Friday, April 17, 2015

Celebrating Carol

Michael's youngest step-sister, Carol, only a couple years older than him, survived breast cancer some 30 years ago. This time, however, the cancer in her lungs took her life. As you read her obituary you will understand how many people were in her life. She was well loved.

Saturday, April 11th, we made the trip through the big city traffic and arrived on time for the Celebration of Life in Winneconne, Wisconsin.

We even took time on the way to visit the old haunts where Mike and his closest sister had so many adventures together in the summers he spent at his Dad and step-mother Rose's place in Reighmoor, a little neighborhood on Lake Butte des Morts.

The little house as it looks today
Lake Butte des Morts behind
In the photo on the left you can see the roof of the part Milt, Mike's Dad, added onto the back, and in the right side view, there is now a bigger boat house than the one they used as their first store.

Mike has a sweet memory associated with this house. When he was small, Rose, his step-mother, had a surprise for Milt one day when he carried the groceries in--little Mike popped out of one of the boxes.

The older sisters remember that, when they were quite small, Mike followed Carol around wherever she went.
Other memories of summers together in Reighmoor:
Mike recalls her beautiful voice as she sang when he pushed her on the swing.
As youngsters, perhaps pre-adolescent, they would wait for Milt and Rose to fall asleep watching television and then sneak out unnoticed and walk the two and half miles to the sand pits, eating apples they picked along the way. Dad and Rose would still be asleep in their easy chairs when they got back in the wee hours of the morning,

It was all important to revisit those haunts. We had to ask someone in order to locate the large area of sand dunes and water, now overgrown. We were told that when the owner died, the two heirs did not get along, so they divided it by bringing in  truckloads of rocks and dirt to make a road down the middle.

As to be expected the whole area has been built up since those days long ago. This silo may be the oldest structure left standing.

New houses and wildlife--sandhill cranes

Among the first we met at the Celebration were Terry, Mike's older brother, and his wife, Sandy. We are so grateful for the growing closeness over the years. Most of their young lives, the brothers lived with a different parent--Terry with their father in the Omro/Oshkosh area and Mike with their mother in Oak Creek/Milwaukee.

Sandra and Terry Koch
I spent three hours milling about talking to people and trying to get a photo of each group. Well, that was impossible. However, I am grateful for what I gleaned. Hopefully I can remember all the important stories and names to share here.

Carol's three sons: Melly, Ricky, and Dean, as we remember them:

Tammy and Malcolm Davis              Richard Davis (with cousin Kathy)            Vicky and Dean Jenss
Unfortunately, the photo I took of Rick by himself turned out blurry, but this way we get to see Kathy! It was fun to see them enjoying cousin-time, probably a very rare opportunity. Kathy is a microbiologist at a nationally recognized children's hospital in Milwaukee.
From one of the great aunts, I heard this: "Rick raised four boys on his own and did a great job. He said, 'If my mother could do it, I can.'" I was told his growing family, including a grandchild, were all seated at the long table, but time did not allow to meet them individually.

The photo of Dean and Vicky is one I took on our last visit with Carol a couple months ago. They lived with her and were her caretakers till the end. And they were busy hosting the Celebration, maybe that is why I did not find an opportune moment for a together-photo.

Carol's aunts, Rose's three living sisters, were delightful sources of family stories and information.

Loretta, Sandra, Yvonne
Hunting and fishing stories flowed non-stop between brothers Terry and Mike and their cousin Ron Koch, a columnist for Hunting and Fishing Collectibles and author of four books. His faithful readers won't let him retire!

Ronnie and Connie Koch
As I am very interested in the writing and publishing process, I sat down with Connie to hear more. She told about the early days before they had a computer and everything was handwritten. Being a teacher, she was involved in the editing aspect. She would set aside Saturday mornings for the weekly task of gathering, editing, polishing his weeks-worth of stories. His true and humorous tales have hooked many who remain faithful fans. Oh, and he is very well known for his duck decoys.

Another noteworthy grouping: Carol's Walmart friends, where she worked the last 15 years. Patty, her best friend, was the first to introduce herself. All loved Carol. "She kept us together," one said. They arrived early eager to play cards before work and then again during lunch break.

The Walmart Gang
Finally, Rose's daughters, Mike's stepsisters, the three sisters who for years and years worked at the famous discount store on Highway 21--Koch's Sales:

Nancy, Judy, Carol (when?)

Now, the two older sisters remain, both live in Oshkosh.

Judy. . .
Judy and Dave Butt
...and Nancy, the oldest. I was unable to photograph them at the Celebration, however, we were invited to their new home for a short visit before  heading back to Indiana. I apologize for no better photos than what I managed from my spot in the sun porch as we visited and enjoyed one another.

Don and Nancy Rumlow (left)  Don's sisters and granddaughter Alyssa (above right); son Dennis and brother-in-law (below)
Carol's obituary also mentions her love of painting. Here are three that Nan has in her home.

After a full day, remembering Carol and reconnecting with family and friends and meeting many who loved her, we waved goodbye to Rumlow's beautiful home and drove six hours to our own.

Illness, aging, and death--these sobering realities cause us to reflect on how to prepare for when our turn comes and for eternity.

1 comment:

Kimberly Hoyt said...

Beautiful post remembering Carol through those who loved her. Part of the family history that's important to share with the next generation.