We have been living – some might say trapped - in a sort of “twilight zone,” where the end felt indefinite. But recent glimmers of hope keep showing and increasing. For family friends and obvious extroverts, Margot Rheinberger and Louisa Westrup, both Gazette columnists, their personas have been in indefinite quarantine. But even shelter-in-place and other Covid-19 restrictions are unable to restrain - for long periods at a time - their eternal optimism, their sense of future - traits common in their Type-A personalities.

The phrase “It takes one to know one” is evident when Rheinberger and Westrup (safely) reached out to others they know who work and/or live in our community to find out what they want to do once restrictions are lifted. There was no hesitation in responses. People were already thinking ahead and looking forward to the near future.

Stillwater Councilmember Ryan Collins, a middle school history teacher in Mahtomedi, said he is looking forward to in-classroom teaching, being back at City Hall for Council meetings, going with his family to historical sites and museums in the metro area, and eating in downtown Stillwater restaurants. Collins also expressed a sentiment felt by many: the desire to reunite with other family in-person.

Bev Junker of Stillwater wants to hug her grandkids and great grandkids, and she wants to attend Mass at St. Michael’s or St. Mary’s and receive Holy Communion. Junker said she desires a special church visit with Jesus to thank Him.

While spending her time at home, Betty (Isdahl) Nelson of Stillwater has been cleaning and proudly making her house “spotless.” She most looks forward to seeing – beyond Face Time – her four grandchildren (ages 3 to 15) who all live in the county. “They are my life, and I have missed them dearly,” she said.

Dorie Ostertag, the Manager and Treasurer of the Washington County Ag Society, the entity that puts on the County Fair, said, “I am looking forward to being able to give my grandbabies a hug and kiss. My family and friends are the most important things to me!”

Oak Park Heights Mayor Mary McComber misses seeing friends, neighbors, and most of all, her children and grandchildren. McComber has been participating in on-line meetings for City Council and for the many groups she is involved in. Zoom meetings are almost daily for her. “Face-to-face meetings may become fewer, and virtual meetings may become more the norm,” though she feels in-person meetings are better. “ . . . life is going to look a lot different.”

Many like McComber expressed their desire to go inside local stores and restaurants. “Take-out from local restaurants has been fine, but it would be wonderful to take a night off from dining at home,” she said.

Washington County Commissioner Gary Kriesel of Stillwater and his family, along with others mentioned in this column, have been supporting local businesses by ordering take-out and using curbside pick-up at retail stores. He looks forward to the day he can dine with friends and family inside restaurants and visit retail shops in person. “Our local business community has suffered greatly. It is important that we get them up and running soon. They are all so vital to our local economy, not only financially, but socially,” said Kriesel.

Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski also looks forward to visiting owners and staff inside restaurants and shops. He is really looking forward to the “Lift and Loop Celebration,” the reopening of the Stillwater Lift Bridge and the new five-mile loop trail for pedestrian and bike traffic. The celebration, which had been planned for this month, is now scheduled for late August. “For me it will signal the end of this pandemic, when we can gather in large groups and celebrate our beautiful town as a community,” said Kozlowski.

For generations, the Raduenz family has been very visible and actively involved in the community. DJ Raduenz, owner of Stillwater Motors, is looking forward to going back to Farrell’s fitness gym with his children and friends, attending community events, and having date night with wife, Linda, at our local restaurants. Both are looking forward to their son getting married in July and to their daughter giving birth to their first grandchild in August.

As Chief Executive Officer of Lakeview Health System and President of Lakeview Hospital, Ted Wegleitner worked hard to ready medical facilities for the new, contagious, and deadly virus. “I look forward to welcoming visitors and volunteers back to our campuses; both have a vital role to play in our patients’ care. I am also looking forward to a time when we can see our colleagues’ smiling faces again,” now hidden behind necessary protective masks, he said.

Stillwater’s globetrotter, John Rheinberger, can’t wait to take to the international skies. He saw his planned summer trip to South Africa, which included a trip to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls, go down like a house of cards. “An airline is heading into liquidation, hotels went out of operation, and Victoria Falls was closed indefinitely,” he said.

Dr. Ryan Karlstad, a Orthopedic Surgeon at Twin Cities Orthopedics, said, “Like most physicians, I am looking forward to the opportunity to resolve medical problems whose treatment had to be delayed to protect us against the Coronavirus outbreak.”

Stillwater resident, Cynthia Dufour, recently moved into a new building and is excited to meet her new neighbors. “Maybe we can go to Trivia Night at Acapulco!” she said.

Stu Groskreutz of Stillwater is also hoping to return to Acapulco Mexican Restaurant in Stillwater. Groskreutz and his friends, who include current and retired teachers and coaches, meet for “Twins Tuesday” during baseball season. He said he misses the weekly “bull sessions” there and at Bruegger’s Bagels, another favorite hang-out where Groskreutz and his friends meet for “entertaining” back and forth. As sports editor of the Gazette, readers can’t wait for the kids to be back playing sports for several reasons, including once again witnessing Groskreutz’s well-honed reporting skills.

Michelle Rose, singer-songwriter and Stillwater native, can’t wait to start performing again. “I’m a vocal performance major, and I can’t wait to share my songs at gigs in person!” Michelle’s music is available at michellerose.com.

Jacob Marsnik, a cook at Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop, hopes to attend the Great Minnesota Get Together. “I’m hoping that the stay-at-home order is lifted in time for the State Fair,” he says. “It is my favorite part of the year and always creates memories with family and friends.”

Mikayla Swanson, a 2017 Stillwater High School graduate and a student at UW-River Falls majoring in Elementary Education, wants to get back to work at the Woodbury YMCA. “I really miss working with all of the kids,” she said.

Five-year old Vivian Hipp of Bayport is optimistic that she will be heading to the Mongolian BBQ in Sillwater when restaurant restrictions are lifted, while her nine-year old brother, Ian, wants to get-together with his friends for a play date. Both can’t wait to see their grandparents, play with their cousins, and go to the family’s lake cabin.

Louisa Westrup looks forward to doing so many things, all at once if she could. “I am most looking forward to exploring new experiences in our community and in the Twin Cities with my friends. I can’t wait to try new restaurants, go to zoos, aquariums, and amusement parks, and to discover new businesses and activities,” she said.

Margot Rheinberger, who is a longtime usher at the 11 a.m. Mass at the Church of St. Michael’s, can’t wait to see the newly remodeled church and see “everyone.” “I normally wave to and smile at parishioners I know as I take up the collection, but I have a feeling that when I finally get to return, it will literally turn into a wave fest!”

To various degrees, our vulnerabilities were exposed, and we lost many things we had taken for granted. We lost our sense of time, we lost routines, we lost once-in-a-lifetime experiences, we lost friends and family, and at times, we lost ourselves. It is refreshing to see that optimism and a sense of future rise above the losses and shine a light of comfort assuring us that life is not over by a long shot.

Authors Louisa Westrup is a current student at the University of Minnesota where Marguerite “Margot” Rheinberger is an alumnus.

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