Decatur, Illinois

Decatur, Illinois
Curve-In, Fairview Avenue

Monday, May 31, 2010

Four More

Steve Volle was so young. He died at the age of 26, after he collapsed in California. That seems so mysterious and remote. I wish we knew more about Steve, and his life.

Gina Taylor was only 45. She had been a secretary for the Decatur School District, and left behind two children, a son and daughter, sadly. She died in hospice care, apparently.

Tim Cleary passed away at 58. He was serving his country, in the United States Army Reserve. From this long remembrance, many wished to recall him as a joyful father and spirited grandfather. (Tim's photo is from the 1964 Cadet.)

Judith Burke was 59. She apparently died of a heart ailment, and yet seemed to have a loving life full of her two daughters, six grandchildren, and her animals.

Thanks to '66's Judy Sumner for research efforts at the H&R. Thanks to Phil Hunt for assistance with Tim Cleary's photo.

Phil Yocum

Phil Yocum has been discussed in other postings.

We have received the following from '66's Judy Sumner, and I wanted to post it here:

(The above are as large as I can make them to fit here, but to read them, merely click on the images of the headstone & the news item. They will be enlarged.)

Eddie Palmer

Eddie Palmer was always happy, smiling, and friendly in school. I was surprised to look back in the Cadet and find he wasn't into school politics. He just seemed like he was always aware of what was going on around him. I guess it should have not shocked me to discover that he ended up an air traffic controller in San Diego.

He's another one that we have lost. Young and talented, he will be missed.

Once again, my thanks to '66's Judy Sumner for the obit copy from the H&R.

Our Fonz

Maybe there was someone else at MacArthur in 1965 that reminds folks of The Fonz, but for me, it will always be Terry Seats. Of course, I about fell over when I saw he had gotten all dressed up for his senior picture.

"Seats" (I don't ever remember feeling comfortable calling him "Terry") was into cars. For Seats, there was school, there was how much he could learn from school about cars, and there were cars as life. I appreciated that straightforward passion. He was the nicest guy around, although he acted tough. To me, Seats was The Fonz, cool and with a bit of James Dean about him.

I was saddened, in doing the research for this reunion, to learn that our Fonz had died in 2004. I was looking forward to saying "hi" to Terry, er, that is Seats, again, and asking him what he thought of hybrids. I imagined that he probably won't trust any car he couldn't hear!

Here's the little death notice the local Decatur paper published. If you knew Seats more recently and more personally, please share some stories. He was a gem.

Once again, my thanks to '66's Judy Sumner for the obit copy from the H&R.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

1966's Deceased

Overlapping friendships, relationships, and knowledge of other classes naturally occur in four-year high schools. Such was the case between Douglas MacArthur's Class of 1965 members and the following classmates of the Class of 1966.

Therefore, in terms of information-sharing and enlightenment, I am posting their class representative Judy Sumner's "List of Deceased Classmates of the Class of '66," below. But first a word, again, about the two "gray area" guys we know about.

As mentioned before (here), two folks listed among the dead in the Class of '66 are well-known to the Class of '65.

One was Danny Bouchez (pictured), who, as far as is known, is the only person even marginally linked to the Mac Class of '65 who died in Vietnam. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

Danny was a member of our class until the end of the academic year of 1965, and continued over into the following school year to pick up some credits to graduate in 1966. Then post-graduation, Danny was a PFC - E2, Marine Corps, Regular, who began his Vietnam tour of duty on January 2, 1968, and was killed in hostile, ground action due to an explosive device on March 24, 1968, at Quang Nam, South Vietnam.

The other person who, in our mind, is a Mac '65 classmate in the list below is Phil Yocum. As noted previously, Phil decided to go overseas, to Germany, in an exchange arranged by the American Friends Service Committee. At the time, American AFS students (according to the Decatur School District) could not count their time abroad for school credit toward graduation. Thus Phil had to come back, complete his senior year, and graduate with the Class of 1966. He died on September 12, 2002, at the age of 55.

From his obituary:
"Philip Yocum was born April 14, 1947, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the son of Anthony F. and Frances M. May Yocum. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois in Champaign with a bachelor's of arts, and he received his master's from MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He received several awards, including the Charles E. Merrian Scholarship and the Edmund J. James Scholarship and the American Field Service International Scholarship, which allowed him to study in Germany for a year. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society. His name appears on a bronze plaque for academic achievement in the library of the University of Illinois. He was formerly employed with IOICC in Springfield, JTPA in Champaign and Decatur and Up-John Drug Co. as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He also was formerly the press secretary for Congressman Lee Hamilton in Washington, D.C. He was currently employed as an actuarial support analyst for Countries Insurance and Financial Services. Philip enjoyed reading and playing the violin."

On Memorial Day, we shall remember the people who have passed away, the veterans, the non-vets, friends all, and the lives they shared with us, oh, so briefly.

