PULASKI — Sue Winter doesn’t walk; she runs.
“If I see a need, I’m going to act,” