Special to The Source
A mayor, a county commissioner, two men with strong ties to the local radio scene, a bank’s CEO, a real estate agent and a resident historian have been chosen for enshrinement with the Jacksonville Area Hall of Fame’s 2023 induction class.
The seven individuals, all of whom have displayed their strengths of character within the volunteer community, will become the newest honorees when the 12th class — and the first since 2012 — are presented.
Joy French Becker, Robert Chipman, Commissioner Ginny Fanning, Ron Gray, Jerry Symons, City of Jacksonville Mayor Ron Tendick and Art Wilson were selected from a pool that included more than 100 names during a months-long procedure which pared the list down to those chosen.
“It has been a very difficult process, much harder than I dreamed it would be,” said John Buchanan, head of the panel of nine board members making the selections. “There are many deserving citizens here who had strong cases to be selected this year. Their names will be carried over into our 2025 planning.
“We were impressed by what the new inductees have done for our community. They’ve all performed well above of the scope of their chosen careers.”
The 2023 induction ceremony will be held at Hamilton’s 110 North East during the early evening hours of June 7.
Joy French Becker is a Jacksonville native who has been the president and CEO of the Farmers State Bank & Trust Co. for a quarter of a century. Becker has been very active with many organizations like the Jacksonville Public Schools Foundation and Illinois College, where she served a lengthy period as chairman of the board of trustees.
Becker has been treasurer of the Jacksonville Main Street organization and is on the board of the Jacksonville Area Museum Foundation. Becker also was an advisor to the Jacksonville Enterprise Development Corporation and has been active with The Art Association of Jacksonville as well as a willing participant with many nonprofits.
Robert “Bob” Chipman has worked in downtown Jacksonville for 50 years. A graduate of Jacksonville High School and Illinois College, Chipman is a state licensed Realtor and appraiser.
Chipman has served the Jacksonville area as president of the Association of Realtors, Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Passavant Hospital, Prairieland United Way and Bob Freesen YMCA. Currently, he is the board president of the Jacksonville Area Museum Foundation and the Jacksonville Public Schools Foundation.
Recently awarded an honorary doctorate degree by Illinois College in recognition of 25 years on the board of trustees, Chipman has served the college in many capacities, including vice chair of the board. He is an elder and teacher at First Presbyterian Church.
Morgan County Commissioner
Ginny Fanning made Jacksonville her home after graduating from Illinois College and has been an educator, business owner and Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce executive director. She was elected the first woman Morgan County Commissioner.
Fanning has served the community as president of numerous boards including Passavant Area Hospital and the Hospital Auxiliary, Rotary Club, Jacksonville Public Schools Foundation, Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation, Jacksonville Main Street and The Art Association of Jacksonville. She has co-chaired Relay for Life and United Way campaigns. She served on Elm City Center, Women’s Building Association of Illinois College, Lincoln Land Community College Foundation and Corridor 67 boards. She is an active member of Wesley Chapel UMC.
Ron Gray arrived in Jacksonville during the late 1960s as general manager of the WJIL radio station and quickly became engrained in Jacksonville area culture for nearly 50 years. At the radio station, he joined the Rotary Club and Jacksonville’s chapter of the American Business Club (AMBUCS), served the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Central Park Plaza Association and Chapin Big Country Days, picking up numerous awards along the way.
Gray, after leaving the station, later was largely responsible for the establishment of The Grierson Society and the General Grierson Days. He also worked on the Save The Wheel and Woodlawn Farm Underground Railroad site committees.
Jerry Symons, who went to schools in Murrayville and Jacksonville, began work at WLDS as a disc jockey and later transitioned into roles as a newsman and hall of fame sports announcer, station manager and co-owner. He was actively involved with Central Christian Church and was a founder of the Jacksonville High School Sports Hall of Fame. Symons also worked on special committees for two Jacksonville mayors, helping the city obtain “home rule” status and the acquisition of land from the state for our Community Park.
Said one of Symons’ nominators, “If you don’t know what Jerry Symons has meant to this city, you don’t deserve to be on the board selecting the Hall of Fame inductees.”
City of Jacksonville Mayor
Ron Tendick spent several years at WLDS/WEAI as a newsman and sports announcer long before he became a five-term mayor of Jacksonville. His activities included helping support organizations like Prairieland United Way, Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Municipal League and Illinois News Broadcasters.
Tendick was a president of Rotary Club, a past chairman of the Passavant Hospital board of directors, vice president of the Jacksonville Area Visitors & Convention Bureau and was chairman of the Passavant Hospital Foundation when he died.
Tendick was an active member at Westfair Baptist Church, serving as a Sunday school teacher and as an adult leader. He was an integral member of the church’s vocal ministry in the choir as a soloist and guitarist.
Art Wilson has had a life-long obsession with history, and how it pertains to Jacksonville. A bit of that history came from his mother’s home as he discovered, in the basement behind a wall, a 1877 diploma — the first for a Black man from an “official” high school in Jacksonville.
That’s not the only thing the self-taught historian has found over the years as he uncovered seven of the nine Jacksonville area Underground Railroad sites and has led many tours of the same.
Wilson is also a founding director of the Woodlawn Farm historical site just outside of town. He bought the Asa Talcott home on Grove Street and turned it into the Jacksonville African American History Museum. On the day the museum held its groundbreaking ceremony, the Dr. Alonzo Kenniebrew mural that was inspired by Wilson, was unveiled on the north side of Central Park Plaza.
Tickets to the June 7 induction ceremony are $25 each and can be purchased at the following Jacksonville locations: County Market; Farmers State Bank & Trust Co.; WLDS-/WEAI; Petefish, Skiles & Co. Bank; the City of Jacksonville Municipal Building as well as from any Jacksonville Area Hall of Fame board member: John Buchanan, Bob Byers, Forrest Keaton, Laura Marks, Lori Large Oldenettel, Greg Olson, Pat Kennedy, Alberta Robinson and Stephen Symons.
Tickets can also be ordered by mailing a check for the appropriate amount to: JAHOF, P.O. Box 645, Jacksonville, IL 62651.