Starting as friends, ending up as family

Friends for life Members of the Coffee Club include, clockwise from bottom left: Carol Burnikel, Gelene Gunhus, Therma Fitzgerald, Malvera Wohlsdorf, Suzanne Ollendick, Sharron Meyer, Ann Webster and Bootie Kapler. Absent: Carol Gates, Dorothy Kupka and Marlys Gunderson Midthus.

It all started about 51 years ago, when a group of young mothers got together for coffee. Those monthly meetings, that were never really meetings, are still going strong. Members have come and members have gone, but sharing life with each other has not changed.

Current members include Carol Gates, Dorothy Kupka, Marlys Gunderson Midthus, Malvera Wohlsdorf, Therma Fitzgerald, Suzanne Ollendick, Gelene Gunhus, Sharron Meyer, Ann Webster, Carol Burnikel and Bootie Kapler. They meet the third Monday of each month.
Malvera Wohlsdorf explains the origins of the group. “We started our coffee with four or five classmates some 50 years ago.” The women take turns meeting at each other’s houses. “We all like pretty dishes and this gives us a chance to use our fine china . . . if we want.” She said it is more and more common to see paper plates and cups on the tables today. “But,” she adds, “No matter what, we ALWAYS have a wonderful time!”
Although the group may have started with classmates, it is not a prerequisite for being part of this group. Suzanne Ollendick said, “Fifteen years ago, I was invited to go to Lanesboro with this group. They had an extra ticket and I was available! I must have passed the test because they asked me to join, so I was in. It is a great group of girls and just the sort of club I like—no homework, no lesson and no crafts!” Several ladies mentioned how nice it was to just get together and not have all the trappings of a meeting.
Therma Fitzgerald was  a self-proclaimed outsider when she joined the coffee group. “I came as a stranger to the Lime Springs community as a farmer’s bride in 1961. After living in our neighborhood, north of Bonair, my neighbor, Carol Burnikel, invited me to Coffee Club. Being at home a lot of evenings, I was happy for a ‘night out with the girls.’”
There is always a great lunch and many recipes have been shared over the years. But it is more than the food and caffeine in a cup that keeps these ladies meeting month after month, year after year.
Ann Webster says it is the visiting she enjoys. “I have enjoyed visiting with everyone—from the start we learned about each girl’s kids in kindergarten and then high school and then college, wedding and grandkids. This is a very special group!”
Sharron Meyer remembers her first time hosting the Club. “They came the night before! What a surprise! I pulled out some hamburger, had Carol Burnikel stop for some buns and Therma brought some dessert. All was well.”
Burnikel reflects, “It’s funny how the topic of conversation has changed throughout the years that we have been together.
When we were younger, the conversation centered around our babies and young children. Later it centered around our children growing up, going off to school or work and getting married. Now, our conversation centers around our grandchildren and great-grandchildren and how wonderful they all are.”
She does admit the ladies sometimes discuss aches and pains, trips and retirement. “All in all, we have had lots of laughs, some tears and great friendships.”
Topics have changed over the years, but so has the attire. Fitzgerald remembers, “The first years I was in the Coffee Club, all the gals dressed up with dresses and heels! Well that has changed a lot as we come in casual clothes and shoes.”
Gelene Gunhus can’t believe the ladies have been meeting for over 50 years.  “These gals are so much support in life’s challenges. I especially needed them this past year when my husband passed away. We’ve had lots of fun going to bridal showers and watching our children grow up.”
Bootie Kapler probably summed it up best, “So often we meet classmates and school friends with the greeting, ‘Hello, how are you and someday we need to get together.’”
This group took it to the next level, she continued “Since there were many of us around the area we decided to get together in each other’s homes. The 50 years have gone so fast.
“We were a ‘support group’ before it was popular. During stress times, fun times, laughter and tears we’ve always been friends.”
Although she admits it could be something else altogther. “You know the old saying, “We will always be friends because we know too much about each other!’”

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