The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
There has been an outpouring of condolences in the last 24 hours since Art's passing. I, like so many others, have so many fond memories with him, not to mention the utmost appreciation for the man he was. I wanted to share them, to express how much he really meant to me, and I choose to do it here, since there may not be a better time, nor would I ever get the words out of my mouth if given the chance.
As is common in a time like this we all say how great of a person he or she was that has passed, how great of a life they lived, and how much they impacted everyone else during their time on earth. How Christ-like they were, and how much they loved their family. When these things are said in reference to Art Kane, they are 100% accurate. We are not just using the default words and sentences that everyone is supposed to use at a time like this to describe a loved one who has passed. This man was truly special. A man that most people wouldn't forget, after just meeting him one time. I would challenge anyone to think of one person in their life that truly cared so much more about other people than Art did. Someone that cared so much for the community that they were born and raised, and did as much as he could to see it flourish. Good luck. Our community has lost some amazing people in the last few years that one might try to compare Art to, but this isn't a contest. It's simply my opinion of an Uncle. An opinion that I have had for over 40 years that he only solidified each passing day.
I am third in order of age of Art's 17 nephews and nieces. I belong to Dan, Art's second brother. My wife is Cindy and we have four children. And, I'm going to stop right there with those specifics. Art however, could have easily rattled off my family genealogy dating back five generations, and given you the name of my children, their ages, and what school they go to, all before I had finished shaking your hand with a greeting. Within another minute, he could probably have figured out how I am related to each and every one of you.
When I was born, Art was still living with Grandma and Grandpa, and had been working at the bank for 7 years. I remember that he was at every family gathering we had. At an early age, he showed me how to work with stained glass out of his basement office. He used to take us to the bank and show us around, giving us history lessons, letting us try to pick the right keys to open lock-boxes (which never worked) and have us help him carry out bags of shredded paper, then (the fun part) helping us get it home and light the match to set it on fire. About the time I was around 6 or 7, Art started taking my cousins and I on trips and outings. Some just a couple hours, some all day. Later, almost a week at a time. We regularly attended Heritage Trail stops with Art. Trips to Weir's Fruit Farm, crawling down Bailey's cave, hikes to the top of Bald Bluff, tours through the Phelps house, and stops at Norma Jean's resting place. We spent time helping on the recovering of the Gladstone covered bridge, and looking back, I'm sure we were more hassle than help. We made numerous trips to Keokuk Iowa, to watch the Civil War reenactments, and tried to go on different days of the weekend, so we didn't always see the North win. He would buy us root beer, and we would buy swords, guns, and canon fuse. Other times we would go down to watch the bald eagles at the lock & dam. On most trips he would take us out for supper, and he would always want us to try something different and always at a different place. Most of the time we did. Jason, however, always had a cheeseburger. He took us to see Dancing with Wolves and never got tired of us talking like Indians making "tatanka" horns with our fingers. He would take us to the "Rock Show" in Macomb, and had to know the entire time we couldn't wait to go out to eat or for ice cream afterward. Geodes were fun to try to break open, but it was still just rocks. When Jason and I were ten, and Jim 13, Art took us on a weeklong trip to Kentucky. That week alone should have earned him Sainthood. We all knew the Judd's songs by heart by the time we got home. We just kept flipping the cassette over in the car. Occasionally, Art would try to slip in some Irish folk music or a book on tape, but we wouldn't have it. Maybe it was on this trip we formed our love with "tatanka". A baby buffalo calf had gotten out along the road. Being farm kids, we thought we should help get it in. Against Art's request, we bailed from the car and started to corral the small animal, unfazed by its 1800# angry mom across the fence. The park ranger wasn't impressed with out herding assistance. On the same trip, our prize purchases from a gift shop were bull whips. Entirely safe. That night at the motel, the vines on the hurricane fence in the parking lot were no match for the three of us. I'm sure Art was happy to see us use them so much in one night that they wouldn't hardly work after that.
Some trips included visits to Springfield to learn the History surrounding Abraham Lincoln. A man who I often compare Art to, since he was always known for his honesty. Walks through the museum, rubbing the nose on the statue, visits to Lincoln's old home. And on these trips, we were sure to learn about all the other presidents as well. I believe I had a leg up on the rest of the 5th grade class, by being able to name all of the presidents in order, because of the practice we had with Uncle Art.
Other trips were made to Nauvoo. Art took many of us down there on several occasions and we inevitably came back with fudge or caramels. For many years, Art had planned a family trip to Hotel Nauvoo for supper. It was one of Grandma and Grandpa Kane's favorite places to eat, and Art liked seeing all of us gather there as family.
Another story I like to remember was at a family gathering at Bill & Alice Brokaw's one evening in the mid 80's. Art, was given a loaner car from Davisons for whatever reason. But, not any old loaner. He was driving a newer Trans Am. He took us on a drive that night that made us all feel like we were in the movie Smokie and the Bandit. It may have been the only time Art exceeded the speed limit in his entire life.
