Wild spring weather caused trouble for some area residents in 2018. Problems with the Kluthe Memorial Pool delayed some summer fun. Unpredictable accidents and erratic crimes also made the news for the area over the past year. Local elections brought some new faces to public offices; others are returning to serve another term.
Gov. Bruce Rauner visited Effingham before his election defeat. Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker stopped by after his win.
Meanwhile, a few new eateries opened in Effingham. And yes, a sign in front of the former Kmart in Effingham announced that Hobby LObby would be "coming soon."
Here's a look back at 2018 across the area:
• Dr. Nash Naam was honored as the Effingham Daily News citizen of the year. Naam was honored during the 2018 Effingham County Chamber of Commerce Gala. A nomination letter from Naam's son read: “Perhaps my father loves this country so much because he, himself exemplifies the American dream and core American values."
• A Shelbyville man allegedly crashed into the Village Square Mall on Jan. 25. Authorities say he stole a vehicle from a Stewardson residence and used it to crash into the mall and the Zales Jewelry store. The case is pending.
• Altamont Community High School vice principal and athletic director Todd Arnold died after he was struck by a train, hours after the end of a National Trail Conference tournament he had organized. In Arnold's tenure, ACHS made the historic switch to a girls basketball game for the homecoming contest.
• Mid America Motorworks' "chief cheerleader," Mike Yager, found out he would be inducted to the National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame. Yager was inducted to the hall of fame in August. In September, Corvette Welcome Fest Downtown Party kicked off Mid America Motorworks’ Fun Run Road Tour and four-day event in Effingham, in its 25th year.
• Effingham said goodbye to Lone Star Steakhouse on Feb. 25. About 25 employees lost their jobs after the steakhouse closed. McCallister's Deli opened in the location later in the year.
• Effingham County Coroner Duane Guffey died Feb. 15. Guffey's life was honored a week later with funeral procession throughout Effingham. People lined the streets, and businesses posted signs and photos in his honor.
• Gopher's Grill made its debut in downtown Effingham. Effing Brew opened a day later, on March 1. The two restaurants have been thriving since. Gopher's Grill opened in the former Jansen's building while Effing Brew set up shop just across the street in the former Il Forno restaurant.
• Organizers of the Harmony Playground project broke ground, kicking off the construction of an all-inclusive playground for children of all abilities. The organizers raised money for 2-1/2 years for the project. Project chairman Aaron Myers said a major portion of the estimated $700,000 cost for the project was donated.
• More than 50 Effingham High School students joined a national walkout to protest gun violance. The walkout came a month after 17 students Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were gunned down by a former student. EHS Principal Kurt Roberts said he was proud of the students and that they should remember the day for the rest of their lives.
• Kim Rhodes was selected as the interim Effingham County coroner at the March Effingham County Board meeting. In the November election she defeated Gerry Kingery by 105 votes.
• The Effingham County Dive-Rescue Team, Sigel Fire Department and Abbott EMS responded to reports of a kayaker who fell overboard and was stranded on a tree. T.J. Schlink was out kayaking March 29 with a friend when he struck a tree across the stream, south of the bridge on 1975th Avenue in Effingham County. Rescue crews worked for about an hour to rescue Schlink.
• Weather in the first week of the April was capped by a tornado on April 3, according to the National Weather Service. High winds and a tornado caused damage throughout the southwest part of Fayette County and the southeast Effingham County on that Tuesday night. The NWS confirmed that a tornado, approximately EF2 strength, touched down in Fayette County. Four homesteads were damaged and several were without power in the southwest part of the county. Damage included outbuildings, machine sheds and barns. No injuries were reported.
• Two Newton teens were charged on April 14 in the illegal shooting of white pelicans at Newton Lake. One bird survived and was released into the wild later, after being cared for by the U of I College of Veterinary Medicine.
• Local officials captured national attention by declaring Effingham County a "Gun Sanctuary" on April 20. Appearing on "Fox and Friends First,” Effingham County State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler and county board member David Campbell talked about the resolution with anchor Heather Childers.
• On May 7, a grand opening was held at Archer Daniels Midland Co.'s animal nutrition premix facility in Effingham after almost two years of construction and renovation. The $35 million animal nutrition facility at 1200 McGrath Avenue spans 284,000 square feet, allowing it to house its mixing, packaging, storage and distribution operations all under one roof.
• The Effingham Daily News Citizen of the Year for 2017, Tod Lancaster, who has been known locally as an entrepreneur, community supporter, and the man with a huge baritone voice, died May 7. Active for more than 30 years in Effingham, Lancaster, 65, died at home due to complications of lung cancer. His wife, Marge, said he had been on hospice care.
• In mid-May, heavy equipment took down the walls of an Effingham's icon, K-Bowl bowling alley, 1208 N. Keller Drive. The Keller family decided to close it after 56 years in business.
