Laura Ann Cole-Benton, IL

Laura Ann Cole, 83, of Benton, passed away on Sunday July 9, 2023 at her home.

She was born on September 18, 1939 to Walter and Josephine (Smid) Elder. She married John R. Cole on November 21, 1962,

She is survived by her husband John R. Cole of Benton, two daughters Gayla A. (Rick) Kent of Benton and Donna K. (Darryl) Jones of Mt Vernon, as well as numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, brothers-in-laws and sisters-in-laws.

She was preceded in death by her parents Walter and Josephine Elder, one son Ronnie L. Cole, two brothers Charles Elder and Walter Elder II.

Graveside services will be on Friday July 14, 2023 at 10:00 AM at the Maple Hill Cemetery in Sesser with Dennis Jones officiating.

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John Hughes-Sesser, IL

John Walter Hughes, 76, of Sesser, passed away on Friday June 30, 2023 at his home.

He was born on January 22, 1947 in Herrin, IL to Walter and Dorothy (Barrass) Hughes. He married Tina (Hampton) Hughes on October 18, 2010 and she preceded him in death on September 14, 2021.

John is survived by his children William David Hughes of Maryland, John Michael Hughes of Maryland, Susan Lynn Hughes of Maryland, Gina (Bryan) Hiller of Christopher, Donna (Javier) Limones of Robstown, TX and Zachary Baker of Harrisburg; 15 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents and his wife.

Funeral services for John will be on Wednesday July 5, 2023 at 1:00 PM at the Gilbert Funeral Home in Christopher with Brother George Marshall officiating. Visitation will be on Wednesday from 11:00 AM until the time of the service at 1:00 PM at the funeral home. Burial will be at Mulkeytown Cemetery.

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Jacob “Jake” R. Kramer – Denver, CO

Jacob “Jake” R. Kramer, 42, of Denver, CO., passed away on June 25, 2023 in Thompsonville, IL.

He was born on August 17, 1980, to John Kramer and Valerie (Mason) Vicari in Benton, IL. Jacob graduated from Eastern Illinois University, receiving his Bachelors Degree. He would then receive his Master from DePaul University.

Jake was a loving son and father. His two values in life was helping others and being a proud father. He was a highly intelligent individual, who always lead with his heart. Jacob taught English for many years. He loved music and performing, reading and was a life long learner.

Jacob “Jake” is survived by his daughter, Elena Kramer; son, Declan Kramer; father, John Kramer; mother, Valerie (Victor) Vicari; two brothers, Hunter Rone and Adrien DeMartini; two sisters, Athens DeMartini and Tessa Leech.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents.

Funeral Arrangements have been entrusted to Pate Funeral Home, 301 South Main Street, Benton, IL.

Visitation will be held Friday, June 30, 2023, 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., at Pate Funeral Home, Benton, IL.

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m., on Friday, June 30, 2023, at Pate Funeral Home, Benton, IL, with Alan Newman, officiating.

Memorials may be made to Jennifer Law, in care Jacob’s children, Elena and Declan, and will be accepted at the funeral home.

Online condolences can be given at

George Orshak – Buckner, IL

George Orshak, 77, of Buckner, passed away at 6:25 a.m., on Monday, June 19, 2023, at SSM Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon, IL.

He was born on November 27, 1945, to George and Anna (Tyrpak) Orshak in West Frankfort, IL.
George was a United State Air Force veteran.

He was a member of the Protection of the Holy Mary Orthodox Church in Royalton, IL. George loved visiting with family and friends and enjoyed watching television.
George is survived by his sister, Phyllis A Petty of Benton and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, George, Sr. and Anna L. Orshak,and his sister, Elizabeth H. Browning.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Pate Funeral Home. 301 S. Main St., Benton, IL.
Per George’s wishes, cremation will take place, a private graveside service will be held at a later date.
Memorials may be made to the Franklin County Animal Shelter and will be accepted at the funeral home.

