Tom DeChristina and Marilyn Matthews Ruppel, a longtime Herrin couple, who share their lives and their dedication to the city, will serve as Grand Parade Marshals of HerrinFesta Italiana 2020.
DeChristina is a Chicago native, son of Joseph and Helen DeChristina. His father’s roots are in Palermo, Italy. He has fond memories of growing up in Chicago where members of his family owned a bakery and a butcher shop and a couple of saloons. Coming to Herrin was a bit like going home. Good neighbors, good food and hospitality. His father was able to attend HerrinFesta Italiana before his death.
He graduated from St. Rita High School in Chicago, attended SIU, liked the area and remained. He worked for Bob Brewer and then began a long career in carpet installation for local firms, contractors and area residents. He is semi- retired.
Tom is a member of City of Herrin Zoning Board of Appeals, a 42-year member in the Herrin Elks, a Third-Degree Knights of Columbus, was a longtime member of The Chain Gang at SIU football games, a coach and manager for Little League Flag Football, Boy Scout leader, and volunteer at Mayor’s Thanksgiving Dinner. The couple continue to support Saluki Sports and Herrin Tiger Football – rarely missing a game He has four children, Michael and Linda DeChristina, St. Louis, Chris DeChristina, St. Louis, Keith and Rachel DeChristina, Phoenix, Arizona, Michelle Watson, Herrin KFC Manager, and six grandchildren, Isaac, Joseph, Jackson, Emerson, Blake and Sofia and three great-grandchildren, Kennedy, Brooke and Willow. His sister and brother in law Clarice and Curt Reif and daughter Cayley live inStaughton, Wisconsin.
Marilyn Matthews Ruppel grew up at 212 North l9th in Herrin in the middle of an Italian neighborhood, the daughter of Walter and Beatrice Durbin Matthews. Her siblings include Harlon Matthews, Carbondale, Bob Matthews, Tacoma, Washington and Sandra “Honey” McDonald who died in 2017. Her husband, Bill Ruppel died suddenly in l989. They were married for 32 years. They had three children, Steve and Debbie Ruppel, Carterville, Scott & Teanna Ruppel, Blue Ridge, Virginia and Christy Grob who is deceased. Grandchildren, Zack Ruppel, Kelly (Ryan) McKinney, Irelin, Mali, and Jordan. She is a l956 graduate of Herrin High School, and attended SIU. She was Manager of Egyptian Council of Boy Scouts of America for 13 years and worked at the Bank of Herrin for 10 years. She is a Ward 4 Alderman for the City of Herrin and has served for 33 years. She was a Brownie Scout Leader, Cub Scout and Boy Scout Leader, 4-H leader, Drive Chairman and President of Herrin United Way, 50-year member Joymakers Home Extension Club, Red Hat Classic Lassies, served at the Mayor’s First Thanksgiving Dinner and continued as a longtime volunteer, a member of “The Back Pew Girls” at OLMC and a 50-year member of a Friends Coffee Club. They share their support of HerrinFesta and have been 25-year Chairmen of Saturday Afternoon Italian Contests – Bigga Nose, Pasta Sauce and Pasta Eating contests. They were 10-year volunteers at the Festa Wine Tent in the Piazza. Both, who enjoy dancing, were members of Country Classic Kickers and performed at earlier HerrinFesta’s on Country-Western nights.
The popular couple who have been together for 26 years met through friends. He asked her to dance. She accepted. They had a dinner date and life was never the same. Both are community advocates and attend Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. They are Herrin ambassadors in their private lives and travels. Their work continues on projects to enhance the City of Herrin. Cris Trapani, Festa President says, “Tom and Marilyn exemplify what is best about our community. They are supportive of all things Herrin and the region. They are volunteers who work hard and happily to help others.”
(They will be honored at The HerrinFesta Mayor’s Honoree Banquet, Tuesday, May 19 at The Herrin Civic Center and lead the Grand Festa Parade, Saturday, May 23 at 11 a.m)