News Items - Marion Chamber of Commerce
Finalists for the Lifetime Achievement Award have been announced
Two area leaders have been selected as finalists for the Marion Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The finalists are (in alphabetic order):
• Admiral Nancy Brown
• Fred Monroe

Two area leaders have been selected as finalists for the Marion Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The finalists are (in alphabetic order): Members of the Marion Chamber of Commerce were asked to submit nominations in October for the Lifetime Achievement Award. Nominations were sought for individuals who have demonstrated dedication and achievement in a professional capacity for 30 years or more. The Lifetime Achievement Award finalists and winner were selected by the members of the Marion Chamber of Commerce Awards Committee, including the Mayor of the City of Marion Robert Butler, Gail Barger with Priority Staffing Group Ltd., Dalus Ben Avi with the Marion Chamber of Commerce, Kristin Beutel with the Marion Chamber of Commerce, Ashlee Church with Volkswagen of Marion, Misty Cobb with Banterra Bank, Dana Dooley with HireLevel powered by Extra Help, Kenya Garner with State Farm Insurance, Cindy Gibbons with U.S. Bank, Ashley Gott with Bank of Herrin, Janet Jensen with Auto Credit of Southern Illinois, Doug Kimmel with Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois, Brian McHugh with BNI STAR Chapter, Bill Nielsen with Flanders Electric, Sara Perdue with Harbory Medical Cannabis Dispensary, Christy Pulliam with StaffQuick, Mindy Reid with Banterra Bank, Rick Richert with Flanders Electric and Kimberly Walker with Kemper CPA Group LLP.
The winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award will be announced during the 97th annual Marion Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet & Auction on Friday, January 19 at The Pavilion. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Tickets to attend are $60/person or $400/table (seats 8) and are available by calling the Marion Chamber of Commerce at 618.997.6311, visiting or emailing
Information about the finalists is below.
Admiral Nancy Brown:
VADM Nancy Brown retired from the United States Navy October 2009 after more than 35 years of service. At the time of her retirement she was the Director, Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems, The Joint Staff. Since her retirement she has served on the Advisory Board of Kingfisher Systems, Inc and Enlightened, Inc. She was the vice chair of the Board of Directors of the United States Naval Institute from 2010 to 2016, was a member of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Executive Council, a member of Mission Readiness, active member of the VFW/American Legion Honor Guard and is currently the vice chair of Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois.
Highlights of her career included Command of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Cutler, Maine and Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic, Norfolk. She served on the NSC staff at the White House and was Deputy Director, White House Military Office. In 2004 she deployed to Iraq becoming the first Multi-National Force–Iraq C6. Returning in April 2005 she was assigned as the J6 for both North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command.
Raised in Marion, she is a 1973 graduate of Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Following completion of Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, in June 1974, VADM Brown reported to her first duty station, Naval Communications Station, Norfolk, Virginia serving as Communications Watch Officer, followed by Automation Officer and Personnel Officer. She then served as the Special Projects and Manpower Requirements Officer at the Naval Telecommunications Command in Washington, D.C.
After her tour in Washington, VADM Brown attended Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where she earned a Master of Science Degree in Communications Systems Management. She was then assigned to the Defense Commercial Communications Office at Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Illinois. From this joint assignment, VADM Brown attended the Naval War College and was awarded a Master of Arts Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. Her follow-on assignment was as the Officer in Charge, Naval Radio and Receiving Facility Kami Seya, Japan. Returning from overseas, VADM Brown was assigned to the Joint Tactical Command, Control and Communications Agency in Washington. After this second joint tour, she was assigned as the Executive Officer (XO) at the Naval Communications Station in San Diego, California and devoted a major segment of this tour to the establishment of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station, San Diego. Following this tour, VADM Brown attended the Senior Course at the Army War College, Carlyle, Pennsylvania.
