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Bonds By Fire

The O’Keefe family is one of the only two 3rd generation Fire Fighting families to serve Rockford on the Fire Department. Though they share the same blood, and history, each of the members of the fire department is a part of a brotherhood. Firemen spend 30% of their lives together, serving 24-hour shifts where they eat, work and sleep together in the same building. They must rely on each other, and it’s this reliance that forges a bond more unique than friendship.

Each fighter is interdependent and functions as a team. Their roles on the truck are mirrored by roles back at the station, and the unilateral brotherhood is apparent immediately. The men are all part of a machine to serve the citizens of this community, but these parts are not interchangeable. The individual personalities of the crew are what ultimately drive each other to be the best they possibly can be.

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Handcuffs To Handshakes

Joseph Goral was arrested in 2006 for vandalizing property with spray paint. He was one of a few that were made examples of by an anti-graffiti task force. Mayor Larry Morrissey’s press conference was one of victory, a large step forward for the “broken windows” campaign that the task force was a part of. Joe knew he did wrong, as he was defacing property that was not his with graffiti. However, the art form has given him as much success as it has gotten him in trouble. Joe in his craft, possesses a desirable skill, one where he most recently has been commissioned for mural work. He’s taken his vandalism and turned it into a career. Between private commissions for companies, to exhibits and individual pieces, he has leveraged that talent and changed its focus. Taking it from a temporary gesture to one that gives a welcome, more permanent reaction.

Through programs like the Emerging Visual Arts Program put on by the Element, Joe learned how to assemble a show under the guidance of Barb Berney and in a leadership role, he helped coordinate the artists and prepare pieces for display. This helped prepare him not only for the show most recently on display at Rockford College, but also helped him organize the 2012 St. Patrick’s day parade.

Joe has recognized that with effort, you can have an impact in this community. He is not only a talented artist, a performance artist, an organizer but he also helps his wife, Angelica Goral, run The Sweetery, a cupcake shop currently located at the Rockford City Market. Please stop down at Rockford College, in the Clark Arts Center to see the current show: “Army of Fleabag Dreamers”

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Darrell Hines

Epictetus “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” We live in a world amply sprinkled with naysayers. Hearing the word NO more than YES has become the rule, not the exception. No, you’re not smart. No, you’re not accepted. No, you can’t do it… But bearing the brunt of lifelong denial to one’s independence is inconceivable for the average person. This is why I’m incredibly humbled and honored today to write about a man I know.

When I quietly pass by him daily, I always see him smiling…every single time, and I’ve rarely seen a person enjoy their work more. He is the supervisor of the janitorial team at Barbara Olson Center of Hope and, apart from being sick at times, he has never missed a day in his working years. I remember he recounted to me, “It was Christmas one time. I had nothing…I thought to myself, I will never be in a situation like this again.”

Today, he is a rich man. Wealthy in mind and heart because he has populated within his spirit some of the greatest virtues we strive for – courage, tenacity, unbreakable willpower, patience, and most importantly, gratitude. Being present and aware enough to realize the power of gratitude and contentment for what we already have is something we shamefully take for granted. Though simple and seemingly unimportant, when mastered, this realization holds the key to happiness. And isn’t achieving happiness the ultimate goal of our existence? This man – 51 year old Darrell Hines, a Rockford native – is a happy man.

How did he become this man despite the fact that he is physically disabled, developmentally disabled with a diagnosis of severe cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and has fairly good use of only one arm? Well, he said NO to the naysayers. It took him the first 25 years of his life to be able to stand up for himself and fight for his independence even though he was repeatedly told he couldn’t take care of himself. He begged his doctor to let him out of the nursing home and give him a chance to make it on his own. He was given that chance and he hasn’t looked back since. Fighting through the physical ailments and pain brought on by his condition, he prides himself on earning and working hard for everything he has. And as he should. Darrell advocated for himself and demanded to be a productive citizen. He did this by fighting to get himself a working wheelchair when he was denied replacement to one that was nearly falling apart. These are my “legs” he says…“I need them to work.” Now he oversees about 10 people in his department, who are also disabled, and not only supervises them but also teaches them to carry on his lessons of work ethic, striving to do the best one can, and beating the odds.

A respected sage and philosopher of his time in ancient Greece, Epictetus is depicted in historical art as a “crippled” old man accompanied by a crutch. Born and bred as a slave, he acquired permission from his owner to pursue his passion for studying philosophy. He eventually got his freedom and accumulated respect through education and his teachings. Epictetus held fast that we only become enslaved by desiring that which is beyond our grasp and trying to control the uncontrollable fate. If we let go of this, happiness as well as peace of mind would follow.

What was true in 100AD, remains true now in 2012.

You can view more this author’s writing at her blog –

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Pioneer of the Past

Can one man change the world? Yes—pre-eminent historian James Henry Breasted did just that, simply by changing the way we look at the world and its history.

Elementary school students first learn about the Fertile Crescent in world geography lessons. World leaders understand the power and importance of this cradle of civilization, as they continually negotiate the territory’s political climate. But before Breasted coined the term and conveyed its significance, the Fertile Crescent’s role in the development of western civilization had been ignored. By enlarging the world’s perspective from its formerly Eurocentric vision, Breasted opened the doors to further discovery and understanding.

