Boots & Sabers

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Everything but tech support.

0723, 22 Aug 15

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Attending school with a robot at Fair Park Elementary

Little Ari Martin has become a local celebrity. The six year old is preparing to start first grad at Fair Park Elementary and her sidekick this year is a robot.

Ari has a spinal muscular disease. She’s very susceptible to cold-and-flu season which limits her attendance at school. This year she’s going to be able to interact with her class from home by using a high-tech robot that offers a window to her world.

Double is a telepresence robot that works with an iPad.  “I’m going to call it Roboticca,” said Ari. “I think it’s going to be a she and I’m going to dress it like a girl.”

By the way the fashion this fall semester for robots, according to Ari, is green, black and some purple.

Martin’s parents, Cassandra and Keith, said the robot will help Ari maintain more peer-to-peer contact during the school year.

“I can’t tell you how much this means to us,” Cassandra said. “When I heard about it I started crying. It’s so touching there are so many people that think about my daughter.”

Ari normally starts school in September and goes to class three days a week. “In October we pull her out because of cold and flu season,” Cassandra said. “If she gets a cold it’s a week or two hospital stay.”

With the robot, Ari will be able to operate it from home and still be able to do modified activities with her class.

On Thursday, after having her school picture taken, Ari got to meet her robot for the first time.  “That was amazing,” she said. “It can go up and down and I can turn all by myself!”

Special education teacher Becky Sohf helped Ari use a laptop computer to easily maneuver ‘Roboticca’ up and down the hallways. “Stay between the blue lines,” coached Sohf.

In the hallway the robot moved with silence and ease and rolled similar to a Segway. A long stem was centered in the wheel base and at the top of the four-foot stem was a computer screen, similar to an iPad.

The face was Ari, looking into her computer screen from her classroom around the corner.

“It’s amazing she’s going to be able to be a normal kid,” said Cassandra.

The West Bend School District is the only district in the state with a telepresence robot.

Rare tribute for woman’s 75 years with Catholic Financial Life:

Members of Catholic Financial Life, formerly Catholic Family Life Insurance, paid tribute this week to one of their long-time clients. Grace Tennies of the Town of Erin was presented with a gold rosary and statue of the Blessed Mother. “I received the rosary for being with Catholic Financial Life for 50 years,” she said. “The statue of the Blessed Mother was for being part of the organization for 75 years.”

Tennies was 2 years old when her parents took out a life insurance policy in her name. “You will never see someone get this sort of recognition again because young people aren’t investing in life insurance,” said Tennies. There were about 60 people at Sunday’s gathering at Barton Park. Tennies husband, Franklin, also received a gold rosary for his 50 years.

Hunter safety course ends after 30 years

After 30 years the West Bend Hunter Education program is going dark. “We’re not getting any new instructors,” organizer Scott Sager said. “Student enrollment is down and after 30 years we all looked at each other and said that’s it.”

The local Hunter Education program was started by Sager and his dad, Don, in 1985.  The Sager family sponsored the week-long course, which followed standards set by the Wisconsin DNR.

Held twice a year, in March and August, the program included three days in the classroom and one field day at the West Bend Barton Sportsman Club. The goal: learn how to handle and shoot a gun safely.

The courses were hands on. There was a 4-to-1 ratio of students to volunteer instructors and from day one students received training that included identifying parts of a shotgun, instruction on how to safely carry a gun, read a compass, and climb a tree stand.

“The classes used to sell out, but now the numbers are doing this,” said Sager gliding is hand in a downward motion. “They’re enrolling but they’re not showing and the biggest thing is we’re not getting volunteer instructors.”

Sager said it takes 15 instructors a night to teach the class safely. “We needed another 10 to 15 bodies and it’s just not there,” he said comparing it to organizations and events that are meeting the same fate as volunteer numbers drop off.

Today’s environment has changed dramatically, according to Sager when the course kicked off, the numbers were extremely strong. “We had seven instructors and 105 kids in each class,” he said. “The first class we had 23 students and we were recruiting kids and within a year we were teaching 80 to 100 kids.”

