In Loving Memory Of Matt McClure

I won’t pretend Matt McClure and I were best friends.  We were friends, yes–absolutely.  Good friends.  But I don’t know anyone who knew Matt who didn’t consider him a good friend.  The sad fact is, I haven’t personally spoken to Matt in years beyond a few social media messages.  That’s certainly not the action of a best friend.

Part of me feels like I have no business even writing this.  I’m not family.  I’m not a best friend.  But I believe that no one is ever truly gone as long as that person remains in our memories, and I want to tell you about Matt because I want you to remember him.  I want you to know Matt McClure because I don’t want Matt to be gone.

I’m writing this in order to process my grief.  I’m writing this to help my friends and fellow people from Beardstown process their grief.  I’m writing this because writing is something I do well, and I want to honor Matt the only way I know how.

We’re not going to grant Matt sainthood.  He was not a saint, but he was, without question, one of the bravest people that I’ve ever known.

I’m told Matt exceeded his life expectancy by quite a bit–some have said he wasn’t expected to make it out of childhood.  If you knew Matt, you’re not surprised.  He exceeded at everything he did–especially when it came to living.

Matt was a brilliant person.  His wit could run circles around everyone else in the room.  And while he had every right to be pissed off at the world, he instead chose to make us smile with a quick joke, an ornery grin, and maybe even a magic trick or two.  His charisma could dazzle you.

Like I said, I’m not going to make Matt a saint, but I never once heard him complain about, well, much of anything.  Again, he had every right to complain as much as he wanted.  No one would hold it against him had he complained.  But he didn’t–not that I ever heard.  He met life head on.  He didn’t feel sorry for himself.  He participated in life, even defined life at times.  Can we all say the same?

Matt loved sports.  Matt loved people.  Matt loved life.  That’s why Matt lived as long as he did.  It’s a fact that Matt McClure lived more in his 40 years than most people will in a lifetime.

I found out today that Matt died.

I guess that’s probably obvious by now.

I don’t know any of the specifics.

At first I thought it could be a practical joke.  He once tricked everyone into believing he got married (maybe it was engaged–I can’t remember).  He announced it on Facebook.  I knew his sense of humor, and I knew it was April 1st, so I called malarkey.  Matt loved a good prank.

You’ll have to forgive me–this all seems to be a jumble of thoughts and emotions.  I wanted to do a better job of this.

Know that Matt McClure endured obstacles on a daily basis that we could never imagine.  Those physical actions that we take for granted proved enormous hardship to him.  Yet the man overcame it all.  He was given a weak, frail body, but that didn’t stop him.  His sheer intellect made him more than a match against life.  His radiant personality could not be contained by corporeal limitations.  His enthusiasm for active engagement with the world surrounding him could be equaled by none other.

Matt McClure was no saint, but I’ll be damned if he wasn’t a hero.

Never forget Matt McClure.  He earned your remembrance.

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Strong Girls Photography Exhibit by Monica Estabrook

If you live in the Bloomington-Normal area, I urge you to attend Monica Estabrook’s Strong Girls photography exhibit.  The event will be held at Heartland Community College in Normal, IL.  According to their website, “Estabrook describes Strong Girls as a series that confronts gender biases through black and white photography.  The photos portray Estabrook’s former art students from Stevenson Elementary School in Bloomington. Each girl demonstrates unique strengths and individual character.”

Estabrook is a talented artist and teacher deserving of your recognition.  You can attend the exhibit’s debut and the artist’s reception on March 31 from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. in the Instructional Commons Building Room 2501.  They will even have a free drawing activity for kids!

Gain more information at the following links …

Monica Estabrook

Facebook Event Page

Heartland Community College

See you there!

Copyright 2015 Monica Estabrook

Dr. Drew Sommerville – A Man I Admire

I’d better say this right off the bat – I’ve been friends with Drew Sommerville since the age of three.  In fact, I’m proud to say I consider him a best friend.  Drew and I are both from a small town, so we literally grew up together.  After high school, we even chose to room together at Illinois State University.  I’m not sure there’s many people out there who can claim to know Drew better.

And truthfully, the whole point of this article is to voice just how proud I am of my friend.  For as far back as I can remember, Drew always said he wanted to be an eye surgeon.  Lots of kids say things like that to impress, but Drew could not have been more serious.  Back in our home town, we played together as children, then, as we got older, joined the same sports teams and generally hung out.  But even as we had fun, laughed, acted goofy, and clowned around, Drew always studied hard and worked to achieve the best grades possible.

But even as much as Drew studied in high school, I hadn’t seen anything yet.  For the rest of my life, I will remember our very first day together at college.  From day one, Drew hit the books harder than anyone I’ve seen before or since.  The man knew what he wanted, and he did not falter, he did not flinch, and he never lost focus.  That sort of sustained effort over four years is incredibly admirable, but for Drew, it was just the beginning.  He still had medical school to go, as well as an internship, a residency, and a fellowship.  By the time it was said and done, Drew powered through over ten years of studies and training to get to where he is today.

