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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I wrote a column for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle for 8 years starting in December 2007 and running until November 2015. The archived columns will remain on this website.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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The day Bill Finn’s life nearly ended

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................Nov 3, 2015

It only takes one split second for your life to change forever, or be ended. Bill Finn can tell you all about that experience.

Graduating from Sycamore High School in 1965, Bill worked for a while at a construction job site at Northern Illinois University, then was drafted into the U.S. Army at age 19 where he was trained to be a medic. After that he was shipped to Vietnam. On Feb. 22, 1967, he turned 20 and three days later his unit was caught in an ambush and he was shot by an enemy sniper. The bullet severed his spinal cord but did not kill him.

Life as he knew it changed drastically at age 20, but now at age 68, he leads an almost normal life inSycamore, except he is a paraplegic, paralyzed from the waist down. To see Bill driving his van or working in DeKalb County Circuit Clerk’s office you would never know he has a disability, unless you notice the wheelchair.

Bill Finn is shown at his workplace computer in the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore, IL along with his wife Maggie and (in back) office colleague Trish Diedrich.
(Photo by Barry Schrader)

After being shot, he was rushed to a field hospital, then another hospital, then off to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for six weeks, finally ending up at the Hines VA Hospital in Illinois for about a year, he recalls.

It was then that his parents’ lives were also changed drastically when they brought him home to Sycamore and gave him 24/7 care. They built an addition onto their home to accommodate his wheelchair and his mother became a full-time caregiver.

Fortune smiled on Bill one night in 1981, when he went to a local restaurant and met a friendly bartender named Maggie. With a smile she said Bill “stalked” her after that first encounter, and he admits to pursuing her, going out on many dates and having good times. She agreed to marry him about 10 months later. After living with his parents a few years they were able to build their own home with special accommodations for his wheelchair.

Their union has lasted 33 years and is still going strong. They have three adult kids to show for it – Megan, 30, Max, 26 and Will, 21. Bill also proudly points out they have three grandkids as well.

But life has not been easy these past 48 years. He has had many hospitalizations, even getting hit and severely injured several years ago in his wheelchair in a Little Rock, Arkansas, parking lot when a driver didn’t see him. The resulting back injury never healed and he spent time again in Hines Hospital the past three years, finally recently getting back to his courthouse job.
He will tell you how much he enjoys the staff and the work in the Circuit Clerk’s office, doing data entry, handling paperwork for warrants and other court-related matters four hours a day, three days a week.

Talking to his boss Circuit Clerk Maureen Josh, she said, “It is awesome what Bill does in the office,” first starting out as a volunteer about 15 years ago, then taking on a paid job a few years later. She added that the office knows he is a die-hard Cubs fan, but also backs the Bears and loves NASCAR. He and Maggie have traveled to race tracks as far away as Florida, driving his specially-equipped van with all hand controls.

Josh told how much the staff enjoys him and what a wonderful friend he has become. She added: “It is hard to imagine how wars can affect people’s lives. I am so pleased to be working with him, very honored and proud to know him.”

FINAL COLUMN, FAREWELL

“So long, it’s been good to know you,” is my refrain once again as I have decided to put the dust cover back on my typewriter after this column, having done the same three years ago, but after four months deciding I couldn’t relax in that proverbial rocker just yet and going back to interviewing people all over the county.

I will reach 75 in another month and really want more time to myself and for Kay, so I can start cleaning out the basement as I promised her I would do five years ago.

Thanks for reading my columns off and on these past eight years and special kudos to the Daily Chronicle editors for letting me keep on keeping on. I will still be involved in the community in many ways, tilting at windmills, and preserving history wherever I can. I may even learn how to blog and do a weekly piece on my website at www.dekalbcountylife.com if I get inspired or passionate about some cause. Writing is such good therapy!

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115