The Winner • The Award Reception • All Nominees • All Letters
Dear Dad ... the man Behind the Family
Roger Fletcher and his dad Bill share a moment on the farm, standing beside their newest addition, a Case International.
Part of the farming routine these days is for Bill Fletcher to feed the cows.
Bill Fletcher, right, and his son, Roger pause for a moment on the porch of the family farm.
A young Bill Fletcher and his two children, Tammy and his son Roger, obviously camera shy, had a family photo taken not long after their mother was killed in a car accident.
William Fletcher, fondly known as Bill, still tells the love story of his youth with a gleam in his eyes. It was around 1958, soon after he had returned from serving in the Army in Hawaii, when a young woman from Springfield “came to Winchester hunting me,” he tells with a little sly slant to the tale. She was going to beauty school and a friend told her of Fletcher and brought her to meet him.
A year later, his sweetheart would become his wife. They married in 1959 and went about making a life in Winchester, just down the road from the home place where his parents lived. In time they had two children, Roger and Tammy.
The story seemingly falls together like a storybook. But in the 13th year of their marriage tragedy would come calling.
On Sept. 2, 1972 on state Road 106 while heading toward Carrollton, a car struck the Fletcher vehicle head-on. The family of four was shattered, claiming mom’s life. Dad was left to raise his 2-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
Life would ensue. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright hard.
“I did what I had to do,” Bill speaks of his resilience. “Me and my brother (Charlie) were farming together (about 600 acres). We took care of the sows, pigs and watched over the hog lot. I had so much to do I couldn’t think about anything else,” the 77-year-old recounts today.
But in the midst of all the work were these two children. Dad didn’t have time to slow down, but he had lots of love in his heart, which gave him pause to show tenderness.
“He’s very huggy, very emotional,” Tammy Bergland says of her dad. There was no filling my mother’s role, she was gone … and of course, I missed her a lot.”
Instead, the confident 41-year-old Bergland, who now serves as marketing director for the United Way in St. Joseph, Mo. believes she got her start toward leadership way back then. She describes it this way.
“I was the mom. I’m quite sure I was a little bossy girl,” she says with a chuckle. Of course, they still had some people step in to lend a hand.
“As much as possible, we went to grandma’s house,” Tammy says. Telling her child-like memories, she adds: “Grandma Fletcher washed the good clothes; Grandma Sweetin washed the everyday clothes.” That would be the story until Tammy’s eighth-grade year when they got their own washer and dryer and that became her chore.
Dad spent his spare time cooking. Those weekly staples are still a part of Roger’s memories.
“He’s a good cook,” Roger says while sitting in the dining room that once belonged to his grandma. “There was a lot of fried,” he recalls. And then out of his memory bank flows the menu: white potatoes, white gravy, pork chops during the week and chicken on Sunday. His dad, seated at the other end of the table – the house being where he was born – shakes his head in agreement.
The food prepared by Bill had to come from somewhere … the farm of course. Growing up as part of the Fletcher family meant gardening. Both the adult children grimace as they remember the work.
“Dad gardened enough to feed a city,” Tammy says. But as hard as it was, she learned a whole lot about crops.
“We spent a lot of time canning,” she said. On the flipside, she also made a lot of chocolate chip cookies – a little Betty Crocker in the making.
And then there was Roger. It’s tough to believe this well-mannered, extraordinarily quiet 40-year-old was ever rambunctious, but he says he was.
“She (his sister) was the good one, I was the wild one,” he says, reluctant to say anything more than that he and the boys down the road would ride motorcycles.
But he, too, picked beans and worked hard.
“Whatever he (dad) was doing, you were doing,” Roger says.
That remains somewhat true today. While Roger works as the Maintenance Manager of Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative, he still finds ample time to spend with his family and works with his dad on the farm growing corn, soybeans and raising cattle.
A trip down into the pasture, via a mud-grooved roadway engineered by spring rains, finds Roger and Bill comfortably feeding their bovine friends. A bucket of shelled corn brings the cows and their calves calling, tongues outstretched looking for a friendly bite.
When the farm work is done, you might find the two fishing at one of the three ponds on the property, or in the fall a deer hunt might be in order.
Such was the case some years ago when a deer hunt would leave an indelible mark.
It seems the two men, when hunting, always go in opposite directions. Roger, however, often sets up a deer stand for his dad, so Bill can climb up and be on the lookout. On this particular hunt, Roger had put the stand against one tree, but his dad wanted a different site. So, Roger went to scout out the territory.
Meanwhile, dad – not knowing the stand hadn’t been secured at the first location – headed up the tree. But not for long. One leg of the stand began to sink and dad toppled over, falling 10 feet at first and then rolling another 10.
The result: two broken wrists that required surgery and a pin in each.
Bill says the fall turned out to be a blessing in truest disguise, despite the inconveniences of casts on both wrists for two months.
“Maybe it was a good thing I broke them,” Bill says. When tested during the ordeal, the hospital doctors discovered he had prostate cancer. He was treated and today is cancer free.
