IN BALANCE — Breathing for better health

December 1, 2016

By Aleisha Anderson

Aleisha Anderson Head ShotThe effects of chronic stress are well documented. One of the most common side effects of this fight or flight state is shallow breathing.

Fight or flight is a term that describes a chain of events in the body that is utilized in stressful situations. The response to real or perceived stress or danger creates an overall effect that makes the body speed up, tense up, and become generally more alert. The body prepares to take quick action against what is perceived as an immediate threat.

When the fight or flight system activates, each breath becomes shorter and more rapid. The body responds with frequent sighing, jaw clenching, holding of breath, frequent yawning, and lifted shoulders with neck tension.

Stress hormones are released to support any required quick, critical response. If the body is regularly exposed to feelings of urgency or has a stored history of trauma, a chronic state of fight or flight may persist — even small stressors may be perceived as an immediate threat. Short, rapid breaths may become a normal pattern if we are not mindful of the effects of chronic stress.

Shallow breathing is not a sign that the body needs more oxygen. Ironically, the body is likely over-breathing in a chronic fight or flight pattern. To reverse this pattern, the body must slow down the breath cycle and lengthen exhalation, which will slow down the heart rate. It sends a message to the brain that everything is more calm and peaceful.

Exhalation is the most important aspect of breathing when trying to release stress, trauma, pain, and tension from the body.

A simple breathing practice that helps retrain a shallow breathing pattern is called the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system that emphasizes a longer exhalation than inhalation.

This breathing practice is simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although mindful breathing can be done in any position, sit with the back straight while learning the exercise. Try to breathe into the belly and relax the shoulders. Place the tip of the tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind the upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire practice. It is important to exhale through the mouth, so pursing the lips slightly may help air pass around the tongue.

To start, exhale completely through the mouth, making a whoosh sound. Next, close the mouth and inhale quietly through the nose to a mental count of four. Hold the breath for a count of seven, keeping the shoulders relaxed. Exhale completely through the mouth with a whooshing sound to the count of eight. This is one breath cycle, now inhale and repeat this three more times for a total of four cycles.

If you have trouble holding the breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice the breath will slow down and the body will get accustomed to inhaling and exhaling more deeply. Any light-headedness you may experience will pass. Practice breathing this way at least twice per day with a total of four breaths per session.

Bay View resident Aleisha Anderson, L.Ac., is the clinic director and acupuncturist at Mke Mindbody Wellness, an integrative wellness center with holistic therapies focused on mental health. More info: Disclaimer: The information provided in this column is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or care. 

PAREN(T)HESIS — Greeting grandma

December 1, 2016

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

NEW Jill Maher Headshot Dec 2013Many of us are heading, in the words of a song, “Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house” for the holidays. All the family gatherings make me wonder, who is this modern grandma? Does she fulfill the stereotype by meeting us at the threshold, sporting an apron dusted with a bit of flour?

The grandmother of 2016 may be an older member of Generation X or a Baby Boomer. She may be spending holiday time with her children, grandchildren, and even her own parents. Geographic separation may require that some of her interactions take place by phone or video chat with Facetime or Skype. Instead of greeting us at the doorway in her apron, she may greeting us on the holiday via her phone when she gets home from work.

She may love her family but might not love to bake cookies for them, that tradition that we still associate with the older generation. In fact, grandma (if she even permits herself to be addressed as such) may be too busy working to bake or partake in other traditional ‘grandmotherly hobbies’ like quilting and preserving applesauce. A majority of grandparents are still working.

People don’t always conform to stereotypes. I remember when I became aware of my stereotype when I interviewed an elderly woman for this newspaper and assumed she would enjoy cooking and baking. She surprised me when she informed me that wasn’t true for her.

Grandma of 2016 has far fewer grandchildren than a grandma who was alive when most of Bay View’s homes were built in the early 1900s. The number has decreased from a dozen to about six grandchildren, and the trend line keeps heading down. In my own family, my maternal gram had four kids and my paternal gram had five, while my parents and my in-laws each had two children. My husband and I have one, making our extended families an example of the shift toward smaller families.

