Featured Loved Ones

We are featuring stories about our children in the upcoming newsletters and on our web site. Share a special memory or just tell us a little about them. If you would like to share a story about your child, please send the story to the following individual or email the webmaster at ddblackwell@hotmail.com

Kay McLane
613 Lakeland Drive SE
Willmar, MN 56201

Featured Children Stories

Drew Little –
Son of Greg Little - DrGregDLittle.com
Drew crossed over in November 1991.  He was just over 18 months old.  His story - and Greg; s survival - is included in the book, Rise Above: Conquering Adversities.  The book details adversities that have come Greg’s way in life.
On Sunday, November 24, we drove 24 miles to visit Pam’s family, watch pro football on TV and have Sunday dinner.  Pam’s father, Chuck, and brother, Phil, would be there.  Both worked for EnviroSafe, a company that provides emergency response and regulatory compliance programs to large organizations.  It was rare for Chuck and Phil to be home, because they were assigned to work on offshore oil rigs; however, Chuck had a severe upper respiratory infection and was unable to leave the house, much less go out to sea. At 4:00 that afternoon Pam was in the dining room holding Drew in her lap and trying to persuade him to eat a few peas.  Sitting on a sofa in the den next to the door going to the kitchen, I heard something I never heard in my life but instantly knew what it was.  Pam screamed, My baby!  My baby! That instant, I knew Drew was dead.  She immediately ran into the den fell to her knees, holding Drew and screamed, something’s wrong with this baby!  Drew looked as if there were no bones in his body.  The area between his nose and upper lip had already turned blue.  I said, We’ve got to do CPR.. I have taken CPR many times and have even taught it, as well as performed it once on a seven year old child.  However, at this instant my mind went blank. Phil immediately came to the kitchen and began mouth-to-mouth, while Chuck would count aloud and give him verbal support.  As Phil breathed into Drew’s mouth and nose, his little chest would expand and then go down.  Pam got into the ambulance with Drew, and I followed in our car alone to the hospital.  It was a 7 mile drive.  The entire 7 miles, I prayed audibly, please don’t let Drew die.  Please don’t let Drew die.  Someone came into the waiting room and said there was a phone call for me.  Going down the hall a few feet into a side room a phone was off the hook.  I lifted the receiver.  It was our Sunday school teacher, who was also one of Drew’s pediatricians, Dr. Ronnie Kent from Hattiesburg.  He stated that they would probably stabilize Drew and rush him to Jackson, which was 95 miles away.  However, the happenings in the last hour told me otherwise.  Dr. Kent wanted to close our phone conversation with a prayer.  The instant Dr. Kent said, Amen, the door in the ER opened and the attended physician was going into the waiting room.  My brother-in-law was in the hall and said, Greg!  I hung-up the receiver and walked toward the waiting room.  As I took the few steps, the loud crying coming from the other side told me the verdict.  I opened the door, and the first thing to catch my eyes was Ronnie, my brother-in-law, crying.  I then turned to the left and saw our friend, Tracie Smith, crying as she held onto Pam.  In a low tone I said, He’s gone?  Then I held Pam and Tracie. While Dr. Kent was on the phone with me, the attending physician came into the waiting room, looked down and without saying a word, slowly shook his head.  Pam said, He’s dead?!  Drew’s dead?!  He nodded and left the room. A nurse came out of the room, where medical staff had been working on Drew.  She came to Pam and me and stated, after we get him cleaned up, you can come in and say, ‘Goodbye’ to him. 
A few minutes passed and the door to the room, where Drew was, opened.  The ER doctor was sitting in a chair by the bed.  A couple of nurses were in the room as well.  We walked into the room, saw his still body and I said, Hey Drew. We walked over to him.  Pam said, I want to hold him.  We picked him up, and Pam held him in her arms.  He just looked as if he was asleep.  After a few moments, she handed him to me.  I held him and kissed his forehead.  Everything looked normal, then as he was in my arms, Drew’s lifeless left arm fell and was hanging down. That did not look normal. We laid him down on the bed.  Pam gently opened his eyes and took out his contacts and placed them on the sheet.  That was something the medical staff in the room were not expecting to see.  As we stood over him, I thought to myself, I want to kiss his little feet.  That may sound strange, but if you want one last chance to touch your child, thinking the medical personnel in the room may think that would be too strange, I thought, I’ll kiss his feet later. There was no later.  