Don Charles Wommer
SAULT STE MARIE, MI – Don Charles Wommer went home to The Lord on Sunday, May 5, 2019.
Don was born the youngest of seven children, to George and Margaret (Wolz) Wommer on January 19, 1940, in Negaunee, MI. At the time of his birth the doctors told his parents that he would not live beyond his early teens. Don had other ideas. He began walking when he was four years old, by pulling himself up on the furniture. He started school at the age of seven and went for about 10 years. Don initially lived at home under the care of his mother and two older sisters, because his mom was in and out of the hospital since his birth. When Lauris and Elaine began their own lives and families, Don was sent to the State Hospital in Newberry. This was back when they did not know what else to do with people with special needs. When that hospital closed to residential care, Don was sent to his first home-away-from-home at the Sissel family farm in Hulbert, and he remained there for the next 22 years.
Don blossomed in his new environment on the farm. He joined the 4-H and raised a bull for the fair. He was employed in the recycling center of the Sault Sheltered Workshop, a job he very much enjoyed. His nephew, Richard, remembers his parents packing the car with all the kids for weekly road trips from the Sault to Hulbert to visit with Don. He said back then that it felt like they were in the car forever. Don also spent time each summer with his sister, Lauris, and her family. During these visits he got to see his siblings and nieces and nephews in the Negaunee/Ishpeming area. His nephew, Dave, recently recalled a day when he and Don went fishing at the Carp River. They had to walk more than a mile each way to get there, and that was with Don was having to use two canes to walk. He never let the little things in life hold him back. He had grit, determination, and a lot of spunk. After Lauris died, his annual visits were put on hold until his niece retired from the service, and she could resume her mom’s commitment to him. Those later visits lasted until he could no longer walk.
From Hulbert, Don moved to be nearer his sister, Elaine, in the Sault. While there he lived in a number of group homes and enjoyed recurring visits from his many nieces, nephews, and their family members. He kept busy by shoveling snow in the winter and mowing lawns in the summer.
You may remember Don. He was the guy on the adult 3-wheel bike that rode from store to store, sometimes hitting them more than once on the same day. Being a crafty old devil, Elaine told us that more than once he rode his trike to a local restaurant, ordered and ate his meal, and then called her to come pay for it! He went through a couple of trikes, but especially loved the last one, as he got to pick it out himself. They finally convinced him to give up his wheels when he began riding in traffic, posing a danger for himself and others. It was safer for all concerned.
Don’s final move was to an ALS group home on Cedar Street, where he has remained for the last 15 years. Cedar Street was a God-send for Don. The ALS staff treated him extremely well. In the early years Patrick accompanied him on road trips from the Sault to the Copper Country, and more recently Doug and others took him to hockey games, the circus, out to eat, shopping, and eventually visits with his sister. The staff became like family. Jami and Samantha even went so far as to drive Don from the Sault to Negaunee, in their wheelchair accessible van, for a Wommer family reunion in May of 2012.
During his life in a residential care setting, Don was watched over by his sister, Elaine. In the early days, she’d have to over to their house for meals on a regular basis. When he became wheelchair bound and they could no longer get him in the house, she continued to bake treats and some of his favorite foods and took them to him at Cedar Street. A former nurse, she had the patience of an angel and the determination of a bull-dog, visiting with him many times a week while she was still able.
Don loved all things about hockey and was especially fond of the team from Lake Superior State University. He held a season ticket for years and went to as many home games as the staffing at Cedar and his health would allow. He also enjoyed listening to music (especially Hank Williams Sr. and opera) and beating young and old alike in a rousing game of Chinese Checkers.
His body may have been failing him, but he was a great strategist and remained as sharp as a tack to the very end. Don also liked to get his hands dirty. The folks at Cedar built a raised bed for him to tend flowers in each summer, and he planted a beautiful bush of red roses right outside his bedroom window for his own personal enjoyment.
Don had many friends at Cedar and in the community. He was a member of the Calvary Baptist Church in the Sault and attended services on a regular basis when he was able. He was especially fond of Michele, Jami, Stefanie, Pat, and Doug. He also liked his social worker, Deb, and his doctors Meeker, Rivera, and Peterman.
We’d like to thank the staff at ALS Cedar for the many years of kind and compassionate care they gave Don, and also the staff at War Memorial Hospital who took wonderful care of Don during his many spells of illness with them. Finally, I’d like to thank Lisa, Terry, and the other nurses working with the Eastern Upper Peninsula Home Health and Hospice who helped Don take the final steps in his journey home.
Don is survived by his sister, Elaine (the late Earl) Gady of Sault Ste. Marie, MI, sisters-in-law Mary (the late Burton) Wommer of Ishpeming, and Carol (the late George) Wommer of Anaheim, CA, and dozens of nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents and his sisters, Clarice (the late Matt Herrala), and Lauris (the late Don Chevrette), his brother, Marvin (the late Bertha), and his sister-in-law Rose Herrala.
In respect of Don’s final wishes, there will be no funeral services and his cremains will be buried with his mother in the cemetery in Ishpeming, MI.
This obituary stands as a tribute in loving memory to a wonderful friend, neighbor, brother and uncle.
Don’s obituary may also be viewed at bjorkandzhulkie.com where relatives and friends may leave a note of remembrance.