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Living the Good Life: Why We Love Our Region

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We all live here for a reason, and some of us are downright passionate about life in our region. Meet 24 residents who represent many walks of life in our communities, and see why they call this place home.

Rolling hills. Breathtaking landscape. Miles of lush, green space. Friendly people. A vast array of exceptional dining and shopping opportunities. These are just some of the reasons why residents and visitors alike are attracted to the northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin area. Sure, like many other regions, we have our share of challenges. But there’s a resiliency and intestinal fortitude among local folks to plow through any obstacles that stand in our way. That’s what makes this such a great place to live, work and play.

Northwest Quarterly Magazine set out on a quest to find individuals who absolutely love calling our region home. No problem there. The difficult task, it turned out, was narrowing our list down to just 24 people. Some of them have lived here forever, while others relocated because of career opportunities. Others were raised here before moving away, only to be pulled back home, as if by some magnetic force.

What we found is that these people really love it here.

We believe that we’ve identified a strong cross section of people – farmer, teacher, park ranger, boat captain – who are more than willing to share their unique experiences. We hope many of you will relate to their interesting tales.

Regardless of their occupations, one thing is certain: They’re all living the good life.

Nature Lover: Jerry Paulson

As a young child, Jerry Paulson found nature’s allure pulling him through the front door of the small farmhouse in rural northeast Rockford that he shared with his parents and five siblings. He spent summers playing in a nearby creek, where he watched fish splash and chased lively frogs. His other favorite pastime was learning about wildflowers – prairie trillium, mayapples, wild geraniums – growing along a dirt road not far from home.

To this day, Paulson has never wavered from his love for nature. After graduating from Rockford’s Guilford High School, he earned a horticultural degree from the University of Illinois. He worked for 10 years for the Natural Land Institute, a Rockford-based private conservation group, before moving to the Chicago area, where he lived for two decades. He returned to the family farm 11 years ago and rejoined NIL as executive director, a position he’s held ever since.

“Moving away made me appreciate this area even more,” Paulson says. “I missed watching the open sky, the sunrise and sunset, and all the green space. I missed the rural small-town qualities we have here. The beauty of the landscape, the river alleys, the rolling hills and the farms. We have parks, nature preserves and forest preserves, from here to the Mississippi River that you can’t find anywhere else. Whenever I visit them, it refreshes my spirit.”

Road Trip : Lucy Newell-Anderson

Lucy Newell-Anderson had been on the back of a motorcycle only once in her life.

“I was eight and I was scared to death,” she recalls of a ride with her uncle.

Then, 4 1/2 years ago Newell-Anderson was hired by Kutter Harley-Davidson/Buell in Janesville as advertising manager/events director – a position she was unsure she even wanted, until she sat down for the interview.

“I walked away impressed,” she says. “I loved the concept of what they were doing.”

The Janesville native’s primary responsibilities are promoting and executing the dealership’s special events and philanthropic efforts.

“We’re more than a dealership that sells motorcycles,” she says. “We love riding, but we love helping the community.”

With a new job promoting motorcycles, Newell-Anderson quickly enrolled in a riding program and obtained her license. Despite a short riding season in our region, she takes advantage of beautiful weather whenever she can.

“When you leave our store, you can go two or three minutes in either direction and be on a beautiful country road with scenic views,” she says.

“Living in Wisconsin, there’s always a road waiting for you. Being on the road alone is the best gift I could give myself. It just takes you away.

“And you don’t ever forget it.”

Voice of Reason: Doug McDuff

Radio personality Doug McDuff had every intention of leaving Rockford early in his career, but a funny thing happened: He and his family fell in love with the city. They met new friends, found a church, settled down and became involved with the community.

“I love the big, small-town attitude,” he says. “I got comfortable here. Besides, being a big fish in a small pond is fun.”

A native of Chicago, McDuff worked at radio stations in Appleton, Wis., and St. Charles, Miss., before coming to work in Rockford at WROK-AM in 1965. At one point he left Rockford for two years, for a job in Milwaukee, but he returned in 1994 to join Maverick Media, where he’s currently the morning host on 100.5 NTA-FM.

