Nomination Letters

Father of the Year – Jack O. Graves

William Jesse Ayers
Lyle Barnes
Bill Brauer
Michael Shawn Clarida
Matthew J. Clayton
Corey Dasenbrock
Charles DePriest
Chet Dobbins
Greg Dolbeare
John Donham
Jim Endres
Karl Fraley
Ray Grimsley
Eric Hartmann
Lindell Hering
Eddward Herron
Donald Hubner
Roy Klingelhoefer
Mark Kraft
Phil Lawrence
Bob Lister
Fred Marling
Allen McKnight
Chester Pasiewicz
Les Reel
Dale G. Siverly
David Stead
Marvin Swiger
Rodney Travis
Douglas L. Vaughn
Jack Yates, Sr.


Nominee: Jack O. Graves
Town: Elizabeth
Nominated by: Jennifer Redfearn (Daughter)

 I am writing to nominate my dad as Father of the Year. He was born in Elizabeth, IL – his parents started the Elizabeth Garage in 1925. His father – Leslie O. Graves died of an apparent heart attack when my dad was eight years old. I often marveled at his skills as being a father when he lost his role model at such a young age. In those days, a Village did help raise children – he had wonderful people to learn from. He tells of when he was twelve years old that him and my Grandma Curly would go to Chicago to drive new cars back to Elizabeth – he often sat on a stack of books so he could see.

After high school, he joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed on the ship USS Oriskany. He married my mother Jeanette Albrecht on December 26, 1955 and when I was born they lived in Alameda, California. Out of that union he has four children – Jennifer, Oncology Registered Nurse; Julie, Financial Aid Advisor for University of Kentucky, Lexington; Jay and Jeff followed in my dad’s footsteps and now own and operate the Elizabeth Garage.

 My dad’s legacy is that he is the most patient, giving and understanding man. I remember when I was growing up that he worked several jobs just to keep our family going. He has always lived modestly so he could help out his children and grandchildren. I will be forever grateful to my parents for helping me raise my sons – their father was tragically killed in a farm accident when they were eight and five years old. I remember how my dad sat with my sons while they wept, but he was always and has been their guiding light.

 He has worked tirelessly to make the Elizabeth Garage the most prosperous business in Elizabeth; everyone was always looking for Jack because he always took time with the customers. He has been a member of the Elizabeth Fire Department, Chamber of Commerce, Village Board Past President, Elk’s Lodge member, Elizabeth Food Pantry and United Methodist Church. Every Christmas he takes the Elk’s Christmas baskets to the less fortunate. My parents have devoted all of their lives to their children, grandchildren and community.

I remember Thanksgiving, 1991 – the weather was cold and snowy. We were sitting down for our meal when Dad got a wrecker call. About an hour later he came home and brought a scared, cold and bewildered young woman with him – her car had gone in the ditch and because of the weather she was unable to continue her journey home to Chicago. She spent Thanksgiving with my family, spent the night with my parents and in the morning my dad got her on her way – you know to this day, they continue to get a Christmas card from her.

Sadly when my parents should be enjoying their lives, my mother was stricken with Dementia. I watch him be her caregiver with such tenderness and understanding – he is devoted to her. That’s why my Dad should be Father of the Year – he has been a role model for so many young lives and has always kept God centered in his life. If you looked up the word gentleman in the dictionary, you would find a picture of my father – a very loved man.


Nominee: William Jesse Ayers
Town: Pawnee
Nominated by: Jo Ann Yeaman (Daughter)

Jesse Ayers is the best father-grandfather-husband. Jesse is 76 years young. He has served his country in the Guard several years. Has attended church and been an active member all his life. Has family that farmed before him and is currently helping his son’s family with various farming chores.

If one needs a tire change, he’s there! If one needs gas or is stranded, he’s there! If one needs parts he is on the road to get them. One gets the picture: a phone call away he is always willing to help.

 Jesse was Sunday School Superintendent for a good 20 years, New City and Sugar Creek Churches. He is very active in activities: dinners at church, Wednesday night gathering, setting up or taking down chairs/tables, and cooking items. I have said “one call gets it all.” Socially dad is very easy to get along with. Talking on the phone he enjoys being around people. The past couple of years he has enjoyed working at the greenhouse that is next door to home.

 Jesse loves to decorate for holidays, whether it’s Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s, Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas. Always like to have lights for all others to enjoy. Anyone that needs food he likes to help comfort others or he likes to make Chex mix to put in bazaars to sell for church. Jesse used to deliver mail in Springfield, IL 62703. Then he carried the State Journal Register for over 20 years. With 2 new hips and recovered broken leg from accidents he still drives and walks pretty good.

 Jesse is a saver he doesn’t throw anything away: that can be used for something. Sometimes that is not all bad. He enjoys riding his ATV and golf cart and mowing the grass. Jesse wears bib overalls most of the time. Jesse enjoys going out to eat either it be McDonalds or Crowne Plaza, he like the people and social aspect.

 My father Jesse always made sure my brothers and I attended church and Sunday school. Being active in Girl Scouts there was plenty of activities needing taxied, he was there.

 Jesse has always been a very patient individual. Not letting a lot of little things upset him. IF anybody needed visited at the hospital, dad would go to see them. We used to deliver ice for the State Fair together to the individual booths. Jesses has always been very active and involved with the community.

Nominee: Lyle Barnes
Town: Cowden
Nominated by: Lisa Buchanan (Daughter)

My dad, Lyle Barnes, is extraordinary in so many ways. He has always been a wonderful Christian role model for his family. He is the most patient, kind man I know. My dad has a great sense of humor and he never uses foul language. He is an awesome human being.

He worked full-time at a factory and then he would come home to his “other” job as a grain and livestock farmer. The most amazing aspect of this is that he still managed to make time for his family and put us first. Dad always felt strongly about no working on Sundays. Other than caring for his livestock, he kept Sundays for church and family time. As I grew older, I realized there were numerous Sundays when the weather would be perfect for planting or harvesting-depending on the time of the year-yet Dad gave up those opportunities even though rain may have been forecasted for the upcoming days. Sometimes, the rain did come and keep him from planting or harvesting right away. I greatly admire him for sticking to his convictions even though it didn’t always work out in his favor. He had faith that God would provide and he was right.

My brother and I were so fortunate to have been raised by such a wonderful, dedicated dad. Although he worked so hard to provide for his family, he would do his best to make it to any activities we were involved in. I remember when he worked nights at the factory, he would come home to sleep a few hours, and get up to do the chores or some field work. He would often come to a ballgame and stay as long as he could before heading back to work. Dad would also take the time to take me to rodeos and horse shows on many weekends. I probably didn’t think about it much as a teenager, but looking back I realize he had many other things he needed to accomplish on the farm after working all week. But, once again, he made time for his family instead.

It is no surprise that my dad is just as wonderful as a grandpa to my two children, Paige and Matthew. They both have a love for horses, as I do, and Dad is always willing to help us haul horses to the local parade, treat an injured horse, or help us train a new one. He has taught Matthew how to hunt and golf. The two of them have made many memories out in the woods and on the golf course. Dad always manages to make time for Paige and Matthew.

I know I can always count on Dad for support and help. He is there to give advice or a hug when I need it. He seems to know just the right words to say. If I had one wish for anyone, it would be to be blessed with a dad just like mine. My dad definitely deserves the title of Illinois Country Father of the Year.