Bill’s life has been what some would call a “simple” lifestyle. He hasn’t ventured far from the farm for long, other than to “vacation,” as he calls it, by working with 4-H. He was also an avid bowler up until four years ago when his knees started giving him trouble and he cooked sausage for years down at the First Baptist Church. And his one passion outside the family is for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Throughout his life, Bill has stayed true to his beliefs and gained wisdom along the way. He says the secret to good corn and beans is to get the seed best suited to your ground. It must be true for other fruits and veggies, too. He lays claim to having a 102-pound watermelon one year.
As for staying out of trouble, Bill learned that the hard way. With a smile on his face, he chimes in with a story from 70-plus years ago.
When he was a child he tested his grandma’s theory that a skunk couldn’t spray you if picked up by its tail. He somehow managed to do just that and marched right into the house with his prize possession. While grandma’s wisdom was accurate, the sight of a skunk indoors just didn’t sit well with the adults.
A hard life hasn’t permanently dampened the spirits of Bill or his children. Looking out over the farm, Roger says his dad gave consistent advice.
“He always told me everything happens for a reason.”
The son who believed his dad, also believes in him. When Illinois Country Living presented readers with the opportunity to write in about deserving fathers, Roger decided his dad’s recognition was past due.
Bill was selected among strong contenders for the title.
Tammy, who says she never saw her family as a single-parent household, is happy her father has reached this plateau in life.
She said her dad was always there for her.
“My dad, as hard as he worked … I never felt I was alone.” When it came to school plays and band performances, other friends’ parents wouldn’t show. Her dad did.
Knowing her father’s penchant for privacy also gives Tammy pause to laugh.
“I think it’s funny, because I know how uncomfortable it will make him,” she said of the planned reception.
But it’s worth celebrating, she concedes.
“We’ve been out of the house for 20 years. He made it. He raised us. He did a good job.”
Attending from the Fletcher family (from left to right) are Laura, Chris, Mason, Diana, Tammy, Roger, Bill, Charlie, Morgan, Ben and Sandy. Grandchildren, Zach and Alex Bergland were not in attendance.
And the winner is ...
An honor that started out with a loving letter culminated June 8 with a full celebration of family and friends in honor of William Fletcher of Winchester, the first ever Illinois Country Father of the Year named by Illinois Country Living.
In a sport shirt and dress pants, Bill – or “Willy Bill” as some call this 77 year-old – humbly entered the Fireside Room at Hamilton’s Catering in Jacksonville.
Awaiting him were hugs and smiles from his children and grandchildren and a host of neighbors and friends.
The family opted for Aunt Sandy Fletcher to do the honors of reading the nomination letter submitted by Roger, Bill’s only son. Following the reading, daughter Tammy, who drove from Missouri for the occasion, spoke a few sentiments and choked back tears as she talked about her loving father.
As award winner, Bill received a plaque and coat declaring his title, a $100 gift card as promised in the promotion of the contest and four tickets to a St. Louis Cardinals game. While he is a life-long fan of the team, he has never attended a game. That should change this month.
Other deserving nominees for the title include:
Kevin Asbury of Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association (Nominated by his daughter, Madelyn Asbury)
William Jesse Ayers of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative (Nominated by his daughter, JoAnn Yeaman)
Mac Casner of Shelby Electric Cooperative (Nominated by his daughter, Rhonda Gatons)
Heath Curtis of Southeastern Illinois Electric Cooperative (Nominated by his wife, Rebekah Curtis)
Roger Dykstra of Jo-Carroll Energy (Nominated by his children, Amy, Sara, Andrew, & Lisa Dykstra)
Jeffrey Scott Harris of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative (Nominated by his daughter, Kortney Harris)
Bob Houzenga of Jo-Carroll Energy (Nominated by his daughter, Kelly Cramer)
James L. Manier of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative (Nominated by his mother, Shirley Manier)
David McMahan of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative (Nominated by his wife, Angie McMahan)
Rodell Rhine of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative (Nominated by his daughter, Leslie Heinz)
Bill Steinacher of Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative (Nominated by wife, Julie Steinacher)
Maurice Taylor of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative (Nominated by his wife, Danielle Taylor)
Maurice Taylor of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative (Nominated by his daughter, Beatrice Anna Taylor)
Keith Throm of Clinton County Electric Cooperative (Nominated by his daughter, Morgan Throm)
Doug Wahl of Rock Energy Cooperative (Nominated by his son, Zachary Wahl)
- Jimmy F. Wilson of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative (Nominated by his children, Lisa A. Jones, Pelesia Karsen, Jerry Wilson, & Idegail Dover)
Nominee – William D. Fletcher
Nominated By – Roger Fletcher
Cooperative – Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative
Location – Winchester
In September 1972, my family was in a vehicle accident that claimed my mother’s life; I was two years old and my sister was three. As you may know or can imagine, this was very traumatic for us. My Dad, dealing with his own grief, did the very best he could do to raise us by himself and held us together as a family.
My Dad has always farmed, and he immersed himself (and us) in the demanding work that comes along with the business to work through the devastation of losing my mother. While Dad had the tasks of daily farm work and raising a family, he still had interest in and enough energy to dedicate his time to Scott County and the Winchester community. He has supported several organizations over the years including the First Baptist Church of Winchester, Scott County 4-H, Scott County Farm Bureau, Winchester Band Boosters, and Winchester Sports Boosters, to name a few. Mostly, he would take the jobs that no one else really wanted to do and he would say it didn’t matter to him, because “it all pays the same” – as these were volunteer positions. A very genuine person, who may not always agree but will always tell you the truth, that’s my Dad.
