by Deb Seminary
Jill Wiese was living in Colorado when a trip home changed her life forever. “I was a ski bum,” she said. “I was a nurse and in the National Guard to pay the bills. My goal was to marry a rich doctor, live up in Evergreen and give away all his money! I never thought I would leave the mountains, but then I flew home for my sister’s wedding in 1984.”
Jill likes to keep busy. She is a nurse at the Same Day Surgery Center at Sanford and House Supervisor. She also works at the Bismarck Cancer Center and Bismarck Surgical Associates. She has been the jail nurse in Washburn for several years and volunteers with the Washburn ambulance as an EMT. “If you are looking for a tater tot hot dish for a funeral or pot luck, you may have better luck calling Bob,” she joked.
She figured out how to still be a ski bum by volunteering on the Huff Hills Ski Patrol for fifteen years. “We are the outstanding small volunteer ski patrol this year. The first year I joined we won, too. We are part of the Northern Division, which is North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. We are one of the top medical ski patrols. The girls grew up out there, it’s like family.”
The couple has two daughters. “I birthed two, but I also claim a German,” said Wiese. Steffi was an exchange student that lived with us for eleven months. The minute she got off the plane she was our daughter. She is now in medical school in Germany and was a bridesmaid in Ashley’s wedding.”
Wiese explained one of her secrets to being a good mom: “Everybody told me when the kids were growing up, have the party at your house, so you know where they are. So we have the house in the country with the hot tub and the fire pit and the trampoline. The kids made a little floating table and got waterproof cards. I knew where my children were…playing Texas Hold’em in the hot tub!”
Ashley, the oldest, lives in Tennessee and recently got married. Her dream is to be a pediatric dentist like Mike and Bryce Goebel. “She is a kid magnet,” said Wiese. “She was a lifeguard, taught the kids to swim and they had a BFFL club – Best Friends for Life. In Tennessee she worked at a daycare on campus (ETSU) and brought her guitar to teach the kids the North Dakota song. My kids get their love of kids from my dad, John Yonker, who was a junior high principal for thirty years at Hughes.”
Kayla is majoring in youth ministry at North Central University in Minneapolis. She will graduate in January as a youth pastor. Her path may have started when she was a freshman and two of her friends committed suicide. She decided to start a ministry called ‘Make a Change’. “She wants kids to find Jesus and not take their life,” said Wiese. “And she has saved lives. Once we were in Rochester for a leg lengthening operation and Kayla’s phone kept ringing. I finally called the number back and the girl couldn’t believe we were in Rochester. She said, ‘I’ll be right over.’ She brought all these gifts and told us she was alive because of Kayla. I think it really hit Bob and I right then that this was the real deal.”
Kayla was born with spina bifida and had nearly thirty operations to correct several birth defects from age seven month to seventeen years of age. “We have lengthened her leg 6 inches,” said Wiese. “We were told she wouldn’t walk, then at 18 months she started walking. She ended up being quite an athlete, just like her sister.”
Jill shared some of what she went through during the first few years of Kayla’s life. “We were gone more than we were home some months. Several families in our town helped to raise Ashley. All those years I worried more about Ashley, but she was so protective and would do anything to help Kayla. They are very close. And the whole time Kayla was going through this, my sister was dying of breast cancer. She was my idol, my hero. Barb Wild had such an impact on everyone who met her. That is why we do Bluegrass Goes Pink for the Bismarck Cancer Center. This year it will be July 20th at the Cross Ranch.”
Music has almost always been a part of Jill’s life and she found out early that the piano was not her instrument. “Belle Mehus threw me out of piano. I disliked lessons terribly, but thought the world of Belle. Her large Siamese cat sitting on top of the piano didn’t help either. When I play my bluegrass music at the ‘Belle’ now, I hope she is looking down and just happy I kept playing music in general.”
Cotton Wood plays a lot of venues in the area and they do some benefit concerts like the Bluegrass Goes Pink event. They recently hosted the 8th annual Bluegrass Blizzard Weekend at Bismarck State College. “Sometimes I think people come because they are curious,” said Wiese. “And when they come up to the CD table after the concert and say, ‘you know, it wasn’t that bad,’ to me, that is the biggest compliment!”
The band was recently asked to back up award-winning bluegrass vocalist Rhonda Vincent and the Rage when they play the Belle Mehus June 8th. According to Wiese she has one of the best bands in bluegrass and Rhonda was very influential in Ashley becoming a bluegrass singer. It will be one of the biggest musical adventures for the band, so if you happen to see Jill anytime soon, check her pulse to see if it has returned to its normal rate.
visit cottonwoodbluegrass.com for information on future concerts and to buy CDs.