September 29, 2016Despite pleas by city employees to wait another year, the Lake Geneva City Council took a first step toward having them share the cost of health insurance.
On Monday, the council voted 4-3 with one absent to approve a $130-a-month charge on employees with working spouses on the city family health plan. Voting for the charge were Aldermen Chris Gelting, Rich Hedlund, Doug Skates and Ted Horne. Alderwomen Elizabeth Chappell and Cindy Flower and Alderman Ken Howell voted against.
Alderman Bob Kordus was absent.
For the monthly $130 charge to be levied, the working spouse would have to have a health insurance option at his or her place of employment.
Still up in the air is a proposal to require employees on the family health plan to pay $214 a month toward insurance as well.
Gelting tried to cut the monthly charge by two-thirds but was told by the city attorney that the agenda item was written in such a way that it could only be voted either up or down.
Chappell proposed that the agenda item be rewritten for the next council meeting so it can be amended if the council so wishes. She also proposed a listening session where employees could tell the council what they want to do to keep health insurance affordable.
During public comment at the start of the meeting, Jeff Nethery, a Lake Geneva police officer and president of the police union, told the city council during public comment that city employees did all they could to cut the city's health insurance costs by participating in a health assurance program and doing cost comparisons.
At the previous council meeting, Nethery said that the annual cost savings from the city's 75 or so covered employees have come to about $230,175 a year.
"You asked us to save and we saved a lot … now you say it was not enough," Nethery said on Monday.
Jo Busch, who works in the city utility building, pointed out that the health assurance plan, called Health Check 360, was implemented only in 2014. There hasn't been enough time to make it work, she said. Under the plan, the employees are held to wellness standards. Those who don't meet the standards go through a 12-week reporting program intended to improve diet and exercise. Those who opt out of the program pay an additional $131 a month for health insurance.
She said that the city has doubled the insurance deductibles and increased co-pays, in some cases as much as 500 percent.
Brenda Barton, a police department dispatcher, said that over the years the relationship has always been the employees holding down costs and giving back to the city.
There has not been one discussion by the city council on how to give back to employees, she said.
"It's all about taking away," she said. "And it hurts."
Lake Geneva has a self-funded insurance program. Up until now, employees did not directly pay premiums.
The city's health insurance covers all full-time employees without exception.
Lake Geneva recently adopted a compensation plan that adjusted employees' pay scale down 4 percent to account for employees not directly paying a share of the health benefit premium.
City Comptroller Peg Pollitt said that the city has seen a significant decrease in health insurance claims.
Nonetheless, city health insurance costs increase annually.
Health insurance costs are putting a squeeze on Lake Geneva, both for the city council and its employees.
Gelting said that the savings by employees was impressive, but there appeared to be little impact on the cost of health insurance.
"We can keep doing that," he said of employee health initiatives. "But what if the costs keep rising?"
Pollitt said that the city budgeted $1.16 million for insurance in 2015, but the final costs of health insurance to the city for that year was $1.67 million, about $500,000 over budget.
However, because city revenues were higher than anticipated, the costs were covered, she said.
Pollitt explained that the city budgets "light" for health insurance, because the costs are unpredictable from year to year. But the city also conservatively estimates income from parking and the Riviera beach because that is also unpredictable. The city's revenues from those sources have been higher than expected the past few years, she said.
Chappell said maybe it's time to get away from self insurance.
Hedlund pointed out that last year, the city sought quotes from insurance companies for health insurance coverage, and found that none were interested in covering the city.
According to Pollitt, the council has until Nov. 1 to decide on how next year's city health insurance is configured, because November is the open enrollment period for city health insurance.
Pollitt also pointed out that the city must have a preliminary budget prepared by Oct. 24....subscribers>>
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Lake Geneva's former public works and utility director reflects on careerSeptember 29, 2016
It’s not often that it takes two to replace one.
But in the case of Dan Winkler, Lake Geneva will hire a separate public works director and utility director.
Winkler retired from city service on Sept. 17. And retirement means just that, he said.