I have a lot of fond memories of working alongside of Dad on the farm, treasure the love he poured out to me and my sister growing up, and continues to share with us today, and respect the discipline he has given me over the years. One of the primary reasons I believe my Dad should be named “Illinois Country Father of the Year”, however, is that time he has devoted to me as an adult. Dad will be 78 this year, and we still work side-by-side on the farm. There is not a day that goes by that he is not working on farm matters or assisting me with my own family in some way. Whether running errands or picking up my kids after school functions, I can always count on my Dad – he is such a blessing. As a dad myself, I can see how hard it is to take care of a family and appreciate all that he has done and continues to do. Even after being diagnosed with cancer and diabetes, he continues to be cheerful, helpful, and giving.
My Dad continues to persevere in the most unselfish manner no matter what situation arises; this makes him extra special and deserving of recognition. I hope you will consider my Dad, William D. Fletcher, as “Illinois Country Father of the Year”.
Nominee – Kevin Asbury
Nominated By – Madelyn Asbury
Cooperation – Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association
Location – Vergennes
My dad is special because he tutors a friend of mine, he takes me swimming in my lake, he’s a Sunday school teacher, he’s going to be a teacher, he goes fishing with me and my mom, he works hard, and he helps me with my homework. Not too long ago he took us to Florida and every night before I went to bed he tickled me!
My dad helps others a lot! One time when we had a bad storm he lended his generator. He tutors a friend of mine in math because she has a hard time. He encourages people to do stuff they want to do but are scared. We went on a camping trip for our church he helped unload canoes and set up tents.
We have good memories too! I remember when he taught me how to swim. It was fun! He also helped me ride a bike. My dad also encourages me to learn the 66 books of the Bible. I did! And when I was wrong he still loved me and always will!
Nominee – William Jesse Ayers
Nominated By – JoAnn Yeaman
Cooperative – Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative Co.
Location – Pawnee
Jesse Ayers is the best Country Father of the Year!
I’m JoAnn Yeaman – Jesse Ayers’s daughter. My father is 72 years old and has always been a very social active individual. Through his life he has been “one call gets it all.” Jesse has wore several different hats in his life meaning he has been in the National Guard, Glenarm Boy Scout Master, Youth Leader at New City U.M.C. church. He drove a bus for Chatham Glenwood, everyone knows how much patience that takes. He was a security guard for a couple of years helping people, again very sociable type of person. He is still farming, attending Sugar Creek U. Methodist Church, being superintendent of Sunday school for 10 years, and Sunday school superintendent of previous church New City Methodist.
He is currently delivering approximately 280 Stat Journal Registers on a 70 mile route everyday.
Jesse is married to Jennie Lou Ayers. They had 2 children – the son is Jimmy and wife is Cyndey – they had 2 children – Cathryn and Cameron. Jesse keeps his family supplied with milk and eggs which is fresh off his neighbors.
Jesse Ayers has always been a good provider to his family and when a friend needs anything he will help.
If your grass needs mowed, he’ll be there – your driveway cleared out, there he is – maybe you need a vehicle serviced, he’ll take it. He does a lot of going for parts and repairs and fuel, whatever they need on the farm.
Jesse always wants to participate with family and friends – whether it be working, eating, making a garden, painting, planting, drying corn, dressing chickens, etc. All you or anyone needs to do is call - he has never turned me down. I’m 48 years old and live approximately 5 miles from his place. We talk 1 or sometimes 2 and 3 times a day. He loves his phone, if you’re in his phonebook and he has not heard from you lately, he’ll call just because.
Jesse is a very caring and loving, kind hearted and passionate, and very easy to talk and laugh with. He recently received his 5 gallon pin for blood, which is a big plus for all who needed blood.
My dad has been a good old farm boy, man, father, and grandfather. He has raised pigs, cows, chickens – corn and beans. Not really a dog lover. But recently he was asked to dog sit for this friend for 5 days. Guess what, “no” is not really in my dad’s vocabulary, he said OK. The dog tore up 2 electric cords and 1 pair of shoes, but everything was OK when the owner came after dog.
My father is not to have chocolate or caffeine: it is amazing the stash he keeps of Ding-Dongs and candy bars. His story is if anyone needs them he’ll share.
This man deserves Father of the Year ‘cause truthfully he would do anything for anyone within reason.
He is loved by many, hope you all like him too.
Nominee – Mac Casner
Nominated By – Rhonda Gatons
Cooperative – Shelby Electric Cooperative
Location – Shelbyville
I would like to nominate my father, Mac Casner, for this prestigious award. When I was browsing through the Illinois Country Living magazine, I came across this contest and knew in my heart – I needed to share with everyone how special my father is. My father just isn’t special; he is astonishing in so many ways. From an early age in my childhood, my father displayed some key characteristics of what a good, solid human being, should be. He always worked a full time job. Sometimes, I can even remember him working two full time jobs. On top of that, he would then farm and raise various cattle and livestock. I look back on those times now, and often wonder, how in the world he ever managed to take care of everything and yet never do I recall him complaining about anything.