Nominee: Bill Brauer (aka Santa Claus)
Town: Smithton
Nominated by: Evelyn Edmiston (Friend and neighbor)

[Not enough information was provided.]

Nominee: Michael Shawn Clarida
Town: Harrisburg
Nominated by: Breanna Carlton (Girlfriend)

 My name is Breanna Carlton and I am 100% sure that my boyfriend should be named Father of the Year. His name is Michael Shawn Clarida and he is 38 years old. We have been together for 4 amazing years, and I can honestly say that I am blessed to have had the pleasure of simply just spending time with this extraordinary man. Although Shawn has no biological children of his own, you’d never know this by watching him, or listening to him. Tyler is a 12 year old boy from Shawneetown, he is the son of a woman with whom Shawn had a previous relationship with. He raised Tyler from about 2 year old until he was 8, when the relationship ended. But Shawn has never stopped being a father to Tyler. Anything he needs or wants, Sawn makes sure to provide. Tyler still comes over every weekend and stays with us. He spends every holiday and basically any special occasion with us and Shawn’s family. They go four-wheeling and fishing and most definitely he passed his love of hunting on to Tyler. Shawn is the kind of man that every single mother hopes and prays to find, the kind of man you want your child to have as a role model, to look up to and learn from. My son is 4 years old and he thinks Shawn is by far the greatest thing on earth. Shawn is so kind and understanding with him, yet he also teaches him values and morals. He loves these children with such an open and unselfish heart. It’s so refreshing to see such a kind and gentle spirit. Shawn recently said to me, “anyone can be a father and pass along his name, but it takes actually being involved, interested, and available at any time that child needs you to really be a dad.” And he is by far all of that and so much more. He has enriched the lives of these two boys for which I am eternally grateful. He deserves to be praised and recognized for his selfless acts of kindness, his willingness to help others, and his unmistakable love for these children. On behalf of his boys, Tyler and Grayson, we hope you will choose Michael Shawn Clarida as Father of the Year!

Breanna Carlton

Nominee: Matthew J. Clayton
Town: Winchester
Nominated by: Blake Clayton (Son)

I think my dad, Matthew Clayton, should be the Illinois Country Father of the Year because he is a hero and never complains when he has to do hard work at his job as a systems coordinator/lineman. One time he was climbing a pole when he was a lineman and the pole broke. He got a broken arm and a bolt in his knee. Even after his accident, he never gave up and continues to keep rural families with electricity through snow, ice and strong wind storms. I also think he should get the award because he tries and tries and never gives up on me. This year there was no coach for the Winchester 5th and 6th grade youth football team. Dad was half volunteered and half forced into it. He still coached and he didn’t look out for me, he looked out for the whole team as in making sure that no one got lower grades than A’s, B’s and C+’s or no one got sent to the principal’s office. Also when hunting season came along, he put me in the best place at the time and I killed my first doe. It took three years but he never gave up. Two hours later I shot my first buck. I told him to shoot a doe that he saw but he about said no when he, for the first time, gave in and shot her. When I played basketball, the coach was choosing people to go to a big tournament; I was not one of those people. I was really bummed. Then dad told me he was really proud of me and he believed in me. Last year we got sheep and they were very small and I didn’t do well in the fair. Dad told me to go out there and smile big and next year we will have bigger lambs. For my tenth birthday, I wanted a camping party. My Dad gathered all the stuff, called all my friends, and drove everyone out to our hunting ground. When my Grandpa died on my birthday, I thought I was cursed. My dad just said if I was cursed, I would be afraid of everything, which I’m not. I am a straight A student. I would be nothing that I am right now, if it weren’t for my Dad. I want my dad to know how much I appreciate him and think he is a hero. He not only helps me and my brother, but he is role model for many kids through coaching sports in the community. He is also a hero to many, helping rebuild power lines during the tornado and hurricane seasons.  My dad did not have anything tragic happen to him. He is just an over-average person. I compare him to Walter Payton. He never gives up on me or anything that might be tough in life. These and many more are the reasons why I think my Dad should be Illinois Father of the Year.

 By: Blake Clayton (age 10)


Nominee: Corey Dasenbrock
Town: Teutopolis
Nominated by: Linda Ruholl (Next door neighbor)

Dads come in all shapes and sizes. Some follow traditional roles, while others forge a unique identity in response to the needs of others. Corey Dasenbrock, a 31 year old Teutopolis mechanic, falls in this second category. Corey is partner to Shannon Ruholl and dad to Shannon’s three children, aged 13, 11 and 4. He grew up north of Teutopolis, but left after high school to serve in the U.S. Army. Shannon was also raised north of Teutopolis; she left the state when she turned 18. Corey and Shannon returned to Teutopolis after a seven year absence, found each other, and forged a relationship. Corey left the military in 2010, and the two established a domestic partnership and created a home for their family. Corey Dasenbrock was integral to the construction of their 3,750 square feet house, which is served by Norris Electric. Approximately 60% of the structure is living quarters, while the remainder is shed.

A graduate of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with a minor in environmental science, Corey dreamed of living in a shouse ever since he visited his aunt’s home. He self-contracted the shouse project and did some of the work himself in the fall of 2010, with completion in 2011. Corey demonstrated appreciation of local history to his family by using repurposed walnut from a 1917 Teutopolis landmark to create the beams in the great room ceiling.

 Almost all contracted work was done by local craftsman because of Corey’s strong belief in utilizing nearby business as a cost-effective way to support the Effingham County economy. His efforts were effective; a final analysis costed out the structure at $70/square foot. According to the American Home Builder’s Association, the average price tag for zip code 62467 is $102/square foot.

Corey comes from a family that believes in helping others. He sees to it that the kids get back and forth to cousins and friends, and he also takes them along to his various activities. Corey is an ever-present and attentive dad. The children don’t always like direction and discipline, but they respect it. Corey and Shannon designed the boys’ loft bedrooms so that each has an extra bed for comfortable sleepovers. The children also share a basement recreation area and game room. The stairwell to the basement is open; adults can always hear what is going on.

 Corey showed authentic patriotism by serving in the U.S. Army for eight years, including a tour in Iraq. Now he is active in the local American Legion, and when their meeting hall was run down, he volunteered to help with repairs and painting. He went to the Teutopolis school on Veteran’s Day in 2011, and shared his military experiences with the fifth graders. Corey also assists with local charities; he “went to jail for MD” in the spring of 2011.

 In a society where children see many people acting selfishly, Corey Dasenbrock models ethical behavior and solid values in a nontraditional relationship and setting.

Nominee: Charles DePriest
Town: Harrisburg
Nominated by: Kayla DePriest (Daughter)

 I am nominating my father for the Illinois Country Father of the Year award because he is the best dad in the whole wide world, and I love him so much. His name is Charles DePriest.

When I am sad, he makes me glad. He always knows what to do; and if you have a question about something, he always has some kind of answer. If you are working on a project, he always knows exactly how to make it. Things are always thought through when Dad is around. He knows just about everything there is to know about chickens.

 Dad never bosses you around; but he gives you advice on what to do and leaves the decision up to you. He never yells at you. When you need someone to talk to, he’s always there.

Dad is the head of the household and keeps us together. He’s never so caught up with work that he ignores the family. You will never find him leaving a job half finished. Dad always thinks of others. Through tough times and peaceful times, he has always been there.

I can and have trusted him with my heart. He has taught me how to keep my heart for one man someday, and I know he is keeping my heart safe from any intrusion.

