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June 18th, 2017

by Andy Mitchell On Father’s Day the Mitchell crew converged on the tiny town of Naples, Illinois to celebrate Mom’s 82nd birthday as well as Dad’s abiding spirit. We arrived in a well-buffed Lexus, a “half-broke” Durango, and all other manner of transport, save for watercraft, which would have befit our destination, Evandy’s Boatel, the…

The Fire Inside

“I’m pretty boring.” This was the answer Liz Chamberlain gave in response to me asking what her favorite hobbies are. However, I was unable to ask Chamberlain face to face, as we conducted our interview through instant messenger due to her busy schedule. It took me very little time to realize just how busy, and humble, this soon to be 15-year-old really is.

When this article originally came across my desk, I was informed that Tom Finch Automotive out of Jacksonville was donating $5 from every oil change during the month of May to send a young girl from the community to Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camp. It was through a little research that I found my way to Chamberlain. Well, sort of. When I reached out, I learned that she was not only home schooling, attending Choir class at Jacksonville High School, but she was also getting ready to head to Chicago to attend Arlington Heights Fire Department’s MDA fundraising event and well as the Chicago Muscle Walk.

But just what is Muscular Dystrophy? According to Chamberlain, who technically has Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 3 , this means that her ‘nerves don’t tell my muscles to move, so they waste away”. According to the Mayo Clinic, Muscular Dystrophy is a group of genetic diseases that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. The disease is rare, with fewer than 200,000 cases diagnosed in the United States per year. Chamberlain was misdiagnosed three times before finding the Muscular Dystrophy Association where they sent her for testing and diagnosed her at age 9. It has left her relying on the use of a wheelchair as her means of mobility.

What would have the potential to break the average person’s spirit, let alone someone so young, doesn’t deter Chamberlain from a challenge. In fact, it’s apparent through speaking with her that she is fueled by helping others. She is an ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which leads her on travels all over the state raising money for the cause. She has been involved in media events, district meetings, worked with fire fighters for “Fill The Boot” campaigns, summer camp programs, among many others. The list goes on and on, and when telling me about all of her charitable work Chamberlain speaks of it as if it was nothing out of the ordinary. While most parents are working hard to get their teenagers to do chores, Chamberlain is singing the National Anthem at major sports and charity outings and attending dinners to raise money out of the goodness of her heart.

When asking Chamberlain to tell me about the MDA Summer Camp, which is held July 9th-15th in Bloomington at Timber Pointe Outdoor Center, she goes on and on about all the activities the camp offers. The camp is all accessible for ages 6-17, and while it costs $2000 per camper all of the fundraising people like Chamberlain and businesses like Tom Finch Automotive do, it allows everyone to attend free of cost. Going into her 6th year at the camp, Chamberlain explains “It is a week of ‘I can’, not ‘I cannot’”. She gets to hang out with people her own age who understand what it is she goes through. She has a counselor assigned just to her, as each camper does, who helps to allow her to be a kid for once. The kids get to ride motorcycles, horseback ride, go boating and canoeing among many other activities. The final night culminates into a formal dinner and dance.

In asking her who her hero is, Chamberlain tells me her deep appreciation for fire fighters. She talks of the fundraising many departments have done for MDA, countless talks she has had with the men and women of numerous departments, and how they take no credit for the work they do. “That’s what they do every day, in and out, to help people and save lives. When I thank them they say ‘oh it’s nothing’ or ‘it’s just a little thing’. They don’t take credit for how much they help me and other MDA families. They don’t ask for attention or credit or fame. They are the most amazing people.”

There is an old saying, “you are the company you keep”. It makes a lot of sense for Chamberlain to look up to men and women who are much like herself. While she may not consider herself a hero, what she does for others speaks volumes about the spirit inside her. At just 14, she humbly perseveres on no matter what obstacles she faces, making it her life’s work to help others. She may not be a fire fighter, but she is a fighter, and there is a lot of fire in her. So much so, it was hard to remind myself that I was in fact interviewing someone who is technically just entering her freshman year of high school.