“My intention is to not work,” Winkler said in a recent interview. He said he lost a lot of evenings to meetings and projects that needed late night hours to complete. Now it’s family time, he said.
Winkler said he’s been doing public work for 38 years. His wife, Maureen, formerly a teacher in the Indian Trails School District in Kenosha County, has been retired for four years.
For the past 21 years, Winkler oversaw the operations of the city water and waste water treatment systems as utility director and, for most of that time, as public works director, also oversaw city projects, many of which were financed through the Lake Geneva Tax Increment Finance district.
“Dan was an asset to the city of Lake Geneva,” said Mayor Al Kupsik, who worked with Winkler when he chaired the Lake Geneva Board of Park Commissioners, and then as an alderman serving on both the park board and the City Council’s Public Works Committee.
“None of us are irreplaceable, but it will take two people to replace him.”
Former mayor Jim Connors said he also wished Winkler well.
“Dan has a great depth of knowledge, and worked tirelessly to make Lake Geneva a better community,” Connors said in an email to the Regional News. “I enjoyed working with Dan during my time as mayor. He will be missed at city hall, the street department and the utility.”
Winkler said that when he was hired during the second year of Mayor Jane Brandley’s administration, he was told “make the transformation of the downtown a reality.”
In 1996, the downtown was rundown. It had overhead power and telephone lines and streetlights right out of downtown Chicago streetscape.
The city council created a Tax Increment Finance district and wanted to transform the lakefront, Winkler said.
Prior to Lake Geneva, Winkler had worked as assistant city engineer in Champaign, Illinois, then as assistant public works director and park superintendent in Kenosha.
Winkler said when he came to Lake Geneva, he was hired as both the director of the public works and of the water utility. He said coming to Lake Geneva gave him a chance to grow professionally.
He was no stranger here. A Kenosha native, Winkler said he often visited Lake Geneva. “I like the community. I spent time here as a youth,” he said.
Chuck Platts was mayor after Brandley. Winkler said Platts told him he’d have two years to get everything done. Winkler said he didn’t realize how true Platts’ timeline was.
Two years later, Winkler faced a city council with an entirely different agenda.
“You had a group of five on the council who didn’t want change,” Winkler said.
And relations with the new mayor, Spyro Condos, weren’t good, either.
Condos was at occasional loggerheads with Winkler and former city administrator Jim Stadler.
The disputes were a matter of belief, Winkler said. “He didn’t believe Jim Stadler and he didn’t believe me,” he said of Condos.
Condos said his differences with Winkler were not over the job he was doing.
“It had nothing to do with his work,” Condos said in a telephone interview. “He had a lot of great ideas.”
But Condos said he and Winkler parted ways over control of the waste water treatment plant. Condos said he wanted the city council to retain control.
The sewer fund had a $3 million surplus and a study showed that the city’s sewer rates were too high, Condos said. He said he wanted to give a tax credit to residents.
And, with the city in control of sewerage, it can control development, he said.
“Dan did an excellent job. I wish him well,” Condos said.
In 2000, the city council did not want to pick up his pending four-year contract for public works director. Winkler said he submitted his resignation and considered moving on elsewhere. But the water utility commission wanted Winkler to stay on and renewed his contract as utility director.
After Charlie Rude became mayor in 2001, Winkler was rehired as public works director, although his salary was paid entirely through the utility commission.
And in 2002, the city council turned the city sewerage and waste water treatment plant over to the utility commission.
Once Winkler and the utility commission took over the waste water plant, outdated machinery was replaced and it changed how it handled sewage.
Lake Geneva uses a land application process to treat its sewage, applying the waste as fertilizer on farm fields it has under contract.
Winkler oversaw a switch from applying liquid sludge to farm fields, to a moist cake that could be spread like manure. The cake is less expensive to transport and apply, he said.
He said the sewer utility fund carried a $2.5 million fund balance until this past year when the utility expanded its sludge storage.
As public works director, Winkler and City Administrator Dennis Jordan coordinated efforts to get TIF projects done.
“Dennis took the lead for getting projects funded and then I’d be handed the ball and I’d do them,” Winkler said of TIF.
