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

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Friday, April 22, 2011 Mourns the Passing of Jim Bell

Jimmie D. Bell, 73, Clinton, died at 10 a.m. Wednesday (April 20, 2011) at Farmer City Rehab & Health Care Center, Farmer City.

His funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton. Ernie Harvey Jr. will officiate. Burial will be at Mausoleum Park Cemetery, Clinton. Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Calvert Funeral Home, Clinton. Memorials may be made to Elks Crippled Children Foundation.

He was born May 12, 1937, in DeWitt County, son of Lloyd R. Bell and Ina Ogelsby.

He is survived by three daughters, Tammy (Kurt) Schnake, Carlock; Shelley (Marvin Jr.) Finfrock, Clinton; and Beth (Terry) Followell, Weldon; four grandchildren, Ryan Hearon, Marvin Finfrock III, Megan Finfrock and Tiffany (Brice) Carr; one great-grandchild, Madison Hearon; and one brother, Richard Bell, Stuttgart, Ark.

He was preceded in death by one sister and one grandson, Adam Hearon.

He was an Army veteran, having served in the National Guard.

He was a lifelong DeWitt County resident and farmer. He was a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. He loved the Cubs and especially the Fighting Illini.

Special thank you to Kenny Nolting for caring dedication in the last years of Jim’s life

Jim was a well regarded member of the Wapella community, #1 neighboring farmer of all time, and a Champion Cattle farmer. Bell coached the Clinton Celtics in a hard fought, but ultimately futile effort in a 5th Grade YMCA Championship game against a polished Wapella squad in 1974.

A sportsman and sports enthusiast, Jim was the point man for all things related to the Fighting Illini and was a wealth of scouting and analytical information about the Illini. Bell was also a great supporter of University of Illinois alumni efforts, and was always encouraging others to support the academic and athletic programs at the university.

An Army-National Guard Veteran, all flags fly at half mast for Jim Bell.

Sunday, April 17, 2011 Mourns the Passing of Roberta Thomas

Anna RoBerta McCarthy Thomas, 94, of Heyworth passed away Friday (April 15, 2011) at LeRoy Manor, LeRoy.

Her funeral will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Calvert-Belangee-Bruce Funeral Home, Heyworth. The Rev. Amanda Richards of the United Church of Heyworth will officiate. Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Tuesday before the service at the funeral home. Burial will be in Oak Grove Cemetery, LeRoy.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the United Church of Heyworth, the Heyworth Public Library or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
RoBerta was born Jan. 8, 1917, in Saybrook to Harry and Pearl Wilhelm McCarthy and was married to Maxwell Thomas, who preceded her in death on July 12, 1997. She was also preceded in death by her parents and her sister, Pauline McCarthy.

Mrs. Thomas is survived by two cousins in Indiana; a sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Kenneth and Mabel Adams of LeRoy; niece and nephew Karen Osolin and Myron Adams; and additional area nephews.

She graduated from Illinois State University and taught school for 36 years at LeRoy, Danville, and Wapella, and until 1990 substitute taught at Heyworth schools.

RoBerta was a member of the United Church of Heyworth, having served her church as an usher, as a delegate to BroMenn Hospital, as a trustee, as a Sunday school teacher in her younger years, and as a member of the church’s administrative board for more than 30 years and as its secretary for more than 25 years, closing in her twilight years as a church quilter once a week.

Mrs. Thomas had also been active as a member of the Heyworth Women’s Club and was a member of the Retired Teachers Association.

In 1963, she was elected as a member of the Heyworth Library Board, which she served as secretary from 1967 until she resigned in 1990, when she became vice president. She retired from the library board in May 2001 upon completion of her last term as vice president.

Mrs. Thomas was a well regarded member of the Wapella Community, and highly respected as a teacher and educational leader in the Wapella Schools System. Her professionalism and academic rigor, and general excellence are credits to our schools and valued by all the Wapella alumni who received instruction from Mrs. Thomas.

Our condolences to the Thomas family.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wapella Baseball Circa 1946

Here is a shot from a Wapella Baseball team circa 1946 from my old cousin Kenny Powers, featuring his Dad, Kenneth "Cap" Powers, and my Dad, Leo Powers. Others in the picture are Don Powers, Leo "Stick" O'Brien, Richard Cundiff, Gene Kiley, Vernell Greene, Dick Payne, Carl Troxel, at least one of the great Leggets, Gene Borland, and a few others I should recognize but don't.

Click on the photo for greater detail.

Topping it off JM Karr adds an Ebay listing for a full Wapella Baseball uniform from what looks to be the same era (but a different uniform), made out of wool, which must have been very pleasant on a hot Wapella afternoon.

Have fun at the ballpark!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Put Your Heist on Hold: Ski Championship Won by Wapella in Some Kind of Mangled Roundabout Way

Tom Ryan (WHS '51, pictured in a recent portrayal by George Clooney, with beard) could really tear up the slopes on Swisher Hill in his day, so it is no surprise that his granddaughter Katie Ryan qualified for some kind of Olympic thing out in Aspen Colorado. Tom Ryan, fleet of foot, and a fancy dresser, was, is, and will always be a great Wapella Wildcat.

Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club racer Katie Ryan put an exclamation point on her return to competition this weekend after a broken arm. The 18 year-old alpine ski racer won the junior division (ages 19 and under) super-G at the U.S. Alpine National Championships at Winter Park on Saturday, April 2.

Ryan placed ninth overall in the one-run competition against competition including the best of the U.S. Ski Team. According to a report from, "The women were up first in the Rocky Mountain sun shine on a tricky, turny course that saw 18 racers fail to finish. "It was technical, definitely more gates and shorter distances than a normal super G but the snow set up better than the GS yesterday so it ran pretty smooth and good," said overall champion Julia Mauncuso."
According to the report, Ryan was quoted as saying, "it's really cool to be here with the World Cup racers, I've looked up to them for a long time and obviously watching them on World Cup has been so cool. You kind of try to ski like them and when they are right in front of you it's like the perfect opportunity to learn. Running 15 I just kind of tried to stay in their track."

Her results confirm her invitation to train with the U.S. Ski Team's Development Team this summer and according to AVSC Alpine coach Kent Towlerton, having access to the team's resources and expertise provides a big boost. "She's getting back in the saddle and getting her timing back after being out for six weeks," said Towlerton. "Having fresh legs at this point in the season probably helped, but she's strong in speed regardless even with a brace on her arm." Both Ryan and Towlerton are headed out west to Washington State and Oregon for the Western Region Spring Series in April. Ryan will start training with the U.S. Team on May 1st at Mammoth Mountain in California. "Her confidence is being built back to where Katie knows she can throw down," said Towlerton.

Photo caption: AVSC's Katie Ryan (center) on the podium at Winter Park with Libby Gibson (left) from Vermont and Taylor Rapley from New Zealand

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Would you bat an eye?

Seriously, if you saw these two walking the streets of Wapella, would you even bat an eye?

What would tip you off that something is amiss in the Village?

Randy Quaid Spotted in Wapella

It's right there in Black and White in the Pantagraph. Everyone's favorite "Cousin Eddie", Randy Quaid, was shaken up a bit by a heist at Casey's.

Quaid is a big man, so he may have given the heisters a bit of a scare.

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