Region Stunned By Tragic Loss
Posted by: Dan Stevens October 31, 2010
By now, everyone knows of the tragic loss that hit the area with the passing of Joe Vondra. We are never ones to question the higher powers, but the struggle to find reason in the sudden taking of the man everyone knew and respected has been difficult.
"Joe was the George Baily of the Warren/Apple River area," said good friend Bob Lyvers. "People didn’t bank at Apple River, they banked with Joe."
The avid sports fan who loved life, and went out of his way to serve others and the community he called home, was taken from us without warning, and without any way of preventing the occurrence.
Over the years, Joe Vondra served as a School Board member, was a past president of the Warren Chamber of Commerce. Many people can list clubs and organizations they are members of, but for Joe – membership meant "active". He was a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the Apple River Fire Department, the Apple River Lions Club, the Knights of Columbus, and was probably best known as the voice of the annual Pumpkinfest Parade.
To try and portray the impact Joe Vondra had upon the lives he touched would be an impossible task, because Lyvers nailed it – he truly was the George Baily of the area.
So to get a firm understanding of the magnitude of his impact, it is best to let some of the people he touched say it themselves.
"The shock upon hearing of Joe's death is still pretty strong. He was such an integral part of this community, and supported so many of the Warren area activities. He was always smiling when he was around folks. He genuinely liked folks and seemed to go out of his way to help in whatever way he could. He will be missed by the Warren Chamber at Pumpkinfest time, as he always was an announcer for our festival's parade. We will pray for his family and ask that God blesses them in the days, weeks and months ahead. We will miss you, Joe."
Jerry & Barb Hatfield
"Joe was the President and Treasurer of the Fire Department for the past 15 years. He organized all of our fundraisers and always had a positive attitude. Joe did all of our grant writing and had incredible success with it. We probably would not have all of the state of the art equipment if it was not for him. He will be missed for a long time. He is one guy you just can not replace."
Richard Huyenga - Apple River Fire Chief
"He was incredibly smart. We took classes together at Highland College years ago, and I never would have made it through Stats class if it wasn’t for him. And even though we were equally bad on a golf course, he always found a way to win."
Bob Lyvers - Community Bank
"He was a great guy and a friend to everyone. He will be missed."
"Joe will be greatly missed for all he did. For his involvement in the bank and the community. For his passionate discussions about the Green Bay Packers. For his unique release of a bean bag as well as his use of the 15 wood on the golf course. Joe will be missed by all who knew him."
"Joe was a great guy and he will be greatly missed at Pumpkinfest as our parade emcee. He was always there to help. He will be missed by all of the community projects and service organizations he was involved with."
"There are good people, and there are great people. Joe was a great one. He will be missed by the entire community."
"I’ve known Joe since he was a young man – ‘Gordy’ was his nickname. I went to school with his brothers all my life, and he was the youngest and a great Packer fan. He has worked with my wife for over twenty years and we became good friends. He was very active in Village functions and will be dearly missed by everyone."
On a personal note, I’m not sure I will ever be able to watch the classic Christmas movie "It’s a Wonderful Life" without being reminded of Joe Vondra – the banker - who loved his hometown and community as much as George Baily loved Bedford Falls.
Thank you ‘Gordy’, for being the living example we can all try to measure up to.
When Heroes Are Lost
Posted by: Dan Stevens May 31, 2010
In what originally seemed to be a routine call, tragedy struck the Scales Mound Fire Protection District with the sudden loss of fireman Kurt Meusel.
An elderly man with dementia had wandered off, and the call went out for people to join the search. Meusel was one of the first to answer that call.
"He turned around and said, ‘I’ll be right back. I’ve got to go help.’ And then he drove off," said his mother Susan Meusel.
Kurt jumped on his ATV and drove off to join the rest of the firemen in the search.
According to the Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Department, Meusel’s ATV struck a deer, and the four wheeler veered off into a ditch where it rolled, causing the injuries which lead to his death.
Although not fighting a fire, Fire Chief Carl Winter said Meusel died in the line of duty. Meusel was the first member of the Scales Mound Fire Protection District to have fallen in the line of duty.
