Fort Payne Chapter, NSDAR presents annual awards and scholarships

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Fort Payne Chapter recently hosted its annual awards ceremony to recognize and celebrate the remarkable achievements of numerous outstanding members of the community.

Fort Payne recorded over 7,000 volunteer service hours in the community in 2023 and sponsors fundraisers and donation drives to give not only these scholarships but to support other community and veterans groups.

Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli attended the special ceremony and personally extended his heartfelt congratulations to each recipient as they were presented with their well-deserved honors and scholarships.

As a gift of thanks for taking the time to capture timeless memories with the recipients, Fort Payne presented Mayor Wehrli with a copy of “No Ordinary Life: Memoir of a World War II Bombardier,” written by Fort Payne member Sue Johnpeter.

The copy given to the mayor was signed by both the author and the subject of the book, World War II veteran Glenn W King, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 96.

Daniel Webster Scholarship

The Daniel Webster Scholarship is given to high school seniors attending one of the six local high schools who are pursuing a career path utilizing math, science, or technology.

After receiving applications from 17 seniors, the Fort Payne Chapter awarded two scholarships for $1,000 each. The recipients of the Daniel Webster Scholarship were Saishreyas Peddainti from Waubonsie Valley High School, who will be attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities majoring in honors biology; and Sophie Lin from Neuqua Valley High School who will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in computer science.

Fort Payne Educational Scholarship

The Fort Payne Educational Scholarship is to honor a high school senior attending a local high school who has been accepted to a college or university with a career direction toward a teaching profession.

This year, Fort Payne was pleased to award the $1,000 scholarship to Katherine Roberson of Naperville North High School who will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying elementary education and special education. As one of her teachers wrote, “Katie is passionate about teaching and makes learning exciting for young learners.”

DAR Good Citizen

The DAR Good Citizens program and Scholarship Contest encourages and rewards the qualities of good citizenship in high school students. DAR Good Citizens are selected based on demonstrating dependability, service, leadership, and patriotism.

The overall chapter winner of the essay scholarship contest for $150 on the topic of “Civic responsibility and the shaping of America” was Ani Apresyan from Metea Valley High School, Kaelyn Marie McGhie was the recipient from Neuqua Valley High School, Audrey Hayes Hartmann was the recipient from Naperville North High School, and Isabella Maria Olivares was the recipient from Benet Academy. Each school’s DAR Good Citizen received a DAR Good Citizen pin and certificate.

Excellence in American History Award

The Fort Payne DAR Excellence in American History Award is given each year to an outstanding teacher-recommended eighth-grade student who has demonstrated excellence in the study of U.S. history. The students may also write an essay, and this year’s topic was “Why is the U.S. Constitution so important?”

The award went to Julia Esser of Saints Peter and Paul School in Naperville, whose well-constructed essay included Calvin Coolidge’s quote, “To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”

Outstanding Teacher of American History Award

The Outstanding Teacher of American History Award went to Edwin Q. Noel of Benet Academy in Lisle. Noel has taught U.S. history and political science for 38 years and has especially enjoyed teaching his honors “America Since 1945” class. He is an impassioned and impressively relevant instructor, and, according to his staff, “one needs only to talk with his former students to understand the gift he has been to our school, our students, and the teaching of American History.” Noel also received an additional certificate signed by the Illinois State Organization DAR State Historian Cyndi Valencia.

National Defense Distinguished Citizen Medals

National Defense Distinguished Citizen Medals were given to two individuals who exemplify honor, service, courage, leadership, and patriotism. Recipients of this award must have contributed to the defense, security, or freedom of the community, state, or nation in an exceptional manner.

Patrol and Field Training Officer Marty Franken from the Naperville Police Department received the National Defense Distinguished Citizen Medal for his 29 years of service helping families in need, training new recruits, being a field training officer, learning and sharing the most recent developments in police department systems, and many more reasons while always showing his professionalism and compassion.

