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Joy (Ready) Johannes, Unity High School Class of '81 > > >

This week in Tolono, four grads who've done Unity High proud will be inducted into the school's Alumni Hall of Fame.

The 15th class of inductees includes

BRAD HATFIELD ('74), retired senior VP for the UI Foundation; the late

TOM HAUSMAN ('83), the Kansas City Board of Trade member killed at age 33 in a Swissair crash off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1998;

EARL PITCHFORD ('62), owner of Texas-based Drymalla Construction; and

JOY (READY) JOHANNES ('81), who has spent most of her adult life fighting homelessness, hunger and the effects of natural disasters around the globe.

Ahead of Thursday night's ceremony, staff writer Tim Mitchell caught up with Johannes for a few questions.

Was there one Unity teacher who inspired you?

I think our math teacher, Robert Aimone, inspired everyone who took his class. He worked to instill integrity and morals by the way he lived and the way he taught his classes.

After going into business here with your parents (the boutique Bridal Fashions by Joyce), you were among a small group of people who helped get Champaign's Restoration Urban Ministries up and running in 1995. How'd that come about?

I just loved working at the store, but I didn't want to be designing dresses for people when I was 60 years old. At the time, I was attending the Church of Christ, and the pastor told us about Ervin Williams wanting to start a mission for the homeless.

Four of us couples at the Church of Christ started it. Our first home was at Parkland Motors on Neil Street. We had a food pantry and church services and a clothing closet for homeless people.

And then came King's Club International Ministries. Tell us about launching it.

Although my private business provided ample financial security, I wanted to impact the lives of the community around me. We started out working with 40 kids living in the low-income housing sites in Champaign, like Mansard Square.

We based our program on Metro Ministries out of New York City. We had an old bus that we opened the side of, and we planned times of fun and excitement similar to Nickelodeon, 'The Price Is Right' and Kids Church. Games and prizes like Barbie dolls were given out, along with a weekly Bible lesson. All the kids had snacks.

Over time, we grew to meet the needs of more than 1,000 families in Champaign-Urbana and 3,000 internationally. I did that for 12 years. Over time, the government came in to get rid of Mansard Square and Parkside and Birch Village and Lakeside. We no longer had locations for the children to gather.

I actually won a Presidential Point of Light Award for it, and both President Bushes thanked me for my service. I am so thankful for each person in Champaign County who touched my life and taught me something over the years. I would have never been able to do this without them.

After stops in New Orleans, Mexico City, Nigeria, Kenya and Somalia, you landed in your current home state of Connecticut, where in 2016 you became food system policy director for the city of New Haven. Why Connecticut?

You can credit an online dating service. I met my husband online. It was on Christian Mingle.

I had always told myself that I didn't want any long-distance relationships, and then I met Raymond. He is a retired police officer and bomb technician. We ended up getting married about a year after we met. I moved to Connecticut, even though I don't like the cold.

A look at the inductees

TOLONO — Four Unity High School graduates have been chosen as the 15th class of inductees to the school's Alumni Hall of Fame.

Those being inducted include Brad Hatfield, Thomas Hausman, Earl Pitchford and Joy "Ready" Johannes.

School staff and the National Honor Society will honor the inductees at a banquet Thursday. A public induction ceremony will follow at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

The event is open to the public.

Here's more on this year's inductees:

* * * * *BRAD HATFIELD

The retired senior vice president for administration for the University of Illinois Foundation remembers his time at Unity fondly.As a student in the early 1970s, the country was grappling with the Vietnam War and Watergate. In his freshman year, 1970, the school abolished its dress code.

"It was kind of a transitional period," the Champaign resident said. "If you look at the yearbooks, you can see quite a bit of a change. You went from crew cuts to tie dye."

Hatfield, who grew up in Tolono, was involved in the student council and played sports, primarily football and basketball.

One Unity personality who made a strong impression on him was English teacher Erville O'Beirne.

"She was a stern older woman who would announce to the class that she was called Evil Erville," Hatfield said.

After graduating in 1974, Hatfield earned a bachelor's degree in finance and banking from Eastern Illinois University. He then worked in the banking industry for a while before moving to the UI Foundation. Hatfield was influenced partially in his career choice by his father, a banker.