 He works at a public school as a business teacher in Gallatin County. As a business teacher, he sponsors the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) club in Gallatin County. Dad provides for all of our earthly needs; and we never have to worry about anything.

 He has started two churches, pastored five churches, and he is currently pastoring one. When he was only twelve, he started preaching, and has never stopped sharing the gospel. You can always see Christ shining through him. Almost every evening, he reads the Bible to us, and teaches us things. Sometimes we sing around the piano. Dad has a wonderful tenor voice.

On cold winter days, Dad and I like to get in the kitchen and bake. Some of our favorite foods to bake are tofu cookies, peanut butter cookies, and banana bread. When summer arrives, I like to work alongside Dad on all his projects. Then he will help me with my projects. We really enjoy working together in the garden when it’s warm. When it’s nice weather, we go on long hikes together. Sometimes, we change the oil in the cars together. He is always active; and whenever you want to walk, he will go with you. One of my favorite things is when we turn the lights off so Dad can tell us a story. I really like it when Dad and I play games together. There are always surprises around Dad. You never know when he will tell you to hop in the car to get ice cream.

 And no, this is not a fairy tale father. I didn’t make up this story. This is the story of my father.


Nominee: Chet Dobbins
Town: Wheeler
Nominated by: Tori, Sydney & Ellie Dobbins (Daughters)

Our dad Chet Dobbins deserves to win this title because he is the best dad we could ever ask for. He has a huge heart and shows more love to us all then we deserve. He helps us all around the house as much as he possibly can. He makes sure that we get up at 6:00 a.m. so that we can make it on the bus by 7:20 a.m. He will fix us something special for breakfast if we ask him without telling us no or he does not have time. He always makes sure we have had a good day at school and that we have all of our homework completed. He will tuck us in at night, gives us a kiss and tells us to sleep tight he will be here in the morning. When our dad is farming he is always asking us to come to the field and help him or if he has to go to the elevator he wants us to ride along with him. A very tight fit in the tractor, but dad has a smile on his face because his family is right by his side. Our dad works with our grandpa at his automotive shop along with farming he is a busy guy. He does this so we have what we need for school or just generally things at our house. He does not want our mom to have to work outside the home so he works and works so that she can stay home and take care of all things that need to be done. When we are sick and mom has things that need to be done, dad will roll up his sleeves and take us to the doctor or make sure we have our medicine in us so that we can get better and get back to being up and at it. Our dad loves to put smiles on our faces and seeing us happy and joyful. If our neighbors need assistance with anything and dad knows how to help them, he is willing to jump in and help with their problems. Dad makes sure that every year we go on a family vacation and we have the best time. He said he wants to spend as much quality time with his family as he can cause one day us girls will be grown and have our own family and there will not be anymore family vacations. Our dad takes the time to play with us and joke around he makes us laugh and giggle so hard our bellies hurt. We ask dad to play the Wii with us just so we can laugh and have more family time with dad. Dad has always said that his family is his life. He would sell and get rid of everything he has if his family was safe, happy and always by his side. Again we say our dad deserves this cause he puts us first and he is a kind, loving, and generous man. Family is the most important thing to him and always will be.


Nominee: Greg Dolbeare
Town: Auburn
Nominated by: Emma Dolbeare

To some, a “special dad” is the man in their life that taught them right from wrong, guided them in decisions, or just lent a helping hand. To others, he is simply someone that gave them money when they wanted to go out. To me, my dad is special just because he is my dad. Ever since my siblings and I were in diapers, he has taught us to be kind to everyone and to help others whenever we could. We were raised to love unconditionally and to lean on the Lord in times of trouble. Dad always wanted to make his family happy; even if that meant sacrificing something he wanted to do.

 Dad works hard to make sure that we have everything that we need. He is the general manager of a grain elevator called CHS of Lowder, IL. He has been at this position for almost 20 years and he definitely enjoys his work. There are some days that he leaves for work at 6 a.m. and doesn’t return until late in the evening, but he always strives to have a positive attitude; even when he works 12 or more hours at a time. Ever since I can remember, dad has always taught us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heat, as if working for the Lord, and not for men.” With his bible verse in Colossians, dad has helped shape us into hard workers that work hard for every dime that is earned.

 I always joke that I had a “drug” problem when I was a child because my dad “drug” me to church every Sunday. Looking back now, I’m glad that he did because it has brought me to a closer relationship to my earthly father as well as my Father in heaven. Dad always set a good example for his family by going to church on Sundays. But, he wasn’t just a Sunday morning Christian. He always makes it a point to lead us in a family prayer before we sit down to eat. My dad is an amazing Christian man. He is always willing to help others when they are in need. He is the perfect example of someone who witnesses on a daily basis, but only speaks about it when necessary. His actions show his salvation and his close relationship with Christ.

When asked what makes my dad “special”, I couldn’t just say, “Well, because he’s by dad!” But that’s just it! My dad is special because he’s my dad. He has always guided us in our lives to work hard at everything we do; to put other’s needs before our own, and to always keep a close walk with the Lord. My dad has set the standards high for what a father should be and I know that he will always love his family.

Nominee: John Donham
Town: Marshall
Nominated by: Jake Blankenship (Step-Son)

[Not enough information was provided.]


Nominee: Jim Endres
Town: Germantown
Nominated by: Lauren Endres

In 1990, I was three and stood on a helipad with my dad and watched as the helicopter flew away with my younger brother. My brother had pneumonia and he was only a few months old which is life threatening. This is the first memory I have of my father being there for my brother and me no matter what. Throughout my twenty-four years, I have felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I have the most amazing father. I don’t have the “Father of the Year”; I have the “Father of a Lifetime”. Of course many daughters feel that they have the best dad in the world, but it’s not only what my dad has done for me that makes him the best, it is also what he has done for others.

My mom always says dad is one of those people who can’t ever say “No.” He is always willing to help people. Whether it is filling in for someone as Eucharistic minister, setting up for the church picnic, or helping a neighbor put on a new roof, my dad is always there to do all he can. He is part of many local organizations including the Sons of the American Legion, St. Boniface Parish Choir and Eucharistic Ministers, Germantown Township Trustee, and an Honorary Kernel Nut Club Member. My dad is always looking out for everyone else and keeping others in mind. When I was in college, I brought a friend from school home. We went to dinner with my family and she commented on how amazed she was at how many people approached my dad just to talk. That is not an unusual occurrence for me. It has been happening all my life. He is a person that so many people enjoy being around because he is always positive and sincere.

While dad participated in so many organizations and took on extra jobs, his time with his family never suffered. Memories with my dad are some of my greatest ones. As a child, he always knew how to make scary things a little bit better. He would tell us that if we were good at the doctor we would get a cookie, but we knew that we would get one no matter what. As a father, he was a life coach. To me, he was more. He coached my select softball team for almost ten years and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. These are just a few of my favorite memories. There are many more to be made and the one I can’t wait for is the day he gets to walk me down the aisle.

 My father has been there for everyone in his life for as long as I can remember and never expects anything in return. I feel like it is time for him to be recognized for his generosity, kindness, and unconditional love. Please consider my father, Jim Endres, for “Illinois Country Father of the Year!”