List of Deceased Classmates of the Class of '66

Mary Elizabeth Alexander (Knuth)
John Robert Allison
Michael Edward Baum
Danny Phillip Bouchez
George Donn Bumgardner
James David Campbell
Michael Francis Ducy
Thomas Max Evans
Bruce Leon Freeman
Vicki Lynn Hoty (Seafler)
Paulette Sue Kater (Bird)

Kay Ellen Kirchmann (Akard) {See what Rick Livesay has to say about her, here.}
Sandra Kay Logue (Mendenall)
William R. 'Rusty' Martin, Jr.
Gary Ronald Rewerts
Gerald Lee Roth
Mary Margaret Slaughter (Kitchens)
Daniel Eugene Stephenson
Cheryl Lynn VanAlstine (Koontz)
Marabeth Wells (Young)
Clarence Ezra West
Mary Kathryn Wolken
Phillip Scott Yocum

Thanks to Judy Sumner, representing the Class of 1966, for sharing this valuable information.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Separated At Graduation: #1

"Separated At Graduation" will become a reoccurring feature, where we will find that people separated by thousands of miles and decades of lifetimes, since Mac 1965, sometimes do end up closer than they could have ever imagined.


Little did they know it, back in Decatur of the 1960s, that both of these guys would be photographed someday in kayaks, in the Midwest and the PNW. Do these gentlemen have the same look on their faces? Is it one in which they appear to either have overwhelming feelings of horror, joy, or exhaustion?

Tim Henebry.

Rick Livesay.

Also, ahead, look for future tales of surprise reunions, sometimes ending in love stories.


Salutatorian. What does that even mean?

Everyone thinks they understand the role of being the Class Valedictorian, as best they can, not being one. MacArthur's Class of 1965 happened to have a Valedictorian, Barbara Dyar, who won the D.A.R. Award, and two Co-Valedictorians, Jeanne Bullock and Carole Steele. But it only had one Salutatorian. A guy.

The definition of valedictorian is almost universally understood; it quickly labels the person or persons in the class who obtained the best grades. But how does the salutatorian feel about the runner-up role? What does it mean to us and to that person. Mac '65's Salutatorian was John Robert ("JR") Coutrakon.

In David Wallechinsky's book, Midterm Report: The Class of '65 (NY: Viking, 1986), the author quoted a salutatorian's thoughts, which I shall share here. I won't tell you the name of that salutatorian until the end, after reflecting a bit more about JR.

In the Wallechinsky's book, "The Salutatorian" remembers: "The summer before my senior year, I was chosen to take part in the Governor's Honors Program...four hundred kids from all over the state getting together with the best teachers in the state. My main discipline was physics. I was sort of the top dog in my high school. I thought I was really something. Then I went to this place and I was just like everyone else, and couldn't compete with these guys. But it was a great time. It was just one fantastic mix of people.

"I was salutatorian in my class - second-best grades - but I always beat the other guy on the achievement tests. I gave the salutatory speech at graduation. By that time I was ready to get away...."

Wallechinsky's salutatorian goes on to tell of college, of his time in Vietnam, and his return to the States. "Back then I didn't care if people were against the war, and I didn't care if they were for it. I thought it was something that people could differ on. Besides, it didn't make any difference what I felt anyway, because I was there and was going to be there awhile," he said.

Being interviewed 20 years after his graduation, the "Salutatorian" overviewed his life: "I had a rough time at age thirty-five. I had not accomplished the kind of things that I thought I was going to accomplish back when I thought there were great people in the world. I thought maybe I would be one of them. It turns out that not only am I not one of them, but that there aren't any! Lately - and this may be temporary - what I do for a living is not as important to me as it once was. I seem to enjoy just being around a lot more. The kids are getting into new things."

I can't interview our salutatorian for the reunion book, as he's not here any longer.

It is difficult for us to know how and what JR Coutrakon, our Class Salutatorian of '65, thought or felt about his role. One thing is for certain, JR was a kid that was universally well-liked.

I have heard nothing but overwhelmingly sad feelings about the loss of JR from the Mac Class of 1965. He clearly was friendly to all kinds of people, from a wide spectrum of groups. I recall "knowing him," as much as one got to "know" anyone that was in one of the many groups that floated around high school.

JR wrote a great personal note in my 1962 Yearbook, focussed on me and my interests in a way that several others did that year. But JR added a level of humor, uncommon for a high school kid. He penned this:

"To Abominable Snowman Hunter, Are you really going to hunt the Snowman?? If you can get one, send me a tit-hanger Snowman. Wow!! (Be sure to run downhill or it will get you.)
Good Luck!!
John Coutrakon"

Coutrakon's achievements in the 1965 Cadet were vast: four years of wrestling, Summer Science Institute as a sophomore and junior, and Monitor, NHS, Class Sergeant of Arms as a junior and senior, to name a few.

Then he traveled West.

JR Coutrakon, who was born on January 10, 1947, died in a wreck involving a logging truck, according to what his friends have shared.

His obituary was published in the Decatur Herald & Review on Valentine's Day, 1987. The sterile details in the paper give little hint of how awful the crash was. "John Roberts Coutrakon, 40, of Brookings, Ore., formerly of Decatur, died Tuesday (Feb. 3, 1987) in Coquille, Ore., from injuries suffered in an automobile accident."

Do you recall the day the music died when he was killed? February 3rd, no less, is a highly symbolic date to the 1965 grad generation.

The article gave a mere glimpse of what JR had been doing at Mac and beyond. "Mr. Coutrakon...was salutatorian and a champion wrester of Decatur MacArthur High School class of 1965. He was a founding partner of the law firm of Coutrakon & Badin, Brookings, and a member of the Oregon State Bar."

JR was survived by his father, mother, and brother.

He left them and us too early, of course. He shall be one among too many missed in June 2011.