According to his nomination from the police department, Franken “understands the technical and procedural aspects of the job. He stays current with technology, knowledge, skills, and abilities while demonstrating a willingness to learn new methods, procedures, techniques, or systems to enhance his level of expertise.”

Community Advocate Response Team Coordinator Lt. Bill Kostelny from the Naperville Fire Department received the National Defense Distinguished Citizen Medal for his 21 years of service as the department’s leader of the SCBA division, leader of the department’s UAS team, leader of the MABAS Division 16 UAS team, leader of the bike medic program, leader of the department’s Pump Testing program, and many more contributions.

Lt. Kostelny was not able to attend the ceremony due to teaching a water rescue class, so Fort Payne looks forward to presenting Lt. Kostelny with his award at a future date.

Outstanding Junior Member

Kirsten Renn was named the Fort Payne Chapter Outstanding Junior Member for her contributions to the chapter. Renn has been an active member of the chapter for several years and has been an integral part of several chapter committees. Junior Members are women aged 18-35 and are the future of DAR.

DAR Excellence in Historic Preservation

Don Johnson, Lisle community volunteer, was awarded the DAR Excellence in Historic Preservation medal and certificate for decades of work in the service of documenting and preserving history in the community of Lisle at the historic Lisle Cemetery and with the Lisle Heritage Society.

Constitution Week Awards

Constitution Week Awards were given to Tom Hartmann from Blink of an Eye Productions and Madeleine Miller for their work creating an original Constitution Week film using interviews with people on the streets of downtown Naperville. The film demonstrates the impressive knowledge of the Constitution and the passion of community members.

Outstanding Dedication to Veterans Award

U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Captain Jennifer Slown was honored with the Outstanding Dedication to Veterans Award for her work placing a Gold Star Family Monument in Naperville and for her work supporting the mental health of veterans.

Community Service Award

Fort Payne Chapter chose Kelly Dougherty and Kristy Kennedy to receive the 2024 Community Service Award. Dougherty and Kennedy live in the area which was hit by an EF-3 tornado in June 2021. Their homes were not damaged but 60 of their neighbors’ yards were filled with glass, nails, and debris that would come up after each rain. The children couldn’t play in their yards, people couldn’t garden, host a barbecue, or just enjoy the outside in their yards. The cleanup for the yards was not covered by most insurance policies and was very costly. Kelly and Kristy founded Naperville Tornado Relief and set a goal of raising $1.5 million to pay for the removal of the yards and then the placement of new topsoil and grass seed for all the yards that were damaged. When they were acknowledged at the Naperville City Council a neighbor spoke and shared, “Kristy Kennedy and Kelly Dougherty are what community means because they stepped in when nobody else knew what to do, and they kept fighting for us.”

Outstanding Dedication to the Community Award

In honor of his unwavering service to our community, Fort Payne Chapter, NSDAR honored Ron Keller with the Outstanding Dedication to the Community Award and presented it to his wife, Vicki Keller, at the ceremony. Ron Keller was involved with the Naperville Municipal Band since 1951 and became music director in 1966 when he was only 26 and had recently retired in 2023. He worked tirelessly to get the New Community Concert Center built. He developed the band over the years into a premier organization which was awarded in 1991 the prestigious Sudler Silver Scroll Award presented by the John Philip Sousa Foundation recognizing excellence in community bands.

Prior to retirement in 1993, he was K-12 coordinator of music for Naperville Unit District 203 and director of bands at Jefferson Junior High. He founded the Ron Keller Scholarship Award to financially support a young musician who is inspired to become a music educator. Throughout his life, he has spent many hours volunteering to mentor youth and adults who also have a passion for a music career. His civic and benevolent volunteer service to the community has made a big impact. To celebrate and honor his legacy, the Naperville Municipal Band Concert from July 2023 was played during the reception following the award ceremony.

For more information on joining volunteer women dedicated to service to the community, contact Fort Payne Chapter Regent Jill Brewer at

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