Hatfield met his wife, Polly, a member of the Class of 1976, at Unity. Their children graduated from there, too.

Hatfield plans to tell the Unity students that no matter what career path they choose, their "bread and butter" is the people they will serve — donors, clients or patients.

"That is really what you're doing," he said.

Hatfield also plans to stress the importance of professional integrity.

As a result of his kids going to Unity, Hatfield became president of an organization known as Room for Unity, a contingency of concerned parents and community members formed in 1999 to push for new facilities.

Of his daughter's graduating class of 90, 15 were accepted at the UI and all graduated within eight semesters.

"I felt strongly about the education they received," he said. "Our kids in Unit 7 were receiving a fine education."

The school district had had more than one failed referendum over the years before one was finally passed and three new buildings were erected. Room for Unity then turned its attention toward supplementing academic extras within the schools by forming an education foundation that awarded grants.

"Everyone put in a lot of hard work," Hatfield said. "It was successful in raising funds and issuing grants."

Hatfield believes his nearly 25 years of experience in serving on nonprofit boards and spearheading two fundraising campaigns of over $1 billion each with the UI Foundation were assets in leading Room for Unity.

"It certainly helped; it was just on a different scale," he said. "It was that type of relationship building — in this case, alumni."

Hatfield noted that the Unit 7 community saw a population increase as a result of the new school buildings.

"The facilities, in my opinion, have helped attract people to the communities," he said. "It made me feel very good."

Hatfield said secondary schools face many of the same funding issues as universities.

"The state can't do it all," he said.

"I'm very proud ... pretty humbled," Hatfield said. "I'm proud of my time at Unity High School."

* * * * *THOMAS HAUSMAN

The Class of 1983 graduate is the first to be inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame posthumously and the first spouse of a previous honoree to be inducted.

Hausman was killed at age 33 in the 1998 Swissair 111 crash off the cost of Nova Scotia, Canada. His widow, Lanita Briedwell Moss, who graduated from Unity in 1982, became an air-safety activist. She was inducted into the school's Alumni Hall of Fame in 2012 and will accept the honor on his behalf in April.

"I wouldn't have ever been honored if it hadn't been for him," she said.

In 1996, at the age of 32, Moss was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 1998, she co-founded the Young Survival Coalition to provide support and services to young breast-cancer survivors. She credits Mr. Hausman with giving her the courage to do that.

The couple met when Moss was in the eighth grade and Mr. Hausman was in seventh grade. They dated on and off through high school before eventually getting married.

Right after Mr. Hausman received his bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois in 1987, he got a job as a commodities trader with Continental Grain Company (North America), and the couple moved to Fargo, N.D., where they lived for two years. They were then transferred to Minneapolis, for two and a half years; Kansas City, Mo., for a year and a half; Chicago, for two years; and finally, New York, where they were living when he died.

Mr. Hausman was a board member of the Kansas City Board of Trade and a Big Brother volunteer.

Although Moss' parents moved around a lot when she was growing up, Mr. Hausman's family has been in Pesotum for generations.

Moss describes her late husband as a humble man who only aspired to manage a grain elevator and never dreamed that some day he would live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

"He never thought as a country farm boy he would become a fairly high executive in the Continental Grain Company," Moss said. "I've thought a lot about how growing up where we did, that had an effect. He wanted to earn a good living and raise a family. He did it with being basically this really kind, down-to-earth man. He touched everybody. It was a charmed 33 years."

Moss said Mr. Hausman would likely have laughed upon being told he was being inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame.

"He was an incredible leader; he empowered people to become leaders under him," she said. "He was a remarkable man. He would be incredibly amazed but also incredibly honored."

Mr. Hausman was the youngest of seven siblings in a large German Catholic family. His brother Chris was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.

"It seemed like he was related to everybody in southern Champaign County," Moss said. "It gave him a sense of small-town community, like a big extended family. The further up the corporate ladder he climbed, it didn't change who he was. That's why he did as well as he did."

Moss said Unity math teacher Bob Aimone and Jim Mumm, who taught English and history, were two of Mr. Hausman's favorite teachers.

