February 14, 2012 was a big day for the Coles County Barbershop Chorus. All the preliminary planning (thanks Les, Bob/Steve, Dave, and JR!) and the leg work paid off as four different quartets sang more than 75 Singing Valentines in fourteen different towns. The singers traveled a total of 600 miles to earn what should be approximately $2,000 for the vocal music programs of area high schools that support our Youth in Harmony Festival each year.
We’ve had a mild winter, but at 6:30 AM on 2/24/12, our backyard looked like this.
We had the candy, the cameras, the singers and Jim Roll produced the clever cards.
Even our singers came from a diversity of home towns - 16 singers and 11 different communities (Altamont, Arthur, Brocton, Champaign, Charleston, Hinsdboro, Neoga, Oakland, Shelbyville, Strasburg, and Tuscola).
In no particular order, here are the four quartets who sang so faithful on St. Valentines Day. The photos have been arbitrarily selected for their diversity and interest.
Quartet #1: Ken Hull – Charleston, Dave Clausing – Charleston, Denny Thomas, and Chuck Heinz – Altamont – Champaign. They sang in six different communities: Charleston, Effingham, Mattoon, Neoga, Shumway, and Strasburg.
“Oh the Wells Fargo wagon is a comin’ down the street....” Remember that song from The Music Man? This foursome got their foot in the door with these ladies at Wells Fargo Advisors. Interestingly, the person who chairs the Charleston Area Charitable Foundation, an organization that has given us annual grants to host the Youth In Harmony Festivals each fall, has an office around the corner. Hopefully, he liked what he heard.
It might appear that this lady (former cashier at the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy) was here all alone but that is not true. Also in the room were her husband, daughter and eight members of her 30 year old coffee club.
CCC member Rich Helton is recovering from knee transplant surgery, so he couldn’t sing a valentine to his mother, But he hired his buddies to sing for Evelyn. She’s received Singing Valentines for several years, so she no doubt knows the songs very well.
It is hard to surprise a spouse, but Karen Clausing, standing next to her gray bearded husband, was caught off guard. Karen is a pharmacist (as is Dave) and while working in a grocery store pharmacy, the foursome just barged in and started singing to her...much to the delight of the customers who quickly gathered to hear the concert.
Quartet #2: Brad Smith – Hindsboro, Bob Jones – Shelbyville, Ron Hawkins – Oakland, and Steve Blucker – Arthur. They sang in seven communities: Arcola, Arthur, Assumption, Mattoon, Oakland, Sullivan and Tuscola .
Ron Hawkins works for GSI in Assumption, IL, so it is not surprising that he found a way to sing for some of the office ladies.
Most of the Singing Valentines were sung in and around Arthur. Steve Blucker grew up there and still lives in the community. Here, he revisits the old high school and shows his picture in the 1971 graduating class.
Much to her surprise, this Arthur Junior High teacher received a card, two songs, a box of candy and a big “SURPRISE” from her students and fellow teachers.
Talk about the old time drug store. Here it is, Dick’s Pharmacy in downtown Arthur. The shelves are well stocked and the bottle collection is unbelievable. Susan Custer, long time store employee, seemed pleased, even if Bob Jones started exploring after he took the photo.
Quartet #3: Derek Gilbert – Charleston, Jeff Bowyer – Arthur, Eric Brucker – Tuscola, and Jim Kraatz – Champaign. Most of their Valentines were sung in Mattoon and Charleston.
There are some perks in singing with a quartet. For instance, you can talk the other three into singing for your wife. Eric Brucker took advantage of that option as the quartet sang for his expectant wife – Dr. Kate Brucker. She is a veterinarian and has two young girls. In a few months, it will either be the Brucker Sisters Trio or perhaps a future young singer for the CCC. Eric stands at his wife’s right shoulder.
Some fifty ladies at Brookstone Estates in Mattoon enjoyed this handsome group of men and their music. It wasn’t a trio -- Jeff Bowyer had to take the picture.
Dr. Phil Kepp, popular Mattoon dentist, has been a faithful supporter of the CCC. Each year he orders several Singing Valentines. In this photo, he is shown at the far left (with the quartet in the back row).
No wonder he has such a large business. With his staff of beautiful women, his chairs are no doubt full most every day...of men!
There is nothing gray about this photo. It is either black or white...and red. Jeff Bowyer is a long time barbershopper who has had many leadership roles in the CCC. He stands at the right shoulder of Marsha, his wife, who similarly has been very active in supporting the CCC and barbershop singing throughout Illinois.
Quartet #4: Tom Woodall (in front) – Charleston, Jim Roll – Brocton, Floyd Phillips – Neoga, and Les Heath – Charleston. They sang in Charleston, Greenup, Mattoon, Oakland, and Apex, North Carolina.
This is a special photo for the CCC Singing Valentine archives. Jennifer is the wife of a former EIU student athlete, who requested a Singing Valentine for her. The problem is that she lives and works in Apex, NC.
She took this photo of the quartet while listening and watching in her office, documenting the first ever CCC "Skyped Valentine". Of course the quartet singers got to see her and a half dozen or more of her office workers who came to look and listen as well.
One stop saw the quartet visit Carl Sandburg Elementary School in Charleston, where Les Heath works. A room full of third graders seemed to enjoy the singing, especially Abby Woodall (back row, dark top -- great granddaughter of Tom and Marge).
While singing in an area nursing home, a request was made for “Happy Birthday”. It was the 100th birthday of the woman who was the focus of attention. In addition, she got a couple of Singing Valentine songs....for good measure.
After singing at the Oakland State Bank, the quartet requested a picture near the large vault/safe. WOW. It would be hard to get money out of that place, unless you asked the Singing Valentine recipient....very nicely.
The quartet knew they better sing well for Dr. Patty Poulter. She is a professional musician, has directed many choirs and ensembles, teaches and performs through the Eastern Illinois University Music Department, and is now the Dean of the College of Art and Humanities. She is a supporter of all kinds of music and seemed to appreciate her valentine -- which by the way, was purchased by the Wesley United Methodist Church Choir, which she directs.