Feature Stories

Playing Taps For Lovington Honor Guard Since High School

Photo by Darian Hays Lovington American Legion Commander George Clark (right) honors Aaron Fleming for his years of playing Taps for military rites, while Tom Brown Honor Guard coordinator looks on.

Photo by Darian Hays
Lovington American Legion Commander George Clark (right) honors Aaron Fleming for his years of playing Taps for military rites, while Tom Brown Honor Guard coordinator looks on.

•July 13, 2016•

Aaron Fleming has played Taps during military rites since high school, but his graduation from Millikin and entering SIU’s school of medicine in Carbondale will end on a high note.

The Lovington American Legion presented Fleming an Appreciation Award for his service July 9.

“I’ve known him since he was a boy,” Lovington Honor Guard Director Tom Brown said of Fleming, who has played Taps on his trumpet during honor guard military rites since high school.

“He and his dad are Sons of American Legion members, and Steve has helped for 40 years,” Brown said, noting both are EMTs with the Lovington Ambulance Service.

Handling around 50 military rites so far this year, the Lovington post honor guard assists the Bethany and Arthur posts in assembling up to 15 people needed to properly perform the ceremony.

One constant has always been Aaron Fleming, the solitary trumpeter playing Taps. Read More

“Chicago” Razzle Dazzles Sullivan

Chicago•July 6, 2016•

By Cheryl Murphy
For the News Progress

“ A story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery – all those things we all hold near and dear to our hearts,” announced executive producer at The Little Theatre on the Square John Stephens.

Yes, John, “Chicago” was a rip-roaring 20’s good time! Not your average Good VS Evil show, or was it? I found the audience cheering over and over again for the two main characters – murderesses in fact. But it was the 1920s in Chicago when everyone wanted to perform their own lives. Everything became a song or dance, a production.

A perfect example was the “Razzle Dazzle” which eludes to the fact that the press and courts of the time just might have let you get away with murder to make you the next star. Much of the show highlights that corruption in Chicago’s journalists, police, and justice system of the 20s. Definitely, the forefathers of today’s paparazzi could have had their start in Chicago of the 1920’s.

Hats off to Darren Lee, the director and choreographer of “Chicago.” Lee, himself, danced with Hollywood star Catherine Zeta-Jones in the 2002 motion picture ”Chicago” as well as toured with the Broadway National Touring Company of “Chicago.” Scene after scene it was easy to become a fan of his knowledge and expertise of this musical. Dozens of people exited the Sunday matinee commenting that this was the best presentation of “Chicago” they had seen among multiple venues. Read More

Hole in the Wall Plans Limited July 4th Opening

Photo by Bernie Sanders Pictured above is Shane Murphy.

Photo by Bernie Sanders
Pictured above is Shane Murphy.

•June 29, 2016•

The Hole In the Wall B.B.Q. brings apple smoked pulled pork barbecue near the square with a limited initial opening from 11-2 p.m. during Sullivan’s Monday, July 4th celebration.

Converting the building on the corner of Monroe and Washington streets has been a four month challenge for Shane Murphy.

“A Hole in the Wall” was just an idea I had to create a cozy place for good pulled barbecue,” Murphy said, noting everything he has learned from 20 years of family restaurant experience in Wisconsin has come together in Sullivan.

Shane’s wife Katrina, a Sullivan native, brought Murphy and his barbecue smoking skills south.

He has divided the former Lucky’s restaurant building to create a cozy Hole in the Wall atmosphere in the pulled BBQ location with seating for about 30 people.

The half-red building with a giant black Hole entrance offers an eclectic style inside. Inspired by family items and Murphy’s music and movie collection, he has assembled a time warp inside. Read More

Reflecting on Sullivan Singers’ Progress

Photo furnished Show Choir and Chorus Director Jeff Thomas balances district responsibilities.

Photo furnished
Show Choir and Chorus Director Jeff Thomas balances district responsibilities.

•June 22, 2016•

Brynna Sentel
For the News Progress

Last year the Sullivan High School Administration brought in a new director for the Chorus/ Singers program, Jeff Thomas.

