Judith Valente | WGLT

Judith Valente

News Reporter

After traveling the country for PBS-TV for the past 15 years, Judy Valente was looking for a new challenge. She is delighted to have found one WGLT as a member of the GLT news team, allowing her to grow here in Normal where she is planted. Judy is also an award-winning poet and the author of two poetry collections. She recently completed a memoir of her regular visits to Mount St. Scholastica, a Benedictine monastery in Atchison, Kansas, called "Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home and a Living Faith." She is often invited to speak on how to slow down and live a more contemplative life.

In her free time, this New Jersey native likes to traverse the Illinois prairie and is a member of the Illinois Master Naturalist program. She enjoys theater, especially Broadway musicals and Heartland Theater's 10-Minute Play Festival. She is also a lay associate of the monastery in Atchison, having taken vows to live out the monastic values of listening, humility, hospitality, simplicity and stability in her life as a married woman – and as a professional writer and journalist.

Ways to Connect

Judith Valente / WGLT

On the day Candace Gailes moved into her apartment at 610 South Linden in Normal, she says she sat down on her front step and wept.

Facebook

Flanked by local Republican legislators and school officials, Gov. Bruce Rauner stopped by Bloomington High School on Thursday to tout the state's new school funding formula.

Eastview Christian Church

Pastor Mike Baker stands on a large stage at Eastview Christian Church that serves as a pulpit. He is dressed casually in a summer suit, open collar shirt, and loafers with no socks. Behind him, lit up in stage lights, are the letters: S E X.

The Associated Press

Normal Mayor Chris Koos is lending his support to a national effort by mayors to allow so-called Dreamers—young people who were brought to this country without documents as children—to remain here legally.

Staff / WGLT

Call it the case of the disappearing welcome signs.

A number of Bloomington-Normal residents are reporting that their corrugated plastic lawn signs offering a message of welcome in three languages have gone missing.

Elyse Shoenig

It’s the 5:30 p.m. Sunday Mass at Epiphany Catholic Church in Normal. This used to be the parish’s “Life Teen Mass,” but it isn’t any longer. White-haired and middle-aged people fill the pews—even some couples with children. But there are few teens or young adults. That concerns Father Eric Powell, Epiphany’s pastor.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / The Associated Press

Should journalists report everything the president or other public officials say, even if it's rude, crude or proves to be untrue? 

Courtesy of Jordan Becker

Bloomington resident Jordan Becker joined the Army National Guard in 2008 as Jordan Elizabeth Becker, a woman. In 2014, he dropped Elizabeth from his name, began hormone therapy and underwent surgery to become a man.

Associated Press

Illinois is once again in the spotlight as advocates seek to revive efforts to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution after it narrowly missed being ratified in the 1970s.

Illinois People's Action Facebook Page

A coalition of Bloomington-Normal social justice groups is organizing a phone campaign to urge Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign a bill that would prevent local and state police from stopping, searching or arresting residents based on their immigration or citizenship status.

Courtesy

This is the first time in several years arts advocate Tina Salamone won’t be involved in the Miller Park Summer Musical. But the former director of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, who passed away earlier this year, won’t be forgotten. This year’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress” is being staged in her honor.

Elizabeth Guzaldo

The last municipal election in Bloomington-Normal was notable for the diversity of candidates. They included several women, African-Americans, a Muslim American, and an Illinois State University student. Among those elected were two openly gay women, married with children.

Aaron Wiessing / Courtesy

"The Little Mermaid," with its charismatic singing sea creatures, ushered in a new era in Disney animation. The 1989 film was the precursor of all those blockbuster film and stage musicals that followed, including "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King."

Now Bloomington-Normal audiences will have a chance to see if the stage version of "The Little Mermaid" contains everything they loved about the animated film with Community Players' new production of the musical.

Courtesy / Michael Jeffords

Baby stink bugs. Jealous giraffes. Opportunistic baboons. Seamstress crab spiders. Slipper-shaped orchids. Cypress-studded swamps.

In more than 30 years of observing, recording and photographing insect, plant and animal life across the globe, Michael Jeffords and Susan Post have seen it all—or nearly.

