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Moments in Time: Jim Glessner
Jim Glessner. To order this photo, click here. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Jim Glessner hardly looks like the 80 years he'll soon celebrate, but he's certainly done enough in his lifetime to prove that number. He stays young by still doing what he's always loved - being a part of local service organizations, writing, editing and delving into parts of his historic past.

Glessner was born in Sterling, Illinois, and grew up in Tampico. His father had a job in Princeton managing a beef and hog operation during the war; because he was producing for the war effort, his father wasn't called to service.

He recalls having a fun childhood with his sister and growing up in a large home. He attended a rural, one-room school until fourth grade when the family moved to Dixon and his father managed a 640-acre farm in Grand Detour, Illinois.

"I loved it," he said of his childhood on the farm. "I had a dog, and I roamed the woods all the time." He attended a two-room school for fifth and sixth grade and then attended Dixon schools when his father got the opportunity to farm himself.

He met his wife, Lois, who lived on a farm a mile away, in catechism at the Immanuel Lutheran Church. Glessner wasn't involved in many sports because he was needed to help on the farm, but he was on the wrestling team and served as the FFA chapter president.

Because of his agriculture background, he learned that some counties gave scholarships to those looking into a career in the field.

"I thought maybe I could be the first one in my family to go to college," he said. "I went to the courthouse and wrote an exam for the scholarship - and pretty soon I had a full ride to the University of Illinois."

He graduated from Dixon High School in 1954.

Glessner enjoyed his time on the farm, but in high school, he found a love for chemistry. He had a strong, intriguing teacher who was likely the reason he tested out of two college chemistry courses and then went on to study organic chemistry.

But during college, Glessner also took a couple of journalism courses - and found out that the ink in his veins ran thick. Along with a few friends, he started a student newspaper called SNIB - Student News & Info Bureau at the College of Agriculture.

"Lois and I were so in love. We married between my freshman and sophomore year," he said. He worked as a soda jerk at the University of Illinois drug store, and when they needed a cashier, Lois landed the job next to him. They worked together for two years while he finished school. He earned his degree in agriculture with a chemistry emphasis and journalism minor.

Glessner knew he would get drafted, so he joined the ROTC program at the University of Illinois, and the Army sent him to Fort Benning, Georgia, for Basic Infantry Officer's Training. He was sent then to a ranger school before going to Fort Leonardwood, Missouri, where basic recruits were trained.

When the end of the Korean War came, Glessner moved back to Dixon where he was part of the National Guard. He remained in the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve for 17 years, his last assignment as a Battalion Executive Officer for the U.S. Army Training unit, Rockford, Illinois. He retired from the service as a Captain and Battalion Executive Officer.

The only job he could find was a summer replacement at the Dixon Evening Telegraph. He worked there a short time before moving on to become the managing editor of Feed and Farm Supplier Magazine in Mt. Morris, Illinois. He enjoyed the job but was on the road a lot traveling to feed and supply stores and wanted to be home more with his small children.

He took an opportunity to join an insurance company in Dixon and held the job for about a year, but it wasn't a good fit. While walking down the street one day, he coincidentally ran into the Shaw Publications executive vice president, who asked him when he was coming back.

"I shouted back "two weeks,'" Glessner said with a laugh. He was ready to return to his first love - journalism.

Glessner led the Dixon Telegraph in converting from lead to computers and worked at the paper until 1971. When Shaw Publications bought The Monroe Evening Times, they wanted Glessner to take the reins as editor, but at first he didn't want to move.

He and Lois had been to Monroe for Cheese Days, and Glessner had sent reporters there for the 1965 tornado. The couple liked the city, and soon the family made the trek to Monroe.

While at the Times, Glessner also converted the paper from lead to computer and was very knowledgeable about the process, becoming the go-to guy for the method.

"I'm one of these guys who loves computers," he said. "I wouldn't say I'm an expert - but in journalism and newspapers, I was adept."

It wasn't long that Glessner worked at The Monroe Evening Times before he was approached by a Kiwanis Club member asking him to join. He did, and 45 years later, he's still part of the group that keeps him busy and brings him much pride. He served as the Division 4 Lt. Governor and later a district trustee.

