Friday, March 31, 2017

Bluebird Update

 An exciting community project has taken shape in the small the town of Chatsworth, Illinois, in southeastern Livingston County. Years ago, a fourth grader wrote a report on the beautiful “bluebird.” This area resident had the dream of consistently seeing bluebirds on her family’s farm. Prior to the Chatsworth High School consolidating into the Prairie Central School district in 1985, the high school mascot was the “Chatsworth Bluebird.” With this memory and nostalgia, earlier this year (2016), someone came forward to help realize her dream. 
A generous anonymous donation of 36 bluebird houses has inspired the community to come together and bring more real live Eastern bluebirds into the Chatsworth area. Area residents are jumping on board, getting excited, and at last count over 100 bluebird houses have been installed in town and all over the countryside. 
In March, students from area schools researched the habitat, nesting & feeding of these small, beautiful blue, orange-breasted birds. They learned that erecting two houses not too far apart may increase the chance of getting a bluebird, since tree swallows also like these houses but will avoid the houses if there are tree swallow neighbors. They learned that bluebirds feed on insects, caterpillars, spiders, mealworms and small berries. The homes should be placed in a semigrassland area with scattered trees and short ground cover for easy prey visibility. 
With the support of the Chatsworth Citizen’s Advisory Board (CAB), county board members Joe Steichen and Paul Ritter, also a high school science teacher at PTHS, coordinated the placement and erection of these bluebird houses throughout the community with the help of dedicated students and some participating residents. Other area teachers participating are Jodee Ritter of CHS, Scott Saffer, a science teacher from PCJHS and Laura Baumgardner, the Lifeskills teacher PTHS.
 “This project is about the community pulling together to experience something that can be enjoyed by everyone. The bluebird is native to our area, is the old CHS mascot, and it is near and dear to our hearts. With the diminished population of these beautiful little birds, our community effort is not only a great thing for our residents but also for our environment,” says Richard Runyon, mayor of Chatsworth and member of the Citizen’s Advisory Board. 
A celebration, sponsored by the Citizen’s Advisory Board, was held at the Chatsworth American Legion to recognize the students and teachers on Saturday, March 12, 2016. All of the classes at the Chatsworth Elementary School joined in to create decorations for the event. Public attendance was welcomed and encouraged! That Saturday, approximately 150 attended the Bluebird Celebration. Hand-painted bluebird plaques were awarded to the teachers and students who participated in the placement and erection of the houses. It was a fun time of community fellowship.
 In May, 2016, the mayor of Chatsworth made a proclamation that all Chatsworth Elementary students are official “Bluebirds!” “We have had a lot of fun with this project,” says Mayor Runyon. “As the year progressed, more folks jumped on board and wanted to install their own birdhouses,” continued Runyon. “Folks from Strawn, Forrest, Piper City and Fairbury are also interested in this project. Our local Corner Hardware store has been stocking bluebird house kits complete with conduit and rebar to erect them. One of the greatest aspects of this project is that it involves the children, and it gives everyone in the community something to look forward to each spring.” Throughout the summer, bluebirds were spotted at various locations. Several nests were built and eggs were laid, a few babies hatched and fledged! It was an exciting beginning for Chatsworth. Now residents are looking forward to the spring of 2017 for a Bluebird Festival and the birth of more bluebirds! 

Obit of Charles Tinker

Charlie Tinker, 74, of Highland and Pocahontas, passed away Wednesday, February 8, 2017. He was born in Fairbury, Illinois. Charlie was a carpenter and an active member of the Pocahontas Baptist Church. He was a real "people person" who enjoyed auctions and traveling. He had worked for the City of Highland and was most recently employed by Ash Flat Sale Barn. He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Elizabeth Tinker; a brother, Robert, and a sister, Irene. Survivors include his special friend, Edith Gatlin, other relatives, and many good friends. Visitation will be from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Tri-County Funeral Home in Highland.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Obit of Jerry McDonald

Jerry McDonald, formerly of Chatsworth, passed away at Cornerstone Hospice House, Lady Lake, Fla. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, after suffering many years with complications from Agent Orange, having served in Vietnam. He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Kathleen; sons, James of Colorado, Michael of Florida; daughters, Kristina Myers (Nathan) of Terre Haute Ind. and Samantha at home; a grandson; sisters, Shalda Nelson of Florida and Maylene Desecki of Chatsworth; and many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews and dear friends. Memorials may be made to the family or to a veterans organization in Jerry's memory.McDonald, formerly of

Chatsworth Article from the "Farm Journal"

From the Farm Journal:

