Longtime Herrin community volunteer Wilma Miriani will be honored as Grand Parade Marshal for Festa 2009.
Wilma was born November 7, 1922 in Marion to Dan and Altha (White) Linck. She was the only girl in a family of five boys, James of Peoria, J. D. of Phoenix, AZ, Jack of Marion and Rex of Florida. One brother, Leroy Linck, is deceased.
She graduated with straight A’s in 1940 from Marion High School. Her desire was to work and to do well. She worked for Blankenship’s in Herrin and met her future husband, William “Bill” Miriani, a Herrin native, at White City Park in Herrin. His parents were Joe and Lena Miriani. The couple married May 2, 1942 during WW II. Bill was drafted in October, l942 by the U. S. Army- Air Force and became a Signal Corpsman.
She traveled throughout the country to follow her new husband from base to base, from the Midwest to California and back across the country to Orlando, FL, until he was shipped to the South Pacific in 1945. He served a Chief Correspondent for a news agency. Wilma said, “We were grateful that he was on the second front line, many prayers were sent for his safe return.”
Wilma and their first child, Karen, who was born in Orlando, Fl in l944 came back to southern Illinois to Marion to live with her family. When her husband returned in l946 he worked for the Fish and Wildlife Department in the Ordill area and he worked for the United States States Post office in Carbondale. He was Director of Mail Processing at the Carbondale Post Office. He died in 1989. He was 67 years old.
In l962 the family moved to Herrin after the death of Joe Miriani, Bill’s father. His sisters Josephine Miriani and Mary Chiodini wanted to keep the Miriani Shoe Repair Shop open at 106 West Herrin Street. She needed someone to man the store. Bill arranged for Pete Camarato to run the shoe shop and he stepped up to work on Saturday. While the shoe shop is now closed, the building remains.
Their family of four daughters kept Wilma busy at home. Their daughter, Kris Tolson, died in l982. The children are Kurby and Karen Owens, retired from Regions Bank, live in Hendersonville, TN, Rick and Kathy Lynn who is the Director of Professional Development at ROE#21 (Franklin/Williamson Regional Office of Education), lives in Herrin, and Dirk and Kedra Olsen, a CPA, live in Woodridge, IL. She has 9 grandchildren.
After years at home, raising her daughters, making most of the dresses and clothes her children wore, and volunteer work at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, she wanted to do more for her adopted city.
In 1982 Wilma began her long career as a volunteer with the Herrin Hospital Auxiliary. “I was a runner when I first began to serve at the hospital, I did whatever was needed and found a lot of joy in helping others.”
She was instrumental in working with other early members of the Auxiliary and fondly remembers the three founders of Herrin Hospital’s first Gift Shop, Joan Cairatti, E. J. Helleny and Marge Carter in l985.
She served as treasurer for the auxiliary for twenty plus years. Bess Hogan, past Herrin Hospital Auxiliary president, says of Wilma, “She is an amazing spirit. She is a numbers woman and served with great dedication in her years as treasurer and Lifeline Coordinator.”
Her work as Lifeline Coordinator that served hundreds of residents in the Herrin area is legend. The program began in l983 and continued until 1999. She paid visits to individuals who needed Lifeline services and arranged for technician, Dee Bonnell to hook up telephone service to Lifeline. Former Herrin Hospital Administrator Larry Feil, spoke of her work, and said “The program was implemented and maintained by Wilma. She worked tirelessly to make Lifleline the success that it was. It was a superb effort and one that helped many, many people for decades. She wore so many hats at the Auxiliary. She helped make the organization what it is today.” Wilma continues to volunteer on Wednesday evenings at the hospital.
Wilma noted, “It was a job I relished, one that I knew would bring peace of mind not only to the person who had Lifeline in their home, but to family members. “
The 2009 Grand Parade Marshall has received numerous honors in her 47 years in Herrin. She was named Citizen of the Year by the Herrin Chamber of Commerce, Lady of the Year by Herrin Beta Sigma Phi sorority and was a longtime member of the Herrin Women’s Club in the Literature Department.
She has served her family and her community with equal love and dedication. She said, “I would not be the same without Herrin. This is my home and I owe so much to so many people for working with me, for their friendship and for the wonderful memories I have of work at Herrin Hospital and at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.”
Mayor Vic Ritter says of Wilma Miriani, “She is such a fine addition to Herrin. She exemplifies many of our volunteers and community workers who do much more than asked. She goes the extra mile. Herrin is lucky to have her and the Miriani family in Herrin.”
The Grand Parade Marshall will be honored at 6 p.m. at the Mayor’s Banquet Tuesday, May l9 at the Herrin Civic Center and lead the HerrinFesta Italiana Grand Parade on Saturday, May 24 in downtown Herrin.