Gazette reporters pick their favorite stories of 2010

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Gazette Staff
Friday, December 31, 2010
— Reporters and photographers interview hundreds of people, write dozens of stories and take thousands of photographs in a year's time.

Some articles are drudgery; others are a delight.

Some become favorites that reporters will never forget.

Here are some articles and photos Gazette reporters and photographers chose as favorites from 2010:

Reporter: Catherine W. Idzerda
Headline: "Treyton's light shines on"
Date published: Oct. 11
Synopsis: Treyton Kilar wanted to be a baseball star, but also wanted other kids to enjoy the game. He seemed to instinctively understand that loving your neighbor didn't mean just loving the ones you like, it meant loving your Kindergarten classmate who was kind of annoying or the kid who wasn't good at catch or the kid that got left out.

How do people survive that loss of the child, especially one who was killed in such as way? The grief would be an endless burden, and the anger would consume you.

But here's what Treyton's mother, Mary Kilar said: "Our mission right now is that not one minute is spent hating."

Thousands of people sent the Kilars cards, and many more contributed to the ballpark that family and friends hope to build in his name.

It was astonishing to hear Mary Kilar speak about responding with love instead of anger. At one point, she said, "There's so much good in this world."

That good, I think, starts with people like the Kilars.

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Reporter: Shelly Birkelo
Headline: "Dogs rescued from Rock River"
Date published: Aug. 31
Synopsis: Two Labrador retrievers—Brittany, 9, and Hunter 1—-had been rescued from the Rock River by Janesville firefighters after the rascals had snuck away from their owner, Raymond Huntoon, several hours earlier.

This was my favorite story of the year, because it had a happy ending.

Much of the breaking news reporters cover is tragic. In this story, the dogs were rescued and reunited with their owner, who was grateful to 12-year-old LeRoy Heider, who noticed the dogs struggling in the swift current of the Rock River and caught the attention of three men working nearby; one called 911.

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Reporter: Jim Leute
Headline: "A project of Epic proportions"
Date published: May 23
Synopsis: On its face, the never-ending growth of Epic Systems just outside Madison is not a local story. The maker of software for the health care industry has grown from a handful of employees to more than 3,500 today, and projections call for another 1,200. That's great news for the employment scene in Dane County.

But that phenomenal growth also has been a boon to several contractors and suppliers from Rock County.

Janesville-based J.P. Cullen & Sons is the project's general contractor, and several others from this area are routinely on the scene at the Verona construction site. In a tough local economy, the Dane County project has ensured paychecks that come home to roost.

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Reporter: Ted Sullivan
Headline: "It's not easy being a Rock Aqua Jay"
Date published: July 27
Synopsis: For this story, I attempted to be a member of the Rock Aqua Jays for a day, jumping, skiing with a girl on my shoulders and forming a pyramid.

I normally cover crime and court news, so water skiing with the Rock Aqua Jays was definitely a break from the norm.

I skied with the team on a beautiful summer night. Everyone was friendly and offered tips on how to jump and build a pyramid. I tried it all.

I realized how much dedication it takes to be on the ski team. It requires guts, balance and strength. Teamwork is a must.

It was one of the best night's I have ever had on the water.

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Reporter: Frank Schultz
Headline: "Families welcome soldiers of Company A back to Wisconsin"
Date published: Jan. 19
Synopsis: The Janesville-based Company A of the Wisconsin Army National Guard flew into Volk Field after a tour in Iraq and was greeted by family.

We got up at 0-dark thirty to meet the plane, which arrived at the Camp Douglas airfield as dawn was breaking. Families—hundreds of people—pressed against the rope line on the tarmac to get a first glimpse of their returning loved ones.

For a reporter, it was like Christmas. Everywhere I looked, one of the most significant events in a family's life was occurring. Children clung to moms and dads dressed in camouflage uniforms. I saw a husband and wife embrace for a long, long time, not speaking, but saying so much.

