Memorial Day is a special day on the calender — especially this year. As we approach Memorial Day weekend and the services planned to remember our fallen heroes in all wars, the life and tragic death last week of Champaign Police Officer Chris Oberheim weighs heavy on my thoughts. Officer Oberheim was shot and killed Wednesday while on duty and responding with his partner to a call for a domestic disturbance. Both were shot. Oberheim died as a result of his wounds. His partner survived. The Champaign Police Department says the suspect was shot and killed during the shootout.
The news of Officer Oberheim’s death stunned and shocked Central Illinois communities. Even though he was a Champaign Police Officer, he was a Decatur Police Officer in the years previous to that employment and he grew up in Decatur, graduating from Stephen Decatur High School. He was a hometown guy. Since the news of his death broke last week I’ve heard from so many people in Decatur who had some kind of a connection to the slain officer — whether it was when he served here as a police officer, or through coaching and other community service, or connection with family members here.
Officer Oberheim was a member of the Decatur Police Department during the years I served as mayor which hits even a little closer to my memory bank. Last Friday, his wife and four daughters released a statement about their husband and father and his impact on their lives and the lives of others quoting Matthew 5:9 which states “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”
The family’s statement read: “Chris Oberheim lived by this Bible verse. He had a servant’s heart that revolved around loving his family and protecting others. Chris was not only a police officer, he was also a son, brother, beloved coach, trusted friend, and respected leader. He fulfilled the roles of husband and father best.
“Chris started his career at the Decatur Police Department in 2000. He quickly became a respected officer within that department who led by silent example. He maintained a sense of humility even when receiving recognition for his heroic actions. He always looked forward to playing in the annual PBPA state softball tournament and making memories with his fellow officers. Their friendships were treasured.
“Chris transferred to Champaign Police Department in 2008 where he continued to protect and serve his community. Chris received 2 medals of valor for his courageous acts of selfless bravery. However, you would never know that because he kept a humble demeanor and was never boastful.
“Chris dedicated a great deal of his off-duty time to coaching several successful girl’s softball teams. His influence on the field was felt by many who loved and respected him. Chris made it very apparent that his family was his first priority. His 4 daughters were his absolute pride and joy. The lessons instilled and the honor in their hearts will be used to carry on the legacy of their father. Times will be hard without him in sight at life’s events from birthdays, ball games, graduation, future weddings and even someday grandchildren. While incredibly hard, his family’s faith and belief that Chris is forever watching over will warm their heavy hearts during these moments.
“Thank you for those who have and continue to show their love and respect for Chris and his family. He genuinely cared about each and everyone that was ever part of his life. Through the hustles and bustles of life stay kind-hearted, take the time to slow down, hug your loved ones, hold them tight and enjoy every moment you’re blessed with together.
“Moving forward we will do just as Chris would…stay strong, faithful and close to family. We do this for him.”
• PEOPLE sometimes forget that when a law enforcement officer goes to work each day he is not only laying his or her life on the line for others, but the career choice impacts families, not only at the time of an officer laying down his life for others, but all the future days and years and memories that have been taken from the officer and family. That’s the kind of ultimate sacrifice that we also remember this Memorial Day — the sacrifice of those who gave up all of their tomorrows to protect us today. More information on Chris Oberheim are in our public records in this week’s edition. Prayers and warm thoughts for the Chris Oberheim family during this day and the days ahead.
• ONE FINAL thought on the tragic shooting of Champaign Police Officer Chris Oberheim: anyone with thoughts of demeaning or rejecting the work of area police officers would do well to note that any negative reference about law enforcement officers, and the work they do, will go over like a lead balloon considering how people are feeling right now. Some activists try to paint law enforcement officers with a broad negative brush because of the regrettable actions of a few. If you want to paint local law enforcement officers with a negative brush and use as examples a few men or women who shouldn’t be wearing a badge, don’t dirty the name and reputation of all the brave men and women who lay their lives on the line every day — like Chris Oberheim did last week.
• I FINALLY got the opportunity to order a salad from the new Napoli’s Italian Restaurant at 134 East Main street in downtown Decatur — and it was really great! I picked up the order so I had the opportunity to be inside and it appeared to me that the interior was about the same as when Pastabilities was located there years ago. That was a good feeling. With a recording of Dean Martin singing an Italian song in the background, I paid for the salad and left with optimism for the success of downtown’s newest Italian Restaurant. Several of the tables had diners at them enjoying the food. It is great to have an increasing number of restaurants offering a variety of food choices downtown — and within walking distance by those of us who work or shop downtown.
• FAIR? What do you think? Last week the Senate and House Redistricting Committees released a proposed map of new legislative boundaries designed to comply with federal and state law and ensure the broad racial and geographic diversity of Illinois is reflected in the General Assembly. The proposed map incorporates suggestions gathered during more than 45 public hearings held across the state as legislators sought input on how to best ensure communities across Illinois receive fair and equal representation. The proposal can be viewed at www.ilsenateredistricting.com and www.ilhousedems.com/redistricting. The public is encouraged to provide feedback during additional hearings that will take place before a map is voted on by the General Assembly. This week, hearings are taking place on the proposed map. These will be hybrid hearings with the opportunity for in-person and virtual testimony. Details can be found online at www.ilga.gov.
Redistricting occurs every ten years as each state is required to draw new boundaries for legislative districts in response to shifts in population. While the Illinois Constitution does not require the use of U.S. Census data to draft a map, the Constitution does contain a June 30 deadline for the General Assembly to craft a map.
• MACON County Fair is back!!!! Things are starting to return to a degree of “normal” as Monday a news conference was held to announce the 165th Macon County Fair June 2 – 6 at the Macon County Fairgrounds on the northwest edge of Decatur. You can find out about all of the events and everything else connected to the fair on their website at www.maconcountyfair.com
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00, for the City Hall Insider.