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Obituaries

Stockton

Victor William Hansen, 85

Victor William Hansen, age 85, of Stockton, IL passed away Sunday, March 3, 2024 at FHN Hospital in Freeport. He was born on February 20, 1939 in Whittemore, IA to the late Ben and Rose (Staab) Hansen. Vic married Alice Menke on July 11, 1961.

He had retired from American Airlines after many years. He enjoyed golfing, skiing, dancing, playing cards, trips to the casino, traveling and watching black and white westerns. Vic was the youngest of 12 children. He loved spending time with family and friends.

He is survived by his former wife, Alice Hansen; his daughters, Nancy (Russ) Pishotta of Cary, IL and Cyndi (Jack) Olson of Princeton, IL; his grandchildren, Jamie, Emily, Charlie, Victoria and Brad; his great grandchildren, Kaige, Becca, and Rooney; and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his daughter, Becky Reilly; his 6 brothers and 5 sisters.

A celebration of life will be scheduled in May. Date, time and place to be determined. A memorial fund has been established. Condolences may be shared at http://www.hermannfuneralhome.com.

Lena

Joseph Samuel Smeck, 81

Joseph Samuel Smeck 81, of Lena, IL passed away peacefully at home on Saturday, March 2, 2024, with his family by his side. Joe was born December 16, 1942, in Lena, IL, to Joe and Dorothy (Klinger) Smeck. He attended Lena Winslow High School and moved to Chicago shortly after graduation where he attended Barber School. At the age of 22 he enlisted in the US Army where he would go on to serve his country as a First Calvary Military Police being stationed in Germany and in the Vietnam War. When he returned home, he worked as a barber in Chicago and he met his wife, Ruth Jurdzy. They got married on April 12, 1969, in Freeport.

Shortly after they got married, he took a job at WMAQ & WKQX Radio as a Studio/Field Engineer operating the sound boards for air talent. He transitioned to a job with NBC Sports which took him all over the country and world. He was a key member of the audio crew from setting up everything related to the sound - inside the stadiums to driving the 18 wheel mobile trucks from city to city. He worked at about every sports event one can think of and had the opportunity to go to the Olympics games in Montreal, Atlanta, Salt Lake City and Australia. Later he transitioned to Channel 5 in Chicago and was the lead operator of the satellite truck as well as a news photographer. This led to multiple Emmy awards for his work. He retired in 2004 and dedicated his time back to Lena to live on the farm with his Charolais beef cattle.

He had a great sense of humor and was a collector of all things, loved his bargains and bulk buying, enjoyed his pet cats, farming and traveling. He was always on the go. His favorite saying was “Let’s take a ride” and you know you would get the full tri state tour.

He is survived by his children- Julie (John) Carlucci of Arlington Heights, IL and Joseph (Danielle Bonebright) Smeck Jr. of Lena, IL; 6 grandchildren- J.J., Michael, Nicholas, Mia, Madilyn, and Grace; girlfriend- Linda Vick and her son Zachary (Taylor Carter) Vick.

He was preceded in death by his Parents; wife Ruth in 2004; and numerous family and friends.

A visitation was held on Sunday, March 10, 2024, from 12:00-4:00 p.m. at the Leamon Funeral Home in Lena. A Funeral Service was held on Monday, March 11, 2024, at 10:30 a.m. at the Leamon Funeral Home in Lena. Burial will take place at Waddams Grove Cemetery. Faye Darnall officiated the service.

In lieu of flowers a memorial has been established in his name. Condolences may be sent to the family at http://www.leamonfh.com

Apple River

Larry C. Nichols Jr. 60

Larry C. Nichols Jr. 60, of Apple River, IL passed away unexpectedly, surrounded by his family at his home, on March 4, 2024. He was born on March 26, 1963, to Larry and Lillian (Lomas) Nichols in Freeport, IL. After Larry graduated from high school, he attended college, and then he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Larry proudly served his country. While in the Marine Corps, Larry met the love of his life, Margaret Cronk, and they were united in marriage in 1989. Together they raised their daughter Jessi, and owned and operated L & M Express Trucking.