BTW, who was Wallechinsky's "Salutatorian"? That would be Plains High School Class of 1965 member and salutatorian Jack Carter, son of a future president named Jimmy Carter.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Donna Camp

Donna Camp actively got involved in Big Mac activities, supporting the school's spirit (e.g. class float, prom, and homecoming). Donna, who happened to live in my neighborhood, was one of those smiling classmates you remember from kindergarten, all the way up through high school, who always tried to brighten everyone's day. In the present, she is Donna Maddox, and as you can see from her post-Mac life, she has continued to lift spirits during her journey.

Donna passed along this detailed sketch:

"As I sit here trying to decide what to write I have to chuckle. I have been blessed to have had employment opportunities that have been challenging and educational all my life. That was a double edged sword in that they all were either ownership or management jobs that required way too many hours. Seems even the time I’ve donated to the organizations I’ve loved have been doing things that required tremendous amounts of time.

"I’ve worked for Illinois Bell and AT&T. I started my own team cleaning business. I’ve been involved in land development in most all aspects, plus construction, both residential and commercial. I know how to chain your property and do a punch list for the house you built plus do the construction disbursement of all funds to build it and title work too. Somewhere in there I helped run the delivery department at a lumber company. I have also been the office manager for an ownership of several businesses thru that one office. I stopped working when my first grandson was born but when kindergarten came I was taking a job as a bookkeeper, part time, just for fun.

"Some of the time I’ve donated that I’ve found most fulfilling was serving Childrens World Learning Center in Pekin, Illinois for 7 years. They were a non-profit daycare and preschool program licensed for 150 children that was not federally funded. I did huge amounts of fund raising and organizational work while on that board. I also served on the board of directors of the Pekin Memorial Hospital Auxiliary for several years. I’ve taught Sunday school and done the Bible school teaching when my kids were little and loved every minute of it. I’ve been an elder of my church.

"I love being a wife. Being a mom was the biggest adventure and challenge and hardest fun work of my entire life. I never wanted my kids to grow up. I never had grandparents and never had kids at home to grow up with, so my kids were totally fascinating to me. My kids now have given me grandchildren. Oh my, have I ever found my calling. I’ve got six of them from the age of 15 down to almost two and boy do I love them. I’m not the greatest volunteer to keep them while everybody goes out for a good time, but can I ever put together a field trip or a day of adventure.

"My oldest son is in the white collar end of construction and travels all over the country for his company. My daughter is a pre-k teacher. My youngest son is building houses on his own.

"I have found that in my life, the challenge I love is to make things. I used to sew; I’m always making something and the art room upstairs is the kids' favorite place. I have to make a garden and my landscaping will never be done because I always have to make it better. I have to check out the yard sales for great treasures. I’m always on the look out for the next antique. I love auctions.

"The life experiences I’ve had have left me knowing that for me my world is right when the dogs nose prints are on the slider door, the laundry room has laundry from the grand kids being in and out all the time, my old garage has not only antiques to work on but is full of bicycles and trikes and basketballs along with my tractor and my gardening stuff, when I look at my husband Wayne after all these years and know just what quality of life really means.

"I forgot to mention that I'm retired now.

"They say that as you age you start forgetting stuff. I'm trying to figure out how I can create selective forgetting. I want to start with all the career knowledge. That way I can free up space for the family memories I cherish and never want to forget. If I can perfect this and bottle it, then I'll be one rich old lady. But with my luck, I'll forget where I wrote down the formula."

Later, Donna wrote:

"I guess I drained my brain trying to write that bio that I totally forgot about telling you about my first car.

"I had Wayne and Cheryl so I didn't really need a car in high school. But my first car was a 69 VW bug. It was the cutest thing. Beige with real mag wheels and a real wooden steering wheel and shift knob. When I went in to the dealer (out on Pershing by the Cat plant) to order it the salesman was taking down all the specifics of what I wanted and when I told him I wanted it to be yellow he just laughed. He told me I'd never see VW putting out a yellow car. I'd have to get one then go pay somebody to paint it yellow. So I begrudgingly ordered beige. Wish I had that salesman today to show him all those darn cute YELLOW VW's running around. I sure would love to have that car back.

"Now I've just traded in my Jeep Grand Cherokee for a Chrysler Town and Country mini van. I wanted something that will allow me to take the grandkids, golden retriever, work well for auctions, haul my yard supplies and flowers and bushes and be comfortable for traveling, so I can bring more back home than I left with."

Tim Henebry

Tim Henebry's story is one in which his Cadet yearbook overview appears to have given no clue of where his life would take him. Football for his first year, wrestling for three years, four years of track, Spanish club as a sophomore, Big Mac Day as a freshmen, and when he was a senior, Student Council Alternative, are the mentions of what he did at MacArthur.

But was there something else, right beneath the surface? Tim, during this bio exchange, shared with me what I had written in his 1965 Cadet: "Tim, Social-Government Problems has been very interesting (?). It seems we all know the right answers in there, but Jones doesn't give the right questions. Best of luck in the medical field you go into? 65. Loren Coleman..."

Tim Henebry shares his bio sketch:

"My wife, Bobbie (originally from New Jersey), and I have now been together more than 28 years since meeting in southeast Oregon and will celebrate our anniversary this year with our long-waited dream of going to Ireland. A second marriage for us both, we have four great boys—my sons, John and Mike—her sons, Bob and Jim—and their wonderful wives and families. In the mix are three grandchildren—and one on the way. Two of the guys and their families live here in the Northwest while the other two are in the military, and when not deployed, live in places as diverse as Honolulu and Washington, DC. With and 'about' family is where and how we spend much of our time.

