Geneva High School students create memorial garden
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Geneva High School students picked a good spot to create a memorial for their fellow students, friends and teachers who have left them too soon.
The "Viking Memorial Gardens," featuring some plantings, ribbons and other items is set along the small wall and park bench area next to the State Bank branch along State Street at Fourth Street.
That small stonewall also has its own meaning for people in Geneva who were young many years ago. It had been a gathering spot for teens to just hang out with friends, talk about stuff and watch people drive along State Street.
The nearby benches have always been a welcome area for downtown visitors needing a rest or for those packed onto the nearby parking lot during Festival of the Vine's Flavor Fare weekend.
Students, family and friends of some young people who were part of the Geneva Vikings' football family had a nice idea for the memorial gardens about seven years ago, wanting to include the names of players and a coach who passed away too soon.
The memorial rock on the site honors players Dustin Villarreal and John McNeil, and assistant coach Marc Fagot.
Fagot died in March of 2009 at the age of 55 after a yearlong battle with cancer. His death came a month after senior lineman John McNeil died from a mysterious heart ailment.
Villarreal died about three years earlier at the age of 15, his heart giving out while doing a typical high school sophomore thing -- just goofing around with his buddies.
I spent many years covering Geneva football games for the newspaper, so it's always nice to see something like this as a lasting reminder of the bonds created in a high school program.
Because historic and memorial sites should stand the test of time and always look sharp, here's a thought to consider. The Geneva students caring for the site -- or if this falls under the city's purview -- might want to consider a paint job for the benches in the next year or so.
New retail life:
The new TJ Maxx store in the Main Street Commons is a nice addition to that retail strip, which is expecting another uptick when Ross and Ulta stores make it their home as well.
It makes for an interesting transformation of that region on the east side of St. Charles.
For the longest time, Charlestowne Mall was considered the retail driver of the area, and Main Street Commons was built like any other area surrounding a mall -- a place with a few more stores and restaurants to take advantage of nearby consumers.
In a perfect world, the two sites would complement each other well. But retail is far from a perfect world these days, though many stores are learning the best approach to combining a brick-and-mortar presence with a strong e-commerce business.
TJ Maxx operates out of what used to be an Office Depot store, while a few other empty spots, including the long-vacant Borders location at the west end of the strip, should be filled soon. World Market, a unique store with a good following, has been in business there for many years.
In the meantime, Charlestowne has endured a slow death, and a name change to The Quad for what reason, nobody really knows. Only the strongest have survived -- the movie theater, Carson's, Von Maur and a few other small businesses. Shoppers can enter the mall only through the doors for those stores.
A future revamp calls for residential around these remaining stores, but we're certainly not holding our breath about anything anyone talks about related to this site.
It doesn't hurt any future ideas that Cooper's Hawk restaurant and a Starbucks are in place nearby, but it is equally important that Main Street Commons is starting to get its footing again.
It is only fitting I acknowledge that longtime St. Charles Library Board president Norm Huntley gave me a pretty good idea early on about what made people in this area tick.
His example of being a level-headed gentleman who cared about his community and family, and his respect of the newspaper for the role it played, may very well have convinced me this would be a good place to place some stakes.
Huntley passed away last month at the age of 81, reminding me that it had been far too long since I spoke to or had seen him.
As a news reporter and then sports editor here in the late 1970s, one of the first persons I got to know fairly well was Norm Huntley. His daughter Laura was a good athlete, particularly when it came to softball, so I would bump into him quite often.
He was, in fact, very active in girls' softball programs. But mostly, he was the "library guy."
Over time, I didn't see him much. My role at the newspaper changed quite a bit, so I might see Norm on those occasions when he was running for a library board seat again.
Those who knew him well don't need me to say what a nice fellow he was. But, after all these years, that's still the thing that stands out the most.
Good for business:
Not only is it a lot of fun when your high school football team advances in the state tournament, it is also good for business -- especially a pizza joint.
After the Batavia High School football team won an exciting 20-17 overtime game against Wheaton North last Saturday afternoon, the evening was full of joy and crowded restaurants.
No less than a hundred Batavia players, cheerleaders, students and parents were at Pal Joey's in Batavia that night. They were basking in the glory of their gridiron heroics, but also in the fact that Pal Joey's makes a pretty good pizza pie for its patrons at the River Street location.