Total eclipse
Hiroko Ono / Flickr

Day will look dark as night. Stars will shine at midday. Birds that are normally vocal during the day will suddenly grow silent. The daytime spectacle will rouse insects and other wildlife that usually come out only at night.

Steve Rainwater / Flickr

John Freml grew up in a Catholic family and attended parochial schools. He is an active member at his parish in Springfield and says he loves the Catholic Mass.

Colleen Reynolds

The Bloomington City Council is considering establishing a citizen-led police oversight board to receive complaints about police and offer citizens an a review process.  

Seth Perlman / Associated Press

A new set of guidelines issued by Springfield's bishop, aimed at denying a role in the church for  married gay Catholics, has prompted an immediate backlash.

Miller Park Zoo

Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington may be one of the smaller accredited zoos in the nation. It's a leader, however, when it comes to preserving several species of animals that are threatened or endangered.

The zoo currently is helping some 20 species survive, including the snow leopard, the red wolf, and San Clemente Island goat. It is a breeder for about 50 kinds of animals to insure they don't become endangered. Among them are: the sumatran tiger, tammar wallaby, the red-ruffed lemur and the kookaburra, a long-bill bird.

Ross D. Franklin / AP Photo

The Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest denominations in the country, voted recently to denounce white supremacy and the alt-right movement, but not without controversy.

Muppetmindset / wordpress.com

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on Sesame Street? Paul Rudolph doesn't have to guess. He works there.

Rudolph, who grew up in Normal, is the vocal music director of the show. As such, he wears many hats—composing, arranging and recording many of those catchy tunes that stick in the minds of children and not a few adults. He recently won his second Emmy for music editing on the show.

Judith Valente / GLT News

Speaking at Bloomington High School, Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said Bloomington-Normal schools stand to lose about $500,000  in Medicaid funds under the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare.

Judith Valente / WGLT

Bloomington police, community groups and the City Council have hammered out a draft ordinance for a new citizen-led police oversight board.

African American Advisory Council / Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

In McLean County, some 222 children in foster care are currently waiting for the chance to find a permanent home. 

Of those children, 88 are African American. They make up about 40 percent of the children in foster care, but last year accounted for only about 26 percent of the permanent adoptions.

Ralf-Finn Hestoft / Associated Press

She was the first African American ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, and first black woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was only the second person to serve as Illinois Poet Laureate, succeeding Carl Sandburg. She was also the state's longest-serving laureate, an unpaid position she held for more than 30 years.

Illinois is pausing this month to celebrate the life and work of this woman of firsts,  who would have turned 100 on June 7.

Bill Majoros / Flickr

It’s a perfect night to watch for nocturnal birds. Calm winds, clear sky and waxing moon just above the horizon.

I’m standing at dusk on the Lexington Blacktop, just east of Lake Bloomington. I’m with Angelo Capparella of the biology department at Illinois State University, and Given Harper, another avid bird watcher and professor at Illinois Wesleyan.

We’re on the prowl for owls.

Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

Like Americans across the country, Twin Cities residents were glued to their televisions, radios, computers and smart phones watching the live broadcast of the historic Senate testimony of fired FBI director James Comey. 

Judith Valente / GLT News

People who garden often say there is more to it than putting plants and flowers in the ground.  They feel a sense of serenity and well-being from getting their hands in the soil, from being outdoors and helping a living thing grow.

On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the University of Illinois Extension office and the McLean County Master Gardeners will offer a Horticultural Therapy Workshop at the Community Cancer Center in Normal. Its message: gardening can be healing.

Dennis Beck / Broadway Tour

A story line taken from Tolstoy's War and Peace. A musical remake of the nineties film Ground Hog Day. The trials of an anxiety-ridden adolescent and the true story of a Newfoundland town faced with hosting stranded air travelers on 9/11. 

Those are the themes of this year's line up of Tony nominees for best musical. The four nominated musicals are Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,Ground Hog Day, Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away.

Once there was a brief shining moment known as Camelot the musical, with a score by Lerner and Lowe that became a Broadway classic.

Then there was the dark, free-wheeling Spamalot, a musical based on the cult film classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's that version of the English legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table that will prance across the Connie Link Amphitheatre as the first of this summer's outdoor musicals.

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