Monday, December 31, 2007

People Washing

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Two people from vastly different parts of the world share space at Double Bubble Coin Laundry on Annie Glidden Road on Friday afternoon. Yohannes Tekle, 47, of Asmara, Ethiopia, smells a sweater he washed and dried for his son, 23-year-old Emmanuel, who is a first-year student at Northern Illinois University. West Chicago’s Iesha Drayton, 23, a clinical psychology graduate student at NIU, puts a fresh load in a dryer at the opposite end of the row.

A Day at Double Bubble Coin Laundry

Story and Photograph by Eric Sumberg

Many great thoughts have come to Yohannes Tekle while doing laundry. “I read,” Tekle said. “I'm thinking about how my son is doing. A lot of great thoughts come with laundry. You can concentrate on a very narrow subject.”

Tekle, 47, of Asmara, Ethiopia, usually doesn't have the benefit of using a washer or dryer. He lives about 30 miles from a major city, so clothes in Ethiopia have to be washed by hand.

But Tekle was at the Double Bubble Coin Laundry on Friday afternoon to do laundry for his son, 23-year-old Emmanuel, a first-year student at Northern Illinois University. Emmanuel was in Chicago with his girlfriend, leaving his father unoccupied.

“I decided to do his laundry for him. I thought I'd surprise him. I couldn't stand looking at the mess anymore,” Tekle said.

He wasn't the only one sorting whites from brights Friday at the Double Bubble. Iesha Drayton, 23, of West Chicago, stood just 15 feet from Tekle for the better part of Friday afternoon.

Hoping to head off the snow, Drayton, who is a graduate student at NIU studying clinical psychology, figured she was going home Saturday and had to work at 8 a.m., so “I might as well get up and do it now before the snow gets bad.”

Both Tekle and Drayton had a history of laundromat use. Drayton, who has been at NIU for six years completing her undergraduate degree and graduate work, has a washer and dryer in her apartment but they aren't big enough for her clothes. She typically keeps to herself, though one time, “I met a lady here because I was reading the same book she was reading.”

Tekle, who attended the University of Louisville in the early 1990s, used to use the facilities there. Tekle often comes to America to visit with his 13 sisters who run Q-Mart convenience stores throughout the Midwest.

Both use their time in the laundromat to do some philosophizing and analyzing.

“Sometimes I look at people and wonder what's their background and why did they come to do their laundry today,” Drayton said. “When I see a man come in and wash clothes and he was folding baby clothes I took him as a single dad.”

Drayton had taken a peek at Tekle and thought he had a nice aura about him.

“I take him as a loving, caring father,” she said. “I wish my mom would come down and do (laundry) for me.”

DeKalb Fends off Rochelle JV

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Despite full extension, Rochelle junior varsity player Kyle Furman, center, can do little to stop DeKalb center Jordan Threloff from shooting in the second quarter of the Barbs' 68-55 victory over the Hubs on Thursday night in the Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb's Darius McNeal drives to the hoop between Rochelle junior varsity's Nate Eyster, left, and Tadd Krabbe in the fourth quarter of the Barbs' 68-55 victory on Thursday night in the Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament on Thursday evening.

The Gift of Life

Read Gift of Life by Benji Feldheim

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG With a photograph of the late Luis Noriega hanging behind her in the home of his parents, Brenda Tetzlaff listens to her husband, Jason Tetzlaff, as he tells the story of their journey through hospitals and doctor’s offices before she received Noriega's kidney and pancreas in an organ donation in April of this year. “I’m overwhelmed right now,” Tetzlaff said of meeting Noriega’s family for the first time after an extended correspondence. “What a great family.”

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Callie Sears (right) cries as she hugs Brenda Tetzlaff, who received Luis Noriega’s kidney and pancreas after he died. Sears, 21, dated Noriega for more than a year before he was killed in an attack by three men outside Reilly’s Bar and Eatery in DeKalb on April 14. “I know that he would find so much pride in helping someone have a good life,” Sears said.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Friends and members of the Noriega family met in person with Brenda Tetzlaff, the recipient of Luis Noriega’s kidney and pancreas, on Dec. 8 in Elgin. Clockwise from top left are Callie Sears, Lauri Noriega, Gilberto Noriega Jr., Sandy Noriega, Jeremy Lorang, Margarita Noriega, Brenda Tetzlaff, Gilberto Noriega Sr. and Jason Tetzlaff. Gilberto Noriega Sr. holds a picture of his son, Luis.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas on the Pavement of DeKalb

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb native Chris Cebula, 20, jogs along Carlisle Road on Christmas morning during an eight-mile training run. Cebula, a former DeKalb High School standout, is a cross country and track athlete for Marquette University in Milwaukee and has been logging about 60 miles per week while he is home from school. “It’s a lot easier on break when I can not worry about school and just train,” he said.


Story and Photograph by Eric Sumberg

As a student-athlete on Marquette University's cross country and track teams, Chris Cebula knows a thing or two about measuring himself against a clock.

When the DeKalb resident comes home from school in Milwaukee, the 20-year-old junior has to find time to train during the holidays. Last year, Cebula did a training run at 2 a.m. Christmas Eve because he didn't have time to run during the day.

“I wasn't too pleased with that,” Cebula's mother, Colleen, said with a smile. Now she said she gets annoyed with her son “only when he cuts it close to getting showered and ready to go.”

Cebula, a track standout who graduated from DeKalb High School in 2005, is one of thousands of college athletes training away from their teams during winter break. Though he runs both cross country and track, Cebula's specialty is the steeplechase, a demanding 3,000-meter race typically run around a track in five loops and including a 3-foot-tall stationary hurdle above a pool of water.