Black cloth draped across the Fire Station, and the firefighters marched in full uniform in tribute to Kurt at his funeral held last Thursday, May 27th.
"He was a good kid," Winter said. "It’s going to be really hard these next few days. It’s just going to be really hard."
The dementia patient was later found, but news about the loss of Meusel stunned the region over such an unavoidable and unexplainable accident.
At the age of 25, Meusel had been on the fire department since he turned 18, and also worked as a heavy equipment operator. But his life was scheduled to change later this summer when he would have married Kara Homb of Scales Mound.
The tragedy has understandably rocked the small rural community, but has sent ripples across the state as well. State fire officials asked that flags be flown at half mast until sunset on May 27th in honor of Meusel.
A Facebook page has been established in his honor where friends can post comments and photos. As of press time, there were over 700 supporters.
PFC Devin J. Michel
Posted by: Hermann November 4, 2009
PFC Devin J. Michel, 19 PFC Devin J. Michel, age 19, of Stockton, Ill., was killed in action Saturday, October 24, 2009, at Zhari District Afghanistan from an IED.
Born August 3, 1990, he was the son of Terry and Rebecca (Broshous) Michel. A 2008 graduate of Stockton High School where Devin played Football, Basketball, Baseball and was a member of the Band.
After graduation he enlisted in the Army as an Infantry man at the age 17 and began basic training on June 14, 2008. He was stationed in Fort Benning, GA for Basic Training. After basic he was stationed in Fort Carson, CO in the 4th Infantry.
On October 3, 2008 he and Anika Entmeier were married and on May 30, 2009 he was deployed on his first tour of duty.
Devin enjoyed playing sports, his dog Jade and playing drums.
He is survived by his wife Anika (Entmeier) Michel. Parents, Terry and Rebecca Michel of Stockton, IL. Two Sisters, Holly & Catey Michel of Stockton, IL. Grandparents, Lois & Elmer Miller of Pearl City, IL and Rod & Kathryn Broshous of Stockton, IL. Great Grandparents, Winnifred (Harold Gallagher) Luke of Apple River, IL.
Arrangements are being handled by Hermann Funeral Home, 247 N. Park, Stockton.
The family will receive friends from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM Friday, November 6, 2009 at the Stockton High School Gymnasium. Funeral service will be at Stockton High School Gymnasium at 11:00 AM Saturday, November 7, 2009. At his request, cremation rites will be accorded after the services.
In lieu of flowers a memorial fund has been established.
Orin D. Balbach
Posted by: Hermann November 4, 2009
Orin D. Balbach, 95, of Lena, peacefully passed from this life on Monday, October 26, 2009 at Monroe Manor in Monroe, Wisconsin.
Orin Dwight was born to Glenn A. and Josephine F. (Hartsough) Balbach on March 22, 1914 near Winslow. Orin attended country schools in the Warren area and later graduated in 1932 from Warren High School.
On June 8, 1939 he married Darline Myers at the Little Brown Church in the Vale, Nashua, Iowa. They took over operation of Darline’s parents’ family farm, rural Lena, and continued to farm until 1993, when they turned the day-to-day operation over to their son. Orin continued to help on the farm until he moved off the farm in December 2005.
Orin was a member of the Wesley United Methodist Church, Stockton. He served on the Nora Township Board of Trustees and was Nora Township Republic Precinct Committeeman for many years. He was an Archer Oil dealer for a period of time and was an insurance agent for Stockton Wards Grove Mutual Ins. Co. and hail claims adjuster for Rockford Mutual Ins. Co.
Farming was Orin’s way of life from the time he was old enough to help his father do chores until moving off the farm in 2005. Even then, he made frequent visits to the farm until he could no longer drive.
He was a devoted husband and father. He enjoyed going to church suppers with his wife and attending school functions involving his children and grandchildren.
He is survived by his two sons, Dwight (Denise) Balbach of Lena, Dean Balbach of Freeport; three grandchildren, Garrett, Danielle and Danica of Lena.
