Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.
By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot and Review
Connie Hebert, 92
Q: Where are you originally from?
How did you transition from Bayfield to Wausau?
My husband had been principal at the Mosinee High School for 18 years. When my arthritis started locking me in, I knew I had to be near a couple of the kids. My oldest son is retired and lives on Dubay. My youngest is a physical therapist in Minocqua so I’m on the runway.
What did you do for a living?
I’ve been a Registered Nurse forever. I loved being a nurse. The last time I worked, I was 63. My husband retired and we moved back to Bayfield even though I really wanted to go somewhere warm, but he loved Bayfield so we went back there. The Washburn Hospital approached me because they desperately needed an RN so I worked three days a week; it was fun. I got my hands back into everything.
Where did you go to nursing school?
St. Mary’s in Minneapolis. It was a three year program. It was a great program. We went 12 months a year for three years. We received two weeks of vacation, but otherwise we went solid. It was more like four years of college, overall.
What were positive and negative aspects about nursing school?
I was terribly homesick and had never really been away from home. I asked my mom if I could come home and she said, “No, I don’t want you! You are where you’ve always wanted to be. Just stick it out and you will be happy in the end.” I lost 15 pounds! For me to lose weight, was a problem, but I stuck it out and very happily became a Registered Nurse.
Do you have a most memorable moment from your career?
I had the joy of being in the delivery room when my first grandchild was born. I wasn’t Molly’s nurse, but I was working on the floor and the gals said, “Get back there! Your daughter is going to have her baby!” I’m a terrible crier and I thought they didn’t need a crying grandma in the delivery room, but it was very memorable.
What was one of the hardest moments of your life?
Losing my husband. He died in 1998 from pancreatic cancer. It’s been a long time being a widow and it took me awhile to adjust.
Did you struggle with his loss for awhile?
I did, honey. I had an awful time. I went to the doctor he had gone to and he said, “Connie, you wouldn’t think of injuring yourself?” I said, “Heavens, no! I put up with life long enough; I’m not going to be stupid.” It was hard and I stayed a year in Bayfield after he died and then I retired in New Richmond. That was the area both of my parents lived in and had a lot of cousins and was close to my only sister. I lived there 10 years and then came here.
Did his cancer take long to progress?
He was diagnosed late. He had suffered with ulcers and we both thought it was his ulcers acting up again, but it was pancreatic cancer. The symptoms are pretty much the same. He was diagnosed in March and died at the end of October.
That’s a very quick progression.
The quicker the better with that diagnosis.
Was there a certain age or time frame in life that was more difficult than others?
I think high school years are tough. You want to be with everybody else and your parents say, “No, that’s not what you’re going to do.” My parents never owned a car and when I tell my kids that they say, “You never had a car? Mother, what did you do?” “We walked!” We didn’t have to pay for a gym we just did everything that we could. It was a good growing up; It was long, long ago. It was in a small town so there was a lot of closeness.
What are some hobbies you have enjoyed?
I love to read. My son gave me an IPad with about 150 stories on it. I love that I can open it and it will take me to where I left off. I also love to knit and do embroidery. I find with arthritis the more you keep your hands active, the better off you are.
What’s your favorite memory of living in Wausau?
I loved living in the villa at Primrose Retirement Community. The independence and the ability to jump in my car to go somewhere and since I had lived in Mosinee, I was close to many friends. I believe my saddest day was when I realized I couldn’t drive anymore. My hips locked up and I couldn’t get in and out of the car. It was a sad memory when I knew things were clamping down on me, but I feel so grateful that I can still have and make memories; I realized I am fortunate.
What changes would you like to see in the community in the next five years?
I believe Wausau is a very progressive city and I truly have enjoyed living here. I’ve never been political; I take things as they come and go. My religion is very important to me and I’m grateful that we have the opportunity to go to mass and communion. I think I’m in a very good place.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I dearly love to play bridge. It’s hard to find four people that share my joy. Another friend and I are trying hard to get four people now and then.
If you had to give advice to anyone, what would it be?
If you have a dream, stick with it. It might be tough and a lot of other things get in the way, but it’s always worth it to reach your dream.
What’s your favorite quote?
“Know thyself.” Be happy where you are. I was blessed with six children and they all did well. They are attentive to a point, but I feel sad when I hear parents say, “They owe it to me.” They don’t ask to be born, but you love the heck out of them.