The loss of a loved one, at any age is terribly hard, but when the loved one is only 45 years old, it is even harder. My sister-in-law, Rachel (Franklin) Schulenberg was a sweet, kind, and compassionate woman, who was loved by all who knew her. She married my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg on June 12, 2010. Rachel was the love of Ron’s life, and she brought with her the family he didn’t have. Rachel’s daughter, Cassie Iverson had married the week before Rachel and Ron, and she and her husband, Chris would remain in Powell to raise their family, as the children Lucas and Zoey came along. Rachel and her sons, Riley and Tucker, moved to Casper where Ron lived. Rachel and Ron met through her best friend, and his niece, Machelle Moore. It was a match made in Heaven and their wedding was the greatest moment of their lives. Another of the greatest moments of their lives, was when Ron adopted her youngest son, Tucker. The other two children were grown, and Tucker’s dad was unable to be a dad to him, and gave up his rights. Tucker became Tucker Schulenberg, and it was a day of celebration for the whole family.
Rachel was a great mom. She wanted nothing more than to see her kids live out their dreams. She was their biggest cheerleader, and also their greatest comfort. She was there for them, no matter how good things were, or how bad things were. Rachel knew that life happens and everyone makes mistakes, but that never changed the way she felt about the people she loved. She was the kind of person who was there to help them pick up the pieces and make the future better. She was also there to rejoice with them when things were great. Rachel was became a grandmother in 2011 and again in 2015, and those were two of the greatest moments of her life. Her grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey made her life complete. Of course, she always wished they lived a little closer, because she didn’t get to see them as much as she would like, but she saw them as much as she could.
Rachel worked at Walmart for the past year and a half, and she was such a blessing there for coworkers and customers alike. My grandson, Chris Petersen and his fiancée, Karen had the great blessing of seeing her there whenever they shopped for groceries. Rachel was quick to help them with anything they needed, and just to visit with them for a few minutes. She would even step away from her breaks, giving up her breaktime to spend a few minutes with them. It was something that very much endeared Rachel to both of them and to their children. She was their aunt, but she was also their friend. I know many other friends, family members, and customers have the same stories of Rachel’s kindness, helpfulness, and her great smile of greeting.
Rachel was Ron’s other half. She completed him, and gave him the happiest ten years of his entire life. Their marriage on June 12, 2010 filled all of us with gladness, because Ron had found his soulmate…and so had Rachel. They were perfect for each other. Their lives had purpose and most of all love. All too soon, their plans to grow old together were taken from them when Rachel was suddenly taken home to Heaven on January 19, 2021. It was far too soon, as passings are. We will all miss her terribly, and we look forward to seeing her in Heaven when we are reunited there. Rest in peace dear sister. We love and miss you very much.
Of course, they aren’t really angels, but rather they are God’s laborers on earth…the everyday people who find themselves at the right place, at the right time, to save the life of another person. What each contributed was different, but each contribution was vital to the saving of my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s life that October 14, 2018. God tells each of us things we need to know, and if we are listening, we can find ourselves suddenly in the middle of a life or death situation, in which we have the unique ability to do the right things to stave off death for another human being. It is a mind blowing revelation, but it is nevertheless, a reality.
That was the position Bob’s Heaven sent Earthly Angels found themselves in. In an instant, my husband went from loading the groceries in the car and returning the cart to the cart stand, to lying on the ground in the Walmart parking lot, blood running from his head, his skin turning purple, and his eyes open, but not seeing. For all intents and purposes, Bob was dead. But God had a different plan. God’s servant, Sean Pesicka-Taggart saw my husband fall, and immediately rushed to his side, trying to wake him. I was in the car, and heard him speaking, but it didn’t occur to me that he was talking to my husband. A pickup pulled up behind us. In the pickup was Ginger Sims, a nurse working at Wyoming Medical Center at the time. She thought Bob had been hit by a car. She pulled around to park her car and assist, telling her son to press the OnStar and get an ambulance coming. Finally, with things in place to save Bob’s life, a man knocked on my window to ask if I knew “this man.” It finally dawned on me that it was Bob. I believe God intentionally stalled my awareness so I would not be alone with the situation. As I jumped out of the car and saw my husband, I immediately thought I was going to lose him, but then I stubbornly said, “No!!” Then I got down beside him telling him to wake up…”Come on Bob!!” Ginger heard me talking to him and asked if I knew him. Upon finding out he was my husband, she instructed me in rescue breathing. By now she was getting tired, and suddenly, Laura Lance, Sean’s girlfriend, and a transport worker at Wyoming Medical Center said that she knew CPR and so she spelled Ginger. Then, Valya Boycheva, another nurse at Wyoming Medical Center was leaving Walmart, and saw what was happening. She turned around, came back, and also assisted in CPR. Before I knew it, the ambulance summoned by both Ginger’s son and Sean, was there. I remember thinking how amazing it was that all this was taken care of with almost no effort on my part. And the reality is that it was only about five to seven minutes. How could so much activity have been crammed into that tiny sliver of time? Little did I know that there was more. As they were leaving Walmart, Chelsea and Zack Kessler saw what was happening, and began to pray. Chelsea called her dad, Scott Le Page and his wife, Donna, who also prayed. Lori DeSanti was leaving Walmart too, and she began to pray. These people were an extra amazement, because I knew them all, and yet they had no idea who they were praying for, and I had no idea they were praying. God just sent them there to pray, and they obeyed the call. The fire trucks also came to Bob’s assistance, and we knew one of the firefighters, Jerod Levin, because Bob had worked on the fire trucks when he worked for the City of Casper. Jerod took care of me…which I needed very much. He got me into the ambulance, so I could go with Bob, and then he took the time to bring my car to the hospital for me so I would have a way home later.