“Running through the snow breaks up your rhythm, just like the steeples,” Cebula said after finishing an eight-mile run through west DeKalb on Christmas morning. “Slipping on the snow helps build up leg strength.”

Running on his own or with a group of athletes he has coached in summers past, Cebula has been putting in the miles to stay in shape through the holidays. Last week he ran a total of 59 miles over seven runs. He varies his workouts between longer, slower runs and quicker, more demanding sprints and running on hills.

There are days he wishes he did not have to pound the pavement, “especially when I have to do harder workouts. I'd rather be doing other things like laying around,” he said.

Cebula has been running since third grade, but he credits his strength as a college-level athlete to his high school cross country coach Mike Wolf.

“They've got a great coach there. They've built a strong program,” Cebula said of the Barbs.

His goal is to qualify for the Big East Championship, which has a cutoff time of 9:24 for the steeplechase. Cebula ran a 9:45 last year but said he had little training at the time. He has found the transition to collegiate athletics from high school to be manageable, but not without its pitfalls.

“The hardest thing is, cross country is three miles in high school and it goes up to eight and 10 kilometers,” he said. “It's a pretty big jump.”

But for the time being, Cebula's training is like putting money in the bank for a future payoff.

“Sometimes I want to hang out or go somewhere, but I have to go run,” he said, adding that his friends know by now that he can't take the time off - even on Christmas Day.

Christmas Delivery of Meals on Wheels

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Cindy Crofoot, 48, carries a tray of ham to be packaged for Tuesday’s holiday Meals on Wheels deliveries from the Voluntary Action Center in DeKalb. Crofoot, who is a cook for the program as well as for the DeKalb County Jail, welcomes help from volunteers. “If they offer an hour of their time, that makes someone else’s day better,” she said.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Icilda Flournory, 84, greets Mason (from left), Jake, Gary and Jennifer Nienaber of Sycamore as they deliver a Christmas meal to her DeKalb home Tuesday morning. This is the second year the Nienabers have volunteered with the Voluntary Action Center to deliver meals on the holiday. “I like to do it because it’s Christmas,” Mason, 10, said. “It makes me feel good.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

China House 364

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Lily Beth Sender, 1, of Sycamore peers at the camera while eating lunch with her father, Don, mother, Judy, and sisters, Isabelle, 9, and Donica, 7, on Tuesday afternoon at China House on Sycamore Road in DeKalb. The Sender family comes to the restaurant frequently, although a Christmas meal is not one they have done yet. “We would if we didn’t have home plans,” Don Sender said.

Who Will Feed the Non-Christians?

Story and Photograph by Eric Sumberg

It probably doesn't cross the minds of too many people preparing for a slew of family at the Christmas dinner table, but Justin Chen would like you to know that he will go to work Tuesday.

Chen, 32, is the manager of the China House buffet restaurant on Sycamore Road in DeKalb. While he does celebrate the holiday, it is more of a cultural than ecumenical decision.

“Not the big fancy Christmas,” Chen said, but rather, “because it's a special day.”

A small percentage of all Chinese people are Christian. According to David Aikman, author of the book “Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power,” of the 1.3 billion people in China, about 70 million are Protestants and about 12 million are Catholics. Most Chinese adhere to Buddhism, Taoism or various other Chinese religions.

The majority of Chen's employees were born in China and are not Christian, although there are a few on his staff, such as 28-year-old Bi Ling and her sister, 27-year-old Tina Ling, who plan to celebrate Christmas with their families. Despite this, the sisters were planning to come to work Tuesday.

“It's OK,” said Bi Ling.

Eating at a restaurant on Christmas may be a foreign concept for some. Sycamore's Helen Kempton, 47, is a nurse at Kishwaukee Community Hospital who typically dines at China House twice a month. She was filling her plate with fruit before a 3 p.m. shift Monday that would keep her at work until 11:30 p.m.

“It's a family day, and we've never eaten out on Christmas,” Kempton said. “I don't think it's unheard of to eat in a restaurant, but we've never on that day.”

For DeKalb's non-Christian residents, having restaurants open can provide a respite on a day that is otherwise largely closed to public life.

“In more urban areas, even some people who are not necessarily Christian are not working,” Missy Garman, the president of Congregation Beth Shalom in DeKalb, said during a phone interview Monday. “Some choose to work thinking that they can provide a service to the other non-Christian people.”

For its part, China House is closed just one day a year - and that day occurred on Thanksgiving. They are open Christmas Day and the Chinese New Year.

“American people don't celebrate the Chinese New Year,” Chen said with a smile. The restaurant will keep their regular hours on Christmas Day.

“We keep the restaurant open because some people still go out for Christmas,” Chen said.

Although the normal fare will be on the China House menu Tuesday, the restaurant has tried some American specialties in the past.

“Some people eat turkey on Christmas. We tried turkey before, but not many people ate it,” Chen said.

In and Out at Wal-Mart

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG A bracing wind whips the snow into the air Sunday in the Wal-Mart parking lot as Susan Weiss of Elburn walks with friend Isaac Fortner, 8 (left), and two of her children, 1-year-old Samuel (top), and 3-year-old Madison in DeKalb. Weiss had done most of her Christmas shopping but came to the store to pick up gifts for her oldest son, 12-year-old Joseph. Minutes later, an unidentified man walks toward the store's eastern entrance.

Behind the Lens

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Campus Cinemas manager Steve Sipes, 25, adjusts the projector being used to show a matinee of “This Christmas” at the second-run movie house after threading the leader of the celluloid roll from its platter on Sunday afternoon. “It is a little bit of a lost art,” Sipes said of manually loading the film at the theater.

