Year in review (Part 2 featuring July through December)

A look back at some of the top Rochelle News-Leader stories of the past year

(The following year in review is a continuation from the Sunday, Dec. 30 edition. See far below for part 1)


Sunday, July 1

ROCHELLE — What’s old is new again following Friday’s announcement that Vince Carney Community Theater has a new home at the old Lincoln School on South Main Street in Rochelle.

Kennay Farms owned the building, and family members officially handed over  keys Friday afternoon. 

Amy Frank, VCCT board president, said the plan is to convert the gymnasium into the main theater area and turn some classrooms into the lobby, green room, and clubhouse.

Remodeling and construction of ADA compliant washrooms are set to begin in the near future.

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Rays recorded their first victory of the season on Thursday, when the swimmers defeated the Genoa Gators by a combined score of 575-224.

The Rochelle boys totaled 295 points to Genoa’s 144, while the Rochelle girls logged 280 points over Genoa’s 80.

Alison Ohlinger and Riley Wiegartz set new Spring Lake Pool records during Thursday’s meet against Genoa. Ohlinger broke the 11-12 girls mark in the 50-yard backstroke set by Dana Howard in 2001, clocking in at 39.10 seconds. Wiegartz broke his own record from 2017 in the 100-yard freestyle, finishing with a time of 56.47.

Thursday, July 5

ROCHELLE — VFW finished the regular season undefeated to earn the No. 1 seed in the 2018 Rochelle Little League Major League Boys City Championship. 

The players left no doubts this postseason, topping No. 4 seed Kiwanis last week before taking down No. 2 seed Firemen twice to win the city championship with an unbeaten record for the second straight year.

VFW defeated Firemen by a score of 8-1 on Monday before winning 6-3 over Firemen on Tuesday. VFW ends the season with a record of 16-0 while Firemen finishes with an overall record of 11-5. 

Sunday, July 8

ROCHELLE — For Dan Miller, it’s been about the public interaction and the challenges that firefighting have brought that he has enjoyed most.

On Friday he closed the chapter as a firefighter and paramedic, retiring from the Rochelle Fire Department after 33 years.

Miller has 40 years of fire service in all — first as a volunteer and then a lieutenant in his hometown of Leaf River before becoming a member with the Rochelle crew. 

Tuesday, July 10

ROCHELLE — Once again the Rochelle community is responding to people in need. 

Due to delays in state funding, the Rochelle Summer Lunch Program nearly came to a halt Monday, but thanks to the small town generosity, donations have been steadily coming, but there is still a need.

Jodee Brazee, Summer Lunch Program Board Member, appealed to the community for assistance with pre-packaged food and miscellaneous items in order to provide lunch for area youngsters in need.  The program provides lunches at four locations for any child age one through 18 Monday through Friday during the summer months.

“We cannot continue to serve lunches until we have a way to pay for the food we have already served,” Brazee said early Monday. “We will not be able to resume service until the state restores our funding or we raise enough money to pay for the meals while we wait for the state.”

Since the program does not have a health service license, any of the food donated must be pre-packaged and ready to be served. Brazee said the program works with a vendor in the Sycamore area, which provides the pre-packaged lunches.

By 10 a.m. Monday, enough donations had come in to stock the coolers with food and water to send out to Shangri La Park, Cooper Park, Connolly Park, and Powers Park.

AURORA — The Rochelle Rampage 14U baseball team finished first in the American Division of the Kane County Bronco League’s Gold Division this summer, and the boys followed up their regular season title with a championship performance in the KCBL Playoffs this past weekend.

Rochelle defeated Wheatland Ducks Green by a score of  8-2 this past Saturday before topping the Kaneland Knights 11-1. The boys also received trophies for the regular season title they earned with an overall record of 10-5. 

Sunday, July 15

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Little League 10-11 Boys All-Stars dominated their two-game series with Sterling this week, winning both games to earn the District 19 Championship and advance to the Sub-State Pool B Championship beginning Friday, July 20 in Streamwood. 

Rochelle took down Sterling by a score of 29-2 in Game 1 on Wednesday, while winning by a score of 18-2 in Game 2 on Thursday.

Rochelle will play three games at the sub-state tournament, and the top two teams will move on to the state championship in Freeport.

ROCK FALLS — Despite conceding four runs early in Friday evening’s championship game against Freeport, the Rochelle Little League 11-12 Boys All-Star Team rallied for nine unanswered runs to take the lead and defeat Freeport 9-4 to win District 19 title.

Tuesday, July 17

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Rays made history this past Thursday, beating the Huntley Stingrays for the first time by a combined score of 492-358. Rochelle’s boys edged Huntley by a score of 231-217 while the Rochelle girls outscored Huntley 261-141.

“Many swimmers attained personal best times in this meet,” head coach Marianne Swanson said. “It’s great to have our kids swim against such competitive teams. It pushes each swimmer to swim harder and faster. I couldn’t be more pleased with our swimmers… I am so fortunate to have such a dedicated group of swimmers and supportive parents to work with.”

Sunday, July 29

CRESTON — Patrons at the Creston-Dement Library now have many more choices when it comes to checking out materials.