You see, there are five children in our family, with an age spread of about twelve years. We were not “perfect” children to say the least. We all had our own special ways about ourselves, and we are all pretty independent type people. My father instilled each of us to be very strong individuals as we were growing up. He probably kicks himself a little now – as we have all grown into adults and still have those very “strong willed & independent” personalities!
The one true thing that inspires me about my father, now that I have become an adult, is his ability to continually help each of his children, grandchildren, neighbors, and his community. He is so very giving of anything that he can offer to help someone else in their journey of life. All five on his children have needed him at some point in time in our lives, over the past twenty to thirty years, and he is always there to support. Support can mean so many things. Financial, emotional, parenting, and personal - to just name a few. My dad provides all of those things to anyone who reaches out to him, unconditionally. He is proud to help others, but what I don’t think he realizes is how much of an impact he actually makes on people’s lives.
I am almost forty years old now and when I am going through a hard time or a new experience with something, my father is still the first person who comes to my mind to turn to. I know I am not alone as so many others continue to seek out his guidance. He truly provides new meaning to “a giving person”. He never asks for anything in return as this is never his goal. Actually, as I am writing this, it is hard to give him anything in return, as those types of things are not important to him. I guess that is one of the reasons why this particular nomination is so appropriate for him. He will not want any recognition or special title – he will just think he is doing what he should be doing (and what he has been doing for so many years for everyone)!
Every father is deserving of recognition, however, I would be so proud to be able to share my dad’s story with others and recognize him publicly for everything that he does for others. He is a wonderful, caring, giving, and responsible man. Any person who knows him will completely be able to relate to the details that I have mentioned above about his character. I am now a mother of two children and I certainly hope that I can pass on some of his character traits onto my children. He is truly an amazing person and even more amazing FATHER!
Nominee – Heath Curtis
Nominated By – Rebekah Curtis
Cooperative – Southeastern Illinois Electric Cooperative
Location – Worden and Equality
I always knew my kids have a great dad. Heath is long on hugs and teasing, like a dad should be. He's always taking little ones fishing or shooting, teaching them to work in the garden, or giving a bike or Latin lesson. He picks up extra work so I can stay home with our kids, and even trades baby duty with me on his day off so I can do our family shopping in peace.
But three months ago, he really outdid himself. A week before our fifth child's due date, I awoke early in the morning having contractions. I wasn't convinced we should leave for the hospital right away, but Dad knew better. He called the babysitter and bundled me into the car, but our baby was coming faster than he could drive. At 5 a.m. on a nine degree day, my husband pulled over and delivered our son on a dark country road. He didn't panic or faint like a TV dad; in fact, he was as capable and considerate as any doctor I've had. He caught that slippery little guy like he'd done it a hundred times before. He describes it as the best birth we've ever had. And after I was admitted to the hospital, he cleaned up the car so well you'd never guess anything untoward had happened!
Heath is a Lutheran pastor, which makes him a spiritual father to our little church as well as a fantastic dad to our five kids. People here seem pretty happy with their gun-totin' pastor, who holds a Bible study at the local tavern to make sure people who aren't so comfortable in church still hear the good news of God's love. But to Anastasia (7), Silas (5), Mary (3), Peter (2), and little Linus (three months), he's not just a good pastor or even Father of the Year. He's the father of a lifetime.
Nominee – Roger Dykstra
Nominated By – Amy, Sara, Andrew, & Lisa Dykstra
Cooperative – Jo-Carroll Energy
Location – Thomson
When it comes to country fathers, our dad is the best! Roger Dykstra was born and raised on a farm near Thomson, IL and has lived here most of his life. He has very high morals and values and is extremely hardworking and dependable.
He started off by farming and eventually worked some side jobs over the winter months as our family grew. While on the farm, he took great pride in maintaining the property and teaching us how to garden, bottle-feed calves and lambs, how to build a wooden gate, and many other skills. We loved to help grind corn, ride along in the combine, bale hay, and walk bean fields. Some of our favorite memories come from the chores we had on the farm. Dad was never too busy to take us for a walk in the pasture or go deer hunting with his son. And he took time out each year to take us on a family vacation.
Due to some unfortunate events, he had to give up his passion for farming and moved to a farmette. He sacrificed his love of farming so that his family could stay in the same area and so his kids could finish school in Thomson. Fortunately, he now works full-time for a John Deere dealership so he still gets to work on farm machinery and be out in the country helping farmers while on service jobs.
He also helps his farming brothers during their busy times of planting and harvesting. In addition, he voluntarily services all of our lawn mowers every year so we’ll be ready for the next season. He is always ready to lend a hand wherever needed.
Dad is still an active gardener and now teaches his young grandchildren how to plant seeds and take care of the vegetables he grows. The kids love to go to ‘Grandma & Grandpa’s’ to help outside. Dad lets them help him fill the bird feeders, change the bird bath water and pick apples and cherries. They also enjoy helping change the oil in various vehicles and love it when they get to go for a tractor ride!