Thomas, took a different approach to the Singers show this year. “The Sullivan Singers put together a mini, story based musical that contained elements of Jekyll/Hyde and Frankenstein’s monster.”

Thomas, incorporated many props and flashy backdrops as well as lead characters to help the story line along.

However, with every new teacher comes new challenges to overcome. “Balancing all my responsibilities across the district.” was one of the biggest challenges Thomas faced as a new teacher at Sullivan.

As a group the Sullivan Singers struggled the most with getting to know each other. “We had a really big group, and many of the older students didn’t know the new ones coming up. Obviously no one knew me!” The singers had to learn Thomas’s teaching habits. Thomas himself had to learn the best way to teach the kids as well. Read More

Little Theatre’s How to Succeed….Terrific

How to succeed•June 22, 2016•

The Little Theatre production of my favorite musical comedy, How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying), was terrific!

The principal performers — Corbin Williams, Jordan Cyphert, Sydney Troxler, Gus Gordon and Sarah Philabaum — are all remarkably strong and funny.

The dance numbers dazzle. Corbin and Sydney’s innocent faces perfectly belie their relentless guile as Finch and Rosemary, and the villainous Jordan never wastes a half-second that could be filled with style and wit.  Read More

Our Father’s Day Celebration at Coyote Cabins

Coyote sign_0428Faith Lutheran Invites Public

•June 15, 2016•

A free music and arts festival offers family friendly overnight fun at Coyote Cabins June 17 and 18.

“We were looking for a way to have an event to welcome everyone,” John White of Faith Lutheran Church in Sullivan began.

What has developed is a variety of musical performances with Saturday night featuring Firebox, the popular Effingham based bluegrass band heading the bill.

White emphasized the Christian based music from local bands throughout the day will blend with the sounds of DJ Top Hat and the Rockin Tater Show.

Finishing the evening entertainment Saturday is alternative music for the young people from Ashland and Sidelined.

“We were fortunate to partner with Jeff Crockett and Jackie Cisna at Coyote Cabins Retreat and Farm,” White said, pointing out once they had the venue, the volunteers of Faith Lutheran started building the free festival. Read More

Missoula, Montana is New Home for Kathy Best

Photo furnished

Photo furnished

•June 1, 2016•

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sullivan native Kathy Best’s newspaper career is taking her to Missoula, Montana. The daughter of the Moultrie County News Progress late publisher and editor Bob and Marion Best has worked from coast to coast, leaving the family newspaper in Sullivan for brother Bob to tend. The following Montana Standard story by Darrell Erhlick announced her appointment this week.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kathy Best has been named editor of the Missoulian and the Ravalli Republic, Publisher Mark Heintzelman announced Wednesday.

Best is currently the editor and vice president for news at The Seattle Times. In that role, she has helped lead the newsroom to three Pulitzer prizes and multiple national print and digital journalism awards, including for video and multimedia presentations. She’s known for her commitment to significant watchdog and investigative journalism, innovative explanatory reporting and engaging storytelling that illuminates the heart and soul of a community. She has spent the last nine years in Seattle helping the newsroom learn to do all of those things well on multiple platforms — from desktops to mobile and from social media to Sunday print.

“The opportunity to lead the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic allows me to return to my first and deepest love -- great community journalism,’’ Best said. “I can’t wait to help these talented newsrooms take their work to the next level, giving print and digital readers in western Montana relevant and engaging news they can’t get anywhere else. We’re going to have some fun.’’

Newspapering is part of a family tradition for Best. She worked for her family’s newspaper in central Illinois, the News-Progress in Sullivan. It was there that she learned the basics of newspapering, from taking photos to selling ads. She continues to be a co-owner of the newspaper with her brother. Read More

Training Days Helped Sullivan Veteran Make Honor Flight

Vet Johns Ruscin•May 25, 2016•

By Mike Brothers

John Ruscin of Sullivan thought his training days were over after joining the Navy in May 1945 during World War II.