At the same time, though, he never lost his sense of fun.  Drew and I had many laughs during college, enjoyed each other’s company, and made lots of mutual friends.  But you rarely caught Drew taking a night off.  Weekends were no less important than weeknights when it came to his studies.  He knew what it took to reach his goal.  Most of us in college barely thought about the following week, but Drew had a plan spanning decades.

And now here we are, nearly twenty years after we graduated from high school, and Drew has exceeded even his own expectations.  He is a renowned ophthalmologist and published expert in his field.  He is part of a successful eye clinic, gives talks across the nation, and even serves as a consultant.

Drew sacrificed much to achieve his dream, but his wife, Heather, helped him through the entire ordeal.  In fact, they are high school sweethearts, and you cannot talk about one without mentioning the other.  They are a true team, have been since that first day of college, and I have no doubt that Drew’s success is largely due to Heather’s love, support, and understanding.  It’s not easy to date a medical student, it’s even less easy to be married to one.  Doctors are constantly on call, deal with an incredible amount of pressure, and must be ready to perform at peak levels all the time – a doctor’s spouse feels much of that stress, I’m sure.  But it’s obvious they are as much in love as the day they married.  They have beautiful children.  They are amazing parents.  When you hear people say that some couples are destined to be together, I very much believe that to be true in the case of Drew and Heather.

So wouldn’t you think after all that work, after all the success, Drew might have a bit of an ego?  Don’t you think he might remind all of his old high school friends that he lived up to his words, that he did what he set out to do, and that his bank account probably makes ours look like a piggy bank?  No.  Drew has always been humble, he’s always served a higher power, and he’s always been held to a high moral and ethical standard by his own fantastic parents.

Drew Sommerville is, as he has always been, an honest, fair, compassionate man.  It truly seems like the more success he enjoys, the more humility he projects.  Even though he’s worked his tail off for decades to be where he is today,  I’m certain he still considers himself blessed and gets on his knees everyday to offer thanks.

I admire Dr. Drew Sommerville on every level possible – as a man, a father, a husband, a friend, a son, and as a doctor.  He has inspired me my entire life, and he continues to do so to this day.

If you would like to visit Dr. Drew Sommerville, you can find his workplace HERE.

Drew Sommerville

 Dr. Drew Sommerville
 (image taken from Talley Eye Care website)

Get To Know Pete Moore

Perhaps you didn’t hear the news, but Pete Moore is now managing the historic Normal Theater in Uptown Normal.

I’d like to take a few moments to talk about why this is great for the community.

Make no mistake, though.  While I’ll try to be objective, I’ve known Pete for over ten years – he was in a my wedding, we’ve played countless card games together, our kids have play dates, and I count him among my friends.  So yes, I’m going to gush a little, but he deserves it.

I could tell from the moment I met Pete that he was an innovator.  At the time, he ran a website called BloomingtonNormal.com.  The website had much to do with the local Bloomington-Normal scene, and when he found out I wrote fiction, he invited me to provide content.  He also wrote for the site, and I tell you, it was some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever read.  A lot of people are funny in person, but Pete had a way of conveying his humor to the printed word in such an effortless, effective style that I quickly grew jealous and remain so to this day.

Pretty soon, Pete started using something called a “blog.”  He told me about it, helped me start my own, and, by 2003, we were off to the races with something about to catch on with the masses.  We all know what a blog is today, but back then it was not commonplace nor was it always user friendly.  I still have the html language cheat sheet that Pete made me to help me navigate those murky waters.

Soon thereafter, Pete started doing something called a “podcast.”  Again, I had no idea what that was, but Pete did.  Back in the early 2000’s, podcasts were incredibly difficult to produce and clunky to deliver online, but this did not stop Pete.  In fact, before long he produced two podcasts!  Both of these podcasts dealt quite a bit with music, which is a passion of Pete’s.  Like with technology, Pete loves to discover great bands before they get hot.  Honestly, he’s helped more than a a few bands gain a following.  (He’s actually a musician himself, too.)

This is Pete Moore.  He is always ahead of the curve.  He knows about the next cool thing before it arrives.  He’s typically the guy who tells us about the next cool thing!

Want to know just how much of a trendsetter Pete is?  Have you heard the phrase “BloNo” or seen the hashtag #BloNo?  Pete created that.  He’s proven it to me, and he can prove it to you.  If you’re on Twitter, you know how hard it is to create a hashtag that actually lasts longer than a moment, but Pete created one that transcended Twitter and is now part of the everyday vocabulary in Bloomington-Normal!  This kind of thing is very rare indeed.

And while Pete is certainly a guy with his finger on the digital and entertainment pulse, he’s also a man with tons of public relations experience.  He’s worked on numerous fund raisers, provided necessary public services, and supported several charitable causes.  He’s actively involved withe the Bloomington-Normal business scene, and I challenge you to find a mover and shaker in the BloNo area that is not on a first name basis with Pete.