“Everything built in the last 21 years, I had a hand in,” he said.
As a professional engineer, Winkler could design projects. He said he reviewed about 40 projects done the past 20 years in which he did the designs, and estimated he saved the city $1.5 million to $2 million in consultant fees.
September 29, 2016When the Lake Geneva Tax Increment Finance district closed in May, it released more than $8.6 million in TIF tax funds to area taxing bodies' budgets.
All of the taxing bodies except Walworth County took advances from the released money. A final release of funds is expected for December.
So where will the money go? What will it pay for?
In addition to the county, the Lake Geneva elementary and Badger school districts, Gateway Technical College and the city of Lake Geneva are all in line for a share of the TIF funds, based on what percent their tax rates would collect from the area that was once in the TIF district.
City Administrator Blaine Oborn has suggested that the city's share be used to cut what the city needs to borrow and keep city property taxes from increasing over time.
All told, Lake Geneva is looking at a windfall of more than $2 million from the TIF closure, Oborn said.
A total of $1.479 million came to the city in advance payments and another $640,000 is expected from the final increment collection.
And all of that is earmarked for the city's equipment and vehicle replacement fund.
The city has been putting $130,000 a year from its levy into the equipment replacement fund, but that isn't enough, Oborn said.
Every year, the city borrows about $500,000 for the replacement fund.
And every year, the city sets aside about $1 million from its levy for debt retirement, Oborn said.
Putting TIF money into the replacement fund will end the city's need to borrow, Oborn said.
The other taxing bodies aren't so certain about how they will use the money.
James Gottinger, superintendent of Lake Geneva schools, said the two school boards are now assessing the needs for the funds.
"We'll take a look down the road," Gottinger said.
Warren Flitcroft, the districts' director of business services, said the school boards are in no hurry to find a use for the funds.
"I think at this point we're going to take a slow approach," he said.
The goal is to not use the money for recurring expenses, but instead for unexpected or special needs, he said....subscribers>>
September 29, 2016Badger High School staff are mourning a death in the family.
Robert J. "Bob" Kopydlowski, 50, former Badger principal, died Saturday at his home in Wales, leaving his "family" at Badger High School bereft.
Since 1989, Kopydlowski taught American history, coached boys and girls basketball and girls softball at Badger, and then, eight years ago, was hired as Badger principal.
Friends and co-workers poured out their feelings on Monday at the loss they felt with his passing.
They described "Bob" as a fisherman, golfer, basketball fan, lover of American history and an avid Packers fan.
He was a passionate teacher who loved his job. They also described him as a leader who could talk as easily to students as he did to staff.
Jim Gottinger, superintendent of Lake Geneva schools, said Kopydlowski "emerged as a leader" when the high school district was looking for a new principal.
"He wasn't certified, but we appointed him anyway with time to earn certification," Gottinger said.
"I could make the case it was one of the better decisions I've made," Gottinger said of Kopydlowski's promotion to principal. "He will be sorely missed by the Badger community."
"He was a great student advocate and educator," said Patrick Sherman who is president of the Badger High School Board.
Taught AP course
Sherman said that before becoming principal, his two sons had Kopydlowski as a teacher. He taught an AP course in American history and literature that one of Sherman's sons took.
It must have made an impression. Sherman said that son, Jacob, holds a master's degree in history and works for the University of Texas, San Antonio.
"He was always calm and collected," said Sherman, who counted Kopydlowski as a friend. "He always had a smile on his face."
Kopydlowski was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2014. He left Badger for treatment, but returned for the 2015-16 school year.
Sherman said his friend had one more task to complete. He was principal when his younger son, Tyler, a transfer student at Badger, crossed the stage to accept his diploma.
Following that, Kopydlowski took long-term disability and left Badger for the last time.
"He fought a very courageous battle," said Sherman. "It does hurt,' he added.
Assistant Principal Mike Giovingo was a close friend. The two taught American history at Badger.
Giovingo said he and Kopydlowski shared some passions, American history, basketball and a love of teaching.
Football, not so much. Giovingo is a Bears fan.
