Route 66

Ladysmith resident Mary Sue Timmerman, who lives at Flambeau Village Apartments, stands next to a COVID-19 vaccine activity she started as a way to inspire other seniors to get vaccinated against the coronavirus illness. 

Flambeau Village residents have a shot at a summer picnic as part of a Virtual Route 66 Trip they are now taking together.

Behind the wheel of this cross-country excursion that will never leave Ladysmith is Mary Sue Timmerman, who lives at Flambeau Village.

“I try to make things a little better for people. People are what glue us all together in our interactions,” Timmerman said.

Mary Sue and Donald Timmerman had lived in Texas, but Don always considered  Wisconsin his home. Even though he had already established a successful business in Minnesota, Don saw Texas as a land of opportunity that he needed to explore. As an agent for Spencer Turbine Company, he spent nearly four decades in the Houston area engineering projects to protect the environment and the manufacturing of products many use.  Although he often crossed paths with the rich and famous, it was simple acts of kindness that made his heart soar. A fairy tale wedding in Israel to Mary Sue was the beginning of a magical 30 year journey.

Don and Mary Sue arrived in Ladysmith about two years ago to be close to her son, Joel Taylor, and his new wife, Sara. The Timmermans were planning to build their “forever home” on land they purchased. 

“Sometimes it seems I can hear God chuckle at the mention of ‘a plan,’ and  this was certainly no exception,” Mary Sue said. “We decided that even preliminary site work on the land was just too difficult to try and orchestrate from Texas, so Joel arranged an apartment for us at Flambeau Village.”

The Timmermans arrived in Ladysmith in June of 2019.

The move took its toll on everyone, but Don didn’t seem  to pop back, according to Mary Sue. Don was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and rather than getting on with their building plans they spent nearly a year consulting with various area specialists.

Throughout the process, the couple warmed to the idea of apartment living and quite unexpectedly started thinking of Flambeau Village as their “forever home.” 

Even though plans to build their retirement dream home quickly faded as Don developed new health issues, they created an idyllic “nest” at Flambeau Village. Side-by-side apartments were combined into one large suite.

“We enjoyed our neighbors and the spirit of community in the building,” Mary Sue said.

The arrival of COVID  last February, and Don’s death last July, changed everything.   

News of the arrival of COVID vaccinations in the area seems to give a ray of hope.

“‘Normal’ still doesn’t describe any of our lives, but just the prospect of being able to spend time with neighbors and feeling less isolated will be a great first step,” Mary Sue said.

Mary Sue got busy working with Marshfield Clinic to sign up neighbors who wanted the vaccine.

“I tried to think of a way to have some fun with the process and give gentle encouragement for vaccinations,” Mary Sue said.

Don and Mary Sue always chose the most direct route between Texas and Wisconsin so they could spend as much time as possible with Joel.

One year, the couple ended up off the beaten path on the historic Route 66.

U.S. Route 66 or U.S. Highway 66 (U.S. 66 or Route 66), also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System. U.S. 66 was established in 1926, with road signs erected the following year. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in the nation, originally ran from Chicago, Ill., through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before terminating in Santa Monica, Calif., covering a total of 2,448 miles.

It was recognized in popular culture by both the hit song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” and the Route 66 television series, which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1964. In John Steinbeck’s classic 1939 American novel, The Grapes of Wrath, the road “Highway 66” symbolized escape and loss.

U.S. 66 served as a primary route for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and the road supported the economies of the communities through which it passed. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway, and those same people later fought to keep the highway alive in the face of the growing threat of being bypassed by the new Interstate Highway System.

U.S. 66 underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime, but was officially removed from the United States Highway System in 1985 after it had been replaced in its entirety by segments of the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been communally designated a National Scenic Byway by the name “Historic Route 66”,

“We made a wrong turn one year and ended up on Route 66,”Mary Sue said. “We got back on course as soon as we could, but decided to add a leisurely trip along the historic route to our ‘bucket list.”

After Don passed last year, that trip the Timmermans had hoped to take to revisit Route 66 will never happen.

But Mary Sue refused to have the roadtrip end there. She shifted into high gear with a new adventure, taking as many of her neighbors along for the ride as she could. She hopes they all climb aboard for a chance at reminiscing some kicks on a “virtual trip” on Route 66.

She came up with the idea of a “virtual trip” with each vaccination earning a “gold brick” on the map to see how far her neighbors at Flambeau Village can go. 

Each vaccination earns miles along the route and a ticket for a chance at a $100 drawing on July 4. They are hoping the vaccinations and continuing with masks will let them have an old fashioned picnic to celebrate the holiday.

For each vaccine received, residents put a sticker on the Route 66 map. Each vaccine earns participants two gold bricks, one for the road and one for the kitty.

The name of one lucky Flambeau Village resident “traveler” will be drawn from the kitty for the winning prize. A proof of vaccination is required to claim the cash.

“I have no real goal for our virtual trip other than heighten awareness of COVID vaccinations and maybe give us something  to look forward to at the end of the road,” Mary Sue said.

Currently eligible populations for the COVID vaccine in the state are  frontline health care personnel, residents and staff in skilled nursing and long-term care facilities, police and fire personnel, correctional staff and adults ages 65 and over.

Flambeau Village Apartment resident Joanne Craker praised Timmerman as a source of many “neat ideas” and trying to get others involved. She added about half of the apartment residents are seniors.

“The seniors like to be social but with COVID they can’t be as social as they want to,” Craker said. “People are talking about this Route 66 activity, and asking each other if they are going to be vaccinated.”

A map tracking the trip’s progress is on a bulletin board in the front entrance at Flambeau Village.

“We’re hoping the vaccinations and continuing with masks will let us have an old fashioned picnic to celebrate the holiday,” Mary Sue said.

Residents can pick their own favorite mode of transportation including motorcycle, bus, motor home or vintage sports car.

Mary Sue also hopes participants have fun imagining where they would like to stop along the way and what sites, family and friends they would like to visit. They also can imagine what food they would like to enjoy along the way.

“We will see where we are by July 4, and that is where we will celebrate the holiday,” Mary Sue said.

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