Moline Memories - MHS 66 Friends

Friday, June 22, 2012

Garfield Graduation for Nancy Brainard Lackey

Nancy Brainard Lackey, MHS 68, graduated from Garfield to retirement.

"I finally graduated from Garfield. After attending K-6 (a looong time ago) and then spending 23 years as secretary, I have retired. Looking forward to spending time with all my 17 grandchildren!!"

Nancy is on Facebook - here -

You may have read about her son  - here -

Baker should be in Hall of Honor - Quad Cities Online.
We Honor All Vets When We Honor One

Baker should be in Hall of Honor - Quad Cities Online:

Moline High School administrators and retiring principal Bill Burrus got it right. Now it's time for the school's Hall of Honor to follow suit.

Sgt. John F. Baker, who was 66 when he died in January, deserved his high school diploma and posthumously will receive it Monday. The next step is to place Baker's name among the other greats who graduated from Moline High.

The contribution Sgt. Baker made to his country through his service is well known. In discussions with Sgt. Baker through the years, I learned he hoped to get his high school diploma and someday make it into Moline's Hall of Honor, though he knew those dreams might never come true.

I found it odd that a man as highly decorated as one can be for service to his country, wanted to be recognized by his high school and the community where he was raised. A man respected everywhere he turned as a Medal of Honor recipient was not appreciated at home.

It puzzled him at times, but it did not stop him from moving forward with his life. Still, he wanted to be recognized at home.

Enter a local veterans group that appreciated Sgt. Baker's trials and worked to break down barriers between Sgt. Baker and our community.

Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 299 was the driving force behind the local recognition Sgt. Baker received. Chapter members appealed to legislators to have the Interstate 280 bridge named after Sgt. Baker, and worked with Jumer's Casino for the

veteran's monument detailing Sgt. Baker's accomplishments.

It was Chapter 299 that asked Bill Burrus to help Sgt. Baker, albeit posthumously, receive his diploma.

Now the ball is back in the hands of the committee that selects Hall of Honor recipients for Moline High School.

The technicality of Sgt. Baker only having an honorary diploma from Moline is no longer an issue, a wall that should never been there in the first place.

It's time for that group to do the right thing. It would give some positive closure to a situation that has hung over many heads for years.

A Medal of Honor recipient is certainly worthy of induction to any school's hall of honor.

Monday, Moline High School will take the first step by awarding Sgt. Baker's family his diploma.

The school's Hall of Honor is now on the clock.

Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Favorite Posts Since June, 2010

The view from the Rosborough House, overlooking the Valley,
would keep me from getting any writing done.

May 31, 2010, 3 comments
3,886 Pageviews
Apr 17, 2010, 1 comment
373 Pageviews
Jan 21, 2010, 4 comments
295 Pageviews
Sep 6, 2011
224 Pageviews
Dec 26, 2011, 3 comments
213 Pageviews

The historic Jackson house is still standing,
a good example of the humble homes where we all grew up.
Across 23rd Avenue is the Wharton Field House.
Two blocks away, Whitey's Ice Cream.
Garfield Grade School, the Athens of the Moline School System,
produced a remarkable number of achievers.
MHS 66ers agree that we all had wonderful grade school teachers.
The bottom two photos were taken by Guy Johnson, my neighbor from 1 1/2 blocks away.

Attitude carries Lackey to Q-C Sports Hall of Fame : Quad Cities High School Sports -

Matt Lackey

Attitude carries Lackey to Q-C Sports Hall of Fame : Quad Cities High School Sports -

John Puebla remembers the trepidation he felt almost every time he sent pint-sized Matt Lackey onto the mat to wrestle someone his own size.

The man who ran Moline’s Park Board wrestling program for more than 20 years said he was genuinely frightened, not for Lackey but for the other kid.

“He (Lackey) was just a little guy, but he was so aggressive,” Puebla said. “It used to scare me to watch. He was so confident. He didn’t care how big the other guy was or anything. He was going to go after him.”

That relentless, fearless approach took Lackey a long way in the sport of wrestling, to state championships, Big Ten championships and in 2003, an NCAA championship.