God’s Earthly Angels. No, they were just people, but God gave them the opportunity to act at a time when their own special skills were desperately needed to save the life of a man most of them didn’t even know. When we think of angels, we think of beings who go to battle for us, when we need them most. That is exactly what these people did, so I guess angels is an appropriate word for them. All is know is that I…we, Bob and I, as well as our families, are forever indebted to these wonderful people who went to battle that day in the Eastside Walmart parking lot in Casper, Wyoming to fight for the life of my precious husband, Bob…and praise God…they won!!
These days, automation is commonplace. We have apps on our phones that can handle our payments at the register, and even let us skip the register and pay as we walk out the door. We have apps for home security, and even to turn things on and off from miles away. All that seems so normal to us these days, but imagine this kind of thing in 1956. I know that it sounds bizarre, but someone did think of a form of automation, even if it would seem primitive these days.
On July 19, 1956, a model named Joan Lockwood selected items from a glass case at a completely automated section of a supermarket at the 30th Annual IGA Food Store Convention at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. She put a large round “key” in a matching slot while she pressed buttons to make her selection. The items she selected were recorded on a tape inside the key. The machine tabulated the amount due on the purchases at the same time. It was just one of the systems that was proposed for supermarkets. The plan was to implement the system in the fall of 1956 in key US cities. The three types of automation would be push-button selection in the store, checking of items on special cards at home or in the store, for electronic delivery by conveyor belt to the counter, and after-hours and Sunday automatic shopping of limited last minute supplies at coin machine units outside stores.
The shopping method that IGA Food Stores envisioned didn’t really seem plausible, and for an entire store, but then these days you can order online and pick up your order at Walmart, or have Target deliver it to you. I’m sure that wasn’t exactly what IGA had in mind with there system, and indeed it wasn’t what came of it at that time, but it did start the ball rolling for a type of shopping that we all take for granted these days…the vending machine. Of course, the vending machine can’t distribute everything, but it has gotten to the point of even being able to distribute foods that must be kept cold. It’s a very different type of vending machine than the old IGA machine, but it is most likely the brainchild of that old IGA system.
Time just seems to fly by after you lose someone. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg has been gone now for two years. Sometimes, I think that our minds blur things, because it’s easier for us to deal with things that way.
My father-in-law was a hard working man, to whom family meant everything. I remember when he found out that he was going to be a grandfather for the first time. It was the next logical step in his life, but to him it almost seemed like he felt like the first person to ever become a grandparent. I can relate to that, because that is almost how I felt when I became a grandmother. I really wish I could take those early days back sometimes, because it is so hard to have people pass away. Time marches on, and the lifetime of one family member begins, while the lifetime of another ends.
My father-in-law was born in Forsyth, Montana, which is a small town between Billings and Miles City. Many of the people who live there come from long standing family lines in the area. Unfortunately for his family, there was not much work there in the 1950s, so the family moved to Wyoming. For me, that was a good thing, because that is the only way I would have met my husband and married into this great family. For my father-in-law, the simple things in life were the best. He didn’t require expensive or fancy things, just the love of his family and the joy of spending time with them.
My father-in-law had one sweetheart…my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg. I truly think he loved her from the time he first met her when he was just four years old and she was two. When they married in June of 1949, he set a goal to take care of her for the rest of her life. Even when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, he patiently cared for her until he could no longer handle it alone. Then, his family stepped in to help him with her care, and to keep them in their home as long as possible. In the end, he would go home before she would, but she continues to believe that she is still taking care of him. Alzheimer’s Disease can be kind in that way. They are gone, but not for the one who has Alzheimer’s Disease. No, for my mother-in-law, he is simply in the garage, or at Walmart, or visiting the neighbors. And maybe it would be nice if we could all think that way. It has been two years since you went home. We love and miss you Dad.
