Turning a family tragedy into a legacy
Herb Ellis and his daughter Alina were a pretty high-profile pair in the educational arena in Washington County.
Herb was a retired teacher in the Hartford School District and Alina ran an extremely popular in-home nanny care business called The Hoot House. It’s the impact they had on families and children that makes their deaths last week even more difficult to swallow.
On March 2, Herb Ellis, 79, and his daughter Alina, 38, died after complications from different forms of influenza. The real anomaly, according to Alina’s older sister Carine Krull, is that Alina and her dad were born on the same date, June 8, and they died on the same day.
“This was absolutely unexpected,” said Krull. “When I talked to them Tuesday night Alina had the flu and dad had a cough. A day later they’re both in heaven; I’m just blown away.”
The family of Herb and Alina Ellis are overwhelmingly touched by the outpouring of support from the community and as they prepare a Saturday service, Krull said they are also working to take a tragic event and turn it into a memorable legacy.
Leaders in education…
During a one-on-one conversation Thursday night Krull described her father as “a teacher at Hartford High School forever.”
“He was very well loved and respected; he was quite the character very dramatic and really good at his job,” she said. Sister Alina was “a nanny who just loved, loved, loved children.” Krull raved about her sister’s in-home nanny care, The Hoot House.
“It just wasn’t like a regular child care. She had full-on lesson plans and on superhero day they had firemen outfits and capes and they’d visit the police department,” she said. “During the letter ‘P’ week they’d stop at Sal’s Pizza and learn how to make pizza and play with the dough.”
Riveredge Nature Center, MOWA, and the West Bend Public Library were some of the normal stomping grounds for the Hoot Nanny and her owlets.
“People who were lucky enough to be part of this program – it’s like the most magical thing in the world,” said Krull.
Keeping the Hoot House memory alive
Krull said Alina and her dad were like “two peas in a pod.”
“We are a very close family,” said Krull. “Dad took care of mom and Alina took care of both of them.”
In an effort to keep Alina’s passion of giving alive, Krull is working to continue her Owls for Owies program.
“Alina’s approach with children was about love and compassion,” she said. “Just the idea of helping others.”
Up to the very end, Krull said Alina helped. “She was able to donate her heart and kidneys to bring a new outlook on life to three individuals,” she said. “The St. Luke’s team worked really hard to make that happen. The staff with the Organ Donor Network was so kind to our family.”
Alina’s favorite program was The Owls for Owies. “Every year she’d collect money and they’d take the stuffed toy owls into the hospital at St. Joe’s and donate them to the sick kids,” Krull said.
In an effort to continue this program and grow Alina’s legacy, Beanie Boo Owls or funds to help the program are being collected. Questions can be addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
A memorial service in honor of Alina and Herb will be held Saturday, March 11 at 2:30 p.m. at Immanuel United Church of Christ, 501 Walnut St., West Bend. The family will greet relatives and friends at the church on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until the time of service.
Former Gehl property is a hot-ticket item
On March 20 city officials in West Bend will be reviewing a couple development proposals regarding the former Gehl Co. parcel on East Water Street.
The city acquired the Gehl property in 2005 and the mayor said cleanup should be completed in 2017. The property is designated mixed use and the 8 acres on East Water Street and South Forest Avenue could become multi-family housing or commercial space. Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said development on a small grassy field north of Dublins is also in the mix.
Shepherd Centre I is sold on W. Washington Street
Steve Kearns has sold Shepherd Centre I, 3700 W. Washington St. in West Bend to Joe Valind, the owner of Auto Safety Center. Valind purchased the property for $1.4 million. “We’ve been here since January 2013 and we closed on the purchase on Feb. 24,” said Valind. “I really like West Bend; I was born and raised here (1996 WBE) and it’s always been a goal to own a location.”
On a history note: Auto Safety Center dates to 1965 when it was on N. Main Street between the old Habitat Restore/St. Vincent de Paul and the Mexican Grocery. The shop was owned by Ralph Schmidt and he called it the Schmidt Safety Center.
Roger Berth purchased the business in 1983 and coined it Auto Safety Center. Valind bought the business in 2005; he moved it to the Shepherd Centre in 2013. Some of the other businesses in the strip mall include Miller Monument, Hertz Rent a Car, Signature Studios and West Bend Optical.
Pizza Ranch easement approved – construction expected to start shortly
During this week’s West Bend Plan Commission meeting a green light was given to a new easement for Pizza Ranch. The driveway on the south end of the property was moved to the west. Stacy and Matt Gehring are expected to close on the purchase of the property on W. Washington Street in the coming weeks. The builder expects construction to get underway shortly with the restaurant open later this summer.
