My Territory Story
Welcome to My Territory Story, features that highlight some of the people who make The Galena Territory a great place to live, work and play.
Breaking a 51-year routine beyond “The Dawn’s Early Light”
My Territory Story: Pat Cassidy
After owning in The Galena Territory for more than 20 years, Pat and Debbie Cassidy will be able to spend more time in Galena. Pat recently stepped down as Chicago’s WBBM AM Newsradio host after 51 years.By ANDI MCFARLANE
For 51 years, Chicago area “Breakfast Lovers” have had the pleasure of routinely starting their day with a reliable friend who had a warm, trustworthy voice, telling you about what to expect for the day and what had happened the night before. Morning Radio News Anchor, Pat Cassidy, routinely kicked off millions of listeners’ days at 5:05 a.m. with his signature “By The Dawn’s Early Light,” retired from Chicago’s WBBM AM Newsradio this past December. Listeners relied on him way before social media ever existed.
Pat and his wife, Debbie, have been part-time residents in The Territory for close to 20 years, enjoying their time in the Shenandoah area. Thinking about where they will now be spending most of their time, Pat shared, “Debbie, my wife says, so charmingly, ‘Well, we’ll see how we get along. You may be spending more time in Galena, and I may be spending more time in Oak Brook.”
Born in Freeport, Pat has lived in various parts of the state including Champaign, the Quad Cities, Northbrook and Oak Brook. He is really looking forward to spending more time in what he calls his “beloved Galena.” “It’s so different from all of Illinois,” he shares with a smile on his face during our Zoom interview.
He truly has a soft spot for The Territory.
“Drive around The Territory, and you’ll fall in love with it. There are so many things to see and do,” he said. “The marina itself is beautiful, drive by the waterfalls…and the hills…it’s unlike anything Illinois.” Pat also enjoys time at the Owner’s Club where you may catch him doing laps in the pool.
Pat’s demanding broadcast schedule would not allow for lengthy stays and now, he is excited about all the things he will be able to do since his alarm clock will not be buzzing at 2:30 a.m. every day.
Besides hitting the many golf courses in The Territory, the Cassidy’s will be spending more time with his daughter’s family in Pearl City and spoiling their two grandchildren: a two-and-a-half-year-old grandson and his eight-month-old granddaughter.
He also looks forward to buying a pontoon boat and fishing on Lake Galena.
“I’m going to be looking for fishing buddies to show me the ropes,” admits Pat. He has fished Lake Galena, but he is looking for the ins and outs of all the “good spots.”
He also loves to play cards. Hearts is his game and has thought about trying to get a group together, either formally or informally. He really enjoys the social aspect.
It was hitting the fairways with his golf buddies that brought Pat to Eagle Ridge and after renting houses many times, he knew he wanted to be a part of the area.
Although he likes all four courses, he shared that his favorite is the North Course as he feels it is the prettiest aesthetically, specifically the Seventh Hole.
“I like the General a lot too, but I have a love-hate relationship with the General,” he joked.
The 16 Handicapper grinned while talking about his best score on the Eagle Ridge courses which was an 85 or 86, although, he admitted he has had those days where it could be higher than that.
He is not only looking forward to making new golf buddies but also plans on working with the next generation. He hopes to get his grandson his first little putter, maybe next summer.
“Hey, Tiger Woods started to hit the ball when he was about three,” he said.
If you become one of Pat’s golf or fishing buddies, you will enjoy listening to his many stories; from the various adventures during his most successful career to how he met his wife, Debbie.
She was literally, ‘checking him out,’ when she was a cashier at the Jewel grocery store in Westmont.
“She checked me out through the line. I had just finished playing golf and I had a bottle of vodka and a steak,” Pat said. “She asked me, ‘Where’s your vegetable?’ I said, ‘I don’t have one. Don’t tell my mother.”
Another amusing story was the time when Pat met WLS’s Larry Lujack. At the time, Pat was on the air at WMAQ and they were doing very well in the morning ratings. It was the early ‘80’s and they met at the Aragon Ballroom bar. Pat shares the story in both his voice and in his impersonation of Good Ole Uncle Lar’.
“I introduced myself and Larry said, ‘I know who you are.” Recognizing that WMAQ had some great ratings, Larry told Pat, “It won’t last! YOU won’t last!” Decades later, Pat continues, “I don’t know if it was Lujack doing Lujack schtick or if it was Larry just being Larry. To this day, I still can’t figure it out.”