Online condolences can be given at

Melvin D. Dixon – Benton, IL

Melvin D. Dixon, 74, of Benton, passed away at 6:47 p.m., on Thursday, June 15, 2023, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon, IL, surrounded by his loving family.

He was born on September 21, 1948, to William and Florence (Watson) Dixon in Christopher, IL. He graduated from Benton Community High School, Class of 1966. When he was in high school, he worked for Davis Feed Store.

Melvin is a Veteran of the United States Army, serving during the Vietnam War. In 1967, he entered the Army serving three years and was discharged as an E5 Specialist receiving the National Defense Service Medal and Good Conduct Medal. He returned to his family in Benton, working at Roses Gas Station.

On June 5th, 1971, he married the former Barbara Learned. Shortly after their marriage, he was hired by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department as a Jailer. After 4 months, he was promoted to Deputy. On October 11, 1973, he was hired as a full-time police officer at the Benton Police Department, serving 28 years. During his tenure at the police department he served in many positions, from Drug Task Force to Police Chief. He retired on October 19, 2001. He was also a member of the Police Pension Board. Melvin then joined Brinks Armored Car Service for 13 years, until he finally retired in 2014.

He was a loving husband, father, grandfather. He enjoyed going to the gun range, watching his grandkids sporting events and attending every event they participated in. He also enjoyed traveling and classic cars. He loved being actively involved in the Benton Community and seeing it evolve.

Melvin was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Benton, IL, and a former member of the choir.

Mr. Dixon is survived by his loving spouse of 52 years, Barbara, two daughters, Amanda Miller and husband, Troy, of Benton and Sarah Stowers and husband, Derek, of Benton; five grandchildren, Matthew Miller, Logan Stowers, Isabella Miller, Lenox Stowers and Lance Stowers; brother, James Dixon of Benton; sister-in-law, Melissa Learned; three nephews, Ryan Dixon, Travis Dixon and Corky Miller and two nieces, Debbie VanWinkle and Jill Blythe.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William B. and Florence Dixon, a brother, William C. Jackson, a sister, Charlotte Miller and sister-in-law, Kay Dixon.

Services have been entrusted to Pate Funeral Home, 301 S. Main St., Benton, IL.

Visitation will be held on Tuesday, June 20, 2023, from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Pate Funeral Home, Benton, IL.Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. at the Pate Funeral Home, Benton, IL, with Pastor Jesse Hinds, officiating.

Following the funeral service, burial will take place in the Masonic and Odd Fellows Cemetery in Benton, with military rites by the Benton American Legion Post 280, VFW Post 2671 and the United State Army Honors Team.

Memorials may be made to the First United Methodist Church and will be accepted at the funeral home.

Online condolences can be given at

Donald J. Hardin-Zeigler, IL

Donald J. Hardin, 80, of Zeigler, passed away on June 10, 2023 at Herrin Hospital.

He was born on November 29, 1942 to Claude and Willie Mae (Simmons) Hardin. He married Cindy Sue (Duenos) Hardin on January 5, 2005.

He is survived by his wife Cindy Hardin of Zeigler; children Theresa (Dean) Dubois of Kenosha, WI, Tammy Hardin of Kenosha, WI, Donald (Kyndrea) Hardin of Crane, MO, Deborah Hardin of Kenosha, WI and Joshua (Kaleigh) Duenos of Marion, IL and several Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, first wife Linda Hardin, one sister Barbara Jones and two brothers Billy Hardin and Jimmy Hardin.

He was a man who fiercely loved God, his wife, family and friends. He was a wonderful father and example for his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was a respected businessman, who was known for his honesty. Often referred to by friends and church family as the kindest gentle giant with the biggest heart. Don had the gift of hospitality. If you came to his home, you were not leaving without him preparing you a meal or sending one with you. He loved to cook, grill, serve at church, help others, garden, flowers, antiques, camping and being outdoors and old cars, especially his 46 Ford lovingly known as “Tater”. Don touched the lives of so many with his giving, kindness and love for God. He often said “God and Me Love You”. He will be forever missed and loved by his wife and family.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday June 17, 2023 at 2:00 PM at the Christian Life Center, 1901 North Park Avenue Herrin, IL 62948.