But when Giovingo was the boys basketball coach, Kopydlowski was his assistant.
In a turnaround, when Kopydlowski was named principal, he said "you're coming, too," Giovingo said. Giovingo said he started to protest, but Kopydlowski told him, "I was assistant when you were coach, and now you're going to be my assistant."
September 29, 2016It's not every day one sees a pink fire truck.
But there it was, parked on the Library Park side of Main Street on Saturday morning, being admired and photographed for those who were gathering for the annual Hope Walk along the Lake Shore Path from Lake Geneva to Williams Bay.
Clearly, it was a fire truck, but its mission of mercy has changed.
Once a piece of apparatus with the Tyler, Texas, Fire Department, the vehicle was purchased by the national Pink Heals organization and painted pink.
The former emergency vehicle was dedicated to Tonya Malcolm, a cancer victim. Now, the truck is also called Tonya.
Written all over its pink sides are the names of cancer victims, cancer survivors and those who are receiving treatment for cancer.
Cancer survivor Rich Lartz, who is also president of Pink Heals of Lake Country of west Waukesha County, said the group bought the truck in 2013.
Neshota is the fire truck's new Wisconsin home, he said.
Pink Heals is a national organization with 150 chapters, Lartz said.
Lartz said this was the truck's first visit to Lake Geneva. It was in Williams Bay this spring for the Lombardi Walk, sponsored by Aurora Health Care.
Dave Godgluck (pronounced "good luck") was wearing pink firefighters gear to go with the fire truck.
Godgluck said that the turnout gear is made by one of the same companies that makes turnout gear for professional firefighters. The only difference is this gear is pink.
Pink Heals does a number of services for those who are fighting cancer.
Lartz said that in one instance, with the cooperation of the local police and fire departments and a patient's family, the pink truck came up to a woman's home with sirens wailing and lights flashing.
When the surprised woman came to see what was happening, the Pink Heals crew jumped out with a bouquet of flowers and special get well wishes for the woman.
Wendy Nowak, who works in the Lake Geneva utility department, said she saw the pink fire truck several years ago parked on the street in a community she was driving through. She doesn't remember where she saw it, but she made inquiries about the apparatus and Aurora Health Care tracked down the owners. She said she contacted the Lake Country Pink Heals and asked for Tonya's presence at this Hope Walk.
Nowak and Rosemary Gardner, who works at Lakeland School, were among the original organizers of the walk.
Nowak said that about nine years ago, a woman in her book club was diagnosed with cancer. She said the group had wanted to walk in a fundraiser in Chicago on her behalf, but they learned that to enter, they would each have to raise pledges of $1,500.
Nowak said they decided to organize their own walk here in Lake Geneva.
Gardner said she wasn't in the bookclub, but a friend referred her to Nowak because Gardner at that time was fighting breast cancer.
The walk has been an annual event for nine years now.
About 200 signed up for the Lake Shore Path walk at $35 a person. Walkers could walk six miles to a stop point in Williams Bay where they would be picked up by Hope Walk shuttles, or they could turn around and walk the six miles back to Lake Geneva.
This year proceeds went to the Aurora Health Care Breast Treatment Assistance Program.
The program educates women and defrays medical expenses for uninsured and underinsured women for mammograms.
According to the Hope Walk website, up to this year, Hope Walk has raised more than $98,000 to fight breast cancer.
Gardner said the walk has been a low-key event, with no overhead, no sponsors and no race.
And it's done in honor of friends and family lost to cancer.
The Lake Geneva Youth Camp sold food to help walkers fuel up and Pink Heals sold T-shirts, sweat shirts and other gear.
At the six-mile stop point, Malinda Duester, Ellen Benaim, a friend; Viola McNulty from Aurora Burlington and Michelle Weber of the Aurora Health Care Foundation, were waiting by a balloon-festooned table and banner with protein bars and water to refresh those who made the six-mile trek.
Duester, who is a breast cancer survivor, said her lakeside home, painted pink, in the Cedar Point subdivision of Williams Bay has been in the family for 55 years.
