Twila was married for 29 years and had two adult children when widowed at age 50. Even with the invaluable help and love of family and friends, it wasn’t until she found the companionship of Modern Widows Club that she was able to begin the process of moving forward towards a new future. Now six years into widowhood, she feels more ready for what lies ahead thanks to all the support.
Jean Lademann – Chapter Co-Leader
Jean was married 24 years. She and her husband, Jens, had just moved to their new community five years previous to his death in 2004. She was 57 at the time and had a grown daughter, from another marriage, and two grandchildren. Being in a newer community, away from family, with a job that was full of turmoil, she found love and support through friends and her church. She was blessed two years later when God opened doors for a new job in a different town. Being alone, the move was not easy, but helped her grow in strength and confidence. At the age of 66, she was finally able to retire and move back to her hometown after being gone for 23 years. It was there she found Modern Widows Club. Although it’s been 14 years since her husband’s death, she has had many changes in her life since then. She is now blessed with the support and many friendships through MWC. Something she could have used in the beginning. It has helped her grow and she has found new freedoms through the group. She also finds it very rewarding to watch new widows grow and find strength and confidence within themselves to go on in their lives. They start to blossom and find joy and happiness again. This is what it is all about, helping each other find ourselves and happiness again.
Karla Simpson – Chapter Co-Leader
Karla was married for 31 years and had two grown stepchildren and two young granddaughters when her husband, Randy, died in 2013. She was 57 years old. She was blessed to have the love and support of family and many friends at her side. Now, MWC has expanded that support, love, hope and courage to help her move forward into this new chapter of her life without the deep guilt, fear, pain and loss she once experienced.
Janesville is the home to a Modern Widows Club chapter, currently guided by leaders Twila Claas, Jean Lademann and Karla Simpson. The original chapter leader Annette Vogel Cox and co-leader Sherrie Szemraj became acquainted during a high school parent-teacher conference. They were both widows and slowly got to know each other. Their bond grew stronger with each shared struggle as widows. Their husbands’ deaths had changed their lives forever, but they were grateful for the chance to help each other refocus and find joy in their lives. Annette began interacting with other widows socially, choosing uplifting women that provided a safe place to laugh, cry and support each other. She soon felt a calling to help other widows find this same support and encouragement after the loss of their husbands. After discovering Modern Widows Club on Facebook in 2013, she immediately believed in this organization and sensed it could be an incredible way to spread the help she had received after her loss Striving to affirm and guide other widows to experience the encouragement and understanding, she started the Janesville Modern Widows Club chapter in January 2014.
One thing that widows must do is to embrace change and grow in our lives. In 2016, Sherrie stepped down as co-leader and Karla Simpson, after being actively involved as a member of the chapter, became the new co-leader.
From the growth and strength that Annette received from starting and leading the Janesville Modern Widows Club, she had the courage to open herself to love again She remarried in 2015. Her new life is taking her in new directions and she stepped down as leader in November 2018.
Twila, Jean and Karla are so honored and excited in becoming the new leaders of the Janesville Chapter. All have been active members of the group and have been enriched by it. As Annette did, they realize that “showing up” is the first and likely the most difficult step in growing and becoming stronger after loss. They have also been through intense grieving after losing their spouses and want to give back some of the support they have received. Being strong, sensitive and compassionate to those suffering a new loss, we desire to walk with other widows and to dream and be courageous together. We want to give back and empower all who find their way to our chapter