News and Observations from Wapella, Illinois: Home of the Wildcats.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wapella Academics: A pre-Wildcat History.

Received an email from a friend in Connecticut who is a Knight of Columbus (KC) suggesting Sainthood for a Nun who started the school pictured here, Mallinckrodt Academy, named for Blessed Pauline von Mallinckrodt who started the school in 1915 in Wilmette, Illinois, where I live now.

This got me thinking about these type of institutions, sort of a High School, sort of a Junior College that existed in the US in the early 1900's. Some of them were just about orphan homes, with some good qualities typically ignored by the historians (as well as the documented bad qualities). Others were finishing schools for country schools, and a gateway to a full fledged University.

WHS had it's first graduating class for a 3 year high school in 1917 (correct me if I am wrong), which I think was the year my grandfather Ed Powers graduated. He went to finishing school on the battlefields of France, but also was able to attend St. Bede's Academy in Peru, Illinois at some point. My Uncle Robert Donovan taught at St. Bede's as well.

My Aunt, Madeline Powers (Kelly) went to St. Joseph's (check that name) Academy in Bloomington, which was a girls school located next to Holy Trinity Church, perhaps Holy Trinity High (Central Catholic) was not co-ed at that time. There was also a St. Mary's school associated with Holy Trinity, which was not the same as St. Mary's Church on the West Side.

Kankakee had a St. Viattor's, alma mater of Abp. Fulton Sheen of El Paso, Illinois, now the home of Olivet Nazarene. There must have been others that I am not listing or remembering in Ottawa-Marquette, Peoria, Decatur. Clinton, of course, had St. John's Parochial School, which had more than a few Wapella youth in attendance, though it was more like a grade school or junior high than an academy (or am I mixed up?)

Anyway, looking for some input here on others who made the trek to the glories of Kankakee and Peru to finish their education. I suspect more Wildcats went to Ypres, Bataan, and Inchon than ever made it to an Academy, but nonetheless, would be nice to know, if our grand Wildcat public had some rememberance of these types of institutions.

Hat Tip to the Veeman for historical info on Illinois High Schools. One of the best sites on the internet, bar none, for research on Wapella related educational issues.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Eulogy for Diz Finger

I was lucky enough to attend Jerome "Diz" Finger's memorial service yesterday, and talk to several great friends and relatives, but most appreciated hearing Jim Holland eulogize Dizzy Finger in Jimmy's complete package of a performance. A few tall tales, a few spritualisms, and mostly a respectful admiration of a great friend, relative and neighbor.

Jim centered his theme around Dizzy's resemblance to Archie Campbell, which may be one of the only eulogies ever to touch on that subject. Jim asked me to publish a video of a classic bit of Archie Campbell comedy, with a bow of the head to Jerome "Dizzy" Finger, this one titled "That's Good, No, That's Bad"

The service was inspiring and a profound. The Wapella Christian Church never looked better, and the Bible readings were apt stressing abidance and acceptance of what is permanent and what is transitory. The Wapella Christians are great ones for listing the verses in reference to the homily, providing context to the commentary, and giving me an opportunity to quiz our readers on one of my favorite verses.

What comic strip character was prone to quote 1 Corinthians 15:10 to explain his philosophy of life? No fair searching on the internet, you have to have this one memorized to win.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Half Mast's for Jerome Finger

Jerome "Diz" Finger, 72, Wapella, died at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday (April 22, 2009) at St. John's Hospital, Springfield.

His funeral will be at noon Saturday at the Wapella Christian Church, Wapella, with James McMillion officiating. Graveside rites will be at 11 a.m. Monday at Oak Park Cemetery, Clinton, with military honors at the gravesite. Friends may call from 10 a.m. until noon Saturday at the church. Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton, is in charge of arrangements.

Memorials may be made to Wapella Christian Church.

He was born Oct. 23, 1936, at Waynesville, son of Daniel and Lorine Harvey Finger. He married Julia Ann Mearida on Dec. 3, 1960, at Clinton.

Surviving are his wife, Judy Finger, Wapella; one son, Jeff (Jo) Finger, Wapella; two grandsons, Bryan Finger and Michael Finger, Wapella; mother-in-law, Carmen Mearida, Wapella; sisters-in-law, Sherry Fryman and Dorotha Finger; nieces and nephews, Shelley and Jim Holland; Kim and Kevin Mandrell; Kelly and Norm Simmons; Derek and Beth Fryman; Terri Galloway; and Steve Ross; and Tina Coppenbarger; several great nieces and nephews; and his granddog, Minnie.

He was preceded in death by his parents; one brother, Raymond; and one sister, Waunita.

Diz retired from Wallace Business Forms in 1996 after 36 years of service as a Pressman. He then enjoyed working at the Clinton Lake & Harvest with Bob Thomas & Ron Ferguson. He was a former member of Wapella School Board and was treasurer of Wapella Sesquencential Committee. He worked on the Community Center and enjoyed planting trees in Wapella and also loved to walk.

