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E DITOR Longtime business owner did a lot for community

To the editor: After 37 years of serving Central Wisconsin, our dad, Mark Gorke, has sold his printing business. The print shop first started out under the name First City Printing. Years later, the business moved to a few locations around Abbotsford and went through a name change to what it’s called today, TuMarx Printing.

For Mark to have kept a business open for these past 37 years really speaks volumes to his grit, determination, and commitment to provide high quality services and products for the customers he served. Beyond those great characteristics, he’s been an excellent example of how important it is to show up. From doing late night press runs to ensure orders were delivered on time, to fixing equipment on his own, to carrying heavy cases of paper down flights of stairs for a customer when no one else wanted to, Mark has shown up with unwavering dedication.

Mark has been a pillar in the community and also a volunteer for many community organizations. He has been a member of the Jaycees, a Boy Scout master, a softball coach, and a member of the Dorchester Lions Club.

Many know that he was a founding member of the Showcase Players community theater group. Throughout the years he has run lights and even acted in a few plays. What many may not know about is Mark’s willingness to climb an extremely tall ladder in order to hang and adjust stage lights even though he has a great fear of heights.

Many know that he was involved in the Abby Booster Club. What many may not know is he gave up weekends to help build the concession stand and press box for the football field.

Finally, many know that he has been a volunteer firefighter for nearly 30 years. What many may not know is how he would race to the fire department when his pager would go off, whether during the day or in the middle of the night, to respond to an accident. Many may not know how he would go to the edge of town to watch for possible tornadoes in order to give advance warning when bad weather was afoot so that people could prepare and be safe. Many may not know how he would pass down sage advice to younger firefighters, specifically “never turn your back to oncoming traffic when walking near a motor vehicle accident.” Many may not know how he would give up some of his best days to help people on some of their worst days.

Mark and his wife Melanie are making preparations to move to their dream home on Owl Lake in northwestern Wisconsin. He will certainly leave a void in the community after they move. However, we are sure his example of how to simply show up will leave a lasting impression and hopefully be an inspiration for someone to become an unsung, small town hero like our dad, Mark Gorke.

With much love, Mark’s kids — David, Barb and Suzie.

David Gorke St. Louis Park, Minn.

Wearing a mask isn’t just a personal decision

To the editor: If you strongly believe it’s your right to choose whether to wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic, then you might not want to read this. On the other hand, it might a good idea if you could read it with an open mind to understand our perspective.

My son Teddy just turned 7, and he cannot wear a mask. He has significant developmental delays, and he simply does not comprehend that a mask needs to stay on his face. He removes a mask the same way he does every pair of sunglasses or hat that we place on his head. It might stay on for a period of time, anywhere from literally a second to 30 or more minutes depending on the hat and whether it has a string for him to chew. Teddy has extensive sensory needs that include the constant need to chew on something, so something covering his mouth is only going to end up in his mouth. And a potentially contaminated mask does not belong in his mouth. Nor does it belong on my head, which is also realistic because Teddy likes the game of placing his belongings he removes onto other people.

There’s more to know about Teddy. He took an ambulance ride to the emergency room due to strep throat and spent the night there. He had another ambulance ride and ICU stay for an ear infection and stomach bug. Any illness, particularly one that causes a fever, can trigger seizures. And, once, those seizures didn’t stop until he was so heavily medicated that he needed to be intubated. If strep throat sends him to the hospital, a reasonable person can understand why we’re extremely concerned about the risk COVID poses to him. We like to pretend we don’t have a medically fragile child, but the reality is that label fits him.

So where does that leave us? At home.

Pretty much that’s the only safe place for Teddy to play, which means that’s the only safe place for his 8-year-old brother to play. We even have to come inside when our neighbors are playing outside. Teddy doesn’t understand who we cannot play with or near them. We’ve made a few trips to parks when no one else is there, with the plan to leave as soon as someone else arrives, hand sanitizer on hand for immediately afterward and 1:1 supervision to keep Teddy’s mouth off everything due to his sensory issues. We’ve done bike rides and runs, but only in places where there’s plenty of room to distance and/or limited people.

Teddy hasn’t been in a store in four months. Before the pandemic, he was routinely in stores at least once a week because we took him along to run errands because he loves people (and trips to stores greatly helped improve his moods when he was crabby). What would it take for Teddy to be able to go into the store again? Everyone who can wear a mask to wear a mask.

We understand that for masks to be fully effective, both people in a situation need to wear them. Only one person wearing a mask doesn’t offer full protection. But, the best we can hope for with Teddy is partial protection, and unfortunately, we have to settle for that because we can’t isolate him at home. He needs multiple therapies to help work on the skills we take for granted: communicating, dressing ourselves, walking and so much more. He needs to go to appointments for adaptive equipment like AFOs, braces that help him be so much steadier on his feet and prevent him from snapping his ankles with his extremely flexible joints and lack of coordination.

