgo
Nominated by: Callie Wilson (daughter)

Hello, to start off with my name is Callie Wilson and I am the daughter of Brenda Sue Jenkins. I am nominating my mother because she has just done an amazing job raising 6 kids. My mother does anything possible to help out family, friends, or just anyone in need. She picked up a man walking on the highway and gave him a ride to town. If that’s not caring I don’t know what is. She has impacted my life in such a great way of being there for me and just always listens to what I have to say and encourages me to be my best. My dad passed away when I was 14 years old, we moved to Hidalgo then to live with her. I remember she tried so hard to make my sisters and I feel safe and welcome. She did a well job at doing that.

She had taken us on vacation to Kentucky to spend extra time with her. While there we went boating, 4-wheel riding and hiking. My mom and her boyfriend own rental properties. Some people may struggle with rent or with paying utilities. They have no problem with helping the tenants out in their time of need. My mom would pay their utilities until they could get back on their feet. When my sisters and I need help with food or money she is right there to help out first-hand. She let’s us walk into her kitchen and take what we needed.

My mother has 12 grandchildren. All of them mostly call her Momo! She always has some kind of cookies baked when she knows they are coming over. If any of the grandkids are in a grouchy mood she always sings, “my body lies over the ocean, my body lies over the sea, my body lies over the ocean so bring back my baby to me.” Instantly they always crack a smile.

Now I know my mom has no organizations that she belongs to but that doesn’t mean she is not the world’s greatest mom. 500 words still can not explain what an awesome mother she is to all of us 6 kids. She has 5 girls and 1 boy. Cami, 25; Michelle, 23; Keely, 22; Callie (Me) 21; Raelynn, 18; Anthony, 27. We all love and adore her dearly. She has done so much for us and I would love to get the chance to show her how much we do appreciate her. By writing this letter I hope to get that chance. My mom is a free spirit as well. Love, peace and joy is her motto of everyday life. My mom is strong, beautiful and phenomenal. Our part of town we are called rednecks. People who love to fish, hunt and well to sum it up. not afraid to get dirty! I’m proud of where we come from and I like it this way. My mom deserves more than anybody to win the title of Illinois Country Mother of the Year.

Thank you,
Callie Wilson


Nominee: Debbie Johnston
Town: Rosamond
Nominated by: Jennifer Simpson (daughter)

To say that my mother is a “jack of all trades” would be an understatement. My mother is so much more to so many people. If you came to her door she would greet you with a smile and offer you anything from a drink to a job if that’s what you need. She started out her adult life going to college to be a teacher, a noble profession, and went on to do much more. She did teach for a while in local schools where she was needed and being the oldest of 6 even taught her baby brothers science class…embarrassing i’m sure! She later took a job at a factory to help pay the bills, all the while keeping up with a farm, a very large garden, orchard, 4-H club as leader, and 3 daughters.

There were times as a child I thought my mother never slept. She was always up way before us fixing school lunches and milking the cow and seemed to never go to bed. She was too busy breaking beans or churning butter to be bothered with a silly thing like sleep. I remember many a times her saying there weren’t enough hours in the day for the things she needed to get done, just like her father before her.

When there was a tragedy my mom was always first in line to see how she could help. Whether it was making a meal, mending a fence, or just a listening ear she would be there for anyone who had need. Once when my Great Aunt Sharon was bad with cancer they held a benefit for her to help with the costs of doctor bills and such and there was nothing my mother wouldn’t do. She offered a free cake up for auction, donated money, and even lived with my great aunt for a while to give her husband a much needed break from taking care of her. Just one more thing to add to the list of things my mom can do, cakes.

My mom taught me from a very young age how to decorate cakes. Through her direction I was able to make a career out of this talent she bestowed on me as did one of my sisters. She taught us to sew, cook, can, garden, and be the greatest mother we could be. For that I will always be in her debt.

Today my mom can usually be seen on her farm in her strawberry patch, in 1 of many of her gardens, her Christmas tree farm, tending her bees, or in the barn collecting eggs. As if that wasn’t enough for her to do she recently retired from working at 2 different post offices to run her own business all the while acting as treasurer for the local village, holding an office in a historical society, and playing her favorite role as “granny” for any of her 6 grandchildren. My mother is a much loved woman by so many people, whether they know her as mom, granny, aunt, sister, or simply friend she is a treasure to all who know her.


