Area women honored at AAUW’s annual reception

Monday, March 12th, 2018

The importance of service to others and the community is something Wendy Patterson, Anna Mae Rudolph and Nancy VanderMeer share in common.

The three were chosen as the 2018 honorees for the Mary E. Wedin Women’s History Month recognition reception hosted Thursday by the American Association of University Women Tomah branch. The reception was held at the Tomah Best Western.

Patterson said she was grateful for the recognition and what it represents.

“Although I am the one holding the award, it belongs to … a much larger community of individuals,” Patterson said. “It’s truly a privilege to be part of this community, and I believe being a good business owner and a citizen also means being a good community member.”

Rudolph agreed. She said being a good community member involves helping others, which she enjoys immensely.

“I’m just happy that I get to do it because I love being with people and I love doing something for others, and that’s such a big thing to be doing,” Rudolph said. “It makes me happy, and I love that the other (honorees) love to volunteer. It’s great.”

VanderMeer said service means as much to the giver as the receiver.

“There is an element of service to others that is priceless to them as well as the giver,” she said. “To me that’s everything. If we have gifts that we can share, skills, etc., all the more power to us, we better do it.”

Patterson grew up in New Berlin. After high school she worked in customer service, marketing and training development at a Fortune 500 company for 10 years prior to moving to Tomah in 1997. In 1999 she opened her own business, the Cleaning Solution, which has grown to serve four counties employing 30 people. She is in the process of turning over her business.

In addition to cleaning, her business provides free services to to the community. In 2017 it donated 600 hours.

Patterson also partners with The Gathering Place, where she cleans for and spreads its ministry; Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin for the past seven years transporting “on loan” shopping carts to and from Walmart for use at food banks; the Boys & Girls Club; and Neighbor for Neighbor Food Pantry.

She also runs a group for young mothers, worked for Family Promise for four years coordinating a clothing giveaway, runs the young women’s mentor group Girls Only, leads discussion groups, works with the non-profit interdenominational group Common Ground and teaches men at the prison in Mauston about custodial work through Western Technical College.

In the past Patterson has served as a treasurer for Family Education Resource Network and has gone on mission trips to Guatemala, Africa and Haiti (twice).

She has been married to husband Curt for 25 years and has two children, Lauren and Clinton.

Curt Patterson is glad to see his wife’s commitment to others recognized.

“She’s always working so hard to help other people,” he said. “It’s very rewarding for us as a couple to see what she’s accomplishing and know she’s always working for other people. It’s never for herself, it’s always for somebody else, and she’s so selfless.”

Rudolph was born and raised in Kendall. After high school she attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse for two years with plans to teach kindergarten. Those plans changed when she met her husband of 39 years, Donald. They married and moved to Tomah after three years, when Rudolph pursued her job with the Wisconsin Power and Light Co. She has two children, Joseph and Melissa.

In the community Rudolph is active in the Parish council of Catholic Women, in which she served as president for two terms. She was Guild chair for a number of years, was a teacher’s assistant in children’s religious classes, co-chairs the church cleaning committee, co-chaired and reorganized the funeral luncheons program for the past 15 years and helps other volunteers to call Bingo once a week at the Touch of Home assisted living facility.

Rudolph also works for Mary Kay Cosmetics and since 2010 has been the coordinator for the Tomah Community Red Cross blood drives. For eight years she was also a regular at Tomah’s Neighbor for Neighbor Food Pantry.

Melissa Lieder, Rudolph’s daughter, said her mother in an incredible woman. She was excited to see her mother get recognized for what she does.

“She’s always, always, always been a great advice giver … great person all around,” she said. “She does a ton of stuff for everyone. … I can’t say enough about it; she’s a great mom and a great lady.”

VanderMeer was born and raised in Evergreen Park, Illinois. After high school she attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where she graduated with a degree in psychology in 1988. For over 38 years VanderMeer worked for the family-owned and operated VanderMeer Motor Company, which closed in October 2017. She has been married to husband Dave Hall for 25 years.

In 2014 VanderMeer was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly and is serving her second term in office. She serves on the Assembly Standing Committees of Agriculture, Consumer Protection, Mental Health, Small Business Development and Science and Technology. She also chairs the Committee on Rural Development and Mining and vice-chairs the Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs.

In the community VanderMeer has served on the Farm Bureau, is a former council president at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, former board of directors member for the Greater Tomah Area Chamber of Commerce, former officer for the Tomah Memorial Hospital board, former member and president of the American Business Women’s Association, member of the National Rifle Association and American Legion Auxiliary and member of Handi-Shop board of directors.

In 2017 VanderMeer participated in the Council of State Governments’ Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development, was awarded a 2017 Women of Excellence Award from the National Foundation for Women Legislators and completed the United States Army War College’s Commandant’s National Security Program. She was also one of 37 lawmakers in the United States and Canada selected to participate in a training program that identifies and assists promising state leaders in the Midwest.

Hall is proud of his wife.

“I’m glad that she’s being honored,” he said. “She works very hard to do what she does, and I know she appreciates being honored like this tonight. It makes me proud that she’s doing as well as she is.”

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