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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

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.

 

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

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Larry Kiernan, a Genoa Democrat to know

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................August 21, 2012

Danny Gallagher recently jogged my memory of a local businessman from my youth in Genoa. It was Larry Kiernan, also known as “Kandy King” Kiernan, who owned a sandwich and confectionery shop on Genoa’s Main Street for many years.

Larry was a staunch Democrat, as was his father before him. He told the story, unconfirmed, about his father asking for a Democratic ballot in a Genoa election in the 1940s and they had to have a precinct worker drive to Sycamore to obtain one so he could cast the only Democratic vote in town.

I remember as a teenager going into his store and seeing the walls lined with Genoa-Kingston Cogs football, basketball and baseball team photos. Larry was a big sports fan and a dedicated backer of local athletics. He even rented an upstairs apartment to the high school coach Harry Henigan when he came to town.

The other recollection I have of Larry was his failing eyesight. He was legally blind by the time I knew him and yet managed to keep his driver’s license. Maybe it was his political connections in the

An unforgettable character in Genoa’s past is the late Larry Kiernan
(Photo provided)


Democratic Party. Somehow he managed to guide his red station wagon from his South Emmett Street house to the store every day, coming to a jolting stop when he hit the curb on the side street near his business.

Over the years, Larry employed a lot of youth in town. He needed kids to help him in the store, and had exclusive distributorship for all the newspapers between Chicago and Rockford. Many got their first work experience delivering papers on a route for Larry, and his store was the place you went to buy a Sunday paper.

Other people also looked to Larry for employment. He was not only a precinct committeeman, but at one time was the Democratic Party’s county treasurer, according to Gallagher, who is also a former Democratic Party chairman in DeKalb County. Larry had connections all the way to Springfield and was able to dole out some political patronage jobs when the Democrats were in power Downstate.
Gallagher told how proud Larry was when John F. Kennedy, a fellow Irish Catholic, became the 35th President of the United States. These were his best years in politics, and he was very devoted to the Kennedys, even backing Bobby Kennedy until his untimely death at the hands of an assassin in 1968.
Another longtime acquaintance of Larry’s, Willard Dobbeck, told me that when Larry’s health was failing and he had to give up the business, he sold the building to the Genoa State Bank, which tore it down to expand the bank. Larry then ran his newspaper delivery business out of his home, but his health continued to deteriorate. He died Sept. 6, 1981, at age 63.

Dobbeck was surprised by a phone call telling him Larry had named him executor of his estate. Dobbeck said there was little left beside the house he owned, and Larry had willed it to the St. Catherine of Genoa Catholic Church.

Larry Kiernan will be remembered as a supporter of youth sports, as an active member of the Genoa Lions and a part of the early formation of the Genoa Chamber of Commerce.

Visitors to Genoa Pioneer Day on Sunday (August 26) should check out a sign in the depot museum stairwell that came from Larry’s store, worded “Democratic Republican Headquarters” as it appears that Larry wanted to welcome customers of both political parties.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115