Mary Delach Leonard | KBIA

Mary Delach Leonard

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

COLLINSVILLE – As Angelia Griffin delved into her family’s Native American ancestry in recent years, she developed a deeper respect for the cultural importance of Cahokia Mounds.

“I used to come here as a child when I was in school, on a field trip,’’ said the Belleville resident, who visited the state historic site on a recent Saturday. “I’m looking at it in a different light.’’

TROY, Ill. — Chloe Smith, a little girl with blond hair and a bright smile, stood before 600 runners, bravely singing the national anthem at an annual 5K run that honors her father — Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith, who was killed in Afghanistan in January 2010. 

Chloe was an infant when her father died a hero’s death that no one has forgotten in this town of 10,000, about 20 miles east of St. Louis. She will be 10 in October.

When she stumbled over a few words, everyone began singing with her. And Chloe finished strong.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 14, 2012 - The Madison County Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation program is headquartered in a former hospital building in Wood River, but there are no miracle cures to be found here for the foreclosure ills that have plagued the nation since the financial crisis of 2008.

The sun was fierce — and so was the competition — on a recent Saturday in South St. Louis County as visually impaired athletes from around the region took to the baseball field alongside players with normal vision.

The balls beeped, the bases buzzed, and the players all wore blindfolds — except for the pitchers and catchers. 

The annual event is known as the Ultimate Beepball Championship Tournament. It’s organized by MindsEye Radio, a nonprofit in Belleville that provides programming for people with vision loss. Beepball — also called beep baseball — is a form of the sport invented in the 1960s for people with impaired vision.

A bill to make Cahokia Mounds part of a new national park was introduced in Congress on Thursday by Republican Rep. Mike Bost.

The Cahokia Mounds and Mississippian Culture National Historic Park would include Cahokia Mounds, plus ancient mounds in St. Clair, Monroe and Madison counties in Illinois — and Sugarloaf Mound in St. Louis, the last remaining mound in the city.

The National Park Service and state and local agencies would manage the park.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 2, 2012 - While the nation’s overall unemployment rate has been showing improvement, a new report from the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative indicates little change for the long-term unemployed.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 13, 2009 - A temporary moratorium on foreclosures announced Friday by two of the nation's biggest lenders will temporarily stop the clock and buy precious time for homeowners trying to avoid foreclosure, say St. Louis area housing counselors.

"Anything that gives us a little more time, leverage and resources to keep people in their homes is a good thing,'' said Chris Krehmeyer, executive director of Beyond Housing, a nonprofit housing agency that counsels troubled homeowners.

St. Louis has the Blues, and fans can't get enough of them.

In its 52nd season in the National Hockey League, the hockey team — the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues — hoisted the prized trophy for the first time after defeating the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, 4-1, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston.

It was history. The kind of put-down-your-phone-and-yell history that fans — old and new — will remember for the rest of their lives.

Where were you when the Blues won the Stanley Cup?

When the St. Louis Blues take home ice Monday night against the Boston Bruins for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, fans will be singing, as they have since the franchise was established in 1967.

With all respect to “Gloria,” this season’s victory anthem, the St. Louis Blues have always embraced music.

The team, after all, was named for the classic melody “The St. Louis Blues,” written by W.C. Handy in 1914. And that winged Blue Note logo — arguably, one of the best logos in all of hockey — symbolizes the city, as well as the team.

About 30 times a day, Drayton Denson answers the phone at a call center in south St. Louis County that helps U.S. military veterans secure a grateful nation’s perpetual thank you: free burial, with honors, in a national cemetery.

Denson is one of about 80 Veterans Administration employees who work at the National Cemetery Scheduling Office on Lemay Ferry Road. They schedule burial times for the VA’s 136 national cemeteries that are located in 40 states and Puerto Rico.

On a recent sunny-side-up morning, Seth Jansen delivered two lively hens and a rental coop to Anne Miller’s home in Olivette.

Miller smiled nervously as Jansen showed her how to hold a chicken.

“Hi, little friend,’’ Miller cheerfully told her new backyard guest. “We’re going to have to get to know each other. And then we’ll come up with a name, because I can’t just call you Chicken One and Chicken Two.”

