New Trowbridge School Club Fashions Skills and Knits Togetherness

January 2, 2019

By Katherine Keller

Trowbridge School Knitting Club members Haylei Volgman and Audrianna Lloyd. The club meets once a week in the school library. —Katherine Keller

An industrious group of third and fourth graders are members of the Trowbridge School of Great Lakes Studies brand new Knitting Club that launched the first week of November 2018. Currently the club includes ten fourth graders and 8 third graders, girls and boys. The members of each grade meet once per week from 11 to 11:50am.

The club, led by volunteers Ruth Shank and Patrice Safarik, is a Close Knit Community Workshop project, an outreach program of the new Milwaukee nonprofit Bridging Cities, Inc., established by Shank and Milwaukee County District 14 Supervisor Jason Haas in 2018.

A number of Trowbridge students wanted to learn to knit, said Celene Muel­ler, who organized the club. Mueller is now a school support teacher, but she started her career at Trowbridge 27 years ago as a kindergarten teacher.

Volunteers Ruth Shank and Patrice Safarik of Close Knit Community Workshop are teaching Trowbridge Street Knitting Club members how to craft fabric with two needles and yarn. —Jason Haas

To form the club, Mueller needed to find a volunteer who would teach the club members to knit. She contacted Sharon Cook, a Trowbridge School volunteer community advocate. 

The timing was right because Cook had just learned that Haas’s new nonprofit included knitting workshops. (Bridging Cities is a private endeavor of Haas’s that is independent of his county supervisor role.)

Cook contacted Haas, who in turn asked Ruth Shank if she’d be willing to help Trowbridge establish its knitting club. She agreed, and the club began to materialize. Trowbridge purchased the knitting needles and solicited yarn donations via the school’s newsletter. The first meeting was held November 5, 2018.

The Third Grade Trowbridge Knitting Club members with Ruth Shank. —Katherine Keller

Mueller said knitting is helping the club members expand their creativity and also develop responsibility because they are required to practice at home. 

“None of the students in the club knew how to knit but were curious about it because they’d seen their mothers or grandmothers knitting,” Mueller said. “Some of the club members have told me that they are finding that it helps them to be better gamers because knitting helps with focus and strategy. They tell me they really like it and they look forward to the club meetings.”

Brianna Gregorio, focused and determined. —Katherine Keller

Stitching it together

Early in her childhood in Elkhart, Ind., Shank discovered an affinity with fiber arts and tried to knit. Her father bought her a knitting book when he saw her struggle to teach herself. Then her first grade teacher, Mrs. Berkey, who was an accomplished knitter, invited her to her home and taught her to knit.

“I have been knitting for over 50 years. I had to teach myself to knit because initially there was no one I knew that knitted, crocheted, or did many of the other wonderful fiber affiliated arts. I am definitely not from a family of knitters,” Shank said.

She elevated her knitting skills 25 years ago when she was recovering from a traumatic brain injury caused by an aneurism in her right frontal lobe. 

Her post-surgical recovery was a long five-year process. She had to relearn how to write with a pen or pencil. She strove to recover speech. “I thought I was saying full sentences,” she said. But what she heard inside her head was distinctly different from the speech she was producing, which was confined to individual words or phrases.

The Fourth Grade Trowbridge Knitting Club members with Jason Haas and mentors Patrice Safarik and Ruth Shank.—Katherine Keller

One of the most challenging periods was immediately following surgery when her doctor told her she must rest and not move. Not content to “just lie there,” Shank asked for her yarn and knitting needles to help while away the time. She took advantage of that time to elevate her skills and learned how to perform complex stitches to create patterns and to incorporate beads and baubles.

About 10 years ago, Shank began to teach knitting to help engage with people who did not speak English or had other interpersonal communication challenges. She developed the close-knit community concept as she observed how teaching people to knit broke barriers and built bonds between herself and her students and between the students themselves.

“Through the fiber arts,” Shank said, “I was able to meet and develop great relationships with individuals that did not necessarily have that same background, or life experiences I had. 

“You don’t know how much another person can be like you or how they can help you be your best you,” Shank explained. That applies to knitting communities with members of any age.

William Ramos, Christopher Davis, and Richard Fabich — knitting to improve their gaming focus! —Katherine Keller

She has watched members of her workshops step outside themselves and form bonds with others in the group. She sees knitting groups as an antidote to divisiveness. “The (little) gaps between human beings become caverns and the world becomes all the worse for it…I know that divisiveness is not what God wants for the human race,” she said.

Shank met Jason Haas in 2014 when she made a lead poisoning prevention presentation to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Health and Human Needs committee. At the time, Shank was working in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Children’s Environmental Health Sciences Core Center. 

Madison Garcia, Sophia Wood, and Adrianna Garcia — proud accomplishment. —Katherine Keller

A friendship developed, and she and Haas began discussing how they might work together to pursue their mutual goal of finding ways to connect people and neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Last summer they established Bridging Cities and incorporated Shank’s Close Knit Community Workshops.

Shank recruited fellow volunteer Patrice Safarik. The two met at Vennture Brew Company in Washington Heights, one of the venues where Shank holds her Close Knit Community workshops.

“If you have people like Patrice, who share the vision, that’s who you need as volunteers,” Shank said. 

Eliason Wood (I’ve got this!) and Danielle Wood, two of the triplet sisters in Knitting Club. —Katherine Keller

Both women have been impressed with the students’ interest in and dedication to learning to knit.

Safarik took up knitting in her early 30s when she was a stay-at-home mom living in Neenah. She discovered she loved it. “It’s something you can pick-up and put down,” she said, which fit nicely the exigencies of caring an infant.

Knitting classes also offered her time with other adults. She liked the social aspect of it and that she was learning something new that was all hers. She felt empowered by her newfound ability to create her own garments.

She said the Trowbridge knitting club students are learning to adjust their expectations and that they each learn at their own pace.

She and Shank give the students one-on-one time and attention, and as the students learn, they begin to help one another. They talk to one another and they talk with Ruth and Patrice. Some of the students, even though they are in the same grade and classroom, had not interacted prior to joining the club.

They’ve bridged those gaps and are getting to know one another and help one another, Safarik said.

There are some challenges teaching children, Shank said, but good ones.

“Their high level of energy has to be dealt with in a creative and in a positive way to achieve the success,” she said. “When you get creative, it is amazing what they can accomplish.”

Shank revels in the feeling of closeness that has developed between the club members. She said she has observed how the students are starting to connect, trust one other, and grow closer. “They’re developing new friendships,” she said.

Shank noted that the students are learning life lessons as they learn to knit and interact with each other in knitting club.

Knitting Club mentor Ruth Shank brought an example of her knitting project to show her students, a stocking with a complex and colorful pattern. —Katherine Keller

“Knitting is sometimes frustrating and challenging,” Safarik said. “But they’re learning not to get mad at themselves. They learn that you build skills step by step.” She reminds them that there was a time when they couldn’t read or tie their shoes. “I tell them tying their shoes is harder than learning to knit.”

“Knitting gives them a feeling of empowerment,” Shank said. “Kids need to feel empowered to move forward. When we develop these groups (for children or adults), we find that the participants want to be in the room with friends.”

“They benefit from being part of something,” Safarik said.

One of the big lessons beginning knitters learn, no matter their age, is that they will make mistakes. Sometimes that means learning how to pick up a dropped stitch. Sometimes it means acknowledging the mistake cannot be remedied without starting all over. That means pulling the yarn, stitch by stitch, to “unknit it.”

Because they knit together in a group, they find out they’re not alone in this, Safarik said. 

“Everyone makes mistakes. Kids are still learning about making mistakes,”  Safarik said. “When they make a mistake, they must appraise it and decide, is this something I can live with, fix, or do I need to start over?”

“That’s how you become an expert. You sometimes have to start it over to make it better,” Shank said.

“All of them watch out for each other,” Safarik said. “Seeing that a friend or peer can knit helps them realize they too can do it.”

How You Can Contribute

Ruth Shank would like donations of quality materials to give to students who need them in her Close Knit Community Workshops. She prefers bamboo needles. “Yarn winders and yarn swifts would also be helpful,” she said. Eventually I could see participants wishing to learn to spin, weave, and use knitting machines etc. Contact her:

Celene Mueller hopes to start more student clubs at Trowbridge and invites community members to volunteer and share their time, talent, and skills. Some students would like a chess club. She’s interested in many activities including whittling, sewing, card games, including Solitaire, and other handcrafts, etc. Contact her:

Casting on

Shank doesn’t want to exclude any children but she’s working with limited resources.

Mueller hopes to expand the club to include eighth graders. Because Shank and Safarik teach at other venues, they must limit their visits to Trowbridge to two per week. Mueller hopes to combine the third and fourth graders into a single club meeting, which would open a slot for the eighth grade students who want to participate.

During the Compass visit to the club, the fifth grade teacher stopped in to see if there was a way, for some of his fifth graders who want to learn to knit, to join the club.

To learn more about the work of Bridging Cities:  To join a knitting workshop: (They’re free!)

WILD KITCHEN — Want a Healthy Body and Mind? Eat Your Prebiotics

September 5, 2018

By Nicole Schanen

In my June column, I wrote about the importance of eating fermented foods to establish a healthy gut microbiome. Scientists are now beginning to understand that the beneficial bacteria living within our digestive systems are crucial players in supporting our physical and emotional health.

Most of us know about probiotics. We can get them from store-bought supplements, as well as from fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, chocolate, and local favorites cheese and beer. Consuming these foods is essential to introducing beneficial bacteria to our bodies, but we also have to keep them there.

How do we do that? We feed them. That’s where prebiotics come in.

A prebiotic is an edible but indigestible soluble fiber that stimulates the growth and activity in our guts of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. 

An important prebiotic is inulin, a complex sugar, found in many plant foods, especially onions, leeks, garlic, asparagus, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, and burdock root.

A second key prebiotic is pectin. Pectin is a viscous soluble fiber — we often think of it is as the gelling agent used in jellies and jams. Fruits contain the highest levels of pectin, and applesauce is a rich source of pectin that is easily available to our good gut bugs.

For this month’s column, I’m including two prebiotic-rich recipes that also include ingredients that are currently in season – homemade applesauce and fermented sour dill pickles. As an added bonus, the pickles contain both prebiotics and probiotics.

Homemade Applesauce


8 apples (I use a naturally sweet variety like Gala so I don’t need to add sugar)

1/2 cup water

Juice from 1 lemon

Optional: 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Optional 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg


1. Peel apples. Cut into quarters and core apples. Cut into smaller pieces.

2. Combine apples, lemon juice, and water in saucepan. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring and mashing occasionally until apples are tender throughout.

3. Once tender, mash apples to the desired consistency. Add cinnamon and nutmeg if desired.

Applesauce will keep up to 5 days in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer. If freezing, double spices as they lose some flavor during the freezing process.


Fermented Dill Pickles


1-quart jar or ceramic crock


1 pound unwaxed pickling cucumbers

1½ tablespoons sea salt or pickling salt (Choose salt with no additives like iodine or anti-caking agents)

2 cups filtered, unchlorinated water

Dill, you can use fresh or dried leaves, or dill seed

5 -10 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed

1 small handful fresh grape, cherry, horseradish, or oak leaves, rinsed to clean. (The tannins in the leaves preserve the pickles’ crunch. I use oak leaves because they’re free and readily available.)

½ tablespoon whole black peppercorns

Optional add-ins: mustard seed, celery seed, chili peppers, red pepper flakes. Research other pickling spice mixes and experiment


1. Rinse the cucumbers and carefully remove ¼ inch of the blossom end. If they aren’t fresh from the vine that day, you can refresh them by soaking them in ice water for a couple of hours.

2. Add dill, garlic, leaves, peppercorns, and whatever other spices you’re using, to the bottom of the jar or crock.

3. Add the cucumbers, packing them tightly so they are more likely to stay submerged once you add the brine. I like to turn the jar on its side, and pack the cucumbers in so that they are vertical when the jar is upright.

4. Prepare the brine by adding 1 ½tablespoons salt to 2 cups water. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved in the water. Pour the brine into the jar or crock.

It is very important that the cucumbers are completely submerged beneath the brine, as this keeps mold from forming. If the brine does not cover the cucumbers, you can make more at a ratio of¾ tablespoon salt to 1 cup of water.

5. If the cucumbers are still floating, you can add something heavy to hold them down, like a plate, smaller jar filled with water, or clean rock in a plastic zipper-style freezer bag. You could also cut the lid of a plastic container to slightly larger than the circumference of the jar or crock and push that down over the cucumbers to keep them submerged. I use a German-style sauerkraut crock that comes with weights. It works beautifully for fermenting pickles.

6. If using a jar, cover loosely with the lid, or cover with a towel held in place with rubberbands. The idea is to keep dust and flies out, while allowing the fermentation gases to escape.

7. Place the jar or crock on your countertop and allow to ferment until they change color from bright green to a dull olive green, then taste them every few days. If in a glass container, place in an area free of direct sunlight.

Check after 5 to 7 days. The fermentation timeframe depends a lot on the temperature of the room. The longer the pickles ferment, the more sour they will become. When they reach the level of sourness that you prefer, transfer them to a glass or ceramic container and store them in the refrigerator.

(Note: there may be a white-colored film on your pickles. This is not mold, so long as they’ve remained submerged in the brine, of course. This is the inulin from the garlic. It’s a good thing!)

Nicole Schanen is a Wisconsin native and lifelong resident of the Southeastern Wisconsin. She enjoys cooking, reading, caring for the herbs in her garden, and experimenting with different fermented foods. Nicole can be reached by email:

Humboldt Park WWI Monument Commemoration November 2018

July 31, 2018

Humboldt Park in Bay View possesses one of the largest WWI memorial structures in the area and is a key feature of its landscape. —Photo Katherine Keller

This fall marks the centennial anniversary of the close of World War I. The war ended on Armistice Day, Nov. 1, 1918. About 4 million U.S. soldiers were deployed during WWI and the U.S. lost more than 100,000 of its military personnel to combat and disease.

Humboldt Park in Bay View possesses one of the largest WWI memorial structures in the area and is a key feature of its landscape. A plaque lists the names of the 22 soldiers from the local community who were killed in the war.

Humboldt Park Friends and the Interorganizational Council of Bay View are planning a weekend of commemoration to encourage the community to reflect on the sacrifice of the military service personnel who were called up during WWI. Commemoration activities will take place Friday, Nov. 9 through Sunday, Nov. 11.

A plaque in the Humboldt Park World War 1 Memorial lists the names of the 22 soldiers from the local community who were killed in the war. —Photo Katherine Keller

Humboldt Park Friends is seeking input and volunteer support from the community. The group is seeking teachers from local/regional schools who are interested in assembling red poppies (remembrance flowers) and/or teaching the history of WWI in their classrooms; local families who are willing to share stories of their relatives who participated in WWI in any role (combat, support, etc.); information about surviving family members of the soldiers who are commemorated on the WWI memorial structure; active duty military and first responders who are interested in participating in various ways during the weekend, ranging from formal color guard, to informal conversations with young people about the importance of military service; and historians and history buffs who have WWI memorabilia they would be willing to display, military re-enactors, etc.

