Last year, Merrill resident Nancy Wilde raised brows and smiles alike when she single handedly produced 2,400 holiday cards for U.S service personnel both local and abroad.
In recognition of her efforts, Wilde was treated to a very pleasant and unexpected surprise.
“I was attending a Christmas party at the Enrichment Center, when all of a sudden my relatives came walking in to surprise me! That was a surprise in itself, I certainly was not expecting two Marines in their sharp uniforms to come walking in behind them!” Wilde explains with a smile, as her eyes tear up a bit. “The two Marines were from Wausau. They gave me a flag that had been flown in Aghanistan… They gave me that flag as a token of their appreciation for my letters along with a plaque. And I… I just balled like a baby!
“The Marines and my family took a lot of work to surprise me,” she added, “it just meant so much for them to do that.”
This year, Wilde has nearly doubled her numbers; producing a staggering 4,380 handmade cards. As she explains, this year’s effort started on Jan. 11; handwriting a unique message on every single card just as she had done last year.
“I love all my Wisconsin sports teams,” Nancy said. “The Badgers, Packers or the Brewers, I watch ‘em all! After growing up with five brothers and having three sons, I didn’t have much of a choice but to watch them play. I made most of my cards during those games you know.
“Finally around November, Lorri (Vandre) told me I had made enough.” she adds with a chuckle. “I suppose she was right.”
In response to her cards, Nancy Wilde is very appreciative of the various thank you cards and phone calls she has received from soldiers past and present, as well as various organizations such as the VA and VFW. Nancy has even received responses from politicians in Madison including Senator Tom Tiffany and Rep. Mary Czaja, and parents of actively serving armed forces personnel.
“Their appreciation means a lot to me,” she said. “It’s a nice feeling.”
Nancy’s efforts began several years ago, when she began writing letters and sending cards to troops whose addresses were published in the Wausau Daily Herald. Since then, it has become a meaningful activity for her.
“A big inspiration for me are my family members who either are in the service or have been. I appreciate them and everyone else who serves our country. This is my way to show that,” Nancy explains.
Her relatives are as follows:
Nephew Joel Ringwelski Army veteran helped collect cards, Gulf War veteran.
Nephew Daniel Lindquist-United States Air Force-Iraq War Veteran
Brother Dennis Ringwelski-United States Marine Corps. -Vietnam Veteran
Brother Floyd Ringwelski- United States Air Force
Brother Richard Ringwelski- United States Air Force
Granddaughter Amanda McNeil- US Army-Currently stationed in North Carolina, has completed two tours in Afghanistan.
Nancy points out the key roles her nephew Joel and sister MaryAnn have had in her card making, as they assisted with the collecting of cards to make and send out.
Both this year and last year, every card was brought to the Enrichment Center and distributed, as well as cards from others with the same idea in mind.
However, according to center director Tammie Mrachek, this year has posed some unexpected issues.
“Other people bring cards from as far as Hazelhurst,” Mrachek adds. “We are responsible for getting these cards to active soldiers. This year though, we have tried our best to get the cards overseas but have had a great amount of difficulty in doing so. We tried calling various organizations to help get them distributed postage free, but we just didn’t have any luck. This year all of our cards were sent to local veterans and service members here in Wisconsin and in neighboring states. If we can overcome our difficulty in finding an outlet to distribute without paying postage, we would like to start sending these out periodically throughout the year such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day. But even if we can’t, we will stay focused on getting them out to as many servicemen and women as we can.”