Wisconsin’s People --- hearty, and good



Grebe's, building a company the family way. In 2014 the Wausau Chamber of Commerce in Marathon County awarded Grebe's the Small Business of the Year Award in Wausau, Marathon County. Today Grebe's is an appliance, grills, kitchenware, power tools and mattresses store but it has not always been that way. Charting its evolution over the years since 1946 is a lesson in business leadership and adaptation to changing times. It is mainly a story about family, family values, quality for the customer and Wausau history. By Ed Marek, editor. October 12, 2015.

The “Flying Dudleys” of Wausau, WWII. I want you to meet a special group of men, the four Dudley brothers of Wausau, Wisconsin, tagged by some as “The Flying Dudleys.” Left-to-right, Lauren Charles “Laurnie” Dudley, 20; Jefferson James “Jay” Dudley, 24; Richard David “Dick” Dudley, 18; and Robert Lee “Bob” Dudley, 22. It is unusual for four brothers serve in war at the same time, though it did happen. All four of these guys wanted to, and did. When we read and hear about the American warrior, we often ask the question, “How do we get such men and women? Where do they come from that they could do these things?” The answer lies with “the invisible obvious.” These men and women come from our families, from our neighborhoods, from our schools, from being with friends and colleagues. They are in many respects us, at our best. By Ed Marek, editor, March 26, 2013.

Lt. Britta Christianson scores Navy first. Lt. Britta Christianson, USN, a Gold Crew supply officer assigned to the guided-missile submarine USS Ohio (SSGN 726), is presented with her Submarine Supply Corps "dolphins" by her commanding officer, Capt. Rodney Mills, during a ceremony at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard as Capt. Dixon Hicks, Ohio's former commanding officer, looks on. Christianson is the first female Supply Corps officer to qualify in submarines. She is a native of Chippewa Falls and a graduate of Chippewa Falls High and UW-Madison. June 25, 2012

The Women with Courage Foundation, Rusk County. During spring 2010, I learned of a woman living in Ladysmith, Rusk County, named Vonnie Rydland. I was told that she and many others were doing some marvelous things for Rusk County through an organization they established called the "Women with Courage Foundation." Said briefly, this foundation's mission is to provide financial assistance to people in Rusk County who are battling cancer, usually in the form of $500 stipends intended to help defray costs associated with their cancer. God has blessed Rusk County with this group of women, to be sure. By Ed Marek, editor. November 12, 2010

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The Hmong, a gallant American ally, a "people in exile," a people of dignity. Have you heard of a people from Asia called the Hmong? Many Wisconsinites have. In the 2000 census, there were 33,791 Wisconsin citizens who were Hmong. In 2000, they were a very young population, more than 67 percent under the age 24. They are our neighbors, friends, business associates, fellow Badgers. This report focuses on Hmong history that got them from China to Laos and joined with the US to fight the Indochina War. I am not going into the war itself. My main purpose is to help Americans understand the history of the Hmong living as our neighbors and friends, especially those here in Wisconsin. The story is extensive, and I will publish it in sections. Three sections are now posted. These deal mostly with Hmong and Laotian history from the 13th century to the Indochina War, fascinating history indeed. The section(s) on the Indochina War are, for me, the most difficult, as my squadron flew electornic reconnaissance over Laos to support Americans on the ground working with the Hmong. So it might take me a bit to finish those. By Ed Marek, editor. March 5, 2010.

The Lectric Power Guys respond to line down --- no trivial challenge. We've all lost power in our homes, for a wide variety of reasons. Most of the time, we don't have a chance to see the power company crews go to work to repair what's wrong. I recently had the chance to do that after a tree fell on electrical wires in my residential neighborhood in Wausau, Marathon County. The force of the fallen tree on the wires snapped an electrical wire-telephone pole, our neighborhood lost power, and the "Power Guys" clicked into action. Luckily, it was a wonderful spring day. Try to imagine them doing all this in below zero temperatures and blinding snow! It was fun and uplifting to see these professionals at work, and I learned a lot. I'll walk you through what I saw. By Ed Marek, editor. May 22, 2009.

The story behind SSgt Zach Rhyner, USAF, Air Force Cross in Afghan's Shuk Valley. Remember that kid from Medford, he lived next door? On March 10, 2009, SSgt. Zachary Rhyner, USAF, of Medford, Wisconsin, received the Air Force Cross from Michael B. Donley, Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF), in the presence of General Norton Schwarz, Chief of Staff, USAF (CSAF) for his role in employing air power to support the ODA 3336 special forces and their Afghan allies on April 6, 2008. March 24, 2009

Tom Uttech, in Wisconsin's Northwoods, "absorb and observe”. Tom Uttech is among the most admired art teachers, painters and photographers in Wisconsin. Having learned a little about him, however, I am overwhelmed by his understanding of going into the wilds of the state and its near environs, and connecting emotionally with Nature. He talks of "the power of the place," of using your eyes to "absorb and observe" what's there. Most important, I think, he has this advice for us: "Get up out of your chair, lock up your doors and go out into the woods and see it afresh and join the adventure." I think he's a terrific philosopher. November 24, 2008

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The late Dr. Edwin L. Overholt, an American hero, the "Colonel". As you bump into and brush elbows with people on the street, at work, or while seeing a professional, one thing to keep in mind is that you don't always know that you might be bumping into an American hero, often an ordinary person who has done the extraordinary. He played some basketball and acted in a play in high school, became a doctor, was sent to the front lines of the Korean War just days after the invasion began and only two years after becoming a MD, part of a task force of 500 against over 30 world-class tanks and thousands of infantry, and saved lives without regard for himself. He was only a captain then. He would give the US Army a career, and then another career to Gundersen Lutheran Health System in La Crosse. Throughout his civilian career, they affectionately called him "Colonel." You'll see why. By Ed Marek. March 6, 2008.

Gardner and Rodden, two Wisconsin WWII nurses, a kamikaze found their ship. Lts. Dorris "Dorrie" Gardner and Mary Rodden, both Wisconsin girls, both Army nurses, were aboard the USS Comfort hospital ship when she was struck amidships by a Japanese kamikaze during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. They both survived, but 28 died, including six nurses, and 48 were wounded. Some say the numbers were higher. These two courageous women represent many thousands, some 59,000 Army nurses who served in WWII, abroad and in the US. This story is dedicated to all those American military nurses, then and now, who cared for their "boys," their "guys" in combat the world over. By Ed Marek, editor. December 25, 2007

From Wausau High to fighter pilot wailing a Banshee over Burma. Gerald P. Wergin, Wausau High School Class of 1940, by all accounts was smart as a whip, a court jester in home-room, and a "pest" to many of the young lassies at whom he probably winked a few times. By February 1944 he was a lieutenant in the US Army Air Corps, a fighter pilot with hard-earned silver wings, and a "Burma Banshee" of the 90th Fighter Squadron at Jorhat, India. His P-40 "Warhawk" had a bloodthirsty skull on its nose, and by the time it was over, Captain "Junior" Wergin had tucked 156 combat missions under his skinny belt. How does a young man from next door get there from here? That's the story we'll try to tell. December 15, 2005

Darrel Massman, the stuff of fun air shows in Wisconsin. Darrel Massman of Ogdensberg, Wisconsin has been an air show and aerobatic pilot for some 31 years, turned on to flying when he was 16. Originally from Decorah, Iowa, Darrel says, "I like anything that flies," and he has logged flying time in some 65 different models of aircraft. We saw one of his aircraft parked at the Waupaca Airport, a "Goonie Bird," and became intrigued. November 20, 2005.