The events are supported by a number of organizations including the Veteran Health Coalition, Veterans for Peace, the faculty and staff from the Medical College of Wisconsin Community Engagement group, and many others. The goals of the events are intended to ensure that the history and legacy of WWI is not forgotten, to ensure that our community engages in the historical preservation of WWI memorials in the region, and to honor current and former military service personnel for their efforts on behalf of the nation. The personal costs and sacrifices of WWI service personnel and the effort toward armistice, or a lasting peace, will also be part of the commemoration.

The event-planning group meets on the first Thursday of each month at the Humboldt Park Pavilion at 6pm. More info: Zeno Franco, HPF president,

More information about the Humboldt Park WWI Memorial and updates about events will be published on the

The Wild Kitchen & Apothecary — Wild Summer Berries

July 31, 2018

By Nick Wersel

We have now reached the peak of summer, when the humidity climbs and life-bringing rain showers frequently pop out of clear skies. Much of the harvest in the fields and orchards will not take place until next month, but this is the ideal time of year for wild berries!

Some varieties, like serviceberries, mulberries, and strawberries, have already come and gone. However, there are still many fruits ripening in our local green spaces along fence lines, in wooded areas, and even sprouting in our yards that many may think are weeds! While you are out walking, you are likely to find some remaining black raspberries, as well as blackberries, chokecherries, and unripe elderberries.

Black raspberries, also known as black caps, are a favorite of many foragers because of their abundance and myriad uses in the kitchen. The berry of the native wild black raspberry species that grows in nearly
every acre of wild green space resembles the black raspberries you would find in the grocery store, but the fruit can vary in size more than the store-bought variety. They began to bear fruit in late July, although in some areas you will still find them now, in early August. They are characterized by their long, drooping bright green canes covered in thorns and they bear leaves in groups of three. Once you get to know this plant, it is easy to spot from a distance.

Wild Black Raspberries. —Photo Alina Zienowicz

A completely different species, and one that is often confused with black raspberries, is the blackberry. Blackberries grow more like a vine in contrast to the black raspberry’s arched canes. Blackberry plants have markedly different, ridged leaves, often forming in groups of five. The berries are more elongated and significantly larger than black raspberries. They have a stem that connects
directly to the fruit, unlike raspberries, which detach from the plant, leaving the characteristic hollow space inside the berry. The blackberry fruit is shinier and firmer than raspberries, which are softer and slightly fuzzy.

In the kitchen, blackberries are interchangeable with raspberries and have a similar flavor. Both raspberries and blackberries grow in large numbers that make them a great candidate for making wines, jams, and pies. They also bring color and a burst of flavor to salads or on ice cream! When collecting either type of fruit, use a wide vessel and don’t pile them too high on top of each other to avoid crushing the fragile berries.

Chokecherries are a seldom-used fruit that is highly underappreciated. While similar in structure to the cherries we are familiar with, their flavor differs greatly. They are more tart and astringent, hence the name chokecherry. The presence of a high level of tannin and its low sugar content make the fruit mostly unsuitable for eating raw unless mixed with other fruit. By the same token, those tannins and acids make them fantastic for wine and jam. Their pucker power can cut through a lot of sugar, as in a jelly recipe, for example. The high pectin content also serves as a natural thickener.

Chokecherries grow on a tall bush, and form long, string-like clusters. They are ripe when the fruit is black. 

One fruit that you will want to be on the lookout for this month is the American elderberry. The berries will not be ripe until September, but often the very moment they are ripe is exactly when the birds will begin to pick the plants clean, so finding them early is a must! Identifying this plant can be tricky for some, and there are a few toxic plants in the carrot family that look somewhat similar to it, so always consult someone who is knowledgeable before harvesting elderberries or any wild food that you are not familiar with.

Wild chokecherries. —Photo Jennifer Kleffner

Elderberries were some of the first recorded fruits used to make wine in ancient Europe, millennia ago. Far before grapes became the stars of the wine world, elderberries were providing people with a tart, astringent, and nutritious beverage packed with antioxidants and vitamins. Today they have soared to popularity as a health food, and are often made into syrup, jam, and juice.

As with any foraged food, do not collect anything unless you have a 100 percent positive identification. Sometimes it is necessary to send pictures and questions to an expert to make sure you have found the fruit you are looking for. Beyond that, August will be a great month to get familiar with these versatile berries! Once you have the skills to identify and process these wild treasures, you’ll begin to see beautiful produce surrounding you every time you go out in nature.

Disclaimer: The text, images, photographs and drawings in this article are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended as a guide to identification. Before consuming any wild plants, consult with an expert to verify the
safety of the plant for human consumption.

Nick Wersel is a local foraging, cooking, preserving, winemaking, gardening, and nature enthusiast working to connect the public to its natural landscape. Originally from Pewaukee, Nick is a self-employed tile craftsman, when he isn’t wandering Southeast Wisconsin’s greenspaces in search of unique flavors. His endeavor to involve others in foraging and related group activities can be followed on his Facebook page, Myco MKE:

Native Plants to Replace Cattails at Humboldt Park Lagoon

July 31, 2018

By Katherine Keller

Joanna Demas holds a plant prior to planting it along the shoreline of Humboldt Park’s Lagoon. Volunteers from Humboldt Park Friends removed cattails and weeds at two locations on the shore of the lagoon and planted native plants. The group hopes to expand the restoration of the lagoon shoreline. —Photo Humboldt Park Friends

Members of the volunteer Humboldt Park Friends have taken on an ambitious project to improve Humboldt Park Lagoon water quality and replace invasive cattails with native plants.

Working with Milwaukee County Parks staff, members of the HPF Lagoon Restoration Committee created a pilot program to address the cattails and improve water quality.

The pilot is designed to test and confirm methods to remove cattails, prevent or minimize their regeneration, and replace them with beneficial native plants.

Clearing weeds are (from left) Myron Thomsen, Greg Stilin and Tim Richter clear weeds and prepare the soil along the Humboldt Park Lagoon shoreline prior to planting native vegetation on Saturday, June 9. —Photo Humboldt Park Friends

Cattails were introduced by Milwaukee County Parks about 15 years ago to deter geese from accessing the lagoon from the shoreline. They thrived, and although originally planted in only a few areas, spread and now cover about 90 percent of the shoreline. In some areas, they extend 40 feet into the lagoon, choking out native plant species.

Additionally, because they grow as tall as nine feet or more, they block park-goers’ view of the lagoon.

To cull the invasive plants, cattails are cut below the water level, which kills them by depriving them of oxygen. The first cutting was performed in Fall 2017 and it will be repeated this fall. HPF members monitor the test area watching for the reemergence of cattails in the spring and summer. For those growing in the soil along the shore, the volunteers attempted to dig them up and remove the roots.

“Some new cattails are growing (back) from roots we didn’t completely remove on the shore,” said Patrick McSweeney, a member of the restoration committee. “The cattails we cut below the waterline last fall appears to be a method successful in halting the spread of these plants.”

Removing cattails will be an annual process until they’re eradicated. 

To date, members of Humboldt Park Friends and other volunteers cleared cattails and other invasive plants  from two small sections of the four-acre lagoon’s shoreline.

Native species were planted in the two test areas in an effort to control erosion and maintain the new unimpeded lagoon sightlines. A total of 169 plants were planted
on June 9.

Cattails were introduced to the Humboldt Park Lagoon by Milwaukee County Parks about 15 years ago to deter geese from accessing the lagoon from the shoreline. They thrived, and although originally planted in only a few areas, spread and now cover about 90 percent of the shoreline. —Photo Katherine Keller

Members of the volunteer Humboldt Park Friends have taken on an ambitious project to improve Humboldt Park Lagoon water quality and replace invasive cattails with native plants. —Photo Katherine Keller

Committee member Joanna Demas, an environmental educator and land manager for the River Revitalization Foundation, selected the plants that HPF purchased from Johnson’s Nursery in Menomonee Falls and Marshland Transplant Aquatic Nursery in Berlin, Wis.