Where it started
Following the news from a very young age, Pat went to Northern Illinois University intending to study print journalism. On the first day in the dorms, a guy popped into his room wondering who was talking in there. It was the student manager of the radio station who told him that he had a great voice and asked him if he wanted to be on the air.
“The guy asked me, ‘Wanna be a disc jockey? You get to play rock and roll records and girls call you on the phone all the time.’ I said, ‘Okay, I’ll try that.”
“The good Lord blessed me with a good voice, combined with journalism and radio and that’s really how things started for me,” he said.
Being the reliable voice on Chicago radio for over 50 years is much more than just “reading” the news.
Pat’s routine entailed getting up at 2:30 a.m., getting into work by 4 a.m., and writing at least the first hour of his show. Writing the news himself gave him a thorough understanding of the stories so he could clearly share them with his listeners. He would get on the air at 5:05 a.m. and you could trust him to be by your side for the next five hours.
There were only a few stops along the way in his long, successful career with stations that included WBMX, WMAQ for 25 years, WLS for a time, and his final stop at WBBM Newsradio for 22 years. Whether it was at WMAQ or on WBBM, Pat held the number one spot in the ratings for decades.
To be a constant, consistent, reliable voice in a very competitive Chicago market, the third-largest market in the country is a phenomenal accomplishment.
Happy to be a part of someone’s routine each day, he likened it to a “terry cloth robe and your pair of slippers that you could always depend upon.”
Pat’s delivery always made a listener feel like he was speaking to just one person, having a conversation with a friend, and learning what was the important news of the day. That was the secret to his success.
“That was my mind game. If I knew that Andi was listening between 6 and 6:15 a.m., I would talk to you in my mind,” Pat said. He would then think of talking one-on-one with his wife, daughter, parents, or specific friends instead of announcing to a big audience where one might talk differently.
Although he may not miss his alarm clock, he admits he will miss covering breaking news and the connection with the listener. “It has always been about the audience,” he said.
His historic news media run included many unforgettable stories and moments, including the day he was anchoring with his long-time partner, Felicia Middlebrooks on WBBM as the attack on America happened on September 11, 2001. He still gets choked up remembering that day. Pat shared that they both knew they were the eyes and ears for their audience, as well as being Americans watching the horrible event unfold on their country, all the while, keeping it together while on the air.
A career with risks
For 51 years, “It was always dark when I would go to work,” shared Pat. At times, his early morning career put him in some dangerous predicaments; dodging drunk drivers flying through red lights and stop signs, driving through one skinny lane on the Eisenhower Expressway before the snowplows were out, and then there was the time he was robbed at gunpoint about 20 years ago.
It was very early one October morning when “nature called” and it was not going to wait. He pulled off the Eisenhower at 17th Avenue in Broadview and stopped at a gas station.
“I got a little gas and went to the Men’s Room and when I came out, there was a guy with a gun in my chest. He said, ‘Let’s go back into the bathroom.’ I said, ‘No I don’t want to do that,’ and he continued to push me with the gun in my chest,” Pat recalls.
Handing him his wallet, “I said, ‘I know you are robbing me, here’s my wallet, please don’t shoot me.’ I brushed past him and for about 10 seconds, I had my back to a guy with a gun and I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
With his eyes as big as saucers, dutifully, Pat reported into work that morning ready to get on the air. His editor sent him home where he then reported it to the police. “Eventually, they got the guy.”
Other retirement priorities
For a man whose entire adult life entailed waking up in the middle of the night, Pat shares that the number one priority will be sleep and adopting healthier habits. For 51 years, he admits he should have eaten dinner at 3 p.m. and gone to bed at 7 p.m., but it was just too tough to do that. Eating dinner and then going to bed an hour later to get five or six hours of sleep was also not ideal.
You may catch the Cassidy’s enjoying dinner at one of their many favorite downtown Galena Main Street restaurants from The Log Cabin down to Fritz and Frites Bistro. Debbie is also a big fan of the many shops along the way.
Pat is an avid reader, inhaling a book a week. “I’m very proud of that. I will probably read two a week now.”
The Civil War buff also likes to collect artifacts, yet another attraction in coming to Galena.
The freedom of spur-of-the-moment traveling is also in their plan as hopping in the car and taking a road trip was tough; his schedule always dictated meticulous planning.
What would happen if you saw Pat at the General Store or about to tee off on the North Course and you would ask him about Lottery Numbers from the night before?
Laughing, he says, “They can ask, but I’m not going to be able to answer because I won’t be following it that closely anymore.”