McDuff has done it all in his 50-plus years of broadcasting.

He’s played April Fools’ Day jokes on listeners; raised money for Muscular Dystrophy; interviewed a host of celebrities, including Bob Hope, George Burns and Bob Newhart.

McDuff credits a gift for gab as the key to his longevity.

“I would not be in the business today if I were still playing music – that’s boring,” he says. “I love interacting with listeners and having the freedom to talk about topics that interest me.”
He has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. There’s plenty to talk about.

Coming Home Again: Venita Hervey

Venita Hervey had established a life and career for herself in Cleveland, when she made the decision in 1995 to return to her hometown of Rockford, to care for her ailing parents. “I have never regretted it once,” she says of moving back.

That’s because Hervey, an attorney and Rockford 5th Ward Alderman, has made a significant impact on the community ever since. When she came home, Hervey joined the landmark People Who Care lawsuit, fighting for equal educational opportunities for all students in Rockford. Today, she is a private-practice attorney specializing in employment, business and civil rights and discrimination law.
Her work representing Rockford’s 5th Ward is focused on small-business development, particularly along the South Main Street corridor.

“The things that are affecting the 5th Ward are quality-of-life issues,” says Hervey, who moved back to the home she grew up in. “I enjoy being in a position to help others. We have some very positive things happening.”

Still, she knows some things about her hometown could be better. That’s why she lends her voice to a weekly local radio show called “Rockford Raps,” which tackles diversity issues. “I feel a tremendous sense of obligation to this community,” says Hervey, who enjoys spending free time in downtown Rockford, sampling the various restaurants and activities like City Market.

No Bones About It : Scott Williams

As a child, Scott Williams collected fossils and read dinosaur books. He pestered his parents to visit Rockford’s Burpee Museum of Natural History, until he was old enough to volunteer.

But his defining moment came in 2000, while sitting next to a large fossilized triceratops femur bone on a hill in southeastern Montana. Williams, a deputy for the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department at the time, was on a dig with other Burpee volunteers.

“This is what you’ve always wanted to do,” he thought. “Why aren’t you doing it?”

Three years later, Williams, who helped to fund expeditions in 2000 and 2001 that led to the discovery of Jane, Burpee’s famous juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur, fulfilled his dream when he joined Burpee’s staff as collections and exhibits manager.

“I enjoy the opportunity to bring these things back to Rockford and show people a bit about earth history and the changes that have gone on,” says the Oregon, Ill., resident. “Fossils are a means of telling the earth’s history.”

In his spare time, Williams soaks in Rockford’s history by exploring other local museums. “People say all the time, ‘I didn’t know there are so many museums in Rockford,’” he says. “But Rockford has many gems like Burpee, the Discovery Center and Midway Village. There are plenty of exciting things going on.”

Fine Art: Jennifer Kirker Priest

Jennifer Kirker Priest was born in California, grew up in Michigan, and worked in Dallas. Five years ago, she jumped at the chance to return to the Midwest, when she accepted the position as executive director of the Freeport Art Museum, which displays art exhibits from local and regional collections and artists, as well as traveling exhibitions from around the world.

By moving to Freeport, Kirker Priest has found balance in her life once again. “In Dallas, there was a strong, competitive workforce that bragged about how many hours they worked,” she says. “That’s great for a certain time in life, but to sustain that doesn’t feel healthy to me. I love, for example, that my work is two blocks from home, which encourages a good work-life balance.”

That includes taking in some of the area’s best entertainment and activities, including local Friday night fish fries, the Winneshiek Players theater, or visiting an apple orchard with her husband, Jordan, and their five-month-old twin girls, Elizabeth and Evelyn.

But what Kirker Priest really appreciates about northwest Illinois is the friendliness of the people, which was on display when she moved to town. Many of the art museum’s volunteers – people she had never met – turned out to help her family unpack their belongings. “I love that compassion,” she says. “People even hold the door open here.”

A Class Act: Troy Yunk

The only place Troy Yunk ever wanted to teach and coach was in his hometown of Belvidere. After graduating from Rockford College, he got that opportunity in 1987, when he was hired to teach art at his alma mater, Belvidere High School.

