The catalyst for the formation of the South Central Minnesota Chapter of the Compassionate Friends happened very soon after the incorporation of the National Organization in 1978. On September 30, 1979, 20 year old Mike Nelson died by drowning while duck hunting. Surviving family Clinton, Darlene, and David. On January 18, 1980, 17 month old Tammy Netzke died from complications with croup. Survived by Carroll, Barb, Rebecca, Cassandra, and Jeremiah. In February, Darlene, Barb, and Carroll attended a New Ulm Life Living series on grief, but found it unsatisfactory because it dealt with all grief, not just the exquisite pain of the death of a child. Darlene was told it just takes one person to get something started. Just 4 ½ months after Mike’s death, and with a demanding job as a LPN, the seed was planted. The next week, the New Ulm Journal ran a story about the Compassionate Friends, but included no contact information except the group was headquartered in Oak Brook, IL. With help from her sister Marlys in Chicago, Darlene made contact with leader Marian Balster. A flurry of calls and letters ensued. Darlene and Barb’s friend, Kathy Goodall, RN-PHN, also recognized the need for help with this unique form of grief. So Darlene, Kathy, and Barb met together, and along with Clint, visited the TCF chapter in Willmar. On July 30, 1980 they were given their Certificate of Association. They went to speak at churches, Lions clubs, and hospitals, on television and radio, wherever they could, in New Ulm and surrounding area, to get the word out. August, the month in which Tammy and Mike were born, was chosen as the time of the first meeting. Brown County Public Health donated meeting room. Twenty one people attended.
In March, 1981 they published the first newsletter. Barb was the editor, with the help of Carroll. Clint was the bookkeeper. In March of 1982, they hosted Minnesota’s first state conference. In 1985, Darlene, Clint and Barb were invited to speak before the MN Legislature about Compassionate Friends, resulting in the declaration of the second week in June as Compassionate Friends Awareness week. In 1987, Darlene was on the organizing committee for the first Children’s Memorial Day at the National Conference. Steve’s Mom, Shirley Lindquist, was editor of the newsletter from 1990-1994, at which time Darlene took on the job. She is helped by Rick’s Mother, Jane Fischer, and Matthew’s Mom, Sharon Fromm. In 1996, Laura’s parents, Judy and Lee Kastman became the group’s leaders and also the group’s record keepers and financial bookkeepers. If Darlene is the heart and soul of SC MN TCF, Judy is the face and voice, reaching out with her warmth and understanding to everyone experiencing their darkest days. In 2011 the meeting place was changed to Redeemer Lutheran Church in New Ulm. We hope you never have to find us, but if you do, we are here to walk with you.
We are most grateful to the Brown County United Way for many years of financial support.