2020 / My Journey (A – G)

Peggy Ahlgren

As I neared “retirement” age I always thought that I would live in Spring Green and be a potter forever.  As I aged, I would just do less.  Then late one fall afternoon I decided a large branch needed to be removed from a tree in front of my pottery shop. Set up my 6’ step ladder – climbed up, saw in hand and a few minutes later picked myself up off the ground and wandered into the house and called my neighbors.  They came quickly because I didn’t make any sense.  I have no memory of the accident or the transport to 2 hospitals, but did wake the next morning in intensive care – broken wrist, five broken ribs and bleeding in the brain.  So it slowly dawned on my fragile brain that it was time to sell the business and move back to Madison.  Living alone in the country was not perhaps one of my best plans.

Two lovely gals from the Chicago area heard that my shop was for sale and decided that they wanted to live in the country and be potters.  So the business sold.

My criteria for moving back to the Madison area was that I wanted to live where I could see the sun set.  So presently am in a condo that looks west over the Pheasant Branch Nature conservancy.  Probably the only drawback is the stairs.

Decided I had a chance to reinvent myself so dreamed of three places that I would like to volunteer.  The first on my list was the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin.  My mom had Alzheimer’s and I’d really benefited from their support groups in the 90’s.  They seemed grateful for the offer and I have spent almost 10 years helping with office work two days a week. (The Historical Society and Middleton Public Library lost out)

Joined a nearby athletic club and participated in warm water aerobics, tai chi, and a little yoga until Covid-19 brought most of that to a temporary? halt.

Since my condo borders a Conservancy these days I entertain myself my removing some of their invasives and other plants that I don’t like.  That includes garlic mustard, thistles, burdock, nettles, giant ragweed, buck thorn and a few other little burry things. Fortunately we have sand hill cranes – and a mom/dad with their two offspring are often wandering near my unit.  Nights, I still knit mittens for RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) for Madison’s needy grade school kids, I also keep in touch with the “Collaborative” of the schools on the West side of Madison that are providing food for about 375 families with kids attending all our grade schools, Cherokee and West that are needy during the pandemic.  (You can read a little about this in our “Recent News” section)

And lastly as many of you know I am the keeper of the records for our class. Out of a class of about 500 there are only about 18 of our classmates that I have not been able to locate.

I am really looking forward to hearing from each one of you and learning what you are doing during these retirement/Covid-19 years.

We are cautiously still planning our 60th Reunion on August 6-8, 2021.We have reserved the Nakoma Country Club for our Saturday night dinner.

Robin Allin, Jr

Almost 60 years since walking out of West High…a meandering journey since with many physical moves (WI to CA to TX to MO to IL) and career moves (all within the Grocery industry on the manufacturing/sales side). Some of the brands you have probably bought at some time (and saved my job!)…Carnation Co, Sunshine Biscuits (Cheez-its), Everfresh-LaCroix, Snapple, Nantucket Nectars, IZZE and now, my last stop…Dave’s Gourmet (pasta sauces/hot sauces).

Have been running my own business since 2009, serving in various sales management roles for small to mid-sized grocery products companies as an independent contractor.  This has proven to be rewarding and a lot less stress…no 8 to 5 or suits or ties!

Married to Sheila for 44 years, with three sons and two grandsons…hoping for a couple more. We have lived in the Chicago area since 1980 and, of course became fans of the Cubs/Bears and Bulls…just in time to see some history making performances.

My sales positions have enabled me to travel to every state in the US and into Canada…and has been a great opportunity to see the sites, meet the people and taste the varied foods of this marvelous country.  At our 50th reunion, I was fortunate to hear that the late Jack Hickman had an extra Badger football ticket…I jumped at the chance to join Jack, Ralph Farmer, Dave Gerfen and Terry Johnson in their tailgate group. Many classmates would stop by and visit…Denis Hansen, Peggy Ahlgren, Pete Bruhn, my sister (Nancy) among others.  Those home games will be sorely missed this year.

I have kept busy working (but no travel), emptying the basement on ebay and catching on genealogy, making DVDs from all the family films…along with watching our 5-year grandson, Wyatt, a couple of days a week.  We finally wrapped up the Class of ’61 Education Fund…what a wonderful achievement for our Class – over $100,000 raised to provide important programs for the students.  Thanks to many who helped get it off the ground…Sue Nelson Goldsmith; Jeff Bartell; Ralph Farmer; Donna McDowell Beestman and, of course, Peggy Ahlgren.