The route through Williams Bay was blocked for the Hope Walk because the TriRock triathlon was going on at the same time.
Deuster said when she heard that the Hope Walk organizers were looking for a stopping place and pickup point for its shuttles, she didn't hesitate to volunteer.
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Walk to End Alzheimer’s brings funds, supportSeptember 22, 2016Even though she is young, Milly Lowell’s life has already been affected by Alzheimer’s.Her maternal grandmother died from the disease and her grandfather suffered from dementia.And this past January, her mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.“It’s always in the back of your mind. It’s hard, it really is,” Lowell said. “ I grew up with it so I know what’s coming, and my mom lived through it with her mom, she was the primary caregiver for her mother, so she knows what’s coming which is immensely difficult.”But just because it is difficult doesn’t mean the Lowell family is giving up.A walk for a causeLast Saturday, members of the Lowell family gathered at Library Park in Lake Geneva to participate in the 10th annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s.The walk, which is put on by the Alzheimer’s Association, raises money to support Alzheimer’s research.According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, Alzheimer’s is not only one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, but it is also the only disease in that top 10 that cannot be cured or slowed down.Tom Hlavacek, the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association, hopes the walk can help change that.He said that the walks, which occur nationally, are the biggest yearly fundraisers for the organization.The proceeds fund research on the disease as well as care and support services, he said.But the walks aren’t just about raising funds.They are also intended to spread awareness of the disease and provide support.“You know, the word I use to describe the walks is relentless,” Hlavacek said. “Everybody that’s involved in this wants to beat this disease once and for all and create a better future for our kids and grandkids. So it’s emotional, there’s no doubt about it, but there is a real spirit at the walk of ‘we’re going to beat this disease.’ So it’s very powerful. There is a lot of support that comes out of the walk. It’s really people who are re-establishing their determination to fight this disease and to remember their loved ones. To remember the ones they’ve lost, to fight for the ones who are still dealing with it, and to fight for the future.”One of the ways this spirit is represented at the walk is through the promise garden ceremony.When they register, participants receive a pinwheel flower and the color of the flower represents their connection to Alzheimer’s.According to Hlavacek, there are four main groups of people these flowers represent.There are participants who are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s, participants who are caregivers for people dealing with Alzheimer’s, participants who have lost someone due to Alzheimer’s and participants who are advocates for the cause, Hlavacek said.During the opening ceremony, participants were asked to hold up their flowers when their association with the disease was mentioned.From there, the participants chose from one of two walking paths. They could walk through downtown Lake Geneva, which was the more wheelchair accessible route, or they could walk the Lakeshore path route.Once they returned, participants were greeted with a hot dog roast and live entertainment by the band the Petty Thieves.An atmosphere of supportMilly Lowell currently doesn’t live in the area.She came into town for the walk, and her father is her mother’s primary caregiver.But as her mother’s Alzheimer’s progresses, she said she may end up taking on a larger role in her mother’s care.But the atmosphere of the walk served as a reminder that regardless of what the future may hold, she will not be alone.“You definitely see a lot of support even if people don’t know anyone with Alzheimer’s,” Lowell said. “They’re here, too, which is huge.”
Visit Lake Geneva announces winners of Impact AwardsSeptember 22, 2016
VISIT Lake Geneva announced the recipients of the 2016 Impact Awards which will be presented at its Annual Dinner held on Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Hawk’s View Golf Course.
A record number of nominations were received for the three award categories of Community Betterment, Hospitality and the Stu Herzog Outstanding Citizen. These awards have been presented annually since 1974 by the Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce, now doing business as VISIT Lake Geneva. In recognition of the tremendous impact the recipients of these awards have had on the Lake Geneva area over the last 40-plus years, the individual awards are now being grouped together as the Impact Awards.
Anyone interested in attending the annual dinner to support an award recipient can register at www.visitlakegeneva.com/annualdinner2016 by Monday, Sept. 26.
Join the VISIT Lake Geneva Board of Directors in congratulating these deserving Impact Award recipients:
Community Betterment Award: Presented to a business, organization or entity which has made significant contributions to the area’s quality of life.
