Reading Room


HENDERSON, TN (MARCH 29, 2024) - Good Vibes.


That’s what Bobette (Bonds) Spear has spread throughout her life using her musical abilities to teach thousands of students and entertain multitudes of others.


“I feel so lucky,” Spear stated. “I’ve always lived my life around my music and done what I’ve wanted to do. I love my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”


Spear’s early life took a dramatic turn at age 11 when her father was transferred from Cleveland, Mississippi to the Chicago area. Initially settling in Niles for a year, Spear’s family zeroed in on building a house in Libertyville where she became a part of the LHS Class of 71 entering Highland Junior High as a seventh-grade student in the Fall of 1965.


By that time, music was already at the center of her life.


“My father played the piano and both he and my mom had played in the school band,” Spear recalled. “We always had music in the background in our house and there was always singing when our families got together. I started playing piano in the third grade and by the time I was in fifth grade, I could play well enough to accompany the singing.


“Meanwhile, my mom was a national baton twirling champion and from the time I was a little girl in Mississippi, she taught me how to twirl,” she continued. “When we moved to Libertyville, mom asked the Highland band director if they had a majorette. They did, but you had to be in the band to be a majorette. When I talked to the band director, he said they needed a French Horn player and even though I had never played one, I said sure, I could do that because I knew I could at least read the music. The first year, I really didn’t play French Horn at all, I just sat there holding it pretending to play. Every now and then, I played the notes I knew I could play. Anyway, because I was in the band, I could also be a majorette when the band marched in parades. Mom had a little gold, satin majorette costume made for me with the big Highland ‘H’ on the front. I loved doing that.”


In eighth grade, Spear’s musical efforts got a big boost when John Chambers, the LHS band director, visited Highland to scout incoming freshman students for the school’s music and band programs.


“I played the French Horn for him and he looked at me and said, ‘do you play anything else?’” laughed Spear. “I told him I also played piano and he said he had an idea. He took me around to the back and showed me the xylophone the school had. He gave me a couple of mallets, and told me to play a line of music. I played it and told him that was fun. He then gave me two more mallets and told me to play all the notes on both lines and I did. I had never had a lesson on the xylophone, but it was just like playing the piano instead you were hitting it with some sticks. Mr. Chambers looked at me and said, ‘I’m putting you in the percussion section.’”


Throughout her four years at LHS, Spear excelled at playing multiple instruments including the xylophone, vibraphone, bells, and timpani. Meanwhile, she continued to serve as the band’s majorette. And, best of all according to Spear was that she ultimately became a member of the LHS Stage Band.


“I loved Stage Band, it was so much fun,” she stated. “I remember I had to wear one of my dad’s ties along with my navy colored blazer and gray skirt. I also made such great friends there – Sue White, Becky Zetterberg, Becky Binks, Gregg Samelson, Paul Doescher, Steve Crandall. Growing up in Libertyville was so wonderful because there were so many opportunities to do so many things.”


With a personal and educational resume filled with musical experiences, it was little surprise that Spear was offered a piano scholarship to David Lipscomb University, a Christian Liberal Arts school in Nashville, upon graduation from LHS.


“I started classes at Lipscomb one week after I graduated from Libertyville,” Spear stated. “And like Libertyville, I had all kinds of musical opportunities at Lipscomb. For more than a year, I prepared to be a pianist and travel all over the world playing music. Then in my sophomore year, a suitemate of mine asked me if I really wanted to do that because she thought I would be an excellent teacher and could use my music in my classrooms. Honestly, I didn’t think I wanted to be a teacher, but I wound up changing my major to Elementary Education after my sophomore year.”


Spear embraced the new academic direction and upon graduation from Lipscomb in the spring of 1974, she applied for a job as a teacher in the Metro Nashville TN Public School System. 


“They had just integrated teachers in Nashville and that led to a lot of ‘white flight’ – parents who didn’t want their children to have a Black teacher were moving out of the city to the suburbs,” Spear remembered. “When I interviewed, I was told they didn’t have a position for me but that they would keep my application on file. Then they called me on October 1 and said a fifth-grade teacher had come off of maternity leave but she wasn’t happy and wanted to return home to be with her baby. They asked, ‘can you start tomorrow?’ Of course, I said ‘yes.’”


The affirmative answer proved to be the first of countless decisions Spear would make as a teacher over the next 36 years before retiring in 2008. 


“I never taught the same grade twice in the first six years that I was a teacher,” she stated. “Then I moved to Neely’s Bend Elementary School and I spent the last 30 years of my career there. By that time, I had taught grades one through six, so it didn’t matter what grade they assigned me anymore. The best part was I always taught a fifth- and sixth-grade chorus. In elementary school, you don’t get a stipend, you don’t get paid for that. I just did it because it because I loved it.”


Meanwhile, Spear’s personal life in part mirrored her music and performing careers.


“I started college the weekend after graduating from high school and I got married the week after I graduated college,” said Spear. “My husband Jim had already graduated from Lipscomb and he eventually wound up working for Walgreens for 20 years before he worked for Walmart for another 20. We had two children along the way – Eric, who I can’t believe is now 48 years old – was a band director for 17 years and is now the assistant principal at Lebanon (TN) High School. Eric also has a son, Michael, 19. Our daughter Ashley, who is now 45 is a dancer and has owned a dance studio for the last 20 years. To say that I am so very proud of them all is a giant understatement.”


Balancing a family and any career – especially one as full as Spear’s - can be physically taxing as she found out after more than 30 years of doing each at full song.


“I felt like I had to retire from classroom teaching in 2008 because my knee was so bad and I could hardly walk,” Spear stated. “I just didn’t think I could walk well enough to be a teacher anymore. Then I had a knee replacement and I was fine again. In the fall, I went to a Grandparent’s Day event at school and the principal approached me and said he was short eight teachers and the one he needed the most was for third grade. I hadn’t taught third grade in nearly 30 years, but I not only went back that whole year, I stayed the next. At that point, Jim was ready to retire and there were a lot of community things that I had wanted to try but never had time to be a part of, so in 2010, I retired from classroom teaching for good.”


In retirement, Spear’s almost seems busier than when she worked with an array of organizations, clubs, and charitable causes at the heart of her daily calendar.


Among those are a Ladies Bible Class group at her church where Spear plans a weekly luncheon and five day trips throughout the year for the group. She’s also the president of the Newcomer’s and Community Club of Sumner County and works with Grace Place Women’s Alliance, a local shelter for homeless mothers and their children. 


“I love my little ‘church job’ with my ladies and I had always wanted to join the Newcomer’s group,” said Spear. “Then I retired and I got invited to one of their luncheons. I signed up that day and started out doing centerpieces for the tables for our luncheons each month. After four years, I was approached about being the president-elect for the group. I accepted because it was only a two-year commitment. That was in 2017 and here it is 2024 and I am still the president. We’re off during the summers, but we  feature a local charity every month the rest of the year beginning in September.


“Meanwhile, Grace Place has space for five mothers and they live in a bedroom with their children,” she continued. “We have the mothers take an education program that teaches them skills like budgeting, computers, all kinds of life skills. When they ‘graduate,’ they get a job with local county businesses that puts them home at night and on the weekends so they can be with their children. It allows them to have structure in their lives and provides structure and security for their children. Our city has just approved a new building concept for Grace Place. They are constructing 40 new, small homes so we can serve more women and their families. It’s a wonderful program and something I am so proud to be a part of.”