The Plan Commission also quickly approved a new oversized LED monument sign for Hawthorn Drive at Sixth Avenue. The LED sign is 40.7 square feet and one of the stipulations is the sign will have an automatic dimming effect to reduce glare at night.
Finally, traffic will be rerouted starting Monday, March 13 as underground utilities will be installed between Franklin Place and Rusco Drive; work will run until the beginning of April. Rusco Drive will be closed to through traffic periodically during construction.
Memorial service for former WB Police Chief Jim Skidmore
A memorial service is Saturday, March 11 for former West Bend Police Chief Jim Skidmore. The service will be at 1 p.m. at Calvary Assembly of God on Decorah Road. Skidmore died Saturday, Feb. 25 in Florida. He was 79. Skidmore was hired as police chief in West Bend, Sept. 1, 1978 and retired Dec. 31, 1993. Skidmore retired to Florida with his wife and his family said he suffered a stroke a number of years ago and then his health declined recently before his death.
7 year old from McLane Elementary awarded Legislative Citation
A big day at McLane Elementary in West Bend as local lawmakers Rep. Bob Gannon and state Senator Duey Stroebel presented 7-year-old Serenity Sunde with a Legislative Citation for her work to help save a building from fire. Sunde’s story was first reported at WashingtonCountyInsider.com
She was in the car with her uncle when she spotted red flames atop Badger Car Wash on W. Washington Street. Sunde encouraged her uncle to check it out and he helped put out the fire. The entire second-grade class at McLane watched Friday afternoon as Sunde was presented with the citation.
“This just shows how important you are to everything that goes on in this world,” said Stroebel.
Rep. Gannon said because of encouraging actions like Serenity’s our future is in good hands. “It was a pleasure to visit Serenity’s class and award this commendation,” said Gannon. “The whole class was reminded that we all need to look out for others and to be helpful whenever possible.”
Padway’s on Big Cedar Lake is open for business
Padway’s on Big Cedar Lake is open for business. “We’re enjoying a booming business,” said owner Joe Weinshel. During a Saturday afternoon conversation Weinshel stood at the end of the bar and looked out at the view over Big Cedar Lake. “In the last two and a half years we’ve come a long way,” he said. “I’m proud of our staff, the quality of our food and the enjoyment of our customer base that has grown with us.”
A couple weeks ago a real estate listing featured photos of Padway’s restaurant and the interior. Information was misinterpreted.
It’ll be three years this August when Weinshel closed on the purchase of the old Wegner’s Cedar Lake Inn. He was a young pup of 66. Weinshel changed the name of the business to Padway’s on Big Cedar Lake. “Padway was my mom’s maiden name,” he said. The goal at the time was to bring the restaurant back to an era of excellent food with a menu that screamed “American supper club.”
Mission accomplished, according to Weinshel. We’ve done an excellent job of balancing a true “American Style” supper club feel with unparalleled quality of food with a fun & lively atmosphere. From the weekly live music, to patio dining over the lake to drinks at the tiki bar, our guests absolutely love it.
General Manager Amy Bellehumeur and Exec. Chef Tomas Dodge are gearing up for the busy season with new menu items, Easter brunch, Mother’s Day brunch and Outdoor Patio Dining. The famous Tiki Bar will open in May.
Aiden Abbott testifies in Madison on Rare Disease Day
Aiden Abbott is 12 years old and a sixth grader at Slinger Middle School. Abbott suffers from a rare disease and recently went to the State Capitol in Madison to talk to lawmakers about dental care and health insurance coverage. Abbott penned this story for WashingtonCountyInsider.com
On Monday, Feb. 27 my family and I went to the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin to attend Rare Disease Day 2017. We were there to advocate for the Ectodermal Dysplasia community and families with other rare diseases. Many families from the rare disease community, representatives and their aids came along too.
I was lucky enough to get a tour of the State Capitol from an aide serving in Senator Duey Stroebel’s office. He let us sit in the chairs on the senate floor and go up to the podium. We also went to Rep. Bob Gannon’s office and my family shared my story with his staff.
I spoke to a group of legislators, families who have rare diseases, and medical professionals about the difficulties of living with a rare disease, and the troubles getting my dad’s health insurance to pay for my teeth.
We also spent a lot of time talking with Senator Tammy Baldwin’s aide… describing my health problems. Me and my family suggested a federal law should be created mandating health coverage to include dental coverage for all health insurance plans when it is a result of a congenital anomaly. I am hoping that sharing my story will help all families that struggle with insurance coverage and that will change soon. Rare Disease Day 2017 was an adventure and fun and meaningful time I will never forget.