The next time I saw Drew was when we was in a coffin. I telephoned Chuck Prestwood, who lived in Jackson.  Chuck and I worked together with the MS Health Care Commission as inspectors of institutions serving individuals with developmental disabilities (ICF’s/MR).  We first met in 1978, when he came to Oxford to inspect the ICF/MR where I was employed.  However, in this instance I was phoning Chuck, because he had started The Compassionate Friends (TCF) chapter in Mississippi.  TCF is a consortium of support groups developed to assist bereaved parents survive the death of a child.  Chuck and his wife, Marlise, had a daughter, Krissy, die of Meningitis in 1975.  After telling Chuck that Drew had just died, he replied, Oh my, gosh. Within two hours, Chuck and Marlise arrived at the house.  Chuck had conducted many workshops on the grief process that occurs after the death of a child.  It was good having someone there, who knew exactly what Pam and I had been through. More people came.  Our minister, Dr. Gary Berry, who would conduct Drew’s funeral, came with Dr. Kent, who was speaking with me on the telephone, when the physician informed Pam that Drew was dead. Most of my life I lived near a town where there were street lights and store lights.  Those were areas where viewing a clear sky at night to see stars was very rare.  Pam‘s childhood experience was much different.  She was a country girl.  Clear skies at night to see and count the stars were a norm. 
After everyone had gone home that first night and Chuck & Marlise had begun their journey back to Jackson, Pam and I walked into the backyard of her parents’ house.  As I held Pam in my arms, I saw a falling star.  Pam, look a falling star!  By the time she turned to see the star, it was gone.  Pam then told me that earlier in the evening Chuck told her that he had met Patrick in the hallway, who said, if you see a falling star, it’s Drew. We thought that was really an ironic coincidence.  That afternoon, was the visitation at the funeral home.  Pam and I along with her parents and my parents arrived first.  Many times in my life, people used the phrase, it made my knees buckle. We entered the foyer of the funeral home and were directed to go into the room were Drew was in his casket.  Turning at the door and seeing Drew, our infant son, in a casket, my knees did buckle.  It was as if they were mush.  I had to catch myself before going down.  What really looked odd to me was how tall Drew looked.  Then it occurred to me, virtually all his life he had been in pain or was too weak to stand-up straight.  The number of people, who had come to visit, was a tremendous shot in the arm for Pam and me.  The most important thing we needed was hugs.  Chuck and Marlise Prestwood were there every day.  While at the funeral home, I mentioned to Chuck that it was great having all these friends showing this much concern.  Chuck replied, this outpour of affection will last three weeks.  After that, no one will mention Drew to you.  They won’t want to ‘remind’ you of him. Chuck knew what he was saying.  He was off by two days.  After three weeks & two days, the phone calls, visits people asking how we were doing, stopped. That night we had the same pouring of love from our friends, as well as our peers in the health care field.  Later when everyone had gone home, Pam and I were again in the backyard hugging one another in the same spot as the previous night.  Pam said, Greg, look a falling star!  By the time I turned around, the star was gone.  We found that a bit odd, but we each saw a falling star two separate nights in a row.  We briefly discussed what Patrick told Chuck the day earlier, if you see a falling star, it’s Drew.  What was even more unusual about that is that in his then brief four years on earth, neither of us remembered mentioning anything to him about a falling star. 
A little more than four weeks after we buried Drew, a secretary from our church phoned asking if I would give a testimony about Drew the next Sunday night.  The night before I was to speak, Pam and I were sitting on the edge of our bed.  Patrick was playing under the sheets.  You might as well know that Patrick was always playing when he was a kid.  He went on one speed – overdrive.  Pam got emotional as we were talking about Drew and began to cry.  Patrick pulled the sheet down from over his head, and said, why are you crying, Momma?  Pam replied, its ok, honey.  We’re just talking about little Drew.  Patrick said, don’t cry, Momma.  If you see a falling star it’s Drew.  That was it.  I had to know.  I said, Patrick who told you that?  Who told you that if you see a falling star, it’s Drew? His entire demeanor changed.  His face became very stoic; some would call it a poker face, as he replied in a very serious tone, God.

