2004 – Fall ’20 Class Letter

Nick Spaeth ’04

(262) 227-6097 / [email protected]

Greetings Class of ’04, 

There’s nothing I could put here that would in any way do justice to what you each have been experiencing since mid-March when our world got turned upside down. So instead of hollow platitudes, I want to focus on the positives. This isn’t meant to belittle the negatives so commonly and understandably associated with much of our lives over the past few months. Your classmates shared the following positives that have happened to them during the pandemic, and I can’t think of a better thing to share.

MELISSA BAUR ’04 The positive thing for me is that as a result of the pandemic I have been able to reduce the amount of travel I do for work, having only traveled the first couple months of the year vs years past where I traveled 3-5 days a month on average.

KARI WHEATON ’04 – A positive that has happened for me is that I have been working from home since March and get to see my little girl all the time now. Also, she and I (mostly her) made cards for the elderly who live in the assisted living homes near our house. She drew them pictures and we handed out fresh flowers from our garden, as well as vegetables and strawberries. For the residents who couldn’t get out to go to the grocery store we took their shopping lists and did their grocery shopping for them.

SCOTT BUCHHOLZ ’04 – Besides getting much healthier from a lack of social eating and drinking due to shelter in place, our family made it to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite on Saturday, July 4th – including our 7-year-old daughter Alyssa. While JESS WALTERS BUCHHOLZ ’05 made it to the sub-dome, but not up the cables. The park was practically empty with so much wildlife wondering where all the humans went. To make things even better we  (accidentally) stayed in the same cottage that President Obama camped in almost four years ago in June 2016. We made a fire every night and it was something so special that just wouldn’t have happened if not for this global pandemic of COVID-19. We’ll never forget the 4th of July in 2020!  Reminded us of our old Ripon Outdoor Club (ROC) days, getting back out in nature and even a little rock climbing. Still not quite Devil’s Lake… 🙂

NICK GEORGE ’04 – We have come to better know our new neighbors and spent more time as a family – activities, games, and being outside together playing and working on projects more than we would have otherwise. My travel was significantly reduced from being gone 2-3 weeks a month to some day trips or shorter 2-3 days at a time. My kids now have a greater appreciation for diversity than they did previously – solely based on geographic demographics, and we are much closer to family than we have been for the last eight years or so.

SARA WICHLACZ HANEY ’04 – We have more time for gardening, hiking in the mountains with our two sons, and to connect with neighbors who we would otherwise rarely see.

DIANE KEELING ’04 – A positive from COVID-19 is the time people have spent drawing attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. It gave me a chance to wake up to my racism. As a liberal progressive and educator, I was under the false impression that I was not racist. Recognizing the ways I have harmed black, indigenous, and people of color without realizing it has been painful, but also enriched my relationships and provided a meaningful new life direction.

LINDSAY GORSKE MICHELS ’04 – Although I started my degree path at Ripon for early childhood/special education, never did I think I’d be a full time at-home teacher. However, something positive from the pandemic, is that it allowed me to spend more time with our children, which is a blessing to me! Time that our oldest would have otherwise been in school,  although challenging at times, I cherished every moment!

ANDY MIELKE ’04 – During the pandemic we have taken the time as a family to focus more on health. As a couple, the Mielke’s have dropped some significant weight. It has also given us the opportunity to focus on health and healthy habits with our boys. They have learned a lot about everything from hand washing to how germs can be transferred.

REBECCA PERKINS ’04 started a new job as Advancement Manager at Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, IA in April. It was certainly an unusual time to switch employers in the middle of a pandemic.

KRISTY PLATO BLOCK ’04 – Can my one positive be that I had a baby the day after the country was shut down??? 🙂  I also got married on March 10, 2020 to Kevin Block.

JILL SUNDERLAND POHLMEIER ’04 – Honestly, this whole COVID-19 time has been pretty much just business as usual for me.  Fortunately, my company kept going, we just got moved to a full-time work from home set up, and my husband was able to continue to work throughout as well. We consider ourselves very lucky.

TYLER SCHWIRTZ ’04 and ETTA HILLIGOSS SCHWIRTZ ’04 both continue to be in the special education field. Tyler is a behavior specialist and Etta works for the early intervention program in Fort Collins CO. We have three kids: a 9-year-old son, 6-year-old daughter, and 4-year-old son. One positive of COVID-19 life is all the extra time we have together. We have been enjoying the outdoors and our family hiked a total of 55 miles in May.

BETH HUNTER SMITH ’04 of West Bend, WI, married NICHOLAS SMITH ’05 in September of 2018.

MICHAEL TIMM ’04 I’ve been doing some sketching in the parks by Lake Michigan when I get out for my daily walk or bike ride. It’s a small way to relax and put my mind and body on something less stressful. I enjoy the ritual of drawing what I choose to observe and not caring if it’s “good” or not. The sketching practice predates the pandemic but I’ve devoted more time to being present and creating these quick sketches over the past few months.

Stay safe, stay well, and go Brewers.


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