What do this engineer, builder and zoologist have in common? The bookies don’t take odds on farmers, but if they did, Vegas would take a tremendous beating on a treble of Illinois operations. Whether part of an emerging trend or an exception that proves the rule, three producers have returned home after successful non-agriculture careers, and defied probability by living and working ground within a few miles of one another. Even when a farm operation is profitable, the surplus can be wafer thin many years. In plain terms, there often isn’t space for two families. Father or child, the realities of agriculture often require someone to step aside. These hard margins triggered the life paths of three producers in Chatsworth, Ill., about 100 miles northeast of Springfield. Each walked away from farms for careers in software, construction and zoology only to return. The initial exodus of producers John Wilken, Erik Kurtenbach and John Dassow isn’t uncommon, but the story of their return and proximity is singularly unique. 
On flat ground just north of Chatsworth, Wilken, 45, grows corn, soybeans and wheat on 660 acres of rich black soil packed up to 18" deep. His fields are separated by hedgerows and ditches, with almost no trees to break up what is essentially prairie ground. Wilken originally left the farm for college in 1989, returning to help as he could. Halfway toward his degree in 1991, he was diagnosed with bone cancer and endured a gauntlet of chemotherapy. He emerged with permanently damaged kidneys (chemically burned during the treatments) that marked him untouchable by insurance companies. When Wilken finished college, he started as a mechanical engineer at General Motors and later landed a position in a software startup. The software career took him around the world and brought lucrative returns, but despite success, the hope of returning to the farm stayed out of reach. “In my 20s and 30s, farming sat there in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t allow myself to dwell on the impossible,” Wilken says. “I couldn’t get health or life insurance, so farming wasn’t in the cards.” Along came the Affordable Care Act of 2010. “Obamacare was an enabler for me and let me come back to farm. I could get insurance and I could farm,” he says. Twenty-five years after his first steps off the family farm, Wilken made his return in 2014, alongside his wife and two daughters. The flow of activity beyond the field came at a fast pace: paperwork; seed, fertilizer and chemical decisions; equipment parts; and much more. “People expect me to perform and know. If I was still 20, they’d give me a break. Not at 45,” he laughs. Wilken admits the opportunity to work with his father was a tremendous draw: “Working with my dad in the family business was probably a bigger pull to come back home than literally the occupation of farming.” Precision technology and cover crops are high on Wilken’s priority list, changes supported by his dad. Wilken is still in the middle of a learning curve, but he wouldn’t trade farming for four walls again. “Now I won’t have to watch the family land sold, equipment auctioned or my grandmother’s house torn down,” he says. “It would have been heartbreaking to see generations of hard work disappear.” Four miles south of Wilken’s farm, Kurtenbach, 35, grows 1,400 acres of corn and soybeans, with 300  acres set aside for livestock. “My dad returned to our farm in 1980 to help my grandfather. Now it’s my turn,” he says. Kurtenbach knew he’d have to step away from farming and forge his own path, but he was never settled on an occupation outside of agriculture. His only stipulation? No office jobs. In 2001, he graduated from college on a Saturday and was framing houses the following Monday. Kurtenbach spent a decade in construction, remodeling and house flipping, but kept a flame burning for the farm, hopeful of opportunity that arrived far sooner than he ever expected. Kurtenbach’s father, Ken, was eyeing retirement and came up with a plan for his son’s return. “My dad thought if he bought a sprayer, we could save enough and he could pay me enough to offset the costs. I wanted to get back and let my kids grow up like I did.” Kurtenbach jumped at the chance, sold his house in Bloomington and made the shift with his wife and children. (He also remodeled his grandparent’s farmhouse and moved in.) The FSA paperwork and crop insurance were initially overwhelming, but since taking over, Kurtenbach has increased the use of precision technology and says the effects are already paying financial dividends. He’s specifically using variable-rate spraying and seeding along with hydraulic down force. “You just don’t see many people take opposite career paths and still end up in the wonderful life of farming. If someone is considering going back to farm, communication is key. Talk, talk and talk more to make sure everyone involved has the same expectations,” he advises. 
Just 2.5 miles to the south of Kurtenbach, Dassow grows 1,500 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and occasionally buckwheat. Dassow, 33, when not working on the farm, spent his childhood outdoors hunting, fishing and trapping. He gravitated toward conservation and wildlife in college, gaining a master’s degree in zoology with a specialty in wildlife ecology. Dassow met his wife, Megan, in graduate school, and jobs took them west to Idaho and North Dakota, far removed from the black Illinois soil. Dassow had always wanted to return to the farm, and in 2012, his wife got a job with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Illinois, and he was suddenly staring at a chance to go home. In line with the couple’s move, Dassow’s father, Duane, was strapped for help and the timing was ideal. “Dad thought I wouldn’t be able to come back until I was at least 40, but I made it back at 28 and it’s been more than great,” Dassow explains. On their farm, Dassow relies on no-till, strip-till, cover crops and specialized nutrient management. He also does consulting work on wildlife, CRP and wetlands as well. “My dad set up a sustainable foundation. I don’t have to implement major changes thanks to him,” he says. 
Wilken, Kurtenbach and Dassow have bucked the “You Can’t Go Home Again” maxim and settled into new careers on old land. The irony and unlikelihood of their proximity isn’t lost on the three farmers. “I’d say it’s certainly rare to have three guys living so close that have had such huge lurches in and out of their farming lives,” Wilken adds. Beyond a vocational switch, another common thread the three share is the benefit of paternal mentoring and guidance, an immeasurable asset, according to Wilken. “Our fathers helped us with our new careers and we couldn’t have done this without them,” he explains. “They overextended to build up the farm until their boys were stable enough to return. Now we’ve come home.”

