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Veterans Day celebration in Chippewa Falls honors soldiers’ spouses

Women describe life on the homefront

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    Harry Bauer, first vice commander of the Wisconsin American Legion’s 10th district, looks up at the American flag during the Veterans Day celebration Thursday at Chippewa Manor in Chippewa Falls. View more photos at

    Staff photo by Marisa Wojcik
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Chippewa Falls — Joyce Sperber of Cadott remembers waiting to hear from her husband, Don, while he was stationed in Germany during World War II. 

“I got letters just about every day,” said Sperber, 88. “You don’t know what to write, but you write anyway. I saved most of them — I couldn’t save them all.”

Sperber was among a half-dozen wives of soldiers who were honored Thursday during a Veterans Day celebration at Chippewa Manor in Chippewa Falls. The nursing home traditionally holds its event in the days leading up to Veterans Day, with a different theme each year. This year’s theme was remembering “the silent ranks” of the spouses who stayed home and kept the day-to-day life moving forward while waiting for the war to end and their loved ones to return home.

“Days came and went — I just counted down the days until his two years were up,” Sperber said. “You felt God took care of him.”

Sperber said she and Don were married for 60 years before he died in 2013. 

“We were blessed with a good life,” Sperber said.

Joan Ford, 87, was among the spouses interviewed for a short video about marrying at a young age, staying home and raising her family while her husband, Duane, was overseas. Ford said she enjoyed being interviewed and recorded about her role during World War II.

“It brought back memories of being a wife of a military man,” she said.  “When he was in (officer candidate school) I’d get three letters a day. It was a hard life, being an Army wife with five children.”

Brandon Thorsness, Chippewa Manor administrator, was thrilled to have a crowd of 125 people attend the breakfast celebration. He said about 20 veterans currently live at the home.

“It’s a lot of word of mouth. Year after year, it continues to grow,” Thorsness said of the turnout. “It’s our effort to recognize the people we care for and recognize their sacrifices.”

The Chippewa Falls Patriotic Council attended the event and performed a gun salute before a plane flyover. George Adrian, a Vietnam War veteran and former city councilman, said his group always looks forward to this event.

“A lot of the vets that are here don’t get to get out and participate in anything,” Adrian said. “This honors those vets who can’t get out.”

Katie Kassing, Chippewa Manor activities director, was moved to tears while watching the video, listening to the women talk about raising their children and waiting to hear word from their spouses.

“I didn’t know those stories — some talk about it more than others,” Kassing said. “They just say, ‘I did it’ — it’s a common term they say.”

The ceremony included songs and plaques for veterans who have moved into the manor in the past year. The plaques are a short description of the veteran’s military service, and the plaques line the walls of the nursing home.

“They are really great stories,” Thorsness said.

Mark Trapani, who works at the manor, interviewed the women and edited the video. He said he makes DVDs of the final version, plus the raw footage of each interview, and gives them to the families.

“A lot of them haven’t shared these stories with their family,” Trapani said. 

Contact: 715-723-0303,

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