Construction will soon begin on a 200-foot observation wheel that will loom large over Union Station and provide sweeping views of the city.

The St. Louis Wheel, with 42 enclosed gondolas, will be among the first attractions to open this fall at the $187 million family entertainment center being built by Lodging Hospitality Management in the historic train shed.

The development’s centerpiece — a two-story aquarium featuring sharks and other water species — will open by the end of the year, company president Steve O’Loughlin said.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 11, 2010 - The attorneys general of Missouri and Illinois have a message for scammers preying on desperate homeowners in their states: They will find you.

"It is not a matter of whether we will find you, it is simply a matter of when we will find you,'' said Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has been prosecuting mortgage scams in Illinois for several years.

At long last, spring finally arrives for Cardinals fans at 2:30 p.m. Friday when the Budweiser Clydesdales take their annual strut around the warning track at Busch Stadium — a day later than planned.

A rainy forecast for Thursday prompted the Cardinals to postpone their home opener against the San Diego Padres to Friday afternoon. The team promises all the traditional hoopla of opening day, including the Clydesdales and motorcades introducing the 2019 Redbirds and Cardinals Hall of Famers.

The St. Louis Cardinals have moved their home opener at Busch Stadium from Thursday afternoon to Friday because of a rainy forecast, the team announced.

But don’t worry, Cardinals fans, the traditional Opening Day show will go on — just a day late.

Phil Morgan delights in showing visitors around the oldest corn cob pipe factory in the world — the 150-year-old Missouri Meerschaum Company in Washington, Missouri.

“I mean, it's a corn cob pipe, so it’s definitely a fun business to be part of,’’ said Morgan, the company’s general manager.

The factory is still housed in its original red-brick hulk of a building sprawled along Front Street, above the Missouri River. It produces about 700,000 corn cob pipes a year — “handcrafted and made in the USA” — and ships them to customers across the United States and 70 countries.

When Cardinals fans go to Busch Stadium this season, they’ll have a good view of a major construction project under way at Ballpark Village. A 29-story luxury residential tower, 10-story office building and 216-room hotel are rising into the St. Louis skyline, just across the street from the stadium.

The $260 million expansion of the Ballpark Village development is on time and on budget, said Nick Benjamin, vice president of The Cordish Companies, which is developing the site with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mary Hayes cradled Tucker, a 15-year-old Boston terrier, tightly in her arms as movers from the nonprofit Home Sweet Home furniture bank maneuvered a donated sofa into her second-floor flat in south St. Louis.

“With the furniture coming, oh, gosh, it’ll be so wonderful,’’ she said, gently rocking Tucker. “It’ll take the emptiness away.’’

The furniture bank operates like a food bank: It collects used furnishings and housewares and distributes them at no charge to people in St. Louis and St. Louis County who are working their way out of sad yesterdays — homelessness, abuse, poverty.

Ameren Missouri is planning $5 billion worth of improvements to its energy grid, company officials announced Friday.

The Smart Energy Plan includes 2,000 electric projects to be completed during the next five years, including a new substation in Hazelwood and upgrades to the underground grid that serves downtown St. Louis. The utility also plans to spend $1 billion on wind energy in 2020.

As Illinois celebrates the 210th birthday of favorite son Abraham Lincoln, officials with the Springfield presidential museum created in his honor hope to keep important artifacts from being sold to the highest bidder.

But they’re running out of time.

The relics are part of the 1,400-item Taper Collection bought by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation in 2007. The private foundation, which supports the state-owned Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, took out a $23 million loan to buy the historical treasures.

The balance of the loan is due in October, and the foundation is still $9 million short.

Assistant site manager Bill Iseminger stood at the base of 100-foot-high Monks Mound, bracing himself against an icy winter wind whipping across Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville. He was relating a story he’s told countless times: how the ancient Mississippians built the earthen mounds at Cahokia Mounds one basketful of dirt at a time.

Iseminger, 74, has worked at the site for 48 years and figures he’s climbed Monks Mound at least 1,000 times, though not as frequently in recent years.

Kathy Lewis was trying to coax a small herd of mustangs into a corral at her Legendary Mustang Sanctuary near Edwardsville. It was just after a dawn on a frigid December morning, and heavy rains were on the way.