Sager recalls one of their initial investments was on a reel-to-reel movie series on hunter safety. “We spent $1,000 when we started,” he said. “We still have the original projector and thank God the light bulb is still working.”

Although the course is ending, Sager said he will be donation some of the equipment back to hunter education groups and the DNR. “The Barton Sportsman’s Club will continue to run its program and there will be other hunter safety courses in the community but the West Bend Hunter Education program will be no more,” he said.

Other organizations that helped fund the program included Whitetails Unlimited Washington County Chapter, Ducks Unlimited Washington County, West Bend Barton Sportsman Club, DF Sager Memorial and other conservation organizations.

Valiant tribute to Sylvin “Syl” Watry

There was a mighty tribute flying over traffic on Highway 33 this week as the West Bend Fire Department raised the American flag on an aerial ladder in honor of Syl Watry. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Watry was one of the first full-time firefighters hired in West Bend. He worked for the West Bend Fire Department and Rescue Squad for 32 years; during that time he was proud to deliver six babies. Watry retired from the Fire Dept. in 1983. Syl Watry died last Thursday. The funeral for Watry, 88, was at the Myrhum-Patten Funeral Home.

Horicon Bank on the grow again

Horicon Bank has opened another branch in Fond du Lac. Baraboo National Bank announced the sale of its Fond du Lac branch, 1207 West Johnson Street, to Horicon Bank. The deal includes the fixed assets and deposits of the branch. Pending regulatory review, the sale should close by the end of this year. According to reports the transaction involves the assumption of about $17 million in deposits. Horicon Bank now has 14 locations including West Bend, Iron Ridge, Mayville, Oshkosh, Beaver Dam, Appleton, Green Lake, Ripon, and Neosho.

Gonring to be inducted into Old Time Ballplayers’ Hall of Fame

Kewaskum’s Doug Gonring received word this week he will be inducted into the Old Time Ballplayers’ Association Hall of Fame. “On behalf of the Old Time Ballplayers’ Association and the Hall of Fame committee, congratulations on being chosen to join the OTBA Hall of Fame for your long and successful baseball career,” wrote Greg Ebbert, executive director of OTBA.

Gonring will be recognized Sept. 2 at Miller Park prior to the start of the Brewers vs. Pittsburgh game. Gonring will be officially honored at the Hall of Fame dinner Nov. 8 at Serb Hall. Next year Gonring’s name will be added to the OTBA HOF plaque permanently displayed at Miller Park down the right field concourse.

Two establishments awarded Class B Combination Liquor Licenses

During Monday night’s West Bend Common Council meeting, alderman voted unanimously to award a pair of non-reserve original Class B Combination Liquor Licenses to Krimmer’s Restaurant, 114 N. Main St., and Maricio’s in Barton, 1726 Barton Avenue. Tochi, the incoming ramen restaurant at 705 Village Green Way, Suite 102, also applied for the non-reserve license. Tochi owner Gregg DesRosier will now apply for a reserve license.

Completing 2,663.5 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail

It was April 6 when Dan Brunner of Kewaskum left to hike 2,663.5 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. The trek from the US/Mexico border to Manning Park in British Columbia, Canada took Brunner 139.9 days. On Thursday he finished his fabulous journey and is now headed home.

Updates & tidbits

-The West Bend Moose Lodge is rolling out the red carpet Thursday, Sept. 10 for Branson Star “Little E.” Radny Pennington, 16, will perform tributes to Elvis. Doors open 4:30 p.m. and the show begins 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 Adults, $5 age 7-15, 6 and under free.

Monday the Kewaskum School Board will vote to approve Scott Stier as the new principal at the high school. Stier will replace Bill Loss who left to become principal at Watertown High School. The West Bend School District notified staff this week that newly appointed assistant principal Stier was leaving to become the new principal at Kewaskum High School. Teacher Ryan Tomczyk will be serving as the interim administrator at the West Bend High Schools.

