By Richard Karns

Special to the Herald Review

In talking with Sandy Skellenger Gingrich, I was given the background on her parents.

Although neither Bill or Jean Skellenger were born here, they made Reed City their home and made an impact on the community. Bill was born in Big Rapids to Byron and Blanch Squance Skellenger in 1911, and was the next of the youngest of five siblings: Signey, Ruby, Russell, Bill and Bob.

Bill grew up in the city of Gladstone in the Upper Peninsula and attended grade school and high school there. After graduation, Bill attended the Michigan State Police academy in East Lansing. In August 1935, he joined the Michigan State Police and was stationed in East Lansing. While on duty, he was in a motorcycle accident and severely injured his back, which required several surgeries and would torment him the rest of his life.

Jean was born in Charlotte, Mich., in 1912 to Fred and Jessie Murray. She grew up with a sister, Marion, and a brother, who was called "Uncle Bud" by the family. Jean attended grade school and high school in Charlotte, and after graduation attended Lilah Post School of Nursing in Battle Creek. She graduated in 1935 and passed her state boards to become a registered nurse in Michigan that same year.

Jean's aunt was going to France aboard the ship Normandy, and didn't want to go alone, so Jean went along as her companion. It was a good thing, because during the voyage the weather became so turbulent that the waves tossed the ship and her aunt suffered some minor injuries from bouncing around, and Jean was able to assist her.

Bill and Jean were married on Sept. 2, 1938, and made their home in Rockford where their first daughter, Nancy, was born. Bill was transferred to the Reed City State Police Post in 1942-43. Sandy was born at Reed City Hospital. Bill continued to work for the MSP until 1962, when he retired and began working for the Osceola County Sheriff's Department.

Jean started working at Reed City Hospital and did so leaving for a couple of years to work as the Lake County nurse. Sandy remembers her mother taking her along on some of her visits. Returning to the Reed City Hospital, Jean became supervisor and was there when Sandy's daughter, Lori, was born.

Bill died in 1974 after a long illness, and Jean died in 1977.

Sandy recalled that growing up the family wold travel to the U.P. to visit family, and needing to take the family, because the Mackinac Bridge hadn't opened yet (the bridge opened on Nov. 1, 1957). Sandy also remembered the family would rent a cottage in the summer at Big Star Lake.

I, like many of you, knew both Bill and Jean. I didn't have a lot of contact with Bill except when I was to take my road test for my driver's license and when I was given rides home when I was attending Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, where Sandy also was attending. I took care of Bill on several occasions while he was a patient in the hospital, and worked with Jean (everyone referred to her as Skelley) and was very fond of her.

Jean was not only respected because of her skills as a nurse, but as a great mentor. She was the one who usually knew the answers to the questions we new nurses had, had a listening ear and a caring non-judgmental attitude when dealing with her coworkers.

Their daughter, Nancy, married Berry Milulski and lives in Maple Grove, Minn., and have two children. Sandy married Dewight Gingrich and lives on the centennial farm on Lakeola Road. They have two daughters.