On May 2, it will carry him into the Quad-City Sports Hall of Fame. Lackey will be inducted at the Quad-City Times’ annual Salute to Sports.

“He’s one of those kids you don’t get very often,” said Moline athletic director Todd Rosenthal, who was Lackey’s wrestling coach in high school. “He’s a winner. He wants to win and he does not think about anything else. He just has a rare confidence. He really thought anything he got into he was going to win.”

Rosenthal said Lackey wasn’t necessarily his best wrestler in practice, largely because of his gregarious nature.

“But when the lights went on and there was an audience present, he was going to perform,” Rosenthal said. “He was unbelievable sometimes.”

Former Illinois coach Mark Johnson said Lackey was the best athlete he coached in his 17 years with the Illini. Like Rosenthal, he said Lackey went to another level when the spotlight came on.

“The more people there were there, the better he was,” Johnson said. “When you got to the Big Ten and NCAA meets and there were big crowds … that’s what he lived for.”

Lots of help

Lackey began wrestling for Puebla in the park board program when he was 5, but he figures his preparation for the rigors of the sport began before that, as the youngest of five children. Having three older brothers got him ready.

“The physical and mental abuse was rampant,” Lackey said. “We would get out and play football and they used to just crush me. I’d start crying and I’d start to walk home and they’d harass me so I would get mad and come back. Somewhere along the line, I’m sure that made me tougher.”

Ask Lackey to list people who influenced his career and he does a 10-minute monologue. It always opens with his parents — Paul Lackey, now retired from John Deere, and Nancy Lackey, who is retiring this year after many decades as the secretary at Garfield School in Moline.

“Dad deserves a lot of credit,” Lackey said. “He didn’t know a lot about wrestling, but he was a blue-collar guy. He knew about hard work and being tough. And for me, wrestling was 99 percent about working hard and being tough.”

Paul Lackey spent countless hours driving his youngest son to practices and tournaments, but he also established a template of effort and discipline.

“He always asked me if I wanted to be a state champ,” Lackey said. “I’d say, ‘Yes,’ and he’d say, ‘Then this is what we’re going to do.’”

Lackey also credits Puebla, junior high coach Joe Terronez and Rosenthal. He worked out with Kevin Puebla, John’s son, who preceded him as a state champion at Moline and an all-American at Illinois. He spent time on the mat with Bam Pustelnik, a star at United Township and Northern Iowa.

“Being able to work out with those kinds of people on a daily basis was huge,” Lackey said.

Moline assistant coach Marty Mayhew would pick up Lackey at his house at 5:30 a.m. and take him to run the golf course on Arsenal Island or the hills at Prospect Park. Another Maroons aide, John Naab, mercilessly pushed him in the weight room.

Then, of course, there was Johnson, a Rock Island Alleman grad and lifelong friend.

“I was just blessed to have that many people who cared about me and cared about wrestling,” Lackey said. “All of them helped me along the way.”

A ‘natural’ on the mat

Lackey admitted he was good at wrestling from the very beginning. Along with some God-given athletic ability, he had a feel for the sport that is impossible to teach.

“I don’t want to say it came easy to me, but I guess you could say I had a knack for it,” he said.

John Puebla refers to him as “a natural.”

“Every now and then you find one and you just go, ‘Whoa.’ He was eager to learn, willing to work hard …” Puebla said. “He loved the sport. Even as a small kid, he loved the challenge. He had no fear of getting hurt, no fear of going against a bigger guy, no fear of anything.”

Lackey won age group state titles in both the seventh and eighth grade, but as he moved into the high school ranks, Rosenthal warned Paul and Nancy Lackey their son might find things tougher at that level.

“Paul just said, ‘Rosey, he’s all yours,’” Rosenthal said. “That’s all they ever said to me.”

Lackey did struggle a little in high school. He finished third in the state at 119 pounds as a freshman but battled through an ankle injury and did not place at state as a sophomore.

He didn’t lose a match after that, though, going undefeated in both his junior and senior seasons with a freewheeling, crowd-pleasing style that even astonished his coach at times.

“I remember times when I would turn to Paul Carther, my assistant, and say, ‘What did he just do?’” Rosenthal said. “He would do like a cartwheel over a guy and get him from behind. He also could just grind it out and break wrestlers down with his talent. ... He just had a way of performing. It was a total treat.”