And, thanks to all of the West High Class of ’61 for your contributions!

Thomas & Suzanne Henkel Deans

Since our retirement, Tom from 32 years as an FBI agent and Sue from teaching, we have found many things to do to keep busy. For a few years Tom worked for the State of Wisconsin assessing potential terrorist targets, as well as teaching police science classes at a local technical college. Sue continued as a sub in the Burlington Area District often taking long term, 9 weeks to semester, assignments in several disciplines at the secondary level.  Sue also was a member of the Gateway Technical College board for 4 ½ years.  Our family of three children has expanded to include their spouses and a total of 7 grandchildren and one great granddaughter. 

Together we have continued to enjoy water sports such as sailing, kayaking, swimming and other boating as well as bike riding and exploring interests such as bird watching and photography.  Tom, as always has been a car enthusiast and has managed to collect 1998 and 2000 Corvettes which he still has. The last 10 years we have headed to Florida as snowbirds for several months in the winter.   Can’t say we miss the cold and snow in Wisconsin. 

We have also managed to take some exciting trips a most extraordinary a river cruise down the Mein, Rhine & Danube Rivers, the Galapagos Islands & Ecuador, Costa Rica, Paris & a river cruise on the Seine River, Hawaii and Alaska.  Lately we are enjoying watching our local grandchildren in sports and a couple of the older ones driving a small whaler, fishing, knee boarding, etc.  At this time we have no plans to travel during the fall of 2020 or spring of 2021.  We plan to stay put and enjoy our local lake and social distancing activities as become available. 

Ron DeGolier

Regarding “My Journey,” the highlights of my chosen career occurred in some 8-1/2 years after grad school (hospital administration, Washington U., St. Louis) from 1973 through 1981. I contracted kidney disease in 1976 shortly after skiing the American Birkebeiner 4 from Mt. Telemark to Hayward, That gradually advanced to end-stage kidney disease while working as long as I could–and I had a successful transplant in August of 1985. During the above years I was administrator of Hess Memorial Hospital & Nursing Home in Mauston, WI. It was plagued by problems from the start–financial, old facility, shortage of physicians. It wasn’t going to be around much longer without some major changes.

The challenge boiled down to building a new facility that would attract more docs (which couldn’t be done without new facilities), securing affordable loans, conducting a successful capital campaign, designing new facilities, etc. Well, we put together a team that got all that done over several years, tripling the number of docs and moving into new facilities (including a clinic) on the south end of town in late 1980 at the base of a beautiful bluff–and named the complex “Mile Bluff Medical Center.” By late 1981, my health had deteriorated to the point where I had to move on and focus on that. My first marriage had likewise deteriorated, and we split in early 1983 after 16 years together and two children.

I moved to Kenosha in 1983 to manage a nursing home until my kidney transplant in August of 1985. The best luck of my life happened shortly after that move. The senior pastor at my local Lutheran church set me up on a blind date with a gal named Linda (“Lin”) from the church who was going through divorce proceedings just as I was doing. He saw us as a perfect match–and he was right on! We got married in March of 1985, and have been loving life together ever since. Lin has three daughters, and I have a daughter and a son. Unfortunately, they’re scattered from California to Great Britain, But we have 11 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.

The slow and frustrating progression of my illness kind of soured me on healthcare management, so I spent the remainder of my working years with several local non-profit organizations in both management and fund-raising functions, My last nine years were with the Kenosha YMCA, where I got to be involved in planning and building a new facility to replace a very old one (familiar territory). 

Kenosha is quite a cycling city, partly because it has the oldest operating outdoor velodrome (banked oval racing track) in the country. I did some road racing around the country in the U.S. Transplant Games (10 times over 20 years), and once in the World Transplant Games in Vancouver. My son Eric got much deeper into racing, eventually participating in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, piloting a tandem bike for a blind rider from Colorado (both track and road racing). I organized a large local bike race and directed it for 17 years as one stage of a multi-stage race series mostly along Wisconsin’s east coast (known as SuperWeek, or the International Cycling Classic).

