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Hedrick lauded as retirement nears

St. Francois County Clerk Mark Hedrick, who will be retiring from his long-held position at the end of this month, was honored by the county commission with a presentation of a plaque and words of gratitude at the county governing body’s meeting Tuesday morning.

Hedrick was presented the plaque by Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher saying, “Mark, we have a certificate for you!”

Hedrick replied, “You do? What for?”

Associate Commissioner Gay Wilkinson jokingly said, “For two gallons of gas!”

Gallaher joined Hedrick at the front of the commissioners chamber and said, “There was a whole list of stuff that I had to shorten because it wouldn’t fit on one plaque, you know. Mark, thank you so much. Thank you for your work. We love you and appreciate you and we’re going to miss you.”

Gallaher handed the plaque to the emotional Hedrick to read aloud to those present. Gallaher continued reading the words after Hedrick couldn’t go on.

The plaque reads: “Mark Hedrick, St. Francois County Clerk: Husband, Father and Grandfather; U.S. Army Veteran of the Vietnam War; Bismarck City Administrator (1986-1994); Board Member of Bismarck R-V School; 23 plus years of St. Francois County service – Presiding Commissioner and County Clerk; Missouri Association of Counties District Director and Board Member; Strong United Way supporter and officer; Babe Ruth Hall of Fame member-40 years of service.

“The St. Francois County Commission hereby acknowledge and express our sincere appreciation for Mark’s devoted service upon his retirement of December 31, 2018. We wish Mark the very best in his well-deserved retirement.”

All three commissioners, Gallaher, Wilkinson and Associate Commissioner Patrick Mullins signed the certificate.

“Thank you all,” Hedrick said. “I appreciate it.”

Gallaher said, “Mark, we appreciate you. Thank you so much.”

Wilkinson said, “This was kind of an ambush because if he knew this was coming, he wouldn’t have been here!”

A jovial Hedrick replied, “No, I never miss a meeting!”

Gallaher jokingly said, “By the way, on the list of stuff, he’s only missed two sick days in the 114 years he’s been here.”

The lighthearted presentation ended with a standing ovation for Hedrick led by the commissioners.

On Jan. 1, Republican Kevin Engler will take on the role of county clerk. He defeated his Democratic opponent, Andrew Young, in the November election. 

Creating Christmas magic

St. Francois County Community Partnership's (SFCCP) annual Season of Hope program is in full swing. 

With 2018 being one of the program's biggest years as far as participants go, it is sure to make Christmas magical for more than 1,600 children. 

The program relies solely on donations and volunteers within the community. 

"School districts and social organizations are also depended on in order to gather lists of qualified families for us," said SFCCP board chairperson Rob Baker. "It is so joyful seeing the community come together to do such a great thing for children in need."

Season of Hope is designed for children from birth to seniors in high school. The program is based on a "first come, first serve" basis, with a suggested $75 allotment per eligible child. SFCCP works with other Christmas programs to make sure that there is no overlapping.

SFCCP is still in need of donations and donations will be accepted through Monday. Although monetary donations are encouraged, new packaged toys are also accepted. For more information, call the partnership's office at 573-431-3173. 

Volunteers have been very busy the past few weeks.

On Friday, shoppers worked to fill wish lists for eligible students in the North County School District. On Monday, volunteers filled wish lists for 262 Farmington students.

On Tuesday, volunteers shopped for 47 eligible children through Children's Services and the next day, they shopped for about 160 children eligible through the East Missouri Action Agency.

After the gifts are dropped off the packing center on Pine Street in Farmington, the items are separated and distributed to the parents to take home and wrap.

"The kids being able to open the gifts in their own homes is very important to us," Baker said. 

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Putting hunger 'In the Bag'

As the holiday season approaches, the Elvins Food Pantry's seventh annual "In the Bag" program is underway. Designed to help the less fortunate, the fundraiser makes the donation process simple. 

Bags can be purchased at Mike's Market in Bismarck, Save A Lot in Park Hills, Walmart Stores in Desloge and Farmington, and Country Mart in Park Hills.

