The Western Illinois Museum, in partnership with Macomb’s Heritage Days Committee, will host a meet and greet for Lorraine Epperson and Ruth Parks, the Parade’s Grand Marshalls, immediately following the parade. The Heritage Days Parade, showcasing this year’s theme, “Generations of Excellence, Macomb Public Schools,” kicks off Saturday, June 25th at 10:00 am and the meet and greet will follow at 11:00 am at the Western Illinois Museum, 201 S. Lafayette Street. The event is free and open to the public.
Lorraine Epperson, a lifelong McDonough County resident, started her teaching career as a business teacher in Virginia, Illinois. She later taught business at Blandinsville, Bardolph, Northwestern (now West Prairie), Springfield High School, Avon, and Macomb High School. She was also the Guidance Director at Macomb High School for 20 years.
She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Western Illinois University in 1948. Lorraine presently serves on the WIU Foundation Board and is Past President of the WIU Alumni Council. In 1995 Lorraine was appointed by Gov. Edgar to serve as a member of the WIU Board of Trustees. She served on the WIU Board for ten years, where she served as Chairperson for three years.
Lorraine received her real estate license in 1974 and her Broker’s license in 1985. With her husband Ken, they became owners of the R. B. Purdum Real Estate Firm and in 1990 they purchased the Century 21 franchise to create Century 21 Purdum-Epperson, Inc.
Her professional work and involvement in the community has been recognized with many awards including the President’s Award from Century 21, WIU Distinguished Alumni Award, Sigma Sigma Sorority National Woman of Distinction, Isaac and Ethel Leighty Community Award given by McDonough County United Way and the Business Leader of the Year Award in 2015, given by the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce.
Ruth Parks was born in Walpenton, North Dakota, but lived most of her life in the Blandinsville, Illinois, area. She was salutatorian for the 1936 class at Taylorville, Illinois, High School and began teaching at age 19. She earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Illinois Wesleyan University and a master’s in education degree from Western Illinois University. Ruth taught vocal music in El Paso and in Blandinsville before spending 24 years as the choral director at Macomb High School.
During World War II, Ruth worked for the U.S. Army Special Services Department creating social activities at service clubs on Army bases. This is where she met her husband, Ken.
After retiring from teaching in the public schools in 1981, Ruth initiated the Spoon River College Singing Seniors choral program for those 60 years and older. For 25 years under Ruth’s baton the group rehearsed twice weekly and performed extensively in the region. Ruth also played organ and piano weekly for the First Baptist Church of Blandinsville for more than 60 years.
Ruth is a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow, and was admitted into the Gallery of Ageless Achievers by the Western Illinois Area Agency on Aging. In 2004 she was honored by the Collegiate National Association of Music Educators (CNAME). Named a “Living Treasure” by WGEM-Channel 10 in 1998, Ruth continues to bring music to the community. She frequently plays at Grand Prairie Assisted Living, her current home, for activities and the Sunday church service. She leads a monthly sing along that is open to the public and plays for the noon Rotary Club.
During the Meet and Greet guests can view the museum’s latest exhibit, The Ties That Bind: A History of Wedlock, that explores how artifacts like wedding garments, photographs, invitations, and legal documents such as licenses and certificates, reveal the customs and traditions that continue to evolve around marriage. A special exhibit on the development of education in the region with an illustrated timeline detailing milestones that shape learning over the last century will be on view. Also included will be oral histories recently collected from area educators such as Lorraine Epperson, Ruth Parks, Bobby Jo Kellogg, and William Setser.
The museum is located one block south of Macomb’s historic Courthouse Square at 201 South Lafayette Street. For more information about other Heritage Days activities contact the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at 309.833.1315 or visit the Heritage Days Web site at http://macombheritagedays.com/.