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Menard auction to feature vintage cars, memorabilia
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EAU CLAIRE — Dawn Menard fondly remembers driving to Manitowoc, taking a ferry across Lake Michigan and spending a few days looking at cars with her husband and another couple.

“I really enjoyed that one,” Menard said. “I think we all did.”

That was one of many trips Dawn and Larry Menard took in search of classic cars and memorabilia. They accumulated hundreds of items over the years, including many vintage vehicles.

Those items will be included in an Oct. 2 auction. It will take place in person at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls and also be available online.

Dawn Menard decided to auction the collection in late 2019, several months after Larry died. She initially didn’t want to part with the vehicles, but over time she felt it was the right thing to do.

“I was ready to let go a little bit.” Dawn Menard said. “They need to be driven, and they’ll do better if they are owned by someone else.”

Yvette VanDerBrink, owner of VanDerBrink Auctions, was excited to work on the unique collection. VanDerBrink said the collection “reflects all the memories” Dawn and Larry enjoyed over the years.

Larry, who worked at Menards with his brother John Menard for decades, had a passion for automobiles, and Dawn was happy to sit shotgun on their journeys.

“Larry loved to drive, and I loved riding along,” she said.

Dawn and Larry were married for 19 years. They were longtime acquaintances, since Larry was her older brother’s friend. Dawn was five years younger and as an adolescent said she “had a big crush” on Larry because of his friendly, kind-hearted nature.

“He was so nice,” Dawn Menard said. “He was always happy-go-lucky and just a wonderful guy.”

That was evident by what Dawn described as jolly voyages around the country in search of vintage cars. They mainly traveled in the Midwest to states like Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana, but their sojourns also took them around the country to places such as Colorado and California.

In addition to seeing cars, the trips were also communal experiences, as the Menards met new people and were often accompanied by friends.

During the treks, Dawn was amazed to see numerous rare, high-end automobiles. Some of those will be at the auction, including a 1935 Ford pickup, 1963 Chevrolet Corvette and 1959 Series 62 Cadillac convertible.

Neither Dawn nor Larry had a most treasured vehicle in the collection, but she liked to say that the car Larry was currently driving was his favorite.

“We just loved them all,” Dawn said. “There was always something special about each and every car.”

Dawn plans to attend the auction and said she feels bittersweet about letting go of the materials, including collector cars dating back to the 1930s, antique tractors, gas pumps and many gas and oil signs, that contain so many fond memories. Dawn and Larry shared many joyful excursions over the decades, and she hopes the auction allows other people to do the same.

“It’s just time to let them go, and I hope they go to good homes so that somebody else gets some good, fun memories from those cars like we did,” Dawn Menard said. “We loved doing it. We did it together and just enjoyed every minute.”

Workers reinstall Wisconsin statues downed in 2020 protest

MADISON — Wisconsin workers reinstalled two statues Tuesday on the state Capitol grounds that protesters ripped down during a demonstration last year in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Workers reinstalled a 9-foot-6-inch statue of Wisconsin abolitionist Col. Hans Christian Heg as well as a 7-foot statue of a woman symbolizing the state’s “Forward” motto. Neither statue has any racist history associated with it, but protesters said they represented a false narrative that Wisconsin supports Black people and racial equity.

Protesters toppled both statues in June 2020, breaking off Heg’s leg and head. The Forward statue was dented and one of its fingers broken off.

The demonstration was among several that shook downtown Madison in the days after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Floyd, who was Black and handcuffed, died after white police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

Heg was a Norwegian immigrant who became an outspoken abolitionist. He served in the 15th Wisconsin Regiment during the Civil War. He was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863.

His statue, funded by the Norwegian Society of America, had stood outside the Capitol since 1926. Heg’s descendants wanted the statue restored.

The “Forward” statue was a bronze replica of the one that represented Wisconsin at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced in December that the state had received $60,000 in federal grants to restore and reinstall both statues.

State Department of Administration spokeswoman Tatyana Warrick said Tuesday that officials expect the final cost to be about $82,000. The Wisconsin Historical Society raised funds to cover the balance, she said.

Warrick added that the administration has submitted an insurance claim to cover at least some costs.

The reinstallations come as a task force works to erect a statue of Vel Phillips on the Capitol grounds. Phillips was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School, the first female judge in Milwaukee County and the first Black judge in Wisconsin. She died in 2018.

Warrick said the State Capitol and Executive Residence Board, which oversees maintenance and decorations at the Capitol and the governor’s mansion, is expected to vote on the Phillips statue’s final design and placement in October.

