Will Rogers Theatre

Christmas with a WWII Paratrooper 

I have told this story before.  It was told to me every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember.  I hesitated in telling it again this year.  Dad has been gone since 2001.  Since I lived with it every year of my life, so must you.  I carry the torch. 

The 82ND Airborne had hastily been sent into battle without winter clothing and without being resupplied.   Most had been on leave after Operation Market-Garden.  My Dad recounted riding into battle on the back of a truck filled with gas cans for Patton’s tanks covered with blankets.  They picked up ammunition from retreating troops on their way in. 

Whenever the weather turned cold and snowy here in Illinois, Dad would comment about how someone was suffering from the cold.  I knew he was remembering those he had lost during the war.  He once told me that while heading to the front with a message, he had come across a soldier dead frozen over a machine gun, and he wished that he were him.  He said “His troubles were over.  Mine were still ahead of me”. 

77 Years ago, on Christmas Eve, in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium, My Dad, Bob Dumke was serving with the 82Nd Airborne, 2Nd Battalion 505 Head Quarters Company.  Dad was a runner who went from Battalion Headquarters carrying messages to men, his friends, on the front line.  He was in the Ardennes  Forest near the three river bridges at Trois – Ponts in Belgium.  

My Parents business was Dumke’s greenhouse and flower shop in Ottawa, Illinois. Dad made grave blankets that he delivered to the cemetery (he made sure there were grave blankets on some young men from our community killed during Vietnam).  Mom would make the most beautiful wreaths and roping.   By Christmas, they were often tired and pretty worn out.  We didn’t have material things living in three rooms behind the greenhouse.  There was much love and many visitors.  Our door was always open to friends. We often added a plate for a visitor at the dinner table. 

Our family celebrated on Christmas Eve.  Dad would fondly talk about his Mother Emma, a Swedish immigrant to the USA. How, when he was a child, they would decorate the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve with candles.   How beautiful it would be.  He had a deep love for his mother, who was gentle and kind.  She had passed away when he was just 16 from Tuberculosis.  

We put up our tree on Christmas Eve.  Our tree had the big multi-color bulbs.  As we celebrated, Dad would get quiet.  You could tell, his thoughts would be someplace else.  He would pull me up on his lap and whisper in my ear.  His big rough hands would pat my legs, full of gentle kindness.  He would tell me how, during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, he along with Battalion Headquarters would be moving forward.   

They had to move a family out into the cold and snow on Christmas Eve.  There was a mother, father, and two small children.  82ND Battalion Headquarters would use their home.  The home would be near the front line of battle soon.  It would not be safe.  They had to leave their home with only what they could carry on Christmas Eve, out into the snow and bitter cold.  Dad’s voice would crack, with a lump in his throat.  His eyes would well up, and he could hardly get the words out. Tears would stream down his face.  I can still feel his pain.  Every Christmas Eve, for as long as I can remember, he mourned for that family who was displaced by war on Christmas Eve during the Battle of the Bulge in the deep cold Ardennes winter.  

Dad had gone to the front, sent guys out on patrol, crawled into a Fox hole to sleep while they were out. The guys threw their blankets and tree branches over him. A phosphorus grenade hit, and he threw the blanket and tree branches off (which he said saved his life) his arms and face were burned, and he was evacuated from the battle. 

He rejoined his unit and was with them when they liberated Wobblin Concentration Camp in Ludwigslust, Germany. He told me he saw men alive, and dead stacked like cord wood for as far as the eye could see. Never take freedom for granted. 

The past year (or two) have been difficult with Covid as our enemy and deep divisions among people and their political views. I remind you we have more in common then not.  If we take time to let compassion into our hearts and heads the world will be a better place.  Talking to each other and finding our common ground beats doing battle. 

I am grateful to be a “descendant of Airborne nobility” per remarks made to me by General John Vines a few years ago.  

We will soon gather as best we can with our loved ones. May we remember our soldiers who are away from home, some in harm’s way  

Please be safe and hold the memory of our Paratroopers close.  Let not what they fought for be in vain. 

Join me and pray that there be peace and love on earth and joy in all our hearts. 

