100 years 100 stories Nemer Kaleel

Nemer Kaleel: Born in Rachyia-El-Wadi, Lebanon, Nemer Kaleel dreamed of moving to America where his father peddled clothing.
In 1905, his dream came true and he saw the Statute of Liberty in September and then traveled to Spring Valley. He rented a house for $2/month and embarked on a clothing peddling business that lasted for over 35 years. His horse and buggy traveled to McNabb, Magnolia, Leonore, Lostant, Tonica, Toluca, Standard, Hennepin, Depue, Peru, and all other locations in between.

Nemer was known as an honest peddler after he was given a $100 bill by mistake by a farsighted elderly lady and traveling 3 hours back to her farmhouse to return the money. Nemer purchased his stock from the jobber, Abraham’s, in Spring Valley. After 1910, Nemer started traveling to the Mendota, Earlville, Troy Grove, and Paw Paw areas. In the 1920s, Nemer bought his first car and left the horse behind. A full-size replica of Nemer’s horse and buggy sat in the Time Was Museum in Mendota, IL for decades. In 1939, Nemer opened a clothing store in Earlville. His wife, Evelyn, ran the store while Nemer continued to peddle on the road. Nemer witnessed the pouring of concrete on the dirt on Rt. 52 and assisted the families who lost loved ones in the nation’s worst mine accident, the Cherry Mine Disaster. Nemer’s three sons, Louie, Mitch, and George, all opened up clothing stores following in his footsteps, and today, a couple of grandsons, Mark and Greg, still continue the tradition.


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