Here’s hoping that I get to be a grandma and that I am done working at the office by then!

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at

REAL ESTATE SPOTTLIGHT 53207 — Price it right

December 1, 2016

By Toni Spott

Toni Spott

Toni Spott

Thank you for joining me for my inaugural real estate column. This monthly column will be all about real estate and how it applies to Bay View. The real estate market can be a fickle thing. It goes up; it goes down. It’s usually up when you are trying to buy and it will go down when you are trying to sell. Murphy’s Law, right?

Currently, we are in a seller’s market phase in Bay View because there is such a shortage of homes for sale. There are also a lot of frustrated buyers. As soon when a home comes on the market, the seller receives an offer the first day. But, of course, not your offer.

Listings seem to vanish within days in Bay View. That is, if the home is priced right.

Let’s take a look at that.

If a home has been on the market for an extended period of time and it’s a great home with new updates, etc., but isn’t selling, it’s because the price isn’t right.

If it’s in need of a total makeover, and there is no interest, again, it’s the wrong price. A home will not sell until it is priced right. So what should you do to be smart and ready in a tight market like this?

Make sure you have a lender who has pre-approved you, then find a good agent to represent you. You want to find someone who will educate you about the home buying process and what you need to do to purchase a home.

They should also inform you about the market itself. What is listed in your price range, in the area you are looking, and what are those homes selling for? Remember, a listing price is only the asking price. The seller may indeed sell it for that listed price or for over or under it.

Again, the market sets the price when it comes to a home sale, not the seller, not their friends or family, and not what they paid for it. It is the price the buyer pays for a home that determines the final price.

If you, as a buyer, have done your homework, you should be able to make smart decisions that work in your best interest. Be cognizant of the current market in the area where you want to buy. Know what homes are selling for.

As a seller, you should make sure you are working with a knowledgeable, honest, proactive agent who knows the market in the area where the home is listed. Make sure the agent does more than just put a sign in the yard. Even in this seller’s market, your home needs stellar marketing.

Also, never assume it will sell right away. A good agent should actively market and promote your home until it is sold or until all the contingencies are exhausted.

Email me anytime with any questions you may have.

Happy Holidays!

Toni Spott, Sustainable Agent, Keller Williams Realty; 414-788-4255;
Facebook: Toni Spott’s Real Estate Resource; @ToniSpottsRealEstateResource

Downtown Montessori Academy Students Crochet Mats for Homeless

December 1, 2016

Front row from left: LuLu Zarate, Gianna Meer, Isabella Jamel Second row from left: Owen Fisk, Lilly DenDooven, Leila Muhammad, Emma Volpe, Kennedy Schultz Third row from left: Roan Smith, Stella Crane, Breyonna Northway Back row from left: Kelsey McCarron, Elliott Fisk, Ava DenDooven, Diego DeHaan, Elena DeHaan, Jenny Urbanek

Front row from left: LuLu Zarate, Gianna Meer, Isabella Jamel
Second row from left: Owen Fisk, Lilly DenDooven, Leila Muhammad, Emma Volpe, Kennedy Schultz
Third row from left: Roan Smith, Stella Crane, Breyonna Northway
Back row from left: Kelsey Mccarran, Elliott Fisk, Ava DenDooven, Diego DeHaan, Elena DeHaan, Jenny Urbanek PHOTO Jenny Urbanek

Downtown Montessori Academy students learned to crochet to help the homeless, and at the same time, use up some of the ubiquitous plastic shopping bags that plague the planet.

A group of 18 students ranging from Grade 4 to Grade 7 transformed 2,000 bags into two 3.5- by 6-foot sleeping mats and several sitting pillows for the homeless. They met for a total of 13 hours — twice a week between Oct. 4 and Nov. 17.
They cut plastic shopping bags into strips and tied them together to make long strips of plastic yarn or “plarn.”
Lower elementary teacher Kelsey McCarron and art teacher Jenny Urbanek taught the students to crochet with yarn before they tackled the plarn.


