Though now single, Van Bibber and his
wife raised three children in this community: Larry, Jim and
His career years were spent as a supervisor and director at the
Lincoln Developmental Center, from which he retired in 2000.
At 66 years of age, he is a member of the First Assembly of God,
AMVETS Post 71 and The Oasis, where he is an avid pinochle player.
In 2005 Van Bibber was recognized by The Oasis as being the first
contributor at the brass plaque level in their Reflections program.
The brass plaque was a special designation for any single
contributor whose donations to The Oasis exceeded $25,000 for the
Larry didn't stop, however, when he reached this momentous
amount. To date, Van Bibber has given $53,000 to the senior center.
He said that he wanted the center to be able to continue to offer
services and programs for seniors in the years to come, and he hoped
that his contributions would allow them to do that.
Bob Albert, the current president of The Oasis board, said: "Let
me tell you, Larry really takes to heart what is happening in Logan
County. His generosity has been far beyond what anyone else has
done. He is the leading contributor at The Oasis, but he is very
humble. He is uncomfortable receiving praise for what he does. But
he is a real leader, a quiet leader."
In 2006, Larry saw another opportunity to serve his community
when the World's Largest Covered Wagon, then located near Divernon,
south of Springfield, came up for sale.
The builder of the wagon, David Bentley, approached Geoff Ladd of
the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County about purchasing
it. Ladd said that Bentley had two main desires for the wagon: that
it be in an area that was rich with Abraham Lincoln history and that
it be located along the Mother Road, Route 66.
Ladd and Bentley both felt that Lincoln, Ill., would be the
perfect location for the wagon and its 12-foot fiberglass statue of
Abraham Lincoln. With a price tag of $10,000 plus moving costs,
finding the money to purchase the wagon and move it was not an easy
Ladd said that as he was working his way through county and city
meetings, seeking support for the project, it was Larry Van Bibber
who sought him out and volunteered to finance the operation fully.
Van Bibber said that he just thought the wagon would be good for
the community. He stressed that things such as this are important to
Lincoln, Logan County and even the nation, as Route 66 is a landmark
that is traveled by people from all over the world.
The following year, Van Bibber again saw a need that he could
Saving The Mill on Route 66 became a very important subject to
Van Bibber. He visited the old restaurant and was present during its
partial demolition by the Parkland Environmental Group when two of
the less significant sections of the building had to be removed due
to safety concerns.
Ladd, who also heads up the Save The Mill organization, was
digging deep to keep funding going for the restoration project, and
once again, it was Van Bibber who contacted him with a generous
donation of $15,000.
[to top of second column]
Ladd commented on Van Bibber, saying, "(We are) so deeply indebted
to Larry for taking the initiative on tourism projects. He
recognized what we were trying to do, and he made the decision to
When asked what the driving force was behind his generosity, Van
Bibber answered, "God has blessed me with my finances, and I just
felt it was a way of giving back."
In addition to supporting tourism and The Oasis, Van Bibber also
contributes financially to the Living Alternatives Pregnancy
Resource Center and gives of his time to the AMVETS All Veterans
In January of 2008 when All Veterans Park was damaged severely by
an ice storm, the group debated on the future of the flags and
flagpoles in the park, as most of them were destroyed by the storm.
Eventually they decided that the poles would be replaced but that
the flags would be flown only on certain occasions.
Van Bibber, who had helped care for the park for quite some time,
along with his brother Les, volunteered to be the caretakers of the
flagpoles and flags.
The two brothers have continued to volunteer their services
there, though Les readily says that it is Larry who does the lion's
share of taking care of the flags and flagpoles, along with other
tasks around the park.
Over the years Van Bibber has been recognized not only by The
Oasis, but also by the tourism bureau. In 2007 he was given the
"Friends of Tourism" award, and this July he received the "Abe
Award" from the tourism bureau and Save The Mill organization during
the 80th anniversary of The Mill.
When asked about his vision for the future of Lincoln, Van Bibber
replied, "For the future I hope that the community continues to
grow, with its people being the catalysts that bring industry and
small to medium-sized businesses to the area."
He went on to say that small to medium-sized businesses are the
heart of our country and vitally important.
While we would not disagree with that statement, we would add
that it is the quiet philanthropists who go about daily doing what
they can to improve their community who are the soul of our country.
And to that end, it is our great pleasure to pay tribute to
Lincoln's quiet philanthropist, Larry Van Bibber, as this week's
Personality of the Week.
[By NILA SMITH]