The library recently underwent changes to its cataloging system with the addition of the PrairieCat Catalog. This allows patrons access to over 125 libraries’ materials. Creston-Dement Library also has a connection with the three branches of the Naperville Public Libraries if they cannot find what they are searching for through PrairieCat.

And it can all be done with a computer and a click of a button.


Thursday, Aug. 2

OREGON — Grace Mongan was crowned Miss Ogle County Fair at the 2018 Fair Queen Contest on Wednesday, Aug. 1.

Mongan, whose parents are Dan and Jean Mongan of Oregon, takes over from outgoing Ogle County Fair Queen Katelyn Mernack.

Other winners were Lucus Thurow, Little Mister; Lylah Schact, Little Miss; Katelyn Parson, Young Miss; Chloe Fuller, Junior Miss; Gina Yearton, People’s Choice; Gina Yearton, Miss Congeniality; and Andriana Costa, first runner up.

Tuesday, Aug. 7

OREGON – The Ogle County New Horizons Specialty Court Team is pleased to announce that the Illinois Supreme Court has approved the certification of its DUI Court Program.

DUI Court is a Problem Solving Court with a mission similar to Ogle County New Horizons Drug Court (est. 2009) to reduce the ripple-effect cost of substance-related offenses, hold offenders accountable for their behaviors and prevent recidivism. The DUI Court will do this through an increased level of supervision, addressing the intensive individualized recovery program of each offender, and facilitating them to become productive, responsible Ogle County community members.  

According to Brooke Plachno, Ogle County Specialty Court Coordinator, “DUI Court is a team approach, consisting of specialized disciplines surrounding the criminal justice system and treatment community.” 

Sunday, Aug. 12

ROCHELLE — If you build it, they will come.

That is what City of Rochelle officials and regional leaders are planning on after they broke ground on a $7 million rail expansion Friday morning near Steward Road.

The groundbreaking ceremony paves the way for a four-track rail bridge and trans-loading yard all within the City of Rochelle Railroad.

Grants from the Economic Development Administration and the Illinois Department of Transportation will cover 85 percent of the funding for the multi-million dollar project on the city’s southern edge.

Sunday, Aug. 26

ROCHELLE — Bob Caron smiled as he reminisced about the days serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. The Rochelle resident was honored earlier this week at the VFW Post 3878 for over six decades as an active member.

Post commander Bill Bumgarner presented Caron with a 65-year VFW member pin and patch, although he officially joined in 1951 — 67 years ago. Recognitions are presented in five-year increments.


Tuesday, Sept. 4

ROCHELLE — Starting Tuesday, for the first time ever the Chicagoland Skydiving Center is hosting the USPA National Skydiving Championships.

Over the course of two weeks over 500 competitors from all over the U.S. and internationally will flock to the Rochelle drop zone to participate in a variety of disciplines, hoping to capture the first place title. 

It is estimated about 1,500 people will be visiting the Rochelle area between the judges, USPA staff, spectators and competitors. 

Thursday, Sept. 27

ROCHELLE — Since opening over two years ago, The Kitchen Table has provided home cooked meals on a pay-what-you-can basis. Unity Hospice is hosting a yard sale to benefit the community café on Thursday, Oct. 11 and Friday, Oct. 12 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The fundraising event will include all kinds of furniture, brand name clothing, toys, jewelry, kitchen and household items, collectibles and more. 

Jeni Hardin, Volunteer Coordinator, Unity Hospice said she is still getting merchandise donations. The Unity Hospice staff is handling all of the pricing, setting up the display and manning the two-day event.

“All of our staff has agreed to donate items too and help that day so we are hoping it’s a huge success for The Kitchen Table! We will also have a donation jar at the table for people to donate money if they want to,” Hardin said. “We love to be able to give back to our community and this is a great way for us to do just that.”

ROCHELLE — Lady Hub sophomore Megan Thiravong returned to Fairways Golf Course on Tuesday seeking to improve upon her top-3 finish in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Girls Conference Championship last season.

Thiravong faced many of the same opponents who placed atop the conference last year, but the sophomore standout had the upper hand throughout most of the competition on Tuesday. 

Thiravong led by as many as four strokes, and although she was unable to hold on to the lead, she successfully knocked three strokes off her final score from last season, totaling 78 to place second in the championship. Yorkville’s Kait Nativao took first place with 76.

Sunday, Sept. 30

ROCHELLE — For the eighth consecutive year, Rochelle Foods presented a donation to the Rochelle Area Community Foundation. 

The donation of $10,000 is to help fight hunger in the community. 

The Rochelle manufacturing facility, owned by Hormel Foods Corporation, established an endowment fund in 2011. Employees of the facility also contribute to the Hunger Challenge Fund through payroll deductions. 

In 2017, two non-profit organizations, whose focus is on feeding the hungry, received grants from the endowment fund, issued by the RACF.


Sunday, Oct. 7

ROCHELLE — Not much has stopped the Rochelle varsity boys soccer team from lighting up the scoreboard this season, and the Hubs set a new season-best goal count for one game when Rochelle hosted LaSalle-Peru for conference play on Thursday.

