The start of a new year seems like a good time to update you on some of the people I’ve written about. So, in alphabetical order:
Jerry Berwanger: He was, as he puts it, “captain of the ship when it went down”— for 10 years manager of the Mitsubishi plant before it closed six months ago. Now retired, he lives in Normal and is hopeful about Rivian Automotive’s purchase of the plant: “Last chance to keep that building on its foundation,” he says.
Cameron Brate With eight touchdowns, my nephew tied as the NFL’s top-scoring tight end in the regular season, even though he suffered a back injury in Tampa Bay’s Christmas Eve game and couldn’t play in the final game last weekend. He also tied a franchise single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end. I expect he will be back in uniform next season and I’ll be seen at a Bucs game wearing a “Make America Brate Again” T-shirt.
Katherine Capponi: The longtime Roanoke-Benson School District secretary and bookkeeper was paroled in August after serving about 3½ years of an eight-year sentence for stealing nearly $1.2 million from the school system over a 10-year period. She just turned 78 and has returned to Roanoke. As part of a plea agreement, she repaid about $236,000 by cashing in savings and retirement accounts and selling a vehicle. She theoretically has 19 months to repay the rest.
Timothy Flanagan: His eight-month tenure as president of Illinois State University having ended in March of 2014, he’s now “Chief Student Success and Academic Affairs Officer” in Colorado’s Department of Higher Education, a $108,000-a-year job he landed nine months ago. The $480,000 exit package he received from ISU still vibrates in the minds of some faculty members.
R.J. Graham: He's the 2013 Ridgeview High School graduate who twice scored a perfect 36 on the ACT college entrance exam. Now a junior at the University of Chicago, he’s majoring in geophysical sciences and researching “the thermal evolution of chondritic planetesimals in the early solar system and troposphere-stratosphere exchange in Snowball Earth scenarios.” Uh huh.
Dennis Hastert: The former U.S. House speaker is six months into a 15-month sentence in connection with hush money aimed at covering up sexual abuse of teenagers. Because of fragile health, he’s at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn. Among Hastert’s fellow inmates: Jared Lee Loughner, who six years ago Sunday, shot and severely injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people in Tucson.
David Hendricks: Once convicted, then acquitted, of murdering his wife and three children in their Bloomington home 33 years ago, Hendricks, 62, lives in Orlando with his (fourth) wife of 14 years and their year-old son and visited friends in Bloomington over Thanksgiving. He’s back making and marketing spinal braces and continues to advocate for his former prison cellmate, Henry Hillenbrand of Streator. Hillenbrand killed his common-law wife and her lover in 1970, escaped from the LaSalle County jail and was recaptured 13 years later. He has a parole hearing March 1.
Janet Whitworth: She says she dearly misses the people, but not the cooking, since she closed Beningo’s restaurant in mid-August. And no, she won’t prepare lasagna for your special event. But she still loves to talk. Wouldn’t be surprised if she shows up as a hostess or bartender around here.
Dick Wilson: After retiring as Illinois Wesleyan’s president 14 months ago, Wilson and his wife, Pat, spent most of a year visiting family in California and in Illinois and sampling Chicago, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Quebec City, Canada. They returned to Bloomington last summer after purchasing a home here. Wilson, who led IWU for 11 years, advises and assists not-for-profits on fundraising activities.