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Ferol W. Des Moines, IA

Ferol: Caregiver, widow, senior citizen

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[photos at http://www.retirementsecurityvoices.org/stories/ferol-wegner/]

Ferol Wegner is an 86 year-old member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. She has survivor benefits and a pension from her husband’s time in the National Guard. She has had five children, but her three oldest children had Muscular Dystrophy.

Her sons died in the 70s. Until she got married, Ferol worked as the book-keeper for the Wegner home improvement company run by her husband in Nebraska. She also sold toys seasonally when she needed to raise money for an elevator in their split ranch.

“Caregiving is a day by day process,” she stated. “From the time my oldest son was diagnosed until my youngest son died it was twenty years. Quite an experience.”

Although caregiving was not mentioned as such, it could be an around the clock job. Her husband earned the living and their system worked out.

Growing up, Ferol lived with her grandparents on a farm in northeast Nebraska during the depression. She learned from her maternal grandparent (a German immigrant) who had arthritis and never complained. Ferol and her brother helped her grandparents on the farm while her mother worked as a teacher. Ferol believes that she had wonderful role models in her grandmother, her mother, and her mother-in-law. She believes that you have to pass on love and faith to your children.

In 1963, Ferol and her husband moved to Des Moines, IA for the educational opportunities for their children. They sent their kids to the only school in the country for kids with physical disabilities. They started over. Her husband worked at Sears and Robuck and continued with the National Guard.

The Wegner’s provided physical therapy to their sons in addition to therapy at a local rehab facility. Now their children could live at home instead of at a school far away from home. The local middle school and high school were accessible and their sons ventured into the community to go to school. The local church had access for a veteran who was also a soloist.

The Wegners worked with Senator Harkin and others in Iowa to improve disability access and advocate for rights. In the 1990s, Ferol served on the Des Moines Park and Playgrounds committee to ensure accessibility. Ferol saw so many changes for the disabled, although it took a long time for those changes to be made. Major improvements have been made in health and education.

Ferol sees Iowa as a place where people have big hearts and come forward to help.