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Fort Madison Elk’s look to help Illinois fishery rebuild

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The Fort Madison Elk's Club said they're looking forwards to their fish fry fundraiser on Sunday to benefit the owners of the Quality Fisheries in Niota, Illinois.

The fishery burned down December 3 around 1:00 a.m.

Owner Kirby Marsden's said he he still remembers the minute he got the phone call.

"I looked down and I saw it was Doug Gray, my brother-in-law and foreman at Quality Fisheries, and I knew a phone call at that time in the morning was not good."

He said he was there five minutes later.

"I pulled into the scene and my hopes and my dreams were on fire," Marsden said.

The fishery was a total loss for both Kirby and the surrounding communities.

"My dad and my uncle have gone down there weekend after weekend for years and years, gotten, fish alligator, whatever Kirby can come up with to sell," Fort Madison Elks Lodge Manager Amy Lauber said. "It's always been here."

Members of the Fort Madison Elks Club said they plan to keep it that way by hosting a fish fry to get Kirby back on his feet.

"He has a very solid customer base and he actually does have inventory right now that he can turn into cash," Elks member Lori Illner-Greene said.

The inventory was a stand alone freezer full of fish…the sole survivor of the fire.

"To be able to use this fish to do our benefit is wonderful," Marsden said. Like Lori said out of the fire into the fryer".

Kirby said after the fire he struggled with what to do next.

"I'm thinking, 'I'm 64, do I want to rebuild, what do I want to do?'" he said.

But he said thanks to the outpouring of support, the way forward is clear

"I wasn't ready to retire anyhow and I'm already missing my customers," Marsden said. "Anyone that was a customer of ours knows that when you came we liked to have a good time and it was like family."

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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