Larry enjoyed working with his hands. He liked to build things, do woodworking. When Larry was home, his world revolved around Kensli and his family. Larry was a Jack of All Trades, but most importantly, he was a loving husband, and the proudest dad, and the best papa. He enjoyed having a few cold ones by the campfire, playing with all of his fur babies, listening to Kid Rock while waving the American flag, watching Dale Earnhardt Sr., and the New Mexico Lobos, all while Kensli razzled him about being his number one little Badger.

Larry is survived by his loving wife, Margaret of Apple River, daughter, Jessi Nichols of Scales Mound, and his number one granddaughter, Kensli, his bonus children: Sarah “Big Foot” (Quinn) Hill, Brian “Boo” Vance, Aaron Vance, and Stacie (Kyle Dolphin) Anson, brother Lonnie (Bonnie) Nichols of Green Bay, WI, and several nephews and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Larry and Lillian Nichols, brother Jerry Nichols, and his maternal and paternal grandparents.

A celebration of Larry’s life will be held at a later date, at their home in Apple River. Cremation rites have been accorded.

A memorial has been established in his memory. Condolences may be sent to the family at http://www.leamonfh.com.

Savannah

David LaShelle, 75

David LaShelle, of Savanna, IL, passed away Tuesday, March 5, at his home. A private family memorial service will be held.

David was born December 9, 1948, son of Donald and Dora (Hutchings) LaShelle. The son of a military father, David and his family lived in many places throughout his childhood; including England, Germany, and Georgia. After his father retired from the army David’s family settled in Savanna. David attended Savanna High School, graduating with the class of 1967. In 1970 he was drafted into the United States Army, and was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War. Upon being honorably discharged he returned to Savanna and worked at a grocery store in Clinton, IA. Later David began a career truck driving.

David was always soft spoken and easy going. He made friends easily, and loved to chat with folks whenever he was out and about. In his free time he enjoyed fishing from his flat bottom on the Mississippi River. He would frequently take trips down to his old stopping grounds in Georgia, or go camping in his camper. If you knew David you know how kind and generous he could be. He had a big heart that he loved to share with his family and friends.

David will be dearly missed by his three siblings, Donald (Sheree) LaShelle of South Beloit, IL, Dorothy (friend Mike) LaShelle of Savanna, and Robert (Marné) LaShelle of Savanna; one niece, Laura (Dirk Woodland) LaShelle of Rochester, IL; one nephew, Donald (Whitney Anderson) of McCausland, IA; one great-nephew, Jude, and many Cousins. David is preceded in death by his parents, Donald and Dora.

Elizabeth

Stanley Wayne Backenkeller, 79

Stanley Wayne Backenkeller, age 79, of Elizabeth, IL, passed away on March 5, 2024. A celebration of Stan’s life was held Saturday, March 16, 2024 at Woodbine Bend Country Club from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Stan was born October 30, 1944, in Savanna, IL, the son of John and Lida (Irby) Backenkeller. He grew up in the Schapville, IL area and graduated from Elizabeth High School with the class of 1962. He would go on to attend Rockford Business College before moving home to work the family farm and soon, the family hardware store. A few years later, Stan signed on as a mail carrier for the Elizabeth Post Office, serving for more than 30 years. During that time, he bought and operated his family’s hardware store for a number of years and owned Dually’s Bar in Elizabeth for more than a decade.

On March 12, 1994, Stan married Nancy Rizzo. They would have celebrated 30 years together later this month. Stan was a proud member of the Elizabeth community. He served as an EMT and Firefighter for many years and was instrumental in starting the original “Station Wagon” Elizabeth Ambulance service. He participated in many bowling leagues and golf tournaments over the years, and loved spending time outdoors, camping, or with his beloved dogs, Spud, Jug, and Earl.

A cowboy through and through, one of Stan’s favorite hobbies was riding horses, while donning his custom-made cowboy hat of course! He was a longtime member, and former president of the Northern Illinois Southern Wisconsin Trail Riders Association and a member of the Terrapin Riders Saddle Club, organizing many trail rides over the decades. After retirement, Stan could often be found tinkering in his garage, practicing his woodworking skills.

Stan will be dearly missed by his wife, Nancy Backenkeller; son, Steve (Judy) Backenkeller, of Tucson, AZ; nine step-children, Janine, Colleen, Carol, Margaret, Michele, Julie, Shane, Shannon, and Traci; grandchildren, Nick and Jade; and many step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Stan is preceded in death by his parents, John and Lida, and daughter, Julie Backenkeller.

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