Plastic yarn (plain) is created from cutting plastic shopping bags into strips and tying them together. PHOTO Jenny Urbanek

Plastic yarn (plain) is created from cutting plastic shopping bags into strips and tying them together. PHOTO Jenny Urbanek

DMA students made plarn sleeping mats and sitting pillows to make winter a little more bearable for the homeless in Milwaukee. “The plarn sleeping mats provide a clean, dry, soft sleeping surface as well as an extra layer between the ground and the sleeper or sitter. They are water-resistant, insulating, lightweight, easy to wash, unlikely to harbor pests, and nearly indestructible,” said Urbanek.
The project helped improve students’ manual dexterity skills, but it also promoted “patience, self-control, creative problem-solving, empathy, and awareness regarding social issues in our community.”

The sleeping mats were donated to Hope House, a transitional living center on the near south side.

St. Francis Sisters of St. Francis Assisi plan new convent

December 1, 2016

By Katherine Keller

The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi’s plans to construct a new convent would preserve two of the original buildings, as well the newer ones. The majority of the oldest buildings would be demolished. Building that would be preserved: Coral (St. Francis Chapel); Orange (Troubadour Meeting Room); Yellow (Juniper Court); Purple (Canticle Court). Buildings that would be demolished: Blue (Marian Center/Loretto and Rosary Halls and Clare Wing); Turquoise (Power House); Green (Motherhouse); Pink (St. Elizabeth)

The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi’s plans to construct a new convent would preserve two of the original buildings, as well the newer ones. The majority of the oldest buildings will be demolished.
Buildings that would be preserved: Coral (St. Francis Chapel); Orange (Troubadour Meeting Room); Yellow (Juniper Court); Purple (Canticle Court).
Buildings that would be demolished: Blue (Marian Center/Loretto and Rosary Halls and Clare Wing); Turquoise (Power House); Green (Motherhouse); Pink (St. Elizabeth)


Demolition has begun at the Marian Center for Nonprofits. The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi will build a new convent at the current site, 3195 S. Superior St.

Spokesperson Jean Merry said Groth Group of Milwaukee would design the new facility that would provide living quarters for 80 sisters and would include a kitchen and dining room. The motherhouse offices would also be moved to the new building. A convent’s motherhouse is often the founding building or main location of a religious order.

The century-old Marian Center buildings, that formerly housed St. Mary’s Academy and St. Clare College, presented mounting unsustainable maintenance costs and no longer meet the aging sisters’ basic health and safety needs.

Currently 40 sisters live in small rooms, inadequate for elder care, on the third and fourth floors of one of the other buildings is part of the demolition plan.

The sisters closed the Marian Center in May, 2016.

The center was created, after St. Mary’s Academy closed, to preserve the legacy of Loretto Hall, Rosary Hall, and Clare wing, three connected structures. Former classrooms were converted to offices for nonprofit organizations. According to the center’s website, “Loretto Hall was constructed in 1904 as St. Mary’s Academy, a high school for young women. Expansions in 1931 and 1935 created Rosary Hall and Clare Wing, to allow for the development of St. Clare College in 1937.”

Four years ago the sisters partnered with Milwaukee-based developer Cardinal Capital Management, Inc. to redevelop the Marian Center for Nonprofits into 44 affordable apartments. The plans were scuttled for the $10 million project when the partners were unable to secure sufficient financing.

Building that would be preserved: Coral (St. Francis Chapel); Orange (Troubadour Meeting Room); Yellow (Juniper Court); Purple (Canticle Court).

Buildings that would be demolished: Blue (Marian Center/Loretto and Rosary Halls and Clare Wing); Turquoise (Power House); Green (Motherhouse); Pink (St. Elizabeth)


Bay View High School preps student chefs

December 1, 2016

By Sheila Julson


From left: Sonya Gordon, Chef Dane Baldwin, Esmeralda Vieyra. The Bay View High School Culinary ProStart curriculum includes both textbook and hands-on lab instruction. PHOTO Steve Vande Zande

On a recent November morning a group Bay View High School students donned in chef coats enthusiastically prepared collard greens, turkey giblet gravy, and whipped cream. They were working under the guidance and direction of ProStart teacher Annmarie Sims and chef mentors Dane Baldwin and Jarvis Williams.