HPF hopes that the native plants will thrive and help prevent excessive nutrients from migrating to the lagoon. Grass clippings, goose and other animal feces, dirt, and other materials that collect on the paved pathway are common culprits that contribute the nutrients.

“After a month, things look very promising and additional clearing and planting is planned for late summer/early fall,” said McSweeney.

“Based on what we learn through the pilot project, public input, and from engaging professionals, we can develop a cost-effective plan that can improve the water quality, habitat, beauty and access to the lagoon,” said McSweeney, a member of the restoration committee.

Milwaukee Riverkeeper will test water quality and establish a benchmark that will also provide guidance about what actions need to be taken to clean the water.

Tim Richter (left) and Joanna Demas secure native plants along the shoreline of the Humboldt Park Lagoon on Saturday, June 9. Volunteers from Humboldt Park Friends removed cattails and weeds and planted native plants at two locations on the lagoon. The group hopes to expand the restoration of the lagoon shoreline. —Photo Humboldt Park Friends

The restoration pilot is supported by a $4,010 grant from the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust (Sweet Water). Humboldt Park Friends, a nonprofit volunteer group, was one of 14 groups that received a Sweet Water grant this year. HPF received the first half of its grant during the annual Clean Rivers, Clean Lakes conference at Alverno College on April 26. It will receive the remainder after the shoreline planting is completed this summer. 

McSweeney said that HFP has spent about a quarter of the grant money, “being very thrifty,” purchasing shovels, rakes, cutting shears, waders, as well as fencing, posts, mulch, and dumpster rental, in addition to the plants. “We’ll purchase more plants and supplies for the additional work this fall and are working with Sweet Water to dedicate the funds toward the other work being planned,” he said.

Results from the cattail removal and replanting with native species pilot will be used in development of a long-term lagoon restoration and maintenance practices plan. A complete restoration of the lagoon could be achieved after a few years following the pilot tests, in a best-case scenario, McSweeney said. But much depends on funding. 

HPF anticipates that costs for a full restoration will be paid by a private/public partnership with a combination of county funds, private donations, and grants and gifts from foundations or corporations. 

“We don’t have a cost estimate at this point because of a number of variables. But we know it won’t be cheap. This is a long-term project that involves not only aesthetics and historic elements, but also is dependent on public interaction and support,” McSweeney said.

The selected natives that the volunteers planted are Golden Alexander, Great blue lobelia, Blue flag iris, Sweetflag, Arrowhead, Pickerelweed, Path rush , Lake sedge, Ohio spiderwort , Blue vervain , New England aster, Swamp milkweed, Blue joint grass, Porcupine sedge, Fox sedge, Tussocks sedge, Turtlehead, Obedient plant, Marsh blazing star, Monkey flower, and Prairie dock. 

Volunteers from Humboldt Park Friends pause after clearing and replanting two plots on the shoreline of the Humboldt Park Lagoon on Saturday, June 9. Left to right: Jane LeCapitaine, Joanne Demas, Greg Stilin, John Gallam, Tim Richter, August Richter, Mike Bubolz (holding Adelaide), and Danielle Bubolz. —Photo Humboldt Park Friends

What’s next?

The pilot project is expected to last several years in order to test and confirm the effectiveness of the cattail/invasive species removal method. To date, HPF is encouraged by the results.

“What we learn from this will help determine long-term actions. Our next steps are to work with the County Parks Department to develop short-term and long-term projects to continue the momentum we’re establishing,” said McSweeney. “We’ll be clearing more cattails later this summer or early fall and replanting additional shoreline areas. We’ll need neighborhood volunteers to accomplish that. And then in November, we’ll hold a public meeting to update our residents on what we’ve done and seek community input to move the process forward.

“This is the first step of a marathon. There is a lot of work ahead for the Humboldt Park Lagoon.”

The lagoon was created 125 years ago by dredging wetlands.

Active members of the Humboldt Park Friends Lagoon Restoration Committee are Tim Richter, Jane Le Capitaine, Joanna Demas, Greg Stilin, Collin Smith, and Patrick McSweeney. Additionally, a number of local residents have been involved in park clean ups, plantings, cattail removal, public meetings, and other activities.

Additional cattail and invasive vegetation removal and shoreline restoration are planned for early October. To learn more or get involved, consult

CATCH OF THE DAY — Recycling Is Not The Whole Answer

March 1, 2018

By Marla Schmidt

How much plastic trash are you adding to the environment in a day? A week? A month?

Most of us have no idea because we have been programmed by an industry that has caused us to buy into the sheer convenience of single-use plastics, like beverage cups, disposable cutlery, and grocery bags. It has become part of our daily living to the point we don’t even see it. Because most of us dispose of used paper, plastic, and glass by simply throwing them into the recycling bin and forgetting about them, it’s easy to think that all recycled materials are created equal. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Each material has a unique value, determined by the rarity of the virgin resource used to manufacture it and the price the recycled material fetches on the commodity market.

The recycling process for each type of material also requires a different amount of water and energy and comes with a unique, and sometimes hefty, carbon footprint.

To better understand Milwaukee’s recycling program, I toured the Materials Recovery Facility last fall to watch our trash in action. While quite impressed with the state-of-the-art facility, I also realized that it was just one part of the process of recycling that includes sorting and then baling the various recycled materials for distribution. I wondered where it all went from there. Recently I came across an article that linked to a video tour of the EcoStar Recycling Facility right here in Wisconsin. It picks up where Milwaukee’s Materials Recovery Facility leaves off. EcoStar processes those plastic bales. In the video, CEO Dan Mohs states that the food grade plastic bottles his company manufactures from recycled plastic require 50 percent less carbon than the same bottles manufactured from virgin resources.

EcoStar is a division of Placon, founded in 1966 by engineer Tom Mohs. The company is located in Fitchburg, Wis. (To see the multitude of steps involved in creating recycled plastic, watch the video:

We consumers believe we are doing the right thing by recycling, but it is not the answer. Recycling is a treatment for pollution not a cure for it. The packaging industry has little incentive to stop using single-use plastic. They have created a market with consumers who heedlessly buy into the ubiquity of plastic, thus benefiting the plastic industry’s bottom line. We must, as individuals, take it upon ourselves to reduce our use of single-use plastic.

Recycling is not the answer. Instead, we must reduce the amount of single-use plastic we use daily. Start with a small step. Begin by eliminating your use of plastic straws. Refuse single-use plastic straws. Because some restaurants serve a beverage with the straw in the glass, tell your server not to serve yours with a straw, when you order.

The action or inaction of each and every one of us really controls our destiny.

The Last Plastic Straw campaign strives to educate the public about the absurdity of single-use plastic, its effects on our health, our environment, and our oceans. The campaign is already underway here in Milwaukee and these businesses have taken the pledge to offer straws only upon request and to switch from plastic to paper straws: Bowls, Café LuLu, Juniper61, Mistral, Sheridan’s, and the newest restaurant to pledge to remove plastic straws, The National Café, 839 W. National Avenue. Change starts with changing behavior. Let these businesses know you appreciate their efforts.

This is an invitation to all bars and restaurants, to be part of the movement to eliminate plastic pollution.

You can contact me at and follow our progress on Facebook at catchofthedayMKE.

IN BALANCE — Introduction to Native American Herbalism

March 1, 2018

By Angela Kingsawan

Occasionally things fall into place in a very serendipitous way. I lived in Bay View 20 years ago and enjoyed every moment. Being invited to write this column in Bay View’s paper is both an honor and a pleasure.