• A broken water main underground at the Kluthe Memorial Pool at Evergreen Hollow Park caused the delay of its traditional opening over Memorial Day weekend. In June work continued on the pool after leaks were found beneath the concrete. The pool eventually opened on June 29.
• The Effingham County Board declared the county a "sanctuary for the unborn." Proposed by Chairman Jim Niemann, the "Sanctuary for the Life of Unborn Human Beings" resolution says the county will oppose abortions, except those necessary to save the life of the mother. After some revision, the county board approved it on June 18.
• Taylor Hartke, 19, of Teutopolis was among the all-female 2018-2019 Illinois State Officer Team elected recently at the 90th annual Illinois State FFA Convention. This is the first time in the Illinois Association FFA’s 90-year history when all major state officers are women. She is the daughter of David and Korrie Hartke, a 2017 graduate of Teutopolis High School.
• On June 21, after months of collecting public input and recreational park development advice, the master plan for the future development of Lake Sara's Pearson Peninsula Park, a 30-acre development, has been revealed. The Effingham Water Authority met with Farnsworth Group of Peoria, which unveiled the proposed $14.2 million project that would be constructed in five phases across several years.
• John Boos Factory Showroom and Outlet store in a new location in at 1703 Avenue of Mid-America in Effingham. The new facility sells a variety of John Boos & Co. products from factory firsts, factory seconds, prototypes and stainless steel products.
• A fire on July 13 destroyed the old Strasburg School that a new owner had planned to convert to apartments and a restaurant. There were no injuries. The historic structure became engulfed in flames at about 10:30 a.m., billowing a cloud of black smoke a few hundred feet straight into the sky above the building.
• Matt Durbin of Stewardson said his kids were in bed and he was getting ready to shower when a semi drove into his house on Monday night, July 16. “What I heard sounded like a train,” said Durbin, 29. “And it felt like an earthquake.” Durbin checked on his children, finding his 4-year-old son curled up in his bed that had slid across the room from the impact. The truck had hit the wall of the young boy’s bedroom. No one was injured.
• After 13 months of negotiating, the Effingham Classroom Teachers Association and the Unit 40 school board reached a tentative contract agreement on the table. The teachers’ contract expired June 30, 2017. Both sides had said previous to the tentative agreement they want to settle before school begins. They ratified it on the first day of school.
• Effingham Fire Chief Joe Holomy announced plans to retire from his duties in Effingham on Aug. 24 after almost 14 years of service in Effingham. Fire Dept. Executive Secretary Joan Buzzard ended her career that day, after 21 years of service. This came about a month after former City Administrator Jim Arndt left his post. Bob Tutko was hired Oct. 16 as the new Effingham Fire Chief.
• Teutopolis High School graduate Madison Magee saw her Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities project come to a close but not before it left an imprint on her heart. Magee presented Community Support Systems with a $2,600.45 check, which was a culmination of the proceeds from her book “Handprints.”
• Teamwork between first responder departments in Effingham County and the use of technology helped find a runaway juvenile on Aug. 12. Police Chief Jeff Fuesting said city and county police officers searched for the youth after first checking several locations where the 12-year-old boy typically was known to be. He was spotted entering a cornfield and about an hour later, Effingham County Sheriff’s deputies collected him.
• The village of Dieterich celebrated its 125th birthday during a three-day celebration. Residents from all over Effingham County gathered at Dieterich Liberty Memorial Park Saturday night as the bluegrass band Firebox serenaded a crowd of young and old alike. Festival-goers milled through the civic center as it was transformed into a museum filled with artifacts from the olden days of Dieterich.
• A sign announcing the arrival of a Hobby Lobby store was posted Aug. 22 in front of the former Kmart building in Effingham. The sign, located in the lawn in front of the now vacant building at 1006 N. Keller Drive, boasts the famous orange and blue color scheme for the Hobby Lobby brand. While no opening date has been announced, the sign reads “coming soon.”
• The abrupt closure of Ryan’s Buffet in September came as a surprise to customers and city officials. Still this week customers were seen coming to the restaurant parking lot, expecting to enjoy the buffet-style dining. But they were shocked to only find a note taped onto the front window of the restaurant at 1102 Avenue of Mid-America stating “this location is now closed.”
• In September, Probst Auto Body of Dieterich, Webster Tire and Auto Service of Teutopolis, Teutopolis Auto Sales and CW Motorsports of Effingham teamed up to give away three used cars fully serviced, safe and in good working condition to some deserving area residents. For seven years, Effingham County Wheels to Prosper has been giving dependable cars to area people who continue to give despite their struggles.