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Scared Straight: The Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist

This week will mark the 67th anniversary of the Sesser Homecoming Rend Lake Days. Coinciding with that event will also be the 58th anniversary of “The Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist.”

As a kid growing up in Sesser the annual homecoming that was held in the city park in the third week of June, was always the highlight of the summer. My main goal through the months of April, May and early June was to save as much money as I could mowing yards (or whatever I could do to make a buck) so I’d have a pocket full of cash when the James Jackson Shows and Rides rolled into town.

Actually, back then a ‘pocket full of cash’ might have amounted to $15 or $20 but in those days it was a windfall. And knowing my enthusiasm my mom would always hand me three or four Eagle Stamp books a few days before the Homecoming – books that she know doubt had been saving for weeks. I would happily go redeem them – they were worth $1.50 apiece – and add the proceeds to my stash.

Also, every year when the ‘Carnies’ rolled into town I would head to the Sesser City Park on my trusty Schwinn Stingray bicycle where I was joined by an assortment of other knuckleheads. There, we would spend the entire day watching the workers assemble the assortment of rides while counting the minutes until the homecoming became alive with excitement.

One year, when I was 11 years old, we were at the park and we were all straddling our bicycles very near one of the small booths where ride tickets are sold. Noticing that no one was around one of my friends reached into the booth and grabbed an entire roll of carnival ride tickets. Looking back, there must have been 5,000 tickets on that roll.

As he headed out of the park with the stash shoved up under his shirt, for a reason to this day that I don’t understand, I tagged right along behind him. Much like the cowboys in the movies who rob a bank and then head to a safe house to divide the loot, we decided to ride our bikes to Sesser Lake, located a couple of miles southeast of town, to divvy up the cache of yellow ride tickets. To say that I had visions of endless Ferris wheel and tilt-a-whirl rides on my mind would have been an understatement. As a carnival junkie I had just hit the mother-lode.

We realized quickly that we had far more tickets than we could use so we played like Robin Hood – steal from the rich and give to the poor — and began dispersing yellow ride tickets all over town. Soon the word spread in the kid community throughout Sesser and we had guys looking for us hoping to ‘score’ some of the hot (in more ways than one) tickets.

Everything was going along without a hitch until the day that the homecoming was scheduled to start. I headed to town that morning and was soon met by my accomplice who was frantic and talking a mile a minute. During times in the conversation when he was coherent he related that he overheard his parents talking about some ‘stolen ride tickets.’ He said the police had been notified and that the color of ride tickets had been changed to blue. According to his story, anybody with a yellow ticket would be arrested.

As I listened to him talk, and my 11-year-old mind surmised the situation, I realized that this would be my last day of freedom. I was certain that I would be sent to prison and celled up with a guy with tattoos, body odor and no teeth. Life as I knew it and enjoyed it would be over.

Actually, the thought of being arrested, sent to prison and branded as a thief paled in comparison to what I knew would happen if my dad found out. The thought of the police and sharing a cell with Bubba was one thing, but the thought of Bill Muir planting a boot in the seat of my pants was something else. For those of you who consider that child abuse, my dad would quickly tell you it was the most successful way he found to deal with a heathen child.

After a few minutes of remorse followed quickly by panic we decided that we still had time to try and round up the stolen tickets. We must have ridden our bikes 50 miles that day trying to recover those blasted yellow tickets and were successful finding everybody but one person. Only minutes before the rides were scheduled to start we found out that the one person we were looking for was already at the homecoming, so we made a frantic run for the park. We found him happily standing in line at the Ferris wheel with a yellow ticket clinched in his hand. We managed to get to him before he got to the ticket-taker, and in the process spared ourselves a lengthy prison sentence.

I plan to attend the Sesser Homecoming this weekend and enjoy one of those delicious barbeques and some roasted corn. And in the highly unlikely event that I decide to venture on one of the many carnival rides, you can be certain that I will gladly pay for the ticket because I still vividly recall that harrowing June day 58 years ago when “The Great Sesser Homecoming Ticket Heist” scared me straight and quickly ended my life of crime.