Adam Jay Parker
Adam was born in November of 1977. He was a wonderful son and child and had a smile for everyone. Adam was kind and would never do anything to hurt anyone. He did not make friends easily and was a sweet sensitive child.  Adam did a lot of things for me as his mother. He was always so happy and his laughter was addicting.
     It is so hard to think about all the wonderful things he gave me. He was always so thoughtful and had a love for life. In January 2005, my world as I knew it ended when my beautiful son was taken from me. A thousand times over I wished he had taken me with him. Although his smile is gone, it will remain in my heart forever. Now that his laughter and voice are silenced, I am his voice and I can tell his story. I know he is looking down on me and smiling that I am telling his story.
     To my beautiful son, I thank you for all the years you blessed me with your presence. I know that when I am called home, I will be able to hold you in my arms again. You rest with the angels my son. You were my son in life and now you are my angel in heaven.  I was so proud of you Adam. Adam loved yellow roses and gave them to me and his girlfriend a lot.
     Adam was always very loving. He was hilarious, and a fighter for what we wanted or needed. I have so many stories I can tell. Adam asked me one time, “why is marriage so important or why should you get married?”  I told him that there are two reasons to get married. One is to have someone to share your life and grow old with and the other is to have children. I also told him that marriage is not easy but if you love someone, you find a way to work things out when something is not going right. I also let Adam know family is very important and that having a family is very rewarding.
     Adam did not have any brothers or sisters. I told Adam that families grow up and have families and friends of their own and do not always have time for each other but that is okay. I told Adam that society is different today than when I was growing up and children had more respect for their elders back then. Adam was always respectful and kinds to others.
     Adam would visit his girlfriend Jenny and I always asked when he would be home. I loved spending time with my son and he knew how special he was to me. Adam will be forever loved and I miss him more than anyone can ever know.    ~ Adam’s mother, Shirley Hokom.