Nominee: Karl Fraley
Town: Murphysboro
Nominated by: Barbie Minor and Tabitha Minor (Daughters)

 All dads are wonderful. Our dad is one out of the bunch! Dad has worked very hard all his life, retired from G.T.E. after 32 years in Carbondale, IL. He owns and operates Oakwood Hunting Club in Miller City, IL. Dad has raised 6 children, 15 grandchildren and one on the way! Ten years ago, dad lost a granddaughter at age 6. Today she had a birthday, she would have been 16. Dad taught us in life God is first, church is important and also treating people with respect and be kind to all people. Back one not summer 2 years ago, dad had purchased a huge wooden swing set. It had taken dad every day for 2 weeks putting it together for his grandchildren! Dad keeps the pool very clean for the family to enjoy every summer. When dad fishes, he gives the fish to people who needs it, he cares. Dad fell off the roof a few years ago and had to have his foot completely rebuilt (he crushed his foot). Today he walks with a limp and never complains! Hats off to our dad!!


Nominee: Ray Grimsley
Town: Hull
Nominated by: Joyce Pagett (Girlfriend)

 Ray Grimsley is a really great guy and an even better father. I lost my job due to daycare issues. Ray has allowed for me to be able to stay home with our two children and go back to school. I appreciate him so much. Even after a long day at work, he comes home in a good mood and play with our babies (4-years & 10 months).

He is such a special person and would do anything for anybody. Even in the cold winter days taking our tractor out to plow our neighbors drives so they can get out when needed, without pay.

He is such a great person and loves his family so much, yet always seems to be taken advantage of by others. Ending up with the short end of the stick, but always brushes it off. This is why I believe Ray Grimsley should be name “Illinois Country Father of the Year” to help show him how much he is appreciated. Thank you for your time.


Nominee: Eric Hartmann
Town: Huntley
Nominated by Cora, Evelyn & Hailey Hartmann (Daughters)

 Daddy is the best daddy because “he takes me everywhere and picks flowers with me.”

Cora Shae, 4 years old

 My Dad Rocks!

My dad is the best dad ever. And no one can be awesomer then my dad. One reason he’s fun cause he does fun things with me and my sisters: taking us fishing, teaching me how to use a BB gun and lots more, but that would be way to long to write. Well I could go on and on and on about how cool my dad is but here are just a few things why my dad should win. One he listens to cool music and is very fun. We always do fun things together like just a few days ago we went Chicago to see a roller durby wich was alot alot of FUN!! Another reason I love my dad is because he always there when I need help even if he doesn’t win he is still the best best best dad ever. Me and my sisters are so lucky to have a dad like him. See some times he gets on my nerves but I know he is just doing that to keep me safe. My dad is awesome I have to say it but no one’s awesomer then my very coolio dad who should win. People might think there dads are better than mine but there not. And I just love my dad alot.

 From the daughter of the best dad ever – Evelyn Hartmann, age 10

My dad is by far the best dad I know, and I don’t doubt he’s the best dad out there. I could go on and on about why he’s such a great guy, but I’ll keep it as short as possible. Well first, he does so much for me and my little sisters. When I was a baby, my parents couldn’t afford diapers. So, at night on many occasions, he’d go out in the freezing Chicago snow storms and shovel driveways, just to get any money he could. He went from that to now being the Vice President of one of the largest snow plowing companies in the Midwest. He got there by working hard. When I was younger, I remember him having to get up in the middle of the night because he would get called out to go work and go plow lots. It may not seem like much but, he always worked hard and he has put me and my sisters before3 himself so we can grow up with having the best.

 Now that he’s Vice President of his company, he has to work and travel quite a bit. Yet, he ALWAYS, no matter what, makes time for his “little girls.” No matter how exhausted he is after working those long hours, he makes a point to make himself available to us.

 When he gets home from work…the very first thing he does is go and find his daughter and gives us a big hug and a kiss. He asks about our day and listens to what we have to say and he seems genuinely interested. After he’s done listening to his kid’s latest drama, he goes and rests for a bit.-Thirty minutes later, he’s up making dinner, straightening the house up, driving us kids to and from our activities. It’s crazy!

I’ve talked a lot about what he does for the family, just in general. Now, it’s time to list the main things he’s done for me specifically in my teen years. He’s always been great, when I was a little girl, he’d always take us to do fun things and so on. And he still does that now, but it’s more than that. From 7th grade up until my freshman year of high school, I was a cheerleader. And I kid you not, he was at 99% of every single football or basketball game and he was at every single one of my cheer competitions, being MY cheerleader. I’ve been playing piano sense age 5 and guitar sense 12…he’s again, never missed a performance.

 For him to give me that kind of support and that kind of contability, has helped me more than he’ll ever know. Not only has he been at my events, he’s been there for me to talk to. I’ve always been close with my dad, but the past 3 years, we’ve connected a lot more. If I’m having problems with friends, he always listens and offers his advice. Me and him get along pretty well. Sure we argue at times, but what 15 year old girl doesn’t with her dad? Most the time we joke around and have a good time. When we’re together we laugh so much! Even though he’s 40 years old…he acts like he’s 8 at times! He can always crack a joke or get me to laugh. Another thing that’s so great about him is how he was with my boyfriend. A lot of dads either freak out at the idea of their daughter having a boyfriend or they simply don’t care enough. I’m the oldest of 3 girls, so my dad was new to this whole dating thing. Before me and this guy started dating, I asked my dad what he thought about it. He said he’d feel more comfortable if he knew the guy better. So, my dad made an effort to get to know this guy. He allowed him to come along on family outings or simply just hang out at the house. They slowly befriended each other. One time, the two of them went to Wal-Mart, got ice cream and Monopoly and came back and sat at our dining room table and played the fame for FOUR hours! Just the two of them! He managed to make this guy feel very comfortable around my dad, but he also made sure there was the same amount of respect. I don’t know any dads who put in that much effort for just their daughter’s boyfriend. I really appreciated all he did. It was really sweet and it made me really see how good of a man he is.

I honestly could write pages and pages about why my dad is the best dad. And there is so much more that I wasn’t able to write all down. My dad, is the sweetest, most hard working, caring, loving, humble man I know. He may not be perfect, but in my eyes, he is. He makes his unconditional love for his children well known to anyone who knows him. He loves on his family the way a good dad should. He’s my rock. He’s the shoulder I cry on. He’s my advisor. My listener. My provider. He’s the one that can make me laugh until I cry. He’s my discipliner. He’s my protector. He gives me strength. He gives me hope. He’s my example. He’s my father, but he is also my best friend.

Hailey Hartmann, 15 yrs old – 9th grade


Nominee: Lindell Hering
Town: Mt. Carmel
Nominated by: Sheila Colbert (Daughter)

My dad’s dedication and love to his family, his country, and his community, has played a great role in the lives of his three daughters and grandchildren. Dad has always had a great work ethic and genuine attitude about the rewards of working hard and earning, not getting. He led by example in raising the three of us and instilled good qualities of doing the right thing .even when it hurts; tell a good joke when you’ve got one, spending your money wisely, and giving everything else to God.

My Dad, Lindell Hering, has earned a long list of accolades throughout the years. He began helping his Dad farm in Wabash County, Illinois. Worked in the 4-H program with kids for several years and in the spring of 1964, he joined and proudly served in the United States Army. He served many years as a volunteer fireman for the Bellmont Volunteer Fire Department in Bellmont, Illinois. Dad has earned himself quite an impressive reputation as an electrician in our area, anything from helping out a friend in need to working as an electrician for 12 plus years. He serves in his church every Sunday, takes food and visits with those that are unable to be ‘out and about’, as he puts it. He is pretty handy at woodworking .I have some of his handiwork in my home. He enjoys hunting and being outside when the opportunity presents itself, which is every day the weather is permitting. Dad takes great pride in being a good steward of the land and develops a wonderful place for the wildlife to take refuge.

