A long-time Hillsboro resident who is generally found working behind the scenes, Bob Fuehne, is soon to find himself thrust into the spotlight as Grand Marshal of the 2021 Old Settlers Days Parade.
“I usually carry the flag in the Honor Guard during the Old Settlers parade and I was planning to pass it up to one of the younger guys this year. I was still going to march with the guard but it’s time to hand-off the mantle, so Grand Marshal seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so,” Fuehne stated, with a smile. “Plus, now I get to ride.”
Originally from rural Damiansville, in Clinton County, Fuehne graduated from Mater Dei High School in Breese where he briefly taught math and chemistry (after graduating from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) before being drafted into the Vietnam War in 1967. Following his four-year enlistment in the United States Air Force, where he worked as an aircraft maintenance officer on the F-4 Phantom Fighters, he found himself embarking on a career change that would eventually lead him closer to Montgomery County.
“I attended a job fair, sponsored by the Air Force, while I was in the service and started talking to someone from Ralston-Purina.
"I really liked them and they were based in St. Louis, MO. I didn’t realize I would get shipped around the country before I made it back to St. Louis,” Fuehne explained.
By that time Fuehne was married to his college sweetheart, Patsy Lanthrum, a Montgomery County native, and the young couple found themselves living in Davenport, IA, and Denver, CO, before Fuehne made his way to the company’s home-base in St. Louis, MO.
“Patsy and I moved to Hillsboro after my father-in-law (Pat Lanthrum) passed away. My mother-in-law (Victoria Lanthrum) lived on her own for a while before deciding that she wanted to sell the family farm. We bought the farm in 1982 and raised our boys on the farm that she grew up on. I grew up on a dairy farm in Clinton County so I was drawn to the idea of farm life and the space to have horses. I’m really only a gentleman farmer though,” Fuehne stated.
Fuehne spent 30 years working in quality assurance and as an auditor for Ralston Purina - a career that allowed him to travel to plants worldwide. His job was to make sure the company was complying with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards and that their weights and measures were accurate. In 2002, when the company was acquired by Nestle, Fuehne chose to retire to have more time to care for his wife during her battle with cancer. When she passed in 2007, Fuehne found himself turning to community service projects to help pass the time.
“Once you start getting involved it tends to snowball and you quickly find yourself being pulled into other projects,” Fuehne said, with a laugh. “Civic engagement is necessary for any community to flourish. We travel a lot and find that there are many areas that don’t have actively engaged residents and it really makes a difference. Hillsboro’s residents are one of the biggest factors in what makes this not only a great place to live but a place that people look forward to visiting.”
Fuehne is a member of the Hillsboro Sertoma Club, where he served as president; Hillsboro Knights of Columbus, where he served as Grand Knight for three terms; Hillsboro Moose Lodge; an active member of the American Legion Honor Guard; and a founding member of the Imagine Hillsboro Volunteer Committee. He volunteers at Bremer Sanctuary and serves on the Finance Counsel and Building Committee, as well as other ministries, at St. Agnes Catholic Church. Fuehne is also a Master Gardener through the University of Illinois Extension Office and regularly participates in the Farmers Institute - baking award winning zucchini bread may or may not be on the list of his many skills. He has volunteered his time to drive patients for Montgomery County Cancer Association, as well as for the Veterans Assistance Commission driving veterans to doctor visits in St. Louis, MO.
In addition to Grand Marshal, Fuehne has been recognized as Valued Veteran of the Year by the Moose Lodge and the Sertoma Club awarded him the Sertoma Service to Mankind Award as a member of the Joint Armed Services Color Guard.
While community service keeps him busy, Fuehne also finds time to enjoy life. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and doting grandfather to his five grandchildren, Duncan, Kendall, Danielle, Alex and Colin. He enjoys visiting his sons, Dave (Holly) in Los Alamos, NM, and Doug (Deanna), in Seattle, WA, and traveling with friend Patty Whitworth. The two have taken many far-reaching holidays together, some of the most memorable include Russia, Iceland, Alaska and Normandy, where they had the honor of being recognized along with all the veterans in attendance during the flag lowering ceremony at the end of the day.
Even with all the places he has been throughout his lifetime there is something about the Old Settlers Days that draws him to Main Street Hillsboro.
“You would be surprised how many people plan trips back to town to attend Old Settlers. You can barely walk down the street without bumping into someone you know, new friends and old alike,” Fuehne said. “It’s a great time and it’s important to continue these traditions, they bind the community together.”