Moss has been thinking about what Mr. Hausman would want to convey if he were able to accept the award himself and plans to tell some humorous anecdotes.

"He was a funny guy," she said.

Although she was advised not to make any major life decisions for the first year after Mr. Hausman died, she quit her job, moved across the country and went through with adopting a baby from Russia, a process that she and Mr. Hausman were going through when he was killed.

"I almost felt like I was driven to do all that stuff," Moss said. "Whatever my gut was telling me was kind of Tom talking."

In fact, Moss believes that Mr. Hausman hand-picked both her adopted daughter, Elliott, and her current husband, Colby Moss.

* * * * *EARL PITCHFORD

Pitchford didn't let not going to college stop him from becoming the owner of a leading construction company and rubbing elbows with well-known sports figures.

One of Pitchford's best friends in high school, retired Busey Bank CEO Lee O'Neill, nominated him for the honor.

At Unity, Pitchford was involved in football, basketball and track. After school, he worked at the Hazen and Franks hardware store in Tolono, where Earth Analog recording studio is now.

Math teacher Bob Aimone is one figure who stands out in his mind from those days.

"He was always a favorite of all of us," he said.

While at Unity, Pitchford took drafting classes.

"That had a big interest on my part," he said.

His father was a carpenter, and he thought he wanted to become an architect but ended up pursuing a career in construction. After graduating from Unity in 1962, he decided to move to the Houston area to marry a girl named Peggy he met at a church camp instead of attending college at Southern Illinois University. Pitchford's first job was doing drafting work for a steel company.But coming from the small town of Tolono, Pitchford decided he would rather move to Columbus, Texas, which has a population of about 4,000. He took a job estimating for a company called Drymalla Construction. Pitchford worked his way up the ladder and was promoted to head of the pre-engineered division, eventually being offered the opportunity to buy the company in 1979.

Drymalla has other offices in Houston and near San Antonio and sometimes takes jobs in other states like Kentucky and Louisiana when existing clients request it. In 2017, it ranked 255th out of the top 400 contractors nationally in Engineering News-Record, a construction industry magazine.Pitchford attributes the company's success to "hard work" and "being in the right place."

"It's with God's help and the personal relationships," he said. "We get a lot of repeat business and jobs done on time."

Drymalla, which has about 200 employees, has done work for 92 different school districts in Texas. The company also does construction for hospitals, manufacturing, churches and industrial clients. It's not uncommon for a project to have 400 to 500 workers. The company built what was at the time the largest high school football stadium in Texas, Galena Park ISD Stadium (capacity 7,600), which was used in the movie "Friday Night Lights."

Some of the company's managers have been with Drymalla for 50 years, working in the construction and accounting departments. There are about 50 employees who do estimating, project management and engineering.

"It's certainly not a one-man operation," he said.

Now 74, Pitchford still works, getting up at 4 or 4:30 a.m. and getting into the office by 5:30 a.m.

"I don't work as many late hours as I used to," he said.

He still does estimating from time to time.

"You've got to keep in practice or you'll forget what you're doing," he said.

Pitchford and his wife own a 1,500-acre ranch that boasts 22 varieties of African animals such as zebras, wildebeests, impalas and sables, some on the endangered-species list. They also raise and release white-tailed deer. Although they take customers, Pitchford describes the venture as more of a hobby than a business.

The idea came from Pitchford's hunting trips that have taken him to Russia, Siberia, Alaska, New Zealand and Australia.

"We decided that's what we'd like to do," he said.

Some of the celebrities who have visited the ranch include country singer Mark Chesnutt, former American League pitcher Kenny Rogers, and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watts, who is friends with Pitchford's son. Pitchford has also rubbed elbows with the likes of former Oilers running back Earl Campbell.

"We've had a good life," Pitchford said. "Our life here has been blessed. We've been very fortunate."

Pitchford plans to tell the Unity students he speaks to in April that employers are looking for "good young people who want to work."

"Relationships is what gets you your business in today's world," he said. "I didn't get a polished education, but I build for the University of Houston and Texas A&M. Most of my management employees are graduates of Texas A&M. Degrees are important, but remember, you've got to work. It's just a tough old world, and if you're not prepared for it, it's going to be tougher."