Allison Marie Hansen
     Joel and I married October 5, 2002 and conceived our first baby happily yet unexpectedly in November, 2002.  We unfortunately lost that baby to a miscarriage in January, 2003, at 7 weeks.  Trying to be parents, we ended up using fertility treatments and God blessed us with a pregnancy October, 2003.  Allison Marie Hansen was born in July of 2004. 
     We went in together for our 20 week ultrasound.  We saw 10 beautiful fingers and toes, the 2 parts of the brain and a miraculous beating heart.  We were so filled with joy and excitement…everything was perfect…. for 10 minutes. We went up to my OB doctor who informed us that our baby had a Diaphragmatic Hernia, which means a hole in the diaphragm which separates the lungs and stomach organs, and also expands and contracts to breathe. The hernia then allowed the stomach to move up into the chest cavity, preventing the lungs from developing and moved her heart over to the right side.  Our doctor did not have any survival rate, information, nothing except they were immediately referring us to the University of Minnesota and we will finish doctoring our pregnancy there.  This was a Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.
     We met with our first primatologist, of whom we grew more and more displeased.  He continued to suggest the option of terminating the pregnancy, which is NOT even an option, no matter how sick our baby is, it is still a gift from God.  We went through genetic counseling and thankfully that all came back clear, meaning this was a “freak incident”, no explanation.  Exploring our options to help our baby, we were referred to a different primatologist (Dr. Landers) at the U of M.  He was a god-sent.
     We attended doctor appointments in Minneapolis every 2 weeks to monitor her growth and development.  My pregnancy with Allison was awesome.  In-womb she was awesomely healthy.  Very active, growing perfectly and passing all tests we had to take.  The day before her birth, Dr. Lander’s was so sure she was going to do just fine and would not need the ECMO life support, only breathing support. She was so strong and was in the 95th percentile for survival!
     I went into labor 1 week before our due date, on a Sunday evening.  We called the University but they told us they did not have room and that their NICU was full so they sent us to Abbott.  Joel and I drove to Abbott at 10:00 p.m. that Sunday night and we were transferred to the University Monday afternoon. Allison was born on a Thursday in July at 10:10 p.m. at 9 lbs, 15 oz and 22 inches!!!  A beautiful, big, baby girl (this whole time we didn’t know she was a girl).  Joel was by my side and she was born in an operating room to have enough room for all her staff and equipment.  He cut her umbilical cord; the scissors was too dull to cut so the doctor scrambled to find a new one, in the mean time her oxygen has now been cut off.  They got her to an incubator, got her stabilized and ready for transport to the NICU.  On their way out of the room, they handed her to me to hold for a moment.  I kissed her and told her to be strong and that mommy and daddy love her so much.  They took her and Joel went to tell our family and then to see her but they wouldn’t let him come in yet.  Something was wrong. 
     When we went into the NICU to see her as soon as they’d let us, we were informed that on the way to the NICU she went into cardiac arrest and it took them too long to get her the correct size breathing tube.  Therefore she was without oxygen for 20 minutes.  That night at midnight, they put Allison on the ECMO Life Support Machine.  She was a trooper through the surgery, which gave us hope.  For 3 days we watched them do test after test.  We watched Allison grow more and more swollen.  We had more ups and downs than we ever thought humanly possible.  After the final brain EEG, they informed us that there wasn’t enough brain activity for Allison to ever function.  She could never swallow, hug or love.  In a meeting with her neonatologist, Dr. Xiong, we agreed it was time to let Allison’s suffering end and return her to God.  This precious, innocent little gift had been through SO MUCH in 3 days, we couldn’t bear to see her hurt anymore.
     On that Sunday in July 2005, Allison went home to Jesus at 7:20 p.m.  Our family and friends got to hold her for brief moments and then I held her in my arms and Joel at her side as they stopped her life support.  No words can describe the pain of watching your child die in your arms and there is NOTHING you can do to change it and make her better.
     We are so thankful for the 3 days we had with her.  We got to talk to her, tell her how very much we love and want her, we read to her, baptized her, touched her and prayed for her.  A lifetime isn’t enough to be with your child and love them, but we thank God for our time, realizing there are parents out there that didn’t even get that. We went through the blame, the anger, the wondering, the questions, and we do to this day.  But we also try not to dwell on it because that will not bring her back and does not bring love to her memory, which is very important to us because that’s all Allison knows now is love.
     We talk very openly about our experience with Allison.  To us it helps her memory live on, brings us healing and hopefully will help others know they are not alone and can talk about their child.  We have since been blessed with Abby, 4, and Braden, 2.  They know all about their sister in heaven and we go “visit” her.  The emptiness of Allison will be there until I hold her again in my arms, but God continues to bless us.  We have started a support group in Allison’s memory.  Our hope is to help others through that painful experience of empty arms and lost dreams.  ~ Joel and Janelle, Father and Mother

Signe Schultz
One morning in February of 2003 our oldest grandson called and said, “We can’t find Mom.”  All kinds of thoughts raced through our minds.  We sit by the phone and wait for a word.  My husband calls our sister-in-law in Britton to tell her. {Later she tells me the sheriff’s office has already told her, but she can’t say anything, as they were calling her for our address.} A while later we get the dreaded call, “She’s Gone.”  During this time my sister has called me to say our uncle has passed away in Fargo and we were to get together to make arrangements for him.  Calls are made to a few family and friends and soon there are people at our house with hugs and food.  Soon an officer from the Sheriff’s Dept. in Willmar and a clergyman come up the walkway to tell us, but we already knew.  This is a Saturday and soon we are starting to make preliminary plans with the funeral director for Signe.  Her twin sister from Fargo comes later and Mathew is living in Willmar and comes right away.  We are all numb.  Her Sister, Marcy and Marcy’s birthmother had just arrived at their Motel in Florida.  In fact, they were just opening the door to their room when the phone rang.  Marcy is crying uncontrollable, but loving Angels come to give her comfort.  They are not able to get a flight out until Mon. Signe had been to her oldest son’s basketball game and on the way home she was on a country road and got hung up. She proceeded to follow the tracks in the ditch and gets hung up going back on the road.  She was dressed properly but decided to walk to a farmhouse where she saw a yard light.  It was bitterly cold and a strong NW wind and she went down in a cornfield. Signe had called me 2 nights before this and said, “I think I have pneumonia again.”  She had been in the hospital about a month before this with pneumonia and was very ill.  She had Systemic Lupus for several years, but it didn’t keep her down, especially when it came to her children.  That night or whenever we talked we always ended with, “I Love You.” Signe and Sonja were born August of 1964 in Sioux Falls, SD.  We adopted them when they were 17 days old.  She was active in many activities, but the Summer Swim Team was her best sport.  She received many medals and had state records in some events.  She loved riding horse and helping her Dad with the sheep.  She enjoyed spending time at Green Lake Bible Camp.  After high school she attended Golden Valley Lutheran College for one year and spent the 1st semester at Concordia College in Moorhead.  She met her future husband that year and they were married June of 1985.  They had 4 children, Kaden, Heath, Carna and Weston.  She was a wonderful Mother, cook, baker etc.  If there was a death or need in the community she was often the first with food or a helping hand. My story really began Nov. 30, 1961 with the death of our first son, Marshall Vernon.  He was born with an open head - the skin had not closed over.  At that time it was not the custom to grieve over the loss of a baby and how do you share something that is that rare and not pleasant.    Almost 2 years later, Thomas Dean was born on October 3, 1963 and had difficulty breathing.  I think many people hated to have their children around us for fear it would bring back memories, and also they did not know what to say.  We thank the Lord for relatives and friends that still remained friends and would even bring up the loss of our children. ~ Gloria Schultz