Side by Side — in response to the needs of the community, Side by Side was established in 2006 to help residents in need of compassion, hope, community resources and financial assistance. This volunteer-driven organization works with local food pantries, clothes closets, welfare services, free clinics and other charities to stand side by side with those in need. A decade later, this nonprofit organization has made a difference for hundreds of individuals and families by helping, in a time of need, to step back from the edge of poverty, hunger and homelessness.
Hospitality Award: Presented to an individual, organization or business which has had a positive influence on tourism in the Lake Geneva area.
Ridge Hotel — Demonstrating vision and leadership, Paloma Resort Properties created a new lodging experience in Lake Geneva with the reinvention of the Geneva Ridge Resort as The Ridge Hotel. Representing a multi-million-dollar transformation, the guest experience now benefits from the latest technology and a contemporary upscale design that previously was not available in our market. Rebranding the property has expanded the guest demographics to include millennials and young professionals which benefits the entire area and helps establish Lake Geneva as a business and vacation destination for yet another generation.
Stu Herzog Outstanding Citizen Award: Honoring individuals who have made the Lake Geneva area a better place and best exemplifies the role of a good community citizen.
Jim Connors — serving the city of Lake Geneva as mayor from 2010 through 2016, Connors championed the merits of building consensus, encouraging different perspectives to be heard to ensure that city officials were making good, solid decisions. He understood the role the business community has in the health of the area and was an advocate for economic development, a thriving downtown and the importance of the tourism industry. Campaigning on a platform of integrity and honesty, Connors served three terms, delivering on his promise of ethical government and fiscal responsibility.
Eastview students learn flag etiquette from employeeSeptember 22, 2016
The stars should almost always be on top.
That’s the first rule of the flag.
Only in the case of an extreme emergency should the blue field and stars face downward.
And, the flag should never touch the ground.
Those are the rules students learn when raising Old Glory over Eastview School.
This school year, every one of the 300 fourth and fifth grade students at this Lake Geneva school will have an opportunity to raise the flag and get some lessons of flag etiquette from Mary Mock, the school custodian.
It’s not often that school custodians suggest teaching moments.
But Eastview Principal Tami Marten agreed to Mock’s’ suggestion.
Mock, who has been Eastview’s custodian for the past four years, said she wondered why kids aren’t being taught the rules for respecting the flag. She said she also plans to show students how to fold the flag into the triangle.
“It’s a good way to teach citizenship,” Mock said. “I just think it’s something that shouldn’t be lost.”
Mock said she was sensitive to treatment of the flag because her son, Clayton Kelley, has been in the military for 19 years, and has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, every school day at Eastview, two or three students help Mock raise the flag between 8:30 and 8:35 a.m.
On Sept. 15, Ava Cottle and Jessica Gonzalez, students in Matthew Conrardy’s fifth grade, had the honor.
Mock helped the students unfold the flag and then secure it to the halyard.
Eastview’s flag pole uses a crank to lift the flag to the finial.
Ava and Jessica took turns at the crank until the flag was up and unfurled to the wind.
“This is hands on. There’s no better way to learn,” said Martin, who is in her second year as Eastview principal.
Martin said she believes every one of the 300 students in the school will have a hand at raising the flag before the end of the school year, with a few days left over.
She said student council members will then finish the year with morning flag raisings.
Fifth graders are now learning about American history, which includes the “Star Spangled Banner” and the history of our national anthem, Martin said.
Fourth graders are learning Wisconsin history.
This year is a presidential election year and there will be mock elections, Martin said.
“Our students are young enough that they’re still not completely aware of all the issues,” Martin said. But, they’re exposed to the basics of American government, such as the three branches of government and what is meant by representative government.
Character education is a part of citizenship, Martin said.
Students organize for Sock-tober, when they collect socks for the needy. Students also organize a food drive during the school year, and they participate in a Veterans Day program, Martin said.
Mock and Martin said they are working on a schedule to find two students who can consistently attend to lowering the flag sometime between 3 and 3:15 p.m. every school day.