How did Breasted, born in a small Midwestern city to a small hardware business owner, end up traveling the world and uncovering its archaeological truths? By following his bliss. By knowing and seeking his true passion and persevering in its pursuit.

Breasted’s story needed an equal voice to tell it and local artist Jim Julin’s bold timbre provided that perfect counterpart. With his commanding, larger-than-life presence, Julin has been a de facto pioneer, an artist revered by the community at large. Like Breasted, Julin followed his bliss, and in doing so, created a better world in his own city. He also seemed to inherently understand Breasted’s vision that only by seeing our true past and revealing it in a different light, can we create a more vital and perfect present.

When one follows their bliss, one can indeed change the world.

‘Follow your bliss.’ Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it. — Joseph Campbell

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Peer into the windows of their studio on Rockford’s Central Avenue late one night, and chances are you’ll find Jeremy Klonicki and Carmen Turner of MainfraiM Habitat for Art captivated by their work, performing some inspired alchemy. In the hands of these artists, salvaged and cultured materials, mechanical relics and found objects are transformed into inspired lighting, sculpture and custom frames.

A certainly perfect homage to Rockford’s heritage and manufacturing narrative, Jeremy and Carmen’s work captures “history and industry joined with earth and light”, and the result is truly captivating. With an obviously deep respect for materials “aged to perfection by time and weather” and a strong nod to the past, MainfraiM’s works seem the perfect amalgam of history, time and place. The two artisans also exhibit that perfect fine balance of exquisite craftsmanship and restraint; hand-hewn reclaimed barn wood retains its patina and character, while handcrafted picture frames may demand finer virtuosity and finishes.

With a “passion for things forgotten”, Jeremy founded MainfraiM, embracing art and making it a career. He believes that the often humble materials—hand-dug apothecary jars, castoff isolators, mechanical relics and hand-hewn barn wood—have a story of their own. Carmen joined Jeremy in 2011 as a design maven and revels in “digging up society’s cast-offs and making her finds meaningful and purposeful again.” With an entrepreneurial spirit seemingly sprung from the refuse, these young artisans have created and nurtured a business while salvaging and repurposing others’ trash.

Perhaps the most quixotic of their creations, their witty sculptures combine material inspiration and artistic ingenuity to invoke both curiosity and intrigue. Jeremy and Carmen both know that their “work transforms archaic technology and life into modern imagination.”

You can see MainfraiM’s work currently exhibiting at Octane.

“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” – A. Rose

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Jimmy Goodman

Jimmy Goodman lives up to his surname. Three days a week, he volunteers in running and coaching youth in the sport of boxing. When you walk into the space, you immediately see the ring before you, but you may not get to step in it for months. Jimmy teaches discipline and harnesses the passion to get in the ring to spar, with the fierceness of disciplined practice. Practice. On a practice night, you can’t see into the space through the tall glass storefront windows, because it’s fogged up from the 20+ kids running, doing pushups and sit-ups. It’s enough to make a person who feels they are in good shape, break out in sweat just watching. It continues on with this strictly regimented activity for 45 minutes to an hour.

Now, Jimmy works with kids from all walks of life in the city. Some who can afford, but most who can’t. He charges meager monthly dues and has some support from Patriot’s Gateway, but he does not get paid. He makes no money off the gear he sells, he turns around and sells what he purchases at cost to these kids.

Jimmy’s boxers are well regarded whenever they travel to out-of-city and even out-of-state matches. They are a fierce crew of champions, everywhere from State to National. Most recently, one of his female boxers won the prestigious Golden Gloves in Chicago in her age group.

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Hazzard Free

Andy Hazzard had been a staple of downtown Rockford before she decided to acknowledge her true calling of farming. She was a waitress at Octane, she worked on jewelry at several art fairs, but when it came down to it, she had far too strong of a connection with nature. But her work in the restaurant business gave her the knowledge of the industry and the rapport with those who work in them. Her passion is infectious, as her passion made Paul Sletten of Abreo (Brio at the time) realize there was support here for a “Farm to Table” restaurant, that brought about Social.

Andy has been an inspiration for many, as her resilience should inspire us all. Though, with the help of her family, support of her friends, she has continued to grow the farm and be a loud voice in the chorus of those promoting “good food” — locally grown, organic vegetables, meat and grain.

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The Torchlighter

1955. Vincent Chiarelli of Sicily arrived in Rockford, IL with a song in his heart and a needle in his pocket. He opened a small tailor shop and spun out a music publishing company with his own record label from its success. His shop was located at the head of Broadway Street coming downtown, and those who came to see Vince thought he owned the town.

Passion for music is the lifeblood of the Chiarelli family, and most of this information was passed along not by the sons of Vince the Tailor, but by his grandson of the same name, Little Vincent Chiarelli. Vince the Singer started up Rockford College Radio, which laid dormant for 20 years. He has taken the torch of passion for music and has helped others get their voices heard.

By standards of the music industry, Vince Chiarelli never achieved the “success” of worldwide fame or became a household name like many dream of. What he has accomplished is something that the vast majority of them didn’t. While most of these celebrities’ flame goes out, Vince the Singing Tailor lit many torches.

When the last interview question, “Is there anything else you want to say?”, arose…Vince, now over 80 years of age, said – “I’m thankful for you doing this…I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be here.” To our eyes, he is an important figure in Rockford history and we are grateful to have come upon this first flicker of light that has illuminated the way of Our City, Our Story.