When I asked Chamberlain what she would like to tell the world, she actually had to remind me of just that, saying “I don’t really know at fourteen”. She then proceeded to tell me that what she does know, is that it doesn’t matter if you are in a wheelchair or have any other type of disability. That in life we need to treat each other with respect, kindness and love and to always try to give more than we take. She may be only 14, but Chamberlain is wise beyond her years. Her drive and compassion is something most people hope to develop in a lifetime. She, like so many amazing people tied to her story, doesn’t take credit for just how many people she has helped through her dedication and hard work. The world is truly Chamberlain’s oyster, and while she may not know it all quite yet, there is one thing that I have no doubt of. Her story of compassion and generosity is truly contagious, and the world is better for having heard it.

Those wishing to keep up with Chamberlain’s charitable journey can check out her Facebook page, Lizzie Chamberlain- MDA IL GWA Emeritus. You can also go to for more information on the disease, how to get involved, or to donate.

Garden Flowers for the Dog Days of Summer

by Martha A. Smith, Extension Educator, Horticulture, Every summer, gardeners notice that certain plants are beautiful up until the heat arrives. Then they fade and wither, leaving us with only the memories of what once was. To keep these plants looking good, watering becomes a nightmare during high heat and periods of no rainfall. Xeriscaping,…

Dreaming of horses

By Kyla Hurt

Meet Joshua and Tiffany Wohlers. The husband and wife team help the grand opening of Wohlers Stables a few months back and they’re quite the pair. It’s the type of sweet fairytale fall-into-place kind of tale told of these two. Opening the stables has been a lot of work, time, money … and heart. They met in 2010 when each worked for different businesses, but a project required the businesses to work together … which meant the two would be working “hand-in-hand,” (pun intended). “I’d had my eye on her a long time,” grinned Joshua Wohlers. One Friday, they worked together and the next day, Joshua Wohlers went back and asked her out. That was December 4 of 2010. A noon wedding on 12/12/12 and wedding photos with horses made their love official. Fast forward a few years to a six-hour horse ride they took around Waverly. “We just rode and talked” during that trek. Both have always loved and been around horses and Wohlers Stables was just in a dream stage at that time. The dream has come true. Buildings were started in July 2016 and the grand opening event was April 30, 2017. Contained on the 14 acres of land is the Wohlers’ home, a 110 feet by 42 feet stall barn, a 66 feet by 60 feet arena barn, 14 horses (12 owned by the Wohlers, plus two boarders), a barn that holds tack and an assortment of spaces for pygmy goats and chickens. There is a lot to see and my, oh my, it is pretty out there. Joshua and Tiffany try to ride every day themselves, plus they offer riding lessons for age three and up. There’s comfort … there’s peace with horses, they say. “I think what’s unique about our (stables) is that it’s a really fun-oriented place. There’s a lot of love in this place,” said Tiffany Wohlers. Eventually, the Wohlers would like to add stalls and increase the arena space, but this is perfect for now. Tiffany Wohlers summed it up, “Everything starts as a dream.”

Wohlers Stables is located at 3285 Pitchford Road in Waverly. Call 217-494-9869 or visit to contact Joshua and Tiffany Wohlers about their stables.

Hungerford 41 years at MCHD

When she peeks around the door to greet you at the Morgan County Health Department (MCHD), the first thing you notice is the wonderful smile that even lights up all the way through her eyes. Carol Hungerford is retiring on June 30, 2017, after 41 years at the Morgan County Health Department; that is a year longer than she has been married. The MCHD is holding a reception honoring Hungerford’s retirement on June 30 from 11 a.m. – 2 Hamilton’s. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come.

