WSIL TV’s – Sack Hunger: Sesser-Valier Lifeline Food Pantry


SESSER, IL (Evie Allen, WSIL-TV please click on the link above for the full story.  Here is an excerpt below.)

Get ready for another night of high school football and Sack Hunger. Last week, you helped us collect more than 8,000 items for pantries in Benton and Pinckneyville. Friday, News 3 will collect food in Johnston City as the Indians host the Sesser-Valier Red Devils.

Every month, around 70 families get food from the Sesser-Valier Lifeline Food Pantry. Pantry Secretary Larry Cook said that number jumps much higher during the fall to winter months.
“Especially, November and December, we may have upwards of 125 to 130,” said Cook.

“The thing that I find quite often is there will be somebody who will say, Pastor Larry could you, I’ve got a family member, I’ve got a sister, I’ve got a mother, somebody in need of prayer. Would you? And I’ll just stop and we have a word of prayer right there in the street,” added Cook.

You can find this pantry’s doors open every third Tuesday of every month from 9-11 a.m. The football game kicks off at 7 p.m Friday night.

50 Influencers Of Rend Lake College: Mildred Fitzgerrell, the Godmother

by Reece Rutland, Rend Lake College Public Information

The Godmother of the “Sesser Mafia” might sound like an intimidating title, but while Mildred Fitzgerrell was making offers people couldn’t refuse, her power was seated in everyone’s admiration for her dedication, persistence and commitment to her community those around her.

The moniker “Sesser Mafia” was born out of Fitzgerrell, and a dedicated group, fighting to save the Sesser Opera House.


Mildred Fitzgerell

But Fitzgerrell was so much more than a charismatic leader of volunteers working toward saving a historic landmark. She was no less than a local icon, working nearly four decades in the Sesser Post Office, retiring in 1973.

Her husband, State Rep. Wayne Fitzgerrell, was killed in an auto accident in 1965 on his way to the legislature in Springfield and she never remarried. However, she never quit caring about her hometown.

As the widow of a near-legendary State Representative and with a very recognizable last name, Fitzgerrell could have separated herself from the community, then Sesser Mayor Ned Mitchell said, but noted she did just the opposite. Mitchell said she had an “elegance” about the way she handled herself.

“But she was still one of us and probably one of the most unpretentious people I’ve ever known,” the Mayor said. “There were no airs about Mildred. She was just a genuine person, a good and kind person.”

While Fitzgerrell’s devotion to her hometown is well-documented, the long-term effect of her work with the Rend Lake College Foundation has made an equally lasting mark on history.
Former RLCF CEO Pat Kern reflected on the remarkable impact Fitzgerrell made on the lives of RLC students.

“It’s an overused phrase these days, but she is truly a person who made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives,” Kern said. “There are over 20 RLC students who received their degrees because of the gift Mildred gave. It would be amazing to know how many lives those 20 have affected. She has been an integral part of the RLC Foundation.”

In 1984, Fitzgerrell was one of the first individuals to set up an endowed fund that provided an annual scholarship.

Fitzgerrell and Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Junkins contributed $5,000 during the RLC Foundation’s Sesser Fund Drive in ‘84 in order to set up the scholarship, which is awarded annually to a Rend Lake College student who has completed the freshman year and will be continuing at the Ina-based community college the following fall.

“Wayne was always very interested in education and helping students obtain scholarships,” said Fitzgerrell at the time the scholarship was announced. “I have had people tell me since his death that Wayne had helped them get scholarships.

“That is one of the main reasons why we wanted to do this. We know that if Wayne were still alive, he would have wanted to be a part of Rend Lake College.”

She went on to become a Foundation Board member in December 1989 and was an active participant thereafter. In 1995, she launched the “Generations of Excellence” capital campaign in Sesser with her lead gift of $10,000, encouraging others to do the same.

“I am all for Rend Lake College,” Fitzgerrell expressed. “It’s good students have a place like that to go their first two years (of college).”

When the RLC Foundation established its Presidential Award in 1995 to recognize deserving Foundation supporters, she was one of four recipients to be so honored the first year (along with Howard L. Payne, Hunt Bonan and fellow townsman Richard Garner).

In November 1992, Fitzgerrell was named “Person of the Year” by the Sesser Chamber of Commerce. In December 1993, she was recipient of the first “Southern Illinois Rural Genius Award” presented by the Southern Illinois Arts Council for her work in helping preservation efforts involving the Sesser Opera House.

In 2002, she was one of the two individuals who received Third Annual “Distinguished Alumni” Awards from Sesser-Valier High School. She was a graduate of forerunner Goode-Barren Township High School (Class of 1931).

At the time of her Alumni Award, her credentials … “Mildred (then 88) worked at the Sesser Post Office for 37 years and is a member of the Sesser United Methodist Church, Woman’s Club, Senior Citizens, the Opera House Board, Chamber of Commerce, DAR, Beta Sigma Phi, and a 50-year member of the Eastern Star. She has been the recipient of the Sesser Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year Award and Beta Sigma Phi’s First Lady of the Year,” RLC veteran Herb Winemiller Jr. said at a ceremony to honor Fitzgerrell.

