Photos by Taylor Baucom
You can judge the true spirit of a community in times of peril. Throughout history, villages, cities, regions and nations have banded together to help one another for the common good when faced with adversity.
Almost two weeks ago, our community learned of the tragic death of one of our own: Morgan County Treasurer Jenny Geirnaeirt. While any life taken away too soon is tremendously difficult and unfortunate, Jenny’s passing was remarkable in that her family, friends and colleagues became keenly aware of how much she meant to so many people from all walks of life.
Due to COVID-19 guidelines, Jenny’s visitation was unconventional – certainly the first drive-through wake I have attended. And while her funeral service had to be conducted privately, the public procession that followed throughout her hometown was extraordinary. Hundreds of people Jenny touched by her larger-than-life personality paid their respects along the route with homemade signs, American flags, smiles and tears. Perhaps the most stirring moment for me was watching her procession pass underneath the giant American flag being flown over State Street directly in front of the Morgan County Courthouse, with Jacksonville police and fire departments, and perhaps every county employee, looking on.
From the Our Saviour and Routt students and staff flanking East State Street, to Jenny’s fellow bowlers standing at The Bowl Inn, to the downtown businessmen and women, to her Gamma Delta classmates gathered outside Smith House, to her husband’s Illinois College colleagues on the Hilltop, Jenny would have been blown away by the public display of respect for her and support for her loved ones. Put simply: Jacksonville and Morgan County “showed up” for Jenny.
Isn’t that why we choose to live in this little piece of the world? Because when times get tough, we live in a place that fosters meaningful relationships. We don’t just know the names or faces of our neighbors; we probably know their family members and have shared a laugh with them on their front porch. We support each other’s small businesses and volunteer to help our local non-profits make a difference. We are a community that cares and remains loyal to one another.
I enjoy visiting larger, metropolitan areas. But now, more than ever, I treasure this small community that goes out of its way to recognize and appreciate the efforts of its people,
including a remarkable public servant – my friend, Jenny.
President, Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation
The mission of the JREDC is to create, expand, recruit and retain job opportunities for Morgan and Scott counties.