By Pamela Rensing
The Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) recently announced that five senior citizens have been selected for Senior Illinois Hall of Fame in 2022. Mascoutah resident Robert Cearnal was named one of the honorees.
“The Senior Illinoisan Hall of Fame honors older adults who have made invaluable contributions to their communities—some over the course of several decades,” said IDoA Director Paula Basta. “It’s my honor to announce our 2022 inductees, all of whom are remarkable in their own right and very deserving of this recognition.”
The Senior Illinoisan Hall of Fame was established by the General Assembly in 1994 to honor older adults’ accomplishments and contributions to their communities. Each year, IDoA presents Senior Illinoisan Hall of Fame awards to older adults who excel in the categories of community service, education, performance and/or graphic arts, and the labor force. This year, tied scores in the community service category resulted in a total of five older adults joining the Hall of Fame, one more than the traditional four annual inductees.
The honorees are: Senior Illinoisan Hall of Fame in 2022 are: David Risley, 70, of Rochester in the category of community service; the late Martha Bowen of Chicago in the category of community service; Phil Bratta, 79, of Davis Junction in the category of education; Ernest White, 73, of Jacksonville in the category of the labor force; and our own Robert “Bob” Cearnal, 81, of Mascoutah in the category of performance and/or graphic arts.
A ceremony honoring Cearnal will be held Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the Espenschied Chapel Annex in Mascoutah from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Paula Basta, Director of the IDoA, will be in attendance. Friends, family, former students and faculty are invited, and complimentary refreshments and beverages will be served. RSVPs are requested by November 23 via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Espenschied Chapel Annex is located at 317 N. County Rd. in Mascoutah.
“I am so honored and very humbled by this award,” Cearnal said. “The family support I receive from my wife JoReed, my son, daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have been instrumental in my life. I’m extremely fortunate.” The Cearnals have been married for 61 years.
Cearnal became an educator in 1962 and continued until his retirement in 2000. While at Mascoutah High School, Cearnal organized the Students Against Driving Drunk Club (SADD). He was selected as the “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers” in 1994.
After his retirement, one of the former members of the golf team Cearnal coached, came to him with the idea to host a golf scramble with funds being raised for graduating seniors. In the past 14 years, over $120,000 in scholarships were awarded.
In 1968, Cearnal joined the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (now called the Barbershop Harmony Society). He joined several quartets entertaining audiences from Florida to Canada in his award-winning Male Delivery Quartet. This foursome also appeared on the NBC “Today” Show.
He has emceed many chapter shows throughout the Midwest and on the international level. He has served as Master of Ceremonies for chorus and quartet competitions, Mid-Winter shows, and Senior and College Quartet contests. As an emcee, he was the presenter of the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) 75th Anniversary concert in Carnegie Hall in New York City. As a result of his years of dedication, he was inducted into the BHS Master of Ceremonies Hall of Fame.
Cearnal has received many honors throughout the years. As international president of the Barbershop Harmony Society, he flew to Germany to sign that chapter’s proclamation as an accredited affiliate member of BHS.
As a teacher, he created two new classes for the English curriculum – Studies in Humor and Detective Fiction for which he received the coveted Golden Apple Award from the local public service television station.
Cearnal recognizes the love of music in all ages, but especially to those living in nursing homes. Over the years, the group has performed for numerous nursing homes and retirement centers, sometimes as many as 25-30 times each year.
For approximately 25 years, he also volunteered to be the song leader for Mascoutah’s annual Christmas caroling evening. Cearnal and members of the BHS will participate in the Mascoutah Lighted Christmas Parade on Friday, Dec. 2. After the parade, Cearnal will officially welcome Santa to Mascoutah before he begins greeting children at the Santa Hut.
Illinois Department of Aging – The IDoA serves and advocates for older Illinoisans and their caregivers by administering quality and culturally appropriate programs that promote partnerships and encourage independence, dignity, and quality of life. For information about the Department’s programs and services for older adults and persons with disabilities, visit https://www2.illinois.gov/aging/programs or contact the Senior HelpLine toll-free at 1-800-252-8966, Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.