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CHAMPAIGN — A national organization has named Paxton resident Judy Jepsen-Popel as the state’s Mother of the Year.
American Mothers Inc., an interfaith, non-political, non-profit organization dedicated to recognizing mothers for their work with their community, announced the award last week.
Jepsen-Popel was a teacher and principal for 30 years. She taught at Tolono Primary School, St. Malachy School in Rantoul and Ludlow Grade School.
To qualify for the National Mother of the Year award, at least one of the nominee’s children must be over the age of 18.
“Motherhood is important because the family is the foundation of society,” Jepsen-Popel said. “It is very important that we have stable families.”
Jepsen-Popel and her husband, Gary Popel, have three children: Anne Leonard, Therese Wyman and Margaret Seibring. They have eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
She is the president of the Ford County Historical Society and vice president of the Paxton Foundation, a trust that has raised money for improvements at Majestic Park.
Jepsen-Popel helped found the Paxton Meals on Wheels program, helped organize Paxton’s Old-Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration and serves as director of religious education at St. Mary Catholic Church in Paxton.
When she served as president of the Paxton Woman’s Club, the organization helped to provide a bench for a memorial park and refurbished some historical gates at Glen Cemetery in Paxton.
Last year, Jepsen-Popel and her husband helped to raise money to save the Paxton pool.
She has also served on the board of the Paxton Daycare, a community daycare program, since 1980.
Jepsen-Popel and the winners from the other 49 states will be honored at a convention in New York City in April. At that time, the organization will announce the national winners.
American Mothers Inc. also announced last week that Gail Rost of Champaign is this year’s Mother of Achievement for Illinois. Rost is executive director of the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation.