Sometimes, when you meet a group of friends in grade school or high school and promise to be friends forever, that promise comes true.
For Arlene Lassanske and Laureen Niedfeldt, residents at Heritage Homes, that commitment has lasted over 60 years.
The two women grew up in the Milwaukee area and met as high school freshmen in 1951 at Lutheran High School in Milwaukee. They had the same algebra class and would walk to their lockers together afterwards.
In fact, several other girls who had lockers nearby came together with Lassanske and Niedfeldt to form a club, the Jackels Club, which was named by taking the first initials of the girls’ first, middle or last names and forming a word with them.
There were six girls at the start. The number grew but some eventually dropped out, leaving nine girls “that stuck together all those years,” says Niedfeldt.
Lassanske and Niedfeldt remember going to sporting events and other school functions with the club, as well as having pajama parties and going to the beach. “They were all my sisters,” says Niedfeldt. “It was that close.”
After graduating from high school, the group made it a point to stay in touch, seeing each other each month. As they got married and had children, they would bring their families together for these visits, making their community of friends even larger.
“We did so many things together,” remembers Lassanske. “Some of our kids even went to high school together.”
At this time, says Niedfeldt, six friends are still able to get together. They visit each other in alphabetical order, one each month. Lassanske will be the next one to host a visit, which is planned for later in August.
Obviously, it’s not too hard for Lassanske and Niedfeldt when the other is hosting a visit. It turns out that the two friends moved in to Heritage Homes on the same day — by accident — and were surprised to find out that they had rooms right across the hall from one another.
That turn of events was only the culmination of a lifetime of connections between the two women, despite the number of moves they have made with their husbands and families since their high school days.
They and their husbands stood up in each other’s weddings, which occurred in the same year, 1958 — Niedfeldt’s in May, Lassanske’s in August. Their husbands also died only a year apart.
However, the main thread that they say has kept the members of the Jackels Club bound together all these years is their Lutheran faith.
“It makes you feel close together when you’re in agreement on the most important thing in your life,” says Niedfeldt. “It’s special.”
The two friends have had to rely on that faith — and each other — during hard times, too. Lassanske often visited Niedfeldt when the latter’s husband was sick, and now she volunteers to drive Niedfeldt due to Niedfeldt not being able to drive. Niedfeldt was also there for Lassanske when the latter got into a life-threatening car accident on Ash Wednesday in 1965 and lost her memory for a time.
Through all of it, Lassanske states, “God had a purpose.”
“Now we’re together,” adds Niedfelt. “Now she’s taking care of me!”