As my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg has grown older, Alzheimer’s Disease has caused her to slip back in time in many ways. Her memories are of things in the distant past, while current events often elude her now. She doesn’t remember the passing of loved ones, and talks of them often, asking us when they will be back. That was hard at first, but we have learned to go along and tell her they are at Walmart or something, because it serves no purpose to tell her they have passed away. That satisfies her until the next time she asks. Nevertheless, our answers to her will always be the same, because for her not so much has changed.
My mother-in-law doesn’t have as many ways to communicate these days. Conversations often come down to simple answers to the questions we ask her. Nevertheless, parts of the funnier side of my mother-in-law have stayed with her. She really never liked having her picture taken, although she didn’t mind it as much as her dad always had. These days though, every time we ask her to smile for the picture, she scrunches up her face. That is also the way she tells people she likes them. The nurses and aids at the nursing home all know that if they get that look, they are one of her favorites. The funniest thing about that is that in looking at some of her baby pictures, I came across a picture of her making a very similar face to that scrunched up smile. So maybe that wasn’t such a new look after all.
She also has a way of playing games with her doctor too…and she has for years. Her doctor, Dr Schoeber has been taking care of her for a very long time. She always loved to tease him some, and since that is a memory that started prior to Alzheimer’s, Disease, it has stayed with her. Every time Dr Schoeber tells her to stick out her tongue and say “Aw”, she sticks it out as if she were mad at him. That always makes him smile, along with telling him that she is doing well, because if she ever did that the right way the first time, he would have to wonder if she was sick.
As she has regressed into her past, my mother-in-law has gone from being a bit more on the serious side, to being very funny. She is a delight to the staff and other visitors at the nursing home, and to her family members. You never know what she might say or do. Her newfound humor is such an awesome thing. And, the funniest thing is that she doesn’t really know that what she said is very funny. But, when she tells the staff that she cooked the dinner, that she went to Walmart and bought all the food, or that they need to shut the blinds because someone might see in and shoot them, they simply can’t help but smile…or even laugh. Then they go on about their day feeling just a little bit brighter, because that is what happens when she says something so off the wall. Today is my mother-in-law’s 84th birthday. Happy birthday Mom!! We love you!!
Life is strange sometimes. It’s pathways intertwine with the lives of different people as the journey takes us to this place and that place along life’s road. I have been amazed at how many times my life has crossed paths with different people who would become a part of my family down the road. Such was the case with my Uncle Jack McDaniels. My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg had done a lot of sewing for Uncle Jack’s mother, and then my father-in-law worked with Uncle Jack at Casper Concrete. In the middle of all this, Uncle Jack married my Aunt Bonnie on February 14, 1959, and became my uncle. Then I married Bob and the circle completed. It was kind of cool to know that our lives were all intertwined that way, because of how much the different people in in that circle have meant to me.
Uncle Jack was most in his element when he was at his place out in the country, along the Platte River. He loved to tinker around in his shop, and then take walks down the lane to get the mail, or just to enjoy nature. I’m sure he spent time fishing down at the river, and watching all the different wildlife that wandered around in the area.
Nevertheless, as with most families, people get busy and we don’t get to see each other as often as we would like. After a while it comes down to a family picnic and a Christmas party…along with occasionally bumping into each other around town. It’s funny how it seems like as we get older, instead of meeting our friends and family at a bar, we meet up at Walmart. At least that is where Bob and I seem to see all of our family and friends. And, that is where we saw Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Jack. It was always a treat to run into them, and get to visit and laugh together. They were always so good together and so much fun. Their love for each other was so obvious. It makes me sad that Uncle Jack is gone from us now. Today would have been Uncle Jack’s 80th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Jack. We love and miss you very much.
As my father-in-law’s life was winding down, we spent a lot of time together. It wasn’t always the perfect moments of his life that we shared, because he was in the hospital off and on during that time. He hated going into the hospital…hated the equipment he had to be hooked up to, food they wanted him to eat, and the constant waiting to get up, because he had to have help, but he liked the nurses and aides, and that made it tolerable, I guess. Nevertheless, he hated to be there, because life just seemed to pass him by when he was in the hospital. Still, since I needed to be there to talk to the doctors, and since I worked nearby, I went up several times a day. I know it meant a lot to him.
When we would first go to the hospital emergency room, my father-in-law would always ask me to take care of his watch and pocket knife. They were so important to him. That almost seems strange, because he normally didn’t have to be anywhere at any certain time, and he very seldom ever used the pocket knife. Nevertheless, they were very important to him, and I was always entrusted with their care, and because it was so important to him, it became important to me. When he passed away, the watch and pocket knife were not claimed by any of his children, so once again, I have been entrusted with their care. They are a treasure to me, and each time I look at them, I can see his sweet face, a little worried about what this hospital visit was going to bring, and yet still so protective of those two prized possessions.
