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0849, 13 Feb 16

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

West Bend girl featured in new Children’s Hospital TV ad

A 7-year-old girl from West Bend is featured in a new TV commercial for Children’s Hospital.

Gianna Nevsimal has a winning smile and a story that, according to her dad, has been “stealing the hearts of people for as long as she’s been alive.”

A first grader at Jackson Elementary School, Gianna’s story involves successful prayers for adoption by then Archbishop Timothy Dolan. He described himself in an article in the New York Post as simply a catalyst who connected a “family facing a challenge with another one needing a blessing.”

Turned over at birth in an open adoption to Charles and Deb Nevsimal of West Bend, Gianna who has Down syndrome, needed surgery to close two holes in her heart.

“Her heart was the size of a plum and she went into Children’s Hospital at five-months old and took it like a champ,” Nevsimal said. “The surgery went easier than teething and that’s how great the people are at Children’s.”

Gianna’s surgery was Feb. 12, 2009. “We celebrate that day and call it ‘perfect heart day’ and it’s nice it’s so close to Valentine’s Day,” Nevsimal said.

The timeline that follows the surgery is a strong testimonial to Children’s Hospital. “After just three days she was ready to move out of the ICU and within two more days we were already taking her home – that was just five days after having an 8-hour surgery where they stopped her heart; the people that work at Children’s Hospital… it’s really miraculous.”

The 60-second commercial for Children’s Hospital focuses on how children are ‘like sparks of light and how Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, can be trusted to keep that light shining bright.’

Shot on location in Bay View, Nevsimal and his daughter were on set for about an hour. “We came in and Gianna immediately owned the room,” he said. “They put her in hair and makeup and she was supposed to blow this pinwheel. The light reflected off the pinwheel onto her face and made it beautiful.”

Nevsimal credits Hanson Dodge Creative, the agency that shot the commercial, for bringing it to life. “Gianna was just thrilled,” he said. “She literally lit up when she saw herself on screen.”

On Friday, Gianna and her parents celebrated ‘perfect heart day.’ “We can now share our celebration with the rest of the world through this commercial,” Nevsimal said. “And her scar from the surgery – we call it her beautiful scar because underneath it she knows she has a perfect heart.”  Catch Gianna in the commercial at the 42-second mark.

Primary election is Tuesday, Feb. 16

Clerks in Jackson, Richfield, Hartford, Slinger and the rest of Washington County are preparing for the Feb. 16 primary election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters will need to show photo ID in order to receive a ballot. The General Election is April 5.

Two people file as write-in candidates in Wash. Co.

Two people have filed as write-in candidates for a pair of open seats on the Washington County Board. Denis Kelling has applied as a write in for District 6. That seat had been part of redistricting. It opened after Supervisor Paul Ustruck of Barton filed papers of non-candidacy.

Andy David has taken out papers for District 3. That seat was previously held by Supervisor Ralph Hensel. Each candidate needs at least five write-in votes to secure the seat. The primary election is Feb. 16 and the General Election is April 5.

 Upcycling at the old Schwai’s / Bibinger’s in Cedar Creek

There’s some historic upcycling going on in the Town of Polk as the old floor boards and ceiling joists from Schwai’s in Cedar Creek are being crafted into tables for a new restaurant.

Matt Nierode, 33, is the master carpenter at A.M. Construction on Stonebridge Circle; he has been working on the project the past month.

“The boards were obviously run through a band saw but the ends are all hand hewn,” he said.

The wood harvested from Schwai’s, previously Bibinger’s, dates to 1856.

“You can really see the quality of the hardwood because of how tight this grain is,” Nierode said. “This oak is really, really hard because it didn’t have a lot of moisture.”

The wood is heavy.  When sample chunks are chucked on a nearby table they land with the weight of an anvil. The lumber was harvested from Schwai’s by owner Kevin Zimmer and his wife Amy. The couple, who purchased the property in Cedar Creek in August 2014, has spent the past seven months contracting a major remodel.

The Zimmers added a cathedral ceiling to the second floor and rather than toss the wood they’ve purposely recycled it. “We’re pretty confident this was milled in the 1840s,” said Kevin Zimmer.  “This is the original piece of wood used when Bibinger’s was built in 1856; this wood had to come from Cedar Creek.”

History notes from the Town of Polk indicate a mill was in operation in the mid-1840s as there was a “good water source.”

Nierode said it was an interesting process as some of the hardened nails in the red and white oak have become part of the fabric of the wood. “These nails didn’t come out,” he said.