We sold our home in 2005 and moved into a senior living complex overlooking Lake Michigan (3rd floor facing east and south to catch the sunrises/moonrises over the lake and sunshine all day long). I retired in the fall of 2006, and Lin did the same in early 2008. On Valentine’s Day of 2008 we took delivery of a new 24′ Winnebago View motorhome, and started touring the country several times over (individual trips, not full-time). Besides visiting family, we explored 19 national parks plus several national monuments, seashores, etc. (The enclosed photo of us was taken in Olympic National Park, Washington.)

New health issues led to selling the motor-home after seven years of travel fun–much sooner than planned.. One form of heart disease (atrial fibrillation) led to two other forms for me–one of them progressive, plus pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs)..We still did some long-distance traveling by car for a while, but now we’re pretty much confined to staying around home–and quite sedentary. The bikes are long gone, including our own tandem bike. We’re so thankful for the lake view and sunlight provided by our apartment, so we don’t get plagued by cabin fever very easily.

My years in Mauston were put into perspective when a cycling friend and I rode the GReat Annual Bicycling Adventure Along the Wisconsin River (GRABAAWR) from Eagle River to Prairie du Chien over a week in July of 1999. One of the stay-over nights was in Mauston. I had pre-arranged a late afternoon tour of the recently-updated facilities by the director of nursing, whom I knew well from my days there. I was so impressed with the expansion and improvements they had made to our base facility that I told her that she and everyone there deserved a huge compliment for what they had accomplished. But she looked at me and said, “If you hadn’t come to Mauston, none of this would even be here. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation.” That just about blew me away. That was the best compliment I have ever received. It went way back into my pre-Kenosha past, digging up some hard-fought battles to achieve what we did, and put enough pride back into my life to carry me through the rougher times of aging.

I sure hope you’re able to have a 60th class reunion next year under these crazy times. Not too likely we’d be there, but you guys have worked so long and hard that you deserve to succeed. Thanks for all you’ve done on behalf of the class. 

Best wishes to you all,
Ron DeGolier

Tom Dunn

(Editor’s note) Tom’s note responded to a question asking if because of the virus had  he stopped working on carnival rides.  He seems to sum up what some of us are feeling.

You are so right!  The merry-go-rounds have all stopped this summer.  No fairs, no carnivals, no work, no phone calls, and, no traveling.  My phone has been so quiet that I call myself just to be sure that it’s working.

No virus cases among friends or family.  No riots in the streets here.  Of course, there are no streets here.  Just The State highway and farmer’s dirt roads.  Mostly, the dirt roads are in better condition.  Only in California can they re-pave a road and preserve every bump. 

Can’t complain about the weather.  It’s high 100 degrees – low 65 deg.  Lots of sunshine.  Lots !!!! of sunshine!! 

Can’t complain about work.  There is none.  That leaves me with lots of time to go kayaking, gold panning, and playing with my dog, Sigi.

The only thing I can complain about is not having anything to complain about.


My journey:

I have journeyed in all 50 United States, all of the Canadian Provinces but two, Panama, and Puerto Rico.  And, I believe that I have worked in all of them.  I rarely travel with the carnivals anymore. 

My only health issue, that I’ll admit to having, is shaky hands.  Since I have to let younger people do the finer electrical work,  I mentor engineering students.  We upgrade the electronics on an amusement ride, which gives them some hands-on experience to add to their theoretical learning.  We also provide maintenance on the Futuristic Monorail Ride which is located, permanently, at the California State Fairgrounds.  Well, it was futuristic in 1973, when it was built.  Several amusement safety seminars allow me to teach electrical safety and maintenance.

Mike Foye

Went into the Navy from high school.  When discharged I moved to Corpus Christi, Texas and attended Texas A&I College.  After college I moved to Houston where I met my wife (Alice) and started my career in sales then management for a Steel Distribution company. The company moved us to Cincinnati and then to Philadelphia. 

I took early retirement and founded a medical equipment sales and service company in Philadelphia.  I sold that business and retired to Austin, Texas.  My wife and I have 3 children and 5 granddaughters all living close to us in Texas (3 hours is “close” in Texas!!). 

Had a bit of a rough go from 2010 to 2013.  Had neck fusion surgery in 2010 and 3 months later had emergency quadruple by-pass surgery.  Okay until 2013 when I lost my lower jaw to cancer.  14 surgeries left me with after-effects to overcome but I am doing really great now.  Since I have to liquefy all my food, traveling or going out to dinner has been a challenge but not impossible.  I have spent these last 7 years mentoring others that are fighting or have had difficulty surviving this disease.  I turned a hobby of making pens and other lathe turnings into a small business (PensForTheCure) and I donate all labor and all profit to fighting cancer. 

