Chippewa Herald * June 21, 2007   Visitor
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Life comes full circle in Chippewa Falls

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

My world has seemed like a whirlwind the last month. I have attended the wedding of two of my good friends in their early twenties (Brent Boorsma and Jesse Wolf), then I got to see the newborn baby of other good friends in their late twenties (Ryan and Tara Burr).

On the other end of the spectrum, FOUR people I know in Chippewa Falls have recently met their Maker. From old to young, from famous to unknown, each one leaves their own void. I have seen the complete circle of life in just the last three weeks.

The first funeral I went to was for Dorothy Frederick, who left this world on May 27. Dorothy was a very classy lady who was an inspiration to everyone she met.

Our church hosted a 99th birthday bash for Dorothy last fall, and we were planning an even bigger party for her 100th birthday this coming September.

Dorothy was always impeccably dressed, and had a contagiously cheerful disposition. Her great attitude toward life was even more amazing when you consider her background -- she was left a widow at age 40, with NINE children, including an infant.

I am proud to learn that our church, Chippewa Valley Bible Church, took her and her kids under their wing after her husband died in the late 1940s, providing her with transportation and other needs. She has blessed us back tenfold.

A true inspiration to those around her, Dorothy always gave credit to her hope and trust in the Lord. She was healthy enough to live alone in her own house, even at 99.5 years old. Her funeral was a joyful celebration of her life, but she will be dearly missed.

The next two deaths came only two days apart. Both from Chippewa Falls, one man was known by very few, and one was known by everyone.

Millard Cormican, who died at 69 on June 4, was "discovered" living in an old railroad car in Chippewa Falls a few years ago by two young men from our church. Still teenagers at the time, Jason Hedkte and Greg Gilbertson kept seeing Millard sitting on his porch watching traffic go by, and decided to just go meet him.

Their "Friends of Millard" team soon included Debbie Nutzmann, a mother of four in our church who was already busy, but who took on Millard as a personal mission. She eventually got him out of the dilapidated coach car and into an apartment, and faithfully brought him to church every Sunday.

Debbie spearheaded birthday parties and persuaded others to send cards and letters to Millard. For a guy who had no friends or family anywhere, this attention was a new delight in his life. Millard's passing is a loss for our whole church family.

Two days after Millard left us, Gerry Mann died unexpectedly while vacationing in Europe. I was not a close friend of Gerry's, but I admired his bagpipe playing and his great leadership at the Heyde Center. His death was front-page news at the Herald.

I remember thinking at the time, "Wow, three deaths in only ten days!" I was not at all prepared for the shock and grief of the next one, less than a week later.

Levi Stokka, a 12-year-old who is both my friend's son and my sons' friend, rode his bicycle out of his driveway and into the path of an oncoming pickup truck.

I put some photos of Levi on this web page to honor and remember him: "".

Levi had gone to Christ Lutheran School his whole life. CLS has small classes -- so small that they usually have to combine grades 5 and 6. Even with combined grades, there were only nine kids in his class this year. With such small classes, the families of CLS are a tight-knit group, and losing Levi has been devastating to all of us.

A mom of Levi's classmate wrote a moving poem, reprinted in the funeral program, that best expresses what we're all feeling. She gave me permission to use it here:

"Levi's Team"

by Missie Benner

Someone lost a friend today;
A classroom holds an empty chair.
A youth group circle is minus one;
A ball team lost a player.

A father's grief, so much to bear;
A mother's arms are aching.
Brothers and sisters numb with pain;
Grandparents' hearts are breaking.

Whoever thought a sunny day
Could carry so much gloom?
Whoever knew an empty spot
Could take up so much room?

But we know he just kept riding
To the One who owns his heart.
"Come join my team!", his Savior shouted,
"The game's about to start!"

So to this tightly we must hold --
A hope for things unseen.
Would you be ready, if it were today,
To play on Levi's Team?

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