In August 1993, VADM Brown assumed command of Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Cutler, Downeast, Maine. After completing her command tour, she was assigned in August 1995 to the National Security Council staff at the White House. In July 1997, VADM Brown assumed command of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic, Norfolk. Completing her command tour in June 1999, VADM Brown returned to the White House as the Deputy Director, White House Military Office. In October 2000, she reported to the Chief of Naval Operations as Deputy Director and Fleet Liaison, Space, Information Warfare, Command and Control (N6B). In August 2002 she assumed duties as Vice Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computer Systems (J6), the Joint Staff. In August 2004 she deployed to Iraq becoming the first Multi-National Force–Iraq C6 headquartered in Baghdad and returned to the Joint Staff in April 2005.
In August 2005 VADM Brown assumed the duties as J6 Director for both North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command. In August 2006 she assumed her last active duty position as the Director, Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems (C4 Systems), The Joint Staff.
Vice Admiral Brown's decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Defense Superior Service Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), the Legion of Merit (with Gold Star), the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal (with two Bronze Stars), the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Armed Forces Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal (with two Bronze Stars). Was also a 2017 Leaders Among us recipient.
“This nomination is a definite honor,” VADM Brown said. “I had a blessed career of over 35 years in the Navy. Upon returning home I wanted to give back some of my good fortune. Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois has allowed me to do that and more. To be recognized for my Navy career and my contribution to my local community is overwhelming and very humbling. Thank you for your consideration.”
Fred Monroe:
Blending the seemingly arcane art of dry-cleaning with expert customer service, Monroe Cleaners has been cleaning and removing stains since the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, said Fred Monroe. Monroe Cleaners was started in September 1916 by Fred Monroe’s grandparents, Charles R. and Ethel Monroe.
The original cleaner’s location was 107 and 109 West Main in Marion. The company has been located at 405 West Main Street since the early 1950s that originally housed the Travelstead Bus Company.
The next generation to operate the cleaners was Charles W. and William J. Monroe as partners in 1950. William (Bill) sold his share in 1964-1965. Charles W. and Jacqueline Monroe continued operating the business as a great husband-wife team until their son Charles Fred returned to Marion in 1976. He joined his parents in a partnership that continued until 1985. At that time, Charles and Jacqueline only wanted to work part-time. Fred purchased Monroe Cleaners at that time.
Fred’s path to purchasing Monroe Cleaners took quite a few interesting turns.
While attending Marion High School, Fred worked at the family business. He then worked as a camp counselor at Little Grassy Lake in 1964. From 1963-1965, Fred attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, served in the Air Force ROTC program, and worked for Dr. Klimstra in data gathering for white tail deer and quail. In 1965, Fred had a summer job with the Soil Conservation Service in Effingham as a soil science trainee, mapping and describing soils. In 1966, Fred worked for the family business again during the summer. “This gave me good insight into the small business procedures and honed my decision-making skills,” he said.
After Fred obtained a bachelor of science degree with a major in plant and soil science and a minor in botany in 1967 from SIUC, he was hired as a horticulturist at Callaway Gardens Pine Mountain in Georgia.
“Within this 1500-acre resort complex, my duties were working in the greenhouses and the display vegetable garden,” he said. “Other duties were mapping new azalea and holly trails. I also lectured on nature walks for our many visitors.”
Fred then attended Louisiana State University’s landscape architecture program from 1968-1969. He was then hired by the Kansas City Missouri Parks and Recreation Department. His duties included designing and updating planting plans.
From 1968-1969, Fred worked at Hart’s Landscape Company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he designed and installed residential planting and helped staff their retail store and garden center.
While studying architecture at Northern Virginia Community College in 1970, Fred worked as a U.S. Army Construction Draftsman, stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
In 1972, Fred worked during the summer for Moore’s Landscape & Nursery Co. in Glenview, Illinois as a landscape designer and foreman on commercial and industrial installations.
From 1972-1973, while studying landscape architecture from University of Illinois, where he went on to receive a bachelor of science degree, Fred worked for the U.S. Geological Survey as a hydrologic technician in the water resources division. His duties included computing and compiling hydrologic data involved with indirect measurements of streamflow, drainage area and determination of flood-prone areas. This data would then be used to draw the 50- and 100-year flood maps.