Leonard Yoder
In 2002, our son Leonard moved to Milbank, SD where he worked for a hay farmer. At about 10:00 PM on July 2nd, 2006 we received a phone call that would change our lives forever. The man introduced himself as the Grant Co., SD coroner, and his next words are imprinted into my mind indelibly…"Mr. Yoder, I have some very sad news for you- your son has taken his life". After a long, sleepless night, we drove the two hours to Milbank, despite the fact that my driving skills were a bit risky, at best. We searched the apartment for any notes or clues, finding nothing. We spent the day making arrangements at the funeral home for an evening visitation there, and stopped at other places to take care of his banking, etc.. We found a very caring, compassionate community. They all had a good word for "Lenny" as he was known there. At the viewing at Milbank, many people showed up and said things like, "he was like a son to me", or,"he was like a brother to me", or, "we baled hay together', or, "he was in our young adult Bible Study". He had even far more friends than we realized. Later we passed out memory sheets to his friends and acquaintances, and after they all came back, we put them into a folder. We were overwhelmed at the amazing legacy he left to the lives he touched. Many people have told us since, “you may never know how much good will come from this”, and we know they mean it well, but my first reaction is always, "that is all well and good, but why do we have to pay the price for that good to happen?” The truth is, we don't know, but we have learned in a new way to put the past, present, and future into the hands of a wise, loving God, who sees the beginning and the end. The last time I spoke to Leonard was when he called me on Fathers' Day. We visited a while, then closed the conversation like usual, with him saying, " Hey, I love you, Dad", and I said," Leonard, I love you, too". Those words, also, are indelibly etched into my memory, and always a reminder that we never know when we say our last words to each other.    ~ Dad, Marcus Yoder
Rebekah Joramo
Rebekah was born in October of 1983 to Steve and Ruth Joramo. She was born in Litchfield, MN, and lived in Grove City all of her life with her older sister and parents. She graduated from ACGC class of 2002. She was Grove City Royalty princess 2000-2001. She was a fun filled girl and everyone she met, young or old, you were part of her family. Becky went on after graduation to college to the University of Wisconsin - Superior. There she went into the Social Work program. She graduated from UW-S in 2006 and went to work for the State of MN at Moose Lake in the Sex Offenders program. She loved every minute of it. She came home in November of 2008 and told us the news that she was expecting. Rebekah asked me if I would go with her to her 1st ultra-sound and I said yes. So, Becky’s sister and I went to Duluth with her to the first ultra-sound thinking that all we would see is a little bloop on the screen. Instead, we saw a full sized baby. Becky had mis-calculated. We were happy and everything from there on moved quite quickly. Becky was very precise, she had everything in order from the time she could take off of work to her daycare. She was in excellent health and so was the baby, it was little girl. Becky had a doctor’s appointment on January 23. She called me at work several times that day and told me that she got her haircut, went out for lunch with a girlfriend, and then had a doctor’s appointment. The doctor said everything was fine with her and the baby. On Saturday January 24th, which was my birthday, she called in the morning and wished me a happy birthday and told me of a few things she needed for the baby. I went shopping and about 4:30 I called her and told her what I had picked up. We had a nice conversion, said our goodbyes and we love yous, and I said I would talk to her on Monday after her doctor’s appointment when I got home from work. When I got home from work, there on the answering machine, was a call from her doctor saying that she didn't show up for her appointment. That was not Becky. I called her cell phone several times and got her voicemail. At midnight I got the call from the Moose Lake police saying that they found my Becky dead in her bedroom. She was not a pretty sight. She lay there for some time and we had to cremate her and the baby. So now, Becky and Chloe are in heaven looking down on us every day. We miss both of you.  ~ Dad and Mom, Steve and Ruth Jaramo

