ARCOLA, Ill. (WCIA) — People came together in Arcola on Friday to honor the legacy of the Ghere family and to watch the first ever “Ghere Bowl” between the football teams of Arcola and Villa Grove High Schools.
It was the 75th meeting between the two football teams, but this year they used the tradition to show respect for one of Douglas County’s most respected families. Villa Grove’s football field is named for the family, as is a part of Illinois Route 133.
Friends, family and fans put hands over hearts on Friday to honor the Ghere family’s legacy. Ron Ghere said his father was one of seven brothers that fought in war.
“They had 16 brothers and sisters,” Ghere said. “They lived in a small house, they all got along. The boys went off to war and the sisters raised some of the younger kids.
The brothers in the Ghere family served in World War II and one of them, Bobby Ghere, was killed in action in 1945. The rest went on to become model citizens and community leaders.
Kevin Monahan, an Arcola High School alum, organized the event. His family and the Ghere family share a connection.
“Two of the Ghere brothers worked for my grandfather for 40, 50 years when they came back from war,” Monahan said. “So, I knew them. They were near mythical figures, even when I was a kid.”
Monahan said people appreciate a family that meant so much to community members.
“I think the hope of today, tonight and going forward is that many generations after this are going to know about the Gheres,” Monahan said.
More than 30 descendants, including Ali Thorton, were at the game to witness how their ancestors shaped the legacy of their entire family and parts of town.
“It’s just interesting to come from a small town,” Thorton said. “If you go to other cities and you bring other people back here, they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re related, we’re related.’ And people are like, ‘Are you related to the whole town?’ And it’s like, it kind of seems that way, yes.”
Though the kind words and admiration are nice, Ron Ghere said it’s just about recognition for the Ghere family.
“I just hope they remember we were good people, hard workers and a good family,” he said.
In addition to naming the annual Arcola-Villa Grove football game after the Gheres, Monahan said the game will also include a traveling trophy to keep the tradition and legacy alive for future generations.