The Projectionist

Story and Photographs by Eric Sumberg

There is much that does not meet the eye at the movie theater.

Steve Sipes, 25, the manager of Campus Cinemas in DeKalb, has worked with films for more than five years and has seen the effort that goes in to making sure your movie experience is flawless.

The worst thing that can happen? Dropping a spooled roll of film.

“It works like a disc,” Sipes said as he described the celluloid reel that feeds into the projector. If you pick it up and it starts to flop over, “it's all about salvage.”

Chimed in co-worker Andrew Dewey, “(Campus Cinemas owner Mike Occhipinti) said he dropped ‘Lord of the Rings' and it took him three weeks to fix it.”

Campus Cinemas caters primarily to the Northern Illinois University student crowd and those interested in second-run or independent films, according to Sipes. During the university's winter break, the focus of the movie house changes from more collegiate-geared films to art films and movies geared to the younger crowd.

“We try to get movies you don't get at Market Square,” Sipes said. “That's how we sustain through the break.”

As one of the few remaining theaters that plays strictly film movies - most modern movie houses are digital - Campus Cinemas employees need the skills to run the platters and projectors on which the films run.

“It is a little bit of a lost art,” said Sipes, who has worked at the theater for five years. “Not only do you have to thread the projectors, you have to put the films together.”

Each film comes in separate reels that make up an entire movie. Film operators must splice the reel so the film runs smoothly.

“You have to be very exact on your gaps,” Sipes said, or you risk the film jumping off of the frame.

Other mechanisms read the audio track, which is embedded on the side of the film, and regulate the amount of lead the movie has as it goes through the projector.

Alas, for someone who enjoys movies, working at a movie theater is perhaps not the best job.

“I don't really come back and I don't sit up there and watch them,” Sipes said.

“In two years I've seen three movies,” said Dewey, 22.

But, the benefits of working tend to outweigh the downside.

“It's like two hours of doing my homework,” Dewey said. “A refill every once in a while.”

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG A spare projection lens rests in front of a window through which "Bee Movie" can be viewed at Campus Cinemas in DeKalb on Sunday.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Shop Talk

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Allison Johnson, 33, uses a glass rod to add a dash of color to a bead that she was creating as a holiday gift at her Bliss Beads Studio in DeKalb on Saturday afternoon. Johnson, who received a master’s degree in fine arts in 2002 from Northern Illinois University, enjoys giving her work as gifts. “I love to do this so that energy is imbued with that gift. It has my love in it,” Johnson said.

What Those Who Create Give

Photograph and Story by Eric Sumberg

What do those who create gifts give as gifts themselves?

Often, the artistic among us choose what is close at hand.

DeKalb resident Allison Johnson, 33, works with glass in her Bliss Beads Studio behind Mattress Warehouse on East Lincoln Highway. She was hard at work Saturday in her studio, creating glass beads in the searing heat of a propane-and-oxygen torch for 12 family members and friends.

“I think that going to the store and buying stuff is so ... people can buy that themselves,” Johnson said. “I'd rather make someone a piece of jewelry than something they can buy at a store.”

Each piece takes about a half-hour to make, and the quality and color of glass rods vary with each bead she makes. Most of her friends get a bead, but her mother gets a necklace and a pair of earrings because “she's really into the jewelry thing.”

Despite the beauty of the glass beads she makes, Johnson acknowledges it's not for everyone. Her Uncle Chad is one such person.

“I think he enjoys them and appreciates them,” Johnson said, but added she also plans to give him a bottle of red wine this year.

At The Yarn Exchange in downtown DeKalb, a group of non-professional craftswomen were knitting Saturday afternoon. For those who love to knit, choosing which gift to give is easy.

“Since I learned to knit, it just gives me a reason to knit more,” DeKalb resident Joan Bredendick said as she sat around a table in the back of the store with a klatch of regular customers.

Although a lot of work goes into creating most knit pieces, at times a gift of homemade socks can be given to a less-than-appreciative audience.

“Unless people knit, they don't appreciate the time that goes into it,” DeKalb resident Lori Hintzsche said. “You can't give it away and have any expectations because you enjoyed it.”

Andrea Rusin works at The Yarn Exchange on the weekends and was busy helping customers between attending to her own knitting projects. She will make 25 pieces for family members this year, including socks, hats and sweaters for her smaller nephews.

While she loves to create knitted gifts for her loved ones, she acknowledges sometimes the homemade route doesn't always turn out as expected.

“We've also all made the heinous gift from hell,” Rusin said as she described a bright yellow acrylic sweater she made for her father decades ago. “I don't think he ever wore it.”

For Dan Grych, owner of the DeKalb Gallery in downtown DeKalb, the holiday season is a time when people who have been eyeing work throughout the year come in to purchase a special piece of art. Grych offers a range of art and craft work from local artists and uses local materials in his framing materials. He sold a ceramic colander made by Grayslake artist Neil Estrick on Saturday for 10 times what someone would pay for one in a retail shop.

“This is the only colander you'll ever want in your whole life,” he told the customer. “They're very special, and they're not made in China.”

As for what Grych himself gives to his friends and family, that changes from year to year. Last year he bought art at his own store and paid handsome commissions to the artists who created the works.

“I had no time to do my shopping,” Grych said. “They got my commission, and I got their things.”

However, this year he plans to do things differently. He will give away the bread he bakes along with a recyclable Christmas card - one that has no writing on it - in addition to a more run-of-the-mill gift.

“I'm doing socks this year,” he said. “Everybody needs socks. It's a practical gift.”