Of course, as any parent knows there are those school projects and Dad helped me with his fair share. I remember a poster and essay contest about soil erosion (which I won first prize because of Dad’s expertise) that we worked very hard on. And the leaf collection, I learned more about trees that spring than was in the school book. I am proud to say that I now live on 4 acres of woods. Dad and I have planted garden and I must say I have learned a great deal. Then there was the Saturday mornings spent cutting wood for the wood burner in the house (actually Dad did the cutting .I did the hauling .I hated getting up on Saturday’s at 7 to pack firewood). But it was all in Dad’s great plan to teach me how to live off the land and to work hard to take care of the family. And let’s not forget the time that I was 16 and the radiator had to be replaced in my car and Dad “helped” me change it .actually I had to do most of the work. And that was Dad’s way of teaching me that having a car was a privilege and not a right and to be responsible enough to have such luxuries, there was also work that had to go into taking care of those responsibilities.

There are a lot of things that my Dad is successful at doing, but the one I am most proud of, is being a good man. Dad’s word has always been honorable and just as good as a hand shake. He teaches more by example than any book could ever teach. He is humble and trustworthy in all that he does. That is what makes Lindell Hering “Illinois Country Father of the Year”.


Nominee: Eddward Herron
Town: Carbondale
Nominated by: Hayley Hudson (Daughter)

Charles H. Fowler once said, “The best teachers of humanity are the lives of great men”. My father is no exception. He has never ceased to amaze me with the compassion and charity he has shown to the world throughout his life. My father was raised in poverty. As a child, he had to work to contribute to the family income. He was denied what could be called a “traditional” childhood, filled with after school sports and carefree living. Further tragedy struck my father as he lost both his parents at a young age. Despite his circumstances, he never complained, and carried with him a quiet strength that helped him preserver throughout his life. My father was always a hard worker. He managed to put himself through college while working several full-time jobs. He always prioritized his family over his dreams, often deferring his goals in lieu of providing financial stability for his family. I distinctly remember falling very ill as a child. He sat up with me all night, changing the washcloth on my forehead to keep my fever down; despite the impending full day of work he had in front of him. Upon graduation, my father devoted many years to teaching. He tried so hard to change the lives of his students and to affect them positively, instilling integrity, honesty, and a good work ethic in the lives of those he taught. When my father was blessed with the opportunity to travel internationally, he did not hesitate in his efforts to help the underprivileged outside the United States. My father was known for his charity and generosity—he never turned a homeless individual away as they begged for a hot meal. He sponsored countless young adults who desired to come to America to gain an education and start a new life. He welcomed these individuals into his home, mentoring them and providing them with the opportunity to succeed. My father has devoted his life to his family and humanity as a whole. He may not be monetarily rich, for he was always willing to give the shirt off his back for one in need. He may not receive recognition for all the kind acts he perpetuated, as he preferred to serve others quietly without demanding credit. However, my father is rich in character. His selfless acts have touched the lives of so many and he has never demanded thanks or appreciation. He has done good for the sole purpose of doing good. I love my father for the example he led for me. My father is my hero, and has taught me humanity through living a great life.


Nominee: Donald Hubner
Town: Milford
Nominated by: Chris Schroeder (Daughter)

When I think of my dad, so many words come to mind to describe him. Kind, compassionate, caring, inspiring, faithful and devoted. I could go on and on, but I only have five hundred words to describe him in! But for me, I think the word that stands out the most is “teacher”!

He has taught his five children how to be good productive members of society. Thru his example we have learned to be honest and hard working and to always go the extra mile. To be compassionate and giving to everyone especially the people less fortunate than us. It is our responsibility to help in time of need. My dad is a conservationist and has taught us to be frugal and to conserve. Respect the land, recycle, to not waste food, fuel or electricity. Growing up, if we left the room and didn’t shut the light off we had to put a nickel in the jar! It didn’t take us long to remember to shut the lights off. I am sure some of that comes from being raised during the depression when you didn’t have a choice but be frugal. My dad taught us to be “green” before it was ever popular to be “green”!

I think his most precious teaching was about God and having faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Thru his life he has been ever faithful to our Lord and has encouraged us to put Christ first in our lives.

My dad is 86 years old and lives on the family farm with my mom. After 64 years of marriage, 5 children, raising 2 foster boys and good times and bad times, along the way my dad is still one of the most optimistic and happy people I know. He has an awesome sense of humor and when he was asked if he was going to retire he said he wasn’t retiring, he was changing jobs. So at 70, he bought a saw mill and saws lumber and is still making wood crafts on the side!

All of these things on an 8th grade education! When asked to stop going to school to help out on the family farm, my dad did so with a willing heart, but he continued to read and learn along the way. The best thing about my dad being a great teacher is that he has not just taught us, but has lived it and we have learned by example. None of it would have been possible without his faithful service and devotion to our Lord. Now it is our job as his children to pass it on to the next generation.

His family has expanded over the years to include his children and their spouses, 15 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren and 3 more on the way. I think his morals, his generosity, his goodness and Christian faith will continue to flourish for generations to come!


Nominee: Roy Klingelhoefer
Town: Mascoutah
Nominated by: Gail Frey (Daughter)

Born on a farm, east of Mascoutah, Illinois, my father, Roy Klingelhoefer, is a man of inspiration to me, our family, our church and our community.

For me and my family, he has been a devoted Christian and has modeled his faith through honesty and hard work. As a farmer, he often explained to me that he never felt closer to God then driving a planter or plow across the field and thinking that the success of his crop was totally in the Lord’s hands.

Through his church, while serving various positions, he took great pride in his ability to sing praise to God. Retiring from the church choir at age 80, he gave of his musical talent of over 60 years in the choir. Serving his church through choir and many boards, he has become a model to his family through his example.

Service plays a very vital role in his life. Knowing the importance of quality education, he served 27 years on the county school board. This position could often be difficult and thankless; however, he continued his dedication and service.

My father understands what it means to “pay it forward”. It is difficult to describe the number of times he has paid it forward to someone who has shown compassion to him or cared for him. As a mere example, an EMT from our city helped to resuscitate my mother from heart failure. At every opportunity, my father would discreetly pay for dinner for the EMT’s family at various restaurants.

Today, my father is a retired farmer and his mobility has become more difficult. Despite this, you will find him organizing activities at the local senior center, helping to deliver “meals on wheels” for the shut-ins and visiting countless individuals in the community who might be hospitalized or in the nursing home. He is always a handshake away from his old friends as well as a new friend.

A true sports fan, my father played baseball as a child. Sadly, after a slide into home plate, he broke his left leg. Unfortunately, my father’s leg was not set properly. As a result, he has limped most of his life. Nevertheless, he never complains of pain or has pity on himself. He channels his love for sports into watching countless basketball and baseball games of his grandchildren to support them. He dreams of watching his three treat-grandsons play basketball someday.

My greatest admiration of him encompasses his ability to live his life in service. He serves God, and he serves those around him. Daily, he seeks simple things in nature that bring him joy. It might be a bird, a beautiful sunset, a falling star or an unusual thundercloud. He savors the now and constantly acknowledges that his family and friends are God’s greatest gifts to him.

