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Schrader: Ending 2013 on a bright note

Here it is Christmas Eve and my birthday three days from now, leaving me to wonder how these past 12 months have slipped away.

Our dinner table companion the other night, Jane Helmchen, posed an intriguing question out of the blue when I mentioned my upcoming milestone. She asked, “I wonder how many inches of snow have fallen [here] in your lifetime?”

Being the mother of an intrepid journalist named Scott, I guess she shares the knack for asking questions that catch one off-guard. I have never excelled in math, so I had to go home and use my pocket calculator.

But first I had to connect online to the NIU Department of Geography weather station to learn that our average annual snowfall over the past few decades has been 35 inches. Then multiply that by my number of years on this “tired old globe” and I came up with 2,555 inches of snow that had piled up on DeKalb County in that time.

Please don’t do the math to calculate my age from all this, but I’m sure someone will. Then I started contemplating how snow plays a role in our lives season after season, unless we are clever enough to flee to a warmer clime.

Looking back over this year, I completed maybe two out of five projects I started. Make that two out of six, as I never cleaned out the basement (my private museum not yet available to TV’s “American Pickers”) at my wife Kay’s request.

Accentuating the positive, I can look with pride on the team effort of 15 people, skillfully herded by editor Kate Schott, to produce a stellar history of DeKalb County covering the past 50 years, which was just released this month. The title “Acres of Change” was suggested by the late E. E. “Al” Golden, whom I hold in high esteem as one of DeKalb County’s treasured icons.

I had the privilege of joining with other chapter authors for a book signing during the recent Saturday snowfall. Despite the snow, we still got to inscribe about 100 copies as we basked in the glory of the moment, knowing this historic effort probably won’t be repeated for another half century.

Getting back to projects completed or not, I feel compelled to publish my intentions for the coming year. One hope is to be a part of the effort to preserve and restore the neglected Annie Glidden/Oderkirk house on the NIU campus. Then there is that original 1835 log cabin between Genoa and Kingston being restored by Terry Hannan’s Forest Preserve District staff and volunteers. It could still use more furnishings and some promotion to make it a destination for tourists and classes of school kids so they can learn how their ancestors survived during pioneer times. I’m counting on the Ney Grange to continue helping the Forest Preserve District in this effort.

Another hope for 2014 is to team up with a few teen writers (do you know any?) to produce a trivia history, maybe an e-book, about DeKalb County. However, finding a nonprofit organization to sponsor the project and then attracting interest from the Youth Engaged in Philanthropy, part of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, will be a challenge.

I would be remiss ending another year of writing without thanking those people who were so kind as to email or tell me in person they enjoyed a particular subject or offered ideas for future columns. I have to single out one friend, Bruce Rebhorn, who penned four letters this past year to comment on something I wrote about. Those letters are few and far between in this era of digital communication.    

So Happy Holidays to you and yours from Kay and me.

Barry Schrader can be reached via email at or at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL. 60115. His column appears every other Tuesday.

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