Behind four goals from senior Jessee Infante, the Hubs dismantled LaSalle-Peru by a score of 9-1 to improve to 14-0-1 on the season and 5-0-1 in conference competition. Six different players scored at least one goal for Rochelle, which will travel to Geneseo on Tuesday, Oct. 9 for a game which will likely decide the Northern Illinois Big 12 West. 

The Hubs and Maple Leafs tied 2-2 earlier this season, Rochelle’s only non-victory.

Tuesday, Oct. 9

STEWARD — Steward Elementary School hosted the 2018 Meridian Conference Volleyball Championship this year. No. 1 Steward earned a first-round bye before going 2-0 to win this year’s championship. Steward defeated No. 4 Kings (25-1, 25-6) in the semifinals before taking down No. 2 Eswood (25-17, 25-13) for the title. Steward features Abigail Tarvestad, Morgan Smardo, Colton O’Rorke, Landon DeLille, head coach Calla Stroh, Paul Swartz, Rorie Jensen, Lenna Drew, Elyzabyth Jensen, Shelby Kaspar, Emily Lovett, Jack Tarvestad, Logan Frye, Kenny Overton and Lucas Smardo. Eswood finished second in the tournament.

Thursday, Oct. 11

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle varsity boys soccer team continued its unbeaten streak this week while picking up a historic accolade along the way. Rochelle topped Geneseo on Tuesday and Dixon on Wednesday.

There was plenty of disappointment on the field after the Rochelle varsity boys soccer team’s first encounter with Geneseo this season, but the rematch resulted in nothing but excitement and exuberance for the purple and white. 

Rochelle traveled to face the Maple Leafs on Tuesday looking to avenge their 2-2 draw against Geneseo earlier this year. Behind three first-half goals and a defensive shutout led by senior goalie Mason DeLille, the Hubs burned the Maple Leafs 3-0 on their home field, clinching Rochelle’s first conference championship since 2004 in the process.

Tuesday’s historic victory over Geneseo set the stage for the penultimate home game for the Rochelle varsity boys soccer team on Wednesday.

As heavy rain loomed over the field before parting for sunny skies and eventually high winds, the Hubs hosted their final nonconference game of the season against Dixon. Like most nonconference opponents, the Dukes were unable to challenge Rochelle on its home field, as the Hubs cruised to a 7-0 win and upped their record to 16-0-1 overall.

Sunday, Oct. 21 

MAPLE PARK — Senior lineman James Hart had an important message for his teammates before taking the field for Rochelle’s varsity football game against Kaneland on Friday.

The Hubs entered their season finale against the Knights needing one more victory to qualify for the postseason. Hart’s pregame speech was taken well by his teammates, as Rochelle rushed for more than 400 yards while dominating the time of possession to upset Kaneland 31-13 and finish the season 5-4 overall. 

It was the first victory over the Knights since 2007 for the Hubs, who snapped their streak of nine consecutive losses against Kaneland to reach the postseason for the third straight year. Rochelle will await its first-round playoff matchup, which will be announced this weekend.  

Tuesday, Oct. 23

STERLING — The magic number was 20 for the Rochelle varsity boys soccer team when the purple and white took the field for the IHSA Class 2A Sterling Regional Championship against Sycamore on Saturday.

The Hubs carried their 20-game unbeaten streak into their regional matchup against the Spartans, which was their 20th game of their 20th season since the program’s inception 20 years ago. Behind one goal from freshman Josue Orozco (who wears No. 20 for Rochelle) the Hubs edged Sycamore 1-0 on an extremely windy afternoon to claim its first regional title since 2012 and the first under head coach Brad Male.

Rochelle (19-0-1) will advance to compete in the IHSA Class 2A Glenbard South Sectional which begins on Tuesday. The Hubs will open the semifinals against New Lenox (Providence Catholic) at 6:30 p.m. after Aurora (Marmion) takes on Lemont at 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 30

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle varsity volleyball team won more matches this season than in their previous two years combined, which helped first-year head coach Molly Sly begin her tenure with the Lady Hubs on a positive note.

Rochelle finished 16-21-1 overall this season with two regional victories over Stillman Valley and Marengo to reach the regional finals for the first time since 2012. The Lady Hubs defeated Ottawa twice in Northern Illinois Big 12 West play while upsetting LaSalle-Peru earlier in the season for arguably Rochelle’s biggest victory in recent seasons.


Sunday, Nov. 4

MALTA — Kishwaukee College’s inaugural women’s soccer season kicked off on a high note thanks to the efforts of several local standouts, including former Rochelle Township High School student-athlete Ashley Kerns.

Kerns took the field for Kiskwaukee’s first-ever contest against Rock Valley College on Aug. 22, scoring her lone goal on the season to help the Lady Kougars win 3-0 for the program’s first victory in the history of the school.

Kerns also added an assist when Kishwaukee topped Illinois Valley Community College 6-1 on Oct. 8. The Lady Kougars finished 3-10-1 overall.

Tuesday, Nov. 13

ROCHELLE — For Pam Tobler, the inspiration to write a book came from working in the library at the old Lincoln School. The Kings resident is now a published author of “Lily the Ladybug.”

“Lily the Ladybug is the story of a ladybug who has lost her spots,” Tobler began. “She goes on an adventure through nature as she makes new friends, teaches counting and uses her manners all while searching for her missing black spots. And for some good luck, she wears a four-leaf clover necklace, which represents my four sons.”