It is with great honor and a feeling of true blessing to nominate my father as “Illinois Country Father of the Year” as a man who is most deserving of this honor.

Gail Frey, daughter


Nominee: Mark Kraft
Town: Towanda
Nominated by: Virginia Lowery (2nd Cousin by marriage)

I would like to nominate Mark Kraft for the Illinois Country Living “Illinois Country Father of the Year.”

Mark is a lifelong resident of McLean County. His early years were spent at the “top of the hill” just south of Towanda on the Towanda Barnes Blacktop. Mark is the oldest son of Mary Jean and the late Louie Kraft. Raised as one of eight children, Mark loved the farm life from an early age.

Mark currently farms the acreage around the home place. Mark and his wife Jackie have five children who are all active in various community activities including 4-H and scouting. Mark also serves the county as Township Supervisor. Mark is also responsible for gathering the election supplies and setting up the polling place for each election at the Community Building. Mark is the past president of Towanda Grain and is a master tax preparer for IAAA.

While Mark is busy with the farm, township, community and tax preparation, his family always comes first. Mark is the most dedicated Father I know. He spends quality time with each of the five children. He teaches them with “hands-on” experience. He is very patient with their inquisitive questions on “HOW and WHY?” He takes the time to explain and teach the kids exactly HOW and WHY!

The home place proudly displays their “IAP Centennial Farm” sign with pride on the front lawn. This sign designates family ownership and producers of Illinois Ag Products for over 100 years. The farm is on the Corn Belt Electric line. Any time you pass, you are sure to see several cars 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.

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 all be GREEN for St. Patty’s Day. The Kraft’s are all proud Irishmen!

On Sunday afternoons the drive is packed with cars and vans, the “family” has come for a visit. You will see children scattered from the garage rooftop to the barnyard, to the swings and down to the creek, and the boys are often playing “King of the Hill” out behind the barn. There are mowers and gators, tractors and combines, barns and sheds, bicycles and wagons for all. Kraft “kids” have enjoyed “life on the farm” for generations.

Mark Kraft is an icon of family life on the Prairie. He is a very special son, father, husband and friend. I hope you will consider Mark for the Illinois Country Father of the Year.

Respectively submitted,
Virginia Lowery


Nominee: Phil Lawrence
Town: Fisher
Nominated by: Kevin Lawrence (Son)

My dad is a real jerk. When I was growing up, he would get me up at the crack of dawn and make me take out the trash and then proceed to a wet bean field where I was forced to walk through and pull weeds. He even had the nerve to make me do it on July 4th. He made me go to church; he wouldn’t let me stay up to watch my favorite TV shows if my homework wasn’t done. I received a bad grade and he grounded me. It seemed like he was always working and couldn’t spend time with me. He never let me win at anything we competed in. One of my proudest memories as a kid was the day I beat him in a game of basketball. He taught me that things aren’t handed to you; you have to work hard and earn everything you get. The other day my son said something to me and I was shocked. He thanked me for the way I raised him. I thought that would never happen. I pushed him like my dad did me. I forced my ways on him just as my dad did me. It took me a long time to figure out that I was a jerk just like my father. I am so proud that I am just like my father. I just wish I would have figured it out sooner in my life. Everything I have today is because of him. His hard work and his values have made me who I am today. My father is over 70 now and he still can out work me. He stills runs his insurance business every day. He collects junk from the farmers and hauls it to Urbana and donates all his time and gas to the Bellflower Lion’s Den. He is an elder in the Bellflower Christian Church and does more community service now than I will do in my lifetime. He is the best father and grandfather in this world today. He is also my best friend. Thank you Dad!!!!! I love you!!!!


Nominee: Bob Lister
Town: Barry
Nominated by: Jaime Lister (Daughter)

Dad and I are out in the timber, the fresh air filling our lungs with the sweet smells of nature. Slowly, we creep down the deer trail. Each step on the hard packed earth is soft, quiet. Dad pulls me up beside him and motions with his head. Above us stands a whitetail deer. We both pause to take in the beauty of this lone doe, before turning away to look up in the trees. We are squirrel hunting out in the woods, my Dad has taught me many lessons that will last a lifetime.

“Walk on the deer paths.” This lesson means: follow others, see what they have done, and use it to help you in your goal. Yet, I shouldn’t be afraid to make my own path. When I was looking at colleges, my Dad encouraged me to look where I wanted, not where others had gone or where someone else thought I should go. He told me to listen to suggestions, but most importantly to listen to myself.

 “Look around you.” I need to notice what is going on in the world around me. If my vision is too narrow, a lot can go by without me seeing it. If I’m not looking, I will miss the many wonders that this world has to offer. A baby’s smile, a bird flying high, or a deer standing majestically in the snow, all these can disappear in the blink of an eye. By pointing things out, my Dad has taught me to appreciate the wonder around me.

“Be sure of your aim. Know what is behind your shot.” I should always know the impact of my actions before I act. My Dad spent endless hours with me, target practice-working on my shot, and softball practice-working on my aim. He taught me to anticipate the results of my actions. When I speak or act, I try to think of the consequences beforehand.

“Follow the leader.” I need to follow those who are there to help. I shouldn’t rush ahead of them, and get ahead of myself. Once ready, I can go off on my own. But, I should start by following others and learning from those willing to teach me. When I was younger, I always went hunting with my Dad or older siblings. But now, because of the lessons he has taught me, I can now go hunting by myself, safely and enjoyably. By following him, Dad taught me by example how to act. I can apply that knowledge in many areas of life.

My father is many things. He is a mail carrier, 4-H shooting sports coordinator, and he sings in the community choir. He is a volunteer coach for the Western school softball teams. But, best of all, he is my Dad and will always be father of the year to me.

Nominee: Fred Marling
Town: Bloomington
Nominated by: Hannah and Freddy Marling (Children)

My dad works super hard. He works for a security system called A.D.T. So he is barley home. But that is because he is out making money for us. He is always in Washington D.C. or Ohio or California. But there is also a good thing because if he didn’t do what he does we would not have a good house or have food to eat or cloths to were. So I’m glad my dad does what he does.

Sometimes I’m really sad because I never get to see him. It’s very upsetting to me because I go to friends house that have dads who are home mostly all the time and it makes me sad to see that they always get to see their dad. But then I realize they don’t have a dad who gets to travel all around the world to see different places like my dad does. He has been almost everywhere just in the United States and he brings things back for us. He brings back candy and books and I pads and all those other things.

Now since he does all these things we get to go on vacations. We have been to Myrtle Beach South Carolina and Florida and Kentucky and were going to go to the Disney Cruise on spring break 2013 maybe. But I do now for sure we are going back to Myrtle Beach again this summer. So I realize my dad being gone all the time is kind of a good thing. Now he is home for all the holidays but sometimes is only there for half a day but at least I get to see him.

One year he was gone for my birthday and I was very very very upset but Then later that night my mom brought in an electric scoter for me and it was from my dad then I realized he had worked hard earned the money and got it for me. I loved it so much.

My dad has also been to Bahamas for work and brought my mom. Me and my brother had to stay with a friend. I was sad then I realized it was they need a vacation from me and my brother and I was completely fine then I just really missed him.

So you see all these times he is gone I’m home and I miss him it’s because he works so hard to send us on vacations.