My name is Angela Kingsawan. I am descended from Tigua, Raramuri, and Mexica cultures and have been an herbalist and gardener for as far back as I can remember. These cultures have influenced how I view the world.

I am always aware of and amazed at the wild abundance throughout our neighborhoods. Bay View is most certainly at the top of my list. Even though my herbal journey has taken me back to my childhood home on the southside of Milwaukee, I frequent Bay View on a regular basis.

I would like to share some simple herbal knowledge to bring all-natural wellness to the lives of those who read this, by sharing some of the observations I made on a walk I took in January.  Even though it was deep in the winter season, it was unusually temperate the day I decided to take a long stroll with my youngest daughter, Elena. We have had such strange winter weather and I’m always surprised at the resiliency of the Plant Beings.

As soon as I had Elena in the stroller, she pointed out Catnip growing wild in a front lawn. Catnip, in Native tradition, is baby medicine. I’m not surprised it spoke to Elena. My friend Catnip has helped my family in countless ways over the years. Most people see Catnip as an invasive weed that must be pulled or mowed over; I see a natural cure for cold, flu, congestion, and tummy upsets. Whether Catnip is fresh or dried, it can be made into a medicinal tea. Boiled water poured over the herb, steeped and covered for at least five minutes, will produce a potent medicine.

Catnip grows happily alongside other “weeds” like Dandelion. That’s just where I happily found Dandelion on our walk. I know most gardeners and homeowners have very strong feelings about this herb. Please remember, Dandelion is extremely medicinal. It will cleanse and fortify our body but will do the same for our Spirit. When I was expecting Elena, Dandelion was the only form of iron my body would accept.* I would go into my backyard and pick its leaves. When sautéed with olive oil, garlic, onion, and tomato, it is one of my favorite wild-harvested foods. It was truly a blessing to me and my developing child. Elena and I both said “thank you” to Dandelion before continuing our walk.

We also found Yarrow sprouting up through cracks in the sidewalk. This humble plant has such an ancient and glorious past. Yarrow has marched into battle with the ancient Greeks and Romans. It is said that it caressed Cleopatra’s hands. It has travelled all the way around the globe to meet our Native Peoples. Yarrow has whispered its secrets to our Elders and gifted us with its medicine. I welcome Yarrow into our home gratefully each growing season. It appears wild throughout our state. When there are fevers to be broken, I use it as a tea. When there are nosebleeds to be stopped, I crush the fresh or dried herb and place it directly into the nasal cavity. It staunches bleeding almost instantly.

When we approached Humboldt Park, I took a deep breath as I gazed skyward. I’m always in awe of great and beautiful trees, the Standing People, who hold the wisdom of the ages. They each have their own medicines that have helped our ancestors in many different lands. Both native and non-native species are beneficial.

Many plants have naturalized here, just as so many people have. They have learned to coexist and thrive. The plants have the power to teach us to do the same. If we take the time to slow down and listen, the plant life around us will heal our hearts. This type of healing will not only benefit us now but has the potential to benefit our future generations as well.

My intention with my contribution to this In Balance column is to encourage you to step outside for a moment and breathe deeply. Exhale and connect with your surroundings. You don’t have to be an herbalist or a gardener to appreciate the bounty that surrounds us. Taking those moments to be in nature is healing to the mind, body, and spirit. The plants around us are breathing and alive. They will impart their wisdom and gift their medicines, if we take the time to respectfully ask for their help.

*According to USDA’s Nutrition database, 1 cup of chopped raw dandelion greens provides 1.71 milligrams of iron. The National Institutes of Health recommend 8-27 milligrams of iron per day depending on one’s age and sex. Its recommendation for pregnant women is 27 milligrams per day.

Angela Kingsawan is the herbalist and garden coordinator at Core El Centro, a wholistic healing center. More info:
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat, or serve as a substitute for medical advice or care.

St. Francis Students Create Gift Of Independence

March 1, 2018

By Sheila Julson

St. Francis High School students Georgia Hancock, Alex Reid, and Jake Bednarski pose with the robot they built to give toddler Vivian Johnson more independence. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Toddler tethered to medical equipment assisted by their robot

Students in the St. Francis Robotics  (SFROBOTICS) program are using their skills and ingenuity to make life a little easier for a Menomonee Falls toddler Vivian Johnson, who was born with Chiari malformation. The condition, according to the Kids Health website, “causes the cerebellum — the part of the brain that controls coordination and muscle movement — to push into the space normally occupied by the spinal cord.”

SFRBOTICS is part one of the St. Francis School District STEM program. It was formed as a robotics club in 2008 under the guidance of science teacher Peter Graven. He quickly realized that student robotics could encompass more than robot competitions, although they do that, too. He formed ONEIGHTY, a program where students use technology to assist people and improve an aspect or aspects of their lives.

Graven said the students’ ONEIGHTY work is what likely got the attention of TMJ4 reporter Courtny Gerrish, who in November 2015 covered the plight of then 14-month old Baby Vivian Johnson and the struggle of her parents, Sarah and Clay Johnson, to persuade BadgerCare to cover a special bed designed for children with special needs.

Vivian Johnson lives in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin with her parents Sarah and Clay Johnson, and her siblings Samuel and Lilly. —Courtesy Sarah Johnson

As Vivian grew, she defied her doctor’s glum prognosis that she would never walk or be very active.

Vivian’s life is dependent on her being continually tethered to her ventilator, oxygen tank, and other large, cumbersome medical devices. When she began to walk, Vivian’s parents needed to follow her with those life-sustaining devices. Graven said Vivian and her parents needed something that would enable her to be more independent so she could play where she wanted and when she wanted without her parents following her with the equipment. Enter robotics.

“We started communicating with Vivian’s family and began work on the project the beginning of last school year,” Graven said. Their goal was to create a robot that would carry the equipment, moving from place to place with Vivian.

Graven, and SFROBOTICS members, Alex Reid, a senior at St. Francis High School, and Georgia Hancock, a junior, explained the design and challenges behind “Vivian’s Bot” or “Fulplae” because it allows full access to play. Their solution would be a tiered shelf-robot that held her medical devices and followed her as she moved around. Graven said that the robot must be able to avoid obstacles in the house. At the same time, it must recognize that Vivian is not an obstacle nor are the tethers between her and the robot.

Reid said that they visited Vivian’s family’s home to examine the layout and to determine the robot’s dimensions and potential designs. Reid and Hancock, along with SFROBOTICS members Colton Feirer (Grade 11), Jacob Bednarski (Grade 12) and Angelina Fowler (Grade 10), actively worked on Fulplae. Eleventh graders Josh Wendlick and Ryan Putnam also contributed to the project.

The students designed and built the robot and wrote its software.

“You can search on MIT’s web page and find designs very similar, so we’ve basically asked high school kids to do graduate work,” Graven said. “It definitely upped their game.”

Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) mentors donated their time and expertise to help customize the robot’s axle and frame.

Several local and nationwide companies and organizations stepped up and donated time or supplies to help SFROBOTICS students create Fulplae. Price Engineering, in Hartland, Wis., donated the purple metal used for the frame.

“The 80/20 metal is a material we never worked with before the Vivian project, but we wanted to use it because it’s durable,” Hancock said. “We just sent [Price] the file and let them know what we needed for the frame, and they sent us all the parts. We had to assemble it.”

Wauwatosa-based Interstate Batteries donated batteries to help power Fulplae, and Cross the Road Electronics, of Michigan, provided motorized controllers. Some plastic parts were donated by UW-Milwaukee, while other plastic parts were designed and printed by the SFROBOTICS team.

Once Fulplae was up and running, SFROBOTICS did test runs at the lab, which has tiled floors. But when they took the robot to Vivian’s home to test, the students were stymied by an unanticipated obstacle — carpeting.

