Years no barrier for special trio of friends

Teenager, seniors develop bond

Faces light up when he walks into the room, and for residents of the home, especially the two men he is there to visit, the day is just a bit brighter, a bit more interesting.


Seth, who lives just a few miles from Copperleaf, a senior living community near Willmar, loves spending time at Copperleaf visiting with Julene Johnson, of Lake Lillian, and Wally Nelson, who also hails from that area.

His visits to the two men originally started as an outreach from a church project. When the project was finished Seth had so much fun doing it that he decided to keep going, and he’s been going ever since.

Seth has been doing this for a year now. Regina Hatzinger, the activities coordinator, found two people she thought would be perfect for Seth to visit with. Seth really enjoys them. “What we usually do when we’re there is play Go Fish and talk. We sit there and talk about stuff.”

They share stories of when they were younger, and they talk about those experiences. Both of them have a military background, and they’ll tell a story of their experiences and things that Seth is studying in school. Seth’s mom said they share their experiences of living through those times, which Seth really enjoys. “We got on the topic of arrowheads, and he (Julene Johnson) gave me a few, and I’ve been hanging onto those. I want to find the spot where his wife would search for them.”

Sarah Jagow, Seth’s mom, said Julene’s wife died before they got to meet her, but he tells stories of her, her searches for arrowheads, and his time on the farm. “Those experiences are dear to him, and it’s fun for him to share stories with Seth about his wife and the experiences that she had searching for those arrowheads, and of course, for a 13-year-old boy to find those arrowheads is pretty exciting.”

Seth said they’ve talked on many topics, from fishing to hunting to trapping and stuff like that. “The stories he told about being in the service were pretty interesting. He was telling me about all the places he’s gone. Wally (Nelson), the other man, has gone to a lot of places also. Everything is interesting,” Seth said.

Sarah said she gets to go along, and sometimes she’ll just let them visit. “It’s amazing how those three guys can kid around and laugh and joke with each other. It’s like three boys hanging out together. It’s really fun.”

When Seth first starting going to Copperleaf, he was matched with Dale Johnson and Julene, but Dale died in August. “It started with them. The guys would meet in the coffee area, and there would be a lot of people there. The guys would be visiting and everybody wanted to know what was going on and who this young man was, and Wally just kind of made his way over and started visiting with us, so then there were three. Dale, Wally and Julene.” It was just like Wally got adopted into the group.

Seth said he doesn’t know of any others that are doing what he’s doing, spending one-on-one time with one or two of the residents weekly. His mom further explained that it first started out when their church was doing confirmation with the kids, encouraging them to find a place where they could get in the community and use their talents and their gifts. “Because we live here we drive by Copperleaf all the time and oftentimes we’d say ‘I wonder who lives there.’” Seth has this natural ability to be able to visit with anybody, from little people to older people,” his mom said. “I thought, instead of walking dogs or things like that, he could use his gifts by talking and learning something from somebody that’s a step ahead of him in life and learn some interesting things, and it’s just been a great friendship with them.”

Seth said in the summer months he sometimes bikes over there, and once he brought a friend along, and they played cards with Julene and Wally.

Seth has a lot of interests, and he shares them with the two men. He is on the Nordic ski team and the trap shooting team, and he enjoys hunting, trapping, fishing, pretty much anything outdoors. “I really want to be a part of the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) some day.”

Seth said he believes Wally was a farmer. His mom said from his stories, she believes he worked for the University of Minnesota.

“He’s very knowledgeable. In the fall he was talking about crops, and we have a small patch where we grow things, and he was teaching Seth about when to know when the corn is ready.” Seth said Wally was talking about how you have to check the milk level and stuff like that. Seth went and got a sample of the corn and brought it back so the two of them could keep their conversation going.

Seth said his visits with the men give them something more to do with their day. There is always bingo going on, he said, and they spend their time in the little coffee shop where they visit for a good hour to an hour and a half. “They’re very happy when we come. There are some weeks we don’t have time to come in and then the next week there’s a lot more to catch up on.”

Seth’s mom said by doing this Seth is getting a bigger picture versus a young person’s picture of the world. “He’s seeing things through their eyes and understanding the world of how it was and how it is now for them.” She said Seth is also learning empathy and understanding people and taking the time to listen and to understand. “In our world today everything goes so quickly that a lot of people don’t take the time to understand others, and I want him to be able to understand and also take that with him in the world as he grows up.”

#Friends #SeniorsinWillmar

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