ProStart, new to Bay View this academic year, is a two-year program with a curriculum designed to prepare students for culinary arts and hospitality careers.

Bay View is one of four MPS high schools participating in the pilot. The other three are Washington, James Madison, and Vincent. The nationwide program was developed by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation in 1997.

Isiah Wright, a junior, watched Chef Baldwin demonstrate making turkey giblet gravy. Wright said he was always interested in his family’s Southern cooking traditions. He had heard his grandmother talk about the ProStart culinary arts program, and when he heard it was coming to Bay View, he signed up.

“It gives you a brighter eye about being in the kitchen, especially regarding safety and other regulations,” Wright said. “I learned a couple of things that I would have done are wrong because of the safety hazards. I brought those skills home and helped my mom become safer in the kitchen.”


Juniors Michael Kinjorski and Isiah Wright are gaining work experience and honing their cooking skills through the ProStart Culinary Arts Program at Bay View High School. PHOTO Sheila Julson

Michael Kinjorski, also a junior, has been cooking since he was seven years old. Now he cooks dinner for his family and said that he has always wanted to open a restaurant. “We learn a lot about knife cuts and safety that I didn’t know about,” he said. “The class made me more comfortable working with knives because I was worried about cutting myself.”

ProStart operates in over 100 high schools throughout Wisconsin and has been in existence for 19 years, according to the Wisconsin Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

Bartolotta Restaurants was an instrumental partner in establishing ProStart in a workforce development format for MPS. Husband and wife team Jennifer and Joe Bartolotta, owners of The Bartolotta Restaurants group, are enthusiastic supporters of urban education.

Other partners include SURG Restaurant Group, Hospitality Democracy, Honeypie, and the nonprofit Arts@Large.

Program funding is provided by Milwaukee Public Schools. Bartolotta Restaurants sponsored a fundraising gala this past September at Discovery World, said MPS communications spokesperson Amy Kant. Jennifer Bartolotta said that $307,000 was raised at that gala to implement ProStart at MPS and that some of those funds will also pay for the cost of establishing an authentic restaurant-style commercial station in each one of the schools.

The district originally borrowed money to get ProStart rolling, Bartolotta said. A portion of the gala funds was also applied to repaying that loan.

The district and its partners also worked with Colder’s Furniture to acquire new refrigerators and stoves at a discounted rate. Milwaukee-based Boelter food service and equipment company donated chef’s knives, cutting boards, graters, sifters, and Vitamix blenders. Bartolotta said, “We gave them an order for about $150,000, and they sold it to the district for $49,000.”

Mentors Make It Happen

ProStart curriculum includes both textbook and hands-on lab instruction. Chef Baldwin works at Mr. B’s Steakhouse, part of the Bartolotta restaurant group. He grew up in Milwaukee and through the Chapter 220 program, an MPS program that promoted school integration, Dane attended Whitefish Bay High School. After working as a cook, Baldwin decided to pursue a career as a chef. Now he wants to share his knowledge with others, and he’s seen enthusiasm for the program grow. “You can see a graduated interest every week and it has spiked,” Baldwin observed.


Chef Jarvis Williams observes student Derion Ashford who is deftly practicing his knife skills dicing an onion. PHOTO Steve Vande Zande

Jarvis Williams is a corporate chef with SURG. He’s been with the restaurant group for 10 years, and he’s also a Bay View alum, Class of 1999. Since the program began, he’s seen the students become creative and not only prepare foods they like, but also try different foods and various ways to present the foods.

Williams said students made coleslaw and miniature sliders. “The students have ideas about what to cook or have been exposed to things at home,” he said, “They come from different cultures and backgrounds and have different ways to prepare food and bring it to the table.” He said they enjoy eating what they prepare.


