By Steve Robinson | August 30, 2015 - 10:54 pm
Posted in Category: Heyworth, The Normalite

Steve RobinsonFrom all accounts, what I heard about Heyworth High School student Noah Wiseman from his folks, best pal, and that friend’s mother is that he was an astute, dedicated, determined young man. Even though he was at an age when most kids are just figuring out what their life’s goal ought to be, the 16-year-old already had the blueprint for his life drawn out.

That’s what made losing him on June 24, 2014 so difficult to accept – not just for his loved ones – his parents, older brother and sister-in-law. It forced his friends and the Town of Heyworth to cope, as well.

His death hit the small community of Heyworth hard. Several hundred people – students, Heyworth High football teammates, and Noah’s friends and family attended Noah’s visitation and funeral services. There, they shared stories about Noah’s friendship, kindness, and generosity, and how his life had impacted theirs.

Now, almost 15 months later, Noah’s father, Clay Wiseman, explained his son “was a very mature 16-year-old.”

“He knew what his plans were in this world,” Clay explained, his voice trailing off. “He knew what his plan was for his life. His goal was to play football in college. He worked very hard at it.”

And he was a kid with a big infectious smile, his parents explained. He also loved playing football, the game he began playing as part of the Town’s Junior Football League, starting in grade school.

Had things played out the way the young man had hoped, he would have gone into the Army following college, training to become a Navy SEAL sometime down the road. To prep for college football life, he attended several recruiting camps including one in Chicago, where its organizers determine who attends. He was selected out of this camp to attend an elite camp in Ohio named “Top Gun”. “Noah was convinced he’d be picked for the ‘Top Gun’ camp,” Clay Wiseman relayed. He was chosen for that camp, but unfortunately, this camp was in July, 2014. A camp he never got to attend.

It just wasn’t football where Noah’s determination made it presence known, his father said. Regardless of task, Clay Wiseman said, his son “set his goals high.” His mother, Sue Wiseman, remembers a kid going into his junior year in the summer of 2014 “who was always sensitive to other peoples’ needs and wants. He was just a very loving kid.”

He was a loving kid who, maybe, unlike most of his peers, paid a little more attention to news of the day because his father had a car radio tuned to news-talk stations. Paying attention to such things helped to shape Noah as “a very, very patriotic individual,” Clay Wiseman said of his youngest of two sons. “For 16-years-old, he loved America.”

If you were a Heyworth High student and friend of Noah’s, you visited the Wisemans regularly “in a house all the kids came to,” Clay Wiseman explained. But that helped, it appears, the Wisemans discover who Noah considered his friends, and gave his parents an insight into the young man’s personal selection criteria for being with those friends.

Clay said his son admitted to him he felt a person’s character was important in choosing friends. “He was a leader,” Clay Wiseman said of Noah. “He wasn’t a follower.”

Jacob Day was in high school with Noah at Heyworth High, and like all teen boys, when paired together, fun is had and memories made. The memories that make Jacob Day laugh are the time Noah finished football practice but kept his helmet on, wearing it as he drove home, sitting behind the wheel of the family truck, not to mention the time he and Noah raced down the Wiseman’s basement stairs while tucked into sleeping bags. Friends like that you don’t forget.

And friends like Julie Day are ones you don’t say no to when they offer help, Clay Wiseman admits.

Day’s brainchild was to begin a scholarship in Noah Wiseman’s honor. The “Win For Wiseman” Scholarship will be a guaranteed commitment for each senior class for at least the first five years. The scholarship will be awarded each year to an HHS senior football player who attends a college or university after graduating from high school by writing an essay on a given topic. The topic for the essay will be determined annually by the Wiseman family. This year, the judging for the inaugural prize will be determined by a third party.

Julie Day wanted to do something to honor Noah’s memory and approached the Wisemans about starting a scholarship. There’s hope the project can raise $5,000 annually to give to a deserving student. The deadline to donate money currently is Feb. 1, 2016. The scholarship will be given at the annual awards banquet next spring. An independent third party will serve as judge of the submissions turned in.