"I've lived in Washington State since 1995 and now reside in Ellensburg—a small 'cowboy/college' town in the central part of the state. I’m mostly retired (last fall) from a 38 year career as a psychologist providing community mental health, employee assistance counseling and critical incident stress interventions. I initially went to Millikin University and then received my graduate degrees (M.A. and Ph.D.) from DePaul University and Union Graduate School. I’ve had the good fortune and opportunity to live and work in several parts of the country, both urban and rural—including, central Illinois; eastern Oregon, Washington, DC; and downtown Seattle. Much of the time I’ve had a 'home-based' office but I’ve also had a number of temporary assignments that have taken me to other interesting parts of the country—from California to Alaska to Colorado—from Wisconsin to Louisiana and Mississippi. It’s been a 'good ride' and now I mostly like staying closer to home.

"While I’ve worked in a number of professional settings, ironically (I think) my favorite was being called to do critical incident stress debriefing and intervention. Whether working with those affected by major accidents, natural disasters, shootings, terrorist attacks or military combat, one of the best feelings is in knowing that you’re able to provide some immediate relief to another human being as well as help in preventing the longer-term personal impact of a traumatic event.

"But I also love being retired. My 'second career' is playing guitar (and a little banjo) in the music group, 'Prairie Spring' with my wife, Bobbie, and our friend Barb. While we occasionally have a paid gig, it’s really just a lot of fun (though I’m glad I kept my 'day job' all those other years). We mostly play and sing Americana roots, folk, Celtic and western tunes—for art shows, the local farmer’s market, the county fair/rodeo, weddings, and other private celebrations and events. When the weather is good I get outdoors when I can to hike in the nearby mountains and canyons--or get the kayak out on a river, lake or Puget Sound. Life is good. Yes, I have plenty of health 'challenges' as well—but no need to get into those. As I reflect back over the years and consider the present, the phrase from a Wordsworth poem comes to mind, '...and on I walked in blessedness, which even yet remains.'

"My first car, purchased in my junior year of college, was a lemon yellow 1960 VW Beetle Covertible. My current car is a 1995 Ford Escort wagon--perfect for throwing my kayaks on top and gear inside with no worries about scratching or damage; it still runs great, and I get better gas mileage than many late model hybrids. Actually, my very first car was one my brother and I bought when we were around 13 or 14--a 1928 Model A Ford Coupe--but we only got it up and running a few times--and of course, couldn't really drive it around town."

Sandy Rentfro

Sandra Rentfro was an active member of the Senior Class of 1965, and for years involved in the National Honor Society, Spanish Club, cheerleading, and homecoming committees at MacArthur.

Today she is known as Sandy Porter, and she shares what's happened to her in the last few decades:

"After graduation I attended EIU briefly before going to work for Caterpillar where I met my husband of 43 yrs, Joe Porter (Moweaqua, Class of '59). We have 2 children and 4 grandchildren under the age of 6. We lived in Mt. Zion until Caterpillar transferred us to Pekin, Illinois; then York, Pennsylvania; then back to Illinois where we've lived since 1988.

"Remember those old commercials on WLS for US30 Drag Strip in Oswego, Illinois? Well, that's where I live. The drag strip is long gone but we still like to take the '55 Chevy out and relive the 'good old days.'

"I enjoy bowling, golf (sometimes), traveling (except for the flying part), eating out, country music and old time rock and roll.

"I also love reading, and I am a member of that dying breed of reader that loves the print media. There isn't anything better than curling up with a good book or magazine. Curling up with a Kindle just isn't the same!

"My favorite place on earth is Kauai but home is where my family is. My husband wishes it were Tennessee where our property is but the grandchildren are in Illinois. Life's too short to not be where they are. It has been fun (and at times sad) to see what has happened to the Class of '65 but I've enjoyed reconnecting.

"We started going to Hawaii after Hurricane Iniki almost destroyed the place and they had low prices to attract tourists. No longer the case but it is still the Garden Isle though. Not like Oahu which is Chicago with palm trees.

"My daughter Holly is an Editor with CCH Inc. (publisher of tax and business law books). My son Wade travels the world as a market professional for Caterpillar."

"What was my first car? It's times like these that I really miss my Dad. He bought me that car and he would have been able to tell me chapter and verse about it. All I remember is that it was 1962 Oldsmobile blue/green 4-door and that my Dad signed it over to Joe before we got married. I always wondered why he did that. Was it some sort of dowery? I'm sorry I never asked him while I could. Perhaps in the 60s that didn't seem as odd as it does today. We really have come a long way, baby.

"My current car is a 2007 Toyota 4-Runner Limited. While I love 4 Runners in general (I've had 3), I hate this particular car for a variety of reasons. If I hadn't accidentally ripped the door off my 2002 4-Runner, I wouldn't even have it. FYI - if you leave your receipt in the gas pump, do not leave your car running and your door open when you get out to retrieve it - or at least make sure your car really is in park. To my husband's credit, he didn't kill me. Not a day goes by that I don't regret ruining that car."

Rick Livesay

Richard Livesay, besides being in the German club, was most deeply involved in music at MacArthur High School. He found himself playing for the Cadet Band, involved in chorus and choral groups, and engaging in musicals, festivals, and Christmas programs. Rick even was a member of exchange programs with rival high schools, Lakeview and Stephen Decatur.

