As a festive start to 2013, I hope you'll enjoy a few final fun facts and anecdotes from some of last year's most popular columns:
OH, CHUTE: After I wrote about a man who died after parachuting onto the Gateway Arch, Dennis Wisnasky, of Fairview Heights, reminded me someone once did climb to the top and parachute back to the ground successfully.
Indeed, he did, Dennis. On Sept. 14, 1992, John Vincent, 25, started scaling the exterior of the Arch at 3:30 a.m. and, using suction cups, arrived at the top about two hours later. Then, after spending 75 minutes to rest and take photos, he jumped and floated back to the ground. A construction worker from Harvey, La., Vincent eventually turned himself in after two men who videotaped the stunt were caught and charged. Vincent eventually pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors.
However, B.J. Schulte, of Belleville, better remembers Kenneth Swyers' fatal jump to impress his wife on Nov. 22, 1980.
"The same day, I was on a training hill in Collinsville, honing my hang-gliding skills," he wrote. "The winds were due south at 15 mph. The winds atop the Arch were a lot stronger. These were the worst possible conditions to be performing any kind of risky stunt. After a few 'bucking-bronco' flights, I packed up and called it a day. It's a shame he didn't do the same."
OUT TO LAUNCH: The area's three Nike missile bases from the 1960s are probably just a fleeting memory for most, but not to Bill Craft, of Edwardsville. He was about 7 when, on a family drive, they decided to get a closer look at the installation near Marine off Illinois 4.
"My dad and I got out and started walking toward the base when a few M.P.s with their guns drawn started rapidly walking toward us," Craft wrote. "They told us to get back in the car and leave."
It reminded Swansea Civil War historian and re-enactor Dennis Hermann of an old adage. "One joke I still use: The Nike missile was 100 percent effective 60 percent of the time. As you can see, this rationale is applicable to many situations. Love statistics!"
CHEW ON THIS: Just a week ago, Bob Rogers, of Highland, wrote to say that EZO denture cushions were finally back on the market at GA Labs (www.galabs.com). I'm sure my reader from Martinez, Ga., who uses them to make her clarinet playing more comfortable, will be tooting a happier tune.
GETTING THE BUGS OUT: A column about Dave Embry, who took over the Belleville McDonald's a year after it opened in 1962, brought memories from Mike Hayes, of Lebanon, one of the original employees.
"(Dave) was always joking with us," Hayes wrote. "After we closed the restaurant at 11, we would clean up and go down to the Hy-Ho and eat.
"At 6 the next morning, Dave would be out front of (his McDonald's) with a hose spraying off the green walkway. We had so many bugs during the summer that we sprayed bug spray with a fogger every night after we closed -- thus, the accumulation of the dead bugs on the sidewalk. This is one of the reasons McDonald's starting putting lids on their drinks was because of the bug problem."
A BRIGHT KNIGHT: Richard McClellan still remembers the great times he enjoyed with his cousin Ron Lipe -- better known as Prince Knight to his fans at KSHE-FM and at the rock concerts the record producer put on at Belleville's old Rex Theatre at 1317 W. Main St.
"Over the years I met so many recording artists -- Carl Perkins, Bill Justis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich," McClellan wrote. "The very best was when I met Elvis Presley, because Ron knew Elvis from when they both lived in Mississippi.
"When I was about 15, and he told me one night we had somewhere special to go. We took his '58 Eldorado and went to the old Club Blue Note just outside East St. Louis. He was introducing Ike & Tina Turner that night. They all loved him and called him Mr. Ron."
SHIPSHAPE FACTS: In helping a reader find an aircraft carrier to tour, I mentioned in passing a carrier named the Bon Homme Richard that was scrapped in 1992.
The first Bonhomme Richard (literally "good man Richard") was a frigate built in 1765 and named by famed naval fighter John Paul Jones to honor Ben Franklin and his almanac. But Belleville attorney Bruce Cook reminded me that Jones was born John Paul, adding the Jones later as an alias to evade a questionable murder rap.
Cook also said a new Bonhomme Richard -- an amphibious assault ship -- was launched March 14, 1997, with Sasebo, Japan, as her new home port as of last April.
FINAL ANSWER: Because of an editorial mix-up, here's the answer to my Dec. 27 trivia question: For his role as Maurice Conchis in the 1968 movie "The Magus," Anthony Quinn was required to shave his head. Not being the Yul Brynner type, Quinn reportedly took out an insurance policy that would have paid off had his hair not grown back.
On Sunday, the St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson became the sixth man in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in at least eight consecutive seasons. Who tops the list -- and who are the other four?
Answer to Sunday's trivia: A bellwether event is one that sets or portends a trend or style. In other words, it leads the herd -- which is how the word originated. Often wearing a bell around its neck so that farmers could keep tabs on it, a wether is a castrated male sheep that leads the rest of the flock -- hence, bellwether, a word that dates back more than 600 years.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org