From left: Ms. Annmarie Sims, Chef Jarvis Williams, Adrianna Flowers, Dezarae Moore, Chef Dane Baldwin, Michael Kinjorski, Sonya Gordo, and Isiah Wright. PHOTO Steve Vande Zande

Sims comes from a cooking family. She has worked in customer service and business, volunteered with her church for a hospitality team, and operated her own cake baking business. She also taught an adult version of ProStart Culinary & Job Readiness Program through HeartLove Place. Sims enjoys working with teens and seeing their engagement in the program. “It piques their interest and gets them thinking more positively about their future,” she said.

Some recipes used for the ProStart cooking labs are traditional but with a healthier twist. Sims says they use no pork when preparing greens. Instead, they use herbs and garlic for flavor. Sims, Baldwin, and Williams also alter recipes and class structure to accommodate food allergies.

Team Atmosphere Emphasized

ProStart classes draw students with diverse interests — academics, sports, and arts, including football players and cheerleaders. But in ProStart classes, Sims says everyone is equal and there’s no special treatment for popular students. There are four students on each team. Each team member rotates through four different positions — head chef, sanitation chef, organization chef, and assistant chef.

Sandra Peterson, Bay View High School principal, said the students love working with Baldwin and Williams. Recently the students prepared appetizers and mini desserts that were served at a community meeting. “I was so proud of them,” Peterson said, “They were so professional in their presentation of the hors d’oeuvres.”

There is a waiting list for ProStart and many other students have already expressed their interest in signing up with their guidance counselors.

Arts@Large has been working with kids in ninth and tenth grades, exposing them to culinary arts through a partnership with Honeypie, Peterson said.

From left: Chef Jarvis Williams, Chef Dane Baldwin, Adrianna Flowers, Dezarae Moore, Michael Kinjorski, Isiah Wright, Raivianna Johnson, Sonya Gordon, Marques DeVaughn. PHOTO Steve Vande Zande

From left: Chef Jarvis Williams, Chef Dane Baldwin, Adrianna Flowers, Dezarae Moore, Michael Kinjorski, Isiah Wright, Raivianna Johnson, Sonya Gordon, Marques DeVaughn. PHOTO Steve Vande Zande

Jennifer Bartolotta helps with the ProStart classes and spends time at each of the four MPS high schools where the program is offered. “After two years working with these chefs, these students will have the skills to walk into any restaurant in the city of Milwaukee, including our Bacchus or Sanford, on day one as an entry level prep cook,” she said. “That’s what Chef Baldwin and Chef Williams are bringing to this program. [If the] students decide if they want to do this as a career, we’ve positioned them to be successful on day one. We want our kids to enter up the ladder.”

ProStart students who successfully complete the program can earn up to 10 credits toward graduation in Milwaukee Area Technical College’s culinary arts program.

Sheila Julson is a regular contributor to the Bay View Compass.

Coyote Watch — Get Involved

December 1, 2016

small-eastern-coyote-emdotMilwaukee County Parks and the Wisconsin DNR want you to help them collect information about coyote sightings to monitor the animals’ activity and behavior.

Additionally, Milwaukee County Parks wants you to help them inform others about the project. If you are a part of a neighborhood association, a member of one of the online Next Door Communities, or receive neighborhood updates through email or newsletters, they ask that you reach out to your neighbors and ask them to report coyote sightings in your neighborhoods and local parks.

The county is collaborating with the website to collect sightings data. If you see a coyote, report the observation to the Milwaukee County Coyote Watch project page:


Coyote sightings in and near Milwaukee County neighborhoods are fairly common and are rarely a cause for concern, according to

The animals are naturally very skittish and wary creatures that will avoid human contact by either running away, when encountered, or by restricting their activities to nocturnal hours. In some circumstances however, often in urban and suburban environments, coyotes may become habituated, losing their innate fear of humans.

Coyote stretching.            PHOTO courtesy Eric Kilby

Coyote stretching. PHOTO courtesy Eric Kilby

Habituation may result from food attractants in backyards, such as pet food, unsecured garbage, fallen fruit, etc., or repeated exposure to humans without negative consequences.

