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Mothers’ Wishes

Moms discuss priceless gifts from their children

Sons and daughters often struggle deciding on gifts to give or what to do for Mother’s Day.

But, we asked moms what they always wanted from, or for, their children, and money can’t buy most of the things on the list.

Carol Higgins of Jacksonport raised five children, and the No. 1 thing she expected from them was to show kindness.

Carol Higgins, with son Eric, is proud of her five children and encouraged them to find their own direction in life. Submitted.

“I had no expectations other than they be good and kind and respectful to each other and other people,” Higgins said. “Then they were off, and they’re just amazing. They’re incredibly cool human beings.”

Higgins said as a parent she didn’t set down as many boundaries for her kids as she could have. She told them they could pursue any field they wanted, and things worked out.

As a mom, she likens her role to “Children,” a poem by Khalil Gibran: “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite.”

She urged them to work for other people rather than working with her in her Door County Stencil art business, and the Sevastopol School graduates learned to get along with others and be self-sufficient.

It doesn’t bother her that some moved to far-off places – such as her son Ryan Williams, an archaeologist living in Peru and Arizona, her son Eric Seiler, who’s a chef and catering leader at the University of Illinois; her and her daughter Tara, who’s an audiologist in California. Another son,  Brett Williams, is an engineer at Hatco, and daughter, Erin, lives in Baileys Harbor and Denver and works for a Milwaukee-based graphics company.

Barbara Anschutz of Baileys Harbor takes pride in the drive and accomplishments of her children. Erin runs the Patricia Shoppe and two short-term rentals in Egg Harbor. Benjamin completed a five-year journeyman plumber program and joined the family business, Anschutz Plumbing. He’s also an artist, working in copper.

“Whatever they wanted to do, as long as they were happy and well-adjusted I was there for them,” Barb said. “They’re both doing extremely well for themselves.”

Phyllis Fitzgerald of Ellison Bay raised seven daughters and a son on a farm that included a craft and antiques barn. All developed a good work ethic. She said once in a while one of them would “fall off of the path, but they get back on track and get back to basics.”

Those basics? She expected all of them to be loyal and trustworthy and to have faith in God. She’s amazed that their pursuits in life led them to do everything from launching and operating businesses and helping others as caregivers to teaching clients to relax and get back to nature.  

“I’m so proud of every single one of them,” she said. “They’re all doing something for humanity. They all grew up on a farm, learning how to work and be compassionate.”

Deb Duren of Sister Bay said it was hard for her to see her son’s dream fall apart when his pursuit of a professional baseball career was cut short by arm injuries. 

Sam Forkert (front) takes a photo while helping his mom, Deb Duren, plant trees. Submitted.

“I think every parent wants them to be happy more than anything, doing something they enjoy,” she said of her son, Sam Forkert. 

After his years playing in the Northwoods and Independent leagues, he told her he didn’t know what he was going to do after playing ball.

She told him he could come to work for her for a while at the family business, Yacht Works, until he figured out what he wanted to do. Surprisingly, he started enjoying the work and he’s thriving. 

“He’s learning something new all the time and eventually he’ll be taking over,” Duren said. She said there’s a lot to learn at such a diverse business, and he enjoys being around the water and on the water.

“I’m happy for him. He’s happy here,” Duren added. “He turned out to be a really good man and he’s a very good father and a good husband. “What more could you want?”

Theresa Evans of Sturgeon Bay always encouraged her daughter, Stephanie, to travel and see that the world is more than what’s just outside the back door. Those life experiences included a high school trip to France, three months in Switzerland in high school, and a year hosting an exchange student. Stephanie now displays her art at local galleries including Fine Line Designs and works at Nathan Nichols in Baileys Harbor.

“As a mom, you just want your kids to grow up and be safe and happy and find a career that challenges them, that keeps them interested,” she said. 

Theresa believes seeing the world prevents people from feeling trapped.

“Life isn’t always happy, but if you feel like you have choices as life happens, you can kind of hit that ‘Pause’,” Evans said. “Life is full of ups and downs and you can’t always be on a high. It’s gaining the skill to just be present for whatever life throws at you.”

Jeanne Aurelius of Ellison Bay, owner of Clay Banks Pottery, said her greatest expectation for her daughters was for them to find “a path that kept them happy and fulfilled.” She’s proud to say, as a bonus, both are driven to improve their communities in their working lives.

Her daughter, Lauren, works at the Shoals affordable housing development in Sister Bay. Her other daughter, Martha, does work to help patients and families coping with Parkinson’s disease and also works for Madison Parks and Recreation. 

“I wanted them to be kind, to have an open mind and help others and show love, and I think they do that,” Aurelius said. She said they also have compassion, and they care for the world, for the environment and for other people.

Sharon Daubner of Sister Bay and Florida treasures the fact that her three children own their homes and have found success in careers in Door County – “which isn’t easy to do.”

Sharon Daubner stands behind her children (from left) Michael, Jason and Michelle. Submitted.

Michael, Jason and Michelle were required to work at the Sister Bay Bowl from a young age, just like Sharon – who has been involved in the restaurant in some way for 60 years.

Michelle teaches first grade at Gibraltar, Jason is a PGA professional and the general manager of Peninsula State Park Golf Course, and Michael is the co-owner of Boathouse On the Bay in Sister Bay. Sharon said working around and conversing with people of all ages and from all over the Midwest “made them so rounded and grounded.”

She winters in Florida, and a friend there frequently says Sharon has “perfect children.”

“They aren’t perfect, but they’re darned near close,” Sharon said, mentioning how supportive they have been since her husband died 12 years ago. “There’s nothing better than when people say to you you have a great family.”

Roberta Thelen of Baileys Harbor said her two daughters, son and stepson have found independence and “accomplished cool things” on their own, even though all grew up knowing that she and their father will always be there for them.   

Roberta Thelen said she’s proud that all of her children, including daughters Kathy and Jackie, possess the qualities of healthy curiosity and kindness. Submitted.

“I think what I’ve always wanted for my children is that they grow up with a sense of the importance of their lives, a sense of right and wrong, and to be essentially happy with curious minds and to be very kind people,” Thelen said. “All four of them are extremely caring people.”

Lil’ Bit LeClair of Jacksonport said her kids played hard and had the run of the town in Jacksonport while growing up, whether that meant spearing suckers in the creek, playing in the woods and cemetery until midnight or playing ball most of the day.

Nathan (left) and Aaron LeClair and their sister Courtney Ripp visit with their mom “Little Bit” LeClair. Submitted.

But all started working in the family’s motel starting around age 8. She expected them to behave – “I was strict” – and always to put work before play.

“I think they have turned out excellent. They’re all leaders in their own fields,” she said of Nathan, the Jacksonport fire chief; Aaron, assistant fire chief and county emergency services chief; and Courtney, who works for the State of Wisconsin. “They are exceptional human beings. They coach their kids’ teams. They volunteer at the schools. They help where they can. To be involved in your communities, I think, is so important in this.”