• Gov. Bruce Rauner gathered with some area children who are used to hearing big medical terms and enduring grueling treatments to fight childhood cancers. Rauner proclaimed September 2018 as “Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in Illinois.” Gathered were Elizabeth Weidner, 14, of Teutopolis; Kinley Briggs, 9, of Teutopolis and Grace Brummer, 7, of Dieterich. Joined in remotely was Mitchell Coffin, 16, of Effingham, who was unable to attend in person.
• The Teutopolis Board of Education has approved an agreement, 6-1, with Upchurch Architects, the first step in a $6.5 million high school renovation project that some residents have raised concerns about. The standing room-only meeting was held Sept. 24 at the Teutopolis High School Media Center.
• Lightning struck two homes in the Lake Edward Estates subdivision early Sept. 25, according to Shumway Fire Protection District officials. The fire department responded to two back-to-back calls in the subdivision, the first at 6:41 a.m. at 11310 Lincolnshire Lane. At 6:53 a.m., the department received a call for a structure fire at 11298 Lake Edward Lane.
• In early October, a symbolic groundbreaking kicked off the planned enhancements to the Cross at the Crossroads grounds. The Cohiho Family Foundation board donated $50,000 for a Nativity scene. The statue will be the first of 10 life-sized monuments depicting the life of Jesus. Also planned are a band shell, outdoor restrooms, expanded parking area and more.
• EHS student Issac Pizanowski was recognized with a citizen service award during the Effingham City Council meeting on Oct. 2 for coming to the aide of a woman involved in a domestic dispute. He was walking to school on Sept.13 when heard and man and woman arguing, and saw through the door as the guy hit and push her. The alleged abuser was arrested.
• Lakeside EMS filed a lawsuit against Effingham County and Effingham County Board Chairman Jim Niemann. The lawsuit alleged that by enforcing the county's ambulance ordinance, the county and Niemann deprived Lakeside EMS of opportunities to provide transfer services within Effingham County. It came after the county's request that Lakeside EMS cease operations in the county was denied by court.
• A late night fire destroyed a hog barn and killed 150 pigs in Jasper County on Oct. 22. The barn and livestock were owned by Ron and Jo Ellen Helmink of Montrose. A second barn, also with hogs inside was not harmed because firefighters made sure that it didn't get exposed to the fire.
• In late October, strong winds toppled a gas station awning at the Pilot Travel Center gas station in Effingham. The Effingham County Memorial Airport recorded wind speeds as high as 46 miles per hour according to the National Weather Service in Lincoln. About the same time a whirlwind of people came looking for their chance to purchase a Mega Million lottery ticket, which had climbed to $1.6 billion.
• In other election results, Blaine Wilhour won the race for the 107th House District, Darren Bailey won the race for the 109th House District and Jason Plummer won the 54th State Senate District. In County Board races District B seat went to Jim Niemann, District C seat went to Heather Mumma and District D seat went to David Campbell.
• Nov. 5, The Effingham Child Development Center received a $100,000 grant to construct an all-inclusive playground. The grant came from Effingham First Presbyterian branch of the Presbyterian Women organization. The project is estimated to be $300,000.
• On Nov. 9, a rumor of gun violence that spread quickly on social media cause officials to cancel a pep rally at Effingham High School.
• In Teutopolis, Phase one of 29 lot Prairie View Subdivision was well underway, which15 lots had been sold so far.
• Late November, an Effingham man was saved by his dog, Buddy, from a fire that destroyed his home. Kenny Tucker was awakened by Buddy barking which alerted him to the electric blanket on his bed being on fire. After firefighters responded the fire was under control in 15 minutes.
• In late November, construction was underway on Altamont Senior Residences located next to Gilbert Park. The residences will contain 24 one-bedroom apartments and six two-bedroom apartments, in the $7.7 million project.
• On Nov. 29, A ribbon-cutting for the new HSHS St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital Health Center was held. The 45,000 square foot medical facility houses Convenient Care Clinic, diagnostic imaging, lab services, Women's Wellness Center and Nutrition Services.
• In early December, RMC Stadium Cinemas completed the purchase of a section of the Village Square Mall after five months of negotiations. The additional space will allow the theater to expand with up to two more auditoriums, a larger concession stand and a large lobby.
• On Dec. 9, Illinois Governor-Elect J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Governor-Elect Juliana Stratton stopped in Effingham. A packed and enthusiastic crowd from several counties around the Effingham area gathered at Joe Sippers Cafe to greet them.
• In mid December it was announced that a new walk-in clinic for Sarah Bush Lincoln patients is set to take new patients on Jan. 2. The clinic will be staffed by family physician Dr. Douglas Kabbes, MD and Dr. Louis Schwing IV, MD. The walk-in clinic will open in mid January.
• On Dec. 13, Police arrested a 17 year old student after authorities learned of alleged threats made about a shooting at Effingham High School. The juvenile will be charged with Making a Terroristic Threat, a Class X felony.