The legacy left by Steven Haynes


A city councilman, manager of various Krogers, a mayoral candidate and a father are just a few things Steven Haynes was in the Carbondale community.

Steven Haynes died of a combination of illnesses on July 25 of this year at the age of 58.

“There’s a lot of people [who] still don’t know he has passed away and still come to me and give me their condolences because they talk about what a great man he was,” said his wife, Thelma Haynes.


Steven Haynes served on the city council for eight years, was active in the Carbondale chapter of the NAACP and volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club.

Thelma Haynes said her husband started working at Kroger right out of high school and worked there for 38 years.

“Kroger’s was his first home,” Thelma Haynes said. “He would literally work 14 to 16 hours. He worked 38 years until he got sick.”

Thelma Haynes said her husband only ever missed 12 days of work in nearly four decades of working at Kroger because of his devotion to his job.

She said she already had children when they got married, and Steven Haynes took them in as if they were his own.

“Then we had a boy, which is Steven Jr., but he’d never made any difference. He treated them all the same,” Thelma Haynes said. “That’s the type of man he was.”

Steven Haynes never hesitated to step into the father role for her children, and they see him as their own father, she said.


Steven Haynes was also a fixture in the Carbondale community, which always received him positively.

He was sick for more than a year before he died, Thelma Haynes said.

“He got sick seven months after our son died,” Thelma Haynes said. “…I’ve been dealing with Steven and him, but he died on July 23 and Steve got sick February 25 [of last year].”

Thelma Haynes has a background in nursing and noticed something was wrong, which she attributed to fluid building up in his body and took him to the doctor.

“The doctor said straight to the emergency room,” Thelma Haynes. “The doctor asked him when he got there, he said your kidneys have shut down totally on you.”

That was only the start of it. From then on, Steven Haynes was in and out of multiple hospitals from Puducah to Belleville, trying to get the help he needed with none of them able to fully satisfy his needs.

The Kroger in Carbondale has put a memorial up for her husband in the front of the store, but many local residents voiced their concerns on the Facebook group WTF Carbondale about how his memorial was close to the newem. Many said it was disrespectful.

Thelma Haynes heard of the complaints but said she doesn’t mind the set up. 

“Could they [have] did better? Of course, but what people don’t understand is, that was one of my husband’s job titles, hiring and firing,” Thelma Haynes said. “So if they know this, then maybe they won’t feel that way.”

Being able to walk in the store and still see his face shows that they’re still thinking of him, Thelma Haynes said.

“They did make a plaque; [it’s] beautiful,” Haynes said. “I got a picture of a beautiful blue plaque with all the [other] managers behind him.”

Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens had a good friendship with Steven Haynes that started when he was working under him at Kroger.

After leaving high school, he applied for a Kroger management trainee program that would help pay some of his college tuition, Stephens said.

“He (Steven) recommended me for that program and without his recommendation, and telling me about that, you know, I would have certainly had a lot more student loan debt,” Stephens said. “It opened up a lot of doors for me because, at 22 years old, I was assistant manager of various Kroger stores around Southern Illinois.”

After leaving Kroger, Stephens kept in touch with Steven Haynes and helped him with his mayoral campaign in 2011, he said.

“I helped run his campaign and went out and knocked on a lot of doors for it, you know, organized town hall meetings,” Stephens said. “Did all of the things you need to do to try to promote a candidate and so we grew close during that time in particular.”

Stephens said Steven Haynes was unique in the fact that he was a Black republican, in the NAACP and knew how to bring people from different backgrounds together.

“He had a way about him, he could just connect with people from all ends of demographically, politically,” Stephens said. “I never knew anybody that didn’t like him.”

Stephens said he visited Steven Haynes at Carbondale Hospital and in Herrin multiple times while he was sick. Steven Haynes passed away on Stephen’s birthday. He was a good mentor, and Stephens said he misses him a lot.

“He leaves a legacy of service. He leaves a legacy of family. He was a very dedicated family man,” Stephens said. “He believed in hard work and accountability and we need more of that.”

A former colleague from Kroger, Barry Smith, used to have Steven Haynes as an assistant before he became a manager himself.

“He was somebody I counted on and depended on and I always knew I could do that,” Smith said. “He dealt with people fairly and honestly, and, you know, had a good sense of humor. Just an all-around good person and that made him really good at what he did.”

They both started working at a brand new Kroger store in Giant City on Sept. 1, 1999.

“I only stayed a couple of years after that,” Smith said. “Prior to that we worked together at Kroger West probably for a couple of years.”

After leaving Kroger, Smith said, they didn’t really keep in touch much, but he was aware of Steven Haynes community involvement. He found out about his death through Stephens.

“He was just a good man, you know, and we just had a really good relationship and worked well together,” Smith said. “[I] thought a lot of him. I had a lot of respect for him.”

Smith said, even though their paths led them to live apart, he appreciates the memories they had together.

“I think what most people will probably remember about Steven, as someone, was that he was someone with integrity,” Smith said. “He worked really hard to try to make Carbondale a better place, a better place to live for everyone.”