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In a huge project — that is, digitizing all its files and reviewing all of the items donated over the years to the McLean County Museum of History — found the other day was a World War II Purple Heart certificate, issued in June 1944 to heirs of Pvt. Roy Newman, a 23-year-old Tennessee man killed in action.
The oddity: The certificate was initially found years ago between layers of wallpaper at a home being remodeled at 606 Virginia Ave. in Normal. The certificate was then donated to the museum because the remodeler didn’t otherwise know what to do with it.
The mysteries: The certificate's honoree had no relatives in this area, and the home where it was found isn’t there anymore, as it was torn down to make way for a Carle BroMenn Medical Center parking deck. The whereabouts of the man who years ago found it between the walls isn’t known, either.
Solution: Through work and research, the museum has been able to find that the slain soldier lived in Jefferson City, Tennessee, and has sent the certificate on to the Jefferson County Archives in Dandridge, Tennessee.
Just why the certificate was left inside the wall of a home in Normal remains an oddity and a mystery.
One of the balloons shot down recently by an F-15 fighter jet “because of its suspicious and unidentified nature” was believed to be a $12 balloon shot down by a $400,000 missile and launched by members of a “patriotic” hobby club with area ties:
The “Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade.”
As American patriots indeed, they are based in an Illinois town even named, yes, Libertyville.
How odd is it that Grossinger Motors Arena downtown has been void of much front-line entertainment for more than three years, in a town that also has been void of a Grossinger Motors car dealership for more than three years as well?
Following the recent "Jake at State Farm" spoof on "SNL," a logical question has popped up on social media: “Hey, whatever happened to the ori…
(As offered by the readers)
— Jigger, Louisiana
— Gravel Hill, Indiana
— Sugar Bunker, Nevada
— Rabbit Hash, Kentucky
From the notice of Viola Lucille Paulus, 99, formerly of Colfax and Bloomington:
“We doubt you’ll find her always inside the Pearly Gates. If she’s not with family members or the animals (who passed before her), she’ll be hanging out with the stars of her favorite Westerns. If there’s a lawn to mow, a shirt to iron, or raspberries to pick, she’ll be right there to tackle the job or instruct others on how it’s done right. And yes, she now will be having as many Almond Joys as she wants, thank you very much.”
During the Super Bowl and all the commercials that promoted gambling sites such as DraftKings and FanDuel, with celebs like Rob Gronkowski, Kevin Hart, David Ortiz, Peyton and Eli Manning and Ludacris promoting such gambling sites, across the bottom of the screen ran the notification: “Got a gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER.”
As spotted by one Central Illinoisan: on a tombstone, engraved in the granite, the figure of a golfer in mid-swing. And this is the inscription on his tombstone:
“Guess what? I’m 6 under.”
— Ethan Allen. He’s a salesman at a La-Z-Boy store in Bloomington.
— Parker Penn. An Illinois Wesleyan University student (and a great memory for anyone who remembers the days of ink wells and fountain pens).
— Tony Ends. He's stepping down as editor of the newspaper in Brodhead, Wisconsin.
— Brady Brewer. He’s Starbucks' chief marketing officer.
From the obituary of Jane Marie Harmon, a lauded Illinois Wesleyan University graduate who ultimately went to work for the CIA:
“Willing to fall in love but unwilling to be trapped, Jane never succumbed to the lure of marriage, instead choosing to remain independently owned and operated.”
It added: “Throughout her life, she thusly surrounded herself with friends who had one qualifying requirement: they must not be stupid, resulting in a menagerie of lasting friendships with a number of quirky individuals.”
Got an item for Lite? Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Bill Flick page on Facebook.
Our March board of contributors: Ray Wilson, Bob Bradley and Roger Hughes, Normal; Bill Kemp, Jerry Turley, Robyn Skaggs, Michael Vandegraft, Mary Lou Henderson and Steve and Teresa Arendell, Bloomington; Lee Templeton, Palmview, Texas; Charleen Miller, Burnsville, Minnesota; Sam Harrod, Eureka; Mary Kathleen Kessler, Lincoln.
The lake waters were just about freezing cold Saturday morning — but that didn't stop hundreds from taking the plunge to raise $130,000 for an…
Bill Flick is at email@example.com.
NORMAL — Leaders of Eastview Christian Church, which has one of Bloomington-Normal’s largest congregations, say the church will undergo an audit to evaluate the “health and safety” of its staff and workplace culture amid an onslaught of scrutiny tied to allegations of abuse and coverups.