Ruscin just returned from the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight of Springfield, where 80 veterans toured various historic and veterans’ sites in Washington, D.C.

A retired junior high school teacher and coach from Sullivan, Ruscin knew the Flight would require some walking around Washington so he went into training weeks before.

“I had surgery and some heart problems, but I didn’t want to use a wheelchair,” he said. “So I started walking up and down the street to hopefully be in good enough shape to walk to the sites.”

Ruscin explained that 14 of the 80 veterans of the free Honor Flight were wheelchair bound. “It put a big burden on the guardians who were responsible for getting the veterans off and on the bus at every stop.”

Impressed by the changing of the guard in Arlington Cemetery and the tours of the memorials, Ruscin explained one thing that got to him were the letters of appreciation sent to veterans on the flight.

Ruscin received 113 letters thanking him for his service during World War II. Read More

Sullivan Students Get Some Financial Help for Their Dreams

Photo by Mike Brothers Sullivan athletic director Ryan Aikman presents Blake Stewart with the L.J. Hollonbeck Memorial Track Scholarship.

Photo by Mike Brothers
Sullivan athletic director Ryan Aikman presents Blake Stewart with the L.J. Hollonbeck Memorial Track Scholarship.

•May 18, 2016•

It takes more than money to chase your dreams, but it helps.

Sullivan High School counselor Krista Smith pointed out $300,000 in scholarships plus an additional $40,000 in local awards were given during the annual Awards Night held May 4 in the high school commons. Some 86 separate awards were presented during the evening.

As the awards were distributed, the locally funded scholarships demonstrated the community’s commitment to education in Sullivan schools.

The David Elzy Memorial Scholarship was presented by Scott Bales and Elzy’s daughters Ally and Abby to Grant King. Elzy was a 1986 Sullivan High School track record holder, who joined the Air Force serving in Desert Storm.

Greg Lane presented the Leon Lane Memorial to Alyssa Marshall. His father was born in 1926 and married their mother Evelyn in 1946. An auctioneer for 45 years, he served as Sullivan mayor until he passed away during his sixth term.

The Blake Lane scholarship was presented in memory of the 1998 SHS graduate who left SIU-C to become a lineman and was killed in a work accident in 1999. Kyler Houser was the recipient.  Read More

PTO Provides Much-Needed Funds for SES

Photo  furnished Pie in the Face was done for Box Top Collection at Sullivan Elementary School.  The students are Rhyder Pierce on the left and Liam Donovan on the right.  The teachers are Melissa Haegen on the left, Micah Heddins in the middle, and Kurt Friese on the right.  Students got to play the “Pie in the Face” game as a reward for collecting box tops in December.

Photo furnished
Pie in the Face was done for Box Top Collection at Sullivan Elementary School.  The students are Rhyder Pierce on the left and Liam Donovan on the right.  The teachers are Melissa Haegen on the left, Micah Heddins in the middle, and Kurt Friese on the right.  Students got to play the “Pie in the Face” game as a reward for collecting box tops in December.

•May 4, 2016•

The continued underfunding of schools in Illinois is no secret. For years now, the state of Illinois has balked on fully funding its schools as promised. As a result of these difficult times caused by budgetary constraint, schools have been forced to turn to outside sources to help fund activities. Fortunately, the Sullivan PTO has stepped up its efforts to provide opportunities for the students of Sullivan Elementary School.

PTO is an integral part of the elementary school. They help fund varying activities, including but not limited, to assemblies, field trips, and tickets for all students to see a play at the Little Theatre on the Square. The PTO also gives teachers money to spend in the classroom for supplies, as well as different apps for use with iPads and other technological resources that are used to supplement instruction. Numerous fundraising activities take place throughout the year, such as “Art to Remember” and Box Top collection. The PTO provides great incentives for students to bring in box tops (which may be exchanged for money to be spent in the classroom). One example occurred earlier in the year when students who turned in box tops got a chance to hit their teachers or the principal in the face with a pie. Read More