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South County Times | April 24, 2015

The drive to Chicago from St. Louis can be tedious, particularly in those vast expanses of Illinois prairie that seem to go on forever, demanding full attention, but leaving the mind free to roam, worry, dream.

A lot of stuff can go through your head on I-55, and it was on such a drive 11 years ago that Sunset Hills resident Mike Ward, en route to take a test that could change his life, began to sweat.

“I remember having that moment of fear driving to Chicago,” he said. “What if I failed? What would we do? Who was I to think I could even pass the test?”

The “we” was his family; the “test” was to become a certified specialist of wine, and it involved a bit more than filling in dots on an answer sheet with a No. 2 pencil. Ward got over his I-55 anxiety, but drove home afterward thinking he had failed. He had already quit his restaurant job to embark on this new path. What would he do?

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