2012 Casimir Pulaski Distinguished Citizen Award Winner
The 2012 Casimir Pulaski Distinguished Citizen Award Winner is Darrell Knauer. Darrell is a throwback to the founders of our town and other such personalities throughout the years who were not born or raised here, but moved into our community and grasped it fully, each leaving his/her mark with their exemplary character, wonderful family and countless contributions to our town and surrounding countryside. Darrell continues to do this each and every day.
Darrell has always put his adopted town of Mount Pulaski first – with his membership and participation in various celebrations and events since the mid-1950’s. He has actively participated in our town’s anniversary celebrations (125th in 1961, 150th in 1986, and 175th in 2011). During this last 175th Anniversary Celebration, Darrell was a hard-working member of the 175th Anniversary Committee. In addition, both Darrell and his wife, Mary, belonged to the Mount Pulaski 175th Anniversary Book Committee and headed up more than one committee to help finalize the last twenty-five years of the history of Mount Pulaski (1987 – 2011). He has served several terms in our town’s genealogical and historical society (MPTHS) as president.
Beginning in 2002, Darrell served as the Mt. Pulaski Tourism Director for the Mount Pulaski Looking for Lincoln Committee (LFL), helping to raise funds for the renovation of the town’s new museum location in two adjoining two-story 1890’s buildings on the south side of the square. In accordance with these Illinois State LFL grant requests, Darrell helped produce the annual Mount Pulaski Food, Wine & Bluegrass Music Festivals, which were held in June to satisfy the requirements of the State’s LFL guidelines, which were to draw attention to our town as one of the mid-1800’s county seats to which Abraham Lincoln and Judge David Davis traveled twice a year on the Illinois 8th Judicial Circuit, bringing the court of law to the people of Mount Pulaski and its surrounding countryside of Logan County.
Darrell seems to always have an idea up his sleeve to help promote Mount Pulaski in one way or another. In 2003, Darrell spearheaded the LFL Tourism project for a large historic mural painted on the outside-north wall of the 1902 Roth Building depicting Abraham Lincoln in front of the Mount Pulaski House Hotel where he and the other lawyers would frequent following their day’s court sessions (1849 – 1855). Darrell helped the professional painter do the research for the depiction.
In 2007, it was Darrell’s idea to bring to life one of the lesser known but very interesting Mount Pulaski Courthouse trials in which Abraham Lincoln and Judge David Davis participated – the Cast Iron Tombstone Trial of 1854. Darrell gathered together two other locals to help him write this old courtroom drama – assembling a courtroom script from scattered information from two similar Abraham Lincoln tombstone trials and their appeals (another was held in nearby Lincoln in 1857). The resulting courtroom drama revealed the interesting story of one of these actual trials in which Abraham Lincoln pleaded to the jury that his client should not suffer the reversal of his sale of the rights of a patent for the construction of tombstones. Ten performances were held up in the very same courtroom in the very same Mount Pulaski Courthouse in which the first of these two tombstone trials was held over 150 years ago – using a cast of twelve made up of local business, farming and retired folks. Darrell played the part of Judge David Davis. On February 12th of 2011, a final production was performed twice the same day by the local Mount Pulaski High School Drama Club. During those five years, twelve performances were held before packed courtrooms, using selected jurists from the audience. Proceeds from donations went to the Mount Pulaski Bi-Centennial Committee and the Mount Pulaski High School Drama Club.
Also in 2007, as part of the Mount Pulaski Bi-Centennial Committee commemorating the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, Darrell joined forces as co-chair for the Mount Pulaski LFL Wayside signage project depicting Abraham Lincoln in Mount Pulaski – telling the story of the 8th Judicial Circuit, some of his trials in the Mount Pulaski County Seat venue and several Pulaskian personalities with whom Mr. Lincoln personally had known over the years, often residing with one or the other during his 8th Judicial Circuit trips to the Logan County Seat in Mount Pulaski. This two-sided sign is a wonderful addition on the grounds next to this Illinois State Historic Site Courthouse in Mount Pulaski.
Since 2003, Darrell and his family have held an extremely successful annual memorial golf tournament for their deceased daughter, Kim, a former independent news editor and then an Illinois School’s Public Relations Officer for the State of Illinois Department of Education who passed on at a way-too-early age. This year, as a highlight of their 10th Kim Knauer Memorial Golf Tournament, they have solicited a car to be awarded to the memorial golfer who makes an “Ace” on a designated hole.
Darrell has served on a host of other committees over the years, among them: long-time member of the Fall Festival Committee (1978 Chairperson), co-chair of the Illinois’ 150th Mount Pulaski celebration in 1968, coordinator of July 4th celebrations, committee for the design and construction of the Rte. 121 “Welcome to Mount Pulaski” sign, Cub Scout Leader, and High School Jr. Achievement advisor. For several years, Darrell helped to design the ground displays for the July 4th fireworks.
As a member of the Mount Pulaski Rotary Club, Darrell recently came up with the idea of selling USA red-white-blue umbrellas for a fund-raiser to help finance the club’s annual high school scholarships. Several years ago, Darrell was elected to the Mount Pulaski City Council and continues to serve Ward #2 and his community admirably in that capacity. One of Darrell’s recent city council contributions was his spearheading the city’s decision to place on the 2012 Spring ballot the choice for Electric Aggregation, which was approved by the voters and which promises savings in electric bills for both households and businesses for future years..
Indeed, Darrell Knauer has helped to enrich his Mount Pulaski community over the years with his ideas, promotions, memberships, chairmanships, and hard work. Finally, Darrell would be the first to say that his lovely wife, Mary, has been with him every step of the way.