Home-the heart of friends and family!

Home-the heart of friends and family!

Homes: Home-the heart of friends and family!

Home-the heart of friends and family!

Home-the heart of friends and family!

Home is where family and friends are welcome.

Story: Bridget Broihahn

Photos: Rick Danzl

Debbie Mitchell knows that home is about family. She also knows it’s about friends, too.

Joyce Changnon, Mitchell’s best friend for 37 years stands close by.

“We’re just really, really…,” Mitchell said.

“Yes, we’re really close,” Changnon said at almost the same time.

The two friends stood in Mitchell’s kitchen. They were dressed almost alike: sandals, blue denim jeans and white cotton peasant-like blouses. They didn’t plan for that, either.

“We often finish each other’s sentences,” Mitchell said.

At the same time, Changnon said, “Sometimes we say the same thing at the same time.”

Mitchell’s warm and friendly home is nestled in rural Homer, among an expansive, rolling yard with views of a grand prairie that is certainly East Central Illinois. She lives there with her husband Gary, who is a signal maintainer for the Norfolk Southern Railroad. They have two West Highland White Terriers named Dudley and Bentley. They also have two cats that they saved from going to a shelter named Calico and Annabelle. They have lived in their home since 2007.

“We didn’t have to rehab anything. The home was in its current condition. I did all of the landscaping, though,” Mitchell said. “I also did the decorating, too.”

All throughout the house, the home is a celebration of country-primitive décor and furnishings. Each room tells a story about the search, find and placement of each item. For those items that were passed down from family, there is an endearing story attached to it.

“We like to shop together. We go everywhere,” Mitchell said of her best friend, Changnon. “I think there’s a piece of her in every room of my house.”

“The hunt is fun,” Changnon said.

“Now that I’m retired it’s fun,” Mitchell responded.

They both laughed.  Dudley and Bentley wagged their tails, each wearing matching neckerchiefs. They walked along as the two strolled through the house.

“The boys are so good today,” Mitchell said, referring to the pooches.

“I was just going to say that,” Changnon said.

In the corner of Mitchell’s kitchen stands the Hoosier cabinet given to her by her grandparents, Carl and Frieda Hayn.

“They were German,” Mitchell said. “Their name is pronounced ‘Hine.’”

Hoosier cabinets were mostly made in Indiana. The first Hoosier cabinets appeared in the late 1800s. They were built by a company called Sellers, located in New Castle, Indiana. Between 1899 and 1949, there were about 40 different manufacturers of Hoosier cabinets in the United States. They look like simple cupboards, but when opened, they’re so much more. They stored flour, sugar and spices, and utensils. They also have flour sifters, meat grinders and rotating spice carousels. Some came equipped with fold-down ironing boards, too. There is also the tabletop surface that slides outward to provide more work surface.

An old coffee bin stands in the kitchen. They were primarily used to house the coffee in stores.  Oftentimes, there were advertisements on the front face of the wooden bins. They date back to the late 1800s.

The ladies walked to the foyer. There stands a Lincoln display from the Lincoln House in Homer, which her parents, Don and Rosie Hayn co-owned with Bruce and Katie Boges.  A statue of President Abraham Lincoln greets all who come through the front door.

“My mom and dad gave me the statue of Lincoln,” Mitchell said.

Adjacent to that is a white bench, which Mitchell purchased from a Monticello antique store that is now closed.

“It looks like a church pew, I think,” Changnon said.

In the master bedroom is an old step back cabinet.

“I purchased it from Mahomet Antiques. It dates from the 1860s. I kept procrastinating about buying it, but finally I went back and bought it,” Mitchell said.

“Sometimes when you wait, it’s gone,” Changnon said.

Step back cabinets are simple in style and design. They are called ‘step back’ because the top shelving is put back from the lower cabinetry. They are very versatile with both storage capacity and display features, which makes them both attractive and functional. They are still manufactured, mostly by hand, today, but the antique cabinets are the most prized by collectors, where the value can run into the tens of thousands for the right piece.

The headboard on the masterbed has a little personal story attached to it. The ladies laughed quite a bit while telling about it.

“We made it ourselves. Boy, it was something,” Changnon said of the cream colored, textured fabric headboard.

The shape looks like a combination of a Cleveland, Finsbury and Eccleston styles to make one nicely done board.

“Don’t look at the back, “Mitchell chuckled.

Bentley yawns and lays down next to the large jetted bathtub in the adjacent masterbath. He makes himself at home on a rug. Even the bathroom has displays of memorabilia of family and times gone by.

“Well, that is what my home is about: family, friends, and good times. You know, the memories,” Mitchell said.

Regarding beds, there is an old metal, flowered tray on one of the beds in a guestroom upstairs. It’s a four poster bed that came in a kit. The Changnons- Joyce and her departed husband, Stan built it. They didn’t want it anymore, so they gave it to the Mitchells. There are vintage stuffed animals and old story books with nursery rhymes in them lying on the chest at the foot of the bed. The tray is a focal point of a good memory for Mitchell.

Bentley follows her into the room. He wags his tail. Dudley is fast asleep on Changnon’s lap, downstairs in the sunroom.

“The tray would have our dinner of fried fish and potatoes every weekend. We would go fishing at Redheads Pond,” Mitchell said. “My sister and I would hunt for night crawlers on Friday night so we could use them for bait.”

Mitchell’s sister is Donna Bradley of Bement. She is the mother of Mitchell’s beloved nephews: Nolan and Nathan.

“Sometimes we would use minnows, too. We would both cast and use bobbers. Man, my sister can filet a fish better than anyone I know! We sure had a lot of fun,” she said.

Mitchell said her family vacations were really fun.

“My parents took us on great vacations. And we would always learn something from them, because we went to historical places,” she said. “I look back on that and think it is really great how they did that for us.”

Mitchell’s family is reflected in her whole house, from the railroad lanterns that represent the love for her husband, to the old manual vacuums that she inherited from relatives.

“These things mean a lot to me,” Mitchell said. “Like this old Singer sewing machine that belonged to my grandmother, Frieda Hayn. She made us Barbie outfits that were so much nicer than the store-bought ones. I treasure that very much.”

The machine is next to a window by a quilt rack. One can almost imagine Mitchell’s grandmother smiling while she made the doll clothes for her granddaughter.

Outside of the Mitchell house is as pretty as the inside. It’s inviting chairs and benches seem to say, ‘Relax, sit and enjoy.’
“We really like to entertain. We have people over a lot. We have a big Christmas event every year, too. It’s all about the people in our lives and the memories,” she said.