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Features

  • Seventy years ago, a young girl saw a photo in a local newspaper of a young boy, a member of the Vandalia High School FFA chapter … and fell in love with him.

    She didn’t know who he was, but she cut the picture out of the paper, and showed it to friends and family as the guy she was going to marry.

    Meet Dwight and Darlene Denning as they share their unique and lasting love story. As they celebrate their 66th wedding anniversary, Darlene still has that same 70-year-old newspaper clipping in her purse.

    The Photo

  • Jay Stortzum gives the first impression of a soft-spoken man of with a pleasant, intelligent and friendly personality. 

    An ensuing conversation reveals that the first impression is correct, along with a sincere commitment to serve for the betterment of others, a trait which became apparent when he attended Eastern Illinois University.

    As a student at EIU, Stortzum served as a student senator and the student body vice president, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education.

  • The purple ribbons displayed about town represent hope for finding a cure and effective treatment in the fight against cancer, all kinds of cancer.

    The shape of the ribbons is familiar. While the pink ribbon has long represented breast cancer, the purple ribbon  represents all types of cancer.

    Behind this symbol of the battle against cancer are many people, of all ages, all stations and all walks of life, survivors and caregivers, all with the common goal – winning the fight against cancer.

  • Katie Carson’s winning essay for the “Patriot’s Pen” contest, which is held every year by the Brownstown Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9770, went on to win the District 12 competition.

    Katie, the daughter of Duane and Tammy Carson, is an eighth-grader at Brownstown Junior High School. She said that her writing was partially inspired by the return home from the service of a friend, Travis.

    “The town escorted him home and had an appreciation party for him,” she said.

  • “Does America Still Have Heroes?” was the intriguing question asked, and answered, by Brownstown High School senior Connor Smith in the essay he wrote for the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ annual “Voice of Democracy” student contest.

    Connor’s entry won the local award presented by the Brownstown VFW Post 9770.

    The 18-year-old son of Stan and Lana Smith is a member of this year’s graduating class at Brownstown High School. 

  • In many cases, when one is nearing the age of Ethel Gates Booher, the occasion is described more accurately as “observing”or simply “reaching” the honored year, which, in Ethel’s case, is 99.

    In Ethel’s case, her homey, cheerful room in the Long Term Care facility at the Fayette County Hospital was alive with greetings, laughter and listening to Ethel’s stories of the past last Friday, as she, and her children and grandchildren literally celebrated Ethel’s 99th birthday.

  • Five years ago, in an effort to help their grandson, Justin Dial, find a outlet for his computer repair expertise and sales during the summer months, Dewayne “Speed” and Marilyn Dial of St. Elmo had no idea that they would adopt, or be adopted into, a group of vendors that is rather like a large family.

    That “family” gathers on weekends from the first weekend in April until the last weekend in October, weather permitting.

  • Cindy Hicks saw a need in the Fayette County area and, wanting to help people, was tossing around ideas in her head on how best to do this.

    She saw a need to help people clothe their families, especially younger children and teenagers, when they are hard-pressed to pay their bills, handle school expenses and put food on their table. Although clothes are a necessity, they are not at the top of the have-to-have list.

  • Faye “DeeDee” Diveley recently celebrated her 40th anniversary of serving others through her work at Fayette County Hospital and Long Term Care. She worked a brief time as an aide, when she was very young, then as an LPN.

  • “I just kind of knew from about the age of 14 that was what the Lord had given me the gifts to do and to be."

    That's what Mary Lou Whitten said, in regard to her notable and lengthy work and contributions in the nursing/teaching field. 

    “I also had a favorite aunt, Fleeta Mattes, who was a nurse, and I think just being around her and watching her probably  contributed to it. But I felt the Lord gave me the gifts and I just took it from there. I never even thought about being anything but a nurse.”

  • Shirley (Sperry) Curry has always spoken in a soft, demure voice, and had a gentle, unassuming and cheerful, disposition. However, she was firm and steadfast in her beliefs, standards and morals.

    She was a pleasant co-worker and a good friend, and always carried her own weight. She never shirked what she felt was her responsibility at the workplace or in her home as a housewife to her husband, Jim Curry, and mother to their four children: John, Marcia, Deborah and Tom.

  • A framed photograph in Roy Elliott’s room shows his shirt tail being cut off, a traditional ritual when someone becomes a licensed airplane pilot.

    A member of Fayette County Civil Defense (now Emergency Management Agency)  for years, he was a jack-of-all-trades with many skills, until a fateful day three years ago when a tree he was trimming fell on him, fracturing his back in two places. Parkinson’s disease entered the picture, rendering him unable to perform routine daily activities.

  • At last Wednesday’s Lenten Luncheon at First United Methodist Church in Vandalia, Beth Hoffman spoke on the topic of “sacrifice.”

    Sharing in a sincere manner, Hoffman spoke of a time in her life that was a personal struggle, a time of sacrifice that she later came to see as a blessed time, and a time of growth spiritually.

    An accomplished vocalist, she also provided inspirational music for the program, performing a duet with her daughter, Megan.

  • Stefanie Montgomery is well into her second year as director of youth ministry at First United Methodist Church in Vandalia, accomplishing a goal she has had since a young girl – working with and helping teens.

  • The Rev. Joseph Havrilka, often referred to as the new priest of Mother of Dolors Catholic Church in Vandalia, has followed his calling for God’s service in several states, and in various areas of service. He came to Vandalia in July 2009.

    A native of Pana, he has lived in Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas in previous assignments with the Catholic Church. He taught in parochial schools, and before coming to Vandalia, was a hospital chaplain in Alton. He also filled in on weekends for priests who were ill or on vacation.

  • Other than the Statehouse, no other building in Vandalia has captured the imagination of the people of Vandalia like The Depot.

  • Following Matt Philbrick’s inspirational message at the recent Lenten Luncheon at First Christian Church in Vandalia, the pastor of the host church, the Rev. Robert Francisco, further blessed the meeting as he gave a beautiful rendition of “Bethlehem Morning,” sung with such reverence that it could have served as the benediction. He has been pasturing churches since 1992.

    Meet Francsico  and his wife, Euna.

    A Bit of History

  • The word “phantom” can be defined as an apparition or an illusion. However, if a lawbreaker would come face-to-face with “Phantom,” the German shepherd who is a member of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office’s team, the perpetrator would have no illusion about Phantom’s size, strength and abilities to carry out his trained skills and duties in order to keep the Fayette County citizens and environment safe.

  • He will be a first-time speaker at the first 2010 Lenten Luncheon next Wednesday at noon at First Christian Church in Vandalia. It will be an opportunity to meet him as he shares his faith with the community in the spirit of this reverent Easter season.

    He may be referred to as “the new kid on the block,” but Matt Philbrick, the new minister of youth at the First Baptist Church in Vandalia, is not new to his chosen work with youth, something he feels that was not just of his choosing, but also of the Lord’s calling.

  • Marie Sutton is a familiar face in the area, as a local volunteer for causes such as Evergreen Outreach and a member of First United Methodist Church.

    Her manner is quiet, unassuming, gentle and kind, and her voice is soft with the charming accent of her native homeland, Czechoslovakia. She keeps busy and is always willing to lend a helping hand.