A few years ago, Tobler had the opportunity to meet her favorite children’s author, Jan Brett, who also lent inspiration to start writing. 

The process from finding an illustrator who brought Tobler’s visions to life along with reviewing and finalizing the illustrations and finalizing the story took about two years. 

BYRON — Rochelle Township High School will be sending two swimmers to the IHSA State Championships for the second consecutive year.

Three Lady Hubs, including seniors Aubrey Headon, Abby Wagner and sophomore Allison Cole, represented Rochelle in the IHSA Sectional at Byron High School on Saturday. Both Headon and Cole qualified for the state meet in the athletes with disabilities division this past year, and the girls will once again compete for Rochelle in the state championships this year. 

Sunday, Nov. 18

ROCHELLE — Five members of the Rochelle varsity boys soccer team received All-Conference First Team recognition by the Northern Illinois Big 12 after the Hubs completed their most prolific season in school history this year.

Two more members including senior Juan Montemayor and junior Max Torres were given All-Conference Honorable Mentions.

Senior forward Jessee Infante was named both All-Conference First Team and Conference MVP this fall after setting school records in both goals (43) and assists (28) this season. Infante finishes his high school career as a two-time All-Conference First Team player after receiving the honor last season.

“It feels really good to win these awards because we all put in a lot of effort and we tried really hard every day in practice,” Infante said. “My role as a leader increased this year… I needed to really step up and be the leader that everybody on the team listens to.”

Senior Adolfo Flores also earned All-Conference First Team honors this season after being named to the same team his junior season. Flores patrolled the midfield for the Hubs once again, totaling five goals and seven assists. 

“It feels amazing to have won All-Conference,” Flores said. “The season we had was unbelievable and seeing all the hard work we put in made me feel great… I scored more goals this year and I was communicating more this year. I was a bit quiet last year, but this year I was more talkative.”

Sophomore forward Brayan Orozco also returned to the All-Conference First Team after winning the honor during his freshman season with the Hubs. Orozco tied for second on the team in goals this season, recording 21 while adding 16 assists which also ranked second overall.

Tuesday, Nov. 20

BYRON — Employees with the Exelon Byron Nuclear Station presented donations to several organizations throughout Ogle County as part of their employee giving campaign.

Exelon Generation’s Byron Station donates approximately $250,000 annually to various charities through its employee giving campaign and other donations from its outreach fund. On top of that, the nuclear plant employees hold numerous fundraisers and collections for non-profits that are specific to Ogle County.

This year, that specific fundraising ledger topped nearly $20,000 and plant employees chose a wide range of charities in the county to each receive $1,500 from these funds. Receiving donations were:  CASA 15th Judicial Circuit Ogle/Lee, Focus House, Habitat for Humanity (Byron), HOPE of Ogle County, Hub City Senior Center, Mt. Morris Senior Citizen Council, Pinecrest Community, Rochelle Christian Food Pantry, Rock River Center, Serenity Hospice and Home, Shining Star Children’s Advocacy Center and Village of Progress.

ROCHELLE — Two members of the Rochelle varsity volleyball team earned All-Conference recognition by coaches from the Northern Illinois Big 12 West this season. 

Senior Emma Mehrings received All-Conference First Team honors and sophomore Clare Green was given an All-Conference Honorable Mention.


Tuesday, Dec. 4

ROCKFORD — The Rochelle varsity wrestling team placed eighth out of 12 high schools at the Rockford East Giardini Invitational on Saturday, with three grapplers including sophomores Ben Harvey, Grant Thompson and junior Keegan Davis taking second place at their respective weight classes.

Sunday, Dec. 9

ROCHELLE — This year’s Rochelle Gratitude Award recipient is known for his dedication to the community, primarily in the youth.

Dennis Swinton, accepted the award Friday evening outside Rochelle City Hall, admitting the announcement came as a surprise. John Bearrows presented Swinton with a plaque and read a list of projects the Kiwanis Golden K member has been a part of. 

STEWARD — Kings Elementary School hosted the 2018 Meridian Conference Boys Basketball Championship this season, with Steward Elementary School going undefeated to take home this year’s title. Steward went 10-0 during the regular season before topping both Creston Elementary School and Eswood Elementary School in the postseason to win the championship. The Eagles are coached by Don Romes and Calla Stroh, and the team features Landon DeLille, Tate Faber, Logan Frye, Kaiden Gomez, Colton O’Rorke, Kenneth Overton, Jack Pavlak, Lucas Smardo, Paul Swartz and Jack Tarvestad.

Tuesday, Dec. 11

ROCHELLE — With picket signs in hand, striking workers at Silgan Containers gathered along Eighth Avenue near the entrance to the Rochelle facility on 15th Street early Monday.

The issue is over wages, benefits and working conditions.

More than 170 workers of Local 2068 of the International Assoc. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) voted to go on strike shortly after midnight this past Saturday after rejecting the contract offered by the company. 

MALTA — Kishwaukee women’s basketball player Morgan Baker (Rochelle Township HS) had an outstanding week this past week to receive Region IV, Division II, District L Player of the Week recognition.  