The square box – hardened nails are the time capsules of the timber. In April 2015, Zimmer discovered a Marie’s salad dressing jar buried in the west wall on the first floor.  That 12-ounce glass jar with a screw-top lid carried a hand-written note from former owner Lu Ann Schwai.

Since then the only secrets have come from dissecting the quality of construction.

“Remember how people said the floor bounced at Schwai’s,” said Zimmer. “This was the flooring structure and this pocketed into another beam; this was part of the floating floor and that was the same as the floating ceiling.”

Zimmer has since reconfigured the second floor. Reinforcements have been added with a strong eye to retaining history and adding art. The new tables are in the middle of a finishing process. Lined up along the wall in a building in the south industrial park in West Bend there’s a strong chemical smell in the air as the finished wood undergoes another coat of sealant.

Each table top is defined by the character of its grain, scratch and paint. It now awaits its next life at an establishment in the cozy nook of Cedar Creek.

Walgreens property sold for $7 million

The Walgreens property, 1921 S. Main Street, in West Bend has been sold for $7 million.

WAG West Bend LLC of New York purchased the parcel south of Paradise Drive from AR Palm LLC, a Florida limited liability company. The purchase, which closed Jan. 26, 2016, included the land and the building.

The property was last assessed at $2.4 million. That’s a far cry from the assessment of $5.52 million in 2012 and $5.7 million in both 2013 and 2014. The reason the assessment was lowered was due to a settlement agreement the city adopted in August 2015 after Walgreens complained the assessments were too high for the stores on S. Main and 1720 W. Washington St.

Walgreens took its assessment disputes as far as the state Supreme Court and won a decision after it complained it was paying more per square foot because of a practice called “triple net leasing.” Walgreens actually won a pair of significant court cases following assessment disputes in Milwaukee and Oshkosh.

Records at City Hall in West Bend show AR Palm purchased the property in 2011 for $5.7 million. Mayor Kraig Sadownikow has flagged local lawmakers about the assessment practice as there’s concern other big box stores could “initiate similar action” and that could be “harmful to local government revenue.”

New signs for Kettlebrook Community Center

Progress is being made as Kettlebrook Church works to move into its new 24,500-square-foot space at the Lawrence and Vivian Stockhausen Center, 2376 W. Washington St.

Last August 8, reporter Judy Steffes broke the story that Kettlebrook Church would lease space from the Threshold, renovate it and move in April 2016. The renovations are underway and this week the new signs for the Kettlebrook Community Center were unveiled. Kettlebrook will be sharing the space with a couple of other non-profits including the Washington County Senior Center.

Construction ahead at Living Word Lutheran in Jackson

A couple of construction projects are on the table for Living Word Lutheran High School in 2016. The gymnasium will be remodeled this spring as light fixtures will be changed out for LED’s, the scoreboards and basketball hoops will be moved to accommodate additional fixed seating the floor will be newly finished.

Living Word has also entered a joint venture with a development group that is building a resident hall that will house up to 20 boarding students at the LW Global Education Building. Applicants are currently being screened to be new students at Living Word H.S.

New tenants move into the former Regal Ware Museum

A couple of local lawyers are taking over the building that was once home to the Regal Ware Museum. New tenants include Amy Salberg with the Salberg Law Firm and Sara Snyder with Snyder Law, LLC. Snyder moved in Feb. 1 and Salberg will follow in May. The red brick building, 18 E. Washington St., was sold in July 2015 to Iron Ridge Properties LLC for $260,000. Signs for the new law firm location were made by Sign Works of Hartford

Listening session with Gov. Walker in Jackson

Gov. Scott Walker hosted a listening session at Jackson Village Hall on Thursday afternoon. About 40 community leaders, business owners and students were in attendance.

West Bend School Superintendent Ted Neitzke brought three of his best and brightest students  including Alaina Michels, a 17-year-old junior at West Bend East High School, said there were a lot of ideas presented at the session and it will be up to the people that were there to get the job done.   “It’s important we spread this information throughout the community,” said Michels. “We can take action within school and through adults that are active in the community.”

Andrew Steiner, 18, from West Bend East High School said there were a lot of ideas exchanged at the session but he was optimistic advancement in the state is possible. “A big part of what we talked about was communication and collaboration and if we continue things like this the sky is the limit,” he said.

The governor’s visit was part of the Working for Wisconsin: 2020 Vision Project. The session was a unique opportunity for neighbors to voice their thoughts on economic development priorities directly to the Governor.

Some of the business leaders in attendance included real estate agent Scott Stortz, Doug Gonring from the West Bend Elevator, and Katherine Gehl, who sits on the Board of Directors of Gehl Foods. “This is a great process to be going through for the governor and his staff and thinking about the type of leadership you want to provide,” Gehl said.

