Each year we have lunch, Jann Kulaszewicz from Alaska, Jane Rogers from Missouri, Betty Lou Enquist from Biwabik and I.
Jann and Jane are sisters, the Willman girls of Lakeland south of Biwabik. Betty Lou, born a Kulaszewicz, is Jann's sister-in-law. Over the years we have become friends, and in a way, we go way back, for there are many connections. We find ourselves doing a lot of reminiscing.
As we did just the other day at the Wandering Pines in Gilbert. The food was good. The sisters had taco salads, I had my favorite BLT and french fries and Betty Lou had the fish and shrimp. I give rave reviews to the dining experience and kudos to the restaurant owners Earl and Lori Fitzgerald and our server Patsy Purkat.
The Willman girls sometimes are mistaken for twins. They dress alike, tops, pants, purses, jewelry, everything. It's their signature look and they carry it off well. Jann, given name Janice, and her husband Alan Kulaszewicz have lived for decades in Chugiak, Alaska. Jane and her husband Sonny Rogers have also lived for decades in Independence, Missouri. They each have grown children.
Betty Lou married Bernard "Bernie" Enquist, a native of Biwabik. She and Bernie, who died many years ago, had three sons and a daughter Lynn of Wisconsin. Sadly Betty Lou lost all three boys, Brian in his 30s, Patrick in his 40s and Steven in his early 60s, from the after-effects of a stroke. Still, Betty Lou has such a positive outlook on life — the heartache she has experienced in her lifetime she has endured. And she loves people, just as do the Willman girls.
Betty Lou and my late brother Tommy graduated from Biwabik High School in 1951. He died in his mid-20s, and when I see Betty Lou, I try to imagine Tommy being in his 80s. Thoughts of Betty Lou's late sister Bobbette Zattoni revisit too, and how their mother Helen Milos lived to 103.
Jann and Jane had a lovely mother Elmi. Their sister Joan Larsen, a good friend of my brother Tommy, and their brother Elmer — to most people he was known as Punky — are gone now. And the last time I saw their brother Jon Willman, to me he still is the handsome older kid at the Biwabik school with the nice car.
Now Jann and Jane are as mischievous as they've always been, and Jann loves to tell stories. They've been known to play tricks, much to the delight of their audiences, and Betty Lou has also participated. They like to talk politics and proudly wear their President Trump campaign buttons.
It was delightful to spend lunch and conversation with them, as we do each summer. One time we met at the Village Inn, had lunch — the "grown-up" grilled cheese and tomato-basil soup is wonderful — and we were still yakking three hours later.
As we finished our recent lunch at the Wandering Pines and headed for the parking lot, a twinge of sadness came over me. Jann and Jane are heading back home before the end of July.
But they'll be back in September, they said, and we'll get together once again. Jann and Jane will be wearing matching outfits, and Betty Lou will be with them. And all three will be entertaining and cordial once again, and the love among friends will be as it has always been.