Behavior that may indicate a coyote has become habituated is if it is seen languishing in a park during the daytime in close proximity to humans, following humans and their pets, or not running away upon encountering people.

These bold behaviors associated with habituation are what can ultimately lead to human-coyote conflicts in urban areas. In order to proactively manage coyote behavior for a safe, sustainable, and long-term coexistence with these wild urban neighbors, it is of the utmost importance that county residents understand how human behavior and actions can influence them. The goal is to keep them wild and unhabituated to people.

Be Smart

Do not feed coyotes directly, or indirectly by leaving pet food, fallen fruit, fallen bird seed, etc. in your yard.

Reinforce the fear of humans when encountering a bold or habituated coyote. Chase and yell at the coyote and throw projectiles near the animal. If it is in your backyard, turn the hose on it.

For more information on proper hazing techniques provided by the Wisconsin Humane Society, or Milwaukee County, and

When walking your dog, keep it on a leash. If you see a coyote, use hazing techniques to scare it away.

If you have questions about the project or coyotes, contact Dianne Robinson, or Julia Robson:

Coyote information above provided by

HALL MONITOR — Election results endanger MPS

December 1, 2016

By Jay Bullock

Jay1headshotThe last month or so has been a bit of a roller coaster.

It started well, with a bold initiative put forth by the Milwaukee Public Schools to capitalize on its recent successes. The plan would not only revise the district’s calendar and school uniform policies but also give MPS sole oversight of all charter schools in the city.

The month ended with the election of an expanded anti-public schools majority in the state Legislature and Donald Trump as president.

The election results will almost certainly quash the great bulk of the district’s plan, as all proposed changes except school uniforms would require approval from a state Legislature more hostile to Milwaukee and MPS than ever before. And it’s not just these proposed changes that are under threat; it’s the ability of MPS and other districts in the state that serve disadvantaged students to do their job well.

First, there’s what might happen at the federal level in the Trump administration. In a campaign filled with emails, rape culture, and other non-issue issues, education never managed to make it to the front pages. It barely even managed to make it to the debates, let alone the candidates’ stump speeches. But from the Trump statements available, he seems to hold fairly commonplace Republican ideas about schooling, mostly centered around increasing “competition” through expanded private school vouchers and more public charter schools, and letting banks skim interest off student loans again.

Early in the transition, there was speculation Trump would appoint former primary opponent, prominent neurosurgeon, and weirdo, Ben Carson as Secretary of Education. As I write, there’s talk that it may be the noted union-buster Michelle Rhee. As bad as it would be for Trump to appoint a Carson, Rhee, or someone similar, that’s not the worst-case scenario.

Worst case, Trump and Republicans in Congress finally make good on their long-threatened elimination of the Department of Education altogether. That would be devastating.

DOE has an $89 billion budget, according to its published data, which covers everything from grants and loans for college students to Title I funds directed to high-poverty K-12 schools. If DOE is abolished, it’s likely that funding overall would be reduced and much of what remains will be given to states in block grants rather than being given directly to needy schools and students.

MPS receives more than $200 million annually in federal funding, more than one-sixth of its overall budget. Almost half of that is Title I funding. More than four of every five MPS students live in poverty. Any reduction in that number, either through federal cuts or withholding of newly block-granted funds by state legislators, would have a dramatic and lasting impact on the ability of our public schools to adequately teach the neediest children.

At the state level, anti-MPS legislators will certainly be emboldened to take bigger, more dangerous swipes at the state’s largest school district. Because of the way the state calculates its district report cards, and with some help from gains in MPS student achievement, the district has avoided what would have been a deathblow. Legislators had put in place provisions that would have stripped MPS of students, property, and funding, and giving those assets wholesale to private operators.

So what might await us in the next budget? If legislators’ public statements are to be believed, it could be anything from that same privatization plan, rewritten to apply to MPS — despite its improved status, to a total break-up of the system into smaller, easier-to-destroy pieces.