At these participating stores, simply pick up a bag while shopping, pay for it at the checkout, and place it in the drop boxes located at the front of the store.

You can also bring donations to the Elvins Food Pantry located at 17 W. Main St. during business hours 9 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. Monday and Friday. 

Starting in March of 1998, the pantry was first located in what was then known as the town of Elvins. After a few years they relocated to Main Street in downtown Park Hills. Each month more than 400 families in need are provided with food. During the pivotal winter months, the pantry's numbers typically increase so more donations are always appreciated. 

"Many great people have been part of the pantry throughout the years and have contributed a great deal to make it a success," said Elvins Food Pantry President Randy King. "Bless you for blessing others."

In order to sign up to receive assistance from area food pantries such as Elvins Food Pantry, visit East Missouri Action Agency, located at 403 Parkway Dr. in Park Hills.

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It's time to send Letters to Santa

To see the wonder of the Christmas holiday season through the eyes of a child is a precious gift. The most joyful part of the Christmas fun for adults are the letters to Santa, written in the children's own words paired with their individual manner of expression.

Yes, it’s that time of year again when the Daily Journal publishes letters to Santa penned by children in the newspaper’s coverage area.

Through the years, children’s “Letters to Santa” continue to be one of the most popular special features to appear throughout the year in the pages of the Daily Journal.

Each year children are encouraged to submit their letters, and every year they respond by the sleigh-load with Christmas lists addressed to the “jolly old elf” for Daily Journal readers to enjoy reading right alongside Santa Clause himself.

There are several ways to pass along the letter. Parents who want to submit their kids’ letters this year can either use the form available in the print edition or print a copy by going to

Letters can be dropped off at Schnucks in Farmington, the front desk of our Park Hills office at 1513 St. Joe Drive, and the Farmington Press located at 227 E. Columbia.

Letters can also be emailed to or mailed to P.O. Box 9, Park Hills, MO 63601. However, letters must be received by Dec. 12.

The first series of “Letters to Santa” will appear in the Dec. 19-21 editions, continuing thereafter if there are additional letters remaining.

Remember that “Letters to Santa” are typed as originally written by the children and will appear in the Daily Journal with all the misspellings and interesting turns of phrases that make them so much fun to read.

Of course, parents and grandparents — along with other family members — will want to pick up a copy or two of the Daily Journal to look up their child’s letter to Old Saint Nick. But every reader is sure to get a chuckle out of reading the letters, whether they personally know the children who wrote them or not.

To access the website, log onto Current copies of the print edition of Daily Journal including the letters to Santa are available anywhere the newspaper is sold in a rack or on a stand.

Current and back copies of the print editions are available at the Daily Journal offices in Park Hills, Fredericktown and Farmington.

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Bond reduction request denied

A murder suspect's request for a bond reduction was denied Tuesday morning.

Aaron J. Wilkinson, 28, of Bismarck, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of his 67-year-old grandmother, Brenda DeClue. 

On Tuesday, public defender Stephanie Zipfel asked Associate Circuit Court Judge Joseph Goff Jr. to reduce Wilkinson's bond from $1 million cash only to $500,000 surety. 

She told the judge that Wilkinson does have ties to the community. She added his mother lives in Arkansas and if he was released, he would live with her. 

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ben Campbell told the judge he spoke with some of the victim's relatives and they opposed the bond reduction. He reminded the judge that Wilkinson is accused of killing an elderly woman. He said it appears the woman was asleep when she was murdered. She died of blunt force trauma to the head. 

After hearing the short arguments, Judge Goff denied the bond reduction request. 

According to a probable cause statement, on Nov. 11, Wilkinson made statements to family members in Washington County that he had killed his grandmother. Bismarck Police responded to the residence to check the well-being of DeClue and found her dead of an apparent assault. St. Francois County detectives were then contacted to investigate the murder.

A woman told detectives that she picked Wilkinson up at his grandmother's residence on Nov. 8 and that Wilkinson was in possession of several duffel bags, including DeClue's checkbook and cell phone.

rbronaugh / Provided by the St. Francois County Sheriff's Dept.