“While her late husband left a lasting mark on the district that he served for more than a decade, Mildred has quietly established a legacy of her own that will long be remembered, especially by the many students who have attended Rend Lake College because of her generosity.”

The State Park that serves as a next door neighbor to RLC, the Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park, was dedicated in October of 1976.

Country Legend John Conlee to perform in Sesser IL

SESSER, IL – Country legend John Conlee (Mr. Rose Colored Glasses), a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville will be performing on Saturday, October 7 at 7 PM at the Sesser Opera House in Sesser, IL.

During John Conlee’s 40 year career in Country Music, he has brought to audiences such classic songs as: “Rose Colored Glasses” (John’s signature song), “Friday Night Blues”, “Backside of 30”, “Common Man”, “Miss Emily’s Picture”, “I Don’t Remember Lovin’ You”, and more.

Overall, there have been 32 single releases throughout the years with 26 of them charting in the top 20 or better. Eight of those 26 have reached the coveted No. 1 spot on the national country charts.

Conlee’s fans are excited that he has returned to radio with singles “Walkin’ Behind The Star”and “Bread and Water”, released on his own RCR (Rose Colored Records) Label. “Walkin’ Behind the Star” was written by Nashville recording veterans Ronnie Scaife and Pil Thomas and the lyrics were inspired by Phil’s grandfather and great-grandfather both of whom served in their local sheriff’s department. The song had yet to be cut until recent events made it timely, the song was pitched to the Grand Ole Opry star, who was touched by the song’s honesty. “Recent deadly attacks against the people who keep us safe is unprecedented in America and I wanted to sing this song in honor of their sacrifice and willingness to serve,” Conlee said. The new CD will feature new material along with many of Conlee’s latter classics.

Conlee recently celebrated the 38th anniversary of his breakthrough hit “Rose Colored Glasses,” and can be found on tour throughout 2017 as well as on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, where he has been a member since 1981.

Tickets can be purchased online at or call 800-965-9324.

Retail outlets with eclipse glasses in stock

by Steve Dunford

The following list does not guarantee the quality, or if no longer in stock. is not liable for any malfunction of the glasses.

Franklin County


Casey’s (East Main Street Location)

Heartland office supply – free with a can good donation

Benton Gazette

Walmart is sold out and they do not anticipate receiving any more


Hometown Shirts and Graphics

Bowlin’s Foodland






Mom’s Milk

West Frankfort Gazette

West Frankfort Public Library (Free to patrons with a library card)

Perry County


Walmart – They have a limited supply

Available tonight from 7:30-9:00 p.m. at the Alder Planetarium Mobile Crew Show at the St. Nicholas Hotel

Williamson County





Franklin County businesses are prepared for the eclipse

by Steve Dunford

Several emergency officials has labeled the Interstate 57. US 51, Illinois 13 corridor in Jackson, Williamson, Perry, and Franklin Counties, for having heavy traffic and an influx of tourists coming to see the total eclipse,  which the path will cut right through Southern Illinois on Monday.  Estimated totals will say hundreds of thousands will ascend on Little Egypt.

Carbondale McDonalds at University Place Shopping Center, that has was purchased by Moreland/Bishop enterprises.  Their corporate office is in West Frankfort  (File photo)

Moreland-Bishop enterprises, based out of West Frankfort, owns a chain of McDonald’s restaurants across Southern Illinois, including two that the company recently required in Carbondale in February.   They also own stores in, Benton-West City, West Frankfort, Johnston City, Herrin, Carterville and two in Marion, in the four county area that will experience the extra tourists.

Late last week, I spoke with John Moreland, who with his wife Mary, and daughter Stephanie who has been long time owners of the franchises.  In the conversation he told me that coupled with the eclipse, SIU students will be allowed to move in the dorms on Thursday, as classes start next Tuesday.

He said this is unprecedented, but they are going to have extra staff, shuffled from other stores.  Management has been meeting for months to prepare for this weekend.   Their suppliers are prepared to make extra runs to the stores if necessary.

Moreland was concerned about the weather, and people might go elsewhere   At the time, The Weather Channel, predicted showers and thunderstorms for Southern Illinois on Monday in their 15 day forecast.  The storm system forecasters had their eye on will hit the region on Saturday.

He said, “No matter what, there will be people here,” citing that most hotels in Jackson and Williamson counties were requiring at least a three night stay.

To deal with communication issues, he said all of the company cars are General Motors vehicles, and they will rely on OnStar if local cell services go down.

Moreland told me their family will be guests to several friends and relatives during that time, coming from as far away as Texas.

Moreland gave me a story suggestion, follow up with businesses and officials to see what went right, and what went wrong.

“We are preparing for a typical fourth of July Weekend.”  says Bob Brothers, Store Manager of Benton-West City Walmart.  He says the reason being with the campgrounds are full at Rend Lake during that time and he expects a similar bump in sales.

