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Barry Schrader


I write this column for the following newspaper:

  • Daily Chronicle : DeKalb County Life

The Articles started December 2007.


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Still employed at 82, and selling tickets, too

By Barry Schrader.................................April 14, 2009

It must be his Italian genes, as Joe Bussone keeps on ticking and can’t be told he should slow down at age 82.

I first met him way back in April 1966 when we were both younger and full of vim and vigor. The occasion was the presentation of a gift to the Sycamore Library Board, of which Joe was president at the time. I came to the meeting to present the microfilm files of the Sycamore True Republican newspaper, as it had recently been purchased by DeKalb County Press and as editor I wanted to be sure the 110 years worth of issues of the oldest paper in the county were preserved for use by library patrons. Why I can pin down the date was due to a photo that appeared in the Sycamore Sun-Tribune of Joe and me looking over the microfilm. I ran across him a few more times while at the Daily Chronicle since we were both Kiwanians (DeKalb and Sycamore though) at the time and went to some of the same fundraisers.

Sycamore’s Joe Bussone always has a fistful of tickets for multiple good causes all seasons of the year. At left are some of the medals and ribbons awarded him for service in World War II. (Barry Schrader - Daily Chronicle Photo)

But to come back 40 years later and sit down with him at his home near Coltonville, it seemed like only a few years had passed. He still works out of his home office as a manufacturers’ representative and was so busy that afternoon I only got 45 minutes of his time to talk about the years in between contact.
Trying to find out the secret to his spunk I could only elicit the response: “I just like to stay active and it keeps me going.” Then I brought up his legendary ticket-selling to more worthwhile causes than anyone else in DeKalb County or maybe the whole state.

“I just like to help people. God has been good to me over the years and I like to pay him back by helping people …” Joe not only sells hundreds of tickets for every event sponsored by his Kiwanis club but has been known to regularly help the “other service club” represented by a cog wheel. Also being a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, one can understand him promoting its fundraisers, but last year he sold nearly 200 pancake supper tickets for the Sycamore Methodist Men’s Club as well. He explained his count was less this year as “the Methodists didn’t get the tickets to me enough ahead of time.”

Joe could pass for a native Sycamorean, knowing as many people around the area as he does, but in fact was born in the little town of Roanoke, which is a bit east of Metamora, which is just east of Peoria. He left home after high school to join the Navy, spending much of World War II in the Southwest Pacific theater shuttling Marines and Army troops from ships to beaches on so many islands he can’t even remember their names. When he got out of the service he enrolled at Bradley University and earned a degree in engineering. Facing offers from several large companies, he chose to go with General Electric, spending the next 16 years with that company, the last 12 in DeKalb while he and his wife Evelyn lived in Sycamore.

“When I got here in 1954 there were 1,400 people with GE,” he said. Now only about 100 are employed here. Then at the age of 41, he decided to strike out on his own, selling custom-designed and engineered parts for manufacturers. He now represents five manufacturing firms and has only slowed down a little so he can do more volunteering. Proud of his Italian heritage, he explained that his parents came from the Italian Alps, and he has been back there on five family visits, but professes to knowing only enough Italian to be conversant with family members.

Before I could leave I found myself with two tickets in my hand for the April 18 Sycamore Kiwanis annual Big Breakfast. He let me have the pair for the seniors’ rate of only $6. Did you know you can eat all the pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, and apple sauce you want, plus the beverage of your choice? Well, now you do.

There ought to be more Joe Bussones in this world. Today’s youth could take a lesson or two from his generosity, loyalty to his country and dedication to good causes. Joe won’t pass through those pearly gates without St. Peter buying a ticket or two, you can bet on that.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115