“Nellie, Ciqala, Fred, Shiloh, Scooter,’’ she called. “Come on.”

Eventually, Nellie, a 9-year-old red-and-white pinto, moseyed in from the pasture to breakfast on dollops of fresh hay scattered about the enclosure. Behind her trailed four mustangs and a burro named Shorty that once roamed free out West. They’ve all found new lives — and their own herd — in the Madison County countryside.

The historic Delta Queen steamboat could be cruising the Mississippi River and other inland waterways in 2020, now that it has received an exemption from federal safety regulations that kept it from making overnight excursions. But first, its owners must secure about $12 million for renovations to make the vessel riverworthy again.

On Dec. 4, President Donald Trump signed into law an exemption that allows the wooden steamboat to operate, despite a 1966 safety regulation that requires such vessels to be constructed of noncombustible materials.

Discussions with potential investors hinged on that exemption and are now moving full speed ahead, said Cornel Martin, president of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company.

Salvation Army bell-ringer David Burks was making a joyful noise in front of the Granite City Walmart on a recent Friday morning. He greeted everyone who passed his red kettle, whether they dropped in pennies or a folded dollar bill or hurried by without a glance.

“You have a good day now. Thank you, and God bless you.”

The fundraising goal for the Granite City Salvation Army is $88,000 this Christmas season, and it will take thousands of drops in the buckets to get there. The Salvation Army says its trademark red kettle campaign is as important as ever because many have been left behind by the nation's rebounding economy.

Giving to worthy causes on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become a tradition for people who want to help charities and nonprofits. But the Better Business Bureau warns that scammers could also be tugging at your heartstrings on Giving Tuesday.

Thousands of legitimate local and national groups use social media and email appeals to spread their messages — and so do the cheats, said Tracy Hardgrove of the St. Louis Better Business Bureau. Their scam appeals might direct donors to websites that look authentic or that have names similar to real charities. 

As world leaders meet Sunday in France for a grand tribute marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, a group of St. Louis area veterans will gather at a stone picnic shelter at Sylvan Springs Park in St. Louis County to solemnly call the roll of Missourians who died “over there.”

They plan to begin at 11:11 a.m. — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — the beginning of the ceasefire a century ago that, in effect, ended the war. Each name will be followed by the tolling of a bell.

The Soldiers Memorial Military Museum reopens Saturday after a $30 million project to restore the grand 80-year-old landmark in downtown St. Louis.

The memorial was built during the Great Depression to honor 1,075 area soldiers who died in World War I. The reopening ceremony will kick off a week of events leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11, the centennial of the armistice that ended the war.

Thousands of cheering well-wishers lined the streets of downtown St. Louis on Jan. 28, 2012, to welcome home veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The “Welcome Home the Heroes” parade — a rousing patriotic party with floats and marching bands — made national headlines because it was the first of its kind in the nation.

But many of the veterans honored on that crisp Saturday afternoon were unemployed. Their transition to civilian life was bogged down by an economy still trying to shake its hangover from the Great Recession — a struggle that continues for some veterans.

Laura Banks was all smiles as she showed a guest around the split-level home in south St. Louis County that she and her and husband bought a year ago, days after returning from their honeymoon.

Built in the 1970s, the house has a lower level they’ve furnished with a big-screen TV and a vintage bar for entertaining. She grows herbs, tomatoes and sweet potatoes in the backyard.

Homeownership marks a major financial milestone for Banks, who graduated from college in 2009 when the unemployment rate was nearly 10 percent. It’s a sign that, like many millennials, she’s recovering financially after struggling to survive the Great Recession.

Missouri conservationists will hold a festival Saturday at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weldon Spring Site in St. Charles to ask gardeners to help boost the declining population of Monarch butterflies.

Researchers say the population of the iconic butterflies has declined by 80 percent since the late 1990s, largely due to the loss of their habitats. 

Weldon Spring, which is best known as a federally managed nuclear waste site, now has a thriving native prairie garden that attracts Monarchs, said Bob Lee of Missourians for Monarchs, which is organizing the Monarch Madness festival.