“We have to see who’s available at 3:15,” Martin said. Some students have music classes or other after school activities that would limit their participation in lowering the flag.
“This is a great way to teach responsibility,” Martin said.
Support groups provide help to people in painSeptember 22, 2016According to Dan Derrick from Derrick Funeral Homes in Lake Geneva, an average funeral can cost $7,500. He added that people don’t blink an eye to spend $30,000, $40,000 or more on a wedding.“We’re in the business to help people deal with death and recover from the loss,” said Derrick. “Everybody has to have that closure. They have to grieve.”“Funerals are for the living,” added Guequierre. “Don’t get me wrong, I cry, I have my own emotions. But on the whole, they serve a very positive purpose. A lot of people are so numb. That’s how grief affects us. A lot don’t remember the funeral. It’s after when things remind them.”She remembers her father’s funeral and the many stories told by friends and people in the community. He had been a pharmacist and often had not charged the patients who couldn’t afford to pay for their prescriptions. “I had no idea how many people he had touched.”The process of grieving is different from when Derrick began 50-years-ago.“Everything back then was black, very somber, very heavy,” said Derrick “We’ve come to a new reality. It’s a celebration of a life lived. There are tears, but you’d be surprised at how much laughter there is. That’s where the healing starts.”After the funeral, you must face the voids in your life: the empty bedroom, somber holidays, and the silent phone.People told Seegers after her husband had died that if she needed anything to call them. She said that was one of the worst things for them to say. “I never called anybody. You got to be there, sit with them, bring a meal - really be present to them. Don’t wait for a phone call.”She had one friend help her with a garage sale and moving, while another came over to show her how to do the chores her husband used to manage.While being there for the mourner is crucial for his or her healing, refraining from judging him or her is also important.“Sometimes family members are hard on other family members. ‘We’re dealing with it so pull on your big girl panties and deal with it,’ they might say,” said Guequierre. She urges families and friends to be patient with the griever.“Don’t shoe-horn people into a proscribed way of grieving,” Nevicosi advised. “The big take-home message is that grief is a normal response to loss and people don’t experience grief in these neat orderly stages.” He suggested that friends and families should give the mourner “choices in how they grieve,” but he also warned that protracted grief might indicate a deeper problem that requires professional help.“I have a habit to tell people who are grieving to be kind on themselves,” said Harry Carlsen, a counselor for Aurora at Home. “They ask, ‘did I do something wrong? Was there something more I could have done?’ They beat themselves up. It doesn’t help the journey.”Because most of his clients are on hospice, many family members begin the grieving process while the person is dying. If the diagnosis to death is short, however, the family hasn’t had time to begin the process of grieving.Though all grief is difficult, those coping with a loved one’s suicide seem to struggle the most said Nevicosi.“It shakes families to the core. The normal grief is amplified. They are really feeling stuck wanting to know why. They get stuck on that question, and it keeps people moving forward. When a loved one dies (from an illness or accident) there is an explanation, but with suicide, families are left asking, ‘What did we do wrong? What did we miss?’”Many grievers gradually heal on their own, but some find comfort in support groups. Most new grievers, however, may not be ready until about three or four months after the death of a loved one. “The grief is so raw it’s hard to get into a group. It’s hard to talk. It’s hard to look at others,” said Seeger who has been running her group for over a year.Guequierre, who has facilitated her group for 13 years, said each meeting leaves her uplifted. They use a program called GriefShare (griefshare.org) which has three components — a video, workbook, and discussion. There are 13 sessions, and it’s recommended the mourner go through all of them at least once.“There has to be a lot of trust in a group like this,” Guequierre said. “They don’t even realize what needs to come out of them, just so they know they’re in a very safe place.”Nevicosi said the county doesn’t offer any grief support groups but it will refer people to area groups if they’re contacted. He admitted that not everyone is comfortable contacting the county so he also suggested they seek advice from their primary care physician.Outside of the groups, Carlsen keeps in touch with the family for up to a year, or longer if needed. He’ll contact them about three or four times within the first year of loss.The directors from Derrick Funeral Home also communicate with family members throughout the year, and they offer a memorial service on the first Sunday in December. The family is given a glass angel ornament with the name of the deceased on it. Holidays are tough Derrick said, and this gives them permission to cry. The public may also attend this event.Though grief might be a taboo subject, realizing that you’re not alone may be the first step to healing. Guequierre summed it up best, “Everybody qualifies for some grief work. If you love you’re going to grieve; that’s the cost of loving.”
