Monticello’s most fascinating people of the year

Posted December 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm

BABBLING BROOKS column–Express Editor Kim Brooks

Every year in December, long-time journalist and talk show host Barbara Walters announces her list of “10 Most Fascinating People” from that year. Last week, her televised special aired on TV.

While Walters’ list is mainly based on pop culture and media attention, I thought I would come up with a list of my own. I flipped through this year’s past issues of the Express and came up with 10 people of my own who I interviewed in 2012. Here is my list of fascinating people (in no particular order):

John Williams – Many of you know him as owner of Julin Printing. He worked his way up the ladder at Julin to eventually own the company.

Aside from his appearances at the Panther Prowl as a participant, I came to know John due to the floods in 2009 and again in 2010. Julin was hit by two floods in an 11-month period! I interviewed John on several occasions on bouncing back from the floods.

In November, I interviewed John as a military veteran. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him and am glad he allowed me to tell his story to our readers and this community.

Tara Fall – I met Tara in July when she was back in Iowa for a speaking engagement at the University of Iowa. I also connected with her again in October when she made an appearance on “The Jeff Probst Show.”

If you learn one thing about Tara Fall, it is not the fact that she has a condition known as facial blindness (prosopagnosia). She is optimistic. She lives life to the fullest. She has an infectious attitude, which came through when talking to her in person and on the phone.

Cindy Hall – Cindy and her husband Pete were just named First Annual Jones County Farm Family of the Year by Jones County Economic Development!

Cindy and her husband were busy this year restoring a traditional log cabin on their property. The Express took pictures of area school kids touring the cabin and learning about life on the prairie. One look inside the cabin and you step back in time.

Cindy has also been a great community volunteer. She’s assisted with numerous chamber events, volunteered with Jones County Tourism and more. Cindy has been a great gal to get to know!

Hawkeye State Paranormal – I was fortunate enough to accompany this group on an overnight excursion of Edinburgh Manor, the old county home. This group of paranormal investigators goes into buildings and homes and investigates what may be inside…

They are passionate and dedicated to their craft.

While our time inside Edinburgh didn’t really produce any evidence of paranormal activity, I continue to follow their Facebook page as they move on to other adventures in Eastern Iowa.

Adaptive Sports Iowa – I met members of this group of inspiring athletes in late July when they literally came rolling into Jones County as part of the RAGBRAI tour across Iowa.

Made up of physically disabled people who wanted to be active in life, Adaptive Sports Iowa is their outlet. I met and talked with riders who are blind and have spinal cord injuries, yet persevere to do their very best! It was amazing to witness their attitude having just completed 400 miles across Iowa before spending the night in Anamosa.

While there are teams and groups who participate in RAGBRAI each year (and they all put in so much work to complete the adventure), it was great to put a different spin on RAGBRAI this year.

Larry Karels – In May, I received a story idea (which we get a lot) about a local man with a unique story to tell. Karels is a professional trapper and enjoys every minute of it!

He started trapping in the 1950s and over the years he’s trapped many animals: red fox, opossums, skunks, beaver, raccoons, minks, coyotes, gophers and more.

Larry took me on a mini tour of his property here in town. He has one of the cleanest garages in town, considering his hobby of choice! I learned all about which traps are best for which animals and methods to his madness. Quite an education and a great person to know!

Danyelle McClendon – McClendon lives in Cascade and works here in Monticello. As a huge fan of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” I was pleased to meet with Danyelle on two separate occasions after she appeared on the show twice!

The first time she was sitting in the audience after winning tickets to the show through an online lottery. Danyelle was then chosen that day to participate in one of Ellen’s crazy games. Her second time on the show was to reprise her role in the obstacle course-type game. She appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” twice in a month’s time!

It’s always a fun story to tell our readers when someone from our small town gets the chance (not once, but twice) to appear on a nationally televised TV show!

Erik Smith – Go online ( or on Facebook and visit Crow Hill Guitars. The images you see are a result of the handy work by local Monticello resident Erik Smith.

Working in such detail, Smith handcrafts each custom-made guitar to fit his customers’ needs. The work is unlike any other!

We featured Smith in our “People you should know” series, and received great comments on his craft. Who knew Monticello had such talent living right in our town?

Nancy Felton – Visiting with Nancy shortly after St. Patrick’s Day this year, I learned so much about her. She is a go-getter. She loves life. She has an infectious attitude.

Nancy set goals for herself, a sort of bucket list. One of those goals was to attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC. That is certainly a unique goal, not something everyone strives to accomplish.

It was so great sitting down with Nancy as she spoke about her bucket list. As she was sharing stories about the states and countries she’s been to, I looked at my life experiences and can only hope one day I have similar opportunities.

Gov. Chris Christie – This is the one fascinating person I have in common with Barbara Walters. Gov. Christie stopped in Monticello in January to help campaign for Mitt Romney.

Of all the political figures who have stopped in Monticello and Jones County over the course of the election, Chris Christie was someone I was pleased to meet. He is a very likeable man.

I don’t know if it’s his demeanor, his attitude or his charisma, but there is something about Gov. Christie that I think makes him a likeable guy, politics aside.