In her game against the College of DuPage on Tuesday, Dec. 4, she had 19 points, 14 rebounds and three steals while also tallying 22 points, 11 rebounds and five steals against Wright College on Saturday, Dec. 8. 

Baker becomes the second Kishwaukee player in two weeks to receive the regional honor. 

Thursday, Dec. 20

ROCHELLE — After 13 years, the Rochelle Area Community Foundation has a home of its own.

The foundation has moved into new office space generously donated by Central Bank Illinois. Earlier this year, the bank approached RACF with an offer to let the foundation occupy the office space attached to Central Bank’s drive-up facility, rent-free.


Thursday, Jan. 4

ROCHELLE — Habitat for Humanity of Ogle County, Inc. received a generous donation to help build homes.

Board president, Don Schier and Vanessa White-Broome, executive director, announced that Habitat for Humanity of Ogle County, Inc. has received a $12,000 grant from the Community Grants Program of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois with support from the Dr. Louis & Violet Rubin Fund for its current Rochelle new home building project and the Polo rehabilitation project.  

Sunday, Jan. 7

ROCHELLE — James Kerfin looked to improve his pass rushing abilities after earning All-Conference First Team recognition on the defensive line last season, and the Rochelle senior stepped his game up for the Hubs varsity football team this fall.

Behind a team-leading four sacks as well as 26 total tackles and one fumble recovery against the Morris Redskins in the state quarterfinals, Kerfin was honored by the Northern Illinois Big 12 West as an All-Conference First Team player for the second straight season. Kerfin joins fellow senior Bazil Bennett, a first-time All-Conference First Team honoree as Rochelle’s two representatives on the All-Conference First Team defensive line. 

Tuesday, Jan. 9 

ROCHELLE — The village of Mount Morris is now part of the Lee Ogle Enterprise Zone following Rochelle City Council’s approval Monday evening. The village requested the zone expansion to include certain industrial and commercial property totaling nearly 200 acres. 

Lee Ogle Enterprise Zone Administrator Andy Shaw addressed councilman Bil Hayes’ question regarding future map changes, if any, would require an amended ordinance approved by all designated units of government. 

Thursday, Jan. 11

ROCHELLE — Developers planning to bring a deluxe skilled nursing and rehabilitation care center in Rochelle received approval from the state on Monday to build their proposed facility.

On Jan. 8, the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted 5-0 in favor of the development that would be operating as Liberty Village of Rochelle.

Developer Don Fike, of RFMS, Inc., confirmed the news and is excited about bringing a facility to the “Hub City.”

“I would like to thank the local community and the many people that stepped forward to talk about the need for the project,” Fike said Tuesday, expressing appreciation for the community’s support. “The people that supported us were great.”

The estimated $17.6 million 64,000 square-foot facility is slated to be built on a 13.67 campus off of Flagg Road, just south of Lincoln School and north of San Gabriel. 

Sunday, Jan. 14

ROCHELLE — graduate Matt Albers felt good to be back at his old stomping grounds when the Hubs varsity basketball team took on LaSalle-Peru at home Friday evening.

Throughout his four years at Rochelle Township High School, Albers set high standards for himself both inside and outside of the classroom. His hard work didn’t go unnoticed, and when Albers was called to center court during halftime of Friday’s game, he was presented with this year’s Rochelle News-Leader Scholar Athlete Award by RTHS athletic director Kevin Crandall. 

“It feels amazing,” Albers said. “Knowing all of the past recipients who’ve earned this award, it’s truly a great honor receiving it.”

The award is given annually to student-athletes who excelled in both academics and athletics during their time as Hubs or Lady Hubs. Albers played football, basketball and baseball at Rochelle, and the former Hub was a key contributor to the Hubs varsity football team in 2016, when he totaled 1,223 yards and 17 offensive touchdowns at wingback and earned First-Team All-Conference recognition.

Thursday, Jan. 18

ROCHELLE — Abby Lundquist received loud applause from the fans at Rochelle Township High School when she slashed through the Sterling defense for a layup during the Lady Hubs varsity basketball team’s game against the Golden Warriors on Tuesday.

It wasn’t any ordinary bucket for Lundquist who, after making the shot, eclipsed 1,000 points for her career at Rochelle. The junior guard finished with a team-high 24 points, and even though the Lady Hubs lost by one point, she received special recognition by her teammates, who presented her with a 1,000-point club sign, after the game.

Tuesday, Jan. 23

ROCHELLE – Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh announced Monday the promotion of former Detective Sergeant Jeff Leininger to deputy chief of the Rochelle Police Department, effective immediately.

“Jeff Leininger’s experience and training within the City of Rochelle is extremely valuable to us and we are excited for his success as deputy chief,” said Fiegenschuh.

Leininger is a lifelong Rochelle resident and has been with the Rochelle Police Department for nearly 20 years, coming up through the ranks as a patrol officer, patrol sergeant and for the past 12 years as detective sergeant.  


Sunday, Feb. 4

MORRIS — Lady Hub senior Carlie Elder picked the perfect time to throw the highest three-game series of her high school bowling career.

Elder rolled 728 including a 277 game during the second half of the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Meet at Echo Lanes on Thursday, and she finished the tournament with a 1,207 six-game series to place eighth individually and earn All-Conference recognition for the second straight season.