As if Spear needed anything else to fill up on her busy personal calendar, she also serves as a member - and president - of the Tennessee chapter of the National Federation of Music Clubs. She is also a member – and former president - of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international teaching fraternity. 


Finally, Spear is also a member of Beta Sigma Phi, a women’s sorority, and somehow even finds time for cross stitching, her favorite hobby. 


“I’ve never regretted my decision to be a teacher,” said Spear. “I don’t think I would have ultimately liked the life of a full-time musician because I am so family and community oriented. I am so thankful my roommate saw that in me and saw that I could do something else with my music.


“Honestly, I thought I would teach for five years, earn enough money to put a down payment on a house and go on with my life,” she continued. “I found out life doesn’t work that way and I wound up teaching for 36 years in the Metro Nashville School System. I taught elementary school up to sixth grade the whole time. I absolutely loved teaching.” 


And, that love will most likely continue as Spear vows she always teach piano. These days, that means ‘cutting back’ her student load from as many as 45 per week to ‘just 14 or so.’ 


“Teaching piano for me is like being a mother, you can’t quit,” said Spear. “There’s always another sibling, cousin, friend or neighbor who wants to play the piano. These people and families become my family. You get invested when you see someone once a week, every single week. You never hear someone say ‘I’m sorry I took piano. They always say I wish I had taken piano – or they say I am so sorry I quit.


“If you are a teacher, it is what you are, not what you have become,” Spear concluded. “In my case, I love teaching piano. You’re giving them something that can never be taken away.”

Bobette (Bonds) Spear has had a great career as a musician and teacher. Here she's pictured with (from top left clockwise) with Becky Binks during an LHS Stage Band performance, as 'Miss September' for a Calendar Girl's fundraising event, with Jimmy Fortune of the Statler Brothers, and admiring a starfish on one of her many trips with her friends.



BREWSTER, MA (February 20, 2024) - After spending a great amount of time working on ‘grassroots’ programs throughout her career as a Minister, Anne Weirich is also staying close to the earth in retirement.


“I have a beautiful acre on Cape Cod and I love to garden, do yard work, and take care of the house,” said Weirich, a 1971 Libertyville High School grad now living in Brewster, Massachusetts. “I also do a lot of walking and biking. Life is good.”


Like many who attended LHS, Weirich had a multifaceted career eventually retiring to a life that, in part, mirrors some of the most memorable events and moments of her childhood in Libertyville.


“I have good memories of Libertyville,” said Weirich, who retired in 2019. “I grew up a little bit out of town in the woods on Rockland Lane off of Rockland Road. We had a lot of fun back there. We were kind of ‘free-range’ kids.’ We were always outside especially when the weather was good. I guess I am kind of like that now in Cape Cod too.”


Weirich’s active outdoor lifestyle isn’t the only current parallel to her past back in Libertyville.


“I spend part of everyday doing volunteer work and I currently serve on the board and I am the secretary of the Brewster Ladies Library,” she stated. “It’s interesting that things have turned out that way because my very first job in life was at the Cook Memorial Library in Libertyville. I’d have to say one of my favorite memories is I was part of a little group that had a routine of walking into town, go to the bakery, maybe hit the Woolworth’s, and then go to the library. Ed Schiele, Chris Strom, Lynn Brakel, Melissa Kalbfus, Jim Hathaway, Tom Cline, and I would just hang around the library and make a nuisance of ourselves until it was time to go home for dinner. I have always have loved libraries.”


Back then, Weirich couldn’t possibly imagined herself having a three-decade career in the Ministry. Even the road to Princeton (NJ) Seminary, where she earned a Master of Divinity degree and Certificates in Youth Ministry in 1998, was one full of twists and turns. 


“I was on the nine-year plan to get my undergraduate college degree,” joked Weirich, remembering her early years after graduation from LHS. “I went to the University of Kansas for two years and then I lived there for a year. It was an interesting year living and working on my own. I had an idea as to what I wanted to do, but I just didn’t know how to get there. 


“Then I quit school and came back home after my father started a new business,’” Weirich continued. “Eventually, I went back to school and got an Anthropology degree at Illinois State University. I then applied for, and was accepted into, a PhD Medical Anthropology program at the University of Kentucky. That was a brand new field. Then Ronald Reagan got elected president and all of a sudden, federal funding for many state university programs got slashed and the program I was excited to be a part of got eliminated. That really sucked the air out of my plans. It was like, ‘now what do I do?’”


Weirich did what she needed to and returned to the Chicago area and secured a job as an administrative assistant in the emerging self-help movement. Weirich later redirected again, this time to open a new office for a real estate title company in Arlington Heights where she eventually rose to the position of branch manager.


“I was there quite a while, until 1989,” Weirich stated. “I was outside in sales and I loved it.  Then the son of the owner graduated college and the owner of the company wanted give him my job and move me back inside. Examining titles all day sounded terrible to me. I loved my job, was having a wonderful time and making great money. I had a great career going, but I could also see the handwriting on the wall, so I resigned.”


Weirich then took a giant leap moving to Los Angeles at the invitation of a former customer who owned a wallpaper and wall upholstery business.


“It was a very physical and taxing job,” she stated. “We did some wonderful work in some incredible places and we were able to support ourselves for a couple of years. He still has the business and has done very well.”


Fate then intervened after her mother was diagnosed with cancer. That meant leaving Los Angeles for Grand Rapids, MI where Weirich worked a number of different jobs including one at a church. 


“When I graduated from college in 1980, I had what is traditionally known as a ‘Call to Ministry’ experience,” Weirich stated. “I definitely had answered “yes” to it at the time. But I made a bargain with God saying ‘not yet’ because there were some things I wanted to do first. Now, I was in Grand Rapids helping my mom and I remembered that Call. I had started going back to church which was pretty interesting because I’m am about as far left as you can be and still be able to step a foot into a church. I had been raised as a Methodist, but I had found this very wonderful, progressive Presbyterian congregation. I loved it and became a member there. I then decided to start Seminary School there in 1993.”


Weirich’s journey to the Ministry took more than a decade and it’s completion put her in a situation experienced by all by all manner of graduates regardless of their discipline.


“The Presbyterian Church is like any other job – you look around to see what kind of jobs are available,” Weirich stated. “I was an older graduate, actually quite a bit older than the other students at the seminary. I had befriended a lot of the administrators because they were a lot closer to my age. One of them in the Placement Office called me and said they had just gotten a job posting for an Associate Pastor on Cape Cod and that it looked perfect for me. I immediately ran over there, got the flier, did an interview with the committee, and got the job in the United Church of Christ and the First Congregational Church in Harwich. That’s when I moved to Cape Cod and bought my house that I still live in now.”


Unfortunately, the position presented some unforeseen challenges as internal issues between the congregation and the church’s head of staff had Weirich questioning her choice of parishes.


“It was just too fraught with conflict and got kind of messy,” she stated. “I called the Dean at my school and told him that it was only three months but I felt like I was in the wrong place. He told me it would be better to stay three years than to leave after three months, so I stayed three years and it turned out to be a great though challenging experience.”


Weirich’s next calling was to move to Clarmont, California where she served as a General Associate Pastor for six years. 