There is no firewall, no remaining line of defense. The Legislature’s Democrats and moderate Republicans could not stop anti-MPS legislation two years ago, and last month’s elections pulled the Legislature further from moderation, removing any hope that common sense support for Milwaukee children and schools will prevail.

So if the last month was a roller coaster of ups and (mostly) downs, brace yourselves. The big drop is coming—and it will not end well for us.

Jay Bullock teaches English at Bay View High School, hates roller coasters, and tweets as @folkbum.

Lance Sijan’s fighter jet memorial to receive new venue, improved visibility

December 1, 2016

By Katherine Keller


The replica of Lance Sijan’s F-4C Phantom jet will be moved to a new memorial plaza on Howell Avenue next year. PHOTO courtesy Janine Sijan-Rozina

The replica of Lance Sijan’s F-4C Phantom jet will be moved to a new memorial plaza on Howell Avenue next year. PHOTO courtesy Janine Sijan-Rozina

The F-4C Phantom jet that has long been a landmark on College Avenue just east of Howell Avenue will find a new home next year at the Sijan Memorial Plaza, 5500 S. Howell.

The jet is a replica of Air Force Captain Lance Sijan’s plane.

Bay View native Lance Sijan (Redcat Class of 1960) was a Vietnam War veteran who died in a Hanoi prison in 1968. Sijan flew combat missions with the 366th Fighter Wing of the 480th Tactical Fighting Squadron stationed at the Da Nang Air Base in southern Vietnam. In November 1967, Sijan’s plane exploded when the bombs he was carrying malfunctioned and detonated, leading to his capture and imprisonment.

Lance Sijan (1942-1968), an avid photographer, sent this self-portrait to his family when he was in the Air Force. PHOTO courtesy Janine Sijan-Rozina

Lance Sijan (1942-1968), an avid photographer, sent this self-portrait to his family when he was in the Air Force. PHOTO courtesy Janine Sijan-Rozina

Sijan suffered a fractured skull, mangled right hand, and compound fracture of his left leg, injuries caused by his landing after he ejected from his aircraft. Unable to walk and without food and water, he evaded capture until December 25, whereupon he was moved to a holding compound in Vinh, North Vietnam. He was 25 years old.

Despite beatings and torture, he refused to give the North Vietnamese information other than his name, date of birth, service, rank, and serial number. He was transferred to the infamous Hòa Lò Prison, the “Hanoi Hilton,” where he died of pneumonia on January 22, 1968.

President Gerald Ford posthumously awarded Sijan the Air Force Medal of Honor in 1976.

The Air Force gave Sijan numerous honors, including the memorial plaza on College Avenue. It funded the effort to locate, move, restore, and mount the replica Sijan F-4C.

Sijan’s sister Janine Sijan-Rozina said members Air Force 440th Air Lift Wing, which was stationed at General Mitchell Field from 1957 to 2008, performed the restoration work.

Milwaukee County owns General Mitchell field and the land beneath it. But after the 440th base relocated to Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina in 2008, the county began to redevelop the abandoned land and buildings for a business park.

The memorial plaza was no longer maintained by the Air Force and it showed. As Sijan-Rozina watched the site deteriorate, she became more and more disheartened. The land beneath the plane “had become desolate, overgrown, unkempt, not honored. It was heartbreaking, as years went by, to see the disarray. It looked really abandoned,” she said.

She decided she must move the plane to a more prominent location where more people would see it. She wanted to place it where it was easy to reach and more of a destination than it had been on College Avenue.

That decision led to her on an epic eight-year quest.

Sijan-Rozina said she had no idea how to begin, where to start, or with whom. It took her months of research and countless phone calls, for example, to simply learn who owned the plane.

The Air Force National Museum owned it, she discovered, and it was on loan to Milwaukee County.

When she learned that Air Force museum officials would grant her permission to move the aircraft, she was overjoyed. And then she was stunned when they told her she would have to fund the project.

She started making calls. She would have to raise $195,000 to pay for the removal of the plane from its mount, construction of a new plaza with a new 20-foot pier, the move from College Avenue, and the remounting.

She said she thought, “How am I going to find nearly $200,000?”