Glessner said as the newspaper editor, he never overlooked proofreading and did so meticulously for each paper. He said the work paid off more than once over the years. During his tenure at the Times, his news writing was honored three times by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards with its "School Bell" award.

He also stayed active in city affairs, serving as second ward alderman, on the Plan Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Visitor Promotion board. He was also active with United Way, the Monroe Arts Center and the Chamber of Commerce.

In 1977, the owner of the paper died, and Glessner was left without a job. He had offers from all over the state - but he knew he didn't want to move his family again.

He reached back into his food technology roots and sent out resumes. He knew the head of Swiss Colony, and within a month he was hired for a position in research and development. He worked there for more than 22 years and retired as the executive director of new product development. He returned briefly in 2006 to write and edit the company's 80th anniversary book, "The Swiss Colony."

Although he missed journalism, Glessner said he was happy to have found a job working with such good people. He started out as a project manager and was part of a research crew in the bakery department and cheese operations. They had two master pastry chefs and would decide what would go into and come out of the catalogs - and there was lots of taste testing.

"I gained some weight," he laughed.

In retrospect, Glessner said, he thinks he retired too early, but the stress at the time had gotten to him. At 63, he said goodbye to his colleagues.

Once retired, he took a year to decompress, but it wasn't long before he realized he needed more to do. He received a call from the Historic Cheesemaking Center, which had recently lost its executive director, asking if he would be interested. The group wanted him to come down to its meeting and meet the board.

"They said (the position) was part time," Glessner said with a smile. "I walked in the door, and it was all planned out."

Soon the motion was made to hire Glessner as executive director. He took the helm for more than five years, and under his leadership, the center grew in stature and gained national recognition. He still serves as one of two lead docents and handles the bus tours that come in.

Glessner also never stopped writing. He took over the Kiwanews and has spent 17 years as the editor of the newsletter. He recently won the district news bulletin contest for the Wisconsin/Upper Michigan area and was honored several times as the top district publication in all of Kiwanis International. Glessner was also awarded the coveted Hixson award and was named the first recipient of the Solberg Distinguished Service Award in 2003.

He also still currently does two newsletters - the Culture for NHCC and Nibbles for the Monroe Kiwanis. He was recently named webmaster for the Monroe Kiwanis website.

Last July, Glessner was summoned to help with the Cheesemaking Center newsletter, and he then also took on Culture, Curds and Cheesy Chatter, circulating 90 by email and more than 300 hard copies of the publication.

Another of Glessner's passions has come by way of learning about his ancestry, which dates to Germany in 1736, and he now has a strong focus on The Glessner House Museum in Chicago. The National Historic Landmark, which was completed in 1887, is an internationally-known architectural treasure that once belonged to Glessner's family.

One of his ancestors was the vice president of International Harvester and built the mansion on the south side of Chicago, the place for Chicago's elite at that time. Most of the mansions from that time are gone, but The Glessner House, as it's known today, survives.

The historic building offers tours since all of the furniture was saved by the Glessner grandchildren.

"It's spectacular," Glessner said, noting that he gives a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation to interested people who can then donate to the house if they choose.

He keeps a collection of materials and is proud of the piece of his family's history. Visit for more information.

Between meetings and his community involvement, Glessner visits Lois, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, daily at Pleasant View Nursing Home. For the past 10 months, he has volunteered at the nursing home, setting up the dining room for meal times four days a week.

"It gives me something to do, but it also helps them out," he said. He also helped start the Family Council that meets monthly for a meal and a chance for families to share and discuss concerns. Glessner serves as the chairman.

"It's been a great venue for people to learn about Pleasant View," he said. Attendance is growing.

Glessner is also bringing in a professional from the Aging and Disability Resource Center to the Kiwanis group to make it a dementia-friendly organization.

He enjoys spending time with his three children and grandchildren and watching documentaries, National Geographic and the Travel Channel. Glessner said he has great memories of he and Lois traveling out west with his son, Mark, who lives in Wyoming, and because of his photography experience from newspaper jobs, he has several beautiful photographs of his time there.

He also enjoyed traveling to Kiwanis conventions in years past, and after he retired, he was able to visit Alaska. Glessner also very much enjoys spending time with friends at Turner Hall.