Updates & tidbits
–Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has a series of town hall meetings coming up in Washington County. On Saturday, March 11 the Congressman will be at Germantown Village Hall at 9 a.m. Sensenbrenner will be at Hartford City Hall on Sunday, March 12 at 1 p.m., West Bend City Hall on Saturday, March 18 at 9 a.m. and Richfield Village Hall on Sunday, March 19 at 1 p.m.
–The Kettle Moraine YMCA Dynamites Gymnastics team is hosting the state meet in West Bend this weekend, March 11 and 12. This is an annual event that rotates between all of the Wisconsin YMCAs that have a competitive gymnastics team.
– Crimson Cowl Comics and Collectibles is opening today at1749 Barton Avenue next to Revive Salon Studios. David Gloyd, Curt Schoob and some of their muscular cohorts (friends… not superheroes – at least not that they know) helped heft boxes full of thousands of comics last Sunday. “We’re excited to be joining the Barton business community,” said Gloyd.
– Paul Backhaus was presented the 2016 Slinger Firefighter of the Year Award at the Slinger Firefighter annual banquet. Backhaus joined the Slinger F.D. in March 2014. He is currently a firefighter with designations of motor pump operator, rapid intervention team.
-Groundbreaking is March 17 for the 911 memorial in Kewaskum.
– The West Bend Korean War Veterans Post 111 will be hosting a brat fry on Friday and Saturday, April 7 and 8 at 1421 W. Washington Street, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Proceeds will go to the Honor Flight Program, The National Flag Day Foundations and other veterans’ programs.
-The city of West Bend will be hosting Loyalty Day in 2017. The event will feature a parade Saturday, April 29. Loyalty Day is observed nationally. All VFW Posts are invited to take part.
-Delta Defense/USCCA has moved into its new headquarters on Freedom Way off Corporate Center Drive in West Bend.
-Signs of a pending remodel can be seen at Pick n’ Save south on S. Main Street in West Bend. Shelves are being emptied and pallets of items are on sale. Watch for the floral department to be moved to the entryway by produce. The remodel is part of the intended restructuring Kroger had in mind following its $866 million acquisition of Roundy’s Supermarkets in Dec. 2015.
-The 30th annual Washington County Breakfast on the Farm is Saturday, June 10 at the Golden ‘E’ Dairy Farm on 8262 Orchard Valley Road, in the Town of Farmington.
-The Kettle Moraine Geological Society (KMGS) is holding its 55th annual show March 11 and 12 at the Washington County Fair Park. The event features club speakers, demonstrators and a variety of displays. For schools, the KMGS is a valuable resource for earth-science curriculum.
-The Washington County Ice Squirt C team has won the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association Squirt 2C State Championship.
Thecla Richter – life of a West Bend nurse during WWI By Lee Krueger
Resident historian Lee Krueger is highlighting his great aunt Thecla Richter, who served as a nurse during WWI. Below are two letters home from Richter dated June 14, 1917 and July 1, 1917.
June 14, 1917
Our trip from England to France was very uneventful. We all expected to be sick because the English Channel is very rough. We were well convoyed by destroyers and also by two dirigibles floating about above us.
We were all taken to our hospital in large buses. Most of the nurses were assigned to huts for sleeping and living quarters. A few had to go in tents because there were not enough huts. I feel quite fortunate because I am in a hut. The rooms are absolutely bare with the exception of a board bunk but that has been replaced by very comfortable cots. We brought some material from London and now are busy covering boxes for tables and putting up shelves. I also brought two pillows and have our steamer rugs on our cots. Now our room looks real homelike.
July 1, 1917
…. The hospital which we have charge of can take care of 2000 patients. All patients are in tents with the exception of the most serious cases which we keep in huts. We have three huts of 30 beds each.
It is the saddest place to go into these huts and see all these strong men wounded so seriously that they cannot get well, or crippled, but this is war. At present we have a few American soldiers in our hospital but the majority are Scotch, Australian, New Zealanders, etc. I am not having the luxuries I had been having in Evanston but really I am happier and feel as though life were worth more.
Our unit is invited over to another American hospital (a Boston unit) for tea on the 4th of July. There are four hospitals right around us so even though we are in the country, we are never alone. The Y.M.C.A. is quite popular here. They give concerts of some kind or other almost every night. We always go. They are given mainly for officers and nurses. Occasionally they give some out door concerts which are attended by everybody.
If you send any food, pack it in tin boxes and sew a piece of muslin around it. Write address on the muslin and also on paper which is on the outside. Thecla No. 18 General Hospital British Expeditionary Force France