Nominee: Barbra Khourie
Town: Mounds
Nominated by: Jacqueline Khourie (daughter-in-law)

I, Jacqueline Khourie, would like to nominate my mother-in-law Barbra Khourie for Illinois Country Mother of the Year. Barbra is the owner and Instructor of Khourie’s Black Belts of Faith. She teaches a religious-based Martial Arts School. She teaches the students how to pray and the Ten Commandments. Each student young or old must be able to say the Commandments before going from one belt rank to another.

Fifteen years ago she got the worse news anyone could ever get, she had cancer. She didn’t let that take her down because she wanted to get her black belt so that she could work toward her next degree. After finally getting her black belt she opened her own Martial Arts School, Khourie’s Black Belts of Faith in Villa Ridge, Ill. Then a few years went by and again she had her cancer back. She didn’t know what to do this time so she just prayed that the Lord would show her what he wanted her to do. Barbra then realized that she needed to start not only teaching martial arts but show God that he was in control and that’s what she did. She started out with simple things about God and the Bible and now she has students as young as 6 that can say the Lord’s Prayer by themselves. She knew then that was what God wanted her to do, because she can not only teach about God but they also are taught martial arts.

Then there was a third time cancer. She’s teaching about God and little kids are learning how to defend themselves. Why does this keep happening, everyone thought, but just like the first and second time she kept teaching and got better. Finally she was cancer free and then right before Christmas 2012 we find out that her cancer was back. She has started to take treatments and medicines to take care of it but the best news we could get is that it was small and only in one spot. She hasn’t let it slow her down though because she’s currently a sixth degree black belt working on her seventh degree. She still has regular classes on Mondays and Thursday for 1-1/2 hours and event teaches private classes.

I think that she deserves the title of Illinois Country Mother of the Year because she’s a wonderful and strong woman. I’m sure there’s not many women in their 50s can say they are a sixth degree black belt and owns their own Martial Arts School, plus have kept doing all of this while going through having cancer four times. Even if she’s not chosen for Illinois Country Mother of the Year by your committee I think she already is Mother of the Year. Barbra always puts others before herself even to this day.


Nominee: Mary Jean Kraft
Town: Normal
Nominated by: Virginia Lowery (friend and neighbor)

I would like to nominate Mary Jean Kraft as Illinois Country Living’s “Illinois Country Mother of the Year.”

Mary Jean is a life long resident of McLean County and has lived at the “top of the hill” just south of Towanda her entire married life. The home place proudly displays their “IAP Centennial Farm” sign with pride on the front lawn. Any time you pass, you are sure to see several cards in the drive. HOME is where the family gathers. Under the shade tree, just up the drive is a bench inviting you to sit a spell.

Mary Jean and her late husband, Louie raised their eight children while farming their 560 acres of corn and soybeans. They also raised hogs, cattle, sheep, chickens, ducks, turkeys and goats. In days gone by, there was usually a St. Bernard “protecting” the back steps.

Their children have made them proud and have blessed them with 25 grandchildren: Lisa (deceased), Mark, Kevin, Julia (deceased), Brian, Timothy, Tommy and and Louie.

Following the death of her husband, Mary Jean’s oldest son, Mark continued farming the acreage around the home place. All of the boys have been educated in Illinois colleges and have jobs and families that make their Mother proud.

Mary Jean deserves to win “Mother of the Year” because she is the Mother we all WISH we had. In spite of losing both of her daughters to cancer at early ages, Mary Jean welcomes her six daughters-in-law with loving open arms.

Surviving the loss of her daughters and fighting/surviving breast cancer herself, Mary Jean continues to give to the community and church. Any morning you are headed North on Towanda Barnes, you are sure to meet Mary Jean headed in for early morning mass at St. Pat’s Church of Merna. Mary Jean is active as a Eucharistic minister. She visits and serves the elderly in several nursing homes as well as serves as a patient advocate at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

On Sunday afternoons the drive is packed with cars and vans, all the grandchildren have come for a visit. You will see children scattered from the garage rooftop to the barnyard, to the swings and down to the creek. There are mowers and gators, tractors and combines, barns and sheds, bicycles and wagons for all. The Kraft kids and grandkids have enjoyed “life on the farm” for generations. Most of all, the grandkids enjoy quality time in the kitchen with Grandma Kraft. During the summer months, you will see Mary Jean on the John Deere mower taking care of the huge yard and side lot.