Going to Illinois

There never was any question where Lackey was going to wrestle in college.

When he was in the fifth grade, he went to an Alleman-Moline football game with his parents. Johnson, who was inducted into the Q-C Hall of Fame in 2000, had just been named the wrestling coach at Illinois and was there to watch his alma mater. Nancy Lackey spotted him in the stands and suggested they go talk to him.

“I couldn’t even tell you what was said,” Lackey said. “I don’t think I probably said much. But I got an Illinois wrestling T-shirt in the mail the next week. I couldn’t believe the guy even remembered who we were, but he got the name, tracked down an address and sent a T-shirt. That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Lackey became a regular at Johnson’s camps, and he was in Iowa City to watch the Illini in the 1995 NCAA championships. It didn’t hurt that Rosenthal was good friends with Johnson or that Steve Lackey, his older brother, had attended Illinois.

Other big-time programs never even bothered to contact him. Everyone knew where he was headed.

“I made one visit and committed early …” Lackey said. “It was a no-brainer. I wanted to be a national champ, and he was producing them.”

That did not mean Lackey had a lock on a spot in the Illini lineup. He redshirted as a freshman and in his second year was beaten out for a starting job by a fifth-year senior.

Having to wait his turn was difficult, but Lackey said he learned from it.

“It’s all part of a process,” he said. “I’ll take those two years out of the lineup to take what I got on the back end.”

Once he got into the lineup, he took full advantage, going 31-9 as a sophomore, 38-2 as a junior and 38-0 as a senior. He was named the Big Ten male athlete of the year for 2002-03.

But he said his most vivid memory of that period is a loss to Iowa State’s Joe Heskett in the 2002 NCAA championship match at 165 pounds. With the score tied at 2-2, Heskett scored a late takedown to win.

“It’s the toughest athletic-related experience I’ve ever had to deal with,” Lackey said. “Most people would look at it and think second place is pretty good. You should probably be happy with it. It would have been a better feeling to get my butt kicked. It was really an impactful experience.”

He never lost again at the college level. The following December at the Midlands, he ran into Heskett, who had graduated from Iowa State, and beat him 9-5. In the 2003 NCAA finals, he was the one who scored a late takedown, executing a textbook foot-sweep to beat Troy Letters of Lehigh, 6-3.

Two Olympic shots

The next logical step was to take a stab at the Olympics the following year, but Lackey admits he wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted to do. It showed in an early exit at the Olympic trials.

“Looking back, I’m not sure my heart was really in it the first time,” he said. “It’s just something I thought I should do.”

After that, Lackey took a job as a sales rep in Colorado and spent a few years being “a regular Joe.”

“But after 2 1/2 years of that, I started getting the itch again,’’ he said. “I missed wrestling.”

He spoke to Johnson, moved back to Champaign and began preparing for another run at the Olympics in 2008.

Very early in his comeback, he suffered a neck injury, underwent fusion surgery and was sidelined for six months. He didn’t get back on the mat until the fall of 2007, leaving him about eight months to gear up for the trials.

“I did the best I could,” Lackey said. “It had been three years and four months from the last time I’d put on a singlet.”

In a tournament in Arizona, he lost to NCAA champion Ben Askren of Missouri in a match in which Lackey said his feet “felt like I had 20-pound weights on each one.” However, he fought back to the third-place match, where he defeated Askren. He was on his way, determined to get what eluded him in 2004.

If anything, Lackey thinks he may have pushed too hard, trained too rigorously. He never felt right at the trials and was eliminated early again. The Olympic berth went to Askren.

“He gave it a good shot,” Johnson said. “The fact that he didn’t make (the Olympics) doesn’t change my opinion of Matt Lackey one bit. There are a lot of things that factor into it and it just didn’t work out.”

It was not to be Lackey’s last experience with wrestling.

He was involved for a few months with a gym in Ohio that trained athletes for mixed martial arts and other endeavors, came home to Moline for awhile and helped coach the Maroons while doing some substitute teaching, then finally landed a job as an assistant coach at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania late in 2009.