Longtime lead pastor the Rev. Mike Baker resigned over the situation, which stems from allegations that his son, Caleb Baker, engaged in inappropriate sexual relationships and behavior with members of the congregation while working as a pastor at Eastview, a position he left in 2016. The allegations came to public attention after the pastor at an Arizona church said Caleb Baker, who was working there as lead student pastor and associate preaching pastor, had an affair with another employee, and both were removed from the church staff.
Following this, widely circulated social media posts from former Eastview staff members alleged that Caleb Baker had exploited his position of spiritual trust and the church had stifled attempts to bring the behavior to light. Eastview church elders — a group of seven church leaders — published a statement and addressed the congregation last Sunday, acknowledging that "trust has been questioned and eroded" and pledging to investigate thoroughly. Mike Baker has denied the allegations and called the elders' statement a "complete misrepresentation of what was going on." Caleb Baker could not be reached for comment.
Normal Police Chief Steve Petrilli and McLean County State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds told The Pantagraph they’re not investigating any criminal behavior at the church and no criminal charges have been filed.
Petrilli said if someone reported criminal activity, the police would look into it, but “these sound like employee or internal issues, and I’m not going to get involved with that.”
Church leadership told The Pantagraph on Saturday that they did not believe the investigation and audit will require law enforcement intervention.
Leadership has also said the allegations against Caleb Baker all have involved adults.
Eastview is a nondenominational Christian church with facilities in both Bloomington and Normal. It has grown exponentially since its founding in 1955, and on its website says weekly attendance under Baker exceeded 5,500.
Among the women who have spoken up about a culture of “silencing, cover-up and spiritual abuse” at the institution, former Eastview staff member Christine Lee wrote a letter to the church leadership last July, in which she described unwanted advances from Caleb Baker in 2013 and 2014 that she said she now recognizes as sexual harassment.
Lee declined to be interviewed for this story but said her letter and a subsequent video were available to the public.
Brooke Yarbrough, another former Eastview staff member who declined to be interviewed but made a public statement online, wrote that she had learned while on staff that Caleb Baker was “let go after multiple women in our congregation came forward disclosing inappropriate sexual relationships he initiated.”
She said he was terminated, but leadership was not transparent about that or the reason for his termination in 2016. Instead, “I was told to be quiet and to stop asking questions.”
This prompted her to leave the church, she said. "When leaders use their platforms to take advantage of the people they commit to serve, this is abuse," she said. "In the church, this is specifically called clergy sexual abuse, and I was not going to stand for it."
Lee's letter to the church elders included a 2016 email from Mike Baker, who confirmed to The Pantagraph that it was authentic. In it, he acknowledged allegations against his son and mentioned an investigation, but said he believed the accusations were "unfounded or at least unresolvable." When additional accusations came, Baker recalled telling his son “I can’t do this anymore,” which led to Caleb Baker’s departure.
In her letter, Lee questioned the competency of the investigation and the treatment of those who came forward. She also said she was “deeply unsettled” by Mike Baker’s indication that he kept “hundreds of things” about staff and church leaders quiet because of his commitment to protect the church and the staff.
She said allegations against Caleb Baker were handled with bias and abuse of power.
“We as the Church cannot turn a blind eye to the potential of wrongdoing, especially our own,” Lee wrote in closing. “We have to do more than the bare minimum when it comes to pursuing integrity. The women in this situation deserved better and still deserve better. Your church deserves to know the truth. You deserve to know the truth. We all do. We all can be set free.”
In the statement last weekend to the Eastview congregation and published on the church website, Eastview’s leadership said they’ve been made aware of the allegations of abuse that “raise concerns as to the culture and health of ECC in 2016 and today.”
To read the statement: https://eastview.church/elderstatement
Leadership said they initiated a third-party audit after receiving Lee's letter last year but determined it was "not thorough enough," so they have requested a second, more detailed audit. They said healing will require “a trauma-informed approach that is honest and transparent” and invited anyone who has been harmed to come forward.
"While there is a need for objectivity from someone else because we love this place and have an interest in this place, we want you to know from an objective perspective what happened," Adam Ghrist, one of the elders, told the congregation via a YouTube video last week, "but as we become aware of things that we believe to be true, we will share them with you, because truth is needed to love well."
Church leadership told The Pantagraph they plan to update the congregation this week on next steps.