Art was a huge supporter of 4-H. He enjoyed watching everyone, not just his own family, participate in all 4-H events. He was even a club leader for a while. If you wanted to see Art really happy, put a 4-H event in the Opera House in Raritan. Art enjoyed attending, and even participating in plays at the Opera House. I'm sure his favorite might have been our interpretation of Larry, Darryl, and Darryl from the Newhart show for our 4-H skit many years ago.
In 1990, Art and a couple of his cousins, purchased some timber ground. Ironically, he would remind us, on "Earth Day" in April. We helped salvage many different old barns in order to build two small cabins on that property. Many memories were made at the cabins. All of the family has spent many great times there over the years.
Art was very active in Saint Patrick's church. For many years he served as a trustee. A blue spruce tree was planted out front years ago, likely Art's doing. He designated it to be the backdrop for almost every major event held at the church, when it came time for a photo. For years, it was his own personal goal to get Christmas lights on the tree. When it was about 40 feet tall, and getting difficult to reach with a bucket truck, Art finally decided to plant a new tree, a little easier to decorate. Art also took care of placing flags on graves of Veterans. Not just at Saint Patrick's, but the Raritan Cemetery as well. And he didn't need to look it up in a file or notebook every year. He just knew.
I always remember the time he spent sign painting. You never knew where he might decide to prop up some lumber at home and start painting. 5 gallon buckets, lawn mower hoods, tractor hitches, car trunk lids, or any available hayrack. Whether it was for a church meal, museum hours, voting for a new fire truck, welcome home signs for new infants and their parents, or touching up the KANE reunion sign, he always had a sign project. He would like to get creative like the old Burma Shave advertising, and set up four to five signs spread apart down the roadway. I loved to see the notes he would take and the puns he would work into his next possible project. I bet most of the family has a sign of Art's from one time or another, stored somewhere in their home or shop. And, if he wasn't painting signs, Art would be the first person to pick up a paint brush and come to your new home to help paint rooms and ceilings. He would just show up, unannounced, with paint clothes and brush in hand, ready to help. And when he did, he always had treats or goodies he would bring along. But first, before painting and changing the looks of everything, we must take a picture!
Art carried his camera everywhere! He was always capturing photos of friends and family. His car, and grandma's tables, were always full of photos, film containers, and small photo albums. Art got to be known for taking photos at couple's weddings and often showing up at the reception before the bride and groom, with fresh photos already in a small album, to share with them. I'm sure we could spend days as a family, going through the stacks of Art's photos. Something else Art always carried with him, pens and note cards. His front pocket always consisted of at least two pens and a dozen or more note cards. Some cards had little reminders while most where plans for his next sign project. Others would have dates listed out for Birthdays and anniversaries. Art never seemed to forget everyone else's special dates, and he often sent a card with well wishes in it. Getting a Happy Anniversary Card from Art a day or two before the actual date, probably saved some husbands from some squabbles with their significant other through the years, by getting that little "reminder". Not many friends or relatives missed getting graduation cards from Art as well. How he was able to keep track of so much without his own personally secretary baffles me.
To add to the list of many of Art's accomplishments, he was named Illinoisan of the Day, at the Illinois State Fair, the first year they started doing it. When reading the requirements to qualify for this honor, we were sure they had Art in mind to be the first one selected. There were over 50 friends and family members who made the trip to Springfield to see him be recognized. Art was very active locally in 1976 helping the country celebrate its 200th birthday. He served on a committee helping prepare for the yearlong celebration for this community, and took great pride in this role. He was very fond of the Red-White-Blue star logo that marked the bicentennial celebration. (Enough so that is engraved on his headstone). However, he wasn't near as fond of his mustache that he grew that year, along with so many other men. Most recently, Art was very concerned with getting our government officials in our state of Illinois, to prepare for its birthday, coming up on Dec 3,2018. He was very sad to see the first group of people commissioned to help celebrate, were never given any funding to make plans. He then started to take it upon himself, having magnets made, and planning for different events. He designed a sign himself, and was starting to get them put up around the community. He was also soliciting volunteers he felt would be good for the community, to add on a committee, to help start planning. I'm sure that list is on a note card somewhere.
I can state that Art did have one weakness that jumps to mind. Cooking. I'm not sure I ever saw him cook anything other than a hotdog over an open fire. However, he could make popcorn like no other! Art had a special pan specifically designated for popcorn only, and would pour it into an old brown paper bag. Then, after melting the butter in the pan, would pour it into the bag like a master chef, getting the pan further from that bag as he poured. At home, he would always "accidentally" drop an ice cube from the freezer in the basement, then use his mad skills to kick it with his foot across the room into the small drain hole for the goal!
Lastly, I must reflect on his relationship with God. Art was never one to quote scripture, but It was obvious He and God were great friends with an amazing relationship. It's been said by many people over the years that knowing Art is as close to knowing a Saint as they would ever get. And that is likely very true. We all have the potential to be saints and I hope no one thinks it's too late to become one, but Art lived every day dedicated to God and his work. He stayed Humble, and how he treated others and his ability to forgive were unmatched. I'm not sure of the count, but Art was a sponsor many times for children and adults alike, that were being confirmed into the Catholic faith. He was also a God Parent to many through the years when they were baptized. He was a true role model. For ALL of us. Until we meet again.