A Community Grieves During a Pandemic

By CHRISTY JANKOWSKI
Staff Writer

Grief is a part of life, but it is never easy. One community recently lost an essential member, one that donated her time and energy to many projects without the need for praise. Stephanie Shonkwiler will be missed by many, and that is evident through the posters and purple ribbon throughout Bement.

Stephanie Shonkwiler is well known throughout Bement. Her and her husband Kent have three children, and were involved a lot with sports, fundraisers, and various activities for their children and for the community. It was not odd to see either the pair at a board meeting advocating for their children and the students of Bement.

Andrew Brown is the Technology Director and High School Business teacher at Bement. He also is a coach for various sports. And, he considered Stephanie a friend. “Personally going to miss her as a friend, Just constantly, how are you doing, everything okay through this whole quarantine. Her and Kent both. We had texted back and forth about how the whole family was doing and we had joked about having a big celebration when this was over so we could get back together with everybody, but unfortunately now, you know Steph won’t be able to be there.”

Stephanie helped with multiple projects at the school as well. Brown states, “She was like an employee of the school because she was involved with so much.” Stephanie started the “Prom Promise” done at Bement High School every year. She made connections with local law enforcement, and reached out where was needed. Superintendent Sheila Greenwood said of Stephanie, “Steph was always there to help anyone in need. She would step in and take on projects large and small. A very giving friend to many. If there was a need, she would do her best to fill it.”

The owner of JTA Foods and Grill in Bement, IL Tricia Fritz, “I would say Steph was the best person I know, and all around a very caring and would do anything for anyone kind of person.”

Stephanie was an integral part of the community, says Andrew, “It’s cutting a deep whole now, but the community as a whole is going to feel this for years. Because she did a lot of things that nobody knows about too.” Adding that she stated, “If I can keep a kid involved in sports, activities, and clubs, whatever, the chance they are going to do something else bad decreases because they are busy. I think her whole mantra is that. I guess I also would say if more of us were like her and their personality, more things would get done. Programs would run easier and life would be better and in general people would feel like they are more involved.”

Stephanie’s children were extremely involved with activities. Andrew stated it was seldom to not see one of them at an event. Stephanie organized the Chili Supper in the fall, came up with the idea of Bronco Bucks, Prom Promise and other Prom events/fundraisers, Homecoming Pep Rally, securing Allerton for Prom each year, and much more. “At least one of them was at every game, and their kids played everything. Football, baseball, track, cheerleading, volleyball, and they did everything and one of them is always at those events. They were very involved and supportive of the kids and coaches.”

The community gathered together to support the family, and because of Covid-19 restrictions they gathered in a powerful, but subtle way. Volunteers in the community put up posters, purple ribbon, and there was a funeral procession from Bement to Allerton. Andrew stated of it, “Just anyway we could to show our appreciation to her and her family. What was really powerful was the funeral procession out to Allerton. It seemed good for what it was, just a terrible situation.”

“She was always kinda giving and helping or asking where can I help and when to do it

If there was a challenge or something didn’t seem possible she always figured out how to get it done despite obstacles and stuff and that is what is most memorable about her,” is what Andrew had to say of her character, and ended with what he states was her quote. “Her quote that she always told her kids, make good choices. I think it kinda powered her through her life, the prom promise that is what is about making good choices.”

1 Comment

  1. Janet Shonkwiler on May 28, 2020 at 11:38 am

    Steph was married to my son Kent. Words cannot describe how much I will miss her. When the virus came and it was recommended that especially the elderly shelter in their home, Steph got my groceries for me with the help of Aiden and Ellie. Steph and Kent were such good parents. She had a good sense of humor. She told me I had to be good to her now so that when I was in the Nursing Home she would be the one to comb my hair. Now Kent must carry on.

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