Looking out across the various pools of people working diligently on
the playground equipment in the Beason town park, she said that the
story should be about the people of the community and how they have
all come together to turn something terrible into something good.
On Sept. 21, 2009, the tiny town of Beason, with a population of
only 100 souls, was shook to its core as they learned that five of
those souls had been lost, in a heinous, unimaginably violent
Law enforcement agencies ranging from the local sheriff's
department, to Lincoln city police, the Illinois State Police and
even the FBI put together the Gee Homicide Task Force. The unit
spent hours upon hours of concentrated effort examining the evidence
left behind in the Gee family home, questioning the townspeople and
following hundreds of leads and tips.
The tragedy of the event was broadcast and published nationwide,
and Beason for a time became the center of local and national
attention. But not in a good way.
On Oct. 1, 2009, Logan County Sheriff Steve Nichols announced
that an arrest had been made. With one suspect in custody, the
following days would produce additional arrests of alleged suspects
As the crime appeared to be solved, the media frenzy died down
and the people of Beason were left alone to grieve.
Duncan, who is the Beason postmaster, knew the Gee family, just
as she knows everyone else in the little community.
Of the lives lost, there were three children: Justina and Dillen
Constant and Austin Gee. She knew the children, had spent time
visiting with them, and in her heart she felt like something good
needed to come from all the bad the town had suffered.
By the first of the year, Duncan had come up with an idea. The
town park, which was under the township's jurisdiction, was in much
need of a facelift. In addition, if money could be raised, it
wouldn't hurt to add a few more items to the playground to make it
more inviting to local children.
With the idea fully developed in her mind, she took to the
"I didn't want to do (something) nobody wanted to do," she
explained. She talked to most everyone in the town, and everyone
seemed to be in favor of her idea.
Next she visited the township council and presented her idea
there. They too were in favor of her plan and gave permission for
the park to be upgraded and renamed the Constant-Gee Memorial
When Duncan asked the community to come together for a meeting,
about 15 people came and the work began from there.
The group worked together, dividing a large undertaking into
several smaller ones; they set up 11 committees, each with a task
that needed to be done.
As plans were put together, it became clear that the money needed
to complete the project would come to approximately $20,000.
As the group began their fundraising, Duncan said that the
responses they got came from all over central Illinois. She cited
businesses, clubs and others in the Clinton, Bloomington, Mount
Pulaski, Decatur and Springfield areas that sent funding their way.
Genia Lock, who has been in involved from the beginning, also
noted the Pennies for Playgrounds drive that they did. Children from
Carroll Catholic, Chester-East Lincoln, Lincoln Community High
School, Lincoln Junior High School and Mount Pulaski Elementary
School brought their pocket change and donated it to the fund drive.
She said the total from that alone exceeded $2,000.
Duncan also commented that especially the contributions from Mount Pulaski and
Carroll Catholic were pleasant surprises, as
none of the Gee children was associated with those schools, yet they
still felt the need to pitch in and help out.
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Duncan said that whether it was a handful of change, a dollar or
even $500 to $1,000, every dime and nickel was appreciated, and it
all made a difference in reaching their goal.
She noted that there were some $1,000 gifts, among them East
Lincoln Farmers Grain and the Chester-East Community Club.
As the group approached their final fundraiser on April 24, the
committee had raised about half of the needed $20,000. When the
Oddfellow and Rebekah lodges each donated $1,500, they knew they
were going to make it.
And make it they did. In fact they exceeded their $20,000 goal,
which gave them a little breathing room for unexpected expenses.
In addition to monetary donations, Duncan said the group wanted
to acknowledge Area Disposal, which provided a large trash bin and
haul-away service for the day; Pat Lee Trucking, which hauled in the
gravel they needed; and Scott Goodman Excavating, which donated all
the earthmoving that had to be done to erect the jungle gym and safe
The memorial stone placed on the northwest corner of the park was
gifted to the park by Dave and Genia Lock of Beason. Sue Fitzpatrick
and Edwina Ellegood will work to surround the stone with landscaping
mulch and live plants.
At 7 a.m. Saturday a group of 50 men, women and children, ranging
in ages from 10 to 70, all gathered together to build a tribute to
As a team worked on building a jungle gym, another group was
pulling planks off old picnic table frames and replacing them with
new wood. In one corner new horseshoe tossing ranges were being
erected, while in another corner Justin Trago and Rob McBrien worked
on contouring new boards for the teeter-totters.
McBrien said that everything in the park would be refurbished. He
drew attention to three new benches lying on the ground across the
"Each one of the benches has one of the kids' names on it," he
said. "They'll be put up, and a tree will be planted behind each
Lock added a few words about the community as a whole, saying
that from this tragedy has come some good.
"This has brought the community closer together," she said.
So in the end, the story may revolve somewhat around Duncan, but
it really isn't about just her. It's about community, it's about
caring and giving, and it's about grieving and healing, it's about
prayer and blessing, and it's about moving on.
On May 16, there will be a special day of remembrance for the Gee
family children. It will begin with a church service in the park,
followed by a potluck dinner and an official dedication renaming the
park the "Constant-Gee Memorial Playground."
[By NILA SMITH]