One Score, One Block

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb point guard Jon Umoren slices between two Belvidere defenders to score two of his 14 points on the evening in the first quarter of the Barbs’ 66-59 victory over the Bucs in the opening day of the 80th annual Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament Saturday night.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Belvidere's George Waddell, rear, skies above a streaking Tyler Smith of DeKalb to block his shot on a fast break in the second quarter of the Barbs' 66-59 victory over the Bucs on Saturday night in the opening round game of the 80th annual Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament. Smith finished with 19 points on the evening.

An Accident in the Fog

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Law enforcement officials examine the area around where two vehicles collided around 10:30 a.m. Saturday near the intersection of Cortland Center and Somonauk roads in Cortland. Police say the driver of the van, Steven C. Murphy, failed to stop or yield and was hit by the truck being driven south on Somonauk Road by Allen Harrelson. Murphy was pronounced dead at the scene. Harrelson, 43, of Cortland, and a 3-year-old child in his vehicle where taken to the hospital. According to a news release from Cortland Police Chief Russell C. Stokes, the “lack of visibility due to heavy fog in the area (contributed) to this tragic accident."

NIU Trumps UNI

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Northern Illinois freshman forward Mauvolyene Adams dashes into the paint to score her sole field goal of the evening in the first quarter of the Huskies' 61-46 victory over Northern Iowa on Friday night at the Convocation Center.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Room at the Table

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Alice Cradduck (from left), Gary Mullis and Becky Atkinson sit down for a meal of ham and spaghetti at Tommy O’s Family Restaurant on Friday night in DeKalb. The dinner was provided by restaurant owners Scott and Maria Morrow as part of the third annual Christmas Dinner for the Less Fortunate. “It’s just a way for us to give back to our community,” Scott Morrow said.

A Christmas Tradition

Story and Photograph by Eric Sumberg

The sponsors of the third annual Christmas Dinner for the Less Fortunate were prepared for a lot of hungry people.

Tommy O's Family Restaurant owner Scott Morrow, 34, had more than 50 pounds of ham, 30 pounds of mashed potatoes and 50 servings of spaghetti at the ready for anyone who wanted to come in the cozy eatery on Lincoln Highway on Friday night. Additionally, two tables were piled high with gifts donated by customers of the restaurant. All extra food and gifts not given away were to be donated to area shelters after the meal.

Morrow attributed the larger number of people at this year's meal to more prominent advertising of the event. He had seen about 15 people come in by 5 p.m. Friday.

“The first couple of years, we had about 30 or 40 people,” Morrow said, adding that he expected to see more people this year.

Morrow decided to move the meal to a night other than Christmas Eve to coordinate TransVAC rides to the restaurant more easily.

“It's not only to give people food - it's to talk to people who may not have families,” Morrow said.

Three area residents who were taking part in the meal sat together at a table in the restaurant's red brick eating area. Gary Mullis, 63, Becky Atkinson, 58, and Alice Cradduck chatted with each other and some of the 20 volunteers, including some employees of Tommy O's, who were serving food.

“I think that a good old home cooked meal is enjoyable,” Atkinson said. “Everybody's working to hard to make it good for us.”

DeKalb's Mairyah Danielsen, 16, was one of those who were helping to give a nice meal to the less fortunate. A Tommy O's customer who usually comes in for brunch on the weekends, Danielsen was working hard cleaning tables and fetching drinks as new customers came in.

“It's good for the community,” Danielsen said. “Some people don't get a good meal like this all the time. They deserve it.”

Out for a Stroll

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Don Turk, 55, of Locust Street in DeKalb walks his dachshund Paris Elizabeth on Thursday afternoon. Turk inherited his daughter's dog when the landlord at her apartment made her get rid of the animal a few years ago. Paris Elizabeth had to wear her down coat Thursday because her camouflage sweater was wet. “My wife loves this dog,” Turk said. “I'm OK with it. I'm not OK with the coat, but I'm OK with the dog.”

There are approximately 65 million dogs in the United States, and an estimated 25 percent to 40 percent of them are overweight or obese, according to Sandra A. Ham and Jacqueline Epping's “Dog Walking and Physical Activity in the United States,” a peer-reviewed article in Preventing Chronic Disease. The two women work for the Physical Activity and Health Branch, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The article concluded that while the study had limitations, dog walking could be a way for the nearly 25 percent of American adults who do not participate in leisure time physical activity to become motivated to do so. Ham and Epping wrote in summation: “Because it is purposeful, is convenient for most dog owners, and can regularly motivate and support physical activity, dog walking may address several important barriers to physical activity in humans.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Winter Graduation at NIU

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Northern Illinois University graduates rejoice after approximately 750 students in the colleges of Health and Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences and Visual and Performing Arts received their diplomas Sunday morning at the Convocation Center. The winter commencement exercise is done in two parts; the afternoon session is for the College of Business, the College of Education and the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

NIU Unleashes Hundreds into Real World

Story and Photographs by Eric Sumberg

Sunday brought a fresh coat of snow and a rite of passage.

More than 1,600 Northern Illinois University undergraduate and graduate

students left the world of academia and exchanged smiles and handshakes with university officials at commencement exercises.

Graduates shared their thoughts as they met with family and friends after the ceremony.

• Natalie Yeagle, 25, of Farmer City graduated with a Master of Science and will become a registered dietitian at BroMenn Regional Medical Center in Normal. In the more than seven years she spent at NIU - four as an undergraduate and 31/2 as a graduate student - her favorite moment boiled down to one of her final academic acts: “Defending it (my thesis),” Yeagle said with a smile.