One time he was gone for a whole month and I was sad and mad without him but he brought us back an Ipad and I was so glad. See he got that I pad because he worked as hard as he could and got paid and got us one. So it is a good thing my dad works hard because if he didn’t we would not have a good home or good food or any good cloths to wear. But since he works his butt of every day he gets us things we really need and things we don’t really need like vacations but vacations are fun so I am very glad my dad does what he does. And that’s the ends folks I hope you enjoyed my story about HOW HARD MY DAD WORKS for our very special family.


Nominee: Allen McKnight
Town: Flora
Nominated by: Ashley McKnight (Daughter)

My father is extremely special to me and to everyone around him. He has devoted his life to helping others and making their lives better. He has given up so much to provide for everyone else. He’s a survivor and he’s a foster dad. These two things are two of the stand out qualities that my dad has. And he is more than the greatest, he is the absolute best!

In 2001, my father was at work just doing his daily routine at Prairie Farms. As he was checking a machine, he noticed that it had something caught in it. So he turned off the machine and reached in to remove it. This machine is the one that cuts off the flaps on the sides of milk jugs and a milk jug was caught. So after turning off the machine, he reached in. But somehow the machine kicked back on and the blade came down right onto his hand. His right wrist was completely cut off except, for give or take, 2 blood vessels. He was rushed to the hospital and was flown out to Kentucky. In a miraculous surgery, the doctor was able to successfully reattach his hand. In what could have been a tragic loss for my family, we instead have grown closer because of it. It has taught us to not take for granted each day that God has given us because it can easily be taken away.

My father has been involved in at least 35 foster kids’ lives. My parents have given up a lot to care for and provide children with love that is greatly needed. I know this for a fact because I was one of them. I was placed in their home at age 6. Right from the get-go, they loved me unconditionally. They loved me in spite of my flaws. They’ve given up a lot for me to have the life that I do. And they’ve given up living a “child-free” life that people their age should be able to have. My father is an extremely caring and protective man. He only wants what’s best for me and my two sisters and two brothers.

To sum it all up, if anyone deserves the title of “Father of the Year,” it would be mine. I feel that he has done more than enough in the 11 years that he’s been my dad that he more than qualifies for best dad. And even if he doesn’t win, he will still be and always will be the best dad.


Nominee: Chester Pasiewicz
Town: Savanna
Nominated by: Anthony Pasiewicz (Son)

My father should be nominated to win the Father of the Year award because he is a very hard worker. He works around the house; he fixes a lot of things when they break and is a part-time hobby store worker on weekends. He is so smart trying to fix almost everything. He is very dedicated to help anyone who calls or needs help in the family. His friends or a family member call or if he is at there house, or there job. He will help them without even asking them he hears it and just volunteers to help you. My father is a very good Dad; he cooks dinner and helps around the house when mom is at work. He is very thoughtful of others. He took care of my grandmother when she was ill and had Alzheimer’s until she passed away. He cooked for her, made sure she ate every day. He is a mechanic. He deserves the award for being such a good father. What would I do without his advise and kind words along with his always helping others with there problems. I’m glad he is there for me anytime I need him. Thank God for my father, that’s why I nominate him.


Nominee: Les Reel
Town: Congerville
Nominated by: Abby Reel (Daughter)

Reflecting on what qualifies my dad for Illinois Country Father of the Year, I was overwhelmed with reasons. Does on e win because of their outstanding role as father? If so, then Les Reel of Congerville, IL, is a mighty strong contender! He sat through every dance recital, basketball game and musical with a smile. He scoured the countryside each year in search of that prize Angus steer or Hampshire barrow, determined to give his daughters a successful summer of 4-H showing. Despite having five children of his own, he mentored and financially supported several young men and women in our farming community, ensuring they had the help and support they needed to be successful. As a father, I would say Les Reel more than qualifies for the honor!

Perhaps the committee will focus more on aspects of country – could my dad be country enough to win? First, there is his 50+ year career in the livestock industry. Not many can say they have never missed an Illinois State Fair in their lifetime (73 years) or share stories of judging some of our nation’s most reputable livestock shows – Indiana State Fair, Kansas City Royal or the Denver Stock Show. There are little things only his family saw that qualify him. On Christmas morning, I would help my dad with chores. Despite the cold and presents at home, he would take careful time to feed and water his calves giving extra of everything as a special gift. There are numerous hitchhikers and flat tires he would help along the highway – handing out his last $20 even when money was tight. There’s the FFA labor auction or community club fundraiser where all would cross their fingers that Les Reel would bid on them (sure to be sold at the highest price!). The country list goes on and on.

Finally, the committee is looking for the Country Father of the YEAR. Not that he wouldn’t qualify in years past, but if there is one year in which my father deserves this title, it’s this year. Suffering a stroke in April and a diagnosis of cancer in December, dad is as positive about life as ever! He welcomed another granddaughter (Leslie Marie Reel) in January and after 16 years of running the Reel Livestock Center in Congerville, he made the difficult decision to retire and sell his business in September. Could Les Reel ever retire? It’s a question my family ponders as dad hits the road drumming up cow deals and connecting buyers and sellers across Illinois. The year he has performed as a Country Father should, approaching each challenge and opportunity with confidence, positivity and a little bit of luck!

Whether his status as father, embodiment of country or summary of the year’s accomplishments, I present my father as a most deserving recipient. No matter if he is selected or not, to my family, his community, and his many friends in agriculture, Les Reel has already earned Illinois Country Father of the Year.


Nominee: Dale G. Siverly
Town: Marshall
Nominated by: Vicki Siverly Cash (Daughter)

I think my dad should get nominated for dad of the year because he is my mentor and I have always been able to look up to him for strength and he is a good Christian man. He is good and honest and a very hard worker, he puts his family first. Has always been honest in everything he does. He’s been a member of the REA since 1951. He served in Bloodies War WWII in Japan for 2-years. Dale G. Siverly, we about lost him from 1966 – 1968. He came so close and it really scared us really bad. We really prayed hard and God heard our prayers and this is why he is with us still. I feel he is so deserving to get this award. Besides his wife, he has 2 daughters and 2 sons, 16 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.


Nominee: David Stead
Town: Farmersville
Nominated by: Carrie Winkelmann

When I was a little girl I used to spend as much time with my dad as I possibly could. I would work with him in the pig lot, feed calves, travel to the sale barn, and ride in the combine. When we would travel places to get parts or sell livestock I was always amazed at how many people he knew. Everywhere we went it seemed he would talk up a storm, sometimes to my dismay for as a child I could be impatient. But I came to realize that he knew so many people because he cared about what was going on in their lives as well as what was going on in our community and surrounding communities.

Mostly I liked going with him not for the people, but for the stories I got to hear along the way and the knowledge that I gained in listening. The story about the barn that burned to the ground after getting struck by lightning when he was little, just after he had moved all of his toys up to the house, taught me about luck and about hardships on the farm before I was born. His favorite dog that died in the fire taught me about loss. The story about the hired hand that lied to my grandma and told her he loved her raisin pie, when he really didn’t, and then got raisin pie every time he came to the house taught me about honesty and politeness. The stories were great and to this day when he asks me if he ever told me about this or that I say, “Probably, but please tell me again.”

The knowledge that I have gained from him is priceless. He taught me long division and multiplication in the combine to figure yields and cost ratios. I learned about crops, livestock, pest management, tillage versus no tillage, wildlife, and all manner of things that have been betterment to me as well as my two brothers, all of us who have picked careers that follow after a man we admire and love. I am an agricultural educator, my middle brother is a fire fighter (that comes from dad’s days as a fireman in the navy), and my youngest brother is a farmer. We have also learned community service from him. My youngest brother and I are locally elected Township and Road District officials, following in my dad’s footsteps.

