Fern Burke, who worked for many years behind the scenes helping to make sure Old Settlers ran smoothly, will be in the limelight during the Big Parade this year as the grand marshal.
Burke served on the Old Settlers Association beginning in 1952, when she took part in the talent contest. She was vice president of Old Settlers for many years, part of the queen's committee, as well as helped with the baby crawling contest, ponytail and pigtail contests, and chair for the Old Settlers Country Fair.
In 1963, she ran for Old Settlers queen and was the first runner up. However, for Burke, the pageant is a family affair for her and her family.
"Something that's amazing is my three sisters ran for Old Settlers queens and won, and I loved it. Doris (Hall) Emslie was crowned queen in 1972, Gail (Hall) Sherer, 1973, and Janet (Hall) Stewart in 1975. Then, in 2006, my granddaughter, Danielle Burke, was crowned queen, and in 1995 she was named Old Settlers Little Miss Congeniality," she said.
She and her sisters ran with the sponsor of the Luck and Buck Saddle Club, and her granddaughter, Danielle ran with the Knights of Columbus as her sponsor.
Burke was also Miss MJM Co-op queen in 1962, and she competed at state in Springfield. Then in 1958, she was named the Coffeen School Carnival queen.
Burke said that over the years, many things have changed in regards to Old Settlers.
Burke's favorite thing about Old Settlers is the Kiddie Parade and the Big Parade. She also loved when her mom and dad, Ted and Margie Hall, were Old Settlers grand marshals in 1993, and were in the Honor Society in 1994. She and her husband, Gary were in the Honor Society in 2010.
"I'm very honored they chose me to be grand marshal," Burke said.
Grand marshal Burke will appear in the parade, along with her great-granddaughter, Emily Castillo, and will be driven by her son, Mike Burke.
Mrs. Burke attended East Fork Country School, Coffeen school, then graduated from Hillsboro High School in 1963. She also attended Illinois State University. In 1965, she married Gary Burke, who she dated all through high school. Gary passed away in March of 2012.
She has three sons, Mike (Cathy) Burke, Jason (Gina) Burke and Matt (Kim) Burke. Her grandchildren are Danielle Castillo, Nic (Morgan) Burke, Nathan Burke and Stephanie Burke (deceased), Camden Burke and Renna Burke; and great-grandchildren, Emily Castillo and Layton Burke.
Mrs. Burke has kept herself very busy over the years. In addition to being a big part of the Old Settlers Association each year, she was employed at the Bank of America in Hillsboro for 43 years. She was also the president of Beckemeyer PTA, and the president of Business and Professional Women's Club and a member of the Disciples of Christ First Christian Church in Hillsboro, where she is also the secretary.
In her spare time, she likes to cook, read and spend time with family, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.