“Being an All-Conference bowler gives me a sense of accomplishment,” said Elder, who will be shooting to make her fourth consecutive sectional at the IHSA DeKalb Regional this weekend. “I tried to go into this tournament with a clear head… I was keeping myself calm and upbeat even though I had a rough morning. The conference tournament helped me feel better about regionals.”

Rochelle placed eighth out of 10 schools at the tournament with 5,493 pins to edge out Ottawa and Kaneland.

Senior Katie Dummer led the Lady Hubs with a 1,295 series over six games to place third individually and earn her third All-Conference honor in four years. Dummer will try for her third sectional appearance at the regional this weekend.

Tuesday, Feb. 6

BELVIDERE — The battle for Saturday’s IHSA Class 2A Individual Regional at Belvidere High School went down to the wire, with both Sycamore and Rochelle going back and forth for the top spot in the team standings. When all the points were tallied at the end of the competition, the Hubs edged out the Spartans for their second individual regional title in two seasons.

Rochelle finished first with 166.5 points, while Sycamore placed second with 163.5 points. The Hubs won their first-ever individual regional last year, and after taking home another individual regional this year, the purple and white have gone back-to-back for the first time in school history. Four Hubs won their respective brackets on Saturday, while four more wrestlers earned top-3 spots to qualify for the IHSA Class 2A Sectional in Sycamore this coming weekend.

Tuesday, Feb. 13

ROCHELLE — More than three years ago the Kiwanis Golden K pledged to do their part to help eliminate a centuries-old preventable disease that primarily affects third-world countries.

Recently the members rejoiced in achieving their goal of raising $45,000 within five years all in an effort to combat maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT).

The local organization joined thousands of other Kiwanis and UNICEF members to raise the $110 million needed to provide immunizations, syringes, and skilled staff to get the life-saving vaccine to people in need.

The Kiwanis Golden K is in the Illinois-Eastern Iowa District — a district ranked fifth worldwide as of Dec. 31, 2017, with $3.8 million raised. Golden K president Tom McDermott expressed gratitude for the hard work and determination the members have done to fulfill their pledge.

Tuesday, Feb. 20

CHAMPAIGN — Historical achievements have been the trend for Rochelle’s varsity wrestling program over the past few years, and the Hubs added even more accolades to their school’s collection when four Rochelle grapplers competed in the IHSA Class 2A Individual State Championships this past Thursday through Saturday.

Senior Alex Harvey (43-2 and No. 2 Class 2A) led the charge at the state championships, winning his first three matches at 195 pounds to clinch his spot in the finals against Fenwick’s Jacob Kaminski (31-2 and No. 1 Class 2A). While Kaminski bested Harvey by 7-1 decision for the state title, Harvey became Rochelle’s first state runner-up since Tim Fader in 1986.

Harvey was one of two Rochelle wrestlers to place in the state championships, making it the first time in program history that two Hubs medaled in the same state meet. Junior Eddie Villalobos (44-6 and No. 5 Class 2A) took fifth place at 138 pounds, and he began his state run with a 4-1 decision win against Crystal Lake Central’s Austin Ernd (31-12 and No. 3 Class 2A) on Thursday.

Villalobos faced Chicago Washington’s We Rachal (28-6 and No. 1 Class 2A) on Friday, with Rachal barely escaping with a 6-5 decision over Villalobos. But the junior standout bounced back in the consolation bracket by defeating Rantoul’s Nolan Roseman (40-8) by 5-1 decision to reach to guarantee a top-6 placement.

Tuesday, Feb. 27

BLOOMINGTON — The most decorated season in the history of Rochelle Township High School wrestling came to its exciting conclusion this past Saturday, when the Hubs varsity wrestling team took fourth place in the IHSA Class 2A State Dual Championships for the first time in school history.


Sunday, March 11

ROCHELLE — Rochelle Township High School freshman Alli Cole won both a gold medal and a bronze medal at the regional Special Olympics swimming meet in Aurora this past week. Cole will compete at the state meet in June. 

Thursday, March 15

LASALLE — Noah Griffith made over 40 percent of his 3-point shots from the corners during the 2017-18 varsity boys basketball season, and the Rochelle guard had an opportunity to shoot from his favorite spots on the floor when he and one other player battled for the final spot in the IHSA Class 3A State 3-Point Shootout in Peoria on Thursday.

While three players had already punched tickets to the state shootout, Griffith needed to fire 10 more shots after finishing the sectional competition at LaSalle-Peru this past weekend tied for fourth place. Griffith made 9-of-15 shots during regulation, and the senior Hub needed at least four makes to qualify for the state championships after his opponent converted on only 3-of-10 corner shots.

Tuesday, March 20

DANVILLE — Rochelle Wrestling Club members Xavier Villalobos and Eli Koonce each recorded top-4 finishes at the 18th Annual Illinois Midget Championships in Danville this past weekend. Villalobos took fourth place at 68 pounds, while Koonce placed third at 79 pounds.

Thursday, March 29

ROCHELLE — If you purchased a Mega Millions lottery ticket for Tuesday’s drawing at the Shell gas station on Rochelle’s south side, you might want to check it.