• Stephanie Eddy, 26, of St. Louis graduated with a Master of Science in applied family and child studies. Eddy said that despite her status as a freshly minted graduate, she was looking forward to getting another degree in the future. “You keep needing that challenge to learn,” she said.

• Sara Kennett, 23, of Bismarck graduated with a Bachelor of Science in health sciences and will continue attending NIU to earn a master's degree in physical therapy. A former member of the Silverette Dance Team, which performs at sporting events, Kennett said that her collegiate highlight was traveling with the football team to the 2004 Silicon Valley Football Classic in San Jose, Calif. “It was the best time ever,” she said.

• Venkad Jammula, 24, of Hyderabad, India, graduated with a Master of Science in computer science. He has already begun working at an information technology firm in Des Moines and says that while he will miss everyone from home - NIU is home to a sizable contingent of graduate students from Hyderabad - he will miss Pizza Hut as well.

• Lacy Searcy, 23, of Chicago graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast journalism. He plans to attend professional broadcast school or become an adviser for an online university. Searcy's time at NIU has been one of growth: He met his fiancée, Virgiann Fayne, who will graduate in the spring, at NIU. He has used his time in college to “learn how to be a better communicator,” he said.

• Lauren Hall, 27, of Rochester, N.Y., graduated with a doctorate in political science after four years at NIU. “I was pretty determined,” Hall said of reaching her graduation in such a short amount of time. She will become a visiting professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and will miss Lord Stanley's Annex.

• Shu Wu, 22, who is from the Fujian province in China, graduated with a Master of Science in economics in one year. She will continue studying toward a doctorate at NIU. She has enjoyed her stay in DeKalb since moving here in August 2006. “It's a peaceful, quiet place,” she said. “I think it's different from cities in China.”

• Lindy Weinstein, 23, of Lake Zurich graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography and will be applying to graduate schools for a degree in art therapy. She said her favorite part was meeting lots of new friends, and she looked forward to leaving DeKalb. Her mother, Wendy, had other thoughts about what she should do in the future: “Doing good in the world and paying back mom and dad!”

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Northern Illinois University graduate in communicative disorders Artice Weston, 23, wears a necklace of dollar bills after commencement exercises on Sunday morning at the Convocation Center. "Hopefully it means I will make a lot of money," Weston said with a smile.

The Search for Bradley Olsen

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG The immediate relatives of Bradley Olsen — his sister, Tracy Feece (clockwise from left); father, Bill Olsen; brother, Billy Olsen; sister-in-law, Megan Olsen; nephew and godson, Brady Feece; daughter, Meredith Olsen; and mother, Sue Olsen (center) — stand Saturday in front of a tree that was decorated with lights and yellow ribbons by his extended family (background) to help keep his memory alive. The tree, which is in front of the Maple Park Civic Center, was decorated Dec. 1. Bradley Olsen, who has been missing since Jan. 20, was last seen at the former Bar One in DeKalb. His parents recently joined forces with the families of four other missing people in the Chicago area to provide support for each other and to help search for lost family members.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

16 Reasons to Stay for Halftime

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG With the closing strains of the hip-hop song “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” playing, the DeKalb Varsity Poms strike a pose at the end of their high-energy, two-minute routine at halftime of the boys basketball game against the Milwaukee Madison Knights.

Pom Perfection

Story and Photographs by Eric Sumberg

Halftime approached. The score of the DeKalb boys basketball game against the Milwaukee Madison Knights was 14-10. It was quiet in Chuck Dayton Gymnasium as the Barbs struggled to find their rhythm after a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Glenbard South the night before.

Meanwhile, behind the Knight's bench, 16 girls in spandex and retro sunglasses huddled together. At the sound of the halftime buzzer, they bounced out to their positions at mid-court.

The pom squad was here - and they were ready to roll.

Cue Tone Loc. The opening strains of “Wild Thing” blare and for the next two minutes, the gym is theirs.

“They're totally awesome, really awesome,” said Lynette French, one of the team's advisors with Sharon Oxnevad. “We just love the girls. They keep us so young.”

The varsity pom squad has been around for a while, “forever and a day,” according to team captain, 17-year-old Chloe Flora.

They are not cheerleaders, nor are they an official sport. They are the group that entertains fans during football and basketball season. They have a repertoire of nine routines they've created and perform at sporting events, pep rallies and parades. Each dance takes around six hours to perfect and they typically learn one each week.

We all get a chance to make a routine,” said junior Marissa Skonie, 16.

Much of the process of finding music, making mixes and creating dances are done by the team. Their advisors are there to manage the girls and add the finishing touches.

“We make sure that before they go out there, it looks good,” Sharon Oxnevad said. “They're what makes us perfect,” replied junior Alexis Hughes, 16.

Most of the girls take part in other activities during the school year, although some stay on to help run a junior pom camp for first- through eighth-graders and participate in the UDA Pom Camp at Northern Illinois University during the summer.

When it comes to performing, the DeKalb poms think they have a good grasp on what it means to entertain.

“You have to be happy and peppy the whole time,” said 15-year-old Hannah Johnson.

At times, some of the girls think they may have spoiled the crowds they perform for.

“It's sad when the crowd doesn't cheer for us,” Skonie said. “They just expect (a good performance).”

No matter what, the poms remain a group that loves to perform - and like each other too.

“The longer we're with them (the team), the closer we get,” Flora said.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb Varsity Poms member Lissy Rogers, 16, is all smiles Saturday night during her squad’s performance at halftime.

