Care Team Ministry: ‘Escapades’ create close companionship | Catholic Charities Diocese of Madison

Care Team Ministry: ‘Escapades’ create close companionship

Catholic Charities News

Esther, left, was paired up with Marsha through Catholic Charities’ Care Team Ministry program about three years ago. Marsha is a volunteer member of St. Anne’s (Stoughton) Care Team.

Sitting around a glass-topped table in her warm and inviting apartment, Esther shares stories from a long and blessing-filled life with Marsha, her friend and Care Team member, and Melissa Kelley, Care Team Ministry’s program manager.

At nearly 100 years old, Esther has had plenty of adventures. Born in 1924, she lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Her father had worked in a shoe factory, but when the depression forced the factory to make layoffs, he became a self-taught horticulturist and eventually built a successful floral business.

Recalling her life as a young woman, she sparkles as she recounts her move from Wausau to the “big city” of Milwaukee, where she worked in a loan office. She lights up, saying that she loved living in Milwaukee because “that’s where all the action was.” However, after just two years of living in Milwaukee, she was pulled back to Wausau to help her family.

“My dad wrote a letter and he said, ‘You have to come home and help,’ he said, ‘I can’t do it all,’” she said. The family business was booming, but with all the young men off to war, Esther’s father couldn’t find employees to help him. “My dad said, ‘If you don’t come home,’ he said, ‘we’re just going to have to sell the business.’”

“It was just an impossible situation. So, I quit my job in Milwaukee and went back,” Esther said.

Marsha then interjects, “Which was, I remember you telling me about this, a big sacrifice because you loved it in Milwaukee.”

This sacrifice turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it taught Esther so many of the skills she carried into the rest of her life, including her natural ability as a leader.

“That, for me, was an education, because I had learned to drive when I was in school yet, and so I was doing deliveries, I was receptionist answering the phone, my dad was teaching me design, floral design. So, it was a good education for me,” she said.

It also propelled her into the next phase of her life and her role as a wife and mother. Though she met her husband before he joined the armed forces and fought in Europe, they had agreed to wait to marry until after the war.

“When he came home, it was right after D-Day, and he called,” Esther said. Disguising his voice, “he said, ‘I wonder if you’d be interested in making a little investment?’” Esther, who had just spoken to someone from the loan office about potentially coming back to work in Milwaukee, was confused by the mysterious caller. “So, then when my husband called and disguised his voice, I thought this was the field man calling again. I said, ‘what sort of an investment?’ And he said, ‘Oh, like getting married?’” she laughs.

Before continuing with her story, Esther sheepishly covers her mouth and says, “I didn’t mean to hog all the time, Marsha.” Marsha immediately forgives her, saying, “You have a more interesting story than any of us here.”

Esther, who has a sharp memory and comes alive when she talks about the past, playfully dismisses the rest of the details, saying, “And so we went on with our lives and the rest of it was kind of just…” and makes the universal “so-so” gesture, which makes her audience erupt in laughter. Marsha, who has been fortunate to hear the details of Esther’s life, rushes to set the record straight, saying “It was not!”

Marsha and Esther’s genuine friendship is immediately obvious to a casual observer. Esther moved to Wisconsin to be closer to family after living in Florida for 36 years. She was paired up with Marsha through Catholic Charities’ Care Team Ministry program about three years ago. Marsha is a volunteer member of St. Anne’s (Stoughton) Care Team and Esther is her second Care Partner.

During their time together, they have had plenty of “escapades” (their word!), including one time when Esther was chosen to star in a television commercial and Marsha accompanied her. Marsha recalls having to navigate through an active construction site where the commercial was being filmed and worrying about Esther’s safety. Meanwhile, Esther was enjoying her time in the spotlight and spoiled their planned lunch by taking full advantage of the charcuterie board, treats, and champagne that were available for the “actors.”

The pair is a great example of easy companionship and the joy that comes from having someone to talk to. They get together weekly, and they both look forward to their time together.

“We both get something out of this,” said Marsha, describing a time when she learned some upsetting news right before her visit with Esther. “I shared it with her, and she just had such wisdom and such good things to say.”

The feeling is mutual.

“She’s such a great person. She’s so dependable,” Esther aid, illuminating the richness that Marsha brings to her life.

Before the conversation winds down and Esther starts passing cookies around to her guests, Marsha reflects on Esther’s 100 years.

“When people say, ‘What’s the greatest accomplishment of a long life?’ You are able to say you’ve had many good friends and a good family, So you got the big things in life right, didn’t you?”

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