Merry Christmas, 

Katie Dumke Troccoli, a Paratrooper’s Daughter

Desplains Theatre 


Ron Onesti speaks to the gathered dignitaries Thursday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated Des Plaines Theatre. 

John Starks | Staff Photographer 

More photos 

Closed to the public for more than seven years, the historic Des Plaines Theatre will be hopping with live music Sunday. 

Actor Kevin Costner and his Modern West band are set to perform, marking the return of entertainment to the newly renovated, art deco theater at 1476 Miner St. 

"Guests will be treated to an evening of Hollywood grandeur," said Ron Onesti, president & CEO of Onesti Entertainment, the company running the city-owned theater. "The theater has been restored to its 1925 splendor, with perfect acoustics and a stunning interior." 

Mayor Andrew Goczkowski is similarly excited about the reopening. 

"I'm extremely proud of this theater's rebirth," he said. "This is an exciting day for Des Plaines." 

With the curtain ready to rise, here's a look at the theater and the renovation -- by the numbers. 

• 2018: The year Des Plaines bought the theater for about $1.3 million from a private owner. It had been closed for four years because of building code violations. 

• 6.7 million: The city's estimated share of the renovation cost, in dollars. 

• 2.2 million: The amount Rivers Casino donated to help with the purchase and renovation, in dollars. Rivers doesn't have an ownership or management stake in the theater. 

• 3: The number of years the renovation project took. 

• 998: Seating capacity. 

• 13,668: The building's size, in square feet. 

• 2: Restaurants planned for the theater. They'll be called Bourbon 'N Brass and Des Pizza and should open in November. 

• 99: In dollars, the lowest base cost of tickets still available for Sunday's show. Tickets can be purchased at desplainestheatre.com. 

• 5 p.m.: The scheduled starting time for Sunday's show. 

Sources: Des Plaines, desplainestheatre.com, the Onesti Entertainment Corp., Daily Herald interviews 

This article filed under:Life & EntertainmentNewsSmall BusinessCommunity TheaterProfessional TheaterDes PlainesEntertainmentTheaterDes Plaines NewsletterGood News Sunday Newsletter 

As the renovated Des Plaines Theatre reopens, take a fresh look at it ... by the numbers.

Grant application submitted. 

While it may look like nothing is happening to move the Will Rogers Theatre project forward, what you need to understand is that the project is very expensive and it can't get done without help. 

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About the Artist

Carol Halm was born, raised and still lives in a quaint town called Ottawa in Illinois.  She has worked in watercolors for over 45 years and has spent 25 years in colored pencil.  She has worked on many commissions as well as licensing. She attended at Illinois Valley Community College and has spent countless hours perfecting her craft.  She works in various styles such from realism to whimsical and had completed several projects for companies such as Current, Dayspring and PCCrafter.  Three dimensional works, murals, kitchen products and clothing have also been among her accomplishments. Besides spending time with her daughter and her family, she loves spending her time creating.   


I own two historic theater, the Will Rogers Theater in Charleston IL and the Majestic Theatre in Streator, IL.  Both are in dire need of restoration. It is a long story how I came to this situation.  Estimated costs are a million dollars each. 

The Majestic hosted performances by several well-known stars, such as Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, Ed Wynn, Eddie Cantor, Sophie Tucker and Eva Tanguay.  

The Will Rogers is on the National Historic Register.

I am seeking funding for both projects.

My business plan calls for working with the non profit organization Here and Again Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting the arts and entertainment industry as a way to educate and create employment in the entertainment industry. 

My Corporation, Summer House Entertainment Inc will operate the theater as a for profit.  We will attract clients from a 50 plus mile radius of each venue hosting live National Acts opened by local artists who perform in a Here and Again Inc program called Song + Story.   We will also be able to host film festivals and local events as well as first run movies.

The National acts that play the theaters are an economic boom to the communities.  Patrons who attend events will often spend the night (or two) at local hotels, buy gas, and eat in restaurants.  

Raising the quality of life with a vibrant theater attracts employers who want their employees to be happy in the communities in which they live.  This is classic economic development.