3 Games, 2 Gyms

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Kaneland's Mallory Huml, right, dives as she passes out of pressure by Sycamore's Anna Buzzard in the fourth quarter of the Knight's 50-35 victory over the Spartans on Friday night at Sycamore High School. The Spartans drop to 2-8 on the season with the loss while the Knights improve to 2-7.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Sycamore forward Will Strack goes to the hoop against two Kaneland defenders for 2 of his 17 points on the evening as the Spartans defeated the Knights 61-38 on Friday night at Sycamore High School. Strack finished the night with a game-high 17 points, four steals and three rebounds.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb point guard Jon Umoren is fouled as he drives the lane against Glenbard South’s Wally Wiedner in the third quarter of the Barbs’ 55-51 victory over the Raiders during their home opener Friday night at Chuck Dayton Gymnasium. Umoren tallied 19 points as the Barbs improved to 3-5 on the season.

Never Too Cold

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Jack Harrison, 3, of DeKalb opens wide for a taste of his mother’s Peppermint Chip Blizzard at Dairy Queen on Sycamore Road on Friday afternoon. Harrison’s mother, 32-year-old Jenn Cantu, comes to Dairy Queen once or twice a month in the winter and stopped by Friday to sample the new Blizzard flavor. “It has just the right amount of peppermint and the chocolate chunks aren’t too big,” Cantu said.

DQ Cools Down Winter

Story and Photograph by Eric Sumberg

Dairy Queen has its following.

Just like the bar owner, the greasy spoon proprietor or the bowling alley manager, Crystal Judkins knows her regulars.

Judkins, 26, manages the ice cream and fast-food restaurant on Sycamore Road in DeKalb, and she can spot her everyday customers as they pull in.

One backs his car in, and his chocolate malt is ready by the time he walks into the store. Another calls ahead to see if the waffle bowl special is still valid - and then comes and picks up four.

“If you like ice cream, you're going to like it in the winter and the summer,” Judkins said. “You're going to like it if you're in the hospital.”

Though business does slow down in the winter, Judkins said, Dairy Queen can still get busy at times during the cold months. She estimates her store sells as much ice cream in one winter day as in 6.5 hours in the summer.

Judkins herself is a devotee of Dairy Queen frozen treats in wintertime.

“I love ice cream when it's cold,” she said.

Some of her customers seem to agree that no matter what the temperature is outside, there is always room for a little more of the cold stuff.

Tim Schulz, 50, of DeKalb, picked up ice cream for some of those faithful Dairy Queen fans - his daughters, 17-year-old Nicole and 10-year-old Sarah - in the drive-through lane Friday afternoon.

“Kids will eat ice cream any time of year, it doesn't matter,” Schulz said.

The car behind Schulz's held DeKalb's Lilli Bishop and her two sons, 11-year-old Robby and 8-year-old Mitchell. Robby Bishop orders cookie dough ice cream while his brother preferred an Arctic Rush.

“I think dad,” Robby Bishop answered when asked where he acquired his taste for frosty treats.

Another dedicated customer is DeKalb's Jenn Cantu, 32. She brought her two children, 3-year-old Jack and 7-year-old Nate Harrison, along with her Huntley Middle School co-worker, 24-year-old Jill Elfstrom, to Dairy Queen so Elfstrom could sample the new Peppermint Chip Blizzard, available only in December.

“In the wintertime I don't really come at all,” Elfstrom said.

“But the car stopped here, so she had no choice,” Cantu replied.

Cantu is a bit of a fanatic when it comes to Dairy Queen treats and has even invented one, using the crunch from the crunch cone and the dip from the dip cone.

Her son has taken on his mother's enterprising spirit with ice cream. After seeing his cousin use a french fry to eat her ice cream instead of a spoon, Nate Harrison tried it for himself - and was hooked.

“It tastes like vanilla, but you mix it with a french fry,” Harrison said.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lifetime of Learning

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Finley Shepard, 95, a resident of The Grand Victorian in Sycamore, gives a helping hand to Land of Learning prekindergarten student Sam Etienne, 5, while they play with toy dinosaurs Thursday at the assisted-living center. Peg Maher’s class has been visiting The Grand Victorian once a month since the start of the school year for intergenerational learning activities and fun.

The "Grand Victorians"

Story and Photographs by Eric Sumberg

First things first. They all had to wash their hands. A parade of 5-year-old children hopped, marched and skipped to the bathroom with Land of Learning teacher Peg Maher.

Thursday was a special day for the youngsters from the Sycamore child care center. The kids got to see their friends from assisted-living center The Grand Victorian.

“I like playing with my friends and playing with the Grand Victorian people,” 5-year-old Rylynne Wig said.

“I was playing everything,” 5-year-old Ian Maier said.

Finnegan Powers, 5, said he liked to play with Finley Shepard, 95, a resident of The Grand Victorian who plays the piano for the children.

“We march around when he does it,” Powers said.

The prekindergarten class meets with the seniors the second Thursday of each month for fun and learning. They come toting puzzles and toy dinosaurs and boxes of blocks. The visits are looked forward to by the adults who get to watch and play with the pint-sized bundles of energy.

“When these children come, I get up at 7. It's the only time I get up at 7 because I love the children,” 95-year-old Charlotte Schaffer said. Schaffer taught in public schools in Chicago for 35 years and has been retired for 35 years, but the schoolteacher in her comes out when she shows groups of children how to play the spoons and tambourine.

“There's a great range of ability. Some children have skills that others don't have,” she said.

This is the third year Peg Maher has brought her class and the seniors together. Maher tells the children some of the people they visit may not get many visitors and they should focus on interacting with the grown-ups and not their friends while there.

In November, five residents of The Grand Victorian went to the Land of Learning facility on Bethany Road in Sycamore for a tea party.

