St. Charles' 'walking history book' turns 95

  • Melvin Peterson, seated, chats with visitors at his recent 95th birthday party at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Charles. His wife, Ruth, is seated next to him.

    Melvin Peterson, seated, chats with visitors at his recent 95th birthday party at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Charles. His wife, Ruth, is seated next to him. Courtesy of Dave Heun

Posted3/3/2016 9:36 AM

Some us embrace longevity, thinking it might be interesting to live to 100 or longer; others can't imagine putting up with their aging bodies that long.

If you need a reason to feel as if it is worth a shot to live the long life, just chat with Melvin Peterson of St. Charles for a few minutes.


Peterson, known as the "walking history book" of St. Charles, celebrated his 95th birthday last week with family and friends at Bethlehem Lutheran Church.

It didn't take long for Peterson to mention the Baker Community Center board is going to honor him with a plaque for 72 years of service on that board, while also attaching his name to the center's lobby.

"And it looks like we are finally going to get an elevator in the center," Peterson said, referring to one of his longtime goals. Plus, it would help a guy like him move around the center, as he continues to attend the board's regular meetings.

Plus, he still goes out to the Wasco Blacksmith business he operated for years, and still owns the building, to help with various tasks and clean up.

In other words, he is active and alert. Not bad for a guy who goes as far back as working as a farmhand on Col. Edward Baker's property, which is now Pheasant Run.

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He also cut a deal with the St. Charles police chief in 1933 to be able to drive a car to the new Shelby Elementary School from his farm on Crane Road as a 12-year-old sixth-grader, as long as he went directly to school and back home -- and never had anyone else in the car with him.

He's an interesting fellow, no doubt. Let's hope he's with us into that 100-plus category.

Prayers for waitress

It may not qualify her for any type of special recognition, but Peggy Fodge has waited on my table during a meal more than any other waitress in the Tri-Cities area.

The Colonial Café waitress took my weekly breakfast orders during Tri-Cities Exchange Club meetings for at least 15 years.

It was sad to hear she has been undergoing intense treatments for tongue cancer, a diagnosis she received just before the holidays last year.

Our prayers go out to Peggy in hopes that she can overcome this setback and possibly return to the job she loved so much at Colonial the past 20 years.


Film and art

March must truly be "arts time" in this area. Batavia just had its fourth annual Fine Arts Festival and Geneva is preparing for its ninth annual Geneva Film Festival.

Information about this excellent film festival is available at, and you can get involved as a volunteer, something organizers always like to see.

This year, the festival will feature films at four sites -- Playhouse 38, 524 W. State St.; Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, 102 S. Second St.; Geneva City Hall, 109 James St.; and 25N Coworking, 25 N. Third St.

In St. Charles, ArtFest has showcased various student skills in visual and performing arts the past few days, with a pop-up gallery of visual and video artwork on display through March 27 in the BMO/Harris Bank building at 11 E. Main St. The gallery is open from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Another breakfast option

With Alexander's Café planning for a summer opening on West Main Street in St. Charles, the former Gabby's Kitchen location has found another suitor.

And it gives St. Charles another breakfast and lunch option, as those are the two meals Alexander's will serve.

My history on that spot might be a little sketchy, but I've been around long enough to remember when that site was a Lum's Hot Dogs in the mid-to-late 1970s. The next one that comes to mind is Spring View Family Restaurant, which was around for a long time.

There might have been a different restaurant operating there in the time between Lum's and Spring View, but it's just not popping into my head at the moment.

Good learning system

In attending the recent Pecha Kucha night in Batavia and watching the interesting presentations of 20 slides in 20 seconds each on various topics, I'm thinking: Now this is what high school should have been like.

I would have learned to pay close attention for short bursts of time and likely found the visual aspects very engaging. As it was, I simply scuffled through high school, except for gym class.

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