Herrin loses an icon



"We've lost one of our most loyal listeners," Mike Murphy, host of "Sports Voice," said. "We always knew Bob was listening. He would send us e-mails, and call from time to time. That was a true love of his life."

Bob Ferrari, a prominent Herrin businessman who twice owned Herrin's WJPF radio station and served as a primary force behind creating HerrinFesta Italiana, died on January 30, 2007..

An active member of the Herrin Chamber of Commerce, Ferrari was discovered early Wednesday morning at the scene of a car accident near Lake of Egypt.

Williamson County Coroner Mike Burke said he believes Ferrari, 77, died as the result of a medical event prior to the crash.

A co-owner of Herrin landmark The Lombard Café, Ferrari became a pillar of community involvement in Herrin. Ferrari was a driving force behind the HerrinFesta Italiana and the Coal Miner Memorial, but area leaders say it is impossible to list everything he did for the community.

Sue Douglas, executive director of the Herrin Chamber of Commerce, said Ferrari's loss has cast a black cloud over the close-knit community.

"Herrin has lost the best friend it ever had," Douglas said. "Everything Bob did was for Herrin - everything. His last e-mail to me spoke of the betterment of Herrin. His last meeting with HerrinFesta Italiana was just at 5:30 last night January 29, 2007".

Peter Bondioli, who shares ownership of The Lombard Café with Ferrari and Arthur Lenzini, said the community impact is immeasurable.

"This community has no idea, from an economic and civic standpoint, what it has just lost," Bondioli said. "It is unbelievable, when you really learn all the things that Bob was involved in, not only with the chamber but with his own properties and businesses."

Although Ferrari is perhaps best known in Southern Illinois for his stalwart support of Herrin's flagship festival and as co-owner of Lombard, he also owned a number of properties and businesses throughout Herrin.

A longtime president of HerrinFesta Italiana, Ferrari was nominated as an employee of the year by the Illinois Department of Aging director in 2003 for his many accomplishments.

Ferrari owned WJPF radio station for a number of years, but sold the station early in his career. However, he bought the radio station back in the 1980s and rebuilt the site on its original Herrin ground, Murphy said.

"He had a special love for the station, and he purchased it a second time so he could keep it as a news/talk/sports station," said Murphy, who served as news and sports director for Ferrari.

Carol Ferrari spoke in a strong, clear voice while describing her father, a man she described as having a softer side that he displayed to his family and loved ones.

"He was both personally and professionally a wonderful person," Carol Ferrari said. "He contributed a lot to the community. He gave his all for the community, and I think of all the people in the community, he loved Herrin the most. If they needed to get something done, he was the man to call."

Her father was seen as a tremendously successful businessman, Carol Ferrari said, and many didn't realize the compassion and caring that stood as the driving force behind everything he created for Herrin.

"Dad had a heart of gold that possibly a lot of people didn't see," Carol Ferrari said. "He was a leader, and leaders have to be strong. He was a worker bee, and he knew how to accomplish things and get them done."

Cheryl Ranchino Trench, Ferrari's longtime friend and fellow community activist, said Ferrari would want to be remembered as a fighter for Herrin, and wouldn't want to cause sadness for his community members.

"He wouldn't want us to be maudlin," Trench said. "He would say, 'Cheryl, what are you doing?'"


ashley.wiehle at thesouthern.com

(618) 997-3356 ext. 5807


Adapted by Ernesto.milani at gmail.com

Thursday, February 2, 2007