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Obit of Mary Kay (Lutson) Becker

Mary Becker CHS 1963, age 72, of Grand Rapids, born on October 10, 1944, passed away after her battle with colon cancer on Sunday, November 27, 2016 at First & Main Assisted Living Center in Wyoming, MI. She was preceded in death by her parents, Thomas and Helen Lutson and her brother, William Lutson. She will be lovingly remembered by her son, Jeff Groll and his fiancee, Gretchen Sterley; her daughter, Erin Reynolds; grandchildren, Lindsay Groll, and Mark Reynolds. Mary worked at Orson E. Coe Pontiac for several years as their courtesy car driver. In recent years, she worked for ABC Auto Auction and was a driver for Goodwill Industries for a short time. Mary enjoyed line dancing at the Barn, Twisted Bull and Wyoming Senior Center for many years, where ever she could find a place. She loved going to Arts and Crafts shows. Funeral services will be held on Friday 1 pm at Matthysse-Kuiper-DeGraaf Funeral Home (Grandville) 4145 Chicago Dr. SW, with Pastor Than Johnson officiating. Relatives and friends may meet the family Thursday from 6 to 8 pm at the funeral home and also one hour prior to the service on Friday. Those who wish may make memorial contributions to Emmanuel Hospice, Gildas Club of Grand Rapids or to the Born Clinic.

Mary Becker

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Bluebird Project Update



Jump on board with the Chatsworth Bluebird Project!
Students and teachers from three school districts-Prairie Central, Tri-Point and Pontiac, along with residents from Chatsworth, Cullom, Forrest, Strawn, Piper City, Cabery, Kempton, Stelle and Fairbury- have started an amazing undertaking to bring the Eastern Bluebird back into this area.
The Bluebird was the old Chatsworth High School Mascot, and in 2016 after over 100 Bluebird houses were placed around the country-side, these beautiful birds and their babies are touching the hearts of many residents far and wide. The JWP Audubon Society has published a newsletter article about this project and is interested in supporting it. Legislators are interested in recognizing the students and the communities for their hard work, and plans are in the works to proclaim Chatsworth the Bluebird Capital of Illinois. The public from all communities are invited to attend the 2nd Annual Bluebird Festival at the American Legion in Chatsworth. Bluebird houses are available at Chatsworth Corner Hardware, 815.635.320l.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Obit of Mary Fern (Welch) Hoelscher

Mary Fern (Welch) Hoelscher, 76, of Decatur, formerly of Fairbury, passed away peacefully at her residence at 8:56 p.m., Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Mary was born on September 15, 1940 in Monticello, IL the daughter of Clarence and Wilhelmina (Lewis) Welch. Mary is survived by her sons, Jeff (Laurie) Hoelscher of Gibson City, IL, Scott (Jayne) Hoelscher of Geneseo, IL, Brian (Nancy) Hoelscher of Eureka, IL; daughter, Stephanie (Corbin) Kupferschmid of Decatur, IL; 12 grandchildren; 7 great-grandchildren; brother, Earl (Marlene) Welch of Bondville, IL; sisters, Betty (Bruce) Schweighart of Pesotum, IL, and Patsy Sherrard of Normal, IL. She was preceded in death by her parents, sister (Eva Hugo) and brother-in-law (Don Sherrard). Mary retired after 31 years as a nurse from the Fairview Haven Nursing Home in Fairbury, IL. She was a former member of the Methodist Church of Chatsworth. She enjoyed spending time with her children and grandchildren, especially attending their sporting events and their school activities. Visitation will be from 1:00- 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 12, 2017 at the Mackey-Wright Funeral Home, Monticello. Funeral service will immediately follow at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 12, 2017 at the Mackey-Wright Funeral Home with Pastor Jeff Bealmear officiating. Memorial donations may be made to the Fairview Haven Nursing Home in Fairbury, IL.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Attention: Family Descendants of Rev. Zenas C. Hall & Josepha "Jo" Hall

I have a viewer that owns 3 family bibles that belonged to the Rev. Zenas C. & Elizabeth (Watson) Hall (former Chatsworth Baptist Church Pastor) and later his daughter Josepha (Jo) Hall (former Chatsworth resident), well known, who was an artist and gave painting lessons to our citizens.
Jo Hall was born 1884 and died 1958 in Chatsworth and is buried in the Chatsworth-Charlotte Cemetery.
Zenas was born 1845 and died 1891 and is buried in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

If you are a descendant of this family and would like to have the bibles, you may contact me:
or the owner of the bibles:

If no descendants are found, they will most likely be placed in the Baltz Library of Chatsworth Township for preservation.

This is Josepha "Jo" Hall:

Looking forward to hearing from a family member!!
Site Manager
Mary Runyon Hanshew