On Veterans Day, I interviewed the person who chose the winning name
30 years ago for the new 10-mile highway from Interstate 88 and Gurler Road to Route 23 and Plank Road north of Sycamore.
Malta second grader Kate Rogers submitted the name Peace, which was then chosen by the DeKalb County Transportation Committee. They selected 15 finalists and decided on Kate’s entry. Students from all the county’s schools were invited to participate.
Some of the other suggestions were amusing, I thought: Penney Port, Firecracker Street, Ribbon Road, Corn Grove, Safeland Road, Rocky Road and Shortcut Road, among others.
The committee eliminated four names from DeKalb with the word “Barb” in them. Names with “Huskies” in them were not considered because the committee thought they might better be used on streets closer to campus. I didn’t find out if “Sycamore Spartans” also was suggested.
Then-committee chairman Charles Marshall made the motion to approve Peace because, he said at the time,
“I didn’t think kids thought about peace a lot. I think this could be dedicated to all the veterans, especially the Vietnam veterans, as a symbol of what they fought for.”
I reached Kate (whose last name is now Maximena) by phone in the small town of Brookston, Indiana. She said she went through Malta High School, graduating in 1998, then joined the Army. I thought it ironic that someone who favored the name Peace would choose a career in the military, but Kate explained she became a medic “because I was more interested in saving people than shooting them.”
She served some 14 years including the reserves and attained the rank of sergeant. During her time in service she was deployed to Iraq for a tour of duty in 2005-’06. She was discharged in 2011 and now works in Brookston. The town is a bit larger than Malta with 1,500 population and is known for its fall Apple Popcorn Festival, which celebrates the harvest of their two most popular agricultural products.
Her prize for naming the road was a $100 savings bond, plus getting to cut the ribbon when the next section of the road was opened. In order to buy her first car years later, she said she cashed in the bond to help with the down payment. She has four sisters and a brother who also joined the Army like she did.
Driving on Peace Road every Sunday on our way to church in Sycamore will have more meaning to me now.
Thanks to former Malta junior and senior high school principal Tom Weber and the Joiner History Room for their help in researching this article.
• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. His past columns can be found on his website www.dekalbcountylife.com.