Hungerford began her career at the Morgan County Health Department before she had even graduated from high school. Her Jacksonville High School business teacher, Mrs. Flystra, recommended her to then director Bill Meyer for a part-time position. Hungerford had afternoon study halls, so she was let out in the afternoon to work as a file clerk from 1 – 4:30 p.m. during her senior year. It was 1976 and many schools at the time were doing away with the arts. Hungerford had been planning to go to Utica College to study and become an art teacher. When the MCHD offered her a full-time job before she graduated, Hungerford looked to an unsure future as an art teacher, and the reality of a full-time position, and chose to stay at the health department.

It’s never been boring here, things are always changing,” said Hungerford. “I’ve held positions as file clerk, administrative assistant, family planner, office manager, Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) and have done the billing,” she listed. She said she had planned to retire a few years back, but when her current boss public health administrator Dale Bainter came on board, Hungerford stayed to be his administrative assistant and continued with the PHEP. “Dale is a go getter and has a plan for tackling new health issues.”

When I started here, there were no fees, no walk-in immunizations. The budget has gone from $200,000 to $1.3 million,” Hungerford recalls. “Grant programs constantly change. We later began taking walk-ins from WIC.” The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a supplemental food program for low-income pregnant women, postpartum women, breastfeeding women, infants and/or children up to their fifth birthday from low-income families who are determined to be at nutritional risk.

When talking about the Morgan County Health Department, Hungerford justifiably becomes very sentimental. “I grew up here, I’ve seen the number of employees grow and my life happened here! I’ve gotten married, had kids and grandkids. I have had three great bosses who have always had my best interest at heart. If there was an emergency or death in the family, each would say, ‘What do you need?’ I gave them loyalty and the same care in return. It’s a family atmosphere and I think that also helps us in dealing with all the families we serve here.”

Hungerford married her husband, Frank, when she was 19 years old, approximately a year after she began with the health department. Frank Hungerford is retired from the United National Benevolent Association and currently serves as pastor at Lynnville Christian Church. They have three children, Bethany Miller, Ann Hungerford and Clifton Hungerford, plus three grandchildren.

As I said, it’s never boring here – everyone drops what they’re doing and gets the job done. Like during the flu shot season, we give between 1,200 and 1,500 shots in two days.” But she also notes the Morgan County Health department is not just for the underprivileged, they work for the people of Morgan County.

The only thing consistent in public health,” Hungerford states emphatically, “is change.” Talking about some of the changing issues she sees facing the Morgan County Health Department in future, she notes, “We are constantly checking on trends. Our coordinator in charge of communicable disease relentlessly checks to see what issues are coming our way. There are water issues, food issues, health issues. Every five years, we develop an IPLAN (local needs assessment plan). We go through a community committee and discuss issues in our community and set up programs to deal with those specific issues in our community.” Hungerford says the health department also has a new computer program for billing to help keep up with the ever-rising number of people who walk through their doors. “We are right on the cusp of change,” she said. “Our grants are perpetually transforming and so are we. Dale has great plans for the future of the health department and I know he is the right person to be in that position.”

What does Hungerford plan to do during her retirement? Well, she can’t quite step away yet from her work family, so she plans to work part-time hours starting in the fall, administering vision and hearing screenings as needed for the department. She says plans to spend lots of time with her husband, kids and “grandbabies” – and do some traveling, too.

Recall that she wanted to be an art teacher when she was younger? Hungerford still remembers her art mentor/art teacher in junior high and high school, Judy Moore, and managed to find a painting of Moore’s at a sale once, which she treasures. And while she has put her art on the back burner, Hungerford has joined the Jacksonville Art League, located on South Main Street, and has a space there where she is able to paint. Over the years she has enjoyed doing art projects including painting a 12 feet by 6 feet landscape mural at her church – which makes you feel as if you could walk right into it. She has also led a paint-and-pour at her church. A Carol Hungerford original painting of a daisy hangs in City Hall, as well. So, could we see a show at the Strawn Art Gallery some time? Hungerford said she is ultra critical of her own work, but from what this writer saw and the perceived joy she takes in her paintings, it would seem that like the love she has showed for the health department during the last 41 years, we can only hope and look forward to it, someday.


