Oldest Living Alumni
Ed Fidler

Arcola Alumni Association recognizes Ed Fidler, who has joined an elite group of Arcola High School graduates who have reached the age of 90 and beyond. Ed has served the Arcola community well in the seventy-three years since his 1951 graduation. His dedication to youth sports has impacted countless Arcola athletes, including generations of his own family. At 91, Ed can often be found at Arcola sporting events, recently in the high school gymnasium at the top row of the balcony bleachers, where he was able to get a birdís eye view of his great-grandchildren in their basketball games. Fidler entered Arcola High School in 1947 and can take pride in the fact that he or at least one of his children, grandchildren or great-grandchilden has attended AHS for a time in each of the nine decades from the 1940s to the 2020s.

James Edward Fidler, son of farming parents Arthur and Martha Stickler Fidler of rural Vermillion, IL, was born January 26, 1933, at his maternal grandparentsí home seven miles east of Paris. He was the first of five children, with siblings Don, Marilyn, Bert and George following within a decade. During The Great Depression, the Fidlers moved from farm to farm to find work in Edgar County, at times living with Edís fatherís parents and at other times with his motherís parents. His first memories are on the farm at their home south of Marshall, in Clark County, now the site of Lincoln Trail State Park. Edís father later rented a farm just across the state line at Blandford, IN, where Ed started first grade in 1939. He recalls he walked 1.5 miles to the Blandford School and remembers two covered bridges were located within a mile of their home.

In the fall of 1941, Edís father was employed at the George L. Pfeifer Hybrid Seed Corn Company at Arcola. The family moved into a Pfeifer farm home one mile south of Walnut Grove Christian Church, southeast of Arcola in Coles County, where eleven Fidler family members lived together at one time, including Edís grandparents. Ed, a third grade student, was enrolled in the rural Martin Box School located just north of the church, in what is now the Walnut Grove Church parking lot. He walked a mile from his home to the one-room school, where one teacher taught all students in grades one through eight. Ed has retained a 1940s photo taken outside the school and is able to identify the ten students of the Martin Box School, all pictured with their teacher.

The Fidler family learned of the December 7, 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor from radio broadcasts in their home. Ed was just eight years old at the time and does not recall much about World War II, but does remember his Grandfather Fidler was anxious to volunteer for the Army in defense of our country, but his family was able to convince him that was probably not a good idea at his age.

Because of the location of their Coles County residence, Ed had the option to attend high school in Mattoon, Charleston or Arcola. There was no bus transportation at the time Ed entered high school in 1947. His familyís transportation was limited to an old grain truck George Pfeifer provided his father to drive to and from work in Arcola. Fortunately, Ed chose to attend Arcola High School and was able to ride the ten-mile distance to school in the Pfeifer truck with his father.

When asked about his classes in high school, Ed remembered Physical Education was his favorite, taught by Andy Sullivan, who was also the head coach for basketball, football and track. Industrial Arts class was another favorite, taught by John Powers, AHS principal. Ed noted Nelson Roberts was a great Ag teacher and he also enjoyed Modesta Scottís History classes.

The 1951 Torch yearbook reported Ed was noted for football, but only played his senior year. He explained he was originally on the football team his sophomore and junior years, but had to drop out due to his workload on the farm and limited transportation. In Edís junior year, his father was able to begin work on the Mel Crews farm just west of Arcola. Ed, his parents and four siblings then moved into the spacious Crews home.

By his senior year, bus transportation was available and Ed had also traded his old motorcycle for Dave VanDeveerís 1932 Model B Ford. He was then able to complete the entire football season. The yearbook noted Ed Fidler, right guard, crossed the goal for the Okaw opener against Oakland, and Ed now quickly acknowledges that was his only score for the season.

The November 16, 1950 Arcola Record-Herald reported Arcola defeated Tuscola 12-9, allowing Arcola to share the 1950 Okaw football championship title with Tuscola and Monticello. The same newspaper reported, ďAn indication of the savageness of the play of Ed Fidler, right guard, was given by referee Don Geyer of Champaign, who said of Fidler, ĎHeís the meanest one man I ever saw on a football field.íĒ Edís hard work was acknowledged when he received Honorable Mention on the All Okaw Team, as well as Honorable Mention on the All Area Team.

Also during his senior year, the 4-19-51 Arcola Record-Herald pictured Ed with the varsity 880 relay track team. He competed in the broad jump as well. With better transportation his senior year, Ed was able to join Future Farmers of America and also serve as stage manager for the senior class play.

Ed recalls Don Howrey, Adlai Schrock and Dave VanDeveer were his close friends in high school. Howrey and Schrock were also in the class of 1951 and VanDeveer was just a year behind with the class of 1952. When asked what he did for fun when not in school, Ed recalled he attended some basketball games, watched movies at the Ritz Theatre in Arcola, visited with friends at Arcola Candy Kitchen and just rode around town.

Ed learned to work at home on the farm at a young age. Then, as a 7th grade student, he hoed both corn and beans and also milked cows for George Pfeifer, earning 30 cents per hour. During his high school years, Ed helped Everett Biggs on his farm, worked at Clyde Linvilleís garage at Dr. E.S. Allenís airport 1.5 miles west of Arcola and also worked nights at the Checker ďfilling stationĒ in Arcola.