“I enjoy it immensely, just being with the kids and hearing their funny expressions,” said 92-year-old Isla Luxton, one of the five who made the trip to the day care center last month. “I have a warm spot in my heart for children. I think they enjoy us.”

While some of the kids have taken to calling the seniors “Grand Victorians,” it is clear they enjoy the intergenerational interaction as much as the residents.

Shepard, the piano player, has a small following among the prekindergarten students - a few even shouted his name when they saw him Thursday.

He is known for being the ringleader of the musical part of the day. Shepard is a virtuoso who can play on any of the three pianos he has at The Grand Victorian, in addition to his talents on the oboe, flute and stringed instruments.

“This is great,” Shepard said as he helped Sam Etienne, 5, arrange his toy dinosaurs into rows. “Kindergarten is the beginning point for education. I want to start them on the right road, forget the TV.”

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Greta Koch, 5, left, takes a curtsy for her performance of "At Christmas Time" with her classmates from the Land of Learning child care center on Thursday at the Grand Victorian assisted living facility in Sycamore.

NIU Welcomes Kill

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Jerry Kill speaks to the media and supporters of the Northern Illinois football team after he was introduced as the 20th head coach in the history of Huskie football Tuesday at the Yordon Center. Kill, who received the 2004 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award, has over 100 career victories in his 14 years as a collegiate head coach. He replaces Joe Novak, who retired following NIU’s 2-10 season which was his 12th at the helm of the Huskies.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gun Panther

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Gun Panther guitarist Allen Beebe (left), 19, and bassist Jimmy Pittman, 18, rehearse Dec. 6 in St. Charles. The band, which will perform Saturday at The House Cafe in DeKalb, has lofty ambitions. “We aspire to be the greatest band in the world,” Beebe said.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Gun Panther drummer Sean Jensen, 19, engineered and produced the band’s eponymous first album, which was released in September. The four-member St. Charles-based band practices in Jensen’s parents’ home for gigs as far west as DeKalb and as far east as Chicago.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sycamore Stopped by Rochelle

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Sycamore's Amanda Johnson has her shot blocked in the second quarter by Rochelle's Lauryn McCulloch during the Spartan's 55-32 loss to the Lady Hubs on Saturday at Sycamore High School.

A Holiday Classic

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Kingston’s Kimberly Elsenbroek (left), 17, and Genoa’s Molly Smith, 14, apply makeup backstage before the start of the final performance of “The Nutcracker” by the Beth Fowler School of Dance on Sunday afternoon at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb. This year’s production, the 14th annual, featured more than 300 cast members ranging in age from 4 to 50 or older.

The Nutcracker Takes the Stage

Story and Photographs by Eric Sumberg

The scene backstage is as hectic as any theater production involving mice, ginger kids and angels.

“It's like 175 girls getting ready for prom,” said Wendy Tritt of Sycamore, the assistant volunteer coordinator for the Beth Fowler Dance Company's production of The Nutcracker.

The company held its last performance of the season Sunday at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb. The company has performed the ballet, based on the Alexandre Dumas adaptation of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's fairy tale, the past 14 years.

The production is a collaboration of the dance company and students of the Beth Fowler School of Dance in Genoa, but for cast members it's a family affair.

“It's family. It truly is an act of love,” said Sycamore resident Traci Gardner, whose daughter Ashlyn, 12, was performing alongside her.

The roles that each school and dance company member play are largely dictated by age, according to school owner Beth Fowler. Four-year-olds play a jack-in-the-box, 5-year-olds are mice, 6-year-olds are mother ginger kids, and 7-year-olds play angels. Eventually, the little ones become the stars in the company, a select group that admits people only by audition.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Members of the Beth Fowler Dance Company gather behind the main curtain on the stage of the Egyptian Theatre before the group's final performance of The Nutcracker on Sunday in DeKalb. Fowler's dancers have been presenting the holiday classic for fourteen years and many of her performers have been in the show since they were 4 years old-the year in which they played jacks in boxes.

The dance company began rehearsals for the production in October, and the younger students started in November. Cast members dedicated about 10 hours per week to make sure every cherub, harlequin, mouse, rat and dewdrop presented a sparkling performance in the show's December run at the Egyptian.

“It's very well organized,” Fowler said. “Even though we do ‘The Nutcracker' every year, all the dancers are performing a different role.”

One company member who has continued in his role for a number of years is Bret Hamilton, 46, of DeKalb. Hamilton has played the role of Herr Drosselmeier, who makes toy gifts for children, 12 times.

“I try to improve every year. I take it real seriously,” said Hamilton, who works as a painting contractor when not dancing or teaching ballroom dancing.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG A cast member stands in her place on stage while a promenade of Christmas revelers stroll across the stage in the opening scene of The Nutcracker on Sunday at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb.

With almost 20 years of dancing experience, finding the joy in the whole has become the key for the sprightly Hamilton.

“You develop a real passion for this sort of thing,” he said. “It's neat to be around these people. It's like I've got many daughters, not just the one I have.”

His daughter Zoe Hamilton, 13, who was readying herself Sunday with fellow performers, seemed to have picked up on her father's sense of professionalism and showmanship.