Persons wanting more information or wishing to make a donation may contact Day either by phone at 309-531-0387 or by e-mail at jester259jd@yahoo.com

Healing will come in time for the Wisemans. The scholarship will be a help to a deserving student. Put together, the memories his family has and the community keeping his name alive will make sure Noah Wiseman’s life is not forgotten.

Normal 150 YearsNORMAL – Illinois State University began its existence as Normal University and had its cornerstone officially placed with a Bible inserted into the cornerstone of the Old Main Building in August 1857, explained Dr. Paul Holsinger, professor emeritus of History at Illinois State University. Holsinger spoke at the first in a series of lectures chronicling the history of Normal, which is celebrating its 150th Anniversary. A major three-day celebration is scheduled for Sept. 11-13 in Uptown. Holsinger’s talk was titled, “The Past is (Indeed) Prologue: Normal, Illinois. Early Years. 1853-1967.”

ISU’s birth was the subject of the first of a series of lectures on the Town’s history, presented in the Chambers of the Normal Town Council on Aug. 30. Roughly 100 people sat attentively as Holsinger laid out the Town’s earliest moments. “

By the time of that dedication, “several houses had already been erected,” Holsinger pointed out with others under construction. Town Founder Jesse W. Fell was credited with planting roughly 38,000 varying types of trees in the community before his death in 1887. At the time of Fell’s death, Normal Town Council members compared the Town losing him to a family losing its father.

Holsinger said it was 1858 when citizens of the county decided to call their township Normal. Holsinger added other suggestions such as Rustic were proposed, “But Normal Township it became and Normal Township it has remained to this day.” Naming the township was comparatively easy to naming the Town. In fact, he explained, merely another decade passed before the organizing of the Town would be formally concluded.

Citizens at the time of Normal’s formation were far more concerned with agriculture than education despite the new University’s stated goal of educating future teachers, Holsinger said. By 1859, there were nearly 1,000 owner-operator farmed acres, some which were in view of the new campus. The farms harvested various kinds of fruit – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. A total of 847 people were shown to be living in the area by the 1860 census

“By that time, the Town could have no other name than Normal,” Holsinger reported. To solidify that thought, a Post Office was established, with Fell as Postmaster in June 1860. Nearly 75 years later, and growing out of the Great Depression came two significant events, one national, one local, but both important to the long-range future of Normal. Though the town had had a post office since 1861, it had been almost a fly-by-night operation. Door-to-door delivery did not occur until the 20th century. Almost every few years, the offices had moved from one location to another, mostly in spaces hardly large enough to turn around in. With the coming of the New Deal and its huge influx of public works projects, however, the town decided to ask the government if it would build Normal a permanent building to house all the various mail requirements. In late 1933, after much persuasion, the government agreed. After an extended search, it settled on property where one of the last large homes on North Street stood. The home was razed and construction of a new post office building was started in 1934. It is, with its New Deal inspired and funded murals, obviously, still in use today.

In April 1861, with the Civil War beginning, University President Charles Hovey could be seen marching male students in close order drills. Those drills, Holsinger said, took place on land we commonly know now as being near Mulberry St. and College Ave. The Battle Of Bull Run preceded Hovey resigning his University post and starting an Army Regiment, the Illinois 33rd, or “Teachers’ Regiment.”

In 1862, men who remained behind during the war were kept busy helping construct a walkway linking the two communities. Holsinger said his research showed that by the time the Civil War ended, it was possible to walk from Bloomington’s southern boundary to University property in Normal.

In fall 1864, voters passed a moratorium asking the State to establish a home for children left orphans by the war. The following spring, Fell managed to raise enough capital for the project to be built, Holsinger explained, and although it wasn’t finished until 1867, it was christened the Illinois Soldiers’ And Sailors’ Children’s School.

A Sept. 18, 1865 meeting to decide whether to incorporate the Town drew just 37 men. Two weeks later, at a second meeting to appoint Town Trustees, five men were elected. The Town’s new charter was approved on Feb. 15, 1866, and Normal became the community’s name.