He was predeceased by his wife Darline, sisters Thelma Hodgson and Dale Haight, brother Clifton Balbach.
Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, October 29th, at Hermann Funeral Home in Stockton.
The funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, October 30th, at Wesley United Methodist Church with the Rev. Michael Jones officiating. Internment will be at Ladies Union Cemetery in Stockton. A memorial fund has been established.
Cyril "Cy" Breit
Posted by: Leamons August 24, 2009
Cyril "Cy" Breit of Lena IL, beloved husband, cherished father and grandfather, dear brother-in-law, uncle and good friend, passed away after a courageous battle with esophagus cancer. He was a vibrant 69-year-old who passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his family, on August 23, 2009.
Cy was born in New Holstein, WI on October 23, 1939. He was the son of John and Anita (Schmitz) Breit. He was a graduate of Kaukauna High School in the class of 1958. On September 10, 1960 he married his high school sweetheart Jean Ann Onkels in Kaukauna, WI.
Cy was employed by Leath Furniture in Wausau and Oshkosh WI, and later at Leath Furniture in Freeport, IL. He also worked for Perdue Marina and Ferrell Gas of Freeport for many years. He returned to furniture sales and was employed by Leamon’s Furniture of Lena and Hartman Furniture in Freeport until its store closing.
Cy was a founding member of the Blackhawk Trailblazers Snowmobiling Club, the patriarch of the 2008 Illinois Snowmobiling Association’s Family of the Year Award. He enjoyed snowmobiling in the local area including Northern Wisconsin, going to NASCAR races in Michigan with family, traveling, camping with the Vagabonds Camping Club, hunting, fishing, and riding his bicycle.
Cy’s main passion was spending time with his grandchildren. He was a friend and confidant to many who were lucky to know him and will be dearly missed. He enjoyed life and laughter. All who knew him were touched by his sense of humor and positive spirit.
Cy was preceded in death by his parents John and Anita Breit, his brother Kenneth Breit and sister Germaine Strong.
He is survived by his wife of 49 years Jean (Onkels) Breit, daughters Faye (Craig) Heilman, Lynn (Kirk) Polhill all of Lena, son Ken (Christine) Breit of Simpsonville, SC. his grandchildren Kyle, Kory, Kaitlyn Polhill, Ashley, Austin (Michelle Magee), Brock Heilman, Delaney and Kylie Breit. Also, foster children Laurie (Dan) Overesch of Appleton, WI, Michael (Julie) Rabideau of Green Bay, Wi. A brother-in-law Gerald Strong of Pewaukee, WI. as well as many nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be held from 4:00pm to 8:00pm on Thursday, August 27th, 2009 at Leamon’s Funeral Home in Lena. Services will be held on Friday, August 28th 2009, at 11:00am at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lena, IL. There will be a visitation from 9:30am to 10:30am before the service at the church. Rev. Max J. Striedl will officiate the service. Burial will be held at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery in Lena.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, CaringBridge.org, or Hospice and would be appreciated by the family.
Friends many send condolences to the family at www.leamonfh.com
Mary "Sue" Suzanne (Niemeyer) Brunner
Posted by: Hermann August 17, 2009
Mary "Sue" Suzanne (Niemeyer) Brunner, 81, of Stockton, died August 13, 2009 at Lena Living Center in Lena, IL.
Sue was born October 6, 1927 in Stockton, daughter of Frank C. and Josephine (Bisenius) Niemeyer. She married Freeman Brunner on June 16, 1953 at Holy Cross Church, Stockton, Illinois.
She is survived by children: Michael (Sandi), Rockford; Constance (Don) Hill, Lena; Jerry (Amy), Stockton; Thomas (Darcy), Freeport; William (Darlene), O’Fallon; Barbara (Jon) Kerns, Oelwein, IA; Theresa (Randy) Risser, Davis; Patrick (Donna), Lena; Debbie (Jim) Nobis, Hanover; Sylvia (Norm) Kunz, Stockton; Norman (Joanne), Ingleside; 29 grandchildren; 4 great-grandchildren; 8 step-grandchildren; 24 step-great-grandchildren; 1 step-great-great-grandchild; brother Norman (Carol) Niemeyer, Stockton; sister-in-law Mariem Niemeyer, Rockford; Kristine Brunner, Stockton; 1 nephew; 2 nieces; numerous nephews- and nieces-in-law.
