Hello, everyone. This is Geri Czarnecki. I have been thinking of November 11, 2021, my Good-bye day, for a long time. There are so many ways to say a final Good-bye.
When I recalled that for many years, I’d been encouraging people to tell their stories, I decided to write my own story as a way to share my heart and my life with you. So, instead of burdening someone to talk about me and my life, I decided to do it myself.
My story starts with two farm kids from Oconto County. Clarence Huisman met Ila Kane at a dance and they fell in love. They married and moved to Green Bay where my dad got a job at Otto Kaap’s Restaurant. They saved enough to buy and old house at 310 Quincy Street in Green Bay. One day, Otto Kaap asked my dad if he knew any other hardworking farm boys or girls who would come to work for him. A few months later, my mother had six men and my dad’s sister, Grace, boarding in our big, old house. My mother was too busy to give me attention, but the six young men would fight to take care of me and take me for walks in my buggy. This is how I became a tomboy at an early age.
When I was five, my mother was pregnant with my sister, Judy, and we moved to 893 Christiana Street on Green Bay’s west side. That house was where I would reside for all of my growing up years. From little on, I took care of my dear sister Judy, who always called me her “Big Sizzer.” I’d cut her hair and attend her parent-teacher conferences. When it was time for Judy to enter kindergarten, she said, “I’m so scared to go to school.” When I asked her why, she said, “Because I don’t know how to read.” How we learned to laugh together and love together! I love my baby sizzer so very much. Our laughter is still warming my heart.
I wish I could say they were all happy years, but my mom was very depressed and anxious and I was a strong -minded littler girl. My mom was in and out of hospitals because of her depression and anxiety. When I was a teen-ager, one of my aunts told me I was the reason my mom worried so much. That was when I decided to leave home. I was still in my teens when I married a sweet and gentle man, older than I, and we had three beautiful children.
What does a teenager know about marriage and parenting three young children? The years went by, my mom passed away, and a divorce followed.
As I look back, I remember those hard times, but I also remember the presence of those three wonderful kids. My father, a generous, funny, and loving man, looked out for the kids and me after the divorce and stood by me all the way. He left me my sense of humor and the ability to finally love deeply.
Ann, my first child, was gentle, quiet, rarely complained. She was always ready to help. Today she is married to Bill, another sweet and gentle person and has nine sweet grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, all in Texas where Ann works in the IT Department of a a school district. Ann and Bill have Melissa, Nathan, and Nichole, all as wonderful as their parents.
I think of David, my first son, who would junk-pick anything with a motor and make a go-cart out of it. Or he and his friends would shoot rockets out in the field or build a tree house in our back yard. One time he and a friend almost blew up the bathroom by mixing some household chemicals together. He has now risen through the ranks at Wisconsin Public Service. There is nothing he can’t fix. David and his wonderful wife, Karen, have two great kids, Tony and Kaitlyn. Dave and Karen are wonderful grandparents to their six sweet grandchildren.
Mark, my second son, was also a joy; a curly headed, little boy who was always smiling. He would play out in the back yard and every now and then, he’d come to the back door and say: “Mom, I’m here.” Mark was very inquisitive and talkative. One time Ann offered to pay him a dollar to be quiet for an hour. I don’t think he got that dollar. Today, Mark manages a jewelry store in North Carolina and has three great children, Lauren, Amanda Germaine, and Ryan. His great wife, Teresa, was and is a perfect partner for him.
Was my difficult start in life worth it? All I have to do is look at my children and their children and our grandchildren to know that the answer to that question is Yes. Without questions.
But my story continues…
During the hard times, I found myself going back to school. I earned a teaching degree and taught for several years. Then I again returned to school and earned a master’s in counseling and then a doctoral degree at the age of fifty in Clinical counseling. I like to remind people that you are never too old to go back to school. I continued to teach and to counsel individuals, couples, and families. God has blessed me with a love of learning and a love for my work.
But what about this God of ours? He has played a great part in my story.
During this time period, I met and married my husband, Frank. He was not the perfect husband, but became the perfect husband for me. We were blessed with another beautiful child, a little girl named Sara. Like her dad, she was full of adventure. She spent 5 years in South America after college and is now at home in Brooklyn, New York. Sara is a social worker in a core school and loves her students. She also has taken the torch as a therapist, specializing in trauma.
Sara has a wonderful family of her own. She married Rich, an artist, architect, and builder who is rebuilding an old house. Sara and Rich have three great kids, Joshua Francis, Amelia, and Eddie.
I am sorry that I will not be here to see all of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up, but I know I will enjoy seeing them from above.
I need to say more about my wonderful husband, Frank. Jesus said that He will take us out of the muck and mire of life and set us on solid ground, and that is what He did with Frank and me. Frank became my best friend over the years, my favorite cook, the one who made me laugh the most. He supported me through all of our ups and downs and was always there for me. What a gift he has been to me.
This idea takes us to another series of events that took place during my time of trials. I had given up on God and the religion of my childhood. If there was a God, my life would not have been what it was. I was spiritually empty inside.
Then one day a neighbor, Joyce Broeren, came over with a Bible in her hand. I remember saying, “That won’t work for me, Joyce.” But Joyce did not give up. She told me about Jesus in a way I had never heard before. She told me about a God who forgives and forgets, a God who longs for an invitation to live within our very heart and soul, a God who brings peace into broken lives. Well, Joyce would not give up on me and somewhere along, I must have given in because I started to feel a change. It took a while, but God never gave up on me. I rejoice that my whole family, from oldest to youngest, has a relationship with Jesus. Because of this we will all be together forever. Until that time comes, I am already rejoicing with family and friends who have gone home before me. I am thanking Aunt Jeanette for ceaselessly praying for all of us. I am now where I’ve always wanted to be and all it took was asking Jesus to come into my life and lead me through the ups and owns of life. Life here on earth is a nice place to visit, but not forever.
If some of you have not already asked Jesus into your life, you are missing a wonderful unending journey. All it takes is a word of prayer. “Jesus, come into my life and take care of me.” He will take care of all the rest, and you will never be the same.
During my last days I was given the gift of friendship and was cared for so lovingly by Home Instead and Unity Hospice, truly angels on earth. I am especially grateful to Susie, Karen, Sara, Chan, Alice, Joan, and Lisa for their comforting presence.
Well, you all know the rest of the story. I have been blessed with the most awesome family and friends of all kinds. I invite all of you to Green Bay Community Church, 600 Cardinal Lane, on Saturday, December 4th to celebrate my going home to Jesus. Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. The Memorial Service will be held at 12:00 p.m. I ask that you not send flowers, but rather, honor my memory with a donation to the Salvation Army, Unity Hospice, or the charity of your choice if you are so inclined. To leave a message for my family, visit www.prokowall.com.
May God be with you till we meet again.