In 1973, Fred worked as the Project Inspector for the landscape development project at Parkland Junior College. The project involved outdoor lighting, plumbing, irrigation, masonry, and plant materials.
In 1974-1975, Fred worked as the landscape architect for the Peoria Park District in the design and construction department. His duties included preparing plans, bid documents, and inspections for the Glen Oak tennis area, Bradley Park shuffleboard courts, Carver/Kiwanis basketball courts, softball and baseball fencing, Treywn creative play area, Glen Oak sanitary and storm sewers, Burr Oak Park and more. From 1973-1975, Fred also served on the Greater Peoria Planning Association, the Peoria City Beautiful Board of Directors and the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Within the past 40 plus years, Fred and his employees have tried to maintain the high standards that his parents and grandparents did before him. Many changes in equipment have come and gone; however, its goal of superior cleaning and pressing with great customer service has never changed.
In general, small business is a difficult career, Fred said.
“Federal and state regulations are just a few of the issues facing the mom and pop business today,” he said.
Tough regulations required Monroe Cleaners to purchase a state-of-the-art dry-cleaning unit to meet ever-increasing requirements. Another equipment purchase was made a few months ago to meet other cleaning and washing needs. Fred said that Monroe Cleaners tries to keep current with information from the National Federation of Independent Businesses and other organizations.
Monroe Cleaners has been a Chamber member since its beginning.
“We try to contribute something to each request,” Fred said. “Dry cleaning or pressing servings are two areas that are commonly given freely. American flags, Santa suits, and coat drives have also been given.”
Monroe Cleaners have contributed gift certificates to charities, schools, individuals and various organizations in the greater Marion area.
Fred is active with the First Christian Church, having served as chairman of the church’s board, chairman of deacons, chairman of the Property Committee and coordinated pecan sales for the Christian Women’s Fellowship for decades.
Fred has also helped Aldersgate United Methodist Church by chaperoning youth on skiing and canoeing trips, helping with various church activities, serving as the church’s landscape architect, and helping with pecan sales for the United Methodist Women’s Group.
Fred has been a member of the Marion Lions Club for more than 25 years, has sponsored the Marion Republican’s Church Page for decades, been a member of the Marion Country Club and past board member and served as secretary for 28 years for 18 Bottoms Farm Inc. in Franklin County.
Fred married Rita R. Gogjian of Oak Park. Rita graduated from SIU with a degree in elementary education. Rita not only did her student teaching at Washington School’s second grade, but she also taught there for 34 years before retiring in 2007.
Their son, Eric, attended Marion schools and graduated in 1990 as valedictorian. Eric also received four Gold Keys from the Rotary Club, thus giving him the Diamond Key his senior year. Eric obtained a bachelor and master degree in mechanical engineering and a PhD in industrial engineering. He works for Intel Corporation in Phoenix, Arizona. He lives in Chandler, Arizona, with his wife, Janelle, and their four sons.
Fred and Rita’s daughter, Melissa, graduated from Marion High School in 1993. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in secondary health and business education from Eastern Illinois University and works as a health teacher in Gray’s Lake High School. Melissa went on to receive a master’s degree in school guidance counseling from Northeastern Illinois. Melissa and her husband, David Smith, live in Crystal Lake with their three sons.
“This nomination is greatly appreciated for myself and the many employees and family members that have helped build Monroe Cleaners for the last 101 years,” Fred said. “I hope this nomination and many other awards encourage young people to drive in the small business community.
“It takes determination, self-motivation, and enthusiasm to meet the challenges today. Marion is a great city which Monroe Cleaners is one small part,” he said. “I congratulate the Marion Chamber for all its works You are the glue that holds businesses together.”
The first Lifetime Achievement Awards was given in 1985 to August L. Fowler. Last year’s recipients were Ray Altmix and Bill Nielsen. Past winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award can be viewed at

Published: 11/28/17