“That was a great situation, but I got an inquiry from the church I started out at in Grand Rapids saying they were looking for an Associate Pastor,” said Weirich. “I applied, got the job, and moved back to Grand Rapids. Westminster was 1,400-members, much bigger than the 450 - 600 member churches I had been working with.


“That’s when I really started getting out into the world,” she continued. “When I worked there in the 1990s, I started taking people out in the world with our first trips to the Mexican border. It was an incredibly rewarding experience. When I returned Grand Rapids in 2006, we started doing mission trips again.  We returned to Mexico. I also took relief groups to aid Hurricane Katrina victims and from 2009-2013.  We went to Cuba taking medical supplies.  That’s also when I started to take groups to Israel and Palestine.”


Throughout this time, Weirich was also totally engaged in local mission work in the Grand Rapids area assisting church partners in various charitable community projects.


“Those experiences led me to understand that I was ready to move on from being an Associate Pastor. I wanted to preach more,” Weirich stated. “I had been doing a lot of preaching at the neighborhood missions and eventually partnered with the Guiding Light Mission where we could develop our own worship. Through that experience, I knew it was time for me to move on.”


A two-year interim pastorate at a parish in Lansing, MI followed before Weirich heard ‘the Call’ for a final time in 2013.


“I knew I had one more in me before I retired,” she stated. “I had been preaching to the choir for so many years – churches that had progressive theologies that were open to and embraced other groups like the LGBTQ community. I really felt I needed to put my money where my mouth was and go someplace that was more centrist or even to the right. I wanted to see if I could form some trust and maybe even move people a little bit.”


That road led Weirich to New Concord, OH and Muskingum University where she became the Pastor of College Drive Presbyterian Church. Over the next six years until her retirement in 2019, she collaborated on multiple community outreach programs including the expansion of the College Drive Food Pantry and establishing community gardens, clothing banks and the ‘Loads of Love’ laundry ministry.


It was also at Muskingum where Weirich and the Ministerial Association of New Concord founded the Addiction Coalition to provide services and raised awareness for all forms of addiction.


“New Concord is a very small town – just 1,200 people – and located on the edge of Appalachia,” Weirich stated. “It is a very conservative area, but there is a university there making it a ’purple town.’ It turned out to be one of the best decisions and experiences of my life.”


Initially, Weirich took the advice of a friend and ‘played her cards close’ to earn the trust of the community and congregation. 


“By the end of three years, we had formed an Ecumenical Council to advance the idea that yes, there were drugs in New Concord and there were people out there that needed help. We were able to open doors for agencies and services into places, like the regional high school, where they had been trying to work with for years. In the church, we had changed minds enough to have a transgender student singing in the choir.  The Council also helped form links within the university that stressed interconnection. We also had a woman from one of our ad hoc committees run for mayor. It was an amazing to see all this happening in a town like New Concord.


“Along the way, I was able to get more involved with the Presbyterian Church on a regional and national level becoming a delegate traveling the world for multiple ecumenical projects. I loved it. It was just wonderful.”


While technically retired, Weirich finds time to sit on the Board of Directors as President of Pilgrims of Ibillin, a group that focuses on education and projects that train and empower young people as peace-builders committed to peacemaking and reconciliation.


“It’s very important to me to do things out in the world,” said Weirich. “In 2008, I went to Israel and Palestine and I have been going back almost every year taking groups of people to visit there. The first time I went, we made sure that we met peacemakers and it opened my eyes as to what was happening there. In retirement, I’ve expanded and as many as four trips planned for 2024. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen now because of the war. I am still very engaged in advocacy work serving as President of the Board.  (If you’d like to know more take a look at Things have gotten pretty extreme with the war and I have been swamped as all of our key partners are asking for additional help. We’ve been very busy contacting our donor base as many of the schools have closed and remained closed as they try to find safe space for the students away from the borders and the rocket attacks.”


For the time being, Weirich is content to ride out whatever happens in the Middle East, hoping for a peaceful resolution while helping her partners where she can. 


Meanwhile, she still manages to spread the messages of peace and harmony locally as well.


“I still get out and preach a little,” she stated. “I stay busy with the library and I enjoy catching up with old and new friends. My door is always open to anyone who wants to come to Cape Cod. It is a very, wonderful place to visit. And it’s a privilege to live here. After being away for more than 25 years and it is a great gift for me to be here again.”



Anne Weirich has had a full life of adventure drawing satisfaction from helping others through her Ministry. Pictured clockwise from top left is Anne with a tour group in Israel, assisting a child in Mexico, enjoying herself on the beach at Cape Cod, her Brewster, MA home garden where she spends much of her time these days, and as we all remember her as an LHS student in 1971.

Taggart's Life Journey An Odyssey Of Musical And Personal Perseverance

LIBERTYVILLE, IL (October 6, 2023) – It’s 1968 and almost all of us were flocking to the theater to see Stanley Kubrick’s new movie – ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’

Most everyone who saw the landmark science fiction film came away changed to some degree, especially Libertyville High School Class of 1971 grad David Taggart.

“I was mostly a Top 40 and rock album listener then, bored to tears by long classical works,” Taggart stated. “All that changed when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey. From the first notes of the score to the last, the way director Stanley Kubrick used music was just brilliant and the pieces he chose made the film even better. Now, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was no longer the most cosmic thing I’d ever heard. 


“I went home and told my dad about how Kubrick used the Richard Strauss tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spake Zarathustra) to open the film, and how great it was,” Taggart continued. “Dad said, ‘you know, there's a whole 45-minute piece that follows that opening and you might like it.’ The next day, I had the Fritz Reiner/Chicago Symphony Orchestra LP of it and my life was transformed. I'd never heard anything so beautiful.”

It's little wonder that Taggart could appreciate the scope of the movie’s musical score given he had grown up in a household filled with song.


“Singing was always part of our home life,” said Taggart, who was born in Kansas, moved to Libertyville for the 1961-62 school year, and then to Evanston and Glenview before returning to Libertyville in 1966.  “On special occasions we would sing the Doxology for Grace before a meal. Meanwhile, my brothers all were swept up in the folk and then rock 'n roll movements giving me early exposure. We boys would perform for visiting family, usually with my oldest brother Dan doing guitar duty. I started singing more earnestly when I was nine years old and joined the Evanston First Methodist boys’ choir. It was a terrific experience, and I was eventually a featured soloist.”


Taggart’s success – and personal satisfaction – in singing quickly led to his musical expansion thanks to educational opportunities at his school.


“The Evanston school system introduced us to the instruments in fifth grade,” Taggart stated. “I wanted to play the flute, but being near the end of the alphabet meant none were left for me. My family had a violin my grandmother had given us. My brother Paul had tried playing it and rejected it, so I got to be the next candidate. I didn’t like it that much, but it was the only option if I was going to play something.” 


Taggart’s return to Libertyville further cemented his musical roots through his family’s church affiliation and the LHS music department.


”Our family involvement in the Libertyville Methodist Church was closely tied to music, which meant I was active in choir as well as playing violin for seasonal programs,” Taggart said. “I survived the Folk Choir experiment and played the Bach Double Concerto quite a few times. Violin was still not my favorite way to make music, but I played well enough to make it somewhat enjoyable. 


