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Family Memories

The Family Memories collection is an eclectic mixture of interviews with people who have made special contributions to their families and communities, and who have a compelling story to tell us about their experiences.

Ellyn Bartges

Growing up in Hinsdale, Illinois, Ellyn Bartges played in the first Illinois State Girls Basketball Tournaments. After graduating college with a degree in history, Ellyn eventually landed an assistant basketball coach position at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte from 1988 through 1994. After challenging the university about violations of Title IX, Ellyn moved to Macomb, Illinois. While working on her master's degree, Ellyn conducted twenty-six oral history interviews with coaches, players, administrators, and referees about the birth of girls' basketball in Illinois and the impact of Title IX.

Mary Bremer

Mary (Cagle) Horman Bremer was born and raised in tiny Metropolis, Illinois. She discusses the family's hard times during the depression, and her experiences on the home front while her husband Louis Horman was in the army during World War II. Upon his return, Louis attended the University of Illinois on the G.I. Bill before moving the family back to Metropolis. Mary discusses all of this during her interview, as well as offering personal insights into life as a homemaker during the 1950s and ‘60s, as a family caregiver and also as a leader in her community.

Terry Brennan

Terry Brennan began his lifelong love of music at a young age by playing in his father's band. He also played for various other groups and was performing in bars and jazz clubs throughout central Illinois by the age of twelve. After graduating from the University of Illinois with a M.S. in Music Education, Terry began teaching music at various high schools throughout Illinois. Terry has played in a variety groups throughout his life, and led his own band, the Terry Brennan Trio, for seventeen years. He is widely regarded as one of the best jazz keyboard players in central Illinois.

Janis Droegkamp

Jan Droegkamp has spent much of her professional career working in a variety of postings with the Peace Corps, first in Jamaica in 1972, then Lesotho (surrounded by apartheid South Africa), before returning to Massachusetts for graduate school. Since earning her graduate degree Jan has also worked in Kenya, Thailand, Cambodia, Fiji, Albania, Uganda and other countries. While in Fiji, Jan decided to start a family. In 1985, she became a Mother by Choice when she gave birth to her son, John, and represented the group several years later on the Oprah Winfrey show. She also began a long association with Sangamon State University in Springfield, Illinois, both running the University's Credit for Prior Learning program and teaching.

Burnell Heinecke

Burnell Heinecke grew up in Freeburg, Illinois, the son of a coal miner. He developed an interest in journalism while still in high school, and after serving in the U.S. Navy, he attended McKendree College, graduating in 1950 with an English degree. Shortly after that, Burnell began a very successful career as a Chicago Sun-Times reporter, serving for many years as the paper's Springfield bureau chief. Sadly, Burnell passed away before we had an opportunity to discuss his journalistic career, but we are please to present his colorful memories of a small town boy growing up in the coal country of southern Illinois.

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson began working at the Rail Golf Course while he was in high school and it was under construction. In 1977 he became superintendant of the golf course, the same year he graduated from Penn State University’s Turf Management program. In 1999, Jim became the General Manager of the Rail, overseeing all aspects of the golf course, including preparation for the yearly Rail Golf Tournament (LPGA).

LuAnn Johnson

LuAnn Johnson has been the Executive Director of Oak Ridge Cemetery for over twenty years, which serves both as the municipal cemetery for Springfield, Illinois as well as the final resting place of President Abraham Lincoln. LuAnn provides fascinating insights and a unique historic perspective of the second most visited cemetery in America.

Fernando Jones

Fernando Jones grew up in Chicago in the 1950s and '60s immersed in the cities blues musical scene. He learned how to play the guitar at a tender age, and often saw some of Chicago legendary blues musicians at venues like Theresa's Lounge. As an artist, Fernando Jones became not only a blues musician, but also a visual artist, an actor and a writer. Jones discusses the programs that he has established for the continuation of the Chicago blues tradition, including Blues Kids of America, where he travels to different schools giving presentations on blues music, and the Blues Camp, where children from around the country come to Chicago to learn the art of the blues.

Wendell Meeks

Born in 1944, Wendell Meeks grew up in the southern Illinois town of Centralia, graduating from high school in 1962. Wendell talks extensively about his home town, about its early efforts to integrate the schools, and about Centralia High School sports, especially Orphans basketball. During his junior year, the team made it to the Super-Sectionals, and in his senior year when Wendell started at center, the team made it all the way to the Quarterfinals, where they were defeated by the eventual state champion, Chicago-Carver. Following high school, he attended Oberlin College, where he continued playing several sports. Upon graduation from Oberlin, Wendell went on to a long and successful career in education.

Rozanne Robertson

Rozanne (Posy) Robertson earned a business administration degree from Northwestern University in 1952, and was a pioneering woman in industry and business management during the 1950s through the 1980s. She worked for a variety of businesses and industries during those years in the greater Chicago area, including Ethicon, Coleman Instruments, G.D. Searle and Boise Cascade, and also did private consulting work. She next worked for the Curtis Mathes Corporation in east Texas as its human resource vice president, then moved to Bloomington with her husband to operate a Curtis Mathes Rent to Own store. Along the way, she often encountered resistance and resentment from some of the male executives with which she worked, but had a very satisfying career none-the-less.

Jack Rooney

Jack Rooney, a native of Cherry Illinois, shares his insights and many anecdotes of the Cherry Mine disaster of 1909, the nation's worst mine fire disaster, in which over 200 miners perished

Fred Smith

Frederick C. Smith, a career civil servant with the Department of Defense, talks about his project to visit all thirteen of the nation’s Presidential Libraries and Museums. He was inspired to do so after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008. His journey began with visits to the twelve Library's managed by NARA (the National Archives and Records Administration), and finished with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield in April 2010. He reflects on the unique aspects of each library & museum, and share his insights on these national treasures.​​

Jackie Stites

Jackie Stites discusses her years spent giving back to the Springfield community. She served as Parent Teacher Association President at Hazel Dell School, Jefferson Middle School, and Southeast High School before working with the Elijah Iles House, Governor's Executive Mansion, and the ALPLM. She discusses the state of community service in the 1960s and how it has evolved, the impact that it has on a community such as Springfield, as well as the current conditions of these places.

Evelyn Brandt Thomas

Evelyn Brandt was born in 1923, and followed her brother Glen into the family business their father had started, Brandt Consolidated. That business was at the cutting edge of the liquid fertilizer business, and Evelyn worked as the office manager and treasurer for decades. Glen and Evelyn built their business on the principles of honesty and hard work, and it grew by word of mouth. In 1995, Glen’s son Rick was named President and CEO of Brandt Consolidated. Evelyn has also become known in central Illinois for her civic leadership, philanthropic efforts, and support for NASCAR.

Sandy Wheeler

Sandy Wheeler began her career as the executive director of the Rail Golf Classic (LPGA) in 1980. In 1993 the State Farm Insurance Company stepped forward as the title sponsor. She finally stepped down in 2005, after 27 years at the helm of the longest, continuous-running LPGA tournament in the country.

Betty Wrigley

Betty Ann Fuetsch Wrigley grew up in the Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri but at the age of fifteen in 1943 she followed her aunt to Bremerton, Washington. Once there she worked in the Puget Sound Navy Yard as a shipfitter’s helper from 1943 to 1946, having to lie about her age in order to work there. After the war, Betty returned briefly to St. Louis, then married Arvil William Wrigley on April 19, 1947 and moved to Collinsville, Illinois. She had a long career with the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, raised twins Robert and Kathryn, traveled throughout the United States on memorable vacations, which she always described in her notebooks, and devoted years to volunteering in her community.

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