We live on a lake in a community with 2 golf courses and enjoy boating and fishing with the kids and grandkids.  I play a lot of golf, particularly now with Covid.  With our own golf cart it is very easy to social distance!  We are hunkered down and trying to ride it out as is everyone else our age. Our local grocery stores, drug stores and most all remaining restaurants offer on-line ordering and contactless curbside pick-up.  It has worked really well.  We have been doing “Driveway Happy Hour” with our friends and neighbors.  The hardest is doing the same thing with the kids and grandkids.  Really miss the big hugs – but we are all making it work. It is going to be a different world for our grandkids but we have to stay positive and upbeat.  We have a great deal to be thankful for and we really try to stay laser focused on that. Hope this finds all of you well.  Prayers are with the whole class for a healthy future filled with joy in continuing to make great memories.  Special thanks to Peggy, Robin and Libby for keeping us going!!

John Greisen

Retiring.  A dream envisioned since 1961 when faced with an endless list of unanswerable fears. So let’s accelerate the timeline and get married with children immediately. Rush blindly into adulthood and a family with the special one you pledged to be with forever. From a Shoe salesman in white collar Madison to the no collar City of Green Bay to finish manager training. 

With 6 years and two children behind us we moved to the industrial gulag of Rockford, Illinois, birthplace of the John Bircher Society. Wow! Not anything like Mad City! We loved our freedom and brokedness which brought closeness and unadorned happiness. At the height of my 6-year shoe career and with Katie’s urging she encouraged my uprooting to Madison to earn a college degree. Back to Mad City. The seed of facing fear with change was ignited. 

After that, change and adventure took hold and we moved from Mad City, to Pittsburgh during the Terry Bradshaw Iron Curtain era, to Windy City and the Home of former Madisonians like Katie’s best friend and confidant, Jessica, Tia Nelson, and Jim Martin among others.

Chasing my career in Banking we moved to Connecticut for eleven years. New York, Boston and all of New England became our new playground. We had found our oyster! We thought. The mid-forties brought a crumbling of our castle having been built on a foundation of alcohol and prescription drugs. A dark period of our lives ensued for 4 years followed by a California awakening.  

Katie and I parted with continued get-togethers sharing our new lives. She unfortunately passed 10 years ago. She will always be missed for her engaging wit and humor. Me and the children often swap Mom stories with laughter and dampened eyes. 

Finished the career with 17 years employed by a Minneapolis investment banking firm stationed in California where I have lived for 30 years, 5 in San Diego and 25 in Huntington Beach. 

My wife Mary is a beautiful person devoted to helping others and showing the way to this wearisome traveler how to enjoy life by working with lost brothers and sisters. We are committed to helping others dealing with addiction using our combined 45 years of sobriety. Very rewarding. 

We enjoy traveling and have taken numerous cruises and overseas adventures. Over 60 nations in total. 

Presently recovering from stroke and major heart surgery. However, we just completed last month a corona virus 3000-mile South-Western Canyon & Native American auto trip. Mary was the driver and carries an Assiniboine Sioux heritage, her Mother having been born on the Fort Peck reservation. Oversea adventures have been suspended for the moment. However the quarantine gave us time and a desire to be productive at home. We started with a spring cleaning then rolled into a remodel and then a refurbishing of our home in preparation for our new born grand-daughter. (See picture below.) 

Just another old timer in line at Costco and Home depot. My oldest daughter is a Nurse Practitioner near Boulder and celebrated her 58th birthday; Patti the youngest is 57 years old and a Portfolio Manager for a Sumitomo Bank subsidiary; oldest grand-daughter, April is a CPA; Alley is finishing her Schooling as a Physical Therapist and is always at attention to catch Grandpa should he fall; Aspen just graduated from University of Washington; my two sons inherited from Mary (who has two sons at 70 years old?) starting their own adventures,  and two grand-daughters, 6 years and 6 weeks old who live with us!! 

This is nothing like I envisioned how the journey of life would happen, but looking back I would change nothing. Thank you God for a wonderful life! When encountered by a desert I was given the strength to find a new oasis!!