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At Capitol, Bush saluted as 'gentle soul'

WASHINGTON — The nation's capital embraced George H.W. Bush in death Monday with solemn ceremony and high tributes to his service and decency, as the remains of the 41st president took their place in the Capitol rotunda for three days of mourning and praise by the political elite and everyday citizens alike.

With Bush's casket atop the Lincoln Catafalque, first used for Abraham Lincoln's 1865 funeral, dignitaries came forward to honor the Texan whose efforts for his country extended three quarters of a century from World War II through his final years as an advocate for volunteerism and relief for people displaced by natural disaster.

President from 1989 to 1993, Bush died Friday at age 94.

In an invocation opening Monday evening's ceremony, the U.S. House chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J Conroy, praised Bush's commitment to public service, from Navy pilot to congressman, U.N. ambassador, envoy to China and then CIA director before being elected vice president and then president.

"Here lies a great man," said Rep. Paul Ryan, the House speaker, and "a gentle soul. ... His legacy is grace perfected."

Vice President Mike Pence and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell also spoke. President Donald Trump did not attend, but he and first lady Melania Trump came to the Capitol later Monday to pay tribute. They stood in front of the casket with their eyes closed for a few moments, before Trump saluted the casket.

Political combatants set aside their fights to honor a Republican who led in a less toxic era and at times found commonality with Democrats despite sharp policy disagreements. Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, past and incoming House speaker, exchanged a warm hug with George W. Bush and came away dabbing her face. Bush himself seemed to be holding back tears.

Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, placed wreaths in the short ceremony before the rotunda was to be opened to the public. It was to remain open overnight.

Sent off from Texas with a 21-gun salute, Bush's casket was carried to Joint Base Andrews outside the capital city aboard an aircraft that often serves as Air Force One and designated "Special Air Mission 41" in honor of Bush's place on the chronological list of presidents. His eldest son, former President George W. Bush, and others from the family traveled on the flight from Houston.

Cannon fire roared again outside the Capitol as the sun sank and the younger President Bush stood with his hand over his heart, watching the casket's procession up the steps.

Bush was remembered just feet away from what he called "Democracy's front porch," the west-facing steps of the Capitol where he was sworn in as president.

He will lie in state in the Capitol for public visitation through Wednesday. An invitation-only funeral service, which the Trumps will attend, is set for Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral.

Although Bush's funeral services are suffused with the flourishes accorded presidents, by his choice they will not include a formal funeral procession through downtown Washington.

On Sunday, students, staff and visitors had flocked to Bush's presidential library on the campus of Texas A&M University, with thousands of mourners paying their respects at a weekend candlelight vigil at a nearby pond and others contributing to growing flower memorials at Bush statues at both the library and a park in downtown Houston.

"I think he was one of the kindest, most generous men," said Marge Frazier, who visited the downtown statue Sunday while showing friends from California around.

After services in Washington, Bush will be returned to Houston to lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church before burial Thursday at his family plot on the library grounds. His final resting place will be alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter they lost to leukemia in 1953 at age 3.

Trump has ordered the federal government closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.

Bush's passing puts him back in the Washington spotlight after more than two decades living the relatively low-key life of a former president. His death also reduces membership in the ex-presidents' club to four: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

One of Bush's major achievements was assembling the international military coalition that liberated the tiny, oil-rich nation of Kuwait from invading neighbor Iraq in 1991. The war lasted just 100 hours. He also presided over the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

He was denied a second term by Arkansas Gov. Clinton, who would later become a close friend. The pair worked together to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and of Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.

"Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton of all people?" he joked in 2005.

In a recent essay, Clinton declared of Bush: "I just loved him."

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Herrin | New Life Weight Loss Center
New Life Weight Loss Center hosts clothing swap for patients

HERRIN — Obesity is a serious issue, and the problems related to it are increasing, according to Dr. Saad Ajmal, bariatric surgeon with New Life Weight Loss Center in Herrin. New Life specializes in bariatric surgery, often called weight loss surgery, and cares for patients at all stages of the process.

“Bariatric surgery is a journey. We at New Life are with you for the journey,” Ajmal told a group of patients gathered from a clothing swap. “Your success reinvigorates us.”

In Herrin on Monday, New Life sponsored its second clothing swap to benefit patients. Hope Daniell, program coordinator at New Life, said patients lose weight for up to 18 months after surgery and often drop sizes rapidly. The clothing swap, which is free of charge, gives them a time to socialize, hear some success stories and take home something they can use.