There is always room for one more around the kitchen table. On Thanksgiving it is not unusual for her to have over 90 guests for dinner.

You can “feel” the love when you pass the “House on the Hill. I always glance over and SMILE as I pass the “House on the Hill.” The driveway is always lit in holiday colors and the welcome mat is on the back porch.

From the orange lights at Halloween to Red and Green for Christmas, you can be assured that the lights will always be GREEN for St. Patty’s Day. The Kraft’s are all proud Irishmen! Irish eyes are always smiling on the Kraft Family Farm.

Mary Jean is an icon of the perfect Mother. I hope you will consider Mary Jean Kraft for the honor of representing Illinois Country Living in 2013.


Nominee: Joyce Frances Kuhle
Town: East Dubuque
Nominated by: Barbara Osterholz (daughter)

My mother should be the Illinois Country Mother of the Year because of her passion for living and all that is country. In every aspect of her life, she brings joy and excitement.

Being a farm girl herself, she worked side by side with my father to run our family farm. She grew up milking cows by hand so was not a stranger to hard work. Whether it was raking hay or chasing cows, she did it all with a smile on her face and a song on her lips.  She sewed most of our family’s clothes and grew, canned and froze nearly all our food.

Though she worked hard her whole life, she never wanted her family to feel that life is a chore. She made our childhoods fun and adventurous. She often packed a picnic lunch for us children and we would spend an hour finding just the right spot on the farm for our impromptu picnic. She taught us how to play cowboys and Indians, how to set up “camp” and make bows and arrows out of sticks and string. We made our own kites, bunny traps, and boats to float down the creek. She encouraged us to be creative and use our imaginations.

My mother also has a passion for Art. In her professional career, she has won many awards by putting her love for the country onto canvas.  She believes in sharing her God-given talents so spent 40 years teaching children in our community school to love Art as well, many going on to become artists in their own right.

My mother also has a gift for writing. She has had short stories and poems about her life in the country published. Her love for learning is evident in all she does and she continues to hone her skills.

As the years have gone by, my mother has not only passed on her zeal for life to her six children but also her 30 grandchildren, teaching them too about nature, Art, literature, sewing, and baking. She has an extraordinary place in her heart for her three “special” grandchildren, those that have serious physical challenges. She never misses an opportunity to make them feel loved with a visit, a phone call, a letter, or a gift.

My mother’s passion for the country and her family is only exceeded by her love for God. She has shown her passion for Our Lord by volunteering in our community and at our parish church and school for more than 50 years. She is the dependable one that is always happy to help out any time she is asked.

Whether it is the farm, painting, writing, raising children and grandchildren, or volunteering, my mother’s passion for it all is exceeded by no one I know.  Her love for the country is what makes her the Illinois Country Mother of the Year!


Nominee: LaDonna Miller
Town: Anna
Nominated by: Cassie Campbell (cousin)

There is no one more deserving for Illinois Country Mother of the Year than LaDonna Miller.  She is a mother of three grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is one of the kindest helpful people I know. She is willing to help anyone that needs it without prejudice. She has always placed her family and friends well being above her own no matter what the cost to herself. 

LaDonna works for school District 37 in Anna and has for several years. She currently provides aid to a special needs child throughout the school day. She is loved by all the kids which is evident each time I go anywhere with her. It never fails she has children coming over to say hi or to hug Miss LaDonna as the students affectionately refer to her. She always has time for the kids even when she is not working. LaDonna has a love for children that I have never witnessed with anyone else. She can make a child feel secure and has the ability to calm them like no other. She would be what I call the “children whisper.” She makes such a positive difference in their lives.

She lives on a farm that raises chickens, beef cattle and other livestock. I understand a lot of people live on farms that have livestock but LaDonna’s role is a little different. LaDonna’s husband Rodney is an over the rode truck driver and is gone five to six days per week. LaDonna feeds the cattle each day and makes sure they receive the veterinary care that they need. There have been several occasions that she has been up all night with a sick animal that needed care and she would still go to the work the following day without complaint.

LaDonna has always supported the youth in the community. Her family actively participates in the 4-H Program at the Union County Fair.  

