GALENA (WREX) – When you visit the Lamberson Guest House in Galena it won’t take long for you to understand how much innkeeper Michelle Heurung loves her job.
She says it was a dream she and her late husband Brian thought up together. Just six weeks after opening the newly renovated bed and breakfast to guests, Brian suddenly passed away.
“This was my dream and Brian did everything to get me here and I thought there’s no way I can do this alone. It’s a hard job. It’s a very hard job and to do it yourself is impossible.”
Michelle says that impossible work became easier day by day thanks to an outpouring of support from the Galena community. She says she’d come home to meals on her doorstep left by strangers and other innkeepers pitching in to help whenever she needed them.
“This town was so kind to me when my life was completely upended. The whole time all of this was happening I felt like I was taking and not giving. So when the time comes when I can do something back, I’m going to do something back.”
Years later, Michelle says she finally figured out how to return the favor. She began giving away a weekend stay to a lucky veteran through a Facebook campaign.
“I’ll give a room to someone every month. I’ll put it on my Lamberson Facebook page and I’ll say all you have to do is comment.”
But this March another personal loss made Michelle rethink her giveaway.
“My daughter in-law’s uncle was a state trooper in Colorado and he was killed on the side of the road by a driver not obeying scotts law. He was a lovely, lovely kind, wonderful person. And it made me so angry, because such an unneccesary loss of life. It was just a week or so later that Brooke was killed. And then every couple weeks we were hearing a story then another story and I said something has to be done. So I said I’ll give a room to an officer in their memory.”
Michelle posted pictures of Colorado Corporal Dan Groves and Illinois State Police Trooper Brooke Jones-Story asking people to nominate law enforcement officers for the free wekend. She says she chose one of those names out of a hat which was District 16 Trooper Kevin Johnson. Johnson immediately donated his winnings to Jones-Story’s parents.
“The kindness of him. He gave his stay to Brooke’s parents. You know I just lost it after that.”
Michelle says she’s been in contact with the Jones family, who aren’t quite ready to make the trip.
“I understand that. It takes awhile. I know what that’s like. It takes awhile to enjoy life again because you’re just feel like it’s due you yet.”
The Jones won’t be the last guests to be treated to the free weekend. Michelle says she’s also giving a room to Trooper Kevin Johnson and plans to keep the giveaway going every month. In the future she says she also plans to change it up, possibly offering it up to firefighters as well.
“I get way more from it than they ever do. I just feel so good being able to do that little bit. I just feel like there’s not a lot I can do. But that’s something I can do, so I’m doing it.”
Paying forward kindness, by not forgetting the loved ones who are no longer here.
“Brian would be so behind this. He’d be loving it.”