As Rick began writing his bio for this blog, he was reflective and wanted to know how much folks might want to know: "I was born in Eugene, Oregon, to the present, but with some stuff like I worked for Macon County Mosquito Abatement District; yes, I was the guy who drove the fog truck at night."

He recently went through a knee operation, had some time off, and come back with thoughts on what he wanted to share. In his own words:

"My senior year I fell in love with a Junior, Kay Kirchmann; she died suddenly in an accident, which we can never understand. WHY? is always the question and it's never answered. I have never gotten over this and maintain her grave to this day. I still keep in touch with her mother as she too meant lots to the high school kid who practically lived at her house. Those who have left us need mentioning somewhere."

Rick returned later with more specifics, about life after MacArthur:

"After graduation from MacArthur I began my summer employment at Macon County Mosquito Abatement District. This was to be my summer job for the next three summers.

"In the fall of '65, I attended little Eureka College, majoring in elementary education. I stayed at Eureka for one and a half years transferring to the University of Missouri half way through my sophomore year. I graduated from MU in 1969 with a BS in Education and signed on to the Mehlville School District in St Louis County.

"Almost immediately I fell in love with teaching. It was during this first year when I got the call to serve in the US Army, as so many of us did. I got to finish my first year of teaching and the following summer; then took off for Ft. Leonard Wood. I spent most of my Army time being sent to training schools and finally ended up at Manhattan, Kansas with the Big Red One at Ft. Riley. It was during this year I served directly under the Commanding General and ran a portion of the personnel department. I also became a Kansas State fan and a bartender in my part time.

"After my service I headed back to my teaching position in Mehlville where I spent the next 28 years, with 6th graders as a science teacher and coach. I met my wife of 35 years, Kathy, at my school. She was an aid with special district and just knocked me off my feet. We had two great kids Mark, 23 and Beth, 26; both have graduated and live too far from us. No grand kids yet. I continued my education and received a Masters Degree from SIU Edwardsville and an additional 48 hours from Southeast Missouri State and Truman Universities. I was awarded the nomination for the NFL Teacher of the year by a former student, National Air Force Teacher of the Year, My Districts Teacher of the Year and other awards. I spoke to teachers at State Conventions, ran work shops, but never published or pursued a doctorate. I just loved being a Daddy too much to be away from my family.

"After teaching I took a part time job in my local community center in their fitness department. Here I gradually learned how to be a floor trainer. (That’s the guy who helps everyone with no specific clients.) Also I began fixing things that broke down. These technical skills grew and I became a valued commodity. I moved to another center and then to another. Who would have thought about upward mobility in retirement? I now work for the City of Webster Groves and have been in recreation for ten years and plan to stay here until I finally retire.

"I look forward to increasing my activities in gardening, reading, art, exercise, kayaking and camping and bike riding. I’d also love to sing again in a church choir and find MayBerry."

Rick later remembered to send in his first car/present car info:

"I shared a car with my brother, a 1973 Comet. My first was a 1972 Mercury Capri sports car thing. Now, I own a Honda minivan that is silver and let's see, it is a 2002 with 112,000 miles."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Penny Pennington

Penny Pennington, Mac '65

Perhaps there was a hint of Penny's future in the Cadet Yearbook. The book notes that she was involved in the Spanish club.

As it turns out, Penny's life has been one of dedication to a couple specific focuses. She became a mother and a traveler, via being an independent contractor for a travel agency, far away from Decatur.

Let me share what her present travel agency's website says, giving a hint of how far back this goes:

Penny Taylor's interest in travel started in 5th grade when she was assigned to do a report on Venice, Italy. Some years later she arrived in Venice on a sunny celebration-filled final day of Carnivale, and the experience cemented her joy of discovery and her thirst for travel. She's now been a travel consultant for over 25 years.

Since MacArthur, Penny became an authority on travel and a worldwide traveler herself, in the process:

Penny Taylor, CTC, ...specializes in creating wonderful vacations or cruises to Europe and Mexico. She enjoys creating Independent Tours for her personal travels. Penny has recently been to Cancun, Mexico; Hawaii; Eastern U.S.; Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Canada and Florida Keys. She cruised to Mexico on RCCL.

Penny has directly shared the following with this blog:

I went to SIU for two quarters and lived at Steigal Hall. I then went to Lincoln College for a year. Moved to California in 1968. I brought a one way ticket and I hoped to get a job with the airlines. I did. I worked the ticket counter at LAX for about 4 years.

While working for the airlines, I earned an AA degree from a Los Angeles college, and then went full time to Valley State and
graduated in '74 with a BS degree in Business Marketing. I worked for a short time for McDonalds, Inc., in their Hollywood corporate offices.

I got married in '75, had a wonderful son in '78, and divorced in '80. About 3 years after my divorce, I went to work as manager of a travel agency. I continued in that position untill 2008. I remarried in 1992 and inherited a great step daughter, 18 days older than my son.

My husband is retired for the most part, does consulting. He has been a marine engineer, however, for the last 20 years has been involved in design work, a lot of after-market for cars.

My son is a Los Angeles Sheriff and my step daughter is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in Vermont. Two grandchildren ~ my son has a daughter 10 months and my stepdaughter has a son 6 months.