Dad is also very active in our church. He and Mom served as youth leaders while us kids were in high school. They were well-liked by the group and hosted many bonfires and hay rack rides over the years. He has served on many committees as a deacon and currently serves as an Elder and visits the shut-ins.
Dad is a great listener and we have all gone to him on occasion to get his advice for different situations. His sons-in-law consistently ask for his guidance on various topics from gardening to building to machinery.
Our dad is honest, hardworking, faithful, loving, and committed to his family. He and Mom have a strong marriage and have been excellent role models to us. He is well-liked and respected in our community. We hope you will consider him to be Illinois’ Country Father of the Year.
Nominee – Jeffrey Scott Harris
Nominated By – Kortney Harris
Cooperative – Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative
Location – Metropolis
My dad… is Jeffrey Scott Harris. He is 47 years old from Metropolis, Illinois, just outside the small town of Joppa where he grew up. He is the proud father of an 18 year old daughter (me) and a 25 year old son. He has been married for 26 ½ years to my mother. He’s also the proud grand father of his 3 year old princess, Katherine. And as of the moment, we all live together. He’s also helping to take care of his mother who lives not far from us. My dad leaves for work at 5 in the morning and gets home around 4. He has worked hard his whole life to support all of us and put food on the table. He has a hard time with his job due to his constant leg pains from his knee, but he still goes to work. He’s been through a lot with his job since he suffered a lay off when Walker Boat Yard sold out. In the past year he suffered the loss of his own father and it is still very hard on all of us. My Dad may not be perfect, but he is to us. My Dad is the kind of guy that would give someone the shirt off his back if he knew they needed it. He’s the kind that doesn’t avoid the roadblocks collecting money, instead he’s the one that stops at them and gives them whatever he can. At a first glance, my Dad looks like a big grizzly bear that could tear someone apart, but in reality he’s a big teddy bear with a heart of gold.
I believe that my Dad deserves to have this title because in all honesty, as his kids, I don’t think we have given him all the respect that he deserves. He’s a great guy and I believe that we have taken advantage of him and all that he does. All the little things he has done in his life have all been looked over. And I just believe that he deserves this for how much he has gone through with his family and life.
This doesn’t meet the 500 word limit, but I don’t think it takes that many words to tell why I think my Dad deserves this.
Nominee – Bob Houzenga
Nominated By – Kelly Cramer
Cooperative – Jo-Carroll Energy
Location – Fulton
The great qualities my father possesses are endless and that is why to me he is extraordinary. Dad is a hard worker, selfless, and a devoted family man. The life he has led is truly inspirational to those who know him best. My two brothers and I are so luck y to have him as our father.
Dad is a hard worker and has been his whole life. He grew up on a farm in the Garden Plain area and my Grandma has told me that he always sis more than his share of the chores without ever having to be asked twice. Once my father graduated high school he began a career at Interstate Power Plant in Clinton, IL. He started out on the floor of the power plant and with hard work he moved up to gas lineman and eventually became supervisor of large gas projects. Dad worked hard to support his family so that my mom could stay at home and raise my brothers and I. Recently he switched companies and positions to work for Jo-Carroll Energy as a gas lineman again so that he would have more time for his family and hobbies.
Dad is also a very giving person who is always volunteering to help out with whatever he can. He was a deacon at church, he is involved with Relay For Life, he donates blood as often as he can, and he gives to several charities. I don’t think I have ever heard him turn down a request for help from anyone. He is always willing to help out my brothers and I with all of our home remodeling projects even if he has tasks of his own to get done. Dad also shovels his neighbors sidewalks in the winter, fixes all the neighborhood kids broken toys, and mows lawns for elderly people in the summer. My father is truly selfless.
Dad is also a devoted family man. Family has always come first for my dad. When we were little Dad taught us everything from how to walk to how to ride a bike. He coach my baseball team and taught me about God as my Sunday School teacher. Dad never missed a chorus concert, dance recital, sporting event, or awards ceremony that involved me or my two brothers the entire time we were growing up. As I got older he was always there for me whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on, advice for a problem, help on a project, or support. Over the past two years he has had to watch both his daughter and wife battle breast cancer and he has been our rock every step of the way reassuring us that we were going to come out on the other side victorious. He never missed a doctors appointment or surgery and he never skipped a day checking in on me during my chemotherapy. Dad did all he could to help out whether it be babysitting his granddaughters when I was too tired and sick to take care of them or bringing me food and encouraging me to eat when I had no appetite. I can’t imagine how hard it has been on him, but he has never spoken a complaint because that is just the kind of person he is.
There are a lot of great dads out there, but I consider mine to be exceptional. He has always shown me an unwavering love and support. I hope that he is as proud of me as I am of him because he is truly amazing and I love him more than he will ever know.
Nominee – James L. Manier
Nominated By – Shirley Manier
Cooperative – Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative
Location – Grantsburg
I would like to tell you about our son Jim Manier. I think he deserves this honor.
He is a hard working man, supports his family. He is a ham radio operator and a storm spotter in Vienna, Ill. area. He drives a truck all night for US Food of Paducah, and in the mornings he helps his farm neighbors and does his own chores before going to sleep for the next night. I would like to see him honored. Thank you. He is a good son.