“At LHS, playing violin and singing meant taking part in group activities, so I soon had lots of new friends and acquaintances,” Taggart continued. “My Drama Club and choir experiences were real highlights. Our LHS faculty were all pretty special and my admiration for classmates only continues to increase as we’ve ‘grown up’."


With his graduation from LHS, Taggart decided that music was to be his collegiate choice of study and headed off to Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH in the fall of 1971.


“I started out as a dual voice/violin major,” said Taggart. “Voice study was easy and natural for me, but violin was another story. Between the school’s active disrespect of instrumental performance majors - they loved only music education students - and my own low enthusiasm for violin, it was not great.”


Fortunately, a personal vocal revelation and a change of instructors in his sophomore year at Wittenberg would provide life-changing episodes for Taggart.


“My enthusiasm for voice study was sagging, and my experience at a singing competition showed me I was not going to succeed without becoming a self-promoter and actor, neither of which are part of my skill set,” he stated. “Then I got a new violin teacher who happened to be a violist, and by the 1973 Spring semester she convinced me to try viola. It was magic. Everything changed. 


“My teacher had connections to the Cleveland Institute of Music and arranged for me to get in that Fall,” Taggart continued. “It’s a great music conservatory, designed to train professionals for a life on stage. The student body population was determined by which instruments were needed for the school orchestra and, in 1973, they needed violists. I was thrown into the deep end of the music pool, and found I could “swim” pretty well. I worked my butt off and in the space of four years, I went from mediocre violinist to professional violist.”


Just as the jump in skill level took time and effort, so did the leap to working musician as Taggart first apprenticed in various orchestras in the Cleveland area often ‘taking it on the chin’ financially.


“I played in local amateur and semi-pro orchestras and did lots of studio work in the Cleveland area from 1973 to 1977,’ said Taggart. “There was a studio above the Aragon Ballroom near downtown and disco was all the rage then, so string backup parts were done by six or eight of us and then over-dubbed a couple of times so we would sound like a bigger orchestra. I played the first demo recording for the ‘Rocky’ movie theme and never got a dime for it.”


Taggart “hung around” Cleveland for a year after his graduation from CIM in 1976. Armed with a new viola thanks to the generosity of his parents, Taggart spent his time taking lessons and attending auditions. 


“Since I didn’t grow up as a violist or with regular exposure to live orchestra music, much of my time was devoted to learning pieces that were new to me but essential for me to know going out on the audition trail. In summer 1977, I received an invitation to play first chair (aka Principal Viola) in the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. It was a third-tier orchestra with about 20 full-time paid players and the pay scale was criminal, but it was a foot in the door and would help pay for travel to auditions. One of the guest conductors invited me to play Principal Viola in the Colorado Philharmonic during the summer of 1978 which I enjoyed very much, especially after a dispiriting season in Fort Wayne. Back in Indiana that Fall, I traveled to a few more auditions before an opportunity with the Milwaukee Symphony came along.


“I didn’t know much about Milwaukee or its orchestra,” Taggart continued. “I was in fine form and I knew I had to get out of Fort Wayne as it was not a final destination for anyone with orchestra ambitions. The MSO audition was against 25 other really good violists, most of whom I’d been seeing at other auditions. I signed up to audition in October 1978 and won the audition on December 11, 1978. I was hired as a Section player, the designation for non-titled musicians (usually the first two or maybe three chairs are titled) and remained a section player for my entire career with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.”


Taggart’s association with the MSO would eventually provide multiple lifetimes of personal experiences and achievements beginning early in his tenure with a trip to the musical Mecca known as Carnegie Hall.


“Within a few weeks of my starting with the MSO, we did a tour from Florida up the East Coast to New York City capped by my first time in Carnegie Hall,” Taggart remembered. “For about 10 years, I got to visit New York every other year and play Carnegie. In 1986, we toured Europe for two weeks. The sophisticated audiences, fabulous historic concert halls, and the beer were incredible. We toured Japan for three weeks in 1992. I absolutely loved Japan and dream of going back someday. Music fans in Japan go crazy for good performances. They deeply appreciate all things of quality. They made us feel like rock stars.”


The songs remained the same for Taggart – countless concerts and travel - until October 2000when he was diagnosed with B Cell Follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 


“It’s an indolent cancer, meaning it’s slow growing,” said Taggart. “It can be controlled pretty well, but can’t be cured.”


Along with his wife Terry, Taggart met the task of living a ‘normal life’ head on enduring chemotherapy and telling his story in a unique way in an effort to benefit others who were experiencing the same difficulties he was.


“Cancer patients usually struggle with the question of whether or how to share the news,” said Taggart. “My approach was to write a newsletter for friends and family so I could avoid having to repeat my story umpteen times as well as limiting the onslaught of well-meaning advice about treatment. I was confident in my oncology team and I mostly wanted to relate the journey forthrightly so others could perhaps understand my cancer experience. I took the pseudonym ‘Chemo-Sabe’ to add levity and I call the newsletter the ‘Lymphoma Times.’ I still write new editions periodically.


“Then, shortly before I began the second chemo round in 2004, I heard about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Scenic Shore 150, a bike ride fundraiser,” Taggart continued. “I had started riding recumbent bikes in the 1990’s and two 75-mile days sounded challenging but do-able. The ride was gorgeous - up the Lake Michigan shoreline from Mequon to Sturgeon Bay. When I came back, I told Terry we had to do the ride together the next year but the only way we could do that was to buy a tandem recumbent.”


The Taggarts have ridden in the Scenic Shore 150 every year since 2005 forming a team for the event that year to raise money for LLS cancer awareness and treatment. Dubbed ‘Team Chemo-Sabe,’ the group started out with just three riders in 2005. This year, there were 45 riders in the group and since its inception, Team Chemo-Sabe has raised nearly $1million for the LLS including $109,000 this year.


And while Taggart has successfully battled cancer for more than two decades now, another unrelated condition has taken its toll on the thing he dearly loves – playing music. 


“The medical issue that ended my performance career was a non-malignant tumor in the base of my skull (Vernet’s Syndrome),” Taggart stated. “It was irradiated in early 2016 in a Gamma Knife procedure, which focuses on a strictly defined 3D-imaged target area and delivers a huge dose to stop the tumor’s growth. The tumor, situated in the small opening where the jugular vein exits the right side of the skull, had probably been growing there for 15-20 years and got big enough to damage the cranial nerves. Typical symptoms include a raspy voice and coughing spells. I also had difficulty swallowing, and weakness/pain in my right arm & shoulder. The pain and weakness got so bad I couldn’t make it through concerts anymore.


“We hoped I could regain some nerve function after the radiation, but that would be a rare miracle,” Taggart continued. “I took up the mandolin rationalizing that I could keep my left hand in shape while my “bad” right arm wouldn’t be so stressed. I played with the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra (founded in 1900) for three years. With my professional background and my perfectionist bent, I wasn’t happy playing ‘fairly well’ and the physical toll of 40 years of practice made it too painful to spend the hours required for becoming a more polished player. Mandolin was a great bridge to take me from performer to audience member, but now I have a viola and a mandolin for sale.”


Taggart’s grace under what are undeniably extreme circumstances has not dulled his memories of a musical life that continues to bring joy to him every day. 