That’s why I’m so excited that he’s now managing the Normal Theater.  I love the exterior look of the Normal Theater, but I haven’t had the “push” to actually go inside since 1995 when I was an ISU freshman and there was an old James Bond movie playing.  I have no doubt that Pete will deliver new, must-see events.  I am certain that he’ll regularly provide dynamic experiences for BloNo to enjoy.  He knows technology, he knows social media, he knows music, he knows movies, he knows pop-culture, he knows business, he knows public relations… he’s tailor-made for this position.

I wish Pete Moore all the best, and you can be sure I’ll be the first guy in line when he rolls out his first spectacular event.

 

Meet Kevin Suess: Educator Extraordinaire, Activist, and Good Man

Back in 1995 when I was just a freshmen at Illinois State University, a guy lived down the hall from me named Kevin Suess.  We became friends, and I’m glad to say it’s a friendship that has lasted almost twenty years.

Even back in 1995, Kevin struck me as an honest person, a guy who put others before himself, and a man unafraid to take risks.  With the advent of MySpace, Facebook, and later Twitter, Kevin and I got back in touch about eight or nine years ago.

Around that time, I took two years off to stay at home with my first daughter.  I don’t know if Kevin realizes it or not, but we would have coffee often during that time and he inspired me on a regular basis to be a better teacher, to truly grow passion for my career, and to wake up every morning excited to go to work.

When I returned to teaching in 2010, I was a new man, and I’ve loved my job ever since.  I owe it in large part to Kevin Suess.  I’m not even sure if he knows the impact he had upon me, for he’s the kind of person who leads unassumingly.

But it’s not just me Kevin influences.  He teaches high school Social Studies, he’s the chair of the department at his workplace, he is the president of the Illinois Geographical Society, and he’s the vice president of Bike BloNo, which is a group focused on making Bloomington-Normal more bicycle friendly.  In fact, he and his group recently got the city of Bloomington to move ahead on a bicycle master plan, so be on the lookout for that.  Kevin was also invited by National Geographic to attend a research voyage in 2010 to the arctic circle near Norway.    I’m sure there’s even more that I don’t know about, but as you can see, Kevin is a fascinating individual.

Furthermore, he’s a loving husband and caring father.  If I’m not mistaken, I believe he and his wife met long ago in my apartment during my junior year of college.  If I do indeed remember correctly, that is quite an honor for me.

I do hope you’ll support Kevin’s endeavors however possible.

Connect with Kevin at the following …

BikeBloNo’s Twitter Account

NormalGeo Twitter Account

Picture From The Pantagraph

Get Mixed Up With Oh, Alchemy!

I’m proud to claim Oh, Alchemy as a local area band made up of very innovative musicians.  Like me, they all have careers that they care about deeply, but their muse is irrepressible and so they write whenever they can, record whenever they can, and rock whenever they can.

I’ve written about Oh, Alchemy before when I attempted my one and only music review, but I stand by my words.  Oh, Alchemy produces fast-paced, eclectic, fun albums comprised of charming, quirky lyrics that convey a strong sense of joy from the lead singer.  The arrangements suit the lyrics wonderfully (or perhaps that’s the other way around), and I really love the choice of instruments Oh, Alchemy uses.  With adept engineering and skillful production, Oh, Alchemy is an auditory feast offering new sound after new sound with each listen.

Because of the strong, catchy beats and fast, energetic songs, Oh, Alchemy is perfect for any occasion, whether it be a quick trip to the grocery store or a get-together with friends.

If you’re looking for an upbeat, enjoyable listen with a great sound and unique songs, I recommend you give Oh, Alchemy a try.

You can find them at

www.ohalchemy.com

www.facebook.com/ohalchemy

@ohalchemy

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Picture taken from Oh, Alchemy’s Twitter page

A Few Words About Troy Marcy Photography

I’ve had the honor of following Troy Marcy’s work for several years now, and I can, without hesitation, attest to the fact that this man is a true artist, a student of the craft, and an ethical person.  Furthermore, he’s a good friend.

Troy’s passion for photography is evident with each and every photograph he creates. Many can take a picture, to be sure, but only some have an undefinable ability to produce drama, majesty, and mystery within those boundaries. Troy is one such talent. In particular, his nature and wildlife shots take my breath away on a regular basis.

Consequently, Troy does not relent when it comes to learning new methods. I’ve had many a technological conversation with him concerning his equipment and software, and I’ve understood none of it. He never stops learning, he never stops studying, and he never stops trying to take the perfect picture with the resources available. In fact, he’s been known to labor over a single photograph for hours upon hours in an effort to achieve excellence.

Which leads me to my next point. If you hire Troy Marcy, you will get his best work possible. This is a man who has a passion for photography, an insatiable desire to capture art. He is not out to get rich. He has no desire to fleece clients. His fares are more than reasonable, and his principles are always strong. He truly wants to make his clients happy, which is why he’s been known to go above and beyond for each photograph he takes on a client’s behalf.

As you can tell, I count Troy Marcy among my friends, but that doesn’t guarantee a positive word when it comes to skill or behavior. I am critical and objective when it comes to both art and business, and Troy Marcy excels at each. It is with supreme confidence that I recommend his work and his integrity to you.

Visit his website HERE.