Holsinger said churches began looking for individual sites in which to meet. Over the next few years, Congregationists, Methodists, Baptists, Disciples of Christ, and Presbyterians had established houses of worship for themselves.

While the various religious denominations could be indicated by houses of worship, the Town’s history with non-whites began as early as the late 1880s with Black families coming to work here, moving from the Upper South, as Holsinger geographically described it. He referenced an April 1884 article in The Pantagraph, for instance, reporting that 21 different Black families, all from Kentucky, had come in a group to settle in town. “At a time when race was perhaps the greatest divider of peoples, Normal unquestionably had a disproportionately large number of African-American residents,” Holsinger said. “They started churches of their own, built new homes, and, though informally segregated, more by money than by the color of their skin, the Black community thrived.”

But Holsinger relayed that, by 1907, “Things in Normal had reached such a state that, no matter how many times one repeated the words ‘great family town,’ every sensible person understood that drastic change was necessary for the community.” It was then that a new group of reformers, calling themselves the Normal Improvement Association (NIA), was formed, he explained and the group persuaded the president of the University, now known as Illinois State Normal University, Economics Professor O. L. Manchester, to run for mayor on a reform ticket dedicated to change. Manchester did win and he and NIA proposed rapid changes which followed. Among those changes: The town’s debt, by that time, far more than town taxes could bring in a year, was quickly turned into bonds which voters now approved by more than a 2-to-1 ratio. Many streets were paved –at last — lights went up and stayed up, new businesses were encouraged to relocate to town. Even a new newspaper, dubbed The Normalite, was founded to spread the reform message. Manchester served for the next ten years, not leaving office until 1918.

Because Fell was determined to keep Normal dry, when Prohibition was imposed in 1920 and its years in practice until 1933 caused no upheaval in Normal, as it turned out to be for a typically wet Bloomington, Holsinger said. Where Bloomington faced the shuttering of its hometown brewery and the closing of its dozens of saloons, Normal carried on business as usual, he explained. All that changed dramatically in late 1933, however, with the ratification of the 21st Amendment ending Prohibition once and for all.

Holsinger said Normal Town Council looked for ways to hold beer sales down, setting restrictive licensing rules among other tactics, but citizens would find advertisements in newspapers offering various beers and wines at restaurants throughout town. The new Shell Inn located on South Main St. and the corner of Virginia Ave. was one of those advertisers. Opened by local businessman Gus Belt as an attachment to his gas station on that corner, The Inn, “night after night, welcomed residents with an all-you-could-eat catfish or fried turtle dinner along with bottles and yet more bottles of Blatz Old Heidelberg Beer, all for only 25 cents,” Holsinger said. In August 1934, Hosinger added, “The restaurant also started offering ‘steak hamburgers’ on Purity Ann buns, a name that ultimately was changed to the now easily-recognized ‘steakburgers.’”

“In 1937, the Town of Normal got its first ‘real’ movie theater, Holsinger explained, referring to The Normal Theater. “Motion pictures had been shown in Normal for several years during the decade of the Teens in what had been the original First Christian Church building at the corner of Broadway and Ash Streets, the later location of the town’s Masonic Lodge, but it had closed for good in the early 1920s. The Normal Theater, with its Art Deco design and its superb acoustics, obviously still stands almost eighty years after its original opening.”

Holsinger pointed out that ISU, then known as ISNU in 1956, hired Dr. Robert Bone from the University of Illinois as its new president replacing Raymond Fairchild. Bone’s background was as an historian rather than a professional specialist in education, Holsinger said, and thus, “had no problem in seeing the need for positive change.” Though many of his older faculty objected bitterly to any change in the curriculum, Bone took an open approach which only served to encourage many of the younger faculty, often males, and students of all sorts to accelerate their drive for an end to Normal’s educational exclusivity in terms of just being a college to instruct teachers.

“By the beginning of the 1960s, the proverbial handwriting was on the wall,” Holsinger said with the State legislature finally acquiesced to the idea of changing ISNU’s mission. On January 1, 1964, ISNU ceased to exist. In its place came “Illinois State University at Normal” and, eventually, just ISU.