Pat is truly interested in getting to know more people in The Territory. If you are interested in sharing your handicap, showing him the hot spots around Lake Galena or drumming up a game of Hearts, he would like to connect with you
Fun Fact from the author
I had the ultimate pleasure of working with Pat Cassidy as his traffic reporter “On the One’s,” Saturday mornings on WMAQ in the late ‘90s. It was like attending a Master Class in News Broadcasting every weekend. Now, I am positive I will learn even more from him, but this time it will probably be on the North Course.
The Galena Territory reigns in equestrians
My Territory Story: Jane West and Tom NagelMaybe it’s the beauty, sense of community or simplicity of life that draws people to The Galena Territory. For Jane West and Tom Nagel, the Shenandoah Riding Center and charm of The Galena Territory made an immediate impression.
They first discovered The Territory in 1981 while celebrating their second wedding anniversary at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, then named Eagle Ridge Inn. So enamored with The Territory’s picturesque vistas, the next morning they purchased their first lot.
“We just loved the whole rural aspect,” Jane said. “It’s always felt like home.”
After purchasing the lot, the couple spent several years renting homes periodically in different sections of The Territory.
“We often drove through the entire Territory because different places had different feelings,” Jane said.
Then in 1997, they built a home in The Territory and moved from Arlington Heights.
Jane and Tom chose to first rent the house, but its most frequent tenant was Jane herself.
“We couldn’t rent it, Jane was always there, like a squatter,” Tom said.
Later, they moved to rural Elizabeth to accommodate Tom’s new business before returning to The Territory permanently in 2017.
Sold on Shenandoah
The Shenandoah Riding Center, The Territory’s first amenity, and a love for horses cemented Tom and Jane’s commitment to the community.
“It’s always been a passion for me,” Jane said. “Now, he shares the same passion.”
In fact, Tom has held riding clinics —that started at the Shenandoah— for the last 20 years throughout the nation and world, including England, Austria, and Netherlands. His most recent was at the Riding Center in late 2019 before COVID-19.
Shenandoah is also where the couple boards Tucker, a registered Palomino quarter horse, and Chloe, a standard-bred harness racer who spent her previous days in an Amish community.
“If you have horses around here and you’re in a barn, you have to have trails to ride,” Tom said. “We don’t own a truck, a trailer, we don’t have to. We just get on a horse and ride. How many people can do that anymore?”
Shenandoah is a second home for the Jane and Tom. They spend countless hours inside the Riding Center and traverse its 24 miles of trails through The Territory’s countryside.
“It’s a world-class facility,” Tom said.
Shenandoah is renowned for its scenic trails and tranquil beauty. From seasoned equestrians to beginning horse enthusiasts, it offers something for everyone.
“We just really love it,” Jane said. “Really, all of Jo Daviess County is great for horse-minded people.”
Not surprisingly, their home borders a horse trail.
“The trails in The Territory are phenomenal, and not just for horses,” Jane said.
There are more than 32 miles of trails within The Galena Territory, owned and maintained by The Galena Territory Association (25.4 miles), Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa (5.18 miles) and townhouse and condo associations (0.85 miles). The trails navigate hills, ravines, and ridge tops.
“Our focus has always been Shenandoah, but it’s nice to have other opportunities available,” Tom said. “Lake Galena is a jewel.”
Located in the heart of The Galena Territory, the tranquil 225-acre Lake is perfect for anglers and boaters who enjoy observing nature on leisurely cruises. It boasts some of the best fishing in the area and is frequented by eagles, ospreys, blue herons, whitetail deer, red foxes, and otters.
A special reason to stay
There was another, special reason that Jane and Tom chose The Territory. Jane is the legal guardian of her sister, Martha, who is part of The Workshop, a workday program, in Galena, for individuals with disabilities.
“It’s just a wonderful agency for people who are not capable of working mainstream,” Jane said.
The Workshop (theworkshopgalena.org) has promoted the general welfare of individuals with disabilities in Jo Daviess County since 1961. It offers a variety of services, including job training, health and wellness, community meals program, Special Olympics, and transportation which is key for Martha because she is unable to drive. She has been a part of The Workshop for 23 years.
Both Tom and Jane were flight attendants when they met. Tom worked as a steward with United Airlines for 13 years and Jane flew with United for 30 years before she retired.
Tom later delved into the computer industry before training horse riders.
Tom has sold more than 10,000 copies of his book “Zen & Horseback Riding.”