“The best part of the job was my fellow musicians, and many of those relationships remain central to my life, five years after retirement,” Taggart stated. “I’ve served on player committees almost from Day One, dealing with fundraising, artistic matters, and contract negotiation. Touring was a great facilitator in cementing friendships. When I first joined the Milwaukee Symphony, we would spend two or three weeks a year busing around Wisconsin, playing small and mid-sized towns in addition to a couple dozen “runouts” where we would drive to places like Ripon or Janesville, play, and go home that night.


“Playing in the MSO brought a huge variety of musical highlights beyond all the great standards of the repertoire,” he continued. “We had both pops and classics series, played at Summerfest regularly until the early 90s. The last eight years of my career were among the most rewarding, working with our Music Director Edo deWaart, one of the preeminent conductors of his generation. The work was taxing and tedious, but the concerts were great.”


Today, Taggart still enjoys concert life attending Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra events when the conditions are right. And he’s quick to add that those events – and others – are something he is committed to doing for a long time to come. He also serves on the MSO Board’s Advancement Committee and Endowment Cabinet.


“The most troublesome aspect of my lymphoma is that I'll have to mask indoors for the foreseeable future because it targets a major aspect of my immune system,” Taggart indicated. “No restaurant dinners unless on a patio, and very careful consideration of concert venues. We haven't been to a movie theater since 2020, but our new MSO concert hall was finished during COVID with all the latest HVAC tech for scrubbing the air, so we attend, masked.


“I’ve had three semi-successful voice procedures to compensate for a dead vocal cord, and I will always have voice and swallowing issues, and the right side of my upper body is withered. But I ain’t giving up. I finished my 

last round of chemo in 2020 and hope this remission will last for at least 12 years – just like the last one.” 

LHS Class of 1971 member David Taggart, his wife Terry Burko and their 'Team Chemo-Sabe' have raised nearly $1 million dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society participating in the Scenic Shore 150 bicycle event since 2004. They are shown here on their now familiar tandem bike above and are pictured below with Art Saffran, the captain of the Madison, WI Lymphomaniacs team after a Scenic Shore 150 event a few years ago.


Samelson Puts Down Camera To

‘Focus’ On Retirement 

LIBERTYVILLE, IL (August 11, 2023) - Picture Perfect. 

That might be the best way to describe retirement for Libertyville High School Class of 1971 graduate Gregg Samelson. 

“I had been in sales and sales management of construction materials for a long time when the recession hit in 2008,” Samelson stated. “I began having to lay off some of the people who were working for me and it got to the point where the company decided they didn’t need a sales manager position anymore. In 2011, they offered me a sales position or early retirement with a nice severance package that included paying for my health benefits until I turned 65 and qualified for Medicare. My wife Mary and I had been discussing retiring at age 62, so it was a bit earlier than planned, but turned out to be something that worked out well and allowed me to pursue other personal interests including photography.”

According to Samelson, his ‘personal interest’ in photography dates all the way back to his days growing up in Libertyville.

“I had a Kodak ‘Brownie’ camera when I was a kid,” said Samelson, now a long-time resident of Sacramento, CA. “Our family would go on vacations and I would take a bunch of pictures. Later in college after my grandfather passed away, I noticed he had a really nice Zeiss Ikon 35mm camera that was sitting there collecting dust. I asked my grandmother if I could have it and she gave it to me. I guess you could say that was the start of my photography ‘career’ because as soon as I graduated college, I bought my first SLR camera, a couple of lenses, and took some photography classes.”

It would have been an easy transition for Samelson to pursue a curriculum in photography during his post LHS collegiate years at Ripon (WI) College, but a more practical major – Economics – and another personal interest, his eventual wife Mary, filled his time instead

“I knew that I didn’t want to go to a larger school,” Samelson remembered. “I had made a deal with my parents to pay for one-third of my college costs and they would contribute to the rest, so whether I went to a state school or a small liberal arts college depended on how much I was able to make and save. I visited several schools and Ripon just stood out to me. It was a small town and a small school. Enrollment at Ripon back then was right around 1,000 students, so it was actually smaller than Libertyville High School.

“Mary was a year behind me in school and we dated on and off throughout college,” he continued. “Then I graduated and we went our separate ways – me to a job in the Chicago area, and Mary to a job in Green Bay a year later. Then I talked to a mutual friend who saw Mary at a wedding and suggested I give her a call. I did and we talked for more than an hour. Eventually, she came down to Chicago for a weekend and after that, I don’t think there was a weekend that went by that either I was in Green Bay or Mary was in Chicago. That was in June, 1977, by November we were engaged and then married in May, 1978. Here it is 45 years later. It’s pretty amazing to think it has been that long and how it has all worked out.”

After a short stint in Madison, WI searching for a new professional opportunity in late 1977, Gregg and Mary headed west to Southern California where Gregg’s parents had relocated while he was at Ripon. That’s where he began his career in the heavy equipment sales industry, a career that he pursued for three and a half years there before moving to the Sacramento area for a new opportunity more than 40 years ago.

Along the way, Gregg and Mary had a son, Nate (now 40) and a daughter, Carly (32).

“I always had a camera throughout the years chronicling our family and at one point I even developed and printed some of my own pictures,” Samelson stated. “The kids were already involved in sports when digital cameras came out, so I started taking pictures at their athletic events. That kind of set the stage for when I retired in 2011 and started shooting photos for MaxPreps.”

One of the leading resources for all things related to high school sports in America, MaxPreps is a treasure trove of athlete statistics, communication tools for coaches, school administrators, athletic directors, and webmasters for schools in all 50 states. It was also a place where Samelson found an outlet for his now professional-grade photography skills

“MaxPreps has very strict and demanding standards for the photos you submit,” said Samelson. “You have to provide samples of your work to get accepted as a contributing photographer and the first few that I sent in they said ‘this is okay, but you need to do a couple of things to make these better.’ So, I worked on my skills a little bit, resubmitted and got accepted.

“I wound up shooting all the major sports for them – football, basketball, baseball – as well as volleyball, tennis, water polo and others,” he continued. “I wound up doing over 600 high school sports events over the next eight years. At some events – like tournaments – I’d shoot six or seven matches a day. And at others, like the state basketball championships, I’d shoot 12 games over two days. By the time I put in the hours spent reviewing and editing the photos I took before I submitted them, it added up to a lot of time.

“Meanwhile, I met and became friends with other photographers through MaxPreps. Those friendships opened up other opportunities to shoot other kinds of events for companies who put on things like the Ironman Triathlon, Tough Mudders, 5-and-10K running events. At those, I would often have to sit in one position all day and the goal was to capture two or three photos of everyone who came by you. They would give you a bunch of memory cards, you’d fill them up, and hand them back to them at the end of the day. There was no post-processing editing involved in those events, so they were a lot easier as far as the time commitment was concerned.”

Like almost everyone else, the Covid pandemic impacted Samelson’s post-retirement photography pursuits pushing it from overdrive into park. And when the pall lifted nearly two years later, he decided to redirect his photography from a professional to a more personal realm.

“I wouldn’t call my photography a second career,” Samelson said. “It did seem that way at times because of the time involved. But the reality was I was getting older and even before Covid hit, it was harder to put in 12-hour days of sitting out in the sun and taking pictures of six- or seven-thousand people as they ran by. My body just wasn’t holding up as it used to. Covid shined the light on that and let me know it was probably time to retire and allow my photography to be of the times Mary and I go on vacation or pictures of the kids and grandchildren.”