Yunk spent 20 years there, before moving across town four years ago to teach at Belvidere North High School, and to coach cross country and track.

“It’s comforting living in my hometown, where I have people here to celebrate the victories and give me support when I need it,” he says. “I enjoy working with kids and helping to make a difference in their lives.”

In the classroom, Yunk teaches the fundamentals of drawing, painting and composition. Some of his students have gone on to obtain positions with high-profile companies such as NBC and Disney World, while others have pursued their own teaching careers. “Art is visual, and you can’t hide it in a box,” Yunk says. “You never know where it can lead.”

The same can be said for running. Under Yunk’s leadership, the boys’ cross country team has won three straight Illinois state championship titles, and many of his athletes have earned college scholarships.

“I tell my art students and runners both that the key to being good is putting in the work,” he says. “Natural ability won’t take you anywhere if you’re lazy about it.”

A lesson well learned.

Spreading the Word : Bonnie Heimbach

Bonnie Heimbach has a pretty cool job. As executive director of the Northern Illinois Tourism office for nearly 19 years, Heimbach’s business has been to promote the people, places and events that help to shape northwest Illinois.

The territory Heimbach covers includes big cities to rural farms, from Cook County to the Mississippi River. “I like steering people to fun and unique places, like Tinker Swiss Cottage in Rockford, Black Hawk Statue in Oregon or the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore,” says Heimbach, a longtime volunteer for Rockford’s annual On the Waterfront festival. “I like going to small towns to visit people and find unusual places to shop. People don’t realize what kind of treasures we have right here in our backyard.”

Four years ago, Heimbach and her regional partners created a grassroots effort called the Northern Illinois Wine Trail, promoting the Illinois wineries and winery-owned tasting rooms from Chicago to the Mississippi River. It links more than two dozen winery partners. With more than 30 percent of Illinois’ wineries located in the northern part of the state, Heimbach has had a chance to work with a range of business operators – from 20-somethings just starting out in the wine business to retirees beginning a new career path. “I enjoy meeting people who have an idea and make it work,” she says. “I love listening to their stories.”

Here to Stay: Matthew Simpson

Many people tried to sway Rockford native Matthew Simpson from returning to his hometown after he graduated from Southern Illinois University in May 2010. His mentors felt there were better opportunities for the economics/finance major elsewhere.

Simpson didn’t see it that way.

“Instead of turning my back on Rockford, I want to engage the community and make things better,” he says. “I don’t focus on problems and negativity that other people focus on. I see opportunities. I owe it to my community to be here, working and living. I feel we’re on the cusp of good things happening here.”

Simpson was hired by the Rockford Area Economic Development Council as a business development specialist. His responsibilities include business retention and expansion efforts, to help the region retain and grow quality jobs. He also interviews local business leaders, seeking information to help improve the business climate. “Seventy percent of all new jobs created come from businesses that are already here,” he says. “We’re working to ensure that Rockford is a place to stay and grow.”

In his free time, Simpson sings in a gospel choir, referees youth football and mentors young students.

“One thing about Rockford is that you can be engaged on many different levels,” he says. “That doesn’t happen in every community.”

Anchorman: Andy Gannon

As a smaller television market, Rockford has seen its share of reporters and anchors come and go. Not so with 23 WIFR morning show host Andy Gannon, a familiar face on local television since 1983.

Gannon was born and raised in Brown Deer, Wis., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin, where he was manager of the basketball team. He joined Channel 23 as a weekend sports anchor right out of college. Gannon was promoted to sports director in the mid-1980s and has hosted the morning show for more than 10 years.

“Rockford has always been a very solid news town,” he says. “I find it interesting that some of the stories we covered 30 years ago are still stories today, such as the Rockford School District and ways to revitalize downtown Rockford. There are enough people still passionate about their schools and community that breathe life into certain stories.”

In his spare time, Gannon, who’s married and has two grown children, enjoys golf, fantasy baseball and sports talk radio. He moonlights for ESPN Radio 1380 AM, where he co-hosts a nightly sports talk show, and is the play-by-play announcer for Hononegah High School football and basketball games. He’s also been involved with a number of charitable activities over the years.