Nominee – David McMahan
Nominated By – Angie McMahan
Cooperative – Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative
Location – Wolf Lake
My husband, David McMahan, is absolutely deserving to be the Illinois Country Father of the Year. David is a hard-working farmer in Southern Illinois and has two sons. He is very attractive in the community and is the “go to” guy is you need something. David has a wonderful sense of humor and loves to pull pranks on people and tell them a “tall tale”.
David is a perfect example of a “Jack of all Trades.” He is always helping someone out. It may be fixing something for them, telling them how to do it, or lending them the tools to do it. With two boys and living in a small close knit community, there is always something that needs fixing and David does it, rarely complaining even when he really doesn’t have time. His shop is a magnet for people who want to stop by and talk or borrow something and he is always pleasant even if he really is too busy. David almost always puts others first and himself last. I’ve often told him that telling someone “no” is not in his vocabulary.
David is a wonderful father. He is very patient, letting the boys try doing things themselves even when he would rather just do it himself and get it done. Out boys idolize and respect him. He truly is their hero. He has taken them hunting since they were old enough to go and enjoys watching them hunt almost as much as hunting himself. Even on the coldest mornings when he would like to stay in he goes for the boys. Last year, he took a neighbor boy deer hunting because his father is disabled and cannot hunt. He was as proud of that boy’s deer as he was of his own.
David has lived in Wolf Lake his entire life. It is amazing to see the older men in the community who David looked up to now look to him for help. He is the kind of person that when you meet him you instantly like him. He truly is an Illinois Country Father of the Year in my eyes.
Nominee – Rodell Rhine
Nominated By – Leslie Heinz
Cooperative – Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative
Location – Cobden
My Dad, Rodell Rhine, healthy and happy, celebrated his 88th birthday this past December. He and my Mom live on their farm purchased 40 years ago, nestled in the hills of Union County in rural Southern Illinois. Bob cats, deer, turkey, foxes, bald eagles, and coyote are a few of the wildlife that roam the picturesque landscape that rests in the shadow of Bald Knob Cross.
Dad is so proud to be an American. He tells us that he always thought he was poor, growing up, one of eight children, on a farm in Saline County, going barefoot to school and getting an orange and hard candy for Christmas. His folks, though, were self sufficient, growing the food they ate and making the clothes they wore, their only social life being that of attending Church and Sunday School. When he served in World War II and was stationed in India and then Africa he realized that he had grown up “rich” rather than poor. His upbringing and then his war experience shaped his life forever. He never took life for granted. He fought in a war to secure freedom for future generations and always speaks with conviction and pride about those experiences.
Dad taught his five children, thirteen grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren to “give back more than you take”. We learned how to be “green”, respect the land, trees, and animals and how to conserve water, electricity, paper, and food. I can hear him still, “Don’t waste water, turn that light off, save that paper, conserve your gasoline, be thrifty with your money, appreciate what you have and don’t be afraid of hard work.”
Today Dad continues to practice conservation methods. He has developed numerous wilderness areas, planting sunflowers and wild grasses, and tens of thousands of trees. He’s taken measures to prevent stream erosion, put in structures to prevent gullies, and buffers his pastures with tree plantings. He’s done timber stand improvement, pasture management and has taken advantage of some government subsidies to build 5 ponds. The Natural Recourses Conservation Office, stated in the 90’s that Rodell Rhine “sets an example of an conservationist.”
Dad, a former agriculture teacher at Shawnee High School, often lets high school biology students and students of geology and archeology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale visit the ponds and fields on the farm which is surrounded on three sides by Shawnee Forest. Sparkling creeks run for many miles next to the woods and pastures. Dad loves to share the beauty and peace of the numerous treasures his farm and nature has to offer.
Dad admits that he bought the farm to improve his quality of life but did not realize the true rewards he would reap when he became an active conservationist, watching his land, the trees, the creeks and the wildlife flourish through his efforts to “give back more than he took”. Now, with three of his children living just down the road and spring around the corner he continues “to live the good life,” gently touching the lives of all those that meet him.
Nominee – Bill Steinacher
Nominated By – Julie Steinacher
Cooperative – Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative
Location – Carrollton
Bill is the father of 4 children: Jenny Steinacher Moore, Todd Steinacher, Cory Ross, and Nathan Ross. Bill is the Grandfather of 6 grandchildren.
I would like to nominate Bill for being an Illinois Country Father of the Year because of several reasons.
Bill is the first person that all the kids come to when ever they need help or something great has happen to them and they have great news to share!
Bill is a person that his nephews, cousins, and neighbors feel comfortable calling on to help out in any situation whether its during the day, night, on the farm, or at their home.
Bill has always put his family first before his own needs. Bill is the type of person that can make anything in his shed. This is where he is most comfortable. The kids will need a project made and next thing I know, Bill and the kids are in the shed making magic!
In today's busy society where men are too busy to be "Dads" to their children, I feel there needs to be more "Bills" in this world to guide and be there for their children.