“The last performance is always the best because you want to do the best you can,” Hamilton said. “It's the imprint you leave on your dance studio.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Janelle Bergin, 18, of Hampshire, playing the jester doll, leaps into the air during the opening scenes of “The Nutcracker” put on by dancers from the dance company of the Beth Fowler School of Dance at the Egyptian Theatre on Sunday.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Grieving at the Holidays

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Donna Bennett of DeKalb visits the grave of her son, Paul Fenwick, at Fairview Park Cemetery around Christmas every year to place a wreath with small ornaments of activities he loved to do, such as fishing and motorcycles. Bennett said her son, who was 42 when he died 10 years ago from pancreatic cancer, wouldn’t have wanted her to be sad for the rest of her life. “When (Paul) was ill, I felt like I was the only person who had ever gone through this,” Bennett said. To help get through her grieving process, she self-published a book called “Walk Through the Valley of Death” five years after he died, with the hope that others would not feel like they were alone in their time of grief.

A Night on the Mat

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Kaneland wrestlers, from left, Cory Taber, Kyle Davidson and Jimmy Boyle sprint around the edge of the DeKalb wrestling mat during warm-ups before the Knights took on the Barbs on Friday night at Chuck Dayton gymnasium.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb heavyweight wrestler Joe Plote, left, hoists Kaneland's Ben Fabrizius in the second period of their match, won by Fabrizius by fall in the first overtime period, on Friday night at Chuck Dayton Gymnasium.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb first-year wrestling coach Mike Pater shouts instructions to a Barb wrestler during DeKalb's dominating 54-16 dual meet victory over Kaneland on Friday night. With the victory, the Barbs improve to 3-2 on the season.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Kaneland's Jeff Stralka maintains control on top of DeKalb's Danny Wilson in the second period of Stralka's technical fall victory on Friday night at Chuck Dayton Gymnasium.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb's Tyler Walt, left, strides back to the center of the mat after outlasting an exhausted Christian Gaytan of Kaneland to win their match on points by a score of 12-11 during the Barbs' 54-16 dual meet victory on Friday night at Chuck Dayton Gymnasium.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG DeKalb 189-pound wrestler Robert Hammack puts an exclamation point on the Barbs' 54-16 victory over Kaneland with a victory by fall in the first period over the Knights' Will King.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

5,000 Years of Beautiful Tradition

Read Inside Hanukkah by Benji Feldheim

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Jackie Gorman of DeKalb lights the Hanukkah candles on the second night of the holiday Wednesday with her children Caitlin, 14, and Colin, 17. Gorman, whose husband, David, was teaching that night, and her family light three Hanukkiahs each night, one for each child and one for the parents. Hanukkah is commonly thought of as the Jewish equivalent to Christmas, but that’s true in commercial terms only. “There are (Jewish holidays) that are important and involved, but there’s not a lot of advertising value attached to them,” Colin Gorman said.

Personal Snow Day

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Northern Illinois University students Christina Menard (left), 21, and Andrew Martin, 22, create a snow monkey, part of a larger snow family they built Wednesday afternoon with Dan Monaghan, 20, on John Street in DeKalb. “It’s a self-declared snow day,” Martin said.

Snow Falls on an Auspicious Anniversary

Story and Photography by Eric Sumberg

Unique things can happen when college students combine their natural creativity with a strong grasp of history.

Wednesday was a snowy day. The DeKalb area received about 6 inches of snow Tuesday night.

Wednesday also was the anniversary of a momentous day in American history.

Dec. 5, 1933, was when the 21st Amendment to the Constitution - which ended the federal ban on the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol - was passed.

Which brings us to John Street in DeKalb. It was there that Andrew Martin, 22, Christina Menard, 21, and Dan Monaghan, 20, created a snow family Wednesday afternoon. And in the spirit of the repeal of Prohibition, beer bottle caps were used instead of coal and carrots for the ice and snow sculptures.

“We don't have any vegetables or anything,” Martin said.

The threesome worked at a rate of about three snow creatures per hour, starting at noon and taking breaks for warmth and sustenance. They created the “Robo Cup Holder 3000,” an angry dad, three kids and a monkey.

Though classes at Northern Illinois University, where all three are students, were not canceled, the trio enjoyed a brief respite from school.

“It's a self-declared snow day,” Martin said, adding he didn't skip any classes.

At the sight of the snow Wednesday morning, Menard told her housemates they should build a snowman. Using only the materials at hand - which meant three plastic wastebaskets - they shoveled snow into containers as though they were making sand castles.

Their first snow figure was their most successful, rising to a height of about 4 feet, with a well-defined face and shirt buttons made of Land Shark Lager beer bottle caps. It took about an hour to make.

They then retired to their house to play video games and later headed back outside to make more creations. The students completed the rest of their non-nuclear family and came in from the cold around 4:30 p.m.

“We're pro-snow-creations, for sure,” Monaghan said. “If you look at the numbers, they're rising.”

Monaghan vowed he'll play in the snow for as long as he lives, even if he can't participate in the process.

“Even then I'll watch,” he said.

Menard was philosophical about her decision to play in the snow Wednesday afternoon.

“It's a celebration of the beginning of winter,” she said.

Maria Ridulph 50 Years Later

Updated 12/11/2012: Daily Chronicle: McCullough Sentenced to Life in Prison

Read Innocence Lost: ‘She would have been something' By Kate Schott

Maria Ridulph, shown here on vacation in Iowa in 1957, was 7 when she was kidnapped from the corner of Center Cross Street and Archie Place on Dec. 3, 1957. Her abductor was never found, despite the combined efforts of police and the Sycamore community. Her body was found in April 1958 in Jo Daviess County.

Chronicle photo ERIC SUMBERG Sycamore resident Charles Ridulph, 61, is the older brother of Maria Ridulph, who was kidnapped at age 7 from near their home in Sycamore. Ridulph shared a room with his sister, who was the youngest of four, and describes their relationship as close. “For me, it’s never been, ‘Why did someone do this to me?’” Ridulph said. “It’s just been an emptiness, a void, a missing of her.”