“The Rockford area has been good to me,” he says. “Hopefully, I’ve been good to it.”

Never Far From Home: Randall Upton

Whenever someone asks Randall Upton where he’s from, he proudly responds, “I’m a guy from Beloit.”
That’s saying something, considering he’s lived and worked around the world.

Every time Upton went away, something always brought him back. After graduating from Beloit College, where his father served as college president for 21 years, Upton attended law school in Washington, D.C., where he also worked on Capitol Hill. He moved back to Beloit in the 1970s to practice law, but later returned to Washington.

For the next 30 years, he worked for a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Diplomatic Corps, and he owned a consulting company, with offices in Australia and New Zealand.

But Upton grew homesick and returned to Beloit in 2003.

“I missed the area,” he says. “I’ve been impressed with the way people are working to make life better here. I had a 30-year gap, but I’ve been able to re-establish friendships and ties to the area. The entire area is vibrant, thanks, in part, to Beloit College. You don’t find that in many places overseas.”

Two years ago, Upton became president of the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, a role perfectly suited for someone with his passion.

“My parents never moved away and now I share that same feeling,” he says.

Grand Design : Jerry Sjoberg

For many people, the Lake Geneva area is considered a vacation destination. Jerry Sjoberg, president of HOME DESIGN MFG., Fontana, Wis., lives that feeling every day.

Sjoberg grew up in Elmwood Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb, but vacationed with his family at Geneva Lake, where he learned to swim and water ski. He moved to Fontana as a young adult and never looked back.

“It’s a continuous vacation,” he says. “It’s that feeling you get when you’re driving and it’s the weekend. You throw your tie in the backseat and let the wind blow in your hair. I have that feeling every single day.”

That’s because Sjoberg, whose favorite architect is Frank Lloyd Wright, built his dream home, nestled in a 22-acre forest one mile north of the village of Fontana. He added a design center and workshop just 500 feet from his front door, and planted 300 evergreens for additional comfort. He cut out a mile of trails around his property, which comes in handy for snow skiing, and he often sees turkeys, foxes and deer moving past his window. Sometimes, he doesn’t leave his property for days at a time.

“I designed my own lifestyle,” says Sjoberg, which, he adds, is the goal of his company when building a home for customers. “I want them to be as happy as I am.”

Beautiful Backdrop: Todd Swanson
Some people long for an office window. Not Todd Swanson; he has a breathtaking view every time he steps out of his door as a park ranger at Mississippi Palisades State Park.

“I can’t think of a better place to work than a state park in Illinois,” says Swanson, who’s worked for the Department of Natural Resources for 30 years. “I feel very lucky.”

Ranger Swanson has a variety of responsibilities at a park that covers 2,600 acres, located three miles north of Savanna in Carroll County. Among his duties are working with service groups; overseeing prairie and wildlife management; dealing with maintenance issues; selling camping permits; and educating scouts and school groups. He’s met people from all over the world who visit the park. “No two days are the same,” he says.

Swanson shares space with a variety of species, including waterfowl and shorebirds, wild turkey, pileated woodpeckers, eagles, white-tailed deer and an occasional badger. A couple of years ago, a black bear was spotted in the park. “That was quite a thrill,” he says. “I never thought that would happen in my lifetime.”

The most impressive part of Swanson’s job is the scenery. Palisades (which means a line of lofty, steep cliffs) State Park has four magnificent overlooks that showcase the area’s most scenic views. Says Swanson: “Sometimes it’s hard to believe you’re standing in Illinois.”

Down on the Farm: Ryan Keltner

Growing up, Ryan Keltner didn’t always enjoy the long hours working on his father’s farm. That’s why he decided to major in computer science at Illinois State University. That all changed, however, when Keltner was sitting in class on a sun-drenched March day. “I decided I missed it after all,” he says.

Keltner returned to his native Pearl City, Ill., and eventually took over Keltner Farms, a 3,000-acre property, where he tends to 1,000 beef cattle and crops such as corn and hay. “I love watching things grow,” he says. “I love the smell of fresh-turned soil in the spring, fresh-cut hay in the summer, and fresh-cut corn in the fall.”