Most interesting place I visited was Russia in the late 80's, still very communist. My favorite place is Venice. I am in the process of retiring, about 18 months to go and counting.

This little note is to be found on her agency's site, and it adds a bit of an insight:

She is thankful that her husband is a great travel companion who enjoys exploring new destinations as much as she does. Penny's cherished children and even her grandchildren are seasoned travelers too. The apple, as they say, does not fall far from the tree.

Penny's answer to the car question follows:

My first car in California was a Bronx 1968 Camaro four-on-the-floor and the car I have now is a 2009 Jaguar - red. I had a red Covair in Decatur after high school. In high school I drove my Dad's Valiants; oh, how a hated those cars. Now that I look back, I was really lucky to have a car at my disposal.

The virtual reunion continues, before the actual one takes place on June 24-25, 2011, in Decatur. Join in and share what you've been doing for the last 45 years, with your classmates. If you are a Mac '65 graduate, please submit your short bio sketch to me via clicking on this safe contact form here. End your bio with your answer to this fun question: "What was the make and year of the first vehicle that was all yours, and what kind/year is your present one?"

Friday, May 14, 2010

Buggy Bios

In the forthcoming biographical sketches, besides the usual life events that people wish to share, I'm asking everyone to send in their responses to one special multi-part question.

It is a question that reaches across time. I tried to find a question that would have little to do with your jobs, whether you had kids or pets or where you lived. Of course, life decisions will come into play in your answers, but I wanted to find a question to which we all could relate, which mixes in likes and dislikes, history and journeys, choices and practical events.

The question I will be asking everyone to answer is this one:

"What was the make and year of the first vehicle that was all yours, and what kind/year is your present one?"

People are answering this question with some elaborations, so to show you how large a canvas you may use to paint your own pictures, I'm sharing some examples, below.

This topic has a sense of fun & the past within it, and something we all have shared. Not being a car person myself, even though I am a guy, I know there is no stereotyping people regarding their interests in cars and other vehicles. People pick what cars they have owned for a variety of reasons.

Below are three people's answers. All will be tied to these folks' future bios posted here.

Here are the three sample answers to the above vehicle question, to serve as models of what I'm getting at with this one. Since it only seems fair that I reveal my own story as a example, see if you can guess the one that is mine.

Person #1.

"My first car, purchased in my junior year of college, was a lemon yellow 1960 VW Beetle Covertible. My current car is a 1995 Ford Escort wagon--perfect for throwing my kayaks on top and gear inside with no worries about scratching or damage; it still runs great, and I get better gas mileage than many late model hybrids. Actually, my very first car was one my brother and I bought when we were around 13 or 14--a 1928 Model A Ford Coupe--but we only got it up and running a few times--and of course, couldn't really drive it around town."

Person #2.

"I got my first car from my parents, a gift sometime during the summer of 1965, after I graduated from MacArthur. It was, as I remember, a 1960 Plymouth, gray, with those pointed fins on it. Must have been a Sport Fury. I went to SIU-C a few weeks after getting it, and never really drove it much. You couldn't have cars at SIU, as a freshman, so I left it behind. I went home once during the fall of 1965, on a break, and discovered my middle brother had totaled it. I'm glad he didn't kill himself, of course, but he never said he was sorry and never replaced it. Nine years later, in California, I bought my own first car, an orange Datsun pickup truck, about a 1971. My car right now is a 2006 black Chevy HHR, I bought in 2009, because I like the 1940s look of it. But having always bought and owned Datsuns, Nissans, and Subaru trucks and station wagons, I don't know if this HHR was a good move, especially in the winter. I like the storage, space, excellent mileage, and especially the Art Deco feel, but, the rotors are terribly thin, and you can hardly see out of the windows, due to the framing."

Person #3.

"What was my first car? It's times like these that I really miss my Dad. He bought me that car and he would have been able to tell me chapter and verse about it. All I remember is that it was a 1960 blue/green Olds 4-Dr and that my Dad signed it over to [my future husband] before we got married. I always wondered why he did that. Was it some sort of dowery? I'm sorry I never asked him while I could. Perhaps in the 60s that didn't seem as odd as it does today. We really have come a long way, baby. My current car is a 2007 Toyota 4-Runner Limited. While I love 4 Runners in general (I've had 3), I hate this particular car for a variety of reasons. If I hadn't accidentally ripped the door off my 2002 4-Runner, I wouldn't even have it. FYI - if you leave your receipt in the gas pump, do not leave your car running and your door open when you get out to retrieve it - or at least make sure your car really is in park. To my husband's credit, he didn't kill me. Not a day goes by that I don't regret ruining that car."

If you guessed the middle paragraph was my story, you were right. Persons #1 and #3 will be identified soon, in bios posted this weekend. Watch for them.

So, get ready to share yours, if you will, for the reunion blog and booklet.

If you are a graduate from the Class of 1965, MacArthur High School, Decatur, Illinois, I'm collecting all the bios (including the question above) for the booklet on everyone, to be distributed at the 2011 reunion and beyond. Get a head start now, and please submit your three paragraph bio sketch to me via using this safe contact form here. Everyone is interested in what you've done, no matter what it is because all of our realities and stories have been our own.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How Dye Died

In the arena of unfinished business, the following new information reached me overnight. It answers a question many of us have had: How exactly did Greg Dye die?

