Friends of Vivian Gaines, a well-known community servant in Winnebago and Rockford, wished her well in her new endeavors in Kentucky.

After many years of living and serving in Winnebago, Vivian Gaines is beginning a new chapter. She just made a move to Shelbyville, Ky., a town of 16,000 near Louisville. Vivian believes her decision to relocate was based on direction from God several months ago.

She explains, “He said, ‘Get ready—you’re going to move.’” I said, “Where am I going?’ He said, “I’ll let you know.” Vivian adds, “It wasn’t an audible voice. It was something in my heart. God orchestrated the whole thing. However, I will miss my family and friends in Winnebago.”

Part of the pull to Kentucky is that daughter, Nancy, and her husband; three grandchildren and their spouses; and two great-grandchildren live in the Louisville area. Also, in a short period of time, Vivian’s need for a home was fulfilled.

Grandson-in-law, Scott, who lives in Kentucky and works in his father’s realty office, joined the search. Twice, properties became available, but sold before Vivian could see them. Soon after, Scott learned that a friend of his father had a home he wanted to sell.

This time, Scott intervened, asking the owner to hold off advertising until Vivian could see it. She made the trip to look over the property. She liked what she saw and made an offer, which was accepted. At the same time, her Winnebago home sold very quickly.

Vivian was born on July 6, 1935 at SwedishAmerican Hospital in Rockford to Gunnard and Marie Corey. Her sister, Lois, came along five years later. The family lived in a rented home in Rockford until 1945. Then, the owners decided to take up residence in the home themselves and evicted the Coreys.

Vivian’s grandfather found a home for sale in Winnebago, but until the family could move in, they lived in a garage. Vivian remembers there were no conveniences, and it was an unusually cold month of May. She says, “My sister played on the bed, because it was too cold to play on the floor.”

Vivian began her schooling at the P.A. Peterson grade school in Rockford. She then attended Winnebago schools, graduating in 1953. At a time when school sports for girls were limited, she played softball and basketball in women’s leagues.

Rockford’s Booker Washington Center gym, which was traditionally African American, welcomed the white team. After graduation, Vivian had a summer job at a factory that made artificial Christmas trees.

She went on to earn an Associate’s Degree in Business Management at Rock Valley College. She was employed by Barber Colman Company, a manufacturer of machinery for textile-making; the Case Corporation, which made farm equipment; and Applied Motors.

While at the Christmas tree factory, Vivian met her husband, Lloyd, who had come to Rockford from Walnut Ridge, Ark. His girlfriend worked with Vivian and asked her to come along to visit Lloyd. A relationship ensued, and Vivian went with Lloyd to Arkansas to be married on July 8, 1954. Soon after, Case contacted Vivian, wanting her to return to work. She did so, living with her parents for three-months. Lloyd joined her after finishing a land-clearing job. He also worked at Case, and the two had an apartment in Rockford. They moved to Winnebago in 1957.

The couple’s children are Virginia, Winnebago; Nancy, Louisville, Ky.; Patricia, Conway, Ark.; Kenneth, Winnebago; and Linda, Radford, Virginia. Lloyd passed away on Feb. 22, 1996, and Vivian retired in 1999.

Vivian is known for her service to the community, having been a Village Board Trustee for about 20 years. At different times, she was Chair of Finance, Public Works, and Community Development. She also filled in at the Village Office when needed. She recently concluded volunteer work at Rockford Rescue Mission, where she was a receptionist and office assistant.

Vivian and Lloyd began the Two Rivers Bluegrass Jam near Harrison in August of 1983. The event has been canceled just twice, once for a flood, and last year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Around that time, Vivian joined the local effort to provide facemasks for frontline workers, sewing about 200 masks.

She first attended church at First Evangelical Free in downtown Rockford. In Winnebago, she attended First Presbyterian, then Winnebago United Methodist. She participated in choir and music. As a Methodist, she went on Lay Witness Missions, teams of lay people visiting sister churches for weekends of sharing their faith.

Vivian’s own faith became personal, when she attended a Lay Witness Mission with friends before she became a participant. She was also an approved Lay Speaker, which allowed her to do pulpit supply.

She later became involved with Winnebago Evangelical Fellowship, an Evangelical Congregational church. When the congregation was without a pastor for about a year, she arranged for speakers and programs.

In 2019, the church became a campus of Park Hills Evangelical Free Church of Freeport and is known as Park Hills Winnebago. Vivian represented the former Fellowship for the last time at National Conference near Harrisburg, Penn., having served as Lay Delegate for about five years.

In 2005, she was part of a small group that began the senior ministry, Gold and Silver, meeting in the Fellowship building. She also helped initiate community Lenten soup suppers and services, which were held in the building. Her motivation for serving others is “God has given me so much love. I have to share it.”

When asked what she looks forward to in her new home, Vivian responded, “Learning new things. My dad taught me, ‘any day you can learn something new, it’s a good day.’” She leaves our community with these words of wisdom: “Live today like it’s your last, but plan like you have a thousand tomorrows. If you need to say, ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I love you’ to anyone, do it today.”

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