Robert Earl Hughes

Ken Bradbury said that this is the first time it’s taken him thirty years to write a play. “At least that’s when I started thinking about it,” said Bradbury. “Maybe forty years. I’ve been interested in the story of Robert Earl Hughes all my life.” Hughes was, during his lifetime, the heaviest human being recorded in the history of the world. He grew up near Fishhook, Illinois, and is buried in the Benville Cemetery near Mt. Sterling. His last confirmed weight was 1041 pounds.

Bradbury’s father knew Hughes who died in 1958 at the age of 32. “Robert Earl loved to read and Dad would take him magazines,” said Bradbury. In fact, many people in the Jacksonville and Pike/Brown County communities still have vivid memories of Hughes from the times he would visit various fairs and carnivals including the Morgan County Fair. The playwright said that he was once riding the London Tube underground railway and pictures of Hughes were featured in the British city’s Guinness Book of World Records Museum. “I thought, wow. . .he’s known all over the world but nothing’s really been done about him locally.” This was the beginning of Ken’s thirty-year quest to bring the story of Robert Earl Hughes to the stage. “My problem,” said Ken, “was how to portray him onstage. I didn’t want the audience to spend the evening looking at fake padding and wondering how it was done. I wanted them to get to know the man, not a freak.”

Hughes was the victim of a malfunctioning pituitary gland as a result of contracting whooping cough as a child. Were the problem diagnosed today the cure would be simple, but at the time of Hughes’ birth there was no remedy. “The real story of Robert Earl was his humanity,” said Bradbury. “I’ve interviewed dozens of people over the years and have collected everything I could find on his life, and over and over people kept talking about the wonderful attitude he had toward life.” Bradbury credits much of his research to local author Scott Maruna whom Ken credits as having done the best work on Hughes. “Scott’s book was invaluable,” said Ken. And as the fates would have it, the richest single source of original material on the world’s largest man was Bradbury’s cousin, Gerald Kurfman. “I met with Gerald twenty years ago,” said Ken. “He gave me every photo and clipping and letter he had with the promise to give it back some day.” Unfortunately, Kurfman died several years ago and won’t be able to see the fruits of his lifelong collecting.

Bradbury solved the problem of padding an actor out onstage by not doing it. “I think this will be even better,” said Ken, as seven actors playing 85 different characters will perform his production of “The Boy from Fishhook”. Willem Kline, an Illinois College student from the Chicago area, will play the character of Robert Earl Hughes. “Willem is a normal-sized young man and we’ll show pictures of the original Robert Earl throughout the production,” said Bradbury. Other actors include Sylvia Burke, Keith Bradbury, Rich McCoy, Melissa Mueller, Jim Yale and Brenda Yale.

The play will be produced in three different venues beginning at the Illinois College Sibert Theatre on July 13 and 14 at 7:30 each evening, then moving to Mt. Sterling on July 15, and ending its run with a final performance in Pittsfield on July 16. The Jacksonville production is being sponsored by the Heritage Cultural Society and sponsored by the Jacksonville Savings Bank and Farmers State Bank and Trust Company. The only existing pair of Robert Earl’s overalls will travel with the show and be on display each evening courtesy of the Pike Historical Society. Bradbury notes, “I thought it would be nice to do the show in Jacksonville then move it to the areas where he grew up and where he’s buried.”

Robert Earl Hughes was born into poverty with sharecropper parents who moved across the Mississippi River from Missouri when he was a baby, eventually ending up in a house with no electricity near Fishhook, Illinois. To make ends meet he traveled the nation with various carnivals and fairs, suffering the abuses often afforded sideshow freaks. “In Texas they used to burn him with cigarettes to see if his flesh was real,” said Bradbury. “And a crooked promoter once flew him to New York to be on the Ed Sullivan show only to find out the whole thing was a scam and Robert was left in a New York hotel with no money and no way home.” Yet through all this Hughes remained optimistic and happy. “He loved people,” said Ken. “Even when they mistreated him. His reaction to the New York scam was, ‘But I got to meet the mayor of New York!’”

Tickets for the Jacksonville production can be purchased at Our Town Books, County Market, or online at

Theeey’re back … Japanese beetles

Ken Johnson

It’s that time of year again. Japanese beetles have begun emerging and will be around for about six weeks (mid-August). As you are probably all too aware, the adults feed on a wide variety of plants (over 300 different species). Some of their favorite plants include linden, rose, crabapple, willow, grape and raspberry. Adults will begin feeding on the upper, sunlit portions of plants and work their way down. They typically feed on the upper leaf surface, leaving the bottom leaf surface behind, but will also eat all the way through leaves. Their feeding damage can cause leaves to look lace-like; and when feeding is heavy, entire branches can be stripped of leaves. One of the reasons they are so destructive is that they are attracted to plants that have already been damaged. The beetles will also release pheromones to attract other beetles. Because of this, large numbers of beetles can be attracted to suitable plants.

There are several different things you can do to manage Japanese beetles.

  • They can be removed by hand. The best time to do this is in the early morning while they are still sluggish. Put a few inches of water in a container along with a drop or two of soap (this will help break the surface tension of the water). You can then shake or pick the beetles and put them in the bucket and drown them. This may be a great project for kids who love playing with bugs.
  • High-value plants, like roses, can be covered with cheesecloth or other fine netting during peak beetle activity to protect them, as well.
  • Japanese beetle traps are not recommended for managing populations of Japanese beetles. They attract far more beetles than they can trap and may end up doing more damage than good.
  • As a last resort, you can use chemicals to help manage the population. For many of the chemicals this will require several applications. Chemical options include: acetamiprid, befenthrin, carbaryl, cyfluthrin, imidacloprid (applied as a soil drench, should be used before May) and permethrin. When choosing a product, make sure that the site/plant to which you plan on applying it is listed on the label. Don’t apply chemicals at higher rates than are listed on the label. Just remember, always make sure to read and follow all label directions. It’s the law.

Prepared for the unthinkable

By Carly Basham

Dennis Brown was employed with Illinois Power for 42 years, prior to retiring a year and a half ago. During those 42 years of service, Dennis recalls sitting through multiple instructional classes for CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. Most of us have probably attended similar classes through school or work. You watch a few videos, practice the maneuvers on manikins, and carry on about the rest of the day as normal. It’s the type of information you may passively absorb, you pay enough attention to pass the class and then store it away without much thought. Or perhaps you haven’t taken a class, as circumstances haven’t warranted it or it hasn’t really crossed your mind. No one ever really plans for a life-altering emergency, but as someone who works as an emergency dispatcher, I can say without hesitation: they happen every single day.

Dennis Brown has been married to his wife, Crista, for 16 years. A few years into their marriage, they welcomed son Cody, and then daughter Camille. Crista Brown currently works as a teacher at Washington Elementary School in Jacksonville.

On Friday, May 5, Dennis and Crista Brown decided to have dinner at The Elks in Jacksonville with some friends. It was a typical night, nothing out of the ordinary. While eating, Crista Brown tried a piece of her husband’s dinner, and when she swallowed, she immediately knew something was wrong. Crista Brown began choking.

Knowing that the food was stuck in her throat and feeling the automatic reaction to cough, she did what many people do, she left her group and stepped outside so as not to cause a scene. But once outside while attempting to cough, she felt the piece of food become more lodged in her throat, completely cutting off her airway. Brown said it was at this point the panic set in, as her airway was completely obstructed. She ran back to the dinner table her husband and friends were; upon realizing the severity of the situation, Dennis Brown sprang into action. The group ran outside and Dennis Brown, along with a friend, began administering the Heimlich maneuver. Crista Brown recalled that she was surprised at how violent the maneuvers actually are. The difference between taking a class, and performing or receiving first aid, is astronomical. It is a matter of life and death.

