- Associated Press - Sunday, March 4, 2018

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - On cold, snowy days, Karen Powers misses the warm, desert weather around Phoenix, where she lived for about 12 years.

Those moments pass quickly as she and her 13-year-old daughter, Dakota, take their dogs for a walk, visit nearby family members, or drive somewhere.

“I wanted to move back here. I wanted my daughter to grow up in a smaller town,” Powers said. “I had been in big cities where you’re always in a hurry and on the run.”

Powers, 55, is one of a large number of people from Quincy or nearby communities who lives away for years, but then moved back to the area.

Joi Cuartero Austin, who handles marketing and communications for the Great River Economic Development Foundation, said she often runs into Quincy returnees.



“The story that I hear from them usually is about getting back to family, or quality of life in a central hub for entertainment, schools and medicine. They also talk about the cost of living” being very reasonable in Quincy, Austin said.

Powers, who is a nurse practitioner at Quincy Medical Group, lived elsewhere for about 27 years before her return. She had nursing jobs in St. Louis and Columbia, Mo., and Jacksonville, Ill., before moving to the Phoenix area. She missed experiencing the change of seasons while in Arizona — but not the cold.

“I like the smaller town feel and the family connection. They’re here for me, and I’m here for them,” Powers said.

“There are a lot of opportunities to do things in Quincy, too.”

For Ryan Naught, the chance to return home came more quickly. At age 30, he and his father are partners in Naught Construction Inc.

Naught graduated from Quincy Notre Dame High School in 2005 and remembers how he and many of his classmates could not wait to leave town.

“That was very common, kids saying: ‘I can’t wait to get out of here. This place is boring, and I want to get out and see the world,’ ” Naught said.

When he graduated from college in 2009, Naught didn’t find lots of opportunities in the construction field locally. So he took a job with a large company in the West.

“I started in Salt Lake City, working on mass transit and light rail. Then I was in Phoenix, working on a project that had an airport runway shut down,” Naught said.

He worked 14 hours every day during one 21-day stretch.

“The money was good, but the trade-off was quality of life,” he said.

After moving to work in Denver for a year, Naught jumped at the chance to get back to Quincy.

“When you first step out into the world, it’s all about your work life. That’s the center of your existence,” he said. “Once you realize that work is not everything in life, then you realize that your roots are where you originated and you think about going back.”

Naught and his wife, Jordan, have two children. Hudson, 5, doesn’t remember any other home but Quincy, and 3-year-old Olivia has never lived anywhere else. And they get along great with Grandma and Grandpa Debbie and Brian Naught.

Karyn McNay Dunn, 38, has a little different twist to her story.

Dunn moved away in 1997 for college and spent years in big cities before coming back to Quincy to launch DunnBelly Bar + Bistro in the building on Broadway that had housed Lake View Restaurant. Dunn saw her homecoming as a chance for her and her husband, Brad, to have their own business.

“I lived in New York City for just over 10 years. It’s a place where almost everyone is anonymous. People can still find a community, but it takes a lot of time,” Dunn said.

While that anonymity can be freeing, it also means that “when things are hard, you don’t have support and it can be a really lonely place,” Dunn said.

Family members made sure Karyn did not feel lonely when she returned last year. Her father and cousins helped get the restaurant ready for operation. Her mother did a lot of baking.

“I think the atmosphere in Quincy is a combination of comfort and security,” Dunn said. “It feels like you’re dealing with real, honest people. They’ll stop and have an honest conversation, and they care about you and your life.”

She agrees that the cost of living also is low.

“You can have a really beautiful life here and not work yourself to death — pretty little town, thriving arts community, and a lot of great public programs for kids and families to do,” she said.

In 1985, John Ohnemus learned that Quincy’s Sheller-Globe operations were closing. He was offered a job with the company, but it meant moving to Mora, Minn., about 85 miles north of Minneapolis.

“I was the human resources manager, and there wasn’t anything available in Quincy at the time,” Ohnemus said.

His wife, Stephanie, said moving out of Quincy, where they both were born and raised, was “the worst thing I could contemplate because I love Quincy and all my family and friends are here.”

John Ohnemus was 42 years old when they moved away. Then 13 years later, he learned that the city of Quincy was looking for a human resources director.

“I was 55, and I didn’t know if they would hire someone my age, but I got the job,” he said.

For Stephanie, Quincy is special because of the faith-based opportunities. She said there was one little church in the town of Mora, which had a population of 3,000. But in Quincy, there are many Catholic churches, as well as Catholic schools.

“This is a wonderful town, with such a good library, the symphony, Quincy Community Theatre and music,” Stephanie said. “We have tremendous offerings in this little town.”

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Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://bit.ly/2C2FKcA

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Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://www.whig.com

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