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People person: At 91, McLean County court clerk retires, but may pursue another job

Women standing behind table with gifts
Edith Brady-Lunny
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Margaret Blakeman, center, was the guest of honor Thursday at a retirement party at the McLean County Circuit Clerk’s office. Court clerk Rose Ford, deputy clerks Sandi Russell and Julie Cammon were among guests who stopped by to wish the 91-year-old retiree well.

Margaret Blakeman retired on Thursday from her part-time job as a McLean County court clerk.

At 91, she plans to move closer to her son in Quincy where she may look for another job.

“I don’t want to sit around and dry up like an old mushroom,” Blakeman said during a reception hosted by the McLean County Circuit Clerk’s office.

Blakeman took the court position 12 years ago as a way of getting out of the house and staying active.

During her time in some of the busiest courtrooms, Blakeman was responsible for keeping track of files used by judges, checking defendants into the courtroom for hearings and shuffling piles of exhibits. When a judge called a case, Blakeman had to be on her toes and ready to pass the right paperwork to the bench.

“Each judge has their own personality,” said Blakeman, that must be learned by the clerk assigned to the courtroom.

When asked to name her favorite judge, Blakeman named five jurists she worked for.

Known for her friendly demeanor and keeper of candy she shared freely, Blakeman leaves her post with a positive impression of the court system.

“It’s fair and it’s honest,” she said.

The idea that a specific age determines a person’s ability to do a job is false, according to Blakeman, who turns 92 in December.

“I think if you’re capable and you have the energy — that’s where I get my energy,” she said.

In addition to her job in the courtroom, Blakeman also worked at Hy-Vee, helping people who struggle with the process of self checkout.

Sandi Russell handles the hiring of clerks for the county’s 13 courtrooms. The current roster of 16 clerks are all retirees, she said, who appreciate the flexible scheduling that comes with the job.

As far as qualifications, Russell listed “enthusiasm, patience and friendliness because people are not always happy to be in court.”

Rose Ford is a clerk on the fifth floor of the Law and Justice Center. She recalled Blakeman helping her when she started work.

“She’s a go-getter and a fireball,” Ford said of Blakeman, who considers her personality an asset to her employers.

”I need people. I’m a people person,” she said.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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