Brothers said the store will be well stocked, and nearly every register will be going for the weekend.  They put emphasis on extra camping supplies and emergency management supplies,  such as batteries and generators, in case the power grid would be overloaded.

He says some sales will be determined by how heavy the traffic is on Interstate 57, barring whether people will exit to avoid the congestion.

Brothers also said they are sold out of eclipse glasses, and do not expect to get any more in.

Karen Freeman of Benton KOA says there are no vacancies for camping spots.  It has been that way over a year now.  “Several are staying five and six days and making a vacation out of it, Freeman said.”

Trudy Phillips, Store Manager of Sesser Casey’s, says at this time they will not have any extra staffing.  The store just received more eclipse glasses in stock though.


SESSER, IL – The City of Sesser is proud to be distributing free solar eclipse sunglasses for the upcoming solar eclipse for all residents of the city.

They are available at City Hall & the Library. Limit 2 per person unless you have more people with you.

The Custard Stand in Sesser part of the Illinois Ice Cream Trail

This Mouthwatering Ice Cream Trail In Illinois Is All You’ve Ever Dreamed Of And More


Please click on the link above from the website, for the story by Elizabeth Crozier.  There are several pictures of the Illinois Ice Cream Trail.

There are several pictures.  All the places featured are from Southern Illinois.  The trail goes from Marion to Centralia.


Bonnie High School

Photo provided to Illinois HS Glory Days by Wayne Arnold

NOTE:  There will be an excerpt of a piece submitted to Illinois High School Glory Days by long time Rend Lake College instructor Wayne Arnold.  He was a graduate of Goode-Barren Township High School (Now Sesser-Valier.)

When I was the pastor of East Side Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon, Wayne had family that attended there.  We became well acquainted.  At the time, he was still a season ticket holder for Sesser-Valier sporting events.

Please click on the link above for the full story.  –  Steve

Severin to Hold Satellite Office Hours in Sesser on August 1st

Press Release for the office of State Representative Dave Severin

MARION, IL –  State Representative Dave Severin (R- Benton) will be holding satellite office hours at Sesser City Hall, 302 W Franklin St, in Sesser from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm on Tuesday August 1st.

Rep. Severin’s staff will be available to meet with constituents to address concerns and receive feedback on the issues most important to them.

If you have any questions, please contact Rep. Severin’s District Office at (618) 440-5090 or through the contact form on his website at


J & C Produce and Pies – Hit at local Farmer’s Markets as well as their stand at home

by Steve Dunford

SESSER, IL –  There have been several circles in my life, that brought me in contact with Jim and Carleen Roberts of Sesser.

Jim and Carleen Roberts

When I was working my way through college at McDonald’s in West City, I worked with Carleen, as well has her two kids Julie and Craig.  She was one of three “McDonald’s moms from the Sesser area.  Mary Lou Galloway was another one at West City.  When I transferred to West Frankfort to be a shift manager, I worked with Kay Wangler in Sesser.  They served as a mother figure to all of us teenagers that worked there.

Carleen would bring goodies for us kids to eat, especially around Christmas time.  She has made pies for people as long as I can remember.

With my dad being a long time Free Will Baptist preacher, I would run into their family at denominational events as well.  The family has attended Bear Point FWB Church, just west of Sesser-Valier school.  Their children grew up in the church until they moved from the area.

The couple spends the winter in Frostproof, Florida, which several people from Southern Illinois spend there.  Jim always posts pictures of nice crappie, and occasionally some bluegill that he catches down there.  Here in Franklin County, it is not frost proof there.  When we had the freezing rain event last winter, Jim posted a nice mess of fish.  I was a little jealous and my mouth was watering.

After Jim retired from Consolidated Coal north of Sesser, (formerly Inland Steel), along with the couple snowbirding south for the winter, Jim comes back home and plants a huge garden,  He as well,  rents some empty lots in Sesser.  Carleen specializes in fried pies.

Jim was a presenter for the University of Illinois cooperative services in seminars for vegetable farming.  Jim and Carleen attend the West Frankfort Farmers Market since the beginning on Tuesdays, and the Benton Farmers Market at the Civic Center on Thursdays.

Over the years, I have consumed a lot of fried pies.  On most Tuesday’s since I moved to WF, I make the six block trek to the park to consume some fried pies.  From looking at me you can tell I like to eat, and it is a well two bucks spent.

The couple has ran a vegetable stand at their home on the north side of Sesser for years.  I didn’t buy much veggies off of them over the year because I had my own garden.  It is something that I miss since I live in an apartment now.  There is nothing like planting your own food like watching it grow.  Next year, I might do some “Oliver Wendell Douglas farming”

The West Frankfort Farmers Market is every Tuesday from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the park, in the shelter behind the Aquatics Center.  Carleen’s pies go quick.  Next Monday, I will run a story on all the venders and what they have for sale.  The market is well supported.  If you have not been there, check it out.

Danny Thomas, our Song Leader and deacon at Calvary Baptist Church has a saying when someone is a good person, they are one of the good guys or gals.  This fits Jim and Carleen.

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News