Elizabeth Loraine Kolodzik Wohlers Bero

A month and a half ago, my mother, sister and I visited my Grandma and Grandpa at their retirement home.  While walking down the halls of her wing, we noticed that each resident had a one page story next to their room that told of their life experiences and how they ended up at the Touchmark Senior Living Center.  There was something strange when we got to my Grandma’s room however.  She did not have a story to share…

So that day, we interviewed her and began writing the story of her life, condensed into one page, and in a little over a week, she had a story to share at the Touchmark.  Unfortunately, a few weeks later, she was diagnosed with dementia, and for medical reasons was transferred to the hospital.  Although she can no longer live at the Touchmark due to her condition, her story lives on, and I am grateful we were able to share it before she had to leave.

This is her story.

***

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It was the last thing Betty had expected on what would’ve been an ordinary day in Oshkosh Wisconsin, the town where she was born on May 13th, 1929, but for the strange man that had showed up on her doorstep. “Hello, my name is Hubert Wohlers, and I’d like to see Betty,” he said to her father, with hopes to meet who was said to be the biggest babe west of Lake Winnebago.  Much to her father’s reluctance, he called for his daughter.  As she approached the door, Hubert realized the rumors had held true.  Betty wasn’t sure what it was about the strange man that drew her attention: his bold approach, his courage, or perhaps his good looks?  Soon however, the man would no longer become so strange to Elizabeth Loraine Kolodzik, and on June 11th, 1949, Hubert Wohlers would take her hand in marriage.

 

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Through the values of love and hard work, the two built a house, life and family in Neenah, Wisconsin, together raising four children, Kathy, Mike, Debbie, and Mark.  Betty’s knack for socialization served her well as a cashier for National Foods and with friends while participating in some of her favorite activities, including bowling, volleyball, and golf.  Hubert worked as a head oiler for Kimberly Clark, using his skills as a craftsman to build a cabin in Boulder Lake of which they frequented and eventually another home for him and Betty in Freemont, Wisconsin.

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Grandma and Grandma with their Children

Although the two shared a mostly peaceful and loving life together, tragedy struck when Hubert passed away from a sudden heart attack in 1991.  Betty, and her family were devastated by Hubert’s death that seemed to be undeserving and much too soon.  Though she would always keep the bold stranger who swept her off her feet in her heart, another blessing was just around the corner…

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“Does anybody know Betty Wohlers,” Bill Bero bellowed across the room, followed by an eruption of laughter inside the Weymont Run Country Club on a bright Spring day in 1992.  Though a bit embarrassed by such a boisterous voice calling for her, Betty humored Bill with a round of golf (of which Bill admitted Betty was better).  One round turned to several more, and over time, Betty couldn’t resist Bill’s stunning wit, lighthearted personality, and strikingly handsome features.  In June of 1993, the two joined hands in marriage with a wedding so full of joy that some of her grandchildren dropped to the floor from dancing so hard.

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Let’s cut the cake!

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Kids at the wedding.  Thank you mom for the outfit.  I think I won the lamest dressed award at every major event in my childhood.

Nothing brought more happiness to Betty’s eight grandchildren like a trip to her and Bill’s lake house in Waupaca, Wisconsin.  Through the years, the grandchildren would revel with excitement each time they gathered together with fish fries, pontoon rides, dips in the lake, and long nights spent playing cribbage in their cottage.  As their kiddy cocktails turned into old fashioned’s, they realized the greatest blessing wasn’t a cabin by lake to party and play at, but the family that brought them all together to one of the most wonderful places in the world.

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The grandchildren in the 90’s

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Grandma and the Grandchildren (2011)

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Grandma and Grandpa Bill’s lake

Never shy about expressing her opinion, you can count on Betty to inform her grandchildren of her disapproval, whether it be with bad behavior or a poor choice of an outfit.  And she’ll definitely let them know they aren’t quite as handsome as Aaron Rodgers or her favorite president, John F Kennedy (who in Betty’s words, is a “Hunka-Hunka-Hunk!”).   Though it may be a brash approach, it’s a personality they wouldn’t have any other way.  It’s what they love about her, and why they cherish every chance to visit (and every now and then, even throwing a little tease back her way).

Betty reminds us that sometimes, just the simple act of being yourself can make the greatest, most loving impact on people’s lives.

hip-grandma

 

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