In memory of …
Dustin L Johnson, age 22, is survived by his parents: Jodi and Denise Johnson of Lake Lillian, his sister Jacinda Johnson, his son Kaiden, his special friend Kristi Nietfeld of St Cloud; his maternal grandparents: Harold and Nancy Kiecker of Lake Lillian, his paternal grandparents: Dale Johnson of Lake Lillian and Joan Johnson of Hutchinson; Aunts:  Dorie (Kiecker) and Dale Larsen of Willmar, Dawn (Kiecker) and Rick Rogney of Glencoe, Dawn (Johnson) and Scott Danielson of Willmar; Uncles: Robbie and Nicole Johnson of Woodbury, Toni Johnson of Brooklyn Park; several cousins and many friends.

Todd Hermann
Todd was born in December of 1971. He was a big baby at 9 lbs 5 oz and grew to be a big man at 6’ 5” with a good foundation of a size 16 shoe. He was a very typical little boy loving his trucks, cars, tractor and playing whatever his dad was doing on the farm. He would spend hours in his sandbox. He was an easy child to raise never causing us problems or worry. He loved the farm and was always eager to help when needed. He did well in school, was a boy’s state alternate National Honor Society member, co-captain of his senior football team, honor student, and was active in his 4-H Club and church. After graduation he attended Thief River Falls Technical School receiving his aviation maintenance degree and then to Hutchinson Technical College to get his Non-Destructive Testing degree. He worked in Quality Control at Lazer Machining Co. at Sommerset, WI. He was married to Shelly in September of 1996. Nine months to the day our lives were forever changed. Todd and Shelly were coming home from an afternoon of Volleyball, riding on their Harley Davidson, when 2 deer came up from the ditch. He tried to avoid the deer and the bike flipped. Todd was killed instantly and Shelly was badly hurt. She was 7 weeks pregnant, carried the baby for two months and then lost it June 14 ending Todd’s dream for his loving family, his coming home to farm with dad and to live a long and happy life. June of 1997 ended out dreams for our family. We think of the grandchildren there would have been, how he would have loved being an uncle to Tami’s children, how different holidays would have been. We miss his big smile, the dry humor, and big hugs. Compassionate Friends has been our lifeline for this grief journey. We have only missed a few meeting over all these years and know we need the love and support of our friends to make it through another month.  ~ Bob and Betty Hermann