Greg Duncan Dye was a familiar and popular personality among the students in the graduating class of 1965. Class President in our sophomore year, Greg was a triple sports athlete (football, wrestling, track) for all four years, and on the Monitor staff as a senior.

It was with some shock that folks researching what happened to our classmates learned that Greg died at a young age.

As I mentioned earlier, Gregory Duncan Dye, 22, of 1975 S. East Gate Drive, Decatur, was killed in a hunting accident, over four years after graduating from MacArthur, on Sunday morning, November 23, 1969, near Marinette, Wisconsin. At the time, he was a senior at the University of Illinois.

Here are further details.

Near Wausaukee, Wisconsin, Greg was hunting with his brother, the Rev. Bradley F. Dye, when Greg wounded a deer. When Greg started tracking the wounded animal, Greg tripped and discharged his rifle.

The Decatur Review, reporting on the incident on November 24, 1969, noted: "The bullet struck him beneath the jaw. After emergency treatment, he was taken to the hospital, where he was dead on arrival."

The death was ruled "accidental" by the Marinette County coroner in Wisconsin.

Greg Dye was born in St. Louis, a son of Wilber F. and Eileen Hanks Dye. He was survived by his parents, brother Bradley at home and a sister Pamela of Miami, Florida. During the funeral, the newspapers' mentioned that Wolfe Furniture in Decatur was closed in memory of Greg, as his father owned Wolfe Furniture.

It may have been over 40 years ago, but there is something about hearing it for the first time, for me, that was as if I'd just watched a news bulletin on CNN. All of these deaths are difficult to heard about, but I want, no, I need to know.

I am saddened by the thought of the bright light who was Greg leaving the scene so early.

Appreciation to Judy Sumner, Mac '66, for the news items.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bikini Tree

Bikini Tree in Fairview Park is a Decatur, Illinois tradition. Do you remember it?

Slowly, as you drive through the park, in the distance, you begin to see it.

A real sense of joy would overtake you as you grew closer, and "discovered" it.

How long has this been going on?

Certainly, a good deal of time.

We all remember it from the 1950s and 1960s. It would be repainted so often it would be comedic. It is still happening!

Mac '65 guy Phil Hunt recently posted on his Facebook account his journey back to Decatur, and one image was of the Bikini Tree.

Phil mentions he will be posting whatever new version he finds, every time he returns to Decatur.

Thanks to Millie for the tip.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Life Wonders

Ah, 1965. Mick's still around from then, and so are we.

One of the benefits of reconnecting with old classmates, neighborhood MacArthur friends, and even Decatur folks you never even hung out with in the 1960s is the delight in finding out where everyone's lives have taken them.

I have been very appreciative to hear that these blog postings are getting the kinds of reactions for which I had hoped. This is mainly to cause deliberative thoughtful moments about the amazing twists and turns we have all had along the way.

Or, as Stephen Day said eloquently in an email to Keith Day, which was shared with me: "I check for an update from Loren every day. Like all of us, as I learn more of the class of '65, the more I reflect on my life and what I’ve done (and what I should have done). It’s a great pleasure I look forward to every day."

What's next here?

Moving forward with this blog, I'm going to detail some quickie bios, little capsule insights into the various journeys many of us have taken. This is not about, as Rick Livesay pointed out to me, those high school labels about who was suppose to be the "most likely to succeed." There is something very hollow about those designations from high school.

From what I am seeing, the Class of 1965 has people who made radical changes in their lives and some folks who experienced the lives they always calmly wanted. Good for all of us, I say.

Honestly, we have been successful, in a variety of ways. If we have survived, even for short lives, we have made an impact. Some of our legacies will be in our children, our labor, our good works and our bad ones. Most of all, as everyone has grown to know, it will be through those we have touched that we shall know our pasts.

We all did work in some way or another, we have created various things, some have married, most have had kids, and lots of us did what was important to us, no matter what it looks like on paper, from the outside, or to others. We are straight, gay, alone, together, separated, still married, widows, widowers, divorced, confused, centered, and more. We are human.

It seems if there's one underlying theme with the Mac '65 individuals, it is that most have ended up doing what we wanted to do and retained the ability to be surprised as to where we ended up.

The bios I'll share here will be wide-ranging, from as many people as wish to share. They will not be about bragging or comparing resumes. One of the wonderful things about being older (in years but not in our minds) is that we have no one to impress any more (except for that occasional grandchild or godkid, now and then, with tales from the days before emails and texting).

Also interesting has been to hear that someone else you went to high school with crossed paths with you in their travels, unknown to either party. For example, today, because of all this classmate connecting, I was told by Dave Wooten that he was in Enfield, Illinois, at the same time I was investigating an animal mystery there in 1973. Who could have known that our lives had overlapped way back then, without this new reunion process?

As it turns out, that tale of the Enfield horror (click on that name if you wish to read about that, as I'm not going to get into the details here) has turned into quite a story. Thanks to Dave, today, I learned that, believe it or not, a murder was part of the final events there.

Like I have found in trying to connect all the dots from our graduating class, almost ever story has ended up far from what any of us could have predicted. As we know, a couple of them have been murders and others have been sad endings, but most have not. It is time to move on to a few of the happier stories. (This is not to say I won't be afraid to following up on some loose ends in the events that have open questions, regarding some deaths we are investigating, of course.)

I am very curious about you all. I want to know what everyone has been up to and what great, mundane, routine, tragic, or intriguing things you have experienced. From what I hear, I'm not the only one interested, either.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Obits & Missing

Time Magazine, May 1965.