“The machine doesn’t drive well on the carpet,” Reid explained. “It drove around here just fine on tiled floors but turning on carpet was a problem.” They also had to do some further tweaking to incorporate the tubing and cables that tether Vivian to her medical equipment.

‘We were doing test runs without the cabling, but when Vivian’s mother attached her to the device, we saw (these) further challenges,” Reid said. “It’s a learning process. If you’re not willing to make a mistake, you better not start any project.”

Hancock said those challenges motivated the students to improve the design. They initially used motors designed for 18 by 18 inch robots but realized that the robot required a more powerful motor. Fulplae is controlled by a radio, similar to a radio-controlled car, that her parents will operate.

Fulplae includes light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors. Many of its components were new to SFROBOTICS members. “It’s a path we’ve never been down before and a challenge,” Hancock said. “But if you’ve ever met this little girl, you cannot tell her not to walk. Her personality is amazing.”

Reid agrees that the project, while challenging, has been inspirational. “It’s impressive that she’s gotten this far. She’s defying doctors’ expectations,” he said. “I want her to be able to walk. It’s personal investment now and I’m rooting for her.”

Reid and Hancock are both St. Francis residents. Hancock developed an interest in robotics and mechanics as a sixth grader when she first saw robotics in action. She joined SFROBOTICS in eighth grade and never looked back. She plans to pursue a career in engineering.

Reid has already been accepted at MSOE, but even after receiving his high school diploma, he intends to continue working with SFROBOTICS as a mentor. Since he was a child, he enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together. He and his dad, Dan Reid, once disassembled and reassembled a robot. His mother, Lisa Stika, also encouraged his robotics pursuits.

“Our robotics club has made it to state FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge, a statewide robotics tournament) every year since I’ve been involved, so it’s been awesome to be able to compete in that,” Hancock said. “I enjoy being a part of the team, and Mr. Graven has been great.”

Reid enjoys the problem solving behind robotics, as well as the networking with other competitors and representatives from companies that support robotics. “We meet cool people at competitions, like the people at Interstate Batteries who were invited to judge our junior FLL (FIRST LEGO League) competition,” he said. “We didn’t expect them to have an interest in robotics after they donated batteries, but they came to other competitions and helped us out.”

St. Francis High School students Jake Bednarski, Georgia Hancock, and Alex Reid absorb the information their robotics coach Peter Graven dispenses. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Graven works with LimbForge and E-Nable, nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing 3-D printed, wearable prosthetic devices for people with malformed hands or missing digits.

His SFROBOTICS students use open-source designs with their 3-D printers to make plastic hands with hinged fingers that can grasp and pick up items. The plastic hands are custom-sized, cast from plaster molds made of a client’s hand. The prosthetics can be designed and printed in different colors or with a superhero character or sports logos.

SFROBOTICS also built underwater ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) to compete in the Wisconsin Regional MATEROV competition as well as in SEAPERCH competitions. The students are working with the members of the board of directors of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum on a number of projects and plan to make ROV dives to explore local Wisconsin shipwrecks.

The Johnson family will not need to pay for Fulplae because the SFROBOTICS students created it for her as their gift.

Reid and Hancock invite people to visit the club and see what SFROBOTICS is doing. He said they’re willing to help other schools launch their own robotics programs. They meet in lab space at Deer Creek Intermediate School in St. Francis. The robotics program encompasses Grades 4 through 12.

More info:
To follow Vivian’s progress:

Crabby’s Bar & Grill — Fran Daniels has served up handmade fare for more than 50 years

March 1, 2018

By Catherine Jozwik

Kathy Bach and Fran Daniels pose in their restaurant, Crabby’s Bar & Grill. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Fran Daniels has been part of the Bay View business community for more than 50 years. He opened Francisco’s, his first restaurant, in 1964. Twenty years later he and his wife Kathy Bach enlarged the restaurant, added a bar, expanded the menu, and renamed it.

Because of its extensive seafood menu, Bach and Daniels named it Crabby’s Bar & Grill.

Located on the southeast corner of Kinnickinnic and Oklahoma avenues, Crabby’s décor includes a long wooden bar, paneling, lamp-lit tables, a big handmade canvas sailboat, and vintage Milwaukee photos. Crabby’s is a living testament to Bay View’s dining past that still offers a place to unwind. Smooth rock music from the 1970s plays through the speakers, creating a relaxing ambience for patrons.

“It’s a beautiful place,” said Daniels.

After Daniels’ stroke on Feb. 2, 2017, the couple closed the restaurant for nine months. They reopened it Dec. 4 with a new, pared down menu.

Daniels wants people to know that his restaurant is open again. “People think we’re closed,” he said, “but we’re not.”

And while Daniels and Bach have put their building on the market, they’re not in a hurry to sell.

“If it sells, great. If not, that’s okay,” Bach said.

The couple has witnessed many neighborhood changes, including a dramatic increase in the number of restaurants and bars, in their decades as Bay View business owners.

Daniels, now 77, said that when he opened his Italian restaurant, Francisco’s, in 1964, there were very few restaurants in the neighborhood, except for De Marinis.

Daniels said he and Ron Zeller, owner of At Random cocktail lounge, 2501 S. Delaware Avenue, opened their businesses at the same time and became close.

“He’s been my best friend for years,” Daniels said.

Years ago, Bay View was more family and community-oriented, according to Bach.

“If the neighbors had young kids, chances are they wound up working here,” she said.

Bach, a Rice Lake native, moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and met Daniels through mutual friends.

Daniels, who was raised in Bay View, attended Mound Street School and graduated from Bay View High School in 1958.

He was 17 when he graduated and began working in restaurants, mostly making pizzas. At 23, he borrowed $1,200 from his father, and he and Rose Stankiewicz, his boss and owner of Alsta’s restaurant, decided to go into business.

Together, the pair leased space on the south end of the building, sharing the building with other businesses such as a bakery, drugstore, and barbershop

“Rose showed him the ropes,” Bach said.

Daniels purchased the building in 1974 and converted the second level to living spaces.

He later purchased the two houses south of the restaurant and demolished them. Originally intending to create a space for outdoor dining, Daniels decided on a parking lot instead.

—Photo Jennifer Kresse

Later Daniels remodeled the exterior of the building. He expanded the restaurant by adding a bar and renamed it Crabby’s, reopening in 1984 with a more expansive menu than Francisco’s.

According to Bach, supper clubs, which experienced a downward trend in the past two decades, were popular among dining patrons when Crabby’s opened. Recently supper clubs are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, she said.

Bach said their entrees were made to order, no pre-made dishes. They even made their pasta from scratch.

Now, due to the couple’s time constraints and other commitments, such as Daniels’ physical therapy that requires several appointments each week, each several hours long, they have eliminated their original menu. No longer serving steaks, seafood, or its popular Friday night fish fry, the restaurant has gone back to Francisco’s roots, serving a variety of made-to-order pizzas prepared in an old-fashioned deck pizza oven with slate grates.

Some unusual and regional favorites include the cheese-and kraut pizza, cheese and shrimp pizza, and a white chicken pizza. “We have people driving all the way from Pewaukee for [the cheese and kraut pizza],” Bach said.

Asked about the Italian cuisine and the non-Italian surname Daniels, Bach said that Fran’s forebears were Italian. Although Fran’s father was adopted, his dad learned that his birth father was “part Italian” and that his grandfather’s last name was Matero.

Bach said she typically runs the restaurant alone, but if things get busy, she calls on two former staff members to help out—Denise Kraning, who waits tables, and Mike Scicero, who tends bar. Both have been with the business for more than 20 years.

“They’re pretty much family at this point,” said Bach.

Like any supper club worth its salt, Crabby’s serves up the Old Fashioned, a classic Wisconsin drink, but the spirits don’t end there.

