Belleville to honor 12 ‘Citizens of Character’

The awards have been renamed in honor of late longtime Belleville educator Mary McHugh, who died in 2014. Here are photos of McHugh and some of her awards displayed at a memorial service for her last year.
The awards have been renamed in honor of late longtime Belleville educator Mary McHugh, who died in 2014. Here are photos of McHugh and some of her awards displayed at a memorial service for her last year.

The Belleville Achieves Strength in Character, or BASIC, Initiative is always on the lookout for “unsung heroes” and on Tuesday night the group will honor 12 of them at the annual Mary McHugh Citizens of Character dinner.

“We do it to recognize people who might not be recognized in public for the things that they do,” said Darrell Coons, executive director of the BASIC Initiative. “We tell people that we’re looking for folks who are the unsung heroes. Some times it’s folks that everybody knows. Other times it might be someone that nobody outside of a certain neighborhood has heard from.”

Last year, the awards were named in memory of Mary McHugh, who died in 2014 and was one of the founding members of the BASIC Initiative. McHugh was a longtime educator in Belleville.

Rob Dyer, pastor of First United Presbyterian Church in Belleville, will be the guest speaker at the eighth annual dinner.

The BASIC Initiative released the following information about why the group selected each of this year’s recipients:

Jane G. Bonaldi

Bonaldi led a Union United Methodist Church mission trip on short notice and served as program director for the Turkey Hill Grange with a “can-do” spirit. She has had leadership positions in two local churches, the Optimist Club of Belleville, the Lebanon Rotary Club, Project Hope in East St. Louis, the St. Clair County Genealogical Society, Christian Home Care in Lebanon, the St. Clair County Historical Society and the Gateway East Artists’ Guild.

Alphonso Daniel

Daniel is an assistant principal at Belleville East High School. He is known for his honest and welcoming approach to students, staff and parents. He values friendship and consistently puts the needs of others above his own. His ability to lead and model what he wants from others has made him successful in his role at the school and in life in general.

Luke Eckert

Eckert is a carpenter who volunteered to lead in the production of the wooden chalets used by vendors in the Belleville Christkindlmarkt. His Eagle Scout project made several improvements to the downtown Belleville Main Library. He is one of the youngest Citizens of Character.

Bryan Fritz

If you visit downtown Belleville during any major event or festival, you are likely to see Fritz helping out. Along with assisting with the Belleville bicentennial celebration, he volunteers for Belleville Main Street, Sister Cities, the Oktoberfest Committee and the St. Teresa’s Men’s Club.

Sandy Korobey

Korobey is known among her neighbors as the one person who is always ready to jump in when there is a need, whether collecting clothing for the homeless or helping to create and oversee fundraisers for her friends, neighbors or people she doesn’t even know. She never has to be asked to get involved for the benefit of others. She sees a need and “jumps in” to go beyond meeting the need to enriching the lives of those she helps and those who volunteer with her.

Judie Louden

As a volunteer at Memorial Hospital in Belleville, Louden led the efforts to create a biannual Youth Health Fair in St. Clair County. She also has been involved with the RSVP program at Programs and Services for Older Persons. She coordinates a monthly food, a clothing and toy drive for children in East St. Louis, and is an active volunteer with a local VFW Post.

William S. Lyke

Lyke, a U.S. Army and Illinois Army National Guard veteran, serves as the chair of the HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital board of directors and as an educator at Southwestern Illinois College and Webster University. Lyke’s nomination notes he has been dedicated to good citizenship throughout his entire life.

Mark Nicholson

Nicholson is described by his nominating colleague as an unsung hero who has great empathy and integrity. He is a skilled craftsman who quietly offers his abilities to help in his community. He has volunteered for Neighbors for Renewal and Belleville Helping Belleville Day for the last two years, often going back to complete a project the second or third day. At his church, Mark is known as the “go-to” person when a person or a family has a need for his skills, even on Christmas Eve.

Mary Reuter

Reuter is assistant vice president of Lindenwood University-Belleville. Her nomination included a packet of letters from people who have witnessed her dedication to the community and those whose lives have intersected hers. One friend described Reuter as “an exemplary Belleville citizen who gives selflessly of her time and talents.”

Jim Riess

Riess is known by those who do business with him, go to church with him or serve in Rotary with him as the consummate example of integrity, cooperation, fairness and perseverance. While others might wonder how he does what he does while dealing with health issues, Riess describes his life as being blessed to receive the love and support of friends, family and colleagues.

Chuck Schaeffer

Schaeffer is the director of public works for the city of Belleville. Beyond events like Art On the Square, the Chili Cook-Off and Downtown Trick-or-Treat, Schaeffer has proved invaluable as a coordinator for the annual Belleville Helping Belleville Day. His two nominators said, “Chuck never expects accolades or acknowledgment from others, yet deserves recognition. Chuck is a true, selfless individual that we are proud to call our friend.”

Rob Stock

Stock is a leader with Boy Scout Troop 11 and also serves as president of the Belleville West Marching Maroons Band Parent Association. He is an active member of the Knights of Columbus Council 15746 and a volunteer at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Belleville. His nominator said, “Rob’s commitment to his family, his faith, his community, as well as his positive influence on the next generation of community leaders, exemplifies what it means to be a Citizen of Character.”

Mike Koziatek: 618-239-2502, @MikeKoziatekBND

Want to go?

  • What: Mary McHugh Citizens of Character dinner
  • When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
  • Where: Fischer’s Restaurant, 2100 W. Main St., Belleville
  • Cost: $40 per person, $320 for table of eight
  • Details: 618-257-7022 or