Bakke catches up with subjects from the year’s columns

Dave Bakke

Readers might be wondering what happened to some of the people I columnized about in 2009. Or not. I was, so I reconnected with a few of them.

Little Orphan Andy

Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Tom Lynn of Dallas, who was 2 months old when he was abandoned at Central Baptist Church in Springfield. It was December 1963.

This newspaper dubbed him “Little Orphan Andy” back then. The person who dropped him off at the church never reappeared. Tom was eventually adopted by a couple in Dallas and only found out about a month ago that he had been left in the church. He came to Springfield looking for answers.

The ultimate outcome, of course, would have been for Tom’s biological parents to read the column, come forward and explain everything. It didn’t happen that way. Not yet, anyway.

“The funny thing is that everybody is so focused on the parents who haven’t called, but that wasn’t my original goal,” Tom says. “It was just to find out what happened.”

He left Springfield with much more information than he arrived with and that, he says, is satisfaction enough.

“I had a tremendous reaction from people who have known me forever,” he says. “Everybody was pretty stunned and excited.”

The first 1963 newspaper story after Tom was found was accompanied by a photograph of him being held by Robert Goin, a Springfield police detective. Goin is still alive, and Tom has his phone number. The two will probably talk over the holidays.

Joyce Owens

In March, Joyce was facing the shutoff of her utilities by the village of Chatham over a hefty unpaid bill. That would have been a disaster for her and for her son, Chris.

Chris, 40, was paralyzed in a car accident and is on life support at their home. The machines that keep him alive run on electricity.

The village eventually relented but insisted that Joyce get some help with her budget. Her outstanding bill at the time was about $12,000. Joyce’s only income is from Social Security — a couple thousand a month between hers and Chris’. That is just enough income to disqualify them from energy assistance from the government.

Now, nine months later, the lights are still on at the Owens home. Joyce has the bill down to about $5,000 and is no longer being threatened by the village.

Some of the credit goes to readers of the column who contributed money toward the utility bill. Joyce, who is 70, also meets twice a month with Kathy Buckman of Senior Services of Central Illinois. Kathy is a money manager who helps Joyce stretch her Social Security check. It’s helping.

Bloom Building

Last summer, the smokers at the Bloom Building, a state office facility on South Grand Avenue in Springfield, were literally covering a memorial plaque in cigarette butts.

The plaque was for Jennifer Bloom, who was 3 when she died in a Peoria fire along with her father, state Sen. Prescott Bloom, for whom the building is named.

After a couple of columns made the situation public, the state put up signs warning people not to smoke in that area. When that didn’t do any good, the state eventually dug up the plaque and moved it inside.

“After speaking with the Bloom family, we took steps to have Jennifer Bloom’s plaque relocated inside the building where it now receives the recognition it deserves,” says Annie Thompson, communications manager for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which is housed in the Bloom Building. “The plaque has been relocated to the lobby. It sits atop a podium directly beneath Prescott Bloom’s plaque.”

Butch Williams

Butch, a former Illinois Department of Transportation worker, spent nine years building his own paddlewheel steamboat in Beardstown. The boat is 74 feet long, 20 feet high and 15 feet wide.

When I talked to Butch in August, he said that when the water came up, he was going to fire up his boat, named “Sunshine” after his girlfriend, exit Muscooten Bay and cruise on the river to his heart’s content. Well, the water certainly came up, but his boat is still in the bay.

“I have a couple of things I still have to do,” Butch says. “Next spring when the water comes up, I’ll get it out there.”

Doughnut tradition

This one goes back to 2008, technically, but there was a new development in 2009.

Arlen Nelson and Velma Ross were teachers at Glenwood Junior High when they started pranking each other with this glazed doughnut. Arlen would wrap it in a box and give it to Velma for Christmas. Velma would wrap it again and give it to Arlen for his birthday. They had students deliver it from one to the other. They hid it so that the other would find it. This went on for decades.

Velma died in February 2009. Arlen knew what he had to do.

“I called her family,” Arlen says, “and they had no problem with it.”

And so the old doughnut was given to Velma from Arlen one more time. He put it in the casket with her, and Velma took that doughnut with her into eternity.

“That’s the way it went out,” Arlen says. “It will not return, I’m sure of that.”

Contact Dave Bakke at 217-788-1541 or