On going home and losing loved ones

Chuck and I returned to my hometown of Dupo, Illinois last weekend to say goodbye to my beloved Uncle Marvin Stott. It was bittersweet since I was so happy to be back home and yet not, certainly, for this reason. Marvin was the town's historian. He knew every piece of history worth knowing and then some. In this railroad town, population 3,000, along the banks of the Mississippi, he was the only person with an encyclopedic knowledge of its history and the people who made it great. He had collected everyone's obit and could tell you exactly when they died and at what age. He passed away on October 4 at age 84 after a long struggle with Alzheimers. For someone who so loved remembering, this disease was particularly cruel to my Uncle Marvin.

On a brighter note, I was happy to see that my little town and the surrounding areas of Waterloo and Columbia are thriving. In fact, I don't think they've ever looked more inviting. On my last visit, I swore I wouldn't come back. The houses weren't kept up and the lawns were a mess. And my little childhood home at 325 Louisa Avenue looked too depressing even for a drive-by. But today, it's looks like the Property Brothers took over these areas and transformed them into something right out of a storybook.

A visit to Waterloo's charming annual Pumpkin Fest sealed the deal for me. It was such a joyous occasion I expected the attendees to break out into song at any minute just like a wonderful old time musical. There were balloon artists, pets for adoption from the local rescue center, a craft brewery tasting table, a ring toss, performers dressed (and singing) ala the "Frozen" characters, a hayride, a pumpkin farm vendor, a pumpkin "train" ride for kids, crafts, homemade (!) canned goods, delicious food stands offering everything from fried Twinkies to BBQ and so much more!  People were friendly and welcoming and it made our hearts sing.

A first-time visitor to the Fest from St. Louis, Ronald E. Hughey, brought his grand-kids and wrote a loving tribute about his experiences in the local newspaper, the Waterloo Republic-Times. "After watching gloom and doom on the news about the state of our country, thank you for making me feel that as long as we have towns like Waterloo filled with good people, there is hope for a brighter future for all of us."

Amen to that Mr. Hughey. I have a feeling property values are on the verge of skyrocketing. I better find a real estate agent.

And I disagree with Thomas Wolfe's comment that "you can't go home again." You can and should.

(Additional photos by my dear friend Natalie Sager Steppig)

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