Column: Seven sisters represent the best of what family is really all about

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 20, 2005

What do seven women sitting around a table in Albert Lea have in common?

Well, there would probably be lots of things for any seven women, but these particular seven women are sisters and friends.

I know they are friends because their conversation and laughter was enthusiastic and light.

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Even when the topic of which sister was mom’s favorite surfaced, these sisters joked about it with no trace of bitterness.

The seven Maiden sisters &045; Marilyn, LaVonne, Jeanine, Joey, Bonnie,


and Renee &045; met about a week ago in Albert Lea because they could &045; each actually had some free time to get together and chose their hometown where the eldest sister, Marilyn Kleinschrodt, still lives. The other sisters are spread from the suburbs of the Twin Cities to Wisconsin and Chicago, and other parts of Illinois.

It was my privilege to be included in one of their round-table discussions which ran the gamut from politics and religion to movies and books. I hoped to learn the secret of this most-talked about family relationship.

&8220;We need to get rid of Bush,&8221; said one sister.

&8220;Let’s have a political fight or something,&8221; quips another.

&8220;Even people who voted for him want to smack him,&8221; intones a third.

They tried tackling religion: &8220;That’s another bad subject.&8221;

Finally, a safe topic was found: Anyone reading any interesting books?

&8220;Kiterunner&8221; was

mentioned by one sister in a book club.

Several of the sisters had seen the movie, &8220;North Country,&8221; about women working in the mines of northern Minnesota.

Before moving on to another subject, the sisters covered the women’s plight, where it was filmed and mostly agreed they never bought popcorn when they went to the movies &045; it’s too expensive.

Of course, sisters have a shared history, even these sisters who are seperated in age by about 22 years &045; and it wasn’t long before talk turned to the memories of their childhood.

There was considerable discussion about where the family lived when each of the girls were born

&045; I’m pretty sure it wasn’t fully determined.

It wasn’t long before the women turned to who was Mom’s or Dad’s favorite.

There was general consensus that it was Carolyn, an eighth sister, who died of breast cancer at age 52. She was the shy one, all agreed.

There aren’t any favorites, one sister said. &8220;I think parents just pick up the slack,&8221; she said.

Another agreed. &8220;A mother is with whichever chicks aren’t marching.&8221;

&8220;Mom made each of us feel special.&8221;

For those who know these gals, here’s a little information about them and what they see as their role in the family. Get out an address book and give them a call &045; share your memories of them and the family and rekindle an old friendship.

Joey McNamara lives in LaGrange, Ill. She retired three years ago and has published a children’s book titled, &8220;Grandmothers.&8221; She was one of the middle children and is the family negotiator.

Patti Juers, Tomahawk, Wis., is a retired teaching assistant for Head Start, where she worked for 24 years. She is

the second youngest and keeps everybody together. The other sisters agreed she is the family comic.

Renee Felepe lives in Coon Rapids and is the baby of the family. She said she was raised by older sister Patti. She is still employed at Kinney Kids, a part of the Sister Kinney Institute.

Bonnie Loach is living in Chicago, though she formerly hails from Michigan. She continues to work part time as a home-based travel agent offering luxury tours. She is the family caretaker. &8220;If anybody is in need, I go there and help them.&8221; The other sisters agreed she is a perfectionist and highly organized.

– LaVonne Briggs lives in Brooklyn Center. Retired now, she previously worked 30 years as a housekeeping aide at North Memorial Hospital. &8220;She keeps us honest,&8221; the sisters agreed. &8220;When we try to sugar-coat something, she says it like it is. She gets us back on track.&8221;

Jeanine Johannsen, of Woodbury, is a retired Hallmark store clerk. She

also worked in the the banking industry as a bingo worker. She is the kind one in the family, said her sisters. &8220;She sets the standard.&8221;

Marilyn Kleinschrodt, hosted her six sisters at her Albert Lea home. As the oldest daughter, she has been the one all turned to for help. &8220;If any of us had a problem, we’d go to Marilyn.&8221; She carried a lot of responsiblity, they said, both as a child and into adulthood.

The sisters continue their constant banter, chiding and teasing each other in good humor.

The seven sisters didn’t share any family secrets, their conversation wasn’t earth shattering, but I know from my own family experiences that such conversations

are the glue that binds families together. The laughter, the shared history, the memories good and not-so-good &045; even when they aren’t remembered the same way by all &045; are what unites us &045; aunt to niece, cousin to cousin, sister to sister.