She is an active member of the Campground Cumberland Presbyterian Church. She spends time helping with the youth at the church and just assisting with any project that need completed. The church has sent military servicemen and their families packages at Christmas. LaDonna makes sure the items get purchased and mailed. She takes it one step further she tries to send them something they like or need. Her children and grandchildren all attend the church.    

LaDonna is a quiet person that doesn’t want recognition for the things she does. She makes sure people are taken care of not because someone might notice her but because the person in need might not get noticed. There is no one word to describe her. I do believe that she is one of the most unselfish people I know and am grateful that she has been able to touch so many just with her kindness. She is one of the those people that I feel like helps me be a better person.


Nominee: Janice Pasiewicz
Town: Savanna
Nominated by: Anthony Pasiewicz (son)

I nominate my Mom for Illinois Mother of the Year. She is the best Mother a son can have. She does so very much. She is a teacher and works with Special Needs Adults. She has been doing this for over 20 years. She is also the most patient person in the world to do that kind of job. Also she is a Art Teacher, she loves to teach her students art. They love doing art. They wait for a opening to get in her art groups. She is so much fun to be around. She always makes sure we have food in the house and it’s clean. I love when she cooks for Thanksgiving Dinner. The house smells so good. Her Mom taught her to cook. She is such a strong lady. I admire her so very much for the way she is.

I am very proud to have her in my life. She always helps others. She surely has been through so much losing her sister and her dad last year, and also both her in-laws. She used to come home from her job every day to make sure her mother-in-law ate dinner, changed her clothes and put her to bed. She also brought her Whoppers once a week. She lit up when she saw them. She loved to help her. It was hard when she lost her. She holds our family together with love, kindness and lots of strength. When she comes home from work she brings us a smile. So if you need anything, advise, she’s the best at that. She also writes poetry and wants to get her own book of poetry published. She is a very terrific lady. It love her so much. She deserves to win.


Nominee: Barbara Rawe
Town: Greenfield
Nominated by: Carol Knisney Bishop (daughter)

Well, of course, every mother is special including my mother, Barbara Rawe. She’s 94 and so most of the submitted essays will be about younger, more active and modern mothers.

Mom started life as a farm wife on 160 acres in 1937 and did not always enjoy the benefits of electricity in her home, she still does not take it for granted.  My parents started farming with a team of horses and housekeeping started with a broom, a wringer washer, a clothesline and meals cooked on a wood burning stove. Clothes were mainly hand sewn and each year saw a large garden planted. They raised thirteen children showing us to value hard work and responsibility.

Through all the busy days, Mom found time to teach us her homemaking skills and importantly to how concern for others. When a neighbor was ill or welcomed a new baby, they could always expect nourishing meals from Mom. Into her 80s, she delivered birthday cakes and pies to many. Cousins often spent weeks with us; it did not seem to phase her. I recall that Mom was always up before us – the kitchen sounds and wonderful smells being our alarm clock. Yet, even as we dropped off to sleep – she was still awake – sewing, ironing or canning. When did she sleep?

Unlike today’s country women – moms of her era did not have a job away from the farm. Even so, Mom was involved in church, 4-H Clubs, service clubs, elections and our schooling. Our parents chose to send their children to parochial schools meaning time out of busy days to transport us herself. In retrospect – she did have many jobs.

I never recall Mom complaining through dry or wet years, cold winters or summers without air conditioning. She considers herself blessed and at 94 is still helping others. Local fund raisers can count on her donation of baked goods or homemade noodles. A cancer survivor, she is a 14-year participant in Green County Relay for Life and it is a time to remember and honor the the memory of her daughter. Children and grandchildren look forward to her birthday cards with a handwritten note of encouragement, no text, voice mail or email from her.

She does appreciate the ease of life from modern technology in ways we an not. There are not many country mothers of my mom’s era left. I hope you will choose to honor her (and many others like her) for mothering when life was not as easy. Today’s moms may be more active in community, church and careers but none, I feel, can compare to her.

Often, I am asked – “How’s your Mom? You know she is my inspiration in life!” These are people of all ages and their comments say it all!


Nominee: Janie Schultz
Town: Effingham
Nominated by: Brian Schultz (son)

My mother is an amazing woman and I just hope I am able to convey accurately just how special she is not only to me but to everyone who knows her! Her love, faith, compassion, kindness, respect for others and her ability to lead by example knows no limits! 