The issue of a mask comes to the forefront at these appointments. At his therapy appointments, his therapists all wear masks, most often the respirator masks, and sometimes eye protection. His physical therapist informed me recently that she fields a lot of questions from even her family members on why she wears a mask everywhere. She does it to protect “her kids.” She recognizes she works with a vulnerable population and takes those steps to ensure their safety.

Unfortunately, not even all service providers feel the same. When we went in June to get Teddy fitted for his braces, I was surprised and uncomfortable that no one was wearing masks. For the second appointment, my husband called to request the person who worked directly with Teddy wear a mask. He did, but he also shared his thoughts on the virus being similar to the flu and how masks “aren’t necessary.” We made the same request for the final fitting appointment and got yet another earful of opinions. This time it was questions about why Teddy wasn’t wearing a mask. We simply explained Teddy cannot wear one due to sensory issues, which this person should know because he’s worked with Teddy for six years. We shouldn’t have to explain or defend why we’re requesting a medical professional to wear a mask when interacting with our son.

Wearing a mask isn’t your personal decision, any more than the decision to drive intoxicated is your personal decision. Personal decisions are things that impact you: whether you get a tattoo, dye your hair lime green, eat ice cream for dinner or even wear your seatbelt. They impact you and your health, so they still impact others who care about you if you make negative choices that lead to becoming ill, injured or deceased. But they don’t inherently pose the risk to others and they don’t take away the ability of others to be in our community.

It’s been said by so many in different ways. Wearing a mask isn’t about you, although it certainly keeps you safer. Wearing a mask protects others, especially those like our son who have the double burden of medical fragility and the inability to physically wear a mask.

I’m not asking for sympathy for our situation. I’m asking for a bit of empathy, which means you’ll wear a mask in public. And it means I won’t have to make special requests for you to wear a mask to interact with my son and then get the fifth degree.

Kerry Blondheim


( formerly of Colby)

Post offices committed to timely ballot deliveries

To the editor: With a record number of people across the country voting by mail, the U.S. Postal Service is actively working to ensure the secure, timely delivery of the nation’s election mail. This is our number one priority.

We know that when voters choose to vote by mail in Abbotsford/ Colby areas, they put their faith in the secure and timely delivery of their ballot to election officials, and we strive continually to earn this trust. Indeed, this is our most sacred duty.

We take seriously our longstanding role in the electoral process, enabling voting by mail in thousands of elections over the years — and we are confident in our capability and capacity to deliver in this election season. We value our partnership with local/state election boards to ensure a strong coordination of the distribution and handoff of the mail-in ballots.

While we continue to recommend that our customers plan ahead and act early when they choose to vote through the U.S. mail, we are focused on the timely delivery of ballots. Throughout October and November, the Postal Service has allocated additional resources including expanded processing procedures, extra transportation, extra delivery and collection trips and overtime to ensure election mail reaches its intended destination in a timely manner.

Between Oct. 26 and Nov. 24, we will use extraordinary measures—expedited handling, extra deliveries and special pickups—consistent with practices used in past elections to accelerate the delivery of ballots to its intended destination.

Voters in Wisconsin should be assured that this election season, we are committed and actively working to serve you. Our post offices and retail locations are open, our mail carriers are at the ready and our collection boxes will be monitored and cleared regularly. As we continue receiving ballots cast by mail, voters in Wisconsin can be assured that the women and men of the Postal Service are united and fully focused on ensuring their secure and timely delivery.

Rendean Seefeldt Colby Postmaster and Melanie Boeck

Abbotsford Postmaster

Look both ways

To the editor: As parents, one of the first safety lessons we teach our children is to look both ways before crossing the street. Initially, they are too young to understand the potential harm that might result to both them and to a driver and his passengers by not heeding those precautions. A car might be forced to swerve out of its lane to avoid hitting an unaware pedestrian, creating the possibility of a collision.

Now consider how absurd it would be for an adult to not look both ways before crossing a street. He might argue, “I’m not going to live in fear” or “We all have to die sometime.” Or consider another argument, “I should have the freedom to cross the street anytime or anywhere I want to.” I think most people would consider those arguments to be unwise.

I know that wearing a mask is not pleasant or convenient and we are all getting tired of this pandemic and its restrictions. We just want it to be over! But, public health experts tell us that we could save tens of thousands of lives by simply wearing a mask in public.

In Marathon County, the number of COVID-19 cases has gone from 753 on Aug. 27 to 4,828 on Oct. 27. That’s a 541 percent increase in just two months. I think we need to do a better job of “looking both ways” instead of making excuses.

Doug Lamberg