A few updates to the listings of obituaries have occurred under the "Who Has Died?" posting, as well as the other special notes on various other deaths in separate postings. (Please review the archives to find those.)

We need more obit info about the following people who have been confirmed as having passed away:

Pat Charles Bilyeu. Word has been received that she passed away 12 - 14 yrs ago from liver cancer. More information is needed.
Judith E. Burke [Wilson]
Thomas Chambers
Joan Elaine Clapp
Timothy Cleary
John Robert Coutrakon. John Coutrakon was apparently killed in a car/logging truck accident in the late 1980s. More info is needed.
Donna Jean Derr.
Frances Diane Johnson. Nov. 1973?
Edward Albert Palmer
Steven Alan Volle.

1965 Corvette Coupe

The following additional notes have been recently added to the "Who Is Missing?" section. Even with the new finds that means there are lots of people about whom we have no data, at all, yet. Can you help?

The Missing List...

Martha Allen (Taylor)
Barbara Baker
Andrew Eugene Barber
Donna Lee Barfield (Barlow)
Mary Ann Bass (Danis)
Murray Halleck Beck - Found, living in Illinois.
Cindy Anne Best (Danner)
Donna K. Bottrell (Martin) - Found, living in Wisconsin.
Donald Eugene Brewer - Found, living in Florida.
Sharon Ann Bridgeman
Terri Louise Brown (Stuhlmann)
John Burkehart
Richard Allen (Dick) Burrous - Found, living in Oregon.
Greg Lee Butler - Still need info.
Carol Louise Buttz (Hawes)
Lynn Franklin Calhoun - Found, living in Decatur.
Floyd Campbell
Darrilyn Faye Castelli (Lewis)
Pat Charles (Bilyeu) - Deceased
Robert (Bob) Thomas Cross
Donna Jean Cunningham (Ferhenbach)
Annie Kate Currie
James Stephen Dehority - new add to missing
Diana Lee Dotson - new add to missing
Carolyn Joyce Elbert (Camp) - Located, more info needed.
Ray Edward Estes
Joseph Don Garvin Jr.
Stephen L. Gideon
Richard Gilaspie (sp?) or R. L. Gillespie - new add to missing
Sharon Lynn Goldman
Pam Goodwin (Kemp)
Becky Diane Grant (Revell) - Deceased
Shirlee Grupe (McCartney)
Linda Kay Gulino (Ogden) - Found, living in Arizona.
Keith Douglas Hamman - new add to missing
Peggy Harper (Sipes)
Charles Thomas (Tom) Harrington
Sheila Jo Harrington (Telford)
Maira Lynn Harris
R. Steve Hill
Donnie R. Howard - Perhaps found, Chicago
Richard Lynn Huston - new add to missing
Carol Ann Irvin
Paul Young Irvin
Barbara J. King
Jim Douglas Klausmeier
David Knight
Shirley Ann Macklin (Bates)
Joan McElrath
Paula McGehee (Foran) - Found, living in Illinois.
Ken McGlade - Found, living in Decatur
Daniel Edly Mahnke - new add to missing
Thomas (Tom) Edward Manship - Found, living in New York.
Margarette Ann Meisenheimer (Repass) (Gault) - Found, living in Decatur.
Rebecca (Becky) Lou Miller (Dick) - Found, living in Decatur.
Darrell Lynn Miller
Connie Nixon (Wilber)
Janet Lee Owens
Susan Beth Parry (Gordon)
Michael (Mike) (Skip) Pieszala - Found, living in Illinois.
Susan Ramsey
Frances Lynette Ray (Whitehurst)
Kathy Elaine Reeter
Beverly Ann Rogers (Donavan)
Charlene Ann Ruff (Smith)
Linda Mae Rutherford
Gay Lee Schlacter (Johnson) - Found, living in Chicago.
Edwin Leon Scott - Found, living in California.
John Shields
Joanne Marie Singleton
Sharon Sue Sledge - Found, in Arizona.
(Mary) Stephany Smith
Nancy Karen Smith (Rickemann)
Carol Joann Steele (Lemons)
Cynthia Sue Sterns (Sample)
John Carlbert Stroup
Jeannette Anne Sullivan
Judy Swam (Ray)
Donald Roy Swartz
Joanne Elizabeth Taylor
Lucille Paulette Taylor
Patricia Kingsley Teare - Found, living in Chicago.
Tom Tomalla - Is he really in Missouri? Further confirmation needed.
Sue Todd (Lewis) (Woolington) - Found, living in Decatur.
Claudia Voelcker
Lamae Wachholz
Nancy Jane Walker (Morrison)
Marilyn Sue Walton (Anderson)
Ralph Weaver
Linda Jane White (Edelhofer)
Gary Wilhelm
Charles Winegardner
Gary Lee Word - Found, in Arizona.
Alice L. Young (Hardenfeld) - Found, living in Indiana.

Brigitte Bardot visits New York, 1965.

The number of people we are finding is encouraging, and many people are talking to each other. The search for classmates is not so much an expedition hunting elusive souls, as much as a memory jogging exercise to recall when and where you have last heard from so and so or whether you might know the whereabouts of this person or that one.

Send in a comment below, or if you have corrections, updates, or additional information, please use this safe contact form by clicking here.

We won't be calling off the search for our classmates, no matter what the reason! Thank you.