My December birthday triggers a trip down memory lane. I realize how blessed I’ve been with my marriage with Fran, with bright and responsible (now adult) children, and with circumstances leading me to work for a newspaper in a little country town (Woodstock) in 1947.
My college experience with The Daily Illini and the opportunity to cover the Illinois basketball team at the time (The Whiz Kids as that group of outstanding Illinois high school alumni were called) was the right circumstance to appreciate a career in local journalism. Local journalism provides an opportunity to investigate, question, praise and become closely associated with the community leaders and builders.
With my career in public relations and newspaper writing, I’ve had the good fortune to meet and report on many national figures. My 1954 trip to the Illinois State Fair was a milestone to meet and cover President Eisenhower during his speech at the fairgrounds.
Visiting with Ernie Banks when he spoke at our Little League dinner in 1962, and his earlier visit in 1958 to help raise funds for Woodstock Christian Care, are enjoyable memories. So are visits and photo sessions with celebrities such as Richard Nixon (1972), President George H.W. Bush (1992), Farm Bureau leader Charles B. Shuman (1950), Orion Samuelson (1960), Sen. Everett Dirksen (1956), Ron Santo, Bill Murray, Red Skelton, Satchel Paige and Mother Teresa (June 1981).
Other celebrities I was fortunate to meet as a photographer and editor include Neil Armstrong, Adlai Stevenson, Dick Butkus, Mickey Rooney, Shelly Berman, Geraldine Page, Jackie Robinson, Barack Obama, Gayle Sayers, Rosalyn Carter, Nelson Rockefeller, Barbara Bush and Ronald Reagan.
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Annual tree-lighting ceremony on the Woodstock Square begins at 7 p.m. Friday when Miss Woodstock Theresa Narusis throws the switch to light the downtown. The Woodstock choir directed by Paul Rausch will help establish the Christmas season.
Festivities continue with an 8 p.m. performance of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at the Opera House. The play tells the story of the six horrible Herdman kids who come to Sunday school to take parts in the pageant because they were told they’d get treats. Kathie Comella is directing her 18th holiday production.
Woodstock’s Christmas parade begins at 2 p.m. Nov. 25 on the Woodstock Square followed by a 4 p.m. performance of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” Call the box office at 815-338-5300.
Don’t miss seeing the 30 Christmas trees in the Opera House community room and library on display until Jan. 7. Each tree is decorated by a civic group or organization to represent this year’s theme, “Gifts of the Season.”
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Here’s my special wish for a blessed Thanksgiving to each of you.
• Don Peasley has been an editor, columnist and historian in McHenry County since October 1947. He began his association with Shaw Publications in 1950. He may be reached at 815-338-1533.