In a video and text post on social media, Lee said she was “grateful for these first steps towards transparency” but suggested the church leadership hire a victim advocate and work with a third-party entity rather than asking members of the congregation to come directly to the leaders.
“If they’re truly opening a third-party trauma-informed investigation, the elders should not be the ones receiving the information and determining if what is shared is factual enough to pass on” to the third party, she said.
Mike Baker, who resigned Feb. 25, told The Pantagraph he did not think it was his job to protect Caleb Baker as his son when the allegations were brought to his attention, but instead it was his job to “look out for the best for the congregation and the staff.”
He said his son “obviously holds a different place in my heart,” but “I did not act differently in any way toward him than I have many staff members.”
He also indicated the church did not have a human resources director at the time of the alleged sexual relationships, despite its rapidly growing staff.
In a YouTube video posted Feb. 27, Mike Baker elaborated on the circumstances leading to Caleb Baker's departure from Eastview. He said he had directed some "very trustworthy staff members" to look into rumors in fall 2015 that his son was having sexual relationships outside of marriage, and staff concluded that the allegations could be neither proven or disproven. In January, another allegation arose, he said, and he told his son to resign. A few days later, Caleb Baker had a job prospect in Arizona.
We live in a dangerous cultural reality where the first words spoken, posted, or blogged are accepted as reality. According to the Bible this …
"Whatever allegations were in this second time, I said, 'I don't wanna know,'" Baker said, adding that he again asked staff to investigate. "I didn't mislead anyone because I didn't know anything or anybody. Should I have dug a little deeper? Maybe."
Caleb Baker joined the staff at Central Christian Church in Phoenix, after his departure from Eastview. The lead pastor there, Cal Jernigan, told his congregation last month that he was not aware of the extent of the allegations against Caleb Baker when he was hired, but Mike Baker had informed him of an accusation “by a woman who felt Caleb acted inappropriately toward her.”
“He assured me his leadership team had investigated this charge and it was proven to be an unfounded and unsubstantiated claim by someone who had it out for his son. He felt his son’s future in that small town was forever going to be defined by this accusation,” Jernigan wrote.
Yarbrough said in her Facebook post she believed Central did “an outrageously better job about being honest” than Eastview had.
“While forgiveness can certainly be granted to all of us, forgiveness starts with honesty and transparency about our actions. Forgiveness also does not come without boundaries and consequences. One can be forgiven and still not placed back in the same position of power to harm others,” she wrote.
Mike Baker said he felt “real sadness” in resigning from Eastview Christian Church after nearly 30 years there.
“I love the people of Eastview. I've loved them for 27 years,” he told The Pantagraph on Friday. “As I’ve said many times, me and Eastview grew up together. It saddens me to think that this church that I've poured my heart and soul into, not being part of it anymore, but I felt like I had no other choice.”
Baker said he and the church elders disagreed with how to address the allegations surfacing on social media.
“I didn't believe that the way that they were going to proceed with finding the truth was the right method. I've never been opposed to finding the truth … but I didn’t like the way it was handled,” he said.
A former Normal police officer reached a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit filed by a woman who alleged he stole $12,000 from her home.
Baker said he knew that Eastview leadership needed to address the issue, but he thought they should “simply say ‘We’re aware of the social media posts. We take these accusations very seriously and we will investigate thoroughly to ensure we are a healthy, vibrant, non-abusive church staff.'”
He said the leadership’s approach was to be “very, very public and specific” about what was being shared online. “I didn’t feel that that was either the wise or biblical way to go.”
The statement from Eastview leadership says they did not call for Mike Baker's resignation but also noted a disagreement.
“Then and now the Elders believe that for the health of our church, a third-party involvement is necessary to adequately address allegations. Mike remains steadfast in his sincere conviction that there is nothing to investigate. However, because the Elders were not aware of everything that transpired involving Caleb Baker’s departure and want to be transparent in the process, we reached an impasse,” according to the statement.
In a Facebook post published the day after Mike Baker resigned, Eastview encouraged the congregation to read the leadership statement and said, "We know these last few days as a church have been challenging, to say the least. Whether you're grieving, hurting, confused, angry, or feeling any other emotion, we want to walk through this together. Today, with transparency, compassion, and hope, our elder team shared how we will start to move forward as a church."
In 1966, John Lennon of The Beatles was quoted in the London Evening Standard as saying, “We’re more popular than Jesus now,” a comment that c…
Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.