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The pain of learning to let go

The pain of learning to let go The pain of learning to let go

This year is becoming more memorable with each passing day, but unfortunately it’s for all the wrong reasons. 2020 was hard enough to get through, what with the coronavirus pandemic stealing the final two months of school from students across the nation.

The pandemic has stolen what should have been a crowning glory for my student-athletes. It’s stolen the chance for young men and women to perform in student plays and to perform over the summer.

I would have loved to have written about Chase Oehmichen, Hailey Voelker, Tyler Klement, Dalton Feddick, Cade Faber and Blake Draper going to the state track and field meet. I would have loved to have written about Michael Decker singing and dancing as part of the Kids From Wisconsin.

All of their precious moments were stolen from them, and I have done my best to chronicle that. For the most part, this year has only taken away the stories I would have told, but last week, 2020 took something very precious from me.

On Wednesday, August 26, I lost one of my most treasured friends, Jo Peterson. Jo was like a second mother to me. She literally watched me grow up, from a teenager to an adult. As a boy, I purchased all manner of gems and crystals from her business, the Jack Pine Rock Shop.

Later, when I was a college student, she gave me a job over the summer, and even after college, when the recession hit, she kept me on. For over a decade I was her right hand man. She taught me so much about the world and how to be a great salesman. More importantly, she taught me how to make a difference in the world and the importance of being a good person.

Jo was one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. She grew up in Colorado in the 1950’s and 60’s, where she worked at her parents’ resort, El Rancho. She went to college at a time when women often did not attend college. She worked as a flight attendant after she got her degree, travelling all over the world, while calling Atlanta her home for three years.

She spent time as a surgical nurse in the Navy during the Vietnam War. After that, she managed a bar in historic Deadwood, South Dakota, then returned to Colorado to sell real estate. There she met her husband of over 30 years, Phil Peterson. Eventually they moved to Minnesota, Phil’s home state, and came to Wisconsin in the late 1990s.

Her shop opened up in the summer of 2000, and has been going strong since, thanks to her exuberant personality, and the glittering stones and crystals that amazed and astounded her eager customers.

While on vacation last month I spent time with her. We had lunch one day, and the next day I surprised her at the Jack Pine Rock Shop and we were laughing so hard we both were crying.

And then, days later, I heard the news, that Jo was gone. It’s hard to let go, hard to ignore the ache in my heart. She leaves behind Phil, her business and many friends. I have a great deal of work ahead of me, helping Phil and planning what to do with the rock shop.

But for now, I mourn and miss Jo. In time, I’ll be OK, but learning to let go of someone you love is never easy. The loss hurts, but I’m so very glad Jo was in my life.