I don’t know if they were given to him, or if they were just something he liked and bought for himself, but in his last days, and probably even longer than that, I know that they meant a lot to him. The knife is an Old Timer Knife. Old Timer Knives were manufactured by the Imperial Schrade Corporation, who closed their doors July 30, 2004, after 100 years of business. They were something he looked on as being of great value. It might have been just a guy thing to have a pocket knife or something, because it does seem that a lot of guys have and keep good track of their pocket knives. I don’t know the story on his watch either, except to say that the only time he was without it was when he was in the hospital, in bed, or the shower. That says that it was something he treasured too. Neither of these were very expensive items. The watch may have come from Walmart, for all I know. It’s monetary value isn’t important to me. It’s real value is in what it meant to my father-in-law. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. We love and miss you very much.
Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 65th anniversary, and in her mind it would still be so. She has no idea she is a widow. She has no idea that the love of her life…the man she has known since she was just a little baby, and with whom she shared a crib sometimes…has been gone for over a year now. That is the side of Alzheimer’s Disease that I think is merciful. While she doesn’t remember the things that happened a few minutes ago, or even a few years ago, and she doesn’t always remember our names, she also doesn’t remember that my father-in-law passed away on May 5, 2013. To her, he is visiting the neighbors, working, or out in the garage. I’m glad that is the case. She feels no grief and she doesn’t miss him…because to her, he is still here. She sees him everywhere. When she sees a man in a plaid shirt, she thinks it’s Dad, because he loved those plaid flannel shirts. I wouldn’t wish for her to remember Dad’s passing…it’s just too hard. We can play along. When she asks where Dad is, I tell her that he is in the garage, at Walmart, or at the neighbors. It satisfies her. She also sees Dad in her sons, Bob and Ron, her grandsons, and even in some of the men in the nursing home. We play along. At first it was hard, but the guys are used to it now.
This anniversary, that would have been a landmark anniversary for them, had Dad still been with us, is a bit sad for us…the children, in-laws, and grandchildren left behind, after Dad’s passing. It is always such a cool thing, especially these days, when someone makes one of these landmark anniversaries, because so many marriages don’t last. But theirs beat the odds. They had the real thing…love, and that made all the difference. It’s what keeps a marriage together through good times and bad.
Dad was always the bread winner, and Mom was always the homemaker. Together, they raised six children. She cooked, baked, canned, and kept the home and kids in order. He took care of the outdoor things like shoveling the walk, mowing the lawn, working on the cars, and any building that needed to be done. They were a team…and then half of the team was suddenly gone after a little under 64 years of marriage. To us, their family, it seemed too impossible to be true, but to Mom, it simply wasn’t true. To her…he is still here, and will be for as long as she is. It’s the merciful part of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Bob and I walk 2 hours a day about 5 days a week. In the winter, we walk at the mall because it is too cold and windy outside. But in the summer, we walk on the trails around town…with our main weekday trail being the one we can access by walking a block down our street. Walking on that trail as often and as long as we do, we have had a chance to get to know the people that are on the trail daily like we are. We have built a friendship with them. If we don’t see them for a while, we wonder where they are, and even ask about them to others who also know them. When we were absent from the trail for a time, many people wondered about us too. One friend even drove by our house to see if we had moved or something. It is comforting to know that people notice your absence and try to check it out. The absences had always been simple to explain, and nothing serious…until now.
When Bob and I were at Walmart on Sunday doing our grocery shopping, we ran into a friend, Tina from the trail. She always walked the trail with her dog…Toby. When we told her we hadn’t seen her in a while, she told us that her Toby Dog had died, and she had not felt up to walking much without him. I couldn’t believe my ears. Her dog was so sweet. I felt such a loss…and Toby wasn’t even my dog, so what must she be feeling.
Toby was an old dog, and had been the victim of other dogs who wanted to attack him at times, so he was a little nervous around people he didn’t know…especially if they had a dog. We didn’t have a dog, and Tina is the girlfriend of a friend of Bob’s, so we would always stop and talk for a minute when we passed each other. The first time we saw her on the trail, she introduced us to Toby. We petted him and from that day forward, we were accepted by Toby as a friend. The minute Toby would see us on the trail, he would step up his pace a little in anticipation of the coveted petting he was going to receive.
It was just a minute or two several times a week, and yet finding out that I won’t see Toby again, made me very sad. Pets wiggle their way into the hearts of their owners every day, but it is unusual for someone else’s pet to find their way into the heart of someone he only saw for, maybe 15 minutes a week. Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened, and I will miss Tina’s Toby Dog very much.