-Casa Guadalupe, 479 N. Main St. in West Bend, will be getting a facelift on August 31 as volunteers from the Noon Rotary give the exterior of the building a fresh coat of paint.

– The Shoe Dept, 1616 S. Main St. in West Bend, officially opened this week. The store in the Paradise Pavilion is between Maurices and the Hallmark store. It opened in the location formerly home to Westbury Bank. District Manager Dwayne Packard said the Shoe Dept has back-to-school items with great brands and prices. “There are boots, dress shoes, athletic shoes, childrens shoes and great prices,” he said. “We have uniform shoes for kids with black leather and white shoes. You name it, running shoes, basketball shoes, we got it.” The Shoe Dept is open Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 9 a.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

New faculty and staff welcomed at Kettle Moraine Lutheran

Classes get underway Monday at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School. Some of the new faculty and staff include Miss Rebecca Amann who is serving as a teacher in the English department. Amann comes to KML from Christ-St. Peter Lutheran School in Milwaukee where she taught 7th grade. Miss Amann will become Mrs. Meyer after her upcoming October 3 wedding.

Mr. David Kren is KML’s new biology teacher. He previously taught in the science department at Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee.

Mrs. Becky Kemnitz joins KML as the new International Student Program Coordinator after having worked as the church and school secretary at Good Shepherd in West Bend.

Mrs. Wendy Robinson, the previous International Coordinator, now serves as KML’s Marketing Coordinator and Fine Arts Assistant.

The history of Germanfest

This week Germanfest in West Bend will celebrate its 30th anniversary. The fest was established in downtown West Bend in 1986. What follows is a recollection of Germanfest’s first year, written by Suzanne Tennies.

Maxwell Street Days sale in 1986 was a rainout. Herb wanted to do something else to bring people into downtown West Bend. Herb always loved German music. He got an idea to bring in a German band and play in the Main Street. He called City Hall and got an OK for the street to be blocked off. He contacted AlteKamaraden and they agreed to play for four hours on Saturday afternoon, August 30, 1986.

Susie made posters with black lettering and ran off copies. Herb and his kids drove around to the camping sites and anywhere else where he thought someone might see a poster and be interested enough to come down to West Bend that day.

Herb approached the banks and some major businesses in West Bend and asked for contributions to cover the cost of the band. They cooperated and the cost was covered.

Herb rented a yellow-and-white tent. Herb contacted the mayor and asked if he could get the Parks Department to help by bringing picnic tables into the downtown area. He asked WTKM to broadcast the music and they did.

He asked the VFW Club if they wanted to sell food and refreshments and they came down with their wagon. They Jaycees were asked if they wanted to sell beer and they did.

Susie made Herb a pair of lederhosen out of a pair of brown corduroy pants, adding suspenders and trim. Herb borrowed a German hat from his dad. Most of the Tennies Hardware employees dressed in German apparel.

It was a lovely August day and there were many who came to listen to the German music. Some stores, including Tennies True Value Hardware, put out their wares for customers who were milling around in the downtown area.

Herb thought the afternoon was successful and fun. Many people in attendance approached him and told him how much they enjoyed the music and asked if it would be an annual event.

Thus started West Bend Germanfest in the downtown area.

History photo – celebrating Germanfest

Today’s history photo, August 30, 1986, is courtesy Suzanne Tennies. The photo is a street shot of the first Germanfest in downtown West Bend. Germanfest runs Friday, Aug. 28 – 30.



0723, 22 August 2015

1 Comment

  1. Steve Austin

    The Hunter education piece is interesting. I am curious how the State’s hunting culture will hold up in an era where hunting is becoming less relevant and or less PC with the 12-20 year old demographic.

    I do agree with the challenge with volunteers. So many dual working parent or single parent households these days combined with many jobs requiring 24/7 online response. The days of a parent having a weeknight completely free to dedicate to a regular volunteer situation is dwindling. Add in the fact people are now getting their needed social interaction onlne. :)

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