Most of his 14-hour days are spent working in the fields, sitting high in his high-tech combine. That’s where he’s witness to Stephenson County’s golden landscape – the rolling terrain, lush trees and abundant wildlife.

“Sometimes I take it for granted,” says Keltner, who serves as president of the Stephenson County Farm Bureau. “It’s not until other people ride with me that I really notice the beauty.”

Keltner has three young boys who help with chores and are active in a local 4-H club. Whether they’ll stick with farming, or branch out like their dad did, remains to be seen.

“It’s a great feeling to teach them things I’ve learned,” Keltner says. “But I’m comfortable with whatever decision they make.”

Going Green: Salley Wessels

The name Salley Wessels is synonymous locally with golf.

The Mt. Morris, Ill., resident has won the Rockford Women’s Golf Classic 13 times, the Illinois Senior State Tournament a record eight times and the Rock River District Championship an impressive 20 times. She was inducted into the Rockford Golf Hall of Fame in 2006.

Not bad for a golfer who didn’t take up the game until she was a teenager.

Wessels grew up in Mt. Morris. She became a teacher and taught in Rockford and Arlington Heights before returning to teach at her alma mater, Mt. Morris High School, retiring after 24 years, in 1995. She taught physical education and coached girls’ basketball, volleyball and field hockey during the early days of Title IX.

“I enjoyed my career, knowing that I helped young girls to reach their dreams,” she says.

Now her days are filled with all things golf. Wessels, who lives right across the street from a golf course, works part-time as a starter at Ingersoll Golf Course in Rockford. She also volunteers; she works with younger golfers on the finer points of the game. And she’s still playing in amateur tournaments around the area. “It’s fun being around other golfers,” she says.

For Wessels, winning never gets old. “I love to compete,” she says. “I love practicing and trying to get better. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I think I have more left in me.”

Presidential Treatment: Bill Jones

Ronald Reagan loved his hometown of Dixon, Ill. Bill Jones is helping to keep that passion alive. After retiring from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) in the late 1980s, Jones and his late wife, Marilyn, who also retired from IDOT, were hired to work at the Ronald Reagan Home in Dixon; Marilyn served as manager and Jones, who grew up in Polo, Ill., was hired to care for the grounds.

Seven years ago, the home and center became separate nonprofit organizations. Jones is now the executive director of the Dixon Historic Center, a history research and learning center housed in Reagan’s boyhood South Central School, visited by 14,000 guests each year. “Our visitors absolutely love Reagan,” says Jones, who once traveled to California with a local group to visit the former president for five days.

Over the past 20 years, more than $13 million has been raised to renovate the center. It features an auditorium, gymnasium, research facility, and a Reagan exhibit, and is designated a regional interview center for the Veterans History Project. The center is constructing two more permanent exhibits – American Farming and the Black Hawk War of 1832 – due to open by next summer. The center also is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress.

At 78, Jones has no plans of slowing down. “I enjoy coming to work every day,” he says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

A Higher Calling: Dottie Morizzo

There was a time in her life when Dottie Morizzo didn’t attend church.

“God and I didn’t always see eye to eye,” she says. Eventually, however, she found her way back, volunteering to feed the hungry and sing in the church choir. Concerned about the decline of smaller churches, Morizzo decided several years ago to follow her heart: She left her job as an administrative assistant for a Chicago-area printing company and went back to school to become a pastor.

Today, Morizzo leads Schapville Zion Presbyterian Church, a small congregation nestled between woods and farmland in unincorporated Elizabeth, Ill. The church has 60 members, mostly retirees, townspeople and farmers. Morizzo fondly remembers welcoming visitors who walked six miles to attend services one Sunday.

“It’s a kind and caring church,” she says. “I am blessed to be here.”

Morizzo was born in Atlanta, but due to a lack of jobs, her family, like so many others, migrated north. After living in the Chicago suburbs for several years, she’s happy to be back living and working in a smaller community that reminds her of growing up in the South. She doesn’t even mind driving long distances for groceries and other supplies.