Mixing Song + Story participants with National Entertainers gives local up and coming talent the opportunity to network with entertainers who have been successful, giving them more opportunity for success in the entertainment industry.

I am hopeful you see the benefits that I am proposing and help me find a way to fund the projects.  

The Majestic is in an Opportunity Zone 17099964300, TIF and Enterprise Zone and the Will Rogers is also in an Opportunity zone track 17029000500, TIF and Enterprise Zone.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  I will look forward to hearing any suggestions or opportunities you may have to offer.

I may be reached at

Katie Troccoli  katiet1@sbcglobal.net of call or text 815-228-2058


Wells Fargo Article Explaining Opportunity Zones

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Here and Again Inc. is a nonprofit organization based in Ottawa, IL for the purpose of creating economic and creative opportunities in the arts in the Illinois Valley and beyond. I’d like to share with you the story of how we began, challenges we've faced, and what we're doing to change the face of artistic culture in the Illinois Valley.

I purchased the Majestic Theater in Streator and the Will Rogers Theatre in Charleston with the intention of creating a space for local talent to be showcased. From 2009 to 2014  I, with the help of a dedicated team, operated the theater through highs and lows. The local talent I witnessed during this time was the inspiration for Here and Again Inc. So, I began the paperwork to form a non-profit organization. I really thought that our first projects would be in film, but life hardly ever goes according to plan.

One day, shortly after starting the paperwork for NPO status, a local pastor came into the Majestic to get some popcorn for his youth group. While the popcorn was popping, I gave him my elevator pitch for Here and Again Inc. I had no idea that this encounter would change my life. About a week later the pastor returned and invited me to a meeting with some of his friends at his house. At the meeting I met Greg and Marjory Haynes and we discussed the possibility of a community radio station. We all agreed that it would no doubt have a positive impact on the community. Thus, our first project WRWO 94.5 FM/LP was born! This gave me the motivation to officially apply for NPO status.

As things went on, we found the perfect place to broadcast WRWO from in Downtown Ottawa, in the place now called Wallace Hall. Though it has in no way been easy, things are falling into place through faith and with the help of many dear family and friends. It’s quite a story already, but it’s not over yet!

Here and Again, Inc.’s purpose is to raise the quality of life in the community through the use of education in the arts, music, radio and other media; to have a positive impact on the people and community in which we live and work. We invite you to help us build a flourishing local arts community. Please consider partnering with Here and Again Inc. to help further opportunities in the arts for the Illinois River Valley area.

We look forward to serving our community together with you!

Here and Again, Inc.’s purpose is to raise the quality of life in the community through the use of education in the arts, music, radio and other media; to have a positive impact on the people and community in which we live and work. Our mission is to further preserve architecture used in communication, theatre, and the arts where our positive works may be displayed and used. The intent is to further employment opportunities and training through the use of our education programs and architecture which becomes an anchor for distressed communities.

One day local artists will open for National acts on the Will Rogers Theatre stage. 

We are seeking old photos of the Will Rogers Theatre to update our plans to move forward with restoration.  Please share with us your old photos of the exterior and interior of the Will Rogers Theatre and store fronts.  Thank you. 

Photos may be e mailed to

katiet1@sbcglobal.net or text to 815-228-2058

Starts Wednesday Blog

Starts Wednesday: A Day in the Life of a Movie Palace recalls 1976, the year I spent with my husband and a group of similarly-misguided friends, trying to save the St. George Theater, a classic 2672-seat movie palace in New York City’s most neglected borough, Staten Island.

By Victoria Hallerman

Victoria Hallerman is a poet and writer, the author of the upcoming memoir, Starts Wednesday: A Day in the Life of a Movie Palace, based on her experience as a movie palace manager of the St. George Theatre, Staten Island, 1976. As she prepares her book manuscript for publication, she shares early aspects of theater management, including the pleasures and pain of entrepreneurship. This blog is for anyone who enjoys old movie theaters, especially for those who love the palaces as they once were. And a salute to those passionate activists who continue to save and revive the old houses, including the St. George Theatre itself. This blog is updated every Wednesday, the day film always arrived to start the movie theater week.