Welcome to another Peoria Magazine Legends issue, where we pay tribute to those locals who make this little corner of the world a better and healthier place.
Nothing quite encapsulates the spirit of the Legends like the photo at the top of this page. Vietnam veteran Ken Staley had just deboarded the Honor Flight at the General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport on May 23, following a long-and-exhausting day touring war monuments in Washington, D.C.
Staley was making his way through the cheering crowd, there to celebrate him and the other 74 military veterans who’d answered their country’s call, when he came to a stop before a couple of ponytailed girls, both saluting him. He raised his right hand to his temple and returned the gesture.
Now that’s the kind of mutual respect you expect in the presence of legends.
It is never easy picking our Legends. We’re fortunate in central Illinois to have a bountiful crop from which to choose, which sometimes makes the job harder. In 2023, we again have found our way to five individuals and/or couples who over many years have distinguished themselves in their varied endeavors.
We salute the Rev. Deveraux Hubbard, the charismatic Peoria pastor who overcame his reluctance to ascend to the pulpit to build one of central Illinois’ largest predominantly Black congregations at Peoria’s St. Paul Baptist Church. He and his wife lost a son, yet managed to translate their grief into something good for the people they serve.
We salute the husband-and-wife team of Seshadri Guha and Dr. Meenakshy Aiyer, the tech company entrepreneur and regional dean of the University of Illinois School of Medicine Peoria, respectively. Both grew up in India nearly 9,000 miles away but have committed themselves to life-affirming and -saving careers and philanthropy in central Illinois, while encouraging others to “choose Peoria!”
We salute Lorene Ramsey, who as a 14-year-old softball pitching prodigy dominated the adults with whom she played. Yet her greatest acclaim came from sharing her inestimable talents and knowledge with others as a college coach, and from her indefatigable advocacy for female athletes at a time when the opportunities we take for granted today were not always available. Meanwhile, she won national titles with local kids, insisting they could hold their own “against the entire United States.” Now there’s a rallying cry for central Illinois.
We salute Jim Shadid, the federal judge who once upon a time would have traded his robe for a baseball uniform, but ultimately found dispensing justice more to his liking. It may not be widely known, but Shadid was a scholar and athlete who still holds the single-season and career base-stealing record at Bradley University. “None of us makes it alone in life,” said this captain of the courtroom who never forgot where he came from.
Finally, we salute Kevin and Lisa Schoeplein, who lived their belief that one’s work — in their case in health care and other missions — should be “informed by your values.” As CEO of what would become OSF HealthCare, Kevin would lay the foundation for the regional medical and economic powerhouse that OSF is today, to central Illinois’ great benefit, with Lisa’s support every step of the way playing no small role in making that possible.
In story after story herein, we salute many others, from those Scout leaders at the W.D. Boyce Council to former Manual High music teacher George Graves, who mentored so many young people who went on to emulate them and what they stood for, and to do so here.
Enjoy this month’s Peoria Magazine, everybody.