Nominee – Maurice Taylor
Nominated By – Danielle Taylor
Cooperative – Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative
As Maurice and I approach our 15th wedding anniversary (although I have been with him 20 years) it seems appropriate to be writing this essay on his behalf. I look back to the year 1995 and we are newly married with a little son. We had our first little home and a little piece of heaven. I came to my husband and made a request that we take in my teenage brother who was struggling with life. My Father had died when we were very young and it had been very hard for him. I also had 3 other siblings but my first brother needed help the most. So my husband opened up his heart and his home to helping this teenage boy come live with him in his new life; not only that, He allowed us to seek for legal guardianship and helped him with high-school. He started a journey for my brother that only a father can begin. No of course he was not his biological father but he was a real presence and a father figure. A dad is someone to play basketball with and watch a game with. My husband also had to make boundaries and enforce them which is difficult with your own let alone an adopted teenager. Not to mention this was instant teenage, usually you have a little time to get used to that. While he was learning about fatherhood to his own son he shared his life with another. Little did we know this was just practice? The saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.”
Then later, some four years later my teenage sister came to live with us. My husband drove out to Iowa from Chicago to pack her up and move her down to our home. This time we had 3 children and were home-educating our first one. So she needed a dad and a steady home-life so we began to home educate her too. He was committed to providing financially so that I could be home with our little ones, but also my siblings were relying on him as well. She stayed with us and even moved to South Carolina with us. She lived with us for 4 years. In that time we grew to 4 lil ones. Day in and day out raising children and staying connected to their hearts is the kind of effort my husband put forth. The ironic thing is he is an only child and a busy household was not what he grew up with. All the father-men in my family have past away and he has stepped up to patriarchal position. If any of the women in our family have a need we call Maurice and he helps meet that need.
Fast forward 15 years we are nearing our anniversary and we have six beautiful children. We home-educate 5 of them. Our oldest has moved to a new phase high-school. My husband has dedicated his life to being a husband and a full time dad. He is committed to being a fantastic husband and out of that flows a beautiful yet firm fatherhood character in him. Many a night he is tired and worn out because being a mason contractor is not easy work. If the kids need him he is there. He will sacrifice his own comfort for them to feel cared for. When the school-age children have games he is there going from field to field or court to court trying to see each one’s activity. Our oldest girl, Beatrice, raised money for Pregnancy Matters and had to walk 5 miles. So Beatrice and Dad go and power walk every year at the mall to make a difference in a mommy and baby’s life. He has even delivered at home 4 of our 6 children. The last 2 has just been the two of us. And he has been a wonderful companion for me that we could share that. Our children have a very special relationship with him.
In 2009, he was invited last minute to Mexico on a mission trip to help a family finish building their home and do a vacation Bible school with street children. He took a week off of work to go and be a father figure to those who were in need. It is in his soul to be a father and he fulfills the calling on his life to be that. He provides by the sweat of his brow for his family so that we are cared for.
You may think this guy is too good to be true. He is the real deal. He has delivered 5 of our 6 children with me, (4 have been at home) and the last two we have delivered just him and I at home. He is my coach all the way and he has been there to greet each of our children at the beginning of their life’s journey. He catches them and swaddles them, clears their little mouth and cuts the cord. It is rare thing these days to live sacrificially in order that the next generation will be blessed and be better for it. Fatherhood is more than a mandatory journey if you will yield to its high calling and I experience that with Maurice. He goes out of his way to plan dates with his daughters. They get to dress up and he takes them out to a fine place to eat and then takes them somewhere they like. He takes the boys to football games or something that interests them. He never puts tv, sports, or other things ahead of his wife or children. We know that he lives his day in a day out thinking about us and how to bless us. I know he will put our needs ahead of his own. When I asked our children if they thought he would qualify for this contest they unanimously agreed that He was the best Dad in the whole world. That makes him the winner already.
Nominee – Maurice Taylor
Nominated By – Beatrice Anna Taylor
Cooperative – Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative
Location – Dongola
My name is Beatrice. I am 11 years old. I have 4 brothers and 1 sister. My Dad is the best Dad. He walked 5 miles in the Hike for Life Pregnancy Matters Walk- a- thon with me. I raised the money to help unborn babies and their moms. We finished first and I raised the most money for my bracket so we won Cardinals tickets, an mp3 player, and 2 cd’s. He is going to take me on May 19, 2010 just the 2 of us. My Dad runs his own Masonry business and he helps my mom with her health food store. I run my own business, too. My Dad is teaching me to lay brick, block, and stone. He says that is the best way to learn my multiplication. That is why my Dad rocks!!!!!