Rather than being resentful, the soldiers and their families welcomed reporters and politely answered our questions.

The event was all the more fun for me because I got to work closely with fellow reporter Ann Marie Ames and photographer Dan Lassiter, who energized me with their own energy.

The unit rode into Janesville a week later to a rousing welcome-home demonstration by hundreds who gathered along Milton Avenue. But for me, the most fun was being there as soldiers touched home for the first time in 12 months.

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Reporter: Ann Marie Ames
Headline: "Police capture fugitive lizard"
Date published: Oct. 7
Synopsis: I knew it would be my favorite story of the year the minute I got the news: the Janesville Police Department had captured the fugitive monitor lizard that had been spotted in October on the city's near east side.

Reporters love breaking news. But, lots of times when news breaks, you get the work done and go home to cry. In this case, I got to go home and laugh. How often do you get to meet a lizard named Peter Pan at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday?

What really sticks in my mind is how great it is to have fun on the job with people who are really good at what they do. Page designers Andy Reuter and Gina Duwe had to rip apart the work they had already done to make room for this story. I love arguing semantics, and the three of us spent forever going back and forth on the best way to describe how the lizard stuck out his tongue at me.

It doesn't get any better than that.

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Reporter: Marcia Nelesen
Headline: "Ordinance lays egg"
Date published: Feb. 23
Synopsis: I still have the picture taped to my computer.

The one with the chicken, looking serious as can be, its talons over its heart, standing tall in a wooly yellow costume and saying the Pledge of Allegiance in Janesville City Council chambers. Next to the rooster are two audience members also saying the pledge and looking as serious as can be, as if they stand next to a 5-foot fowl all the time.

I never would have thought my favorite story would have its genesis at a council meeting, which have earned a reputation for being both long and sometimes less than exciting. But this one was one of the better ones.

The proposal went nowhere, but I got to meet Allison Rollette, a woman whose passion and knowledge for the issue made her its defacto leader. She kept the discussions informative, polite and light. The people who spoke were passionate about their desire to raise a few chickens in their backyards for their eggs.

And the person dressed as the fowl? Whatever her motives, she will have my lifelong thanks for bringing some levity to the meeting. She left before the topic was aired, clucking under her beak that the costume was too hot.

At council meetings, we've got to take our laughs where we can get them.

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Reporter: Gina Duwe
Headline: "Janesville gardeners provide fresh produce to Mercy Hospital"
Date published: May 28
Synopsis: Merle and Shirley Storck of Janesville grow 6.5 acres of produce on their farmette in Emerald Grove, and much of their garden is destined to feed hundreds of area patients and employees at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center.

Merle and Shirley are the sweetest couple! Both in their 70s, their ambition and energy to manage such a big farm was inspiring. I was amazed at the variety of produce they grow, and they gave me valuable advice as I plan for my first garden next spring.

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Reporter: Anna Marie Lux
Headline: "Giving the gift of life: Teen offers portion of his liver so friend can live"
Date published: July 18
Synopsis: Tyler Stinemates, a 2008 Janesville Parker High School graduate, gave part of his liver to a man he knew less than a year.

Tyler could have walked away, but he literally gave part of himself to save a dying man. Tyler moved to California shortly after graduating to live his dream. The 19-year-old trained to be an audio engineer. Through a teacher in Janesville, he connected with Lee Popa, a 50-something sound engineer and musician. The man was suffering from a rare liver disease that, without a partial transplant, would kill him.

Tyler quietly asked doctors to test him to see if he could be a donor. When everything checked out, he asked Popa: "Hey, dude. Do you want a piece of me?" Doctors told Tyler his liver will grow back.

When I interviewed Tyler, he was recuperating from the life-saving surgery. Tyler's response was swift when I asked why he was so selfless.

"It's about being a good human being and doing your part in the world," he replied.

I think of Tyler when I begin to lose faith in human kindness. He already shows more caring for others than some do in a lifetime.

Last updated: 9:50 am Monday, December 17, 2012

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