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Mona Tourlentes
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Obituary for Mona Tourlentes

Mona Belle Land Tourlentes, 89, Galesburg, Illinois, died Friday evening, March 30, 2018, at home, with loved ones by her side. For years, she was very grateful for the many people, who made it possible to receive care at home.

As a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, musician, teacher, artist, and citizen, she was always joyful, enthusiastic, and compassionate. And she was always eager to explore and learn together, facing decades of trial and error with many friends, to create new community groups and projects.

Mona was preceded in death by her husband, Thomas Tourlentes, MD, brothers Charles, Gordon, Andrew, and Donald, and is survived by her three children, Ted Tourlentes of Galesburg, Elizabeth Johnston (with Iain) of Rockford, Illinois, and Stephen Tourlentes (with Amber) of Somerville, Massachusetts. She has three grandchildren, Lily Johnston, Theo Tourlentes, and Eli Tourlentes.

Mona was born November 24, 1928, in Rogers, Arkansas, to Jemima and William Land. Several years later, the family moved to Neosho, Missouri, which became her hometown.

Mona graduated from Drury College (now Drury University), Springfield, Missouri, and earned a masters degree in Piano Performance from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

In 1956, playing piano at the Custer Hotel, Galesburg, Mona met Dr. Tom Tourlentes, and they married, and had three children. Tom was assistant superintendent, and then superintendent, of Galesburg State Research Hospital (now the site of Hawthorne Center). Many of the staff, and their families, were long time friends, including those from Iraq, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Japan, and Ecuador.

Tom's parents were immigrants from Greece, and Tom & Mona with their children, made several trips to Greece, to visit Greek relatives.

In 1970, Mona was a founder of the FISH Food Pantry, which serves hundreds of needy people each year. Mona was a music instructor at Carl Sandburg College for 26 years. Colleagues included Gen Yaw, Dan Allert, Joanne Goudie, and Molly Karjala. In the late 1970’s she started a jazz big band, the Rootabaga Jammers, and started the Rootabaga Jazz Festival which is now hosted by Knox College.

Mona brought many amazing musicians to Galesburg, including Ed Shaughnessy, Buddy DeFranco, Joe Pass, and James Cotton. Also in the late 1970’s she started a jazz study group, Jazz Unlimited. Members of the group met monthly, and took turns making presentations and leading discussions about jazz.

When Mona told her son Steve about plans to build a new state prison in Galesburg, he advised her “Don’t let them name it Galesburg!” To prevent Galesburg from being known primarily for the new prison, Mona initiated a community effort, which led to the prison being named in honor of Henry Hill, when it opened in the 1980’s.

Mona and Tom were very active members of the Galesburg Civic Art Center for more than 40 years.

Around 1986, Mona's friend Andrea Zocchi, and her son Steve, had the idea to use empty downtown building space for art studios. Mona led the formation of Studios Midwest, an annual residency program for visiting artists, which has brought over 150 artists to Galesburg from all over the world.

In 2003, before the Iraq War began, Mona and several friends formed the Knox County Peace and Justice Coalition. She and Jane Johnson, Margie Mitchell, and Anna Sophia Johnson, formed the group to prevent the War, and then turned their efforts to opposing and ending the Iraq War.

Tom and Mona were reading buddies at Nielson School, Galesburg, for more than six years.

In 2004 Mona was nominated for the Studs Turkel Award, by then mayor Bob Sheehan, and she received this award from the Illinois Humanities Council.

And Mona was the 2017 recipient of the Mike Kroll Leadership Award, from the Galesburg Public Library Foundation.

A mini family reunion tradition, started by Mona and her brother Don, was to float slowly on inner tubes, on a creek near Neosho, Missouri. The happiness of these trips, is a deeply cherished memory for all relatives.

And Mona paddled in a cardboard boat, on Lake Storey, with Chey Robson, and Ken Russell, for the Galesburg cardboard boat races.

Mona had a natural ability and grace, to bring people together with joy, and to move into new futures with hope.

Visitation for Mona will be Saturday, April 14, 2018 from 11:30 to 1 p.m. at Watson-Thomas Funeral Home and Crematory, with a memorial service following at 1 p.m. A reception will follow the memorial service at Carl Sandburg College, Building D Lobby, the Lonnie Eugene Stewart Art Gallery, 2400 Tom L. Wilson Blvd. Galesburg, IL 61401. Donations can be made to the FISH Food Pantry, Carl Sandburg College, and the Galesburg Civic Art Center.

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Previous Events





11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Watson-Thomas Funeral Home and Crematory

1849 North Seminary Street
Galesburg, IL 61401





1:00 PM
Watson-Thomas Funeral Home and Crematory

1849 North Seminary Street
Galesburg, IL 61401

Celebration of Life




2:30 PM
Carl Sandburg College

Building D Lobby
2400 Tom L. Wilson Blvd
Galesburg, IL 61401

Memorial Contribution

Fish Food Pantry

Carl Sandburg College

Galesburg Civic Art Center


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