Lake Geneva rest stop for migrating swiftsSeptember 22, 2016Chimney swifts can be considered the ultimate Lake Geneva snowbirds.Arriving in the Geneva Lake area in early spring, they feed, nest, feed some more, train the kids how to fly and then prepare for their trip back to their winter homes in Bolivia, Chile and Peru.They mate for life.But they are far more interesting than that.Joni Denker of Bird City Janesville was in Lake Geneva on Sept. 14 to make a short presentation about chimney swifts at the Geneva Lake Museum, 255 Mill St.With the summer season over, chimney swifts use the museum’s chimney as a stopping point on their way back to South America.A small group of Lake Geneva residents made it for this year’s Swift Night Out at the museum. After the short presentation by Denker, a group including Mayor Al Kupsik, Alderman Doug Skates and his son, Brody, Sarah McConnell of Lake Geneva, who is on the city’s Avian Committee, and Beverly Leonard, who is interested in filling one of the two vacancies on the five-member committee, went outside to watch the swifts make their way to the museum chimney.When approaching the chimney, the swifts would occasionally just hover and then fly away, but from time to time anywhere from three to five of the birds would dive in.ChatterThe birds will chatter while circling. But if a hawk flies by, they go silent.They also tend to circle in a clockwise spiral, but for reasons unknown, every now and then they will reverse their circling pattern to counter-clockwise.When they land inside the chimney, they cling to the walls, their wings overlapping each other in a communal embrace.Denker kept a quick count of the birds, and estimated 560 swifts came to roost at the museum that evening.Experts know where the chimney swifts migrate to. That would be the upper Amazon River basin. What they do there is unknown.“We don’t know much about their wintering habits,” Denker said.The swift is well-named. It is a nimble flier, catching insects in flight.Its tiny body, curving wings (with a span of about 12 inches) and stiff, shallow wing beats give it a distinctive flight.They are dark gray-brown all over and are slightly paler on the throat.Wide billThey have round heads, short necks, and short, tapered tails. The wide bill is so short that it is hard to see.They often give a high, chattering call while they fly.Chimney swifts fly rapidly with nearly constant wing beats, and often twist from side to side and bank erratically as they chase flying insects.The chimney swift feeds primarily on flying insects. Feeding on the wing, they capture all kinds of flies, beetles, bees, wasps, ants, fleas and, being in Wisconsin, mosquitoes.According to the website allaboutbirds.org, a family of four swifts can eat up to 6,000 fly-sized insects in one day.So mosquitoes beware when chimney swifts are in the air.Unfortunately, Wisconsin never seems to run out of mosquitoes, but the swift population is in decline.Denker said the chimney swift numbers have declined by about 2 percent per year over the past 30 years. Swifts cannot perch, said Denker. They must cling to vertical walls. Before humans came around, swifts nested in hollow trees and shallow caves.But when the settlers arrived they brought chimneys.The swifts have adapted to the human structures, building their nests on the inside of chimneys.It builds a bracket nest of twigs and saliva stuck to the vertical surface inside the chimney. The female usually lays four or five eggs. The young hatch after 19 days and are fledgling fliers about a month later.The good news is that prairie restoration in southeastern Wisconsin is encouraging the return of swifts to feed and nest.Chimney swift nests are about the size of the palm of an adult’s hand, said Denker. And when they nest, they’re not very social. Swifts have only one nest per chimney, she said.Life’s getting hard for nesting chimney swift pairs, however. People are screening or capping their chimneys which limits the number of nesting places for swifts, Denker said.Artificial “chimneys” have been built to encourage swift nesting, but it’s expensive. A properly-built chimney swift nest can cost up to $4,000, she said.The average chimney swift lives 4.6 years.