Husband, father, grandfather, farmer, community activist, humorist, hard worker, patient man, and fun loving guy are all titles that fit the amazing man who is my father. Living on the family farm for all of his life except for the time he gave in service to his county, my dad has a deep love for his home, his family, his profession, and his community. People living in the country today, who live on and for the land, are an endangered species and he exemplifies everything that is right with country living and the lifestyle it breeds.


Nominee: Marvin Swiger
Town: Geneseo
Nominated by: Nancy Abell (Daughter)

There are a million remarkable Fathers in Illinois, but my father, Marvin Swiger of Geneseo, Illinois, is extraordinary in many ways and that’s why I would like to nominate him for the Illinois Country Father of the Year.

Dad’s willingness to help people started at a young age when he joined the United States Navy. He served his country in World War II on the LST 713 Navy ship. Dad was wounded in the attack at Pearl Harbor and throughout his body he still carries pieces of shrapnel. Fifty years later, Dad was awarded his Purple Heart for his devotion to his country.

Dad’s extraordinary for the time he spends with his children and grandchildren. One of Dads hobbies is beekeeping. Over the years, he has enjoyed teaching his children, grandchildren and their friends the art of extracting honey. Harvesting the honey is a family affair that requires all of us to have a special job. Dad brings the honey to us and we have an assembly line of removing the wax, spinning and taking it into the house for Mom and Dad to strain and jar. The grandchildren are very fortunate to have a grandfather to teach them this special art. As his daughter, I fill very lucky to have had Dad teach me how to pick up wild hives of bees. Not many children have Fathers to teach them that “Sorry, bees’ sting and use a credit card to scrape the stingers out.” – Thank Dad!

Apple cider making is another hobby Dad has taught us kids. We get together on a Saturday at Dad’s house. Dad usually has the apples cut, but then the kids take turns feeding the apples into the drum and cranking the press. Dad sends fresh apple juice home with everyone and shares with his friends.

October of each year is harvest time. Dad helps his daughter and son-in-law in the fields, by being their number one extra person. We would be lost without his devoted help. Dad’s in the fields with us from early morning to late afternoon to help us move machinery or do anything that is needed. His number one job is driving loads into the elevator. We would not be able to finish the harvest in the time we do without his help. At 86 years young, he outworks all of us.

Dad is a member of the V.F.W., the American Legion, LST Association and the Moose Lodge.

I would like to nominate my father for the Illinois Country Father of the Year. I feel very fortunate to be able to enjoy having my father with us, teaching, helping, caring, giving, sharing, teaching us as kids how to drive tractors, hatch baby chicks, run lawn mowers, ride horses, whatever Dad was always there to show us something new. I feel my Father was extraordinary in every aspect of my life. For sixty years, he has given me a million percent to make my life happy and everyday a special day. I owe everything to my extraordinary Father, Marvin Swiger. That is why I think he is the Illinois Country Father of the Year.


Nominee: Rodney Travis
Town: Donds
Nominated by: Fran Slichenmyer (Neighbor)

Rodney has time for you even if he’s busy. He’s got 2 boys. They learn a lot about work … their good workers. He always works with cattle and works all day electric work.


Nominee: Douglas L. Vaughn
Town: Gilman
Nominated by: Henry (Bud) & Bernadette English (Uncle and Aunt)

 We nominate Douglas L. Vaughn for Illinois Country Father of the Year. He was left to raise a little girl (4-years old) and a boy (7-years old). He found baby sitters to come to his house for his two little ones for day time. After work he cooked supper, showed the kids how to help clean the table off, got their baths and had them brush their teeth. He put them to bad and read to each of them and they had to say their prayers. As they grew older he helped with their homework if they had a problem. He drove about 30 miles every other week to pick them up for church and to attend Sunday school. He did all the cleaning, cooking & laundry and helped them get dressed when they were little. He even fixed his little girls hair. As they grew older, the two of them helped Daddy with the house and the little girl wanted to learn to cook so he showed her. Her special dish was Green Bean Casserole. IN the summer he helped with the T-ball and they both played. They were both in 4-H and showed hogs and also showed their dog. They had to take the dog to obedience school usually on Saturday. Doug put a big garden out and canned and froze his vegetables. He canned pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce and froze a lot of sweet corn. He was a lineman at Gilman, IL for Eastern Illinois Power and if he was called out at night, which was quite a lot, he got his two little ones out of bed, put their coats over their pajamas and took them to his relatives in the middle of the night and then he was off to his work. The relatives lived close to him. The relatives kept them and when school was in session, they got on the bus at their house. He always brought their clothes. He never left his children without kissing them good-bye and also a hug. When the ice storms came, he had someone lined up to stay with them. When he went to school in Springfield, the children stayed with the relatives. The girl cried as Daddy was gone, but a phone call dried up her tears when she heard his voice. He married again and has a daughter (13 ½-years) and a son (11-years). He is the same type of a father to them. His son went to a trade school for 2 years and works for Ameren Illinois. His daughter has her Bachelor’s Degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a minor in Chemistry from the University of Illinois. She is going to school in June to be a Physician Assistant. Those two little kids grew up and both are married. When they were little he always said that he had a million dollars in each bed. Dad is their number one man.


Nominee: Jack Yates, Sr.
Town: Cobden
Nominated by: Christy Null (Daughter)

My Dad is so deserving of this award. He has always been there for me and my siblings, but even more than that he is always the first one willing to help other people (people we don’t even know!). There is a group of men call the B-Men and they go around Southern Illinois helping other people and he is always right in the middle of the group. This week he took a van down to Georgia to help move the new preacher of Cobden First Baptist Church and their family here to the area. He got up Wednesday, during that crazy weather at 4:00 a.m. and never missed a beat. They went down to Georgia, packed them up and moved them all here yesterday. When the last terrible storm went through the area he went to a Mexican family and cut a huge (I mean huge) tree off their home and out of their yard. When he found out that a young boy did not have a bed, he and his wife went and bought him a bed. Recently when a local ladies husband passed away, he took the B-Men out and they fixed up her home so that she could put it up for sale as medical bills had made it hard to keep her home. His phone never stops ringing as people always need his help and he never says “no!” He just went out and put flooring in a widow’s home, replaced the toilet, etc. I am not exaggerating; he helps people every single day. A young man and his family from Anna got burned out and my Dad was the first one to find him a place to live, an old truck, and this man and his family say that one month after the fire they had everything they needed. Kim, a young woman from Paducah needed help after her husband left her and her two kids and Dad took the men down there and did all kind of work to her home to help her out. A young man was down due to health issues and had no wood for the winter for his fireplace, so Dad took a truck load from his wood pile. I could go on and on, but you said only 500 words.

 Just to give you a little history, Dad lives on Social Security and his wife works part time jobs, so it’s not like they have much money to offer, but he gives, and gives his time. He is 72 years young and going strong. Back in 2000, my Dad has a quad-bypass and was very sick. He tells the story that while they stopped his heart for the bypass his life flashed before him and he knew life was short and he would live each day to the fullest and he does just that! He was always helpful, but now he never stops! If anyone is deserving it is Jack Yates, the best Illinois Country Father ever!!!!