If you have spent much time in La Salle County, chances are you know the name “Dan Churney.”
A writer, historian and nearly lifelong La Salle County resident, Dan spent 25 years as a local newspaper reporter before retiring about two years ago.
Dan has penned two crime books about the area. One, Capone’s Cornfields: The Mob in the Illinois Valley (Booksurge Publishing, 2004), examines the history of organized crime in the region. Another, titled Take Two Bullets and Call Me in the Morning: Stories of True Crime from North Central Illinois (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012) looks at criminal cases that played out in the early decades of the 20th century.
“Capone’s Cornfields really created a lot of interest,” he said. “I gave tours for several years, showing locations where events connected to organized crime happened. There were buses of people for these tours, and I was the entertainment.”
Dan has also acted in several locally produced movies, appeared in a television documentary and written freelance articles for publication. About two years ago, Dan retired from newspaper work. But he longed to find a new position that would allow him to do what he most loved, researching the area and talking with members of the community. When he saw that UKA was looking for a local liaison for the Hickory Wind project, he leapt at the opportunity.
“I remember back when the first wind turbines sprang up around here, it must have been 20 years ago. When I first passed them, I thought they looked majestic. It really is great that we can take a gift from nature and turn it into electricity,” he said. “I also think it’s a great deal for the farmers. The money they get from the towers is always there, it’s not from crops, it isn’t based on the ups and downs of the grains market.”
In his job, Dan meets with people in the community and answers their questions about Hickory Wind and UKA. In this outreach he has noticed a familiar theme.
“Usually, if I meet someone and talk to them for five minutes, we will discover that we know someone in common, and in some cases we’ll even find out we’re related!”
To Dan, that’s just part of being local. “I’ve been here a long time,” he reflected.