Kaiser’s Mahomet roots run deep

LaDonna Kaiser has a more thorough knowledge of Mahomet than any current resident.

She has the community covered from the historical perspective as well as from first-hand knowledge.

Her background comes from being the sixth generation on her maternal side of what is now eight generations to have either been raised in the village or who lived in Mahomet.

“Eight generations in one community is a proud accomplishment for my family,” Kaiser said. “The main reason we chose to stay, was family and the deep ties to ‘my town.’

“I hope it continues.”

Kaiser’s expertise was enhanced by her job. For 21 of the past 31 years, she has served as the Township Assessor.

She will be retiring from that position in 16 days, but will continue to be a go-to source for those who seek information on Mahomet’s rich history.
The former LaDonna Bull is part of a lineage that includes the Dunlaps (her mom’s maiden name), the Bryants (her grandmother’s maiden name) the Rippys (her great grandmother’s maiden name), the Trinkles, and the Barnards, the oldest of whom (Elizabeth) born in 1850 and is buried in Riverside Cemetery.

That’s 167 years of tradition.

LaDonna Kaiser was on the ground level of change as a high school student who graduated from Mahomet-Seymour in 1975.

“I was the catcher for the first M-S high school softball team (in fall, 1973),” Kaiser said, “and I was one of the first girls to receive (and rally support for) a varsity letter in a sport.”

Before female athletes were recognized as letter winners, they received a trinket for their participation.

“A charm bracelet,” Kaiser said. “Really!”
As a high schooler, Kaiser started to determine her career path.

“I knew I was going to be an accountant,” she said. “Mrs. (Ruth) Herriott and Mrs. (Imogene) Streeter were my idols.”

They also thought highly of their teen-aged protege.

The local bank (Community Bank of Mahomet, which is now Busey Bank) needed part-time teller help and contacted the high school for recommendations.

“I was their choice,” Kaiser said.

She had taken Accounting II as an independent study class because there wasn’t enough interest otherwise to offer it.

“I missed one point the whole year,” Kaiser said. “I spelled ‘forty’ wrong (as fourty). You better believe I will never misspell that again.”

She worked at the bank for five years, first while finishing high school and then while earning two associate’s degrees from Parkland College (one in business administration and one in banking).”
As often happens, life determines the sequence of events that followed graduation.

Kaiser devoted five years to working as an accountant for Countryside Mobile Homes, but left in 1985.

“Daycare was so expensive,” Kaiser said. “I decided to watch kids.”

She not only had the three of her own, but those from other families as well.

“I had a home daycare from 1985-91,” Kaiser said.

Through the efforts and encouragement of Bonnie Vaughn, Kaiser became involved as Mahomet Township Assessor in 1987 for five years.

The opportunity for insurance benefits drew her to the City of Champaign in 1991 as a deputy assessor.

After a decade’s absence, she returned to a part-time position in her hometown as Township Assessor while continuing to work full-time in Champaign.

She will step aside on Jan. 1, but may not start retirement earlier.

“There’s the possibility I’ll be working the 30th and 31st (of December) viewing pending permits for Mahomet Township,” Kaiser said.
With the Village limits getting stretched, and growth burgeoning in most directions, Kaiser has a pulse on the developments.

“I see all building permits and home sales first-hand,” she said. “In the last 16 years, I’ve covered every area of town. My job is to make sure the assessment reflects what the property is worth.

“This is probably the most advantageous in that aspect; physically driving the neighborhoods, measuring all the homes being built, talking with the owners either onsite or on the phone.”

She likes to check on the reasons folks relocate to the community she has called home since 1958.

“It’s nice to be able to see and talk to new residents about why they chose Mahomet,” Kaiser said. “Almost always the schools. I try to welcome them to the community and the conversation often turns to the old days.”

In recent years, she has witnessed a trend that wasn’t prevalent in her generation.

“The dynamics of the people have changed,” Kaiser said. “I would say in the 70s there were more percentage of what you call the older generation.

“Now there are a lot more younger families. I see a lot of the generation of our children returning to or staying in Mahomet. They seem to embrace the fact that I’ve been here virtually my whole life and know so much about the past.”
Kaiser’s involvement in Mahomet extends past her work experience.

In 1991, Kaiser along with John Arnold and Richard Franklin started the first Kids’ Club for wrestling in Mahomet.

“I was excited when my Kindergarten son (Dan) began wrestling at Fisher in 1989,” she said. “No club in Mahomet at that time.”

Word spread quickly that she was interested in helping organize a club.

Shortly after Rob Porter returned to his alma mater in 1990 as head wrestling coach at M-S, Kaiser saw him at an Illini basketball game.

“I said, ‘I have a question,’ and before I said more, he said, ‘Yes, you can start a Kids’ Club,’ “ Kaiser related.

“The rest is history.”

Kaiser was the organization’s first secretary-treasurer and was the M-S Kids’ Club Tournament Director for most of the next two decades.

”My youngest grandson, Izaiah (Brotherton), is in third grade and is wrestling for the new Mahomet youth wrestling team,” Kaiser said. “I’m hoping they will let me help with any future tournaments they may hold.

“I loved the kids and enjoyed the new family friendships created and I still have. The ‘M-S wrestling family’ is a special group of people.”
The older generations who were immersed in Mahomet history have passed away in recent years. With the passing of such local icons as Isabelle Purnell, Paul Phillippe and Geraldine Hickle, Kaiser helps fill the void when the subject turns to historical matters.

“I don’t think anyone could replace Geraldine or Paul or Isabelle as historians but with the help of a handful of those left with deep ties to Mahomet, you could say I’m somewhat a go-to person,” Kaiser said.

“I get calls and Facebook messages asking about the old days and find myself relying on others at times, my Mom (Beverly Winters), my sister Becky (Kuhns), Ginna Mahin Moore, Barb Young Reece and (aunt) Betty Clapper.”

The good news for folks who may need information in the future is that LaDonna Kaiser and her husband, Mark (whom she met in junior high in 1969) aren’t planning on heading off to a warmer climate for their retirement years.

“I’ll still be around,” she said. “I will never leave ‘my town’ Mahomet.

She might even pass her time by doing something she knows well.

“I’ll consult for a few townships in the area,” Kaiser said.

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