My Forever Home
My Territory Story: Apryl & Stephen GatesHome means many things to many people. Sometimes it’s a destination, a specific house or just being content. For Apryl Gates and her family, it’s The Galena Territory.
“This is the first place that has ever felt like home, one hundred percent,” Apryl said. “We weren’t even unpacked and it felt like home.”Apryl and her husband, Stephen, have two sons, Hayden, who just turned 9 years old, and Hudson, nearly 8. The couple has also adopted nine “children:” Moocow, Damsel, Dandelion, Meatball, Dotti Mae, Shadow, Patrick, Turbo. Number nine, Bavaro, came from the beaches of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
“I literally like dogs more than humans,” Apryl said. “I feel like I empathize knowing that they can’t tell us how they feel.”
The Move To The Territory
The family moved from the outskirts of Dubuque to The Territory about a year ago after flooding tore into their house repeatedly. The family once had to be evacuated from the rising waters.
Apryl and Stephen’s house hunting technically began with five showings but it didn’t last long after she saw the house at 98 Shenandoah Drive. Built around a spiral staircase, the house is shaped almost like a round barn with rooms separated like pieces of a pie and a round silo-like skylight.
“That day I said ‘this is my house; my forever home,’” Apryl said. “We went home, canceled the rest of the showings, and put in an offer the next day.”
The family, and their canines, settled in mid-November of last year and hosted Thanksgiving.
“The country setting and wildlife blow my mind every single day,” Apryl said. Days are often spent gazing upon vast open acres in the morning and stunning sunsets over the Shenandoah Riding Center at night.
“I’ve been in heaven every day since we came here,” Apryl said. “I enjoy the rain now.”
The many family-focused amenities found in The Territory are a bonus, especially the indoor pool, game room, trails, and children programs hosted by The Galena Territory Association (GTA) Recreation Department.
“I love living here,” Hayden said.
Doggone, The Territory Is A Caring Community
The pastoral setting of their home ranks second only to the sense of community the Gates find in The Territory.
“It’s almost like you’re in a small community because everybody knows each other,” Stephen said.
Apryl held a driveway birthday party for Hudson in April, amid the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and was humbled by seeing more than 50 cars, pickups, fire trucks, and even horses parade by her driveway. Drivers waved signs, honked horns, and offered gifts.
“I bet I cried half a dozen times that day because of the way the community came together,” Apryl said.
Early in their arrival to The Territory, the Gates had nine dogs. That’s down from an all-time high of 12 at one time.
The Gates have been a surrogate family for at-risk canines for many years. Their generosity recently eased concerns of friends and family of a Territory property owner who passed away and left three longtime four-legged companions behind.
“If it’s a big dog and it needs a home, I’m taking it,” Apryl said.
The Gates fostered Clifford, Mack, and Seven, for a month. Sadly, Clifford passed away, but the other two found new homes in Savana.
At the outset of taking each dog in, Apryl intends to just ensure each is healthy and find them a new home. But that doesn’t always happen.
“Some of them catch our hearts,” she said. “So they become a permanent family member until their time comes.”
Right now Apryl and Stephen are focused on their boys, who are more involved in sports and school, and the current “herd.” Because of that, they have taken a break from actively rescuing and fostering dogs.
“Maybe someday we’ll get back into it, but for now, it will just be the thirteen of us!”
Each Day Is Saturday
My Territory Story: David & Mary FooteOn a sticky summer day in 1976, Mary and David Foote trekked in a car with no air conditioning to a family wedding.
By happenstance, the travelers, including Dave’s brother-in-law, Bill, stopped for lunch on U.S. 20 amongst a heavily wooded, picturesque area that only three years earlier was christened The Galena Territory.
Bill fell in love with The Territory during that drive in 1976 and began bringing his children twice a year. That tradition lasted for 20 years before he purchased a weekend home in The Territory in 2007.
“We had no idea he bought that house,” David said.
The Footes, their children, and other members of the family received keys to the new house.
Soon Mary and Dave were making regular weekend visits to The Territory. As time went on, they extended their stay to three to four days as The Territory continued to tempt them back.
“It was like waking up every day to Saturday morning,” Mary said.
A Shift In Life
Mary and Dave pondered purchasing property in The Territory as they drew closer to retirement. Now instead of fighting traffic, they marvel at Thunder Bay Falls as they drive by.
“Nothing beats the ambiance of The Territory," Mary said.
The Footes started living full-time in The Territory in 2019 after three years of searching for their perfect home on Harbor Drive that their children affectionately call Tranquility Harbor. A rafter of turkeys welcomed them on their first morning.