Dennis Brown and his friend were able to apply the training they had, and were successfully able to dislodge the food on which Crista Brown was choking. By all accounts, Dennis Brown saved her life. Crista Brown still tears up when speaking of her husband and this night, saying, “Dennis is a quiet, humble man. But he is not afraid of anything, he will always protect me. He is my hero.” Dennis Brown shies away from taking any sort of credit for his actions, speaking more so of his concern for his wife upon realizing what was going on. Speaking with them both side-by-side, it’s clear that they’re a team. It was also very clear how thankful Crista Brown was of the outcome, crediting the incident as giving her a new outlook on life and appreciation for each day. It’s crazy to think how different their household might be today had no one been trained in the Heimlich maneuver that day

When asking the two what they hoped to have come from this, they spoke very passionately about the need for others to educate themselves in first aid. The knowledge that Dennis Brown acquired over the years no doubt saved his wife’s life. The Browns have sat down for thousands of dinners, but in the blink of an eye, the future of thousands more could have changed. It begs the question: would you know what to do in a life or death emergency? Your life and the lives of others may depend on it.

For more information on CPR courses, you can contact Passavant Area Hospital at 217-245-9541, ext. 3890, or go to

Close-up on Clint’s Auto

Written by Anna Ferraro

Photos by Lynn Colburn

If you love what you do, your customers notice. If you’re living your dream in your business, chances are, your clients are, as well. And such is the case for Clint’s Auto, a relatively new automotive repair business in Jacksonville. Located at 106 Ankrom Court, Clint’s Auto is quickly becoming a hub of activity for clients who want a mechanic that they can trust with anything – including their credit card numbers.

Owner Clint Wortman shares, “Since I was about 13 years old, I’ve been passionate with cars. It all started with my grandparents’ garage, tinkering around with my grandpa’s vehicles. Working on lawnmowers, then cars, to anything motorized. Having parts out everywhere at the house.” He commented with a chuckle, “During the summers, I would get in trouble a lot, too, with Grandma, for leaving stuff hanging in the trees, and leaving the garage floor a mess.”

At 16 years old, Wortman started acquiring his own tools and solidified his goals – as an adult, he wanted to become a mechanic. He completed an associate’s degree at Lincoln Land Community College, and went to work. For years, he worked for various dealerships on the regular 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. shifts. After hours, he worked in his own garage. During that time, he confirmed his calling and honed his craft, saying, “I realized I wanted to do it on my own.”

Since opening Clint’s Auto in June of 2016, Wortman is acquiring a reputation as a trustworthy mechanic with exceptional skills. With a full-time employee and a rapidly growing customer base, Clint’s Auto is expanding and thriving. It’s recent additions? Three lifts and the new installment of a 4-post alignment rack, “A big plus!” In addition to doing basic engine repairs to full rebuilds, Wortman offers tire services, alignment services and computer programming on-site. He shared, “We may be small … but the stuff we offer is everything you can get at a dealership. A lot of people don’t realize that there’s only one other shop in town that does all the computer programming.”

While you would expect Wortman to be a certified technician, he takes skill and integrity in his business to an unexpected level. Check this out. He said, “If you bring your car in for a new brake job [for example] … I would take you out there [into the shop], show you the problem … and show you how I would fix it.” No surprises there. In Wortman, you’ve got a mechanic you can trust. He shares, “The main thing I love about being in business for myself is getting the feedback from customers. When they write a review, at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve done something.”

Wortman’s customers reinforce his credibility. In 21 Facebook reviews to date, his business has all 5-stars and one 4-star review. Not bad. The reviews include comments from customers about his outstanding services, “not only did he do a great job but his prices are the best around.” Or his love for his customers, “Always able to get right in and love going to a place with passion.” Are car repairs painful for you? How about this one, “Never thought I’d see the guts of my new truck but [Clint] made the experience painless.”

So, next time you’re in need of some car repairs, give Wortman a call at 217-320-8822. Fixing your car is his dream come true. Once it’s fixed, the dream come true is all yours.