In 2021 the Sangamon Township Board established the Outstanding Citizen Award to honor individuals or groups that have positively impacted the township. The award denotes the gratitude the Township Board owes to these individuals or groups in making Sangamon Township a great place to live.
The Sangamon Township Board honored Kenneth Max Olson as its Outstanding Citizen for 2023.
Kenneth Max Olson was born in 1927 to Charles Alva Olson and Grace Edna Blank the sixth of seven children. A grandson of Swedish Immigrants Ola Olson and Mary Anna Regnold, Max grew up on the family farm near White Heath. His elementary education came from the one room country school Prairie Dell which was located near his home. Max went on to attend Monticello High School with a very successful four years of accomplishments graduating in 1945. Max played on the Okaw Valley Champs Football Team, basketball, baseball and intramurals. In 1944 Max starred in the play “Brother Goose”. His senior year Max’s leadership skills and personality led to him being voted President of the Student Council. Enjoyment of Max’s high school years were dampened as the war in Europe waged on and friends and neighbors were being called into service. For Max it was participating as 2nd Captain of the High School Victory Corp, a program to enable students to better prepare themselves to participate in a war or post war world.
After high school graduation Max served a brief stint in the United States Navy and then on to the University of Illinois where he earned a degree in the College of Commerce. Max married the love of his life Miss Marilyn Furry of Monticello on May 30th 1952. Max and Marilyn raised five successful children.
He began a farming career in 1950 on the family farm which was established in 1894. Max’s farming career spanned forty-two years. During those years he saw changes in farming from shelling corn out of the crib to shelling corn with a combine, from a three-bottom moldboard plow to a chisel plow, corn yields from under 100 bushels to over 200 bushels per acre.
But these years were not spent just farming as Max became involved in local government. Like his father Max served as a Trustee and Supervisor of Sangamon Township for many years. Later Max was elected to the Piatt County Board and later became Chairman. During his tenure he helped bring about the Piatt County Safety Building and Maple Point assisted living residences. He served as a director of Piatt County Service Company and as its president for 14 years. During the same time, Max was elected as a director of Growmark, Inc, a Bloomington regional farm cooperative.
While serving on the Monticello School Board for fifteen years the district constructed three school additions. He was inducted into the Monticello Hall of Fame on September 28, 2007. Max was one of the original members of the board of directors for Tatman Village. He was instrumental in forming the East Camp Creek Drainage District. Max has volunteered and served as director for Habitat for Humanity of Piatt County.
In addition to all these accomplishments Max has found time to serve the United Methodist Church as a Sunday School Teacher and numerous other positions. Max’s own words from his senior year in high school best describes his life, “Success is nothing but a good idea coupled with hard work.”
Martha Ann Stanley Rhoades is the second recipient of the “Outstanding Citizen Award of Sangamon Township.”
Martha Ann Stanley Rhoades is the granddaughter of Porter Heath and daughter of Noble Porter Heath II. Martha Ann is a life long resident of Sangamon Township and Piatt County. Martha Ann’s roots are grounded in the family farm near White Heath. Martha Ann’s mother died when she was only twenty months old. Her grandparents, except for one grandfather had already passed when she was a child. Martha Ann’s father would tell her bed time stories about his time growing up and about the family she never knew.
These stories and the desire to learn more about her ancestors lingered in the background until later in life. Martha attended a school in White Heath until 8th grade when she transferred to the two room Camp Creek school just south of White Heath. She met her first husband Delbert Stanley while attending Monticello High School.
After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, Delbert began his teaching and coaching career at White Heath Grade School. Martha was always there to support Delbert and the White Heath School for many, many, years. Martha and Delbert raised not only their own family but that of her brother after his passing in the big house on the family farm just southeast of the White Heath ball diamond. Besides being a homemaker and raising a family Martha was involved in the PTA, a 4-H Leader, served on numerous committees at the Monticello United Methodist Church.
Once her family had grown, Martha Ann started delving into genealogy in 1975 when she took a course at Parkland College. She later took a class from the Mormons. Martha Ann has spent countless hours recording the history of Sangamon Township. She has been instrumental in the recording of grave site information while saving valuable history on the cemeteries in Sangamon Township and throughout Piatt County. Martha has given classes on how to use shaving cream on grave stones to read names and dates. She has been a member of the Piatt County Historical and Genealogical Society for multiple decades. Martha has maintained a collection of photographs and history regarding the founders, township schools and cemeteries of Sangamon Township. When residents of the township were rebuilding the existing ball diamond, Martha stood up financially to bring it to fruition.
Martha was a regular Sunday visitor at the Piatt County Nursing home and a Hospice Helper. The residents of Sangamon Township owe Martha Ann Stanley Rhoades a great deal of gratitude for service and the blessing of history you have been given us for future generations. The Sangamon Township Board honors and thanks you for all you have done.
Debbie McPheeters is the first recipient of the “Outstanding Citizen Award of Sangamon Township.”
Debbie McPheeters was born and raised in the White Heath area the daughter of Richard and Carolyn Timmons, and has been a life-long resident of Sangamon Township.
Debbie attended White Heath Grade School and then Monticello High School. Debbie worked as a cook for twenty-eight years at the White Heath School. Many students were fortunate to treated to her tasty meals.
Debbie has been a vital part of the White Heath Community Center, located in White Heath since 1973. Over the last few decades, Debbie has been a mainstay in the finances and management of the White Heath Community Center. Debbie has been active with helping with the White Heath Fire Departments fund raisers for many years.
Lending her organizing skills. Debbie has been instrumental in the Freedom Celebration fireworks on July 3 every year at Lodge Park in Sangamon Township for the last ten years. These fireworks have been enjoyed not only by people in the community but from many nearby communities as well. The fireworks brings thousands of people each year to the celebration. The celebration was almost gone until Debbie and others stepped in to continue the tradition.
Debbie and her husband Mark, have provided trick or treaters and Halloween enthusiasts alike, enjoyment of pumpkin carving and decorating with their annual Pumpkin Hollow just south of White Heath for the past eight years.