Jeffrey Lee Grau
Jeff’s story begins with a phone call from the Children’s Home Society in December of  1977. We had adopted a daughter 5 years earlier, and had been praying that we would be able to adopt another child---and hopefully a son.  We had moved into a new house in 1977, and Julie, our daughter, kept telling people that the blue bedroom was for her baby brother.  We sort of held our breath when she’d say that because we weren’t guaranteed that another child would be available for us nor would it be a male child. But Julie’s prediction came true, and on December 10, 1977, we did indeed bring home her baby brother.  Jeff was an adorable child at 5 months old with lots of dark brown hair and brown eyes.  We truly felt that he was a gift from God sent to us that Christmas. Jeff was a happy, smiley child, who grew up loving cars, liked and played football, and was also on the swim team. However, when he was in 9th grade, we started noticing changes.  He came to me one day after school, and said, “Mom, I think I have clinical depression.”  He had done some research and described some of the symptoms he was experiencing.  We immediately set up some appointment to have him diagnosed and the doctors did indeed diagnose that he was suffering from clinical depression.  That was a very difficult year for us, and it was finally decided that Jeff would probably respond better to concentrated counseling and living in an environment that knew how to deal with his mood swings, etc.  So, for 9 months, Jeff lived at Booth Brown House in St. Paul.  He returned home in the fall of 1995, enrolled in alternative school, and got a part-time job.  Things weren’t perfect, but we were glad that he was home with us again and were hopeful that his treatment had given him the skills to combat any suicidal thoughts.  However, on a very cold, snowy December 11th, Jeff ate the evening meal with us, and without appearing upset or without giving us any clue, he went to his bedroom and hung himself.  Just 18 short years and one day from the time we so excitedly brought him home to be part of our family, Jeff returned to his heavenly Father.  We were heartbroken and still do not understand why he chose to leave us so abruptly.  December will always bring us some sadness, but we have been able to finally find peace in his decision.  We are thankful that God lent us Jeff to love as ours for 18 years and he will remain in our hearts forever!   
~ Lee and Carol Grau

Steven Thomas Bly
Steven was born in June of 1986. Two days after his birth he was taken home to Madison by his adoptive parents Tom and Theresa Bly. At age 2, Steven welcomed his sister Stephanie. He attended MMN Elementary School where he was a spelling bee finalist 6 years in a row and he was chosen to present his D.A.R.E. essay to the school. He then attended Lac Qui Parle Valley High School where he was a sophomore in the class of 2005. To say Steve was a trendsetter is an understatement; red shoes, sports jerseys over any shirt, head bands, crazy socks and his bright blonde hair. Steve loved being a blonde. There are many things that stood out about Steve. The color red, Cherry Coke, his contagious smile, and his being “one of the girls”. Steve loved all sports and participated in Cross Country, Basketball, and Golf. His passion was Cross Country Running. As a freshman, he was chosen as “Lac Qui Parle Valley Athlete of the Week” and ended the season as “Rookie of the Year”. As a sophomore, he achieved his goal of “All Conference” and was named MVP. Steve was taken from us in November of 2002; after a devastating car accident in rural Madison, MN. Steve will be remembered for his kindness and respect for others, his love for children, his easy going attitude, and his great sense of humor. The annual Fun Run/5K Race was formed to establish the Steven Bly Memorial Scholarship fund. Also, a portion of the proceeds benefits the Lac Qui Parle Valley – Dawson/Boyd Cross Country Team. 
~ Theresa Bly

Gregory Allan Trautman
Greg (also known as Ree Ree to his step-brothers and sister) was born in October of 1983. He was 21 when we lost him i n December of 2004. Greg was a free spirit and only worked when he had to (or got paid for it J). His love for life was spending time with family and friends. He loved people and always found time to have fun. Greg had a heart of gold and always took time for the elderly people in his life. Greg liked to go deer hunting, jet skiing, visit his grandparents, and spend time with his two bothers (Tracy and Jarrod) and sister (Cassondra). Greg liked to “bear hug” his mom from behind and jumped on his dad (Jim) when he met him in public (yes, even when he was 21). Greg wanted to start driving at the age of 12 and he liked to drive fast like his grandfather and great uncle (which meant he was ok getting speeding tickets now and again). Greg liked to wear bandanas and teachers thought he was a hoodlum until they found out what a kind and gentle young man he was. Greg was loved by many and is greatly missed. He is forever in our hearts (though mine remains to be broken in his absence). We miss his fun spirit and big smile. I thank God I was given the 21 years I had with him, I will treasure them always. Greg was an organ donor and gave sight to two people. A man got his heart, another man his liver, & two women his kidneys. I have proudly met two of his recipients. ~ Dorle Blackwell

Joseph Fred Pitzen

Joseph was the smallest of four sons. He weighed 7 ¼ lbs but he broke the Glenwood hospital record because he was 24” long. I thought I was a millionaire when I got him. Joseph was the oldest of four sons when he started school. Joseph was a top student in Glenwood High School in 1973 and went to school in Moorhead and St. Johns. He job hunted in Minneapolis, MN and was in Nebraska when the accident happened. He didn’t get the care he needed. He didn’t have his real driver’s license. He only has the paper license so they did not know who he was. He was close to his birthday. He was born in September of 1954 and was taken in September of  1988. He was a number one person and always came to help on the farm. We really miss him. ~ Lucille Pitzen