Doctors, health agencies bracing for flu season’s return; ready push for flu shots
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EAU CLAIRE — Although the nation’s typical seasonal wave of influenza never materialized last year, a phenomenon most health officials attribute to widespread pandemic precautions, doctors and health experts say this year could be a different story.

“Last year we had almost no cases of influenza at all,” Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist Dr. Priya Sampathkumar said in a call with reporters last week, attributing the lack of a 2020-21 flu season to mask-wearing and social distancing. “Last year being such a good season, having no one really get sick with influenza, means that this year more people are at risk. It makes it doubly important we all get vaccinated against influenza.”

The severity of the flu season is unpredictable in any given year, said Allison Gosbin, public health nurse with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department. But there’s reason to expect more influenza cases this year than last year, she noted.

“There’s no way to predict a flu season in a year, when it’s going to hit or how hard a season it’s going to be … but we do know that this year not as many people are wearing masks, travel is no longer limited like last year, and the stay-at-home orders are no longer in place,” Gosbin said. “We do believe that all of those helped last year.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said there’s a possibility this year’s flu season could be worse than usual.

“Reduced population immunity due to lack of flu virus activity since March 2020 could result in an early and possibly severe flu season,” the agency wrote in a flu FAQ this year.

The flu is typically mild for young or healthy people, Sampathkumar said, but can be severe and require hospitalization in the very young, the elderly and the immunocompromised.

As hospital systems strain under the burden of COVID-19 in some parts of the U.S. — and as Eau Claire hospitals this month report exhausted staff and similar worries — Sampathkumar said health experts will continue to plead that people take the flu vaccine this year.

“We need the same kinds of resources for both influenza and COVID — medical ICUs, ventilators, oxygen, respiratory therapists, ICU nurses and intensivists,” Sampathkumar said. “We’re definitely very worried. That’s why we’re talking about the flu vaccine, hoping to avert this pandemic.”

It’s not too early to get a flu shot right now, Gosbin said. She recommends people get vaccinated for the flu in September or October.

Flu shots are available in western Wisconsin, including at Prevea Health locations in Eau Claire, Altoona and Chippewa Falls, the health system said in a press release.

Prevea, HSHS Sacred Heart and HSHS St. Joseph’s hospitals last week urged people to get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible, noting that the hospitals’ resources are strained right now due to COVID-19 patients.

“We need to be able to care for all patients, including those who need treatment for non-COVID conditions like influenza, RSV — which is common this time of year – injuries, stroke, trauma, heart attack, sepsis and so much more. But if our hospitals’ emergency rooms and in-patient beds are full with COVID-19 patients, that makes it much more complicated,” said Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals’ chief nursing officer Jen Drayton.

Last flu season, about 44% of Wisconsin residents, and about 42% of Eau Claire County residents, got the flu shot. The state’s goal is 70%.

The CDC recommends everyone older than six months old gets a flu vaccine.

Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against the flu, Gosbin said. Next are hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying away from others when ill.

Is it the flu, or something more?

In most cases, it’s impossible to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu based on someone’s symptoms, Gosbin and Sampathkumar said.

Gosbin noted that it’s possible to contract both viruses at once.

Both are contagious respiratory illnesses caused by different viruses; both can cause a fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, a sore throat, congestion, body aches and a headache. (However, one common symptom of COVID-19 is a loss of taste or smell, which isn’t typically seen with influenza, Marshfield Clinic Health System registered nurse and clinical quality nurse specialist Meranda Eggebrecht told the Leader-Telegram last year.)

To distinguish between the flu and COVID-19, people “really do need to have the testing done,” Gosbin said.

She added that to get the best protection against both COVID-19 and the flu, people need both shots.

“A COVID vaccine can’t protect you from the flu, and the flu shot can’t protect you from COVID-19,” Gosbin said.

At many places, including doctors’ offices, people will be able to get the COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time, Sampathkumar said.

RSV levels high

This fall, in addition to COVID-19 activity spiking, another respiratory virus is circulating at high levels.

While as of early September, Wisconsin was likely experiencing a very low level of influenza activity, the number of positive tests for respiratory syncytial virus have soared, according to the state Department of Health Services’ weekly respiratory report.

RSV is a common virus that usually causes mild cold-like symptoms, though it can be serious in infants and older adults, according to the CDC.

As of Sept. 4, RSV tests in Wisconsin had nearly a 26% test-positivity rate, according to the state’s weekly respiratory report. The state wrote on that report: “There has been a significant increase in pediatric RSV hospitalizations statewide.”