She has been an intricate part of the lives of her four children, their spouses and her 10 grandchildren. Her life IS her family. She does nothing without thinking about her family or what she can do for her family. My mother is always a dependable source of comfort and she is my cushion when I fall. She is the one I look to in times of need, trouble or despair. 

My mother is a teacher, nurse, counselor, cook, teammate, and a true best friend. Because of my mother, my life is richer. She is a guiding light for all that surround her. 

I want to personally thank my mom for allowing me to make my dreams come true, for being a shining example to my wife and for loving our children as if they were her own. I truly believe God has made her an angel here on Earth! This is why I believe my mother deserves to be the Illinois Country Mother of the Year!


Nominee: Louise Shepherd
Town: Savanna
Nominated by: Janice Pasiewicz (daughter)

I nominate my mother for Illinois Country Mother of the Year.

She is the most wonderful mother in the whole world. I am so blessed to have her in my life. She is very kind and caring. She never turns a person away when you need help. She always did everything for us – me, my sister, and 3 brothers. When growing up Mom did it all. She cleaned, cooked, took us to doctors, school. She never once complained about it to anyone. I always felt so loved growing up. Who else can you ask advice on anything but my Mom. She is the strangest lady I no. We lost our Dad last year. She helped us together during the loss even now after everything. I am very proud of my Mother. She has been so touch going through so much in her life. Illness, tragedy and loss of loved ones.. She always comes through everything even stronger. Wow it is amazing her strength. She loves God and tells you to do the same. There is not a cook out there better than my mom. Chicken and dumplings, banana pudding, stuffing, salads. Its the best.  My mom seems to no how to do anything. Her and Dad always have the best gardens, veggies, flowers. So beautiful all the time. They made it in the papers alot for things they grew together. It is the Love. I hope my mother wins, she really is the Best Mother.


Nominee: Robin Shipman
Town: LaHarpe
Nominated by: Landon Shipman (son)

I would like to nominate my mother as mother of the year because she gives to other people and to me. This year at Christmas she went to Springfield, IL to help serve the homeless in a homeless shelter a Christmas meal. A couple of years ago she and I went to Appalachia and volunteered for a week to help the poverty stricken individuals that lived in the region we were in. She is active in our church and attends Bible study regularly. She takes me to Bible study also. I am unable to drive so I need her assistance to get there.

I have a disability that has caused me to have developmental delays. With the help of my mother I have been able to accomplish many things that I would not have had been able to without her patience and continual guidance and support. This has been going on all my life and I am now 31. She has always taught me to focus on my abilities, not my disabilities. She has also told other parents about how this approach is so important when supporting their disabled children. She is a very positive individual who believes that all individuals should strive to be the best they can be no matter what their circumstances or “abilities” are.

She has taught me how to take care of our small farm in rural LaHarpe. I have taken care of cows, chickens, rabbits, dogs, and cats. I have also learned how to take care of a garden and how to use the produce that we have taken out of the garden. I have canned tomatoes, made preserves and zuchini bread. This is just an example of a few of the things I have learned to make.

I believe my mother should be Mother of the Year because of her unceasing devotion to me for 31 years among all the other things she has done for others in our family and community. I believe my brother Brenton would agree with me and would be pleased that I am nominating her for this honor that she so richly deserves.


Nominee: Marlena Siverly
Town: Carthage
Nominated by: Jessica Siverly (daughter)

Issac sat at the kitchen table, picking at the last few pieces of the homemade macaroni and cheese that Marlena had made for him. He looked up at her and said, “Are you my mom?”

She sat next to him and slid the bowl away from them as she took his hand. She asked him very simply, “What do mommies do?” As they sat there he stuttered through a list that ran impressively long for a four year old boy.

“They feed me, tuck me in, and give me baths. They brush my teeth, and bake me cookies. They help Santa and the Tooth Fairy. They protect me from monsters and they help me look for dinosaurs. . .” He went on and she didn’t interrupt. When he was finished, she asked him, “Who does all of those things for you?”

After a second passed, he looked up at her and said, “You, mommy.”