Jacob Gregory Taylor - “I’m OK” – Christmas 2004
Back in 1985 I started at the Willmar Regional Center. I was carrying our 4th child. Since I had 3 sons, many people would say, “I bet you’re hoping for that little girl”. As I worked with these clients, so profoundly handicapped and disabled, I remember praying. “Oh God, just give me a healthy baby”, for my concern was not the sex of my child. On April 29, 1986, we were blessed with our 4th healthy beautiful son whom we named Jacob Gregory. As he lay nestled in my arms, if he could speak, he would have said, “Don’t worry Mommy, I’m ok”. What joy this little guy brought to all of us, and it is true that I would have to set the oven time-minder so each child would get an equal time to hold this little guy as none of us could get enough of him. Raising 4 boys can keep a mom super busy but since our little caboose arrived 7 years after out last son, it seems that Jacob was my constant companion. His older brothers being off to school left mornings for the two of us. He loved to play hide-and-seek, and even though very obvious to me, he felt he was so well hidden. Playing the game to the full extent, I exaggerated the search from room to room repeating, “Where’s Jacob, where’s my little boy, I’m so afraid I can’t find him.” Then out from behind the chair this little excited voice would announce, “Don’t worry Mommy, I’m ok.” As time passed, Jake at an early age got involved with sports. He’d go out on that wrestling mat, his body twisted in every direction and his face turning purple, and of course my response being, “Honey, are you ok?” and a very calm voice would assure me, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m ok.” As years passed, Jake endured many heartbreaking surprises from emergency appendectomy to torn ligaments and broken bones, but each time keeping a positive attitude. He’d mend and return to lifting weights and getting in shape all the time saying, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m ok.” Throughout his growing years, my expectations were to know where, with whom, and what he was up to. To him I was a “nosey” mom but he’d answer anyway and end by saying, “Mother, you worry too much – Chill Out – Don’t worry, I’m ok.” As Jake further matured, he began to realize his mom’s worry was out of love and concern. So, if he was running late or decided to stay at a friends, he would always call and say, “Just calling to let you know I’ll be late so don’t worry Mom, I’m Ok.” This holiday season is a difficult time, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we must consider the true meaning. I have many, many blessings, especially being blessed with precious family and friends. But most of all, I thank God for sending His Son so that we may have eternal life. Jacob accepted Christ into his heart and I know that in his moment of despair the Good Lord embraced him. As I have repeatedly said, “My human heart aches but my soul is at peace”. I will never forget that dreadful morning in May of 2004 that I found him, my precious son. Oh God, how I miss him. I give him back to You as he has been Yours from the beginning and not mine alone. I wait the day we again will be together; I thank You for the gift of my son. I thank You for Your comfort from Your promises and hope. I thank You for those moments of peace that is mine through signs that are too obvious to be coincidental and the repeated words in my head assuring me, “Don’t worry Mom, I’m ok.”  “Jakes Mom” ~ Pam Taylor (father Carey)

Featured CF Friends Story
Our Compassionate Friends group is saddened by the loss of one of our own.  In July of  2008, our good friend, Rich Flaig, of Willmar, died unexpectedly. This is truly a loss for his wife, Lois, and his children, Tom, Ben and Suzie.  It is also a great loss to our Compassionate Friends group. Rich and Lois have been involved with our group since the death of their son, Steven, in September of 1996.   During this time they have shared their own thoughts and feelings about the death of Steven and its impact on their lives.  They have also provided support and love to other families during their most difficult times. Rich was always ready to listen to a grieving parent.  We feel he was a big teddy bear because he gave the biggest hugs!  Rich also had a wonderful sense of humor and he taught us to laugh again, when many of us thought we would never be able to smile again. We find comfort in knowing that Rich and Steven are together again.  But his death has left a big hole in our hearts and in our group. We extend our love to Lois, Tom, Ben, Suzie, his parents, family and friends. We miss you Rich.

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