Key changes among people and places occurred during 2018

December 31, 2018

Each year brings beginnings and endings, and 2018 was no exception.

What follows here is the local ins and outs of the fading year. It includes people and places who have changed during the past 365 days.

Will Welsh, who grew up across the street from the Kankakee Area YMCA, became only the fifth executive director of the organization in the last 48 years. He started in May. He is a longtime YMCA professional who once attended the now-closed YMCA college. He now leads 5,800 members with a budget of $1.8 million.

Taiyuan Banks-Tillmon was hired as the principal of Shabbona School in Bourbonnais. She becomes the first African-American principal in the Bourbonnais School District. A teacher who worked her way up through the ranks, she once lived in Section 8 Housing and was a divorced single mother.

Dennis Baron, 66, will retire in May 2019 after serving eight terms as a 6th Ward alderman in Kankakee. He has worked with four mayors. He’s “never been more positive” about Kankakee’s future, he says. The attorney is a University of Illinois graduate and a University of Michigan law school alumnus.

Melissa Kahoun, the area Aqua Illinois manager, is the new board chair of the Economic Alliance, Kankakee County’s economic development agency. She is described as a quietly effective leader.

Susan Tungate and Ken Leshen retired as 21st Judicial Court judges, replaced by attorneys Bill Dickenson and Scott Sliwinski.

Lieutenants Scott and Makayla Parnell were appointed as the new Salvation Army officers in Kankakee. The newlyweds have approached their assignment with enthusiasm.

Aurelio Garcia, the city of Kankakee’s first Hispanic police officer, retired after 26 years on the job. While Garcia was the first, the department now has five Hispanic officers, including Garcia’s son.

St. Patrick’s School in Kankakee, which had served as a center of Catholic education since 1922, was demolished. The building had been largely vacant for the past two years when area Catholic schools were consolidated.

Presence St. Mary’s joined Amita Health, the world’s largest Catholic-based health care system. The name St. Mary’s, though, will remain a constant in the community.

The Theresa Parker School of Dance closed its doors after educating an estimated 12,000 dancers in ballet, pointe, tap and jazz throughout 54 years.

As 2018 began, the RiverStone Conference Center south of Kankakee closed abruptly. It did not reopen, leaving several brides and events scrambling to find new locations.

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