Crabby’s has a full-service bar. Guests can choose from a variety of wines and domestic and imported beers.

Although Bach has taken over Daniels’ bartending duties, he was quick to mention that patrons can still imbibe traditional supper club drinks. Ice cream beverages include the Grasshopper, Pink Lady, and Brandy Alexander. For cold nights, Irish coffee, Bavarian coffee, and some of Daniels’ own creations warm customers, like the minty, sweet Irish Tease.

Because of its proximity to the St. Francis seminary, many students and religious figures, such as former and current archbishops Timothy Dolan and Jerome Listecki, have patronized Crabby’s.

Memorable and prominent customers throughout the years include former Milwaukee police chief Harold Breier, Milwaukee County Supervisor Dan Cupertino, and Oakland Raiders defensive end and onetime Oak Creek resident John Matuszak.

Kathy Bach and Francisco Daniels have been married for 46 years. Daniels has three children from a previous marriage. Two of his children followed their dad’s lead. His son and daughter-in-law, Chris and Dawn Daniels, own and operate Matero’s Pub and Pizza in Custer, Wis. His daughter and son-in-law Wendy and Thad Klasinski, own and operate Michele’s Restaurant and Catering in Stevens Point.

Andrew Oren, former pastor of the Bay View Methodist Church and lifelong resident, has been a customer of Francisco’s, then Crabby’s, for about 40 years.

“I’m a big fan of the pizza burgers. It’s a comfort food place for me,” he said.

Oren remembers how Francisco’s served up savory steak. “It would come out sizzling on a stainless-steel platter,” he said. The restaurant, smaller than Crabby’s, always seemed full of customers, Oren said.

Now retired, he still makes it a point to patronize Crabby’s every six weeks or so. He wants people to know that Bach and Daniels, along with their restaurant, are an essential part of Bay View history.

“It’s a mom-and-pop place,” said Oren. “I’d hate to see another chain store go in there.”

Editor’s Note: Before Fran Daniels expanded his restaurant and remodeled his building, the main door to the building was located on a diagonal across the northwest corner of the building. In the 1950s, Rocky’s Pharmacy, owned by Rocco Lincoln Giove, occupied the retail space. Prior to Rocky’s, it was McKinnon’s No. 2 Pharmacy, and before that, in the 1940s, Raleigh Pharmacy, according to John Giove, whose father was Rocky Giove.

Chivalry Is Not Dead

March 1, 2018

By Catherine Jozwik

Eli Corona, owner of The Family Mechanic auto service shop, 1122 E. Holt Avenue in Bay View. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

The Family Mechanic’s kindness a balm for car break-in misery

The recent Bay View auto vandalism epidemic has many neighbors concerned. More than a few residents have awakened to find their car windows had been smashed overnight.

Elijah Corona, owner of The Family Mechanic, 1122 E. Holt Avenue, has been helping vehicle owners affected by this crime for several years. He replaces auto glass for customers in the Bay View area at cost, often saving them hundreds of dollars.

Corona, who grew up on Milwaukee’s north side, said his family didn’t have much money.

His father advised him to pick a trade, so he decided to become an auto mechanic. At age 13, Corona began working for Mr. P’s Tires at the business’s north side location as a cleaner. From 2010-2015 he worked as a technical trainer for Bridgestone, an auto parts manufacturing company.

“I worked for Bridgestone Retail Operations. “The training I did was focused on career development, quality control, (and) safety training. My territory was Wisconsin and Northern Illinois,” Corona said.

Encouraged by his wife, Brooke Corona, he opened The Family Mechanic in 2014, while still employed at Bridgestone. “(Brooke) said I should follow my dreams and I did,” Corona said. “I kind of had dual roles for about a year.”

He hired employees to run the shop, 2151 S. 1st Street, in rented space. The shop moved to its present Holt Avenue location in 2016, when his and adjacent buildings were scheduled for demolition to make way for the construction of Restaurant Depot.

Shortly after he opened the auto shop, Corona’s and several of his neighbors’ vehicles were broken into and their windows smashed. Knowing that he was a mechanic, people asked him if he replaced glass.

“I said, yes, at cost. Then the word spread. I never thought we’d be replacing that many windows. We did about 77 in three days.” Corona said. “My glass supplier loves me.”

To keep up with the influx of business, he hired two new technicians.

The average price for a piece of glass ranges from $75-$110. Laminated glass is more durable and runs about $150 per piece.

Recently some Bay View residents have come to The Family Mechanic with all four of their car windows broken.

“Most people in Bay View leave their doors unlocked and don’t leave anything in the car. Vandals here are breaking windows just to break windows,” said Corona. “It’s like a game to them.”

He noted that car vandalism is not confined to Bay View. The shop replaces glass for customers who live in the Third Ward, Walker’s Point, and on Brady Street.

Corona and his technicians repaired windows on 17 cars February 13 and three more the following day. “We have seen a crazy increase in repairs [in 2018], he said.”

Bay View Neighborhood Association president Patty Pritchard Thompson presented Eli Corona with a thank you gift for his generous service to the many unfortunate residents of the 53207 zip code area who have been victims of car vandalism. Corona replaces their broken auto glass at cost. —Photo Katherine Keller

He recommends that car owners buy an alarm system with a very loud alarm in order to deter criminals.

Building strong relationships with customers, and with the Bay View community, are priorities for Corona, who said he would like to get involved in events such as Chill on the Hill and with neighborhood associations.

Corona is still replacing broken car windows at cost for those who live in the 53207 zip code area. He said his glass partner, Paustian’s Auto Glass, is also offering its services at a discounted rate because of the sheer volume of glass replacement in the Bay View neighborhood.

Corona said he doesn’t do what he does for publicity. He does it because it feels good to help.

He will provide the service as long as he has sufficient staff to do so.

At some point, Brooke Corona plans to leave her corporate job to help her husband with the shop, stepping into the position of both office and finance manager.

In addition to his auto services, Corona owns a fleet of plow trucks and he is happy to clear streets and alleys of snow for his neighbors, especially veterans and those who are disabled. He said while he doesn’t charge the majority of those he helps with his plowing service, some people insist on paying him.

Remembering Ruth Simos

March 1, 2018

By Michael Timm

A member of the Bay View Arts Guild, Simos took art classes at MATC. She painted and drew figures, flowers, and Milwaukee park landscapes. Simos was also on the selection committee for art to revamp Mitchell International’s baggage claim area. Her drawing of a tree can be seen on the marker in South Shore Park that is placed where the giant European Copper Beech tree stood before it was recently culled. —Photo Gibson Bathrick

Ruth Simos, March 28, 1924 – February 22, 2018

This article was originally published in the Compass February 2011 to announce that Ruth Simos had been selected as winner of the Bay View Compass Spirit of Bay View award. Simos embodied the spirit of Bay View as a volunteer and the president and founder of the Humboldt Park Watch.

Ruth Simos, Tireless Parks Advocate

There was dancing in the street. The dancers wore black leotards, headbands with silver sequins, and black felt spats that looked like horse hooves. They shook their silver pom-poms to catcalls as men emerged from a bar near KK and Lincoln, holding signs with scores of 9s and 10s. A man shouted at one of the dancers, “Hey, Granny, you can bake cookies for me any day!”

That dancer was Ruth Margaret Simos, one-time member of the Dancing Grannies, a local troupe that was dancing in the South Shore Frolics Parade. Simos joined women from the Bay View Historical Society and the South Shore Yacht Club as a Dancing Granny for a few years. “It was fun,” Simos recalled. “It was an adventure.”