Patients bring clothing that they can no longer wear because of their weight loss, and pass it along to someone who can use it.

Barb Harrigan has a hard time shopping for smaller sizes.

“I still can’t in my brain think that I am that small. I still pick up large and medium clothing,” Harrigan said as she looked through a stack of shirts. “My grandkids are able to give me hand-me-downs.”

As bariatric patients lose weight, pretty soon nothing fits. Because the weight loss continues, patients like Harrigan do not want to invest much in clothing that will fit a short time. The clothing swap is the perfect answer.

“It enables you to get a whole new wardrobe without paying a cent,” Harrigan said. “I love to bless other people with my clothes.”

“For me, the best part of a clothing swap is the testimonials,” Dr. Saad Ajmal said.

Amanda Russell of Johnston City gave one of the volunteer testimonials. Russell had surgery on April 18 and has lost a little more than 90 pounds. She went through all the diet fads, and nothing worked for her. She did her research and concluded surgery was a good option for her.

“I decided this is what I needed to do so save my life,” Russell said. “They tell you to find your why, and my daughter was my why. I wanted to see her grew up, get married and have a family.”

Christine Sims of Du Quoin started thinking about bariatric surgery in 2016, but realized she was not ready to make lifelong changes. A year later, Sims decided she did want her five children to experience losing a parent at a young age, like she did when her father died.

“I wanted to be here to see them grow up, to see my grandkids,” Sims said.

She had gastric bypass surgery on Sept. 25, 2017. She weighed 296 pounds. Today, she weighs 185 pounds, just 30 pounds from her original goal weight of 155 pounds.

During the evening, patients also shared tips and strategies for surviving the holiday season, talk to exercise physiologists, dietitians and cosmetologists.

Daniell said anyone interested in bariatric surgery is welcome to attend an information session. Upcoming sessions are planned in Carbondale, Herrin, Mount Vernon and Marion. Prospective patients must attend an information session before making an appointment with a physician.

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Harrisburg auto dealer Jim Hayes remembered for his generosity

HARRISBURG — The sign at East Side Intermediate School said it all: “Jim Hayes, you will be missed.” Hayes, owner of Jim Hayes Inc. car dealership, died Nov. 23. He is remembered as a man with a big smile and even bigger heart.



Mayor John McPeek said Hayes will be missed in the city of Harrisburg.

“I’ve known Jim Hayes my entire life and have known him to be a great man. He always had a smile on his face,” McPeek said. "And, he took care of his employees.”

Hayes was born Aug. 16, 1939, in Okemah, Oklahoma. He was involved in a variety of sports in high school, including wrestling, football, basketball and baseball, which earned him a football scholarship to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He played two years as a linebacker for the Salukis, graduating with a degree in education in 1962 and a love for his alma mater.

Hayes went on to have a successful career as an English teacher and coach in two northern Illinois towns. He began supplementing his salary by selling cars part-time in the summers. He was good at it, and became top salesman at the dealership.

In 1976, Hayes had the opportunity to open a car dealership in Harrisburg. Jim Hayes Inc. started with three employees. It has grown to a business with more than 40 employees today. The success of the dealership allowed Hayes to become a local philanthropist who was willing to give to anyone in need.

On the Jim Hayes Inc. Facebook page, a post asked readers to leave a memory or story of Hayes. The post drew comments from customers who remembered Hayes taking time to talk with them, friends who said Hayes always had a hug for them, and tales of his generosity. Hayes was noted for supporting employees and through all kinds of tragedy, including the death of loved ones, the Leap Day Tornado, fires and more, and for loaning or giving cars to those in need.

He was involved with many organizations, including: Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, American Legion, SIU Alumni Association, Ducks Unlimited, Second Team and Jolly Boys. He also supported Four Cs homeless shelter, Golden Circle, Harrisburg Medical Center, Harrisburg schools, Harrisburg police and fire departments, SIC, SIU, John A. Logan College, CASA, Hospice and the American Cancer Society.

One of his passions, according to his obituary, was Christian Community Compassion Center or Four Cs. Mona Crim, director of the shelter, said the organization is very grateful for the things Hayes did for them.

“He has given donations before and he was very receptive to the work we do,” Crim said. “On a constant basis, if we went to him, he would reply with a check.”

Hayes is survived by his daughter, Stacy Wasson, son, Jamie Hayes and wife, Donetta, five grandchildren and other loved ones. Memorials may be made to Four Cs or Harrisburg Medical Center Foundation.