She was predeceased by her husband in 1978; her parents; brothers Charles, William, and Donald; granddaughter Cindy Aurand; nephew David Niemeyer.
Rosary will take place at Holy Cross Church on Sunday, Aug. 16, beginning at 3 p.m. Visitation will continue until 7 p.m. at Holy Cross Parish Center. The funeral Mass will be held Monday at 10 a.m. Cremation rites have been accorded with interment at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery following the Mass.
A memorial fund has been established.
Warren L. Parker
Posted by: Hermann August 10, 2009
Warren L. Parker, age 90, of Stockton, Ill., died Saturday, August 8, 2009, at Morgan Memorial Home in Stockton, Il.
He was born to a pioneer family, in Wards Grove Township, on November 23, 1918, he was the son of the late Le Roy and Ruby (Coppernoll) Parker. He grew up on the family farm in Yankee Hollow, where he attended Yankee Hollow and Stockton Schools, graduating from Stockton High School in 1935. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in forestry, and attended school in Paris France, and Weimar, Germany, as part of the Army Education Program.
He joined the U.S. Army in 1941, and was a decorated officer, serving in the European Campaign, mustering out as a Major. Following the war, he returned to operate the family farm in Yankee Hollow, and married his high school sweetheart, Genevieve (Morgan) Wright, and became a father to her son, Dean. Warren and Genevieve farmed, and together built Morgan Memorial Nursing Home in Stockton.
A special joy was watching their 7 grandchildren grow up next door.Warren was active in community affairs. He was a member of Wesley United Methodist Church, where he served on the church board and taught Sunday School. He was a 60 year member of the Plum River Masonic Lodge, where he was a Past Master. He was a member of the Stockton V.F.W. and the Northwestern Illinois Forestry Association. A man with a deep knowledge of history, he was an expert on local history. He had published his own military biography, "Bless Them All", and was in the process of writing a history of Yankee Hollow.
Warren enjoyed everything about life, and lived everyday to the fullest. He especially enjoyed spending time in the timber, and his farm was often visited by school field trips to show the art of making maple syrup. He and Genevieve enjoyed gardening, and producing the homegrown products of Yankee Hollow.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 60 years, Genevieve, sister Martha Kuhns and sister-in-law. Marion Parker, both of Stockton, son Dean (Ruth) Wright of Stockton, and granchildren, Kim (Bill) Heid of Thompson, Tom (Lori) Wright of Stockton, Russell (Kristin) Wright of Columbia S.C., Mark (Marcie) Wright of Stockton, Paula (Jason) Haas of Stockton, and Troy (Amber) Wright of Dubuque, IA, 25 great grandchildren, 9 great great grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, brother Rex, sister Jane Cron, a grandson Jim Wright.
Visitation will be on Wednesday from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Hermann Funeral Home where there will be a Masonic Service at 7:00 PM. Funeral services will be held at 10:00 AM on Thursday, August 13, 2009, at the Wesley United Methodist Church, with the Rev. Michael Jones officiating. Burial will be in the Plum River Cemetery in Stockton with military honors by the Stockton V.F.W. A memorial fund has been established for the Stockton V.F.W. and the Northwestern Illinois Forestry Association.
Vernetta E. Kappes
Posted by: Hermann August 10, 2009
Vernetta E. Kappes, age 74, of Stockton, Ill., died Friday, August 7, 2009, at Monroe Clinic Hospital in Monroe, Wis. .
She was born February 27, 1935 in Cedarville, Il., the daughter of the late Arthur and Della (Bertalot) Ault. Vernetta was a 1954 Graduate of Orangeville High School. She married Robert Kappes on March 10, 1956 in Orangeville. She was a member of the Christ Lutheran Church where she had enjoyed being active in the Rebecca Circle. Vernetta loved her home, cooking, baking, scrapbooking and reading. When she was younger she enjoyed camping.
