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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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Sour year ends with opportunity to make lemonade

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................December 20, 2011

Those who know me well can attest I did not have a very good year, at least up until recently.

Sure, I reached a high at the end of 2010 when my book of columns was selling like hotcakes off the shelves at Borders. But cold, harsh reality set in when I found out they had sold all my books, promised to pay me but instead declared bankruptcy. I never got a penny from Borders.

Fortunately, Kay and I had sold a couple of boxes of books ourselves, and I was able to keep my commitment to the DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society, donating a percentage of those sales to the group for the upcoming 50-year history update of DeKalb County “Acres of Change.” I, along with about 20 others, am still writing part of that book. It should be out in 2013.

After that unexpected dent in our bank account, my health started to falter. Diverticulosis nearly killed me in 2004 when my colon burst, and I spent three weeks in the hospital back then. After that, complications such as a blood clot and then shingles kept me out of work for a few months. But I recovered, bolstered by physical therapy and a dogged determination to make it through the final two years of my career and retire in 2006.
I was left with some intestinal problems from all those

Wally Thurow, now 84, is shown clowning around with friends back in October. He had been given the crown from the King of Oak Crest and held the centennial DeKalb Ag winged ear sign for this photo at the Towne Square in Sycamore. (Schrader photo)

surgeries from 2004-2005, and earlier this year they popped up (out) again. So it was back under the surgeon’s scalpel, and the good Dr. Roger Maillefer made me well again. But two months languishing at home feeling sorry for myself didn’t help my recovery.

When I finally dragged my carcass out of bed and decided to resume column writing this fall, it brought back a feeling of usefulness. And some readers even said they had missed me. How those few words can give you a high!

So I am running full speed again (like the old me) and found a 46-year debt I could repay. The year was 1965, and I had decided to start a weekly paper in Sycamore to compete with the Tribune and True Republican. But small-town loyalties and longtime friendships can doom a newcomer’s chance of succeeding in a new venture that threatens old alliances.

As I was searching for a way to break into this new market from my base in nearby Genoa, where I owned the Genoa Republican, up popped the enthusiastic chamber of commerce president – the one and only Wally Thurow. He not only welcomed my new newspaper venture but also personally took me to several business acquaintances and then-Mayor Red Johnson. He also offered a public letter of welcome on chamber stationery, which I displayed on the front page of the first issue of the Sycamore Sun on March 10, 1965. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now fast forward to late 2011, and Wally lies (maybe mortally) wounded in a rehab unit hospital bed in Slidell, La., needing all the prayers, letters and other support everyone up here can give him. So I helped organize a team of his friends – including Pete Johnson, Dr. John Ovitz Jr., Jerry Malmassari, Tom Oestreicher and Sycamore Mayor Ken Mundy – who all want to see Wally recover and preside over the 51st annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival next year. We have been working diligently to raise the money for his book project and are within a few dollars of our goal this week.

Phase Two is the distribution of 1,000 “Get Well Wally” postcards to Sycamore schoolchildren, being carried out as we speak. There are also donation jars with “Wally” postcards for sale in several local eateries and the Joiner History Room at the Sycamore Public Library. Those dollars will go directly to Wally and his wife, Jan, so he can get well enough to be here to reign over Pumpkin Festival 2012.

So I began the year handed a lemon, but now feel like I have made the sweetest lemonade I ever tasted. Godspeed to you Wally, and thanks for that favor 46 years ago, my old friend.

• Barry Schrader was editor of the Daily Chronicle from 1969-1972. He and his wife, Kay, are retired and live in DeKalb. He can be reached at barry815@sbcglobal.net or by mail at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115