These days, Samelson is happy to spend time around his backyard pool doing just that – enjoying retirement and his family, especially his grandchildren.

“Both Nate and Carly live nearby, so we get to see them and our grandchildren often,” Samelson stated. “Nate and his wife have two children, Barrett (7) and Everly (3) while Carly is now pregnant and she and her wife are looking forward to the arrival of their son due in late December. We are so excited about that because it is so amazing being a grandparent. There’s nothing like it. It is hard to describe how you can love this little child so much. It’s a different experience than when you are raising your own child.” 

As for his own childhood, Samelson fondly remembers a simpler time when he and many of his Rockland School - and later LHS - classmates roamed freely about Libertyville. 

“I don’t know if my neighborhood in Libertyville was unique from those of the other kids that grew up there,” he said. “We had a bunch of kids on our street on the west side of town – Drake Street - that were all about the same age. We hung out together and during the summers, we’d walk over to Butler Lake behind the high school and go fishing, or sneak on to Cunio’s property where we could fish on his private lake and shoot our BB guns. It was common to ride our bikes to Adler Park to go swimming. In the evenings, we had boys and girls that would play hide n’ seek or kick the can. We had so much freedom. All we had to do was tell mom where we were going and she would give us a time when we had to be back.

“Later, when we were old enough to get our driver’s license, we’d cruise the town up and down Milwaukee Avenue between McDonalds and Dog N’ Suds,” Samelson concluded. “If you really wanted to have a big time, we’d go to Waukegan and cruise up and down Genesse Street. We’d wind up burning a couple of dollars in gas back when it was 29 cents a gallon. It was a great time – and a great place to grow up.”

Here’s Gregg all togged out in his ‘photography gear’ (above.) 

The image at right is of Gregg's family on a trip to Hawaii this past February. From left are Emily, Barrett, Carly, Mary, Gregg Everly, Cara and Nate. 

Gregg and Mary are pictured here on vacation in front of the Angkor Wat Temple Cambodia a few years ago.

The image below is of Gregg jumping over a fire obstacle that was part of one of the athletic events he covered.





LIBERTYVILLE, IL – (July 7, 2023) – Every year, millions of Americans ‘road trip’ the nation’s highways in search of relaxation, new adventures, or the perfect vacation. 


For Libertyville High School Class of 1971 graduate Bill Griffin and his wife, Annie, these kind of vacation get-aways are way more than that.

It’s their daily life. 

Annie and I really enjoy doing this,” said Bill, currently in the middle of a 99-day road trip around the country in their motor home. “We like going to different areas we haven’t seen before, and back to some that we have. This trip, we’ll visit about 15 states as well as Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. In all, we’ll travel about 8,000 miles. When we get home, we’ll have been in 46 of the continental United States since we started traveling either by motorhome or boat.” 

It's safe to say that neither Bill or Annie thought they’d wind up on the road and ‘homeless’ as Bill calls it when they met in Des Moines, IA in the middle 1970s.

“I had gone to Drake University right out of high school to attend their College of Pharmacy,” Bill said. “Unfortunately, I could never master Organic Chemistry and after two and a half years, I eventually flunked out. I was working to put myself through school and I just didn’t have time to study enough to make it work academically. Besides, I was making really good money in the restaurant industry, so I dropped out and went to work full-time in Des Moines.” 

By now, the ‘Disco Era’ was ramping up and while many don’t remember the period too fondly, it was probably the most pivotal time of Bill’s life.

“I was working as a bartender in a very large disco club in Des Moines and one night a new girl - Annie - was working at my bartending station,” Bill remembered. “She was working multiple jobs at the time to make ends meet and had just started out as a cocktail waitress. That’s how we met and we immediately hit it off going to after work parties and early morning breakfasts. Six months later, we were married.”

A native of Shreveport, Annie quickly encouraged Bill to consider moving from Des Moines to her native Louisiana. He, meanwhile, was skeptical of relocating just a few months after they had been married. 


“Why would we want to do that?” Bill questioned Annie. “When she said I could play golf 11 months a year, my response was ‘why are we not there yet?’”

The transition to Shreveport was a smooth one for the couple and Annie’s two daughters – Valerie and Julie – as Bill quickly found work managing a nightclub that featured live music six nights a week. Eventually, the couple opened their own club – ‘Steamboat Annie’s’ – and it had a highly successful four-year run before the bottom dropped out of the local live entertainment industry.

“Cowboy Disco came out,” Bill stated. “One bar opened up and basically took all the business away from the rest of us. We weren’t exactly sure what we wanted to do next and eventually said ‘let’s move to Pensacola, FL.’ We liked the beaches and the weather there, so sold the house, picked up the kids again, and moved there. We didn’t have jobs or know what we were going to do. Fortunately, everything worked out great.”

The life of sun and sand in Pensacola proved to be perfect for Bill and Annie as they settled on the banks on a deep-water intercoastal canal that had access to the Gulf of Mexico just 10 minutes away. It didn’t take Bill long to install a boat lift in their back yard, the perfect home for the couple’s new 26-foot fishing boat.

“We built a house on Perdido Key outside of Pensacola, FL and moved there in 2000,” Bill said. “Pensacola has so many great waterways and beaches around it where you can go out on a boat, throw in an anchor and spend a weekend on the water. If you live there, you have to have a boat.”

For more than a decade, Bill and Annie enjoyed the advantages of ‘the good life’ in Pensacola. Then, at age 60, the company Bill worked at as a Utilities Operator made him a ‘godfather’ offer he and Annie couldn’t refuse.

“I was very fortunate that the company I worked for would let me retire and continue to provide health benefits for Annie and I until we qualified for Medicare when we turned 65,” Bill said. “There was no cash or other benefits involved, but we had saved money and our investments were solid, so we retired. The health insurance piece was the big one. Without that, we couldn’t have done that.”  

And here’s where the story really gets good.

“We decided sell our house in Pensacola, buy a different boat, and take off,” Bill stated. “It was a 31-foot Mainship cabin cruiser/sea bridge style boat and we outfitted it to do long-term cruising. We pretty much sold or gave away everything else we owned and what little we kept we put in a storage unit. The attitude was 'let’s see what happens from here.'

“It took a while to convince Annie to buy a boat, move aboard it, and start cruising around, especially after she had spent a big part of her career an Insurance Adjustor for a company that processed claims for wrecked boats,” Bill continued. “But she agreed and we took off about three months after we retired.”

Bill and Annie’s ‘marine adventures’ began with a circumnavigation of the eastern United States, parts of southern Canada, and the Great Lakes and some of its tributary rivers. Dubbed the ‘Great Loop’ by boating types, the Griffins made the more than 7,500-mile, all-water trip in just over two and one-half years.

“We had a blast,” Bill noted adding their dog ‘Moose’ made the entire trip with them on their now christened boat ‘Rock Me Baby.’ “Some people do it all in one summer, but we took our time including leaving the boat in dry storage one winter in Annapolis, MD. We were basically a burden on our family and friends staying with them for about six months paying them back for all the time they had come and stayed at our beach house in Pensacola.”

With the nearly three-year cruise in their wake, the Griffins sold Rock Me Baby opting to anchor back in Pensacola living in and managing a 46-unit condo complex for the next 15 months. 

As you can imagine, that situation didn’t satisfy the couple’s travel jones.