Simos lives near Humboldt Park in the same Bay View bungalow her parents bought when she was nine months old. Her father was a master plumber, her mother a food demonstrator. The youngest of three sisters, Simos grew up with a Depression-era mindset. She remembers her parents’ political yard sign for Al Smith, Catholic candidate for president in 1928. She attended films at the Mirth and the    about  the bombing of Pearl Harbor on the radio while rehearsing a Bay View High School Round Table skit.

She graduated from Bay View High with a science major (with four years of art) and married George Simos, an electrical engineer for Square D Company, in 1945. They started a family on S. Ninth Street in a one-bedroom apartment, then after five years rented and later bought her parents’ house.

The parks have always been a part of Simos’ life. She recalls lacing up her skates and spending many a winter Sunday on the Humboldt Park Lagoon, forgoing meals and returning home exhausted but exhilarated. Nowadays, the cold keeps her inside, but she renders park scenes she’s photographed in watercolor or pastels—sunrises over Lake Michigan and reflections on the lagoon among them.

Simos looks fondly upon Humboldt Park and imagines what Milwaukee would be like if the street grid of houses continued unabated through the open green space. It’s not someplace she would want to live.

“The parks are for everybody,” Simos said. “If you don’t belong to a country club, if you don’t have a swimming pool in your backyard, the parks are there.”

The Humboldt Park Watch Simos launched with a dozen other neighbors is now going into its 14th year. Her proudest accomplishment through the park watch is Tree Day, which brings over 200 schoolchildren into Humboldt Park the second week of October. Kids witness the planting of replacement trees and do related activities. It’s her small way of connecting young people to a valuable public resource.

“The parks have gone downhill so far since Mr. Walker’s been in office,” Simos said, adding that she’s opposed to parks privatization. “Many of us can remember when things were a lot better.”

Simos counts six children (one in Bay View), 16 grandchildren, and multiple great-grandchildren. “All cute,” she said. She enjoys walking her neighborhood and exploring alleys.

She’s witnessed giant leaps in technology but remains convinced that participating directly in human communities is more rewarding. “I see people texting—I think, ‘Good God, get a life.’”

Simos said her community work has resulted in her meeting people that she never would have if she’d stayed in the house. In her mind, volunteering to make a change is better than griping about change that doesn’t happen. And, she quipped, “If you’re a volunteer, they can’t fire you.”


Ruth Simos Memorial March 17
The visitation and memorial for Ruth Simos will be held at Immaculate Conception Church, 1023 E. Russell Ave., Saturday, March 17, from 10am to 12pm. A celebration of her life will be held after Mass at the Humboldt Park Pavilion.

St. Francis Custom Motorcycle Builder Wins National Competition

November 1, 2017

A welding class at St. Francis High School was the initial impetus that propelled Steve Dietzman on the path to becoming a highly accomplished custom-motorcycle builder. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere.”

That was the tagline that advertised Easy Rider, the 1969 cult classic biker movie.

Since then, thousands have surrendered to their wanderlust to ride the nation’s ribbons of highways on two wheels, in search of their own America.

Champion custom-motorcycle builder Steve Dietzman of Studio Cycles stands ready to outfit them with his rad rides.

Steve Dietzman, a modest 25-year-old, rose to national prominence this year with his custom-built 1968 Triumph Bonneville Chopper. He won the Retro Modified Class category of 2017 International Motor Show (IMS). Dietzman believes his attention to detail and his passion to go above and beyond helped him win the competition.

“I went to [the IMS] for about three years as a spectator, so that motivated me to finish up my bike and enter it in the show,” he said.

Dietzman’s custom-built 1968 Triumph Bonneville Chopper was the winner in the 2017 International Motor Show’s Retro Modified Class. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Milwaukee’s Royal Enfield (retail store of British motorcycle manufacturer) sponsored the retro Modified Class category. Dietzman won a trophy, a Royal Enfield motorcycle, and a cash prize.

The Compass caught up with Dietzman on a sunny September afternoon as he worked in a workshop near in the Tippecanoe neighborhood. Motorcycles in various stages of completion were staged throughout the shop.

Most of Dietzman’s motorcycles are projects for his friends. He pointed to a Harley-Davidson Panhead, stripped down to the frame, wheels, and fuel tank. “This is my buddy’s Panhead. He got married and started a family at 23, so that’s what happens,” Dietzman said, pointing to the bike’s shell, indicating his friend’s progress on the rebuild has been slowed.

Another friend dropped off a Honda for a full custom build.

On display was one of Dietzman’s most recent accomplishments, a sleek blue and chrome 1979 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead Chopper. The bike was featured in a motorcycles-as-art exhibit curated by Michael Lichter at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The iconic rally began in 1938 and is held annually in the first week of August in Sturgis, S.D.

Dietzman performed the fine-tuning, welding, and mechanical aspects of the build. The paintwork is outsourced to his buddy, artist Rome Urbaniak. “Some people think it’s my best work yet,” he said, referring to the Shovelhead, “but I don’t think so. I always strive to go above and beyond, always pushing, pushing one step further. I hope my best work is yet to come!” he said.

Dietzman owns five motorcycles, three in driving form. His Triumph Bonneville is his favorite.

Teen Passion

Dietzman started riding motorcycles when he was 16. His first bike was a 1969 Honda 350. “My friend and me used to rent a single-stall garage not far from here during high school and we hid our motorcycles from our parents,” he said. “We called it ‘the studio’ because it was tiny. The name carried over to Studio Cycles.”

Dietzman’s parents found out about his motorcycle after one of their friends saw him cruising around Bay View. “After I caught wind of this, I decided to drive my bike home one day. Their response to me having a motorcycle was well received! I believe they knew (about my bike) longer than I thought they did,” he said.

Dietzman is a 2011 graduate of St. Francis High School. The school has a woodshop, but hasn’t had an auto or metal shop for some time, Dietzman said. So during his junior year, he participated in a school-to-work program and studied welding at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s downtown campus.

“I realized I didn’t want to do welding as a career,” he said. However, he immediately connected with the fabrication aspect of welding that he could use it for work on motorcycle frames and parts.

When he sought a deeper understanding of engine mechanics, he took a small engines class at MATC, along with auto tech training.

He built his first motorcycle when he was 18, a 1977 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster. “It was totally stock and (I) made it into a bobber. I changed the frame and everything on it,” he said.

The bike was featured in a motorcycles-as-art exhibit curated by Michael Lichter at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Bobbing a bike involves stripping extraneous bodywork from a motorcycle, including removing the front fender and shortening the rear fender.

Dietzman finds motorcycles primarily via Craigslist.

For his commission projects, clients usually have a general idea of what they want and Dietzman fine-tunes it for them. He gets ideas from social media. He studies photos and considers how to make good ideas even better.

Despite holding a full-time sales position at Fastenal, an industrial supplier, along with his own business, Dietzman still finds time to mentor bike builders of the future through BUILD, a nonprofit educational organization that pairs teams of high school students with bike-builder mentors. The St. Francis High School program started in 2011, during Dietzman’s senior year. He and four other students participated in the program’s inaugural year.

“School was a little boring for me, but to go work on those motorcycles after school was awesome,” he said. “I remember skipping work to go work on motorcycles. That gave me the kick start to want to work on bikes.”

Dietzman serves as a mentor in the St. Francis High School program.

He helps students gain valuable life and interpersonal skills while restoring vintage motorcycles. They start out with a motorcycle chassis that is in rundown condition and turn it into a full race bike. They learn a wide range of skills, including motorcycle design, welding, fabricating, painting, and even fundraising. At the end of the build, the bikes are raced at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Other high schools that offer BUILD include Bradley Tech, Pulaski, New Berlin, South Milwaukee, Shorewood, and Muskego.

Still in his 20s, the sky, or the open highway, is the limit for Dietzman. While he loves making custom bikes and might expand into a larger workspace with a storefront, he’s keeping his full-time job and will see where the road takes him.

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

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