During the 1.5 hour session the governor jotted down notes. He first asked, what made Wisconsin great. The group started slow, throwing out answers like ‘Green Bay Packers and a good parks system and a positive work ethic.

Second, the governor asked what we needed to do in the next 20 years to make Wisconsin better. Suggestions covered a wealth of territory from improving education to affordable housing to being a leader in health care and sustainable agriculture.

“The whole list that was created isn’t doable but there are absolutely things on the list that are doable if we proactively choose them as a state and if we stay focused on those choices over a period of time,” said Gehl.  “The best states will be able to deliver on long-term outcomes. In the short term we need competitiveness with the businesses doing well and growing but we also need employees that are doing well.”

The listening session was intended to ensure the priorities of Washington County businesses were being considered in the shaping of the governor’s strategies

Winners at the Wis. Artists Biennial at MOWA

Top prize winners from the 2016 Wisconsin Artist Biennial held at the Museum of Wisconsin Art included: Best in Show: S.V. Medaris of Mount Horeb for her woodcut on paper Hog Butcher for the World. First Place: Tom Berenz of Milwaukee for his oil, acrylic and enamel on canvas To the West.  Second Place: Meg Mitchell of Madison and her book Rain/fall. Third Place: Bethann Moran of Fort Atkinson and her oil on panel Community Garden, New Years Eve. The Biennial will remain on display through March 27. More info at

Menu released for 21st annual Cabrini Dinner Auction

The 21st annual St. Frances Cabrini School Dinner Auction is set for Saturday, March 5 at the Washington County Fair Park. The theme this year is celebrating “Spring time in Paris.” The menu will feature Salade Champagne with a second course of Beef Tenderloin, Chicken Coq au Vin Blanc, Garlic Truffle Mashed Potatoes and Grilles Asparagus Spears. The Patisserie will feature Vanilla Pot de Creme Brûlée and a duo of French Macaroons. To make a donation or request an invitation contact the school at 334-7142.  Preview the evening at

Updates & tidbits

The Kettle Moraine YMCA’s gymnastics team is hosting a gymnastics meet Feb. 27-28. Nearly 500 gymnasts from throughout Wisconsin will compete in USAG Levels 1 – 9 and xcels. Competitors as young as 5 years old begin at 8 a.m. The event runs throughout the weekend.

-Hartford Union High School senior Amy Holzer has advanced to Finalist standing in the National Merit Scholarship Program competition. Holzer is one of 15,000 Finalists from across the country; only 7,400 Merit Scholarships will be awarded.

– Hartford’s Waste Water Plant is on the cover of this month’s edition of “The Clarifier” the monthly magazine for the Wisconsin Wastewater Operators’ Association. Along with the cover photo, there is an extensive article about how the Hartford plant is dealing with phosphorus removal. Note is courtesy Hartford City Administrator Steve Volkert.

-Kewaskum Middle School presents Peter Pan. Performances at the Kewaskum High School Theater are Friday, Feb. 19 and Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.

– West Bend East High School boys varsity bowling team has advanced to State. The team includes Evan Olivo, Jakub Gavin, Coach Joe Turecek, Devin Gavin, Kenny Costa and Mika Ulrich.

-Slinger High School is cheering its 19 Tommy Award nominations for its November performance of Seussical the Musical. The Tommy Awards, named after Wisconsin-born actor Tom Wopat, encourage, recognize, and honor excellence in high school musical theater. The awards will be handed out June 12 at the Overture Center and two outstanding performers will advance to The National High School Musical Theatre Awards competition in New York City.

-Ann Marie Craig, owner of Century Farmhouse Soaps in West Bend, was spotted on WGN TV as she spent the weekend marketing her soaps at the international chocolate festival in Chicago.

Love story brewing in Barton

There’s a unique love story going on in Barton that features a couple from the 1940s who have been hired at a pair of neighboring businesses on Barton Avenue.

Hank, a veteran of WWII, has returned from service and picked up a job at Wisconsin House Woodworks as a cabinet maker. Essie has grown up in Barton with its small mom-and-pop shops, grottos and the peal of the church bell at St. Mary’s Parish. Essie got a job out of high school working at Over The Moon as a sales clerk and window dresser.

Essie and Hank meet daily on their walk to work. Hank mentions to his boss Jeff that he’s been carrying a torch for Essie for quite a while. “What in tarnation, don’t be a dummy, go ask her out,” said Jeff.  Hank works up the courage to ask Essie on a date for Valentine’s Day. We have a call out to Sandy’s Diner in Barton to get the scoop.





0849, 13 February 2016


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