Wisconsin Life #401: “Up to the Challenge”

September 14, 2016


This collection of stories from people sharing their “Wisconsin Life” includes the story of Sue Dompke. After her husband died, Dompke found herself at a crossroads in life. She had two teenage daughters and a dream that brought her to Washington Island. That dream required Dompke to find a unique way to overcome her fear of bugs – by surrounding herself with millions of honeybees. Dompke has become one of only a handful of Russian honeybee breeders in the country and is now experiencing the sweet taste of success at her Sweet Mountain Farm.

Then Wisconsin Life travels to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to meet Laura Vacek. Some might see Vacek playing wheelchair basketball and call it inspirational, but that’s the last thing she wants. For her, it’s just another day on the court. When Vacek was only seven years old, she was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma in her right femur. The sometimes fatal disease is a rare form of bone cancer that accounts for only 1% of all childhood cancers. Undeterred, Vacek became so good at wheelchair basketball that she received an offer to play at the collegiate level for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. A program that has won three national championships in the last eight years for wheelchair basketball.

Next, it’s over to Hartland to meet Bryan Berenson, a Wisconsin man who needed to switch vocations after developing early on-set arthritis. Leaving behind his job as a diesel mechanic, Berenson traveled to Austria to learn the craft behind mask carving. Now he sculpts wooden masks and is a member of the group called, Muller Fasching Verein, which participates in a German-Austrian tradition that marks the rites of spring while wearing his carved wooden masks.

Also on tap, a trip to the Two Rivers area to meet Bill Walkner. He has lived and worked in the city of Two Rivers for more than five decades. Through the years, Walkner watched as the manufacturing way of life gradually began to disappear… a way of life that supported him, his parents and his friends for many years. When news spread that the old Hamilton Manufacturing smokestack would be demolished, Walkner channeled his sentiment for the fading manufacturing era into a song.

Finally, Wisconsin Life heads to Green Bay to learn about Bradley Czech. He collects and restores classic arcade games in Green Bay. Czech has more than 200 games in his collection. Czech has also turned his collection over to local museums for an exhibit called, “The Golden Age of Video Arcade Games”.


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