The Illinois Lottery just announced the station sold the winning ticket that matched all five numbers:  07, 25, 43, 56, 59.


Sunday, April 1

ROCHELLE — Local youth league bowler Kayla Wells has claimed her spot in the 2018 Illinois Pepsi USBC Youth Championships at Landmark Lanes in Peoria on May 20. 

Wells rolled 428 over three scratch games during the Zone 1 competition at Sterling’s Blackhawk Lanes in January to tie for sixth place in the U12 Girls Division and qualify for the state tournament. 

Thursday, April 5

ROCHELLE — Kevin Crandall will have one more accolade added to his resume before retiring as athletic director and head football coach at Rochelle Township High School.

Crandall was nominated by the Illinois Athletic Directors Association earlier this year for its Athletic Director of the Year Award for Class 3A/4A, and the Rochelle administrator has been selected as the recipient of this year’s award. Crandall has spent the last 24 years as the athletic director of RTHS, and he will be stepping down when the 2017-18 school year ends.

Sunday, April 8

ROCHELLE — Nate Kessen began officiating wrestling matches when he was in college. 

While wrestling at Truman State and Northern Illinois University, Kessen officiated tournaments for extra money when he returned home for holiday breaks. Kessen’s mother would even find tournaments for him to officiate when he didn’t have wrestling practice.

Nearly 20 years of hard work and dedication have paid off for Kessen, who will have an opportunity to earn the Illinois Wrestling Coaches & Officials Association’s Official of the Year Award for 2017-18. 

Kessen received his license through the Illinois High School Association 15 years ago, and he’s been licensed with USA Wrestling for roughly 18 years. Kessen also coached the Rochelle Middle School program for two years.

Tuesday, April 24

ROCHELLE — A swearing in ceremony for three City of Rochelle employees was held during Monday evening’s City Council meeting.

Sue Messer was sworn in as the new city clerk by retiring clerk Bruce McKinney, who has served his position for the last 24 years. As her first official duty, Messer swore in deputy city clerks RoseMary Huéramo and Jennifer Thompson. 

Sunday, April 29

ROCHELLE — The Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District announced that Marianne Swanson will return again this year to coach the Rochelle Rays swim team. 

Coach Swanson and her staff are looking forward to the 2018 season at Spring Lake Pool. Coach Swanson has the tradition of developing not only excellent swimmers, but also of developing swimmers mentally, physically, and socially including an attitude of good sportsmanship and dedication to a team. 


Thursday, May 3

ROCHELLE — The Lady Hubs track and field team successfully completed its three-peat with a victory during the 46th Annual Ogle County Track Meet at Rochelle Township High School on Tuesday. The girls scored 151 points for first place, while Rochelle’s boys team scored 84 points to place second overall. Forreston-Polo won the boys division title with 148 points.

Tuesday, May 8

ROCHELLE — The HUB Project’s K-Kids Club wrapped up their final meeting of the year in a fun way while also learning a little about the importance of perseverance from special guest speaker Kayla Born.

The students also had a little something for Born as part of a project they have been doing to benefit families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, which is where Born’s own family stayed while she was in a neighboring hospital.

“We presented Kayla with 50 pounds of pops tabs that were collected by the students, staff, and families of Lincoln, Central, and May Schools. It added up to over 63,000 tabs,” Elisa Rubeck said. 

Thursday, May 10

SHABBONA — Rochelle bass fishermen Zach Capes and Lucas Anderson enjoy the rush of bringing each catch out of the water, and the boys reeled plenty of fish into their boat when they and head coach Curt Samo entered the water for the IHSA Sectional at Shabbona Lake on Monday.

Rochelle began the sectional competition seeking to qualify for its fourth state championship in four years. Anderson had just one year of sectional experience under his belt, while Capes was fishing at the sectional level for the first time. 

But the lack of IHSA experience didn’t hold the boys back from catching 14 pounds and 8 ounces of fish on Monday, putting Rochelle in second place at the end of the competition and earning the bass fishing team its fourth consecutive state championship bid.

Sunday, May 13

ROCHELLE — The Hubs varsity baseball team may have dropped its series-finale against Sterling on Thursday, but the Rochelle boys still managed to achieve something that hasn’t been done at Rochelle Township High School in 12 years.

After winning over the Golden Warriors on Monday and Tuesday, the Hubs clinched shared rights to the Northern Illinois Big 12 West Championship. 

While Sterling squashed Rochelle’s chances at an outright title with a 5-2 win over the Hubs on Thursday, Rochelle walked away with rights to its first conference championship since 2006.

Thursday, May 17

ROCKFORD — It took two days and one relocation to complete the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Varsity Championships, but the Hubs varsity tennis team still managed to piece together some strong performances.

The championships began in Rochelle this past Saturday before moving to Rockford Boylan’s Indoor Tennis Center on Monday due to inclement weather. Senior Noah Griffith placed second at No. 1 singles for the Hubs, defeating LaSalle-Peru’s Connor Cofoid (6-0, 6-0) on Saturday and going ahead of Ottawa’s Jack Marvel before completing his match with Marvel on Monday, winning 6-1, 4-6, 10-6. Griffith fell to Sterling’s Dillon Nitz by a score of 3-6, 6-7 (5) in the championship match.