She looked at the last three weeks of her brother’s life and saw it as a metaphor, one that she would emulate.

“So the metaphor was how am I going to physically, mentally, financially move that aircraft? How am I doing to be able to do that? Lance’s determination in the last three months of his life was to never give in, to never quit. Lance was an example throughout his life of someone who defied the odds over and over again,” she said.

She set her mind to her task. More dogged persistence was required to learn who held the authority to grant permission to move the jet. Because the plane was located on Mitchell Airport land, airport director Ismael Bonilla would have to authorize the move. He did.

Construction workers built a concrete form for the 20-foot pier that will support the replica of Lance Sijan’s fighter jet. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Construction workers built a concrete form for the 20-foot pier that will support the replica of Lance Sijan’s fighter jet. PHOTO Katherine Keller

But move it where? She and Bonilla worked together and chose greenspace at the entrance to the post office on Howell Avenue, also located on airport land. Milwaukee County would have to give its consent to use the greenspace for the memorial plaza. They did.

Then, finally, nearly eight years after she started, things began to turn around. When contractors learned of the project, dozens came forward to volunteer and donate their services. Hemmings Daily, an online marketplace for car collectors, learned of the project and informed its readers of the project, which resulted in donations that totaled $10,000. Scores of others locally and nationwide have donated to help finance the project.

“I believed in the value of Lance’s message,” she said. “I believed in it so strongly. I didn’t know how it was going to happen. But it did. But not by myself.“

Sijan-Rozina links the generosity and service of the contractors and donors and all those who helped her to those who join the military and sacrifice for a greater good.

“I continue to tell people to serve in any way they can, in and out of the uniform. There all kinds of ways they can serve. This story to me is also a metaphor for what happens when people gather as like-minded spirits and are trying to accomplish a goal together,” she said.

Janine Sijan-Rozina poses at the site of the new memorial plaza, 5500 S. Howell Ave., that honors the legacy of her brother Lance Sijan. PHOTO courtesy Janine Sijan-Rozina

Janine Sijan-Rozina poses at the site of the new memorial plaza, 5500 S. Howell Ave., that honors the legacy of her brother Lance Sijan. PHOTO courtesy Janine Sijan-Rozina

The project helped her understand that “at a time when we’re divided in our nation with gender and race and politics and religion, we can work together when there is a common purpose or common goals for us to walk toward together that doesn’t have any connections to those things that divide us.

“The contractors are all, “Shucks, I don’t want to be recognized.’

“I say, I want you to consider the larger message. I know we don’t want to be recognized but we didn’t do it for that,” Sijan-Rozina said. “I asked them to help people understand what we all can do. In small, medium, and large ways, there are all kinds of things we can do.

“So let me tell this story about how we accomplished this, let’s tell about how you did this.”

Sijan-Rozina hopes to complete the move and celebrate the opening of the new Lance Sijan Plaza on Memorial Day 2017.

The 440th

The original location of the Lance Sijan Plaza and F-4C aircraft on College Avenue was at the entrance to the Air Force 440th Airlift Wing at General Mitchell Field. The 440th was established in 1943 at Baer Field near Ft. Wayne, Ind. 

It played a key role in World War II. On June 6, 1944, the 440th’s first operational airdrop mission was behind the Omaha and Utah landing beaches at Normandy, France. The unit also took part in the invasion of southern France, resupplied troops during the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium, and carried gasoline and supplies to General George Patton’s Third Army in France and Germany in 1944 and 1945.

Five and a half decades later, the 440th transported prisoners from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Naval Station in Cuba.

The 440th participated in support operations for Nobel Eagle, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom, deploying aircraft, crew, and support personnel.

On June 5, 1965, a C-119 under the command of Maj. Louis Giuntol and nine others disappeared with no trace in the Bermuda Triangle.

Source: U.S. Air Force fact sheet, “History of the 440th Airlift Wing.”

To learn more about Lance Sijan, consult or read his biography, Into the Mouth of the Cat: The Story of Lance Sijan, Hero of Vietnam by Malcolm McConnell.