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World War II vet brightens roadside with assist from Region 5

If you happen to drive along Illinois 4 north of Mascoutah next spring when the flowers are starting to bloom, you’re likely to be greeted by a cheerful surprise. World War II Navy veteran and retired teacher Joseph Cunningham, 95, has been planting daffodils along the road for about 35 years. He shows no signs of slowing down.

So far, he’s planted about a half mile of bulbs in each direction. This year, Cunningham sent a letter to the department asking when the stretch of land would be mowed so he could meet the workers there and bring his battery-powered hedge trimmers to help. He’s excited to have the area ready to showcase his flowers in the spring.

Cunningham used to live in Carmi. After so many moved out of that area with no plan to return, many daffodils were left behind. He wanted to move the abandoned daffodils somewhere people could enjoy them, so he began digging up the bulbs and replanting them along Illinois 4.

Acting Region 5 Engineer Keith Roberts received Cunningham’s letter and went out to meet him when the area was mowed.

“He’s just an unbelievable man,” said Roberts. “After reading his letter, I just knew I had to meet him. I have not actually seen his plantings while in bloom, but I will definitely be out there next spring to enjoy the fruits of all his labor. I plan to invite him to join me, so we can continue our conversation. He is a very interesting individual. I greatly respect him for all he has done.”