The 1951 yearbook reported Edís ambition was to ďget marriedĒ. Perhaps a freshman student named Dorothy Tynan influenced that choice. Ed and Dorothy began dating shortly before his May 25, 1951 high school graduation. When asked about their first date, Ed hesitated and then replied they likely saw a movie at the Ritz Theatre. Their courtship continued and the couple eloped to Bloomington to be married June 20, 1953, prior to Dorothyís senior year at Arcola High School. Dorothy Tynan Fidler graduated the following year with the AHS Class of 1954.

Following his 1951 high school graduation, Ed worked several jobs before settling into more permanent work. He drove semi-trucks, operated a bulldozer, managed a custard stand and worked at Schrock Cabinets in Arthur. He used his carpentry skills in his work for Bob Dukeman, Allan Gray and Cunningham Engineering. In 1956, Ed found long-term employment with USI Chemicals Co. at Tuscola. He retired in 1994 after a 38-year stint as a maintenance carpenter, including his 30-year union appointment as Safety Director with service on the National Safety Council.

As a result of his foresight and ambition, Edís contributions to youth sports have served the Arcola community well. He first volunteered his time with Arcola Summer Recreation in the 1950s, when he coached 10-12 year-old boysí baseball. In the 1960s, Ed observed youth softball programs in other communities and was then instrumental in organizing the first girlsí youth softball program in Arcola. He devoted countless hours to the creation of the softball and baseball diamonds, as well as the public swimming pool at Moore Park in the 1970s.

In the early 1980s, Ed saw the need for youth football in Arcola. In their effort to learn more about the Junior Football League, he and friend John Keller volunteered as JFL coaches in Mattoon before bringing the program to Arcola in 1983. Ed continued to support youth football as an Arcola coach for another decade or more.

Edís interest in softball was not limited to Arcolaís youth programs. In 1973, at age 40, he became player-coach for the S&K menís fast-pitch softball team that included many Arcola players. The team went on to win the national tournament championship at Lake Tahoe in 1978. The following year, Ed was appointed ASA Softball Commissioner for the State of Illinois, south of I-80, and continued in that role for twelve years.

Fidlerís dedication to the Arcola community also included his lengthy commitment to local government. He was first elected to the Arcola City Council in 1973 and continued to serve residents in that capacity for the next thirty years, including his time as interim Arcola mayor from December 1989 to spring of 1991. Ed took positions as ESDA Director, TIF Board chairman, City Planning Commissioner and member of the Arcola Zoning Board as well.

With additional education and training, Ed became a 6-year volunteer auxiliary police officer, part owner and volunteer EMT for Arcola Ambulance Service and volunteer Child Abuse Investigation Officer for the 5th District of Illinois. Further service included eighteen months on the Federal Grand Jury in Danville.

Ed and Dorothy began their married life in an 8í X 28í mobile home in June 1953. Daughter Darlene was born in October 1954 and the young family then moved into a small home on west Jefferson Street in 1955. Their daughter Brenda was born in 1957, followed by Janice in 1959. In the mid-1960s, with the help of neighbors and friends, Ed and Dorothy began construction on a much-needed larger home nearby on Jefferson Street. They were able to move into their new home in November 1967, and remained there until 2015, when Ed and Dorothy relocated to their one-level home on west Main Street.

Dorothy Fidler was Edís steadfast support throughout his many years of service. The coupleís tireless work in the Arcola community was recognized in 2003 when they were named Grand Marshals of the Arcola Broom Corn Festival. The Arcola Sports Boosters presented Ed and Dorothy with their organizationís 2011 honorary varsity ďAĒ to acknowledge their longtime support of Arcolaís athletic programs. In 2014, Edís life of public service was again recognized when Arcola Alumni Association selected the 1951 Arcola High School graduate as one of Arcola High Schoolís Distinguished Alumni.

Ed and Dorothy shared nearly sixty-six years together before her passing on June 17, 2019. It is apparent Edís family continues to play an important role in his life today. Four generations of Ed and Dorothyís family are often gathered together for sporting and other family events. They have and continue to represent Arcola High School well as both students and athletes.

Their daughters and years of high school graduation are Darlene Fidler Sisk Phillips (1972), Brenda Fidler Fletcher (1975) and Janice Fidler Shonkwiler (1977). Paul Sisk (1991), Sarah Shonkwiler Thomas (2001) and Lucas Shonkwiler (2012) are the Fidler grandchildren. The Fidler great-grandchildren are Dallas Sisk (2020), Mackenzie Thomas (2023), Kacie Sisk (a junior at AHS), Tanner Thomas (also a junior) and Tenley Thomas (a seventh grade student at Arcola Junior High). Great-granddaughters Lydia and Eleanor Shonkwiler are both preschoolers.

Arcola Alumni Association is pleased to highlight the life of 1951 graduate Ed Fidler, and also welcomes recognition of other graduates who have reached the age of 90 and beyond. If readers are AHS graduates age 90 or older, or if you know one of Arcolaís oldest graduates, please contact Sue Stout at 217-840-6605 or any Arcola Alumni Association board member.

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Last Revision April 11, 2024