I am writing this because I truly believe that no mother is as incredible as mine. I share her, biologically, with an older brother, Joshua, who is twenty five. But I also share her with three others. Two little boys, Issac the questioning four year old you just met, and his seven year old brother Elijah were brought to her house when they were merely fourteen months and three years old. When their own biological mother realized that she alone could not care for them, she asked Marlena to take them in, to give them a home and show them what she could not. They arrived malnourished and disadvantaged. Without hesitation she took them under her wing and made them her own, saving them. Three years later, a seventeen year old’s mother, a former friend of Marlena’s, went through a similar realization, and brought her daughter to Marlena. Without hesitation, my mother took in McKenzie. To this day, if I am asked how many siblings I have, I respond, “Four.” My mother never a  llowed them to feel like anything besides family, she never let them feel alone or abandoned. She just loved them.

Even still, Marlena didn’t feel she was doing enough. She wanted to create a home for the youth of the community, a home that offered a protector even greater than herself. My mother created what is now called Children’s Church at the First Baptist Church in Carthage, IL. She wanted the youngest members of the church to have more available to them than nursery time, a place where they could have fun while learning about God simultaneously. That is where she spends every Sunday morning. She prepares meals for them and lesson plans; she has them play games and learn the gospel. 

Marlena Siverly, is an incredible woman. She deserves this title, and the world, or at least Illinois, deserves to know her. What I can say in five hundred words cannot do this woman justice. She is my hero, my rock, and my idol. But best of all she is my mother.


Nominee: Thala Jean Stewart
Town: Petersburg
Nominated by: Mary Stewart (daughter-in-law)

I am sending you a story today about Thala Jean Stewart. She was named after her Father, Thales. Her friends only know her as Jean. Jean lives in Petersburg, Illinois on a farm which is closer to Atterberry, Illinois. Nor many people, even in Illinois know where this little town is without looking it up on a map.

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

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

Jean is the type of person who everyone knows and who is well respected in our community. She has been married to her husband, Jack, for over 50 years. 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 family is around. As with all aging parents, Jean and her husband are facing increased health issues, but to Jean this is a part of life. She seldom complains, but would rather focus on what is good in life.

For all she does for others this part will sum up her life perfectly:
Five years ago, when she and Jack celebrated their 50th anniversary, Jean and Jack only wanted family to celebrate their happy day. We did and we smiled, and laughed and every child and grandchild took part in this special day. We also celebrated with them and returned as a family to the place they went for their honeymoon-Wisconsin Dells. What a week we all enjoyed.

So I hope you see in this small picture I have painted of this lady what a wonderful person she is and how lucky I am to share her last name by being part of this family.


Nominee: Karen Tucker
Town: Lakewood
Nominated by: Lynne Hoyt (granddaughter)

My grandmother, Karen Tucker, is the strongest, bravest, and kindest person I know. She has been fighting different forms of cancer since she was 25 and has never had anything but a positive outlook. While fighting her own battle she has continued to cook food for other women of the church whom have been sick. She also helps anyone who asks and even many who don’t. On top of all of her own problems she takes on burdens that she doesn’t need to. Grandma has been my hero since I was a little girl and she has cared for and supported myself and my brother and sister when we were younger and in our adult lives. She has always stood by us and is someone that is always there. You can ask anyone who knows her and they will tell you she is a miraculous woman who defends her friends and family with a fierceness, she is strong and brave, and she is a woman that makes everyone she meets smile and proud to know her.

Grandma Karen is a dedicated woman and when she commits to something or someone you can bet she will not let you down. She is a woman that you can always depend on and if she promises you something you can bet your buttons that she will do what she says. Karen Tucker is a woman that has changed people’s lives with her kindness and friendship.

On top of everything she does she still manages to be the best great grandmother to my children. She loves to spend time with her great grandchildren; taking them to the library and going for walks. She can be found reading to them or playing the number game with Tucker, who just happens to be named after her. She changed my life and I know that she is going to be an encouragement and inspiration for my children.

I know that reading this you may be thinking what is so special about her? You may be thinking that a lot of women have these qualities, but words could never tell you how amazing she is. I wish that you were able to spend a day interviewing the people that she has made an impression on. A simple essay would never be enough to show you how she has changed so many lives. Her strength and bravery alone in her fight against cancer has inspired so many. Thank you for taking the time to read about this phenomenal woman!


