Museum News

Barb & Bob Hathway -- 2024 History Makers

March 27th, 2024

Barb and Bob Hathway’s kind and giving spirits enrich our community through social justice activism, religious faith, educational uplift, and musical talent.

Centered at First United Methodist Church in Normal, the two active congregants are always ready volunteers. Community for Social Action, Habitat for Humanity, the Drug Court, Witness for Peace, Boy Scouts, PATH, and Mulberry School all benefitted from their efforts.

High school sweethearts, the two raised a family locally while Bob taught mathematics at Illinois State University and Barb worked at Mennonite Hospital and Diamond-Star Motors Assessment Center. Bob’s summer breaks allowed travel for volunteering. For 57 years their voices have amplified services through the First United Methodist choir.

Peoria was their hometown. Both were born in the city, but Barb lived in nearby Dunlap through eighth grade. As high schoolers they met ice skating at Glen Oak Park. Barb attended Illinois State University in Business Education, while Bob was at Bradley University. They married a few months before Barb’s graduation. Bob pursued his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin while Barb was finishing her student teaching. Bob joined ISU’s faculty in 1966.

Both love nature. Bob credits his father, Central Illinois Light Company’s CEO, for training his young son in gardening skills. Bob became a Master Gardener and over eighty local Habitat Homes were graced with his landscaping skills; he along with Vernon Shepherd and Valarie Dumser also established a Holton Homes’ community garden. Low-income youth hired for a State Farm summer internship aided in the vegetable growing effort. He also supervised youth doing community service at this garden. The isolated Canadian-U.S. Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota were frequent canoe trips for Bob, including leading a Boy Scout troop expedition.

First United Methodist’s Social Concerns Commission was their revelation toward social justice. They connected with Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society efforts, helping establish Head Start locally, where they worked with Harriet Rust and local schoolteacher Francis Irvin.

With no summer teaching duties, Bob was freer to volunteer. Community for Social Action was a volunteer group that included Bob and Marilyn Sutherland, Ralph and Ellen Smith, Jack Porter, Tom Wilson, Carroll Cox, Francis Irvin, and other friends, dedicated to understanding the larger world and its issues. Barb served as treasurer. Bob was part of a group that traveled to Cairo, Illinois, to stand vigil with the African American community. They began Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers grape boycott efforts locally and offered Vietnam War era draft counseling. Bob traveled to Nicaragua during the 1980s Contra wars with Witness for Peace. Bob volunteered for tornado clean-up efforts in Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, and Iowa and hurricane damage in Mississippi.

Not satisfied with local educational offerings for their children, David and Jill, Barb and Bob helped found the Bloomington-Normal New School, today’s Mulberry School. Their inspiration was Rudolph Flesch’s book, Why Johnny Can’t Read. Parents collaborated to start the school, financially support it, hire teachers, and Bob served multiple years as president and treasurer.

Bob was the winner of the Martin Luther King Award which led to his being a member of the Normal Human Relations Commission for 10 years, four as chair. As both Normal and Bloomington wrestled in the late 1990s with including LGBTQ+ individuals in the Town ordinance, Bob was proud that the Commission firmly stood for that expansion. He worked with History Makers Normal Mayor Carol Reitan, Barbara Stuart, Bob and Marilyn Sutherland on the Alternatives to Jail effort, which led to the currently active Drug Court. He was also chosen as an “Extraordinary Man” by the CSI organization.

Barb volunteered with PATH’s Help Desk, by driving clients, plus serving on the Bloomington-Normal Green Team and First United Methodist’s Women and their Sonrise Circle. Working in personnel at Mennonite Hospital, she was its final “employee of the year” when it closed in 1988.

With their two children, adopted daughter, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild, Barb and Bob have crafted a rich life, always responsive to their community, grounded in their faith. With a deep compassion for humanity and ever willing to volunteer, they enriched not only McLean County but the world.

Mike Matejka

2nd Vice President