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Our Illinois 4-H Story

4-H friendships live on

Photo of Cathryn Frisby

A group of alumni enjoy 4-H so much, they’re still meeting, 90 years after the oldest began her 4-H journey. At 98 years young, Cathryn Frisby and her fellow Country Couples members still meet monthly. The seniors meet for a meal and guest speaker on topics ranging from honeybees to exercises for seniors.

Cathryn was one of 80 people inducted into the Illinois 4-H Foundation Hall of Fame on Aug. 13 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, and the Country Couples weren’t going to miss this special occasion. The group rented a van and cheered on the induction of their lifelong friend.

Cathryn recalled her 4-H years. In 1929, two teachers at her rural Avoca Township school formed a 4-H club where Cathryn learned, with the encouragement of her mother, to darn, patch, and sew.

“When we got to be teenagers, we still wanted to be together,” Cathryn said, so they formed a rural youth club, "but we were still 4-H.”

As was popular in those days, the teens enjoyed square dancing and competed at the universities. From those friendships, many marriages formed.

“People started to marry, and we didn’t want to lose [track of] each other,” Cathryn said. Fred Nagel, a young farm advisor, invited some couples to his home and suggested the friends continue meeting. The friendships remain today.

“Some of my best friends started as 4-H friends,” said Ruth Wessels, a former member of the Fayette Fantastics 4-H Club.  She said she uses the skills learned in 4-H daily.

The group reminisced; week-long stays in the state fair dorms, 4-H softball, state food demonstrations, Share the Fun, and friendships. For Mary, 4-H was all about the friendships.

Margery Pratt, 86, said the group shares “lots of memories.” They’ve been through great times and difficult times, including the loss of people close to them. Still, once a month, they head out to catch a bite to eat, learn something they didn’t know before, and pledge to keep making the best better for as long as they can.

Cathryn taught for 30 years and also served as a volunteer 4-H leader.

Country Couples


Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager

Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.