Our collective hearts grew heavier and heavier this week as obituaries came into our newspaper. I've tasked myself with preparing obituaries in our paper for quite sometime. Call me a prisoner of the moment, but I can't remember a week with such a "who's who" of folks who really made their mark on both Wilton and Durant.
It began with hearing of the passing of Nancy Allmandinger early last week. I had a special connection to Nancy, as I was best friends with her grandson Trent Allmandinger growing up. From the time we were in kindergarten until around junior high school, Trent and I could be found together, often staying at each other's houses on the weekends. When I would stay with Trent at his dad's house north of Wilton on Y14, we'd often ride our bikes to his grandparents house, as they lived just down the same road. Nancy was always inviting and treated all of Trent's friends like her own grandkids.
Later in the week, we received back-to-back shocks in losing former Wilton teachers Vikki Beinke and Blaine Charlton.
Beinke taught at Wilton for more than 30 years. I had her as a seventh grade language arts teacher. Find a more difficult grade to work with than junior high kids. Oh the changes we all go through at those times. Yet she made English and reading fun, and always kept command of her classroom. She may have been small in stature, but her many years of experience showed. She had a bubbly and fun personality that allowed every person to feel like they belonged — again very difficult to do with that age group.
Charlton was "Mr. Math" in Wilton High School when I was there in the late 1990s. He taught all the hard stuff. In fact, I never actually had the pleasure of being in his classroom, as I took all my math classes with Mr. Ron Hedrick. I had the impression that Mr. Charlton was always well liked by students. As much as a math teacher could be liked. He also coached several sports, from cross country to track, basketball and perhaps more I'm forgetting. He was a big man, but soft spoken.
In fact, I never heard him speak much. When you don't have him for a teacher, the only interaction you'd get is in the halls or if you were out for sports he coached. I wasn't. However, I got to know him better in later years, when I got asked to be on a few trivia teams in which he was a part. It was fun to finally interact with a former teacher more like equals or "adults." I'll forever remember those times, and I can't count how many times I'd see him walking around Wilton. Every time he'd give a wave and shoot a bright smile as I'd drive by him.
Wilton also lost Nelda Lauser, the widow of Max Lauser. The Lauser's owned a store in downtown Wilton. Find anyone my parents' age and they can tell you countless stories of going to Lauser's store growing up. I just narrowly missed the opportunity but have been told several of those stories over the years.
Lastly, the town of Durant lost one of its best volunteers recently with the passing of Ed Behnke. He was a fixture with the Durant Fire Department and Ambulance Service. While I didn't really know him personally, I thought it appropriate to share a portion of what the Durant Fire Department posted to social media this week:
"Ed was an active member of our fire department in November 1973, retiring on Jan. 19, 1999. Although he was retired, he was still an active part of our fire department, along with being active in the Durant Ambulance service as well. He guided his son-in-law Tim Sterner along the way. And later his two grandsons Dan and Adam Sterner, who he loved dearly. Ed would be seen attending county meetings just to keep up with the latest info, and talking to the friends he had made along the way..."
The obituaries for these fine people (and more) can be viewed on pages 5-6. May they rest in peace.