Normal 150 YearsNORMAL – We all have come to know the Town of Normal as a bustling, growing community with nearly all the necessities and comforts we are accustomed to being exposed to in this day and age.

But it didn’t start that way. How it started was the subject of the first of a series of lectures on the Town’s history, presented in the Chambers of the Normal Town Council on Sunday by Dr. Paul Holsinger, professor emeritus of History at Illinois State University.

Roughly 100 people sat attentively as Holsinger laid out the Town’s earliest moments. “There were miles and miles of grasslands” in the 1850s in the part of the state now known as Normal, Holsinger explained. He said that where others looked at it saw endless prairie, Bloomington lawyer Jesse W. Fell saw potential for a future community. “He expressed the idea that the land had much potential, and it would make a perfect location for a future town,” Holsinger said of Fell’s vision.

Fell’s friends thought it would be foolish to move so far from Bloomington – two miles – where creature comforts of the day were plentiful. It wasn’t until the summer of 1853 that two railroads – Illinois Central and the Chicago & Mississippi, later known as the Chicago & Alton Railroad – began running through the area. The new rail station was manned by its first station master, William McCambridge.

The first step to formally establishing a town came in June 1854 when Fell and four business associates – R.R. Landon, L. R. Case, C. W. Holder, and L. C. Blakeslee – bought up 200 parcels of land and offered them for sale to buyers for anywhere between $30-$50 each. They dubbed the Town North Bloomington.

With the land sale, Holsinger said, “The wheels were set in motion for the creation of today’s Normal.” One of the first steps Fell took for the new community, Holsinger explained, was to plant thousands of trees – the first signs of planting roots, literally in the area.

The other step Fell took was “to ensure that it was liquor free,” Holsinger said. Holsinger added, Fell sought to create “the most temperanced Town in Illinois.”

Holsinger said Fell knew the new community wouldn’t succeed unless it had something of value – a major business, a university, an agriculture hub.” Fell sought to bring a college, or maybe a seminary to the new town, Holsinger explained. Fell even issued an invitation to famed horticulturist Horace Mann to visit and possibly settle here, hoping Mann’s ideas would upgrade the area further. Mann declined the invitation.

Fell’s dream of establishing a university got a boost when the Illinois General Assembly voted to establish, as Holsinger explained, “A so-called Normal University, where future teachers could be trained in the most advanced techniques of the day.” Fell used some of his own money — and that of his friends – toward the goal, the prize for the community that could raise the most cash to Springfield.

Thanks to Fell and cohorts, North Bloomington turned in $141,725. Peoria came up short with $80,000. The State Board of Education, a group in its infancy itself at the time, Holsinger explained, declared the new University should be settled as a result, “On 160 acres in North Bloomington.”

By Steve Robinson | - 10:30 pm
Posted in Category: LeRoy, Sports, The Normalite

FootballLeROY – Following his team’s first Heart Of Illinois Conference contest of the season, against the Panthers here Aug. 28, Gibson City Melvin Sibley High School head coach Mike Allen characterized it as being a “game that had many peaks and valleys.” He was using that vision to keep his players on an even keel following a Panthers third quarter touchdown.

But it was LeRoy that found themselves visiting the valley for most of the night, dropping their season-opener at home to GCMS, 21-6, before a crowd of between 600-800 fans.

GCMS (1-0) grabbed a fast 7-0 lead, scoring on the first series of downs for the new season, as senior running back Nick Meunier made a 56-yard dash into the end zone, followed by junior kicker Keegan Allen’s extra point, putting the Falcons up, 7-0. That score, as it would turn out, would be the only points of the first half as both teams’ defensive units kept their opponent at bay going into halftime.

LeRoy Panthers FootballA nine yard pass from senior quarterback Bryce Dooley to senior tight end Teddy Harms helped pull LeRoy (0-1) within one, 7-6, with 7:07 left in the third quarter, but the extra point attempt from junior kicker Brett Egan sailed away from the goalpost.