Nominee – Keith Throm
Nominated By – Morgan Throm
Cooperative – Clinton County Electric Cooperative
Location – Collinsville
I would like to tell you about my dad. My dad is one of the greatest people I know. He is always willing to do anything for anyone, at anytime. He is on so many committees, and so many boards, because he can never tell anyone no. My dad is on the board for the NFED. This organization is for kids who can't sweat. There was girl who had just a few teeth because of this disease & needed dental implants. She had no one to give her rides back and fourth for treatment, so my dad would wake up at 3 in the morning drive to Effingham to get her, and then drive all the way to Edwardsville and then back. He did that every month for about a year. Now that little girl has a beautiful smile. My dad has never missed a sporting event of my brother or myself. He has even coached a few of our teams. We have played a lot of sports and he has always been on the sidelines cheering us on. My dad works very hard to provide for our family. If you say you want something, my dad is there in a flash to buy it for you. He always enjoys making people happy. When I was 8 years old I wanted to learn to play the piano. On my birthday that year my dad had bought me a piano, and told me I had lesson starting soon. My dad always puts others before himself. Even if we are just at the gas station he is always offering if we would like something. My dad has so many friends. He is the friendliest person I know. It doesn’t matter if he is passing someone in the hall or passing someone on the street, he is always going to say hello. He doesn't know a stranger. We were in Florida one time and he saw someone he knew. We were in Branson one time and he saw one of his cousins. My dad is a great influence for everyone. When I grow up I will be lucky to be half as good of a person as he is. My dad is the best. I love him.
Nominee – Doug Wahl
Nominated By – Zachary Wahl
Cooperative – Rock Energy Cooperative
Location – Rockton
Hello, my name is Zachary Wahl. I am 10 years old and attend Whitman Post elementary school. I am in the 4th grade. I live in Rockton, Illinois with my dad, mom, and sister. I would like to nominate Douglas Wahl, my dad, for Illinois Country Living Father of the Year. My dad is currently working for the Elgin Fire Department. He has been with them for 19 years. He is a Lieutenant Fire Fighting Paramedic, as well as an Arson Investigator. My dad also volunteers his time as a Big Brother for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Rockford Illinois.
Part of my dad’s job is to put out fires and save lives. He does that all the time. However in 1995 my dad received a Life Saving Award for saving the life of a five-week-old baby. In 2007 he was nominated by his peers to be Fire Fighter of the Year, he did not receive it. Then in 2008 he again was nominated, this time receiving the award. He is my hero!
There are so many reasons I feel my dad should be Father of the Year. He is the greatest dad ever. He always has time for me and my family. Sometimes my dad works 48 hours in a row, but that does not stop him from forgoing sleep when he gets home to spend time with us first. My dad helps me with everything from sports to homework. He has come to my school on his days off to help out in the classroom. He has also gone on field trips as a chaperone. My dad happens to be a great listener too. I feel I can go to him for anything. He always tells us to tell the truth. You may get into trouble but a lie will get you into worse trouble in the end. My dad would give you the shirt he was wearing if you needed it. He has taught us that we should give the stuff we no longer use to other kids that are less fortunate then us. Through the Big Brothers program he has shown us that not everyone has an easy life. We should not judge people based on their life situation, but by the person they are in the inside.
I hope you can see why I feel my dad should be Father of the Year. Not only is he a great dad and Fire Fighter, he is also a great person! Even if he doesn’t win at least he will be able to see how I feel about him. My dad is the greatest dad ever and I am the luckiest kid ever. I love my dad, and I know he loves me. He shows me every day in every way. Please pick my dad for Father of the Year, he deserves it!
Nominee – Jimmy F. Wilson
Nominated By – Lisa A. Jones, Pelesia Karsen, Jerry Wilson, and Idegail Dover
Cooperative – Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative
Location – Buncombe
The mark of a good father is evidenced through the devotion of his wife and the lives of his children. Our father is a humble, yet, confident man of character with time for his children. He is the center of our family’s life; the patriarch. His children and grandchildren long to gather in his home and do so often.
Our dad enjoys sitting around the kitchen table, discussing life. Along with our children and spouses, we still seek our father’s wisdom and advice, but there is never pressure to take that advice. Our father always concludes, “That’s just my two cents worth, but you do what you think is best.”
Growing up, our father understood we were children, needing those in authority to help us develop character and sound judgment; therefore, demonstrated loyalty to our teachers, babysitters, and church workers. He especially expected us to obey our mother. If we were not obedient, steps were taken to ensure proper behavior and respect in the future.
He encouraged us telling us, “You can do anything you set your mind to do. You can be anything you want to be.” He taught us to work hard, do our best, and never give up. When we whined, “I can’t,” he pointed to a poem given to him by his grandmother by Edgar Albert Guest entitled, “It Couldn’t Be Done.” He teased, “Can’t never could do anything,” with a tickle or playful poke in the ribs. He taught us to choose work we enjoy, yet do what is necessary to support our family. He told us he was not perfect but always expected us to strive for perfection. He lives by the motto, "If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Above all, our father taught us to love God and live for Him with everything in us. He emphasized the importance of putting God first, having confidence that everything else would fall into place. He demonstrated his faith in God surrendering his life to ministry. He demonstrated love and care for his fellowman even to the sacrifice of our family, because he knew God would take care of us; encouraging us to live with the same faith in our own lives.
Our father encouraged us to include God in our marriages and bring our children up in Christian homes. He prayed for us to marry the right spouses, counseled us along with our spouses and as pastor, affiliated each of our wedding ceremonies. He and our mother continue to be exceptional role models for our own marriages.
Reflecting on all the things our father taught us, once again, we are inspired to live better lives, and to be better spouses, better parents, better employees, better citizens, better leaders, and better examples in this world. We cherish our father’s upbringing as a reflection of God, our Father in heaven, and strive to leave his legacy here on earth through our own children.