The Reifstecks are originally from the Champaign-Urbana area,
although Wally likes to tease his wife by telling people they are
both from Champaign. Tonita is then quick to retort that, "No," she
is from Urbana.
Although originally from the same twin-city area, their early
upbringing was quite different. Toni, as she is called, was a farm
girl. Wally was a city boy and likes to jokingly explain that since
his father was a beer distributor, his becoming a minister made him
"the black sheep" of the family.
The couple met at a church function and were matched as a perfect
pair by youth counselors. Toni likes to call the counselors
matchmakers, and the fact that the two have been married since 1955
bodes well for the skills of whoever thought the two would make a
perfect team for life.
Wally didn't originally see his calling as a minister and
attended Elmhurst College, receiving a bachelor's degree in
psychology. Toni, who Wally says followed him to Elmhurst, received
her degree in elementary education.
Wally did find his calling to serve God at this time, and the two
along with their family have made a lifelong commitment to their God
and man as well. Wally finished his education by receiving his
degree from Eden Theological Seminary in Saint Louis. The couple
then began their ministerial travels around central Illinois in the
small towns of Gilman and Grant Park before coming to St. John
United Church of Christ in Lincoln, where Wally was the pastor from
1969 to 1982. They then spent 10 years in Freeport, and Wally ended
his ministerial career in Decatur in 2000.
The Reifstecks have five children -- Douglas, Lucinda, Elaine,
David and Bret -- as well as eight grandchildren.
Wally and Toni decided to spend their retirement years back in
Lincoln for two reasons. Their daughter Lucinda was in an accident
and received a severe head injury. Lucinda has been in the care of
St. Clara's Manor, with their other daughter, Elaine, considered her
primary caregiver. They wanted to be near enough to help and to
maintain contact with Lucinda.
They also returned to Lincoln because the two of them have a love
for this city, the history and the people who make up this
Some people find retirement boring, but Toni amusingly says that
her husband Wally is "board." His list of activities confirms that.
He is currently on the boards of The Oasis, United Way of Logan
County and the new Castle Manor.
Dom Dalpoas, the director of The Oasis, talks about Wally's quiet
leadership at the senior center this way: "Basically Wally has a
very nice demeanor in his approach at board meetings. He has this
even temperament that works well with others. He is very active and
has experience in his years that I and The Oasis can benefit from."
United Way board members see that calm demeanor in Wally as well,
noting that he asks questions, joins in conversations, but is
diplomatic in handling his points and doesn't ever "tell" people
something; instead he suggests and elicits dialogue.
Toni believes she and Wally get along well with people because
"we enjoy being the Indians (rather than the chiefs). Everything we
do hinges on others besides us. There is a companionship of people
working together to accomplish something that we enjoy."
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Toni doesn't sit at home while Wally is out helping others. She is
an active member of the Habitat for Humanity board, and board
members Bill Sahs and George Dahmm praise her efforts. "Toni is
super," said Sahs. "She was involved with Habitat in Decatur, which
is a much larger organization than ours. She has been able to bring
some really good ideas to us, based on her experience there."
Toni also uses her degree to help "kids between the cracks," as
she calls them. They are students who are having problems at school
and need some tutoring help to keep up at school.
The two also work as a tandem on another important project. It is
the Meals on Wheels that is run by the Community Action Partnership
of Central Illinois. They were modest in explaining their efforts
and influence with this program, but agency director Angela
Stoltzenburg told just how important the two are. "The Reifstecks
are a huge asset to our home-delivered meal program," she said.
"They are the meal coordinators for St. John's Church. They keep the
St. John's volunteers up to date with any changes on the meal
delivery route and cover if a volunteer is sick. They typically
deliver seven to 10 days each month, delivering sometimes up to 40
meals. They have also helped the agency deliver meals during agency
Stoltzenburg went on to say that Toni's experience with Habitat
could have significant positive effects at the Community Action
Partnership. "The agency has recently worked with Habitat for
Humanity, led by Toni Reifsteck, to apply for housing funds for
rehabilitation projects. She is always willing to go the extra mile
for this community and truly makes a difference."
With all the couple is involved in, they still find time to help
in other ways. Wally talked about how he and Toni visit some 30
retired United Church of Christ ministers, from Quincy to Tuscola,
from Chenoa to Springfield. "We visit them to remind them how much
they are still appreciated for all they did," he said.
Toni also has been the chair for the CROP Walk and co-chair for
the Relay for Life cancer walk in Lincoln.
While busy with so many things, the two still can find time when
needed by their daughter Elaine at her Culver's store, located on
the west side of Lincoln.
Toni likes to say how much they enjoy being a part of this
community. "There are so many amazing people in this community doing
so many things that we aren't even aware of," she said.
We echo those sentiments and respectfully wish to move Wally and
Tonita Reifsteck from that list of unsung community leaders to this
week's Personality of the Week.