GCMS responded on the next series of downs, thanks to an 85 yard touchdown pass from Allen to senior running back Zach Johnson, followed by Allen’s next extra point, increasing the Falcons’ advantage, 14-6, with 5:36 left in the third quarter.

GCMS sealed the victory with an 11 yard dash from sophomore running back Mitchell McNutt with 1:55 remaining in the fourth quarter. Allen’s final point after on the night closed out the scoring. McNutt’s run capped a 16-play, 64-yard march for points by the Falcons.

GCMS FootballAllen was 3-for-5 passing for 105 yards and one touchdown for GCMS, connecting with Johnson twice for 80 yards and one touchdown. McNutt had 16 rushes on the night for 133 yards and one score. LeRoy’s side of the ledger included Dooley going 9-for-16 for 51 yards and one touchdown and one interception.

GCMS Coach Allen said following the game he and his staff had told their players games “have peaks and valleys, and that they collectively should never feel too high or too low during a contest. We just told our kids to relax, that we’d get the ball and do some things once we did.”

“Our defense played well,” Allen added. “I thought we had some missed tackles here and there. But LeRoy is a good program coached by one of the best coaches around. Neither team wanted to face each other the first week of the season. It was a great test for both teams.”

In complementing LeRoy’s quarterback, Allen said, “Dooley’s a heck of an athlete, and we knew we had to contain him whether he was in double wing or whatever formation.”

HOICLeRoy head coach B. J. Zeleznik told reporter following the game he and his coaching staff have a number of items needing work when the team practices before next week. “I think there are a lot of things we need to clean up on the offensive side of the ball. I was really impressed with GCMS’ athleticism, with their strength. I think Mike had a very good game plan and they executed it very well.”

Zeleznik said he has talked to his players on bulking up their toughness and being ready to improve executing plays for the coming season. “In the first and fourth quarters here, I thought we played very well. But our execution wasn’t what it needs to be. We made too many mistakes.”

Both teams continue tackling HOIC foes next week as the Panthers visit Fisher Sept. 4 in search of their first victory of the season, while GCMS hosts Tremont.

By Steve Robinson | August 26, 2015 - 10:18 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5In an effort to prepare Normal-based Unit 5 School District to move forward financially, the district superintendent announced the formation of a Strategic Planning Committee which will look into six key areas. The announcement of the plan came during the Board’s regularly-scheduled Aug. 26 meeting held at Parkside Elementary School.

Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, explained to Board members and roughly 20 people who came for the meeting that the Strategic Planning Committee will be comprised of community volunteers. He said the committee will be divided into groups which will study six key areas: Curriculum & Instruction; Transportation; Special Education; Facilities; Co-Curricular Matters; and Community Partnerships.

Matters of Finance, Technology, and Communication will be embedded into the research of transportation matters, Daniel said.

A planning meeting regarding the groups will take place Sept. 17. Members selected for joining the Strategic Planning group will meet on Oct. 20.

Among items that have been done or are in the process of being done to get these committee members ready to work are: Decide who will be involved, starting with the recruitment of a Leadership Team; Have an initial Leadership Team meeting, in which they get to know each other, are introduced to Dynamic Strategic Planning, and take some early planning steps to give them a feel for the process; Identify the critical issues which need to be addressed, something the district hoped to do during a large gathering of the committee or in small group meetings

The goals for the work teams, once they are assembled, include: Train Action Teams in the Dynamic Strategic Planning process, which would include establishing of a web portal or intranet for information sharing so the teams do not duplicate or conflict efforts; Having the Teams meet several times to develop Action Plans and strategies, a step Daniel explained may require gathering further information through surveys or research, and Produce concise Action Plans.

The Action Plans are then to be presented to the District’s leadership for review and comment.

“We’re looking to set up a dynamic plan,” Daniel told Board members. To do that, the superintendent added, “We need more and more community assistance. We need community partnerships.”

Board Member Mike Trask asked Daniel how many people would be needed for the planning committee which would be divided to study those aspects the district wants looked at. “I’d like to have 400 people show up for that meeting,” Daniel responded.

Daniel added he hopes teachers and community leaders will lend support to the planning groups. Trask replied by saying he hopes for a huge turnout.