“The landscape, the hills, the bridges are all the same,” she says. One of the biggest differences is the change of seasons, to which, she says, she’s finally getting accustomed.

Born Leader: Terry Renner

Galena, Ill., Mayor Terry Renner is passionate about his town. He practically blushes when talking about the historic district and the multitude of retail stores, restaurants and resorts. But there’s so much more behind his enthusiasm.

“I love the terrain, the rolling hills and the beauty,” he says. “I love the people, the architecture and the history.

“Galena is a great place to live.”

Renner has two full-time jobs. Besides being mayor, he works at John Deere in safety and security. He was elected mayor in 2009 – something he envisioned for many years. To prepare for his new role, Renner became involved in other public entities. He served as chief of the Galena Police Department; president of the Galena School Board; and member of the zoning board.

“All of my experiences have opened my eyes,” he says. “They’ve helped me understand people better and come up with solutions for any problems that arise.”

Working two jobs doesn’t leave Renner much time to enjoy his surroundings. But when he does have downtime, it’s usually spent with his wife, three children and eight grandchildren, enjoying a holiday parade or cooking burgers on the grill.

Renner looks forward to running again for mayor in 2013.

“I’m really proud of this town,” Renner says. “I wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else.” ☼

Hometown Pride: Dale Gustafson

Many years ago, Martin Gustafson taught his young son, Dale, the most important lesson in retail: good customer service is the only thing that matters.

With an eighth-grade education, Martin started selling mothballs and vacuums door to door in 1928.
“He had a big heart and a love for people,” says Dale, who, at age 12, went to work for his dad, dusting off appliances and dishes for the bridal registry. “He always said, ‘It’s what we do for our customers that count.’”

After serving in the U.S. Navy, Dale could have worked anyplace else in the country. But he elected to return home and join his father in the furniture business.

“I liked it,” he says. “My friends were sons of farmers and machinists. But there was nothing I liked better than working for my dad in the family business.”

That trend continues today. While Gustafson and his wife, Trina, oversee operations, sons David and Christopher are working their way up the ranks.

Despite a tough economy, Gustafson is especially proud of the fact that he hasn’t had to lay off any employees. And, he adds, he would never consider leaving the Rockford area.

“People don’t know us in Chicago or Madison. We love Rockford, and people know us here.”

Staying true to his community, he says, would make his late father proud.

Going with the Flow: Joe Ginger

Joe Ginger bought his first canoe in 1973, but he didn’t use it much. When his son was born, he exercised even less, until his doctor put his foot down.

“He said pushing your luck isn’t an exercise,” Ginger says. So he bought a kayak, and got serious about paddling.

“Kayaking has a certain mystique,” says the retired mechanical technician. “It’s a fun way to see the community where I live.”

A Freeport resident for 58 years, Ginger stays quite busy. He’s president of the Stephenson County Genealogy Society; a board member of the Illinois Paddling Council: and a member of the Freeport Area Camera Club.

Ginger, who paddles at least twice a week, also belongs to Friends of the Pecatonica River, an organization whose mission is to preserve and protect the river within its watershed in Stephenson County.

According to Ginger, there are about 4,000 paddlers in northwest Illinois, and that number that is growing.

“Stephenson County is a great place for scenic paddling, for beginners and more experienced paddlers,” he says. “Along the Pecatonica River, you can see so many different things, like wildlife, beaver dens, jumping fish, and limestone bluffs.

“I’ve met a lot of friends through paddling,” he adds. “And the more access points we can develop, the more people we expect to see.”

Special Delivery: Neill Frame

For nearly 40 years, Neill Frame has had a front-row seat to the beauty of Lake Geneva, home to one of the oldest continuous running marine mail delivery routes in the country. He is the captain of The Walworth, which is part mail-delivery vessel, part tour boat, and owned by Lake Geneva Cruise Line.
Frame developed a love of boats from his father and uncle, who owned a boat business in Indiana.

These days, he pilots the boat part-time from June 15 to September 15, six days a week (another captain delivers the Sunday newspaper) to about 60 homes. He maneuvers the boat to within three feet of the piers, and the “jumper” (usually a high school or college student) leaps off, runs to the box, drops off or picks up mail and packages, and runs back just in time to jump back onto the stern of the boat.