“We have a beautiful setting,” Mary said. “It’s gorgeous. Our views are spectacular!”
Many days, and especially nights, the Footes can now be found in their sunroom admiring nature’s beauty and listening to Thunder Bay Falls in the distance.
The couple, Mary said, has also been blessed with fun and caring neighbors since settling down in The Territory.
“If you’re willing to be open and talk to people, they’re here for you,” Mary said.
Both are also active in several activities, including women’s coffee, water aerobics, and Just Show Up on Fridays.
“We have met and socialized with more people than in the 20 years combined before moving here from our old neighborhood in the Naperville and Aurora area,” Dave said.
He still keeps busy as a real estate photographer after being in residential selling for 28 years. Dave often finds himself in metro areas and is always anxious to come home.
“Once I get just outside of Rockford from the city of Chicago, I feel the tension lift from my shoulders,” he said. “This is more home to us than any other place.”
As an avid nature photographer, Dave loves the colorful canvas of Territory mornings.
Mary was part of a physician’s group and worked in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago.
“This is paradise for me,” she said. “There’s a peacefulness here and you can be one with nature.”
Their advice to potential property owners: “Be prepared to unwind. Whatever you think is a vacation, it’s here.”
Dusk on the water
My Territory Story: Denise and Frank SedlakSitting in the home on Augusta Drive you get the feeling you’ve been here before. The warmth of the nearby crackling fire is only bested by the comfort of the conversation. Denise and Frank Sedlaks’ Territory Story began in 1992 when they rented a weekender place on Creekwood Lane to attend the Chicago Bears training camp at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
“We instantly fell in love with The Territory,” Denise said. “I still wake up and taken aback by it all.”They made the annual journey from their home in Villa Park located in the western suburbs of Chicago. During each trip they spent more time in The Territory. Frank taught history while Denise was a principal. As educators, the school calendar provided several opportunities, especially holidays, to enjoy time with their children inside The Territory. Frank retired in 2003 after 34 years while Denise retired in 2010 after 31 years.
A little apprehension
Denise comes from a large family and was somewhat hesitant to commit to The Territory at first. She worried the distance would be too far for their two children Jennifer and Brian, who still live in the Chicago suburbs, and other family to travel. To quell some of that uncertainty, the Sedlaks rented a house in Elmhurst until they grew more comfortable with the transition. But it didn’t take long before they called The Territory home. “It became very clear that we loved it here,” Denise said. “All my concerns about others not coming here—you kidding me? Now everyone is pounding on the door. It’s been awesome!”
The couple became property owners in 2001, purchased their retirement home in 2005 and called The Territory home permanently in 2012. Their four grandchildren visit often. “The pace, peacefulness and serenity of life slows down enough to enjoy each day,” Frank said. “It’s completely different from the hustle and bustle of a city.”
The Sedlaks found a welcoming and friendly community once they settled in.
“You meet the nicest people out here,” Denise said. “They’re all very down to earth.”Drawn to the Driftless Area
The Territory, located in the Driftless Area, offers breathtaking sunrises and stunning sunsets. It’s one of the first things that plucked the Sedlaks out of their suburban trappings. Their living room and kitchen now overlook rolling hills and an endless skyline. “The natural beauty is mind-boggling,” Denise said. “Sometimes you have to pinch yourself.”
Loving the lifestyle
Both Denise and Frank volunteer for or host several GTA events, including Territory Trivia which has become an entertainment staple. “You can be as busy as you want or just relax,” Denise said.
Both use many GTA amenities, including indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center and the myriad social events. As boat owners, you’ll often find them traversing Lake Galena. Frank has a garage full of trophy catches mounted on the walls. “Our favorite place to be is on the water at dusk,” he said.
Location, location, location
Besides being nestled in amongst one of the most scenic places in the Midwest, The Territory is about 20 minutes away from renowned restaurants, crowd-pleasing performing arts, and specialty shops in Galena. Such rich experiences are normally reserved for metropolitan areas. “You get the country flavor, but you have everything you need or want in a community,” Denise said. “We never felt like we lost something. There’s nothing lacking.”
A secret no more
Once a best-kept secret, The Territory is garnering attention from younger families and individuals who work from home or commute. “They’re finding it really an easy place to live and be able to raise a family,” Frank said. The Sedlaks expect their love of The Territory to spread across generations as they pass their home onto their children who will, in turn, leave it for their children. “We have no intention of selling,” Denise said. “We love it here too much.”