“We were bored stiff,” Bill stated. “We previously had conversations about buying a recreational vehicle and traveling in it to places where you couldn’t take a boat. I wound up finding the RV that we wanted up in Oklahoma. It also had a tow car that came with it, so we bought it, loaded it up, and took it up the east coast of the U.S. In the end, we found that it was a pretty easy transition from the boat to the motorhome.”


Since then, there have been plenty of road trips including one where Bill took on hiking the Appalachian Trail. With their motorhome parked in a campground within a 50-mile radius of the area Bill was hiking, Annie would meet him from time to time at different places on the route with food and fresh clothing. 

“I wound up completing 900 miles of the trail, but my feet eventually gave out and every step was getting pretty painful, so wound up quitting at that point,” Bill stated. “It was disappointing not to finish because I was planning on doing all 2,100 miles.”


Over the past few years, the Griffins logged thousands of miles in their motorhome exploring the country and returning to the Gulf Coast area to spend time with their daughters and grandchildren (Brooke, Victoria, and Madeline) over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Then in 2021, Bill and Annie decided to build a new house in the Lillian, Alabama area. Now, they winter there and then hit the road for a new life adventure every summer.

“I just put up the hurricane shutters and hire a landscaper to take care of the yard,” Bill stated. “Our daughter lives just 15 minutes away from us, so she goes by once a week and checks on the house. Meanwhile, we have a post office box at the UPS Store in Pensacola, so all of our mail goes there. I just call them up, they sort out the junk mail, and send the important stuff to us either at a place we are going to camp or to a nearby UPS store. Besides, the mail isn’t that important anymore because we pay everything electronically.”

When they are at home in Lillian, Bill and Annie are active in their church as Annie cooks meals for various Bible study and activity groups. Meanwhile, Bill is active in a Men’s Prayer Group that does civic projects and elderly  assistance programs around Lillian. He also sings in the church choir.


“We’ll be back in Lillian in September,” Bill stated. “We’ll be involved in church activities full-time until May or so, and then we’ll be off again. That’s something we’ll start planning for as early as this November because you have to decide where you want to go and then reserve campgrounds along the way. A lot of people do what we do, so you have to plan ahead. I love doing that kind of planning. That’s an adventure all by itself and, as you can tell, we’re all about adventure at this point of our lives.”


Bill and Annie Griffin have made it their lives to stay on the go traveling the USA and Canada by boat and recreational vehicle. Here they are at top left with their dog 'Moose' on their boat 'Rock Me Baby'. At top right, Bill strikes a pose during his hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2018 and below, Bill and Annie take a break on their latest 99-day, 8,000-mile RV tour of the Western United State and Canada.



LIBERTYVILLE, IL (MAY 12, 2023) - Assuming you have a dog, when was the last time you dressed it up in an Easter Bunny outfit?


Or – do you have dozens of different dress-up neck bandanas for your dog for seemingly every holiday on the calendar?


The answer to both questions is probably "no."


That is unless you are Libertyville High School Class of 1971 graduate Sheila Stiles Joyce.


Sheila has three golden retrievers – Willow (age 12), Charlie (11), and Kiki (4) – and all of them seem to enjoy getting togged out to perform their duties as  ‘Therapy Dogs.’


“It’s hard to believe I have been doing Therapy Dog work at Royal Oaks Life Care in Sun City, AZ. almost every Saturday for 18 years now,” Sheila said. “I bring two dogs with me each time and we specialize in memory and health care. We have so much fun and it is so wonderful to be able to see and feel the love. Everyone is so glad to see us and we are so glad to see them. Our goal is to leave everyone smiling, laughing, and feeling loved.”


Sheila never imagined this would be her ‘retirement life’ when she headed to Bradley University after graduating from LHS. At Bradley, she earned an Elementary Education degree and later secured a Master’s Degree in Reading Education from Illinois State University.


“I wound up teaching for 32 years,” stated Sheila, who also earned 75 continuing education credits over that period of time. “I have taught and taken a lot, a lot of classes.”


After teaching stints in Illinois and Iowa, Sheila moved to Arizona in 1984 and now with two daughters in tow– Jen (1982) and Allie (1984) - put her teaching career on hold to be a full-time mom.


“I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom,” Sheila stated. “That – and to be a good wife – were my dreams back then. Then my husband got very ill and things changed quite a bit for us. He couldn’t work, so I was the sole earner for the household for 15 years. It was a hard time, but we got through it every day in a joyful way. My daughters were - and are - the lights of my life and we managed to always have fun through it all because God was with us ever step of the way.”


To make things work financially, Sheila returned to teaching and didn’t leave the profession until her retirement in 2012. 


“I love kids so much and I was able to give them joyful times and build them up,” she stated. “These were first-grade kids from a depressed part of town and a lot of them were going through their own hard times. They were scared. But they knew my classroom was a place where they would always be safe, it would always be fun, and they would always be loved. 


“Working with them helped me get through the hard times too. It was so great to be a caring part of their lives. Both they, and I, were able to put aside our problems at school. It was wonderful. Some of them still write me today. That’s really special.”


Teaching gave Sheila the mechanism to get through her challenges of balancing a life as a wife, mother, caregiver, and family financial provider. Then in 2004, her life took a decided turn of direction when she ‘rescued’ Bear, the first of what would become her eight Golden Retriever Therapy Dogs. 


“A lot of people will remember how much I loved horses when we were kids,” Sheila stated. “But I always loved dogs too and after I got Bear, I started taking him to obedience school and I just fell in love with it. Some of the people there did therapy work with their dogs and I just thought that was so cool. I wanted to be a part of that.”


Along with the rewards she earned as a teacher, being part of a team that lifted elderly individuals in managed care facilities proved to be equally fulfilling. 


“I loved my kids when I was teaching, but this is different because this is more one-on-one,” she said. “The dogs and I can love on them person-by-person. We can go into a mental health care room and it can be the saddest situation you can imagine. The person is just out of it. They may have their eyes closed and not want to participate. They may be angry. All I have to do is take their hand and put it on the dog’s head and their hand starts moving as they remember petting a dog. You can see them loosening up, see the bad energy leaving them. They look forward to seeing us every week. Some people have even asked to see us on their final day. It has been life changing for me. I feel like it was something I was made for.”


When Sheila isn’t visiting Royal Oaks, she serves as a home evaluation coordinator for Arizona Golden Rescue. There, she helps dogs that have been given up or thought to have no purpose anymore find for what she calls their ”forever home.” 


Sheila also fills her time off staying fit doing Zumba, walking her dogs, and spending precious hours with her two grandsons.


“Carson is eight and Ethan is five,” said Sheila, who now lives in Westbrook Village outside of Phoenix. “We do stuff together all the time and because I was an elementary school teacher, I know what kids that age like to do. We have so much fun. I’m ‘Grammy,’ and they love me to pieces.”


Sheila indicated that while many people think they have the perfect dog to be a Therapy Dog, many facilities require specific testing and licensing before a dog qualifies for therapy work.


“All of my dogs have had special training and have been licensed as Certified Therapy Dogs,” she said. “I use Alliance of Therapy Dogs because they can help you determine what your dog might be best used for and what kind of training it may need to accomplish that. Not all facilities require you have Certified Therapy Dog and if you have a good dog and can find a place that will let you visit there, I’d say go for it. All you have to do is ask.”