* * * * *JOY (READY) JOHANNES

Johannes would rather spend her time and effort helping people in need than sew thousands of beads onto dresses. She learned that through life experiences that started during her years at Unity High School.

Born in Champaign, Johannes grew up there until the eighth grade, when her family moved to the Unit 7 school district, so she attended Unity High School.

"I was very sports-minded and was in a lot of different sports," Johannes said.

For many years, she held a junior high track record.

"My coach said I had the potential for the Olympics," she said. "Track was my passion."

At state, Johannes ran against Jackie Joyner-Kersee, whom Sports Illustrated for Women magazine later voted the greatest female athlete of all-time.

Years after that, a good friend of hers ran in the Olympics in Greece.

"I sort of lived vicariously through her," Johannes said.

Like Mr. Hausman and Pitchford, Johannes remembers math teacher Aimone as being influential.

"He was just a person of honesty and integrity because of his faith and morals," Johannes said. "He didn't talk about them but he lived them."

The French classes she took at Unity came in handy later on in life when she traveled to Paris nine times, Johannes said.

She earned a bachelor's degree in graphic design from Murray State University in 1985 and a master's degree from the UI in 2007.

The daughter of a woodworker and contractor, Johannes found she was very good at woodworking and metal shop at Unity.

"I loved drafting," she said. "I really wanted to be an architect."Johannes settled on graphic design as a major in an unusual way. She was intrigued by the character of advertising executive Darrin Stephens on the TV series "Bewitched" and how he would come up with ideas and drawings to pitch to clients.

At Murray State, Johannes specialized in fashion illustration. She went into business with her parents when she was in her 20s, which she did for seven years, seven months and seven days. At the time, big-box stores were gaining a foothold in the retail economy, and mom-and-pop businesses were falling by the wayside.

"I enjoyed it, but it wasn't something I wanted to do for the rest of my life," Johannes said.

Johannes and her husband and three other couples established Restoration Urban Ministries in Champaign to help homeless and disadvantaged populations in 1995.

"I sold my business and never looked back," she said. "I just really enjoyed helping people. It was something my family taught me."

She was inspired by both sets of grandparents, one of which provided shelter for a homeless man and one of which would bring homeless people home for dinner.

"That was just part of growing up, and I really enjoyed that," she said.

The business skills like bookkeeping and writing grants that she learned helped her when she reinvented herself, Johannes said.

After helping start Restoration Urban Ministries, Johannes founded an after-school program called King's Club International Ministries in Urbana for children living in low-income neighborhoods. What started with 40 kids has now grown to serve over 3,000 families weekly.

"I really thought that's what I was going to do for the rest of my life," she said.

Joy has also helped start a children's program in Nigeria and worked for a nonprofit in East Africa.

"I'm really glad I did," she said. "It gave me a really broad skill set. It's such a rich experience. It wasn't one-sided."

Johannes' last position was as the food-system policy director for New Haven, Conn.

She is now coming on board to help with funding for a small nonprofit called The Storehouse Project, which collects food, clothing, furniture and household items for clients referred by agencies. Her goal is to make the model for the organization, which has 140 volunteers, sustainable.

"I tend to take on jobs and assignments that really need that," she said.

When she comes for the Hall of Fame induction, Johannes plans to tell the Unity students "to not be afraid and to step out and take the advice that life is short."

"I'm glad when opportunities presented themselves, I stepped out and did it," she said. "I've had a fulfilling life with no regrets, which is a great place to be at this stage of life. You are the only person that can limit yourself."

Johannes said when she first learned that she was being inducted into Unity's Hall of Fame, she was shocked.

"In high school, I was pretty shy," she said. "I know a lot of people in my class have done some amazing things."

When Johannes was a food-policy director, she was one of only 21 in the United States.

"I called back to Illinois to some farmers I know and said, 'Give me your thoughts,'" she said. "It's on such a macro level."

Prior to that, she was the executive director of a food pantry. She revamped supplies and brought in some money for them.

— Christine Walsh, County Star

Source : http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2018-04-17/unity-hall-fame-inductee-i-wanted-impact-the-lives-the-community.html

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