“It keeps me young working with these kids,” he says.

It’s a popular excursion. The 10 a.m. tour, which holds 160 guests, departs daily from downtown Lake Geneva and takes 2 ½ hours to make its way around the lake. The tour usually sells out.

Frame has met people from around the world who take the tour. “I enjoy the interaction with the customers,” he says. “And the lake is gorgeous with the homes and beautiful landscape. It’s a unique job and it’s challenging, which is why I’ve stayed with it for so long.”

Say Cheese: Bruce Workman

When Bruce Workman was in high school, he needed a job.

“Back then, there were only three things to do – work on a farm, bus tables at a restaurant or become a cheesemaker,” he says.

Workman has been making cheese for the past 40 years.

“Every day I get to be creative, by making a product people enjoy,” says Workman, who worked full-time around his school schedule. “You have to have the heart and knowledge to make a really good piece of cheese.”

In 2003, Workman left his longtime cheesemaker job at Roth Käse USA, where he had perfected the production of Gruyere Surchoix and other award-winning specialties, to buy his own cheese plant, Edelweiss Creamery, in nearby Monticello, Wis. The building was once owned by Albert Deppeler, who was known as the “king of kings” among Green County cheesemakers.

The small factory, built in 1916, was run-down and had been vacant for three years.

“People thought I was crazy – the building probably should have been condemned,” says Workman, who now starts his workday at 1 a.m. “But I have the best job in the world. I get to watch the sunrise every single day. I like being down on the floor with my employees, where the action is. The further away you get from that, you lose that feeling. I put my heart and soul into everything I do.”

A Physician’s Passion: Dr. Nivedita Karmakar

Growing up in India, Dr. Nivedita Karmakar knew at a young age that she wanted to be a physician, just like her father.

“I visited his office all the time,” she says. “I saw how much he enjoyed helping other people. He taught me that to be a good doctor, it was important to be a good person first.”

Karmakar did her residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in Bronx, N.Y. She most recently worked in Montana, before relocating to Roscoe., Ill, where she is now a pediatrician at NorthPointe Health and Wellness Center.

“I love my profession,” she says. “I feel I can make a difference. The best thing about my profession is I can see the difference I make every day. Children are always so positive, even when they’re sick. Sometimes we think they don’t understand, but they do. They can’t always articulate their pain level. They just don’t have as much experience with being sick as adults do.”

Karmaker, her husband and five-year-old son enjoy living in the Roscoe area. They enjoy shopping, dining out and exploring different entertainment opportunities.

“We find everything we need,” she says. “And there’s plenty of diversity in population. Coming from a foreign county, I don’t feel isolated. The people that we’ve met are so welcoming and open-minded. It really feels like home.”

Picture Perfect: Harry Spell

Harry Spell was a university professor and musician, teaching and performing as a vocal soloist, and conducting choruses, orchestras, and early music ensembles, in both the United States and Europe.
After retiring from Bradley University 20 years ago, Spell and his wife, Karly, decided to move to Oregon, Ill., and buy a fine art foundry called Art Casting of Illinois. “We’ve collected art our entire lives,” he says, “and this seemed like a logical extension.”

Art Casting uses the time-honored lost-wax process to cast sculptures and fine art pieces of all shapes and sizes. After starting with just one client, they now have customers all over the world, with individual pieces they’ve cast in museums and private collections in Japan, Italy, Germany, China and Africa. They have cast many famous pieces, including a set of original bozzetti known as The Michelangelo Project.

In addition, Spell is director of the nonprofit Technical Center for the Arts at EIGERlab in Rockford, which strives to introduce cutting-edge technology to sculptors and other artists. And he’s involved with the Oregon Library, Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council, working to redevelop the Oregon downtown area.

Spell, who grew up in a small town, is happy to be back in a similar environment. “As a young man, I pursued my career wherever it took me,” he says. “For first time, we’ve chosen a beautiful place to live and develop a business. We’re extremely fortunate.”

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