She is survived by her husband Robert, One Daughter, Michele (Wyatt) Chenong of German Valley, Ill; Two Sons, Michael Kappes of Stockton, Ill, Mitchell Kappes of Stockton, Ill; Three Grandchildren; Darren & Brett Chenong and Joshua Kappes. One Sister, Edna Ellefson of Freeport, Ill; Two Brothers, Harold Ault of Orangeville, Ill. James (Bruita) Ault of Sterling, Ill. Vernetta always appreciated her extended family through marriage and many nieces & nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents, sister Norma Bahl, 2-brothers - Leo and Leland.
Visitation will be from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM Sunday at the Hermann Funeral Home in Stockton. Funeral services will be at Christ Lutheran Church at 10:30 AM Monday, August 10, 2009, Rev. Art Stees officiating. Interment will be at Ladies Union Cemetery in Stockton, Ill. A memorial fund has been established by her request for the Christ Lutheran Church Building fund.
Chelsea Lea Toot
Posted by: Editor August 3, 2009
Elizabeth – Chelsea Lea Toot, age 17, of Elizabeth, Illinois, died Monday, July 27, 2009, as the result of a car accident.
Chelsea was born on June 17, 1992 in Charleston, South Carolina the daughter of Scott and Brenda Toot.
Chelsea was a Senior at River Ridge High School and worked at McDonald’s in Galena, where she truly enjoyed her job and those she worked with.
Chelsea was a Football Cheerleader for the Warren-River Ridge Warcats and a Basketball Cheerleader for River Ridge high School; she was a member of the Boomerang Club. She helped teach Sunday School at the First United Methodist Church in Elizabeth. Chelsea was preparing for her second year participating in the Jo Daviess County Fair Pageant. Last year, she won the People’s Choice Award and Miss Congeniality.
She loved sports, especially softball and basketball. Chelsea loved family trips to Northern Wisconsin to go fishing. Chelsea enjoyed everything she did and brought laughter and happiness to everyone around her. Most important to Chelsea was her family and friends.
Chelsea will be dearly missed by her parents, Scott and Brenda Toot of Elizabeth; two sisters, Britnea Toot and Katelyn Toot of Elizabeth; maternal grandparents, Lois and Charles Petsche of Stockton, and Harold Scace of Woodbine; paternal grandparents, Ronald and Angela Toot of Winnebago, paternal great-grandmother, Vera Hawley of Elizabeth; five uncles, Brian (Char) Scace of Galena, Junior (Kim) Scace of Woodbine, Kenneth Toot of Rockford, Keith Toot of Rockford, and Steven (Tanya) Toot of Erie, Colorado; eight beloved cousins; many great-aunts and uncles, and numerous other family and friends.
Chelsea was preceded in death by her cousin, Marissa Scace, and her great-grandparents.
A memorial fund has been established in Chelsea’s name. Online condolences and memorial tributes may be given to the family at www.lawjonesfuneralhome.com
DONALD W. FRANK
Posted by: Editor July 27, 2009
Donald W. Frank, 82, of Freeport, died Sunday, July 26, 2009, at his home in Freeport surrounded by his loving family as a result of Mesolithilioma.
Born May 1, 1927 in Winslow he was the son of Herman and Rosa (Neseman) Frank. He married Mary Ann Rhodes November 12, 1949.
He was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II serving in the South Pacific. Donald worked for the Illinois Central Railroad for 43 years.He was a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church and the VFW.
Surviving is his wife, Mary Ann of Freeport; 1 daughter, Pam Forsling of Rockford; 1 sister, Marlene Nesemeyer of Freeport.He was preceded in death by his parents; and 1 brother, Walter.
Funeral service will be Wednesday 2 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church with Reverend Dr. Willis Schwichtenberg officiating. Burial will be in the Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens.
Visitation will be Wednesday 12:30 p.m. until time of service at the church.
A memorial has been established for Immanuel Lutheran Church.
Donald’s family invites friends to extend condolences, share a memory, light a candle, or share a caring heart in his honor at www.walkermortuary.com
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