Legendary Stories and History

What makes a legend? Their names are familiar and arise often in conversation—with remarkable legacies of accomplishment and lives well-lived.

by Jan Wright, Publisher

Merriam-Webster defines legend as “a story coming down from the past,” “a body of such stories” or “a popular myth of recent origin,” among other subtly related definitions. Perhaps the best fit for our annual Local Legends issue comes from Dictionary.com: “a collection of stories about an admirable person.” 

The history of our region is full of admirable persons and their corresponding legends. After all, Peoria is the oldest community in Illinois—first settled more than a century before Chicago, long before Illinois became a state some 201 years ago. From our rich agricultural and manufacturing heritage, to the storied days of vaudeville, to 21st-century innovations in healthcare and autonomous vehicle technologies, it’s no surprise there are plenty of fascinating tales to tell.

Each year we identify some of these legendary individuals, whose influence on central Illinois and beyond has helped to define our community—and whose impact continues to reverberate. Their names are on buildings and awards. They have written books, chaired fundraising events and saved lives. They have worked their way up—often from humble beginnings—to become leaders in their fields. And they are still at it today! 

Ray Becker. Dr. Patrick Elwood. The Honorable Joe Billy McDade. Doug and Diane Oberhelman. Their names are familiar and arise often in conversation—with remarkable legacies of accomplishment and lives well-lived. It is a privilege to read their stories and learn how they were able to do it all. Whether recounting the past or conveying an optimistic vision for the future, we benefit from their wisdom, hard work and tireless efforts to build and improve the Peoria region. 

On July 10th, we will celebrate these Local Legends at an intimate reception at the Country Club of Peoria. We thank our partners for making this possible: DVI, University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, Hometown Community Banks, OSF HealthCare, Farnsworth Group, Commerce Bank, Cullinan Properties, Community Foundation of Central Illinois, John Bearce Companies and the Wayne Baum Family Foundation. They are all legends in their own right!

Elsewhere, you’ll discover intriguing pieces of history scattered throughout this issue—from a pair of radio personalities who brought national attention to Peoria in the 1950s; to an extraordinary family who kept their winery running through Lebanon’s 15-year civil war; to the homecoming of a former Peorian intent on preserving some of our finest historic structures. We hope you enjoy this issue—and learn a thing or two! PM

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