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A crossroads dubbed “Progress Corner” 

and the family who created it in the Depression

In the years between the two world wars, the rural intersection of Illinois Hwy. 23 and U.S. 30 was a crossroads, not only for transportation but also for major historic trends:

• The early development of aviation
• The Great Depression
• Tumultuous social change

Against this backdrop, the Eakle family deftly navigated family triumphs and tragedies, large and small. In his heartwarming autobiography, John Eakle tells how his closeknit family weathered hardships yet had fun performing across the country and Canada as the Eakle Family Band and Dance Troupe. And what did they travel on? The family’s home-away-from-home — a 41-foot-long “battleship” parade float dubbed the USS Illinois built in an airplane hangar.

Author John Eakle

A school teacher more than 30 years, John carefully researched the facts and taped interviews with family and friends to preserve this history. He completed the book shortly before he died May 16, 1998.

The third of eight children, John A. Eakle was born Sept. 23, 1923, in Des Moines, IA, where his father attended the (University of Iowa). The family moved back to Waterman, IL, a few years later where John attended school, graduating from high school in 1941.

He entered the Army Air Corps in October 1942. Between July 1944 and June 1945, he flew 108 combat missions over Burma in P-47 Thunderbolt fighters. There he earned an air medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1983 he retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve as a Lt. Col.  After returning from the war, John married Mary Weishaar in 1946. In 1949 they settled down to raise a family when daughter Terry Jo was born.

John attended and graduated from Northern Illinois University (formerly State Teachers College) with a BS and MS in Education. He taught more than 30 years, 28 years in DeKalb, IL, junior and senior school special education. He retired in 1981.

Active in the community as well as aviation, John served two terms as president of the DeKalb Classroom Teachers Association, held a commercial pilot’s license, taught private pilot ground school, and flew in the Civil Air Patrol. He was also a member of the First United Methodist Church, DeKalb, IL; the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Retired Officers Association, World War II Combat Flyers and the Kishwaukee-DeKalb Kiwanis Club.