Bloomington-Normal lost several community leaders in 2012.
By Stephanie Pawlowski
BLOOMINGTON - Two former university leaders, many local business entrepreneurs and several members of the WJBC family were lost in 2012.
Jim Tobin, owner of Tobin's Pizza, died Jan. 28. He was 69.
Tobin was born in Chicago on March 30, 1942. He attended Trinity High School, Normal High School and graduated from Bloomington High School in 1960. He worked various jobs including construction, factory work for Admiral, and delivering pizzas for Ronny’s Pizza which Jim purchased in 1963, only to create the famous Tobin’s Pizza. He owned and operated Tobin’s Pizza for 34 years.
Besides the great tasting pizza, his loyal customers loved his sense of humor, practical jokes and carpeted walls full of pictures, as well as his relationships with them. He believed that his employees and customers were family and he treated them that way.
He raced motorcycles and stock cars locally and advanced to the ARCA and USAC circuits, racing at many tracks across the country including Daytona, Pocono and Texas World Speedway. He continued to enjoy the sport and the people.
Former Illinois State President Lloyd Watkins died March 1, 2012. He was president from 1977-1988. He was known for starting a more rigorous general education program in the late 1970's while also increasing education during his tenure from 19,000 students in 1977 to 22,000 by 1988.
President Al Bowman said Watkins had to continually fight for university funding during his tenure, despite the fact that ISU didn't have its own governing board at the time, meaning Watkins had to jump through more hoops.
"During his presidency, the state budget climate wasn' much better than it is right now. He spent a lot of time in Springfield fighting for faculty salaries," he said.
Watkins was also pivotal in the development of Redbird Arena. Watkins retired on January 14, 1988, saying the university would benefit from a change in leadership, and expressing frustration in higher education funding in the state.
Watkins was 83.
A former WJBC and WBNQ personality who was known as much for his service to the community as his time on the air died. J.D. Scott died April 2. He was 61.
Scott joined the WBNQ staff in 1975. In 1998, he moved to WJBC, where he worked until 2002. Scott's colleagues remember him as an optimistic and caring person who would do anything for anyone. Scott also worked behind the scenes in promotions.
In April, former Illinois Wesleyan University President Robert Eckely died in his home after a four year battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. He was 90 years old. Eckley served as president of Illinois Wesleyan from 1968 to 1986.
Before coming to Illinois Wesleyan, Eckley was an engineering officer in the U.S. Coast Guard for three years during World War II. During a memorial ceremony in Evelyn Chapel, his daughter, Jane, remembered Eckley's enduring fondness for the sea.
"He'd sprinkle us with nautical metaphors during our childhood, advising us to 'stay the course,' or 'hold steady as she goes.'"
Former WJBC Sales Manager John McDermott died early April 15. He was 82.
McDermott was a 1951 graduate of the University of Illinois and was employed as the director of sales for WJBC radio for 34 years. He was a member of Epiphany Catholic Church, Normal, the Knights of Columbus, Central Illinois Marketing Club, the American Marketing Association and was a Rotarian.
He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend to many.
Tami Jarecki died May 5. She was a teacher turned small business owner who combined the wonder of toys with education. She was 73.
She was a graduate of University High School and Illinois Wesleyan University with her bachelors degree in education. After graduation she began her teaching career and taught at Washington Grade School in District 87.
She began her own business for children in her home in 1971 focusing on children's educational products featuring one company. That business grew and moved from her home and became known as The Gingerbread House, which today represents 250 companies and has continued for the last 41 years.
Tami was recently awarded the 2012 retailer of the year award from the Central Illinois Retailers Association.
She was a member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church and was a former board member of The Children's Discovery Museum.
John Robert “Bob” Anet dued June 15, he was 64.
Anet grew up in Lake Oswego, Ore. and attended the American College of Switzerland and graduated from the University of Oregon.
Anet moved his family to Bloomington and started Central Station and Rosie's. He later became a realtor, always loving to meet new people.
When he wasn’t on the golf course or on the ski slopes making jokes or telling stories, you could find him at the pond, fly fishing or trying a new creation in the kitchen.
Pontiac's long time tourism leader died June 20, she was 81.
Estes worked for the State of Illinois, Department of Corrections and then in 1991 began working in the Pontiac City Treasurer’s office.
In 1996 she was appointed the city of Pontiac’s first Tourism Director. She accepted that position with her trademark enthusiasm and embarked upon a decade long journey that had her cris-crossing the Midwest in order to promote the small town she loved and called home.
Her efforts as Tourism Director resulted in the Pontiac Jolly Trolley, which stops at Pontiac attractions. This past year over 25,000 visitors from all over the world made Pontiac a stop on their travels.
Wally Barker, owner of Wally's Collision Center in Bloomington, died Sept. 30 after a fall in his home. He was 49.
He supported many charities including, Special Olympics and the Redbird Booster Club. He also donated to numerous benefits, whenever asked. Barker was a successful businessman who didn’t always let money rule his willingness to help others.
His passions included fast cars, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, family and friends and his dog, Tucker.
Local business owner Bill Wright of Normal created the Miracle League of Central Illinois two years ago with plans to raise money to build a field with a rubberized turf. Wright, the league's CEO, died Oct. 1, the day after the league's fall season had ended.
Board member Jim Grossman said Wright made it his mission to raise the money needed to build a field with a specialized surface.
"He had this passion and this drive to build our own specialized field that allow all people of all disabilities to play the game with fewer hazards," Grossman said.
Grossman said the league remains committed to reaching its goal. Wright was 79.
A legendary sports voice who got his start calling Illinois State basketball games died Nov. 4. Jim Durham died at his home near Houston. He was 65.
Durham got his start at WJBC as a part-time announcer while still in college. He became the Voice of Illinois State basketball in 1970, where he chronicled Doug Collins' All-American career, before broadcasting Chicago Bulls games starting in 1973. At the time, he was the youngest play-by-play voice in the NBA. He remained the Voice of the Bulls through the first of the Bulls' six consecutive NBA titles in 1991.
Durham had called NBA games on ESPN Radio since its inception 1996, working as recently as this October when he called the season opener between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.
According to ESPN, Durham is survived by his wife, Helen, their three children, Patrick, Richard and Tracy and several grandchildren.
Former Bloomington City Council member Walter Petry died Dec. 6 He served during the time when local leaders were trying to lure Mitsubishi to the Twin Cities.
Petry worked closely with former Gov. Jim Thompson to bring the plant to Normal, including taking trips to Korea and Japan. Former Mayor Jesse Smart said Petry was a good councilman who cared about the people and had good common sense.
"He really was a people person. When he was on the council, he represented the wishes of a large segment of people," Smart said. "He was always steady, kind and really had the community's interest at heart."
Petry graduated from Trinity High School. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean Conflict. He was a member of the VFW Post 454 in Bloomington, the Louis E. Davis American Legion Post 56 in Bloomington and the Bloomington Elks.
Petry was a plumber by trade. He was a member of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 99 in Bloomington. He served as a deputy coroner, a deputy sheriff, and as licensing board examiner. Petry was president of both the McLean and Livingston Counties Building and Trades.
Petry was 81.