Judith “Judy” Espy-Christopher

Judith (Judy) L. Espy, 83, died at home Saturday from complications related to Parkinson’s.

Judy was born to the late E. D. and Treza Trogolo. Judy graduated from the Villa Duchesne high school and Maryville University in 1961. She married James R. Espy in 1961 and they lived together in Lawrence, KS. before relocating to Christopher, IL in 1963.

Judy was a homemaker, and after raising her children worked as an educator and actor. She was a proud member of the local school board for many years, and an active member of St. Andrews Catholic Church. She enjoyed bicycling and was an avid swimmer. Judy was best known as a loving and supportive mother and grandmother to her family.

She is survived by three children, James Trogolo Espy of St. Louis; Treza L. Espy (Tim) of Warrenton, MO; and Mary Ellen McCoy (Tim) of Clarksville TN. She is also survived by brothers Conrad Trogolo (Donna) of Paducah, KY, Ramon Trogolo (Barbara) of Owensboro, KY; grandson Charlie James McCoy of Clarksville, TN; 11 nieces and nephews; best friends Leslie Dolan of St. Louis, Linda Burkitt of Christopher, IL and ‘chosen’ family member Shari Arondelli of Christopher, IL.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Saint Andrews Altar Society, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, or the Children’s charity of your choice.

Visitation will be Tuesday, May 30th at 10:00 at St. Andrews Catholic Church, with a Funeral Mass following at 11:00. Dinner will follow in Parish Center

A private burial will occur at a later date and a Celebration of Life will be planned in the future for family and friends.

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Cynthia Sue Bowlin Stover – Brockwood, AL

Cynthia Sue Bowlin Stover, 51, of Brookwood, AL, formerly of Elkville, IL, passed away May 24, 2023. Cynthia loved her Harley, cooking home cooked meals, and making memories with her grandchildren.

She is preceded in death by her parents Lyle and Mandy; granddaughter Oakley Renee “Nag Nag”; Grandpa and Grandma Lucas; and sidekick Petey. She is survived by her husband Chris Stover; children Branden Lewis (Sadie), Felicia Trott (Brian), Seth Bowlin, Selina Bowlin, and Taylor Stover (Alexa); grandchildren Wyatt, Percy, Asher, Jasper, Wynter, and Declan; brother Rick Bowlin.

The visitation will be on Tuesday May 30, 2023, from 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM, at Peoples Chapel Funeral Home. The funeral service will be at 11:00 AM at the Funeral Home.

A Funeral service will be held on Friday June 2, 2023, from 11:00 AM until 12:00 PM at Gilbert Funeral Home at Christopher, IL. The Funeral service will be at 12:00 PM at the Gilbert Funeral Home in Christopher, IL.

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Kenneth Pearce – Benton, IL

Kenneth Pearce, 91, of Benton passed away on Thursday May 25, 2023 at his home in Benton surrounded by his family.

Mr. Pearce was born in Ewing, IL on December 15, 1931 the son of Carroll Hughes & Erma Q. (Lowry) Pearce.

Kenneth married Judy (Gifford) on June 28, 1958 and she survives.

Mr. Pearce was a member of the Immanuel Baptist Church and was an Army Veteran. He was a member of IBEW 702 in West Frankfort, he enjoyed drinking coffee with his friends and was a craftsman of all trades.

Mr. Pearce is survived by his:
Wife: Judy Pearce of Benton
Son: Les Pearce & wife Vicky of Ewing
4 Grandchildren:
Levi Pearce
Kael Pearce
Isaac Goosby
Amanda Goosby

Kenneth was preceded in death by his Parents, Daughter-Malissa & Brother-Ralph.

Funeral services will be held at 1:00 P.M. on Friday June 2nd at the Morton & Johnston Funeral Home in Benton with Rev. RIchard Lance & Dr. Kirk Kay officiating. Visitation will be from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. on Friday at the funeral home.

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Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News