Nominee: Amanda Twitchell
Town: Elizabethtown
Nominated by: Steven Twitchell (son)

My mother was born and raised in Hardin County, Illinois. For fun, as a kid, she liked to ride horses with family and friends and go 4-wheeler riding. She would run up and down the streets on the 4-wheeler 24/7. She really enjoys the outdoors. On our summer breaks from school and work now we always like to go camping and fishing. That is one of our big things we do. We love spending time with our Mother. It is such a blessing to have her. We spend as much time as possible with our mother.

My mother is a wonderful lady. She takes care of me and my four other brothers.  She is a hard working mother to us all (including my father). On  a normal day my mother takes us to school everyday through out the week and always has a good homemade meal made for us when we walk in the door. It is such a pleasure to have a mother who will actually do this. You don’t find very many Mother’s who do this for there kids anymore, It’s always just a sandwhich and “How was your day”? when they walk in. Through the week she is also very busy herself. She takes all five of us boys to our extra curricular activities for school plus travels all around for our Dr.’s Appointments. It’s crazy how many times my mother takes us to places in a week.

 My mother is so caring and kind to our neighbors and people in the county. She would help anyone out if they needed it, from lending a few dollars here and there to the needy, to giving them a ride to the grocery store. She would do it. No one could ask for a better lady. My mother is a big church goer. She is a sunday school teacher for the little children. She is always helping the church in some way wether it be cooking for a big dinner or helping set up for a play. She is always there when you need her. You can rely on her. She always keeps her word and would never break a promise. If she says she is going to do something then she’s going to do it. No if’s and’s or buts.

My mother has epilepsy and can’t work anymore. It has been a hard time for her. She really wants to go back to work. To put up with my family like she does is wonderful! I could’nt ask for a stonger lady!

My mother is very important to all of my brothers (including me) and my father. If my Mother wasnt around we wouldn’t know what to do. I really hope she wins this competition. It would be a great thing for my mother to receive because she is a hard working lady and really desrves it.

She would love to recieve something like this. A few months ago my Mother won a gift basket at the school in a drawing and my brother ate all the candy and all the edible stuff out of it before he gave the rest of it to my mother when he got home. She was so mad.

Anyways, my mother is important to my whole family. She is a really caring mother and would do anything for us and this is why I think she should win.


Nominee: Ruthie Jane McGilvry Welty
Town: Louisville
Nominated by: Tina Herzing (daughter)

Every mom is special, but I feel that my mother, Ruthie Welty, truly deserves to be recognized for the sacrifices and dedication she has made for her family and community. This year is especially important for her to receive the credit because not only is it Mother’s Day on May 12, 2013, but it is also my mother’s 66th birthday!

 My mom has always been there for my dad, my three siblings, and I. She taught us to be thankful for what we have, to treat others as we would want to be treated, and to just enjoy life. Today it is fun to see her be the wonderful grandmother she is to her 11 grandchildren. She attends their ballgames, takes them to church, cooks with them, plays board games, and even goes sledding….now that is a super grandma!

She retired from the post office after 31 years of being a carrier and a window clerk. Her customers always tell me that she was their favorite because she always had a smile, encouraging words, and went out of her way for them. Years ago, she was even recognized as the first full-time female city carrier in the state of Missouri!

My mom is a United States Army veteran and very proud of it! She spends much of her time working with the American Legion, whether it’s visiting with veterans at local nursing homes or honoring the deceased at military funerals. Being the founder of the Illinois Military Women’s Organization, she has educated others about the meaning of POW/MIA. The group also helps other veteran organizations. She started the Shooting Stars Drill Team because she was concerned for the young people in the community who are not active in sports. This group participates in ceremonies, competitions, and parades, and it teaches them to be proud of themselves. Her Military Women’s Group helps to pay for their supplies plus my mom picks up girls once a week from 2 schools and also takes them home after their practices! I believe when these kids get older, they will look back and remember my mother as their “second mom or grandma” because of the time she spent with them and the love and support she showed to them.

Her church is also very important to her. She is currently in charge of this year’s Vacation Bible School program. Throughout the entire year, she collects items for the Samaritan’s Purse Organization where they send a shoebox full of items to children who do not receive Christmas gifts.  Last year, she organized the shoebox collection at her small church and was so excited and proud to have gathered close to 100 boxes!

As you can see, my mother (and friend) deserves to be the 2013 Illinois Country Mother of the Year! Happy Mother’s Day AND Happy Birthday to the sweetest and caring woman I know. Our family all agrees with the saying that “When God made mothers, He gave us the best!”