He was a loving papa and enjoyed his family and friends at McDonald's. He was a good man and would help anyone at any time. Diz Finger was a good neighbor, terrific volunteer and a welcome participant in the civic society of the Village of Wapella.

He was a member of Wapella Christian Church and DeWitt Masonic Lodge 84 AF&AM. He was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. All flags half mast please, for Jerome Finger.

Thursday, April 23, 2009 Mourns the Passing of Jerome Finger

Jerome "Diz" Finger, 72, of Wapella died at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday (April 22, 2009) at St. John's Hospital, Springfield. Funeral arrangements were incomplete at Calvert Funeral Home, 201 S. Center St., Clinton. More details to follow.

Dizzy Finger was a pillar of the Wapella community and will be sadly missed by all. Our condolences to the Finger families.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lady Wildcats Trek To Heyworth

Some intrepid Lady Wildcats make the happy journey to the Heyworth American Legion the other night, and recorded their visit with one of those new fangled digital cameras via Lady Wildcat Diane Green.

As always, the Heyworth American Legion serves up some real Hornet Hospitality to Wapella visitors.

A good time was had by all and no injuries were reported as of press time.

Raul Castro Looking Sharp

Tired of being the quiet brother while Fidel gets all the headlines, Raul Castro looks to have had a makeover, that does him up right

Here's a good shot of Cuban Strongman, and occasional commenter Raul Castro. He may have got hose sunglasses at the Star Station in Clinton in 1978.

Thursday, April 16, 2009 Mourns the Passing of John McNees

John W. McNees, 78, Clinton, died at 1:30 p.m. Saturday (April 11, 2009) at Decatur Memorial Hospital, Decatur.

His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton, with James McMillion officiating, and with Masonic rites. Burial will be in Mausoleum Park Cemetery, Clinton. Friends may call from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.

Memorials may be made to the Wapella Christian Church or American Legion Post 103 of Clinton.

He was born July 7, 1930, in Vernon, Ala., son of Willie O. and Anna May Hankins McNees. He married Mattie Harney on Sept. 2, 1949, in Clinton. Mattie passed away March 29, 1986. He later married Lila J. Riddle on Jan. 5, 1987, in Ashville, N.C.

He is survived by his wife, Lila J. McNees, Clinton; one son, Ben (Kathy) McNees, Clinton; one daughter, Penny (David) Nohr, Alaska; two stepsons; one stepdaughter; three nieces; one nephew; one sister, Pearl Watson, Columbus, Miss.; three grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; six stepgrandchildren; and three stepgreat-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by four brothers and one sister.

He was a member of the Wapella Christian Church.

He was a retired engineer from Illinois Central Gulf Railroad.

He was a member of DeWitt Masonic Lodge 84 AF&AM and of American Legion Post 103 in Clinton.

Our condolences to the McNees, Riddle, an Wheat families. The Flag flies at half mast for U.S. Air Force veteran John McNees.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

RIP Mark FIdrych

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, mid 1970's baseball phenom has died in a mahinery accident at age 54. Fidrych was rookie of the year in 1976 coming in at 19-9 for the Detroit Tigers, and was a certified character.

Here's John Smoltz on his rememberances of Mark Fidrych

John Smoltz was just 9 years old, but already starting to love baseball. In particular, Smoltz loved his hometown Detroit Tigers.

During that summer of 1976, one pitcher left an indelible mark on Smoltz. His name? Mark "The Bird" Fidrych.

Like a lot of other people around baseball, Smoltz, the right-hander for the Boston Red Sox, was saddened to hear that Fidrych died in an apparent accident on his Massachusetts farm on Monday. Fidrych was 54 years old.

"I watched every game he pitched," Smoltz said. "It's a sad day for Detroit when you think about what he brought to that city. Excitement and fun -- he packed that stadium. There were more people at his games than any other games. He just brought life to the mound in a way we hadn't seen in a long time."

During that 1976 season, Fidrych went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA, pitching an astounding 24 complete games.

More than what Fidrych did, it was the way he did it.

"I remember going to a game where he pitched 10 or 11 innings against the Yankees," said Smoltz. "He pitched a lot of complete games, a lot of innings. He was always in every game. He didn't have the most dominating stuff but found a way to compete and get the ball to go where he wanted it to."

Fidrych, of course, would often literally talk to the ball between pitches.

"He was everything you could imagine as a kid growing up wanting to see him do well," Smoltz said. "People stayed to watch him pitch, waited until he was done. They gave him standing ovations every chance they could."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

From McLeansboro to the Hall of Fame

Three cheers for Jerry Sloan, the 1960 high school all-stater from Mcleansboro county seat of Hamilton County Illinois, before goihng on to be an Evansville Purple Ace and Chicago Bull. Sloan was inducted this week (along with Michael Jordan) at a ceremony in Detroit.

