Yes, my big sister Robyn Turtenwald is the most amazing person on the planet.
And the only challenger for second is our father Llewellyn Tietz.
That much was evident at the Menomonee Falls July 3rd Parade tonight along Appleton Avenue as before a packed crowd on a glorious summer’s night she served as parade marshal.
Fellow parade participants Governor Scott Walker and Village President (and former classmate at Falls North) Joe Helm could scarcely hold a candle to her.
The only people who could were the Pearl Harbor Survivors, who rode through to loud, long and well-deserved standing ovations.
Both my Dad and Robyn are on the Menomonee Falls Wall of Fame for the dozens of committees they’ve served on, the many philanthropic endeavors they have supported, the countless small, medium and large kindnesses they have done for people all over southeast Wisconsin for decades now and the simple basic human decency they show everywhere, all the time.
Many, many, many people have had their lives vastly improved by a simple phone call, a note in the mail, or a gentle but honest piece of advice from them.
Robyn has always been a massively social person, who in the days long before social media, could throw together wildly successful (sorry, mom and dad) parties at a moment’s notice.
She has been among many other things was a former Menomonee Falls North Student Council President, village trustee and a long-time lector at St. Mary’s Church.
Robyn has done all this and more, working hard to keep her voice heard despite a two-decade long, very public battle with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The miserable, relentless neuromuscular disease took from her the use of her legs a long time ago. She compensated by driving a van with hand controls, still going to meetings, still going to family events, and meeting up with her still vast circle of friends. Many people help her with basic day-to-day tasks, but hers is a hard and difficult road, almost impossible to comprehend for its maddening limitations.
Robyn has maintained a smile, a laugh and a strong sense of dignity in a situation where all three are difficult to manage. She values her independence but is a practical person and recently, she gave up driving when her diminished strength just would not allow her to do it safely anymore.
I can’t imagine how difficult that was, how difficult any of thousands of indignities she has to endure in a given week can be. I only try to be a solider in her army (which includes her husband Gary and son Anthony) working against the odds to make her life easier, less tedious, more fun than it is on a normal day-to-day basis.
As noted, she remains a voice that is heard. She is a hugely influential figure in MS Societies regionally and statewide and worked with my brother Zach and myself to offer an annual scholarship for graduating Falls High School seniors in honor of our parents Llew and Alice, who have set one good example after another for all three of us in their 68-plus years of marriage.
She turned her 60th birthday party a few years ago into a hugely successful fundraiser for MS, still sends obnoxiously funny birthday cards and uses her phone answering machine to deliver sage advice (if only she’d change the message once in awhile).
And though, for obvious reasons, her time in the public is limited, she still can still have an impact, still throw the best party around.
That was the case at Monday night’s parade, as our former neighbor Scott Krause drove her in a vintage convertible through a large crowd, almost all of whom it seemed, knew her.
She smiled broadly and waved and ate it all up as well as she should have. These people recognized her as one of their own and honored her for all her years of public service, friendship and common decency (a trait in short supply in the public realm right now).
There’s no telling how many more great nights there will be like this for Robyn, and in speaking with her afterward, she was still laughing, still remembering all the highlights, soaking it all in.
“What a great parade!” she exclaimed.
What a great person, the rest of us say.