In closing, Sheila wanted to deliver a personal message to her LHS ’71 classmates.


“Yes, I still smile constantly,” she laughed. “Please don’t forget that I love you guys.” 

Sheila Stiles Joyce has combined her life-long passion for people and animals to create a lasting gift for elderly individuals in the Westbrook Village area of Phoenix, AZ. At top left, Sheila is pictured with her 'Therapy Dog' Charlie, a veteran of more than 600 therapy visits. Top right, a resident at Royal Oaks Life Care interacts with two of Sheila's Therapy Dogs. Below, Sheila is pictured with her grandchildren, Carson and Ethan, and her three therapy dogs - Willow, Charlie and Kiki.



LIBERTYVILLE, IL (APRIL 24, 2023) - Remember the spring floods when we were kids - the ones that caused the Des Plains River to flood?


Here’s a great story from our hometown Cook Memorial Public Library Archive to help your think about where you were and what you were doing during two such floods in the early 1960s.


Thinking some of you may have been impacted by these.


Just click on the photo below to see the story.


Personally, we love these stories about the history of our hometown.


Hope you do too.


And while you are here on the site, check out some of other topical stories below in the Reading Room, browse the Gallery with over 100 class photos and find ‘anything L’Ville’ on the Links page too.


Enjoy all.


Libertyville High School Class of 1971 Reunion Committee.



VERNON HILLS, IL (APRIL11, 2023) - If you'd have asked Kathy Weppler in 1971 what she wanted to do after graduating from Libertyville High School, her answer might have been to be an artist.


"I took an art class from Mrs. Brown for a semester in my senior year at LHS and had Mr. "S" (Ross Shellenberger) in seventh and eighth grades at Highland," stated Weppler, shown above with her granddaughter Keeley. "I loved painting and had a lot of fun in those classes. My thing back then was painting rocks. My sister and I used to paint them, and our mom would sell them at her work for a dollar each."


While painting has always been and still is a passion for Weppler, the now long-time Vernon Hills, IL resident wound up going in a different direction after graduating with the LHS Class of 1971.


"I knew I was going to go into teaching when I went to college," said Weppler, an Illinois State Elementary Education major grad. "I was glad to have a college education after I graduated, but initially I didn't want to teach right away. I got a different job, with Allstate Motor Club because I loved maps, and I liked planning trips for people all over the United States."


Eventually, Weppler grew "restless" with the Allstate job and determined she wanted to pursue a career in teaching, so she got a part-time aide, part-time teaching position at Avon School in Round Lake Beach, assisting in first- and fifth-grade reading in the mornings and teaching in the afternoon Kindergarten class. She went on to teach fifth and eighth grade at Santa Maria del Popolo School in Mundelein. 

Weppler then took a sabbatical for nine years to have a family of her own, also working at part time jobs. One job, a position in an insurance office, only lasted one week. 


"It just wasn't my forte,” said Weppler. “I knew I enjoyed being in a learning environment, especially with kids, so it became time to return to the classroom." 


The 'classroom' began as four years aiding a Kindergarten class at Laura Sprague School in Lincolnshire followed by one year teaching first grade at Calvary Christian School in Lake Villa. 


Weppler then spent 11 years aiding English Language Learners (ELL) and Special Needs students at Vernon Hills High School and lists the seven years of substitute teaching for all grades - and 14 more as a teacher’s aid in the Oak Grove and Lake Bluff school systems and at the circulation desk at Cook Memorial Library – among her favorite career positions. 


“It's all about the people and the books,” said Weppler.


Like most retirees, Weppler wanted to use her new-found free time to pursue activities that gave her the most personal satisfaction. That led to a return to painting, and an initiative to volunteer to help others. 

"Now I paint nature and landscapes on canvas," said Weppler. "There's something in those subjects that make my heart jump.


"But I'm a people person," Weppler continued. "I always have been. I've always loved reading, especially children's literature, and I definitely wanted to share that with people, too. When I heard about a program last summer called Reading Power in the Waukegan school system - a volunteer program to assist children in developing their reading skills - I decided to pursue it. I get to work every Wednesday, since this past September, with three Reading Power kindergarten students for 25-30 minutes with each one. The kids love it, and it is very rewarding to me."


Moving forward,  Weppler hopes to continue to volunteer in Reading Power, but she also hopes she can personalize it more by starting her own children's reading program closer to home. 

"The Waukegan program is great, but it takes time to commute, and there's an extra cost to do that as well," she stated. "There are other kids around us in Libertyville, Mundelein and Vernon Hills area who need reading help too, so another Reading Power teacher friend and I are hoping to move that locally, working as a team and using the books that we have in our personal collections as well. These books we cherish from our own childhoods, that we can use to do even more in-depth reading with the students.


"I think I've always wanted to do this," Weppler concluded. "I just didn't know how to approach it, how to get started. The Reading Program has shown me the delight and possibilities by sharing the inspiration of life learning with young ones - wherever we are."



If you were born in Libertyville, you most likely came into the world at Condell Memorial Hospital.


In if you grew up in Libertyville, you more than likely also visited there for various bumps, bruises, broken bones and even surgeries as a kid.


Anyway, here’s a link to a story about the beginnings and growth of Condell Hospital.


As always, many thanks to the Cook Memorial Public Library for this great piece of history detailing our lives and town.


Just click on the photo below and enjoy the read.


Here's another great story from the Cook Memorial Library about an area we are all familiar with - Hawthorn/Vernon Hills - and the origination and development of Hawthorn Mall...

Just click on the photo below to read.


Here's a great story from the Cook Memorial Library about the Hitch Inn Post, a place that has great memories for a lot of us.

Just click on the photo below to read.


Here's a link to a pretty interesting story about how folks 'our age' are branching out to all kinds of activities.

This is a cool read with lots of neat ideas as to how you can spend your time and enhance your life now.

Just click on the photo below to see the story.


Remember those awesome homes on Milwaukee Avenue? Well, here's who built them in a lot more in this great story from the Wheeling Historical Society and Museum.

Just click on the photo below to read.


There's a bunch of stuff out there about getting older - we are - but not aging - we aren't. LOL.

This is a good story about just that from

Just click on the photo below to read.


A lot of folks don't know we had one heck of a fire in downtown Libertyville in 1895. A big one. Here's a really fascinating story from the Cook Memorial Library archives about one of the biggest events in our town's history.

Just click on the photo below to read.


Every town has a 'main drag' - a street, a strip, a couple of blocks, a couple of miles. 

Ours in Libertyville was/is Milwaukee Avenue.

We bet you crusied it thousands of times in your parent's car, your bike, your friend's car, your car. Even walking.

We're also betting even after all that, there are things about Milwaukee Avenue that are in this great Cook Memorial Library story about our 'gut that you don't know about.'

Just click on the photo below to read.



One of the best ways to enjoy life is to experience new places and activities.

Here's an amazing story from our silly British friends at LifeConnect24 that says its about 15 Hobby Ideas for 'Older People' when the reality is there are seemingly countless ways to engage here.

Just click on the photo below to read.


How many other towns have a 'spirit infested' Devil's Gate?

L-Ville does - and we think you'll remember a bunch about it when you click on the photo below from The Patch.



Even Brando loved the Liberty. We all did.

That's why this is such a cool story about a place we all went to see a movie.

To read about the history of the Liberty, click on the Liberty Theather photo below.