After scoring more than 10,000 points in an excellent playing career with the Bulls, Jerry Sloan went on to coach the Bulls, then the Utah Jazz to more than 1000 victories. He is the only coach in NBA history with 1,000 wins for one team, and has signed on to coach another year with Utah.

Described as "hard-nosed" with a "fiery attitude" Sloan struck a chord with Chicago fans and made him an instant hero. His No. 4 jersey was the first to be retired by the franchise.

Here's a link to another fine website, for more information on our good neighbors to the South. Here's a good story or two about the 1970's Bulls from Jerry. Way to go Jerry Sloan!

Added quiz: Name another former pro Basketball Player from McLeansboro. He is also an Illinois politician. This 6ft 3in guard outscored Chicago Carver's Cazzie Russel in the 1962 IHSA tournament leading McLeansboro to a respectable 4th place finish.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Politics 1885 Style: First We Fire all The Postmen

Nothing lights up Wapella like a political squabble. Old grudges meet new grudges; poison pens, dust-ups, and spiteful accusations and recriminations, the very things that keep politics interesting and agitation humming along. This may seems like a modern phenomena, but history tells us otherwise, like this gem:

Stevenson served as first assistant postmaster general under Grover Cleveland in 1885. During that time he fired over 40,000 Republican workers and replaced them with Democrats from the South. The Republican-controlled U.S. Congress did not forget this: when Stevenson was nominated for a federal judgeship, he was defeated for confirmation by the same people who never forgot his 1885 purge.

Ah, the good old days, when the postman got fired for being in the wrong political party. So where to go to get more information about the charming times of politics past in Central Illinois? I had to look no further than my e-mail inbox for a notice from Sen. Adlai Stevenson III to pass on an invitation for Wapella history and political buffs to the Milner Library:

Who: Adlai Stevenson III, former U.S. senator

What: Speaks on “Democracy Remembered: Abraham Lincoln, Jesse Fell and the
Stevensons,” part of the Illinois State University Spring Speaker Series

When: 2 p.m. Thursday April 9th

Where: ISU’s Milner Library, main floor

More information: Event is free and open to the public; for special
accommodations, call (309) 438-7402. To learn more about the Bloomington
Stevensons, visit and

The event is free. I have a copy of the book and it is very entertaining. You can pick one up here for $29.95. If you go, I recommend asking Sen. Stevenson about Ralph Kiley, who did some oil business with Adlai 2 in his day.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wapella Welcomes Emma Sue Mowery welcomes Emma Sue Mowery into the world, and sends out hearty congratulations to Adam Mowery, son of Larry and Judy (Schmid) Mowery, and the entire extended families.

Emma Sue was born at 4:32 on 4/1, and comes in at 7lbs, 4ozs, and is 17 and 1/2 inches long.

Congrats everybody!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Obituary for Bill Morris

From the Pantagraph

Kenneth H. "Bill" Morris, 86, Wapella, died at 11:40 p.m. Monday (March 30, 2009) at his family residence in Wapella.

His graveside service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Long Point Cemetery, Wapella, with J. Kent Hickerson officiating. There will be no visitation. Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton is in charge of arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Bill Morris Memorial Fund.

He was born Oct. 15, 1922, in Wapella, son of Proctor and Blanche Cox Morris. He married Carol Ann Ellis on Dec. 23, 1950, in Wapella.

He is survived by his wife, Carol Morris, Wapella; one son, Kenneth W. (Tonja) Morris, LeRoy; one daughter, Kim (Bradley) Karr, Wapella; two granddaughters, Sada (Ryan) McGee, DeWitt, and Linn (Chad) Schmid, Wapella; five grandsons, Jason (Trudy) Karr, Clinton; John (Ronnie Beach) Karr, Heyworth; David Taylor, Wapella; Brandon Karr, Wapella; and Kenneth Tyler Morris, Wapella; three great-grandsons, Blake Karr, Nick Zenger and Nate Zenger; three great-granddaughters, Savannah McGee; Casey and Carley Cotner; three sisters, Juanita Stephenson, Grayson, Ga.; Mary (John) Holland, Clinton; and Helen (Richard) Chapman, Clinton; and one brother, Jerry (Barbara) Morris, Wapella.

He was preceded in death by his parents; three sisters, Doris Kathleen Morris, Emma Colleen Carl and Deloris J. Duncan; two brothers, Robert Vern Morris and Jack Roy Morris; and one granddaughter, Amber Dee Taylor.

Bill worked for Delaney's, Haysenwinklie, and Pillsbury Elevators in Wapella before retiring after many years in 1986.

He was a former member of the Wapella Fire Department and former fire chief and also former mayor of Wapella.

All Flags Half Mast Please for Bill Morris

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