Senior Kevin Zheng finished fifth at No. 2 singles for Rochelle, falling in his opening match against Geneseo’s Griffen Tracey 0-6, 2-6 but bouncing back with a victory against Ottawa’s Max Vargas by a score of 8-3. 

Tuesday, May 22

ROCHELLE — More than 25 years ago the community came together in a remarkable demonstration of unity to build the KidsGround facility at Rochelle’s Cooper Park, which became one of the most used playgrounds in town.

With an original lifespan of 20 years, the time has come for Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District officials to replace KidsGround and plans are being made to do that in 2019.

At Monday night’s regular monthly park district meeting, superintendent of parks Don Elliott shared some preliminary plans to replace KidsGround with new equipment options on the same 10,800 square foot location at the popular park on the northwest side of Rochelle.

Tuesday, May 29

ROCHELLE — Jim Boulton is known for being a fan of Rochelle Little League, but this year he is also known for awarding trophies to the players.

He can be seen on the sidelines of every Major League Boys Division game, and he’s frequented games for the last eight years. This year, along with being in charge of the scoreboard, Boulton has kept a clipboard and pencil with him, tallying home runs and logging big plays. After nearly every game, Boulton awards a trophy to a deserving player. 

When asked why he does it, Boulton gave a couple reasons. He also reflected on his moment of fame last year when the players awarded him a trophy for “Most Valuable Fan.”


Tuesday, June 5

ROCHELLE — Teen Town was a sea of bright colors at the Hub City Senior Center luau and senior prom Friday evening.

Upon arrival the guests were given a Hawaiian-styled lei, a symbol of affection in Hawaiian culture. Everyone enjoyed the festivities, which included entertainment by Steve Morris, the one-man band. Ben Dougherty also played the ukulele, another luau tradition.

Guests danced to several tunes, including the Polka. Many also had their pictures taken courtesy of Todd and Theresa Smith, guest photographers.

The 2018 senior prom King and Queen, Dub Lambert and Nancy Brown, were crowned. This year’s Prince and Princess are Dan Russell and Georgia Lipscomb.

Thursday, June 7

ROCHELLE — The Hubs varsity baseball team named four players on the Northern Illinois Big 12 West All-Conference First Team for their efforts during the 2018 season, while two players received All-Conference Honorable Mentions.

Senior Johnny Kisner and juniors Zack Bernardin, Brandon Johnson and Johnny Beck were given First-Team recognition this year, while seniors Riley Lodico and Noah Mershon earned Honorable Mentions. The Hubs finished 14-8 in 2018 while earning a share of the NIB-12 West title with a 9-3 record. It was Rochelle’s first conference title since 2006.

Thursday, June 14

ROCHELLE — It started as a small gesture of gratitude and nearly two years and 34 states later Tyler Carach is closing in on a goal to thank police officers all over America for their service.

Carach, known as Donut Boy, made a stop at the Rochelle Police Department on Wednesday following the Special Olympics Torch Run. The 10 year-old made quite an impression in Rochelle and throughout the U.S. on his campaign, “I DONUT need a reason to thank a cop.” Carach has also been on the “Steve Harvey Show” to share details about his mission.

So far he has presented over 65,000 donuts to police officers.

Sunday, June 17

SPRINGFIELD – The all-female 2018-2019 Illinois State Officer Team was elected Thursday at the 90th annual Illinois State FFA Convention. This marks the first time in the Illinois Association FFA’s 90-year history when all major state officers are women. The officers will be installed Thursday afternoon to serve the Illinois Association FFA for the next 12 months.

And the newly elected officers include Eliza Petry, of Rochelle.

“There are hardly words to describe this, it is definitely a proud advisor moment,” Rochelle Township High School FFA advisor Donna Page said of Petry’s appointment to the state FFA team. “As a sophomore, Eliza set a goal to become more active and take advantage of the opportunities that the FFA offers and then as a junior she set a goal of becoming section president.”

Petry achieved her goal of becoming FFA section president in the spring of 2017.

Tuesday, June 19

ROCKFORD — Andre Brass acknowledged he had a shining example growing up.

The Rochelle native was promoted last month to Assistant Deputy Chief of the Rockford Police Department after serving 26 years on the force.

“My dad was always a role model to me. The way he was as a police officer, his motto was ‘Humble service to others.’ You do for others, put yourself behind the scenes and you don’t look for the accolades. You just do for others…he always lived by that, he was a great example of that,” Brass recalls.

Brass’ father, the late Winston Brass, served as Chief of Police for the City of Rochelle from 1974 to 1993 after joining the force in 1968.

Thursday, June 21

ROCHELLE — Liberty Village held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday afternoon, officially beginning the construction of Manor Court, the new skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility.

Developer Don Fike, along with Liberty Village officials and Mayor Chet Olson participated in the ceremony, held just outside Hawthorne Inn, formerly San Gabriel.  Residents of Hawthorne Inn, along with city officials and community members were invited to the event. 

Fike said the 92-bed facility will have several features including private baths and showers in each bedroom, a dining room in each neighborhood, and state-of-the-art therapy and memory care. 

Stay tuned for part 2 featuring July through December 


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