He stayed there for two years before being hired in August as as assistant at the University at Buffalo. He thinks he might have finally found his niche.

“I really enjoy what I’m doing,” Lackey said. “It’s a lot of work, but I’m getting better at it every day.

“Most of the time I can’t see myself doing anything different.”

Matt Lackey timeline

1980: Born in Moline the youngest of five children of Paul and Nancy Lackey.

1985: Began wrestling in the Moline Park Board program.

1995: Finished third in the Illinois high school tournament at 119 pounds as a freshman; placed in top seven in both Greco-Roman and freestyle at Cadet national championships.

1996: Helped Moline to state team title despite nursing injured ankle; won 143-pound title and outstanding wrestler award at Cadet national championships.

1997: Went 42-0 and won Illinois high school championship at 145 pounds.

1998: Went 35-0 and won Illinois high school 152-pound title, winning final match by 25-10 score; finished high school career 158-13; won national junior championship at 154; named Illinois high school wrestler of the year and Moline Jaycees male athlete of the year.

1999: Redshirted as freshman at University of Illinois.

2000: Went 13-3 in limited action for the Illini at 165 pounds.

2001: Went 31-9 and finished third in NCAA meet at 165; named Illinois’ most improved wrestler.

2002: Won Big Ten title and finished second in NCAA meet, losing close match to Iowa State’s Joe Heskett; finished with record of 38-2.

2003: Won Big Ten and NCAA championships at 165, finishing with 38-0 record; named Big Ten’s male athlete of the year.

2004: Failed in bid to make U.S. Olympic team and took job as sales rep in Colorado.

2008: Again came up short in attempt to make Olympic team.

2009: Hired as assistant coach at Lock Haven University.

2011: Hired as assistant head coach of University at Buffalo.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Moline High School Class of 1965, Moline, IL.
65th Birthday Party

Moline High School Class of 1965, Moline, IL:

Mark your calendars now for August 25 to join the Moline Class of '65 in celebrating our 65th birthday.

While in 1965 we were celebrating the beginning of our transition from learning to earning, in August we can celebrate our transition from earning to returning.  Let's share our stories, dreams, and hopes at John Sedlock's farm in Lynn Center, Illinois. It's an easy drive, just 30 minutes from Moline. (See map below)

It's only $15 each for a BBQ, cash bar, and more. Dress casually and bring a friend if you like. It'll run from 2 pm - ?  There'll be plenty of covered seating, so you can plan on celebrating rain or shine.  But do let us know whether or not to expect you. Please sign up here ( AND send your check to Joyce Strach at 3517 Meadow Circle East, Milan, IL 61264.

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Murder Mystery - Historical Novel Started

I took a novel writing course a few years ago, which is how this project began. I had a rough plot and various versions of it. The professor, who studied under Isaac Singer, added this unusual requirement - write a sonnet based on the novel's theme.

He did not like my sonnet.

John Boland, our famous writer from MHS 66, The Class the Stars Fell On, sent me some of his books, and that revived my interest in the novel. I kept working on it, creating some files and working out ideas. John said I was in good shape with knowing how the murder was accomplished and solved.

I tried to invent an area as a setting but decided that my memory was better than my imagination. That gave me a chance to include a lot of Quad-City history, thanks to Dave Coopman and many others. Research by itself is rather dull, but research for a project is exciting. The driest history book is no longer a tedious volume of facts and dates.

The book is also an apologetic, which will become clear as the main character encounters the fetishes of modern academic life, the jibes of students.

All the characters are invented but historical and geographical details will be as accurate as possible.

The official deadline is our Medicare birthday party, in 2013.

Three dentists had daughters in the Class of 1966: Paschall, Streed, and Flatley.
They all had offices at the Fifth Avenue Building at one time.

Some are wondering, "Why is he telling us about a book not written?"

My time management system has always been to tell my friends about my next project, so they will keep asking me, "How is it going?"

There are too many people who have said, "Some day I am going to write about..." They never do. The Net has made publishing fairly easy, in many different formats. The hard part, about writing itself, will never change. If I only had a plot, I would not bother. I thought this was a good way of presenting an appreciation of Moline and the Quad-Cities.