Board Member Jim Hayek, Jr. asked Daniel what the end result of the work of the overall committee would be. Daniel said a final comprehensive plan will be produced by the large group when their meetings end. He said that final version of the Strategic Plan should be rolled out by next May or June.

Daniel said persons interested in volunteering to be part of the group being formed should contact either him at danielmd@unit5.org; or Dayna Brown, the district’s director of communications and community relations, at brownda@unit5.org.

Unit 5 mapDistrict Starts 2015-16 School Year With Over 13,000 Students: Although final first semester totals for the district won’t be available until either late September or early October, Unit 5 administrators do know they had 13,248 students in classrooms on the first day of the new school year on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Curt Richardson, Director of Human Resources and Attorney for the District, told Board members final student population totals won’t be in until late September or early October. That is a result of families which may be either moving into or out of the district currently.

Richardson said the district has managed to reduce the number of sections per grade level in Kindergarten through sixth grade at the district’s elementary schools. He said that, in Kindergarten and first grade, there is an average of between 20-25 students; In 2nd and 3rd grade, there are classes with an average of between 22 and 27 students; and in 4th and 5th grade, there are classes with an average of between 24-29 students.

But those numbers did not sit well with one parent who spoke to Board members during the meeting’s “public comments” section. Trish Fela, mother of a fourth grader at Benjamin Elementary School, told Board members “large classes with 30 kids in them are unacceptable,” adding she felt more teachers were needed.

Parkside Elementary’s “Good News”: Staci Mandros, Principal of Parkside Elementary School, introduced Board members to Candy Wehymer-Woods, a Parkside Elementary teacher, explaining Wehymer-Woods’ contribution to an Autism Camp this past July operated by the district. Wehymer-Woods’ class at the school consists of 11 students in fourth and fifth grade whose language abilities ranged from non-verbal, to limited language, to “won’t stop talking.” As a result, Mandros pointed out to Board members in a memo, the students’ focus on task and social skills varies as well.

Mandros pointed out Wehymer-Woods and the students decided to put on a play. But this play was one they created together as a class. They students collaborated on setting and characters, developed dialogue and story conflict, and resolution. They painted backdrops for the play, as well. Mandros explained the kids had fun trying on costumes and selecting props.

When the students had a finished product and had gone through some rehearsal, they invited their families and fellow autism camp classes to attend their performance. Some students had many lines of dialogue, and a couple others only one line cued by a teaching assistant, and another student portrayed a non-verbal dragon to scare the characters.

Mandros said Wehymer-Woods included each and every child in this group performance to highlight their abilities and talents. When the play, held in the school’s common area, was over, the narrator invited the audience into their classroom for cookies and punch for a post-performance celebration.

“This was Candy’s first year doing this, and boy, did she knock it out of the park,” Mandros said.

District’s “Good News”: A second report of “Good News” came from the district’s business manager and director of technology, Marty Hickman, as he introduced Board members to the staff of 13 people responsible for keeping all of the district’s equipment up and running. In a memo to Board members, Hickman reminded that Unit 5 has “a relatively small staff of 13 individuals responsible for over 16,000 computers, 141 servers, and almost 12,000 users.”

“In my opinion, it’s an amazing amount of equipment this group is responsible for,” Hickman added. “They always seek positives and I want to thank them for everything they do on a daily basis.”

Hickman introduced the technology staff to Board members individually following his remarks. The members of the technology staff are: Dustin Behrens, Debbie Bennett, Benjamin Brucker, Rian James, Sean Kerr, Christopher Kozik, Justin Lightfoot, David Miller, Jeffery Miner, David Shuck, Mary Stanley, Andy Traum, and Ryan Young. Nine of the 13 were present for the meeting.

“Meet & Greet” Held Prior To Meeting: Daniel and Board members held a “Meet & Greet” event with their constituent families in the school’s cafeteria, site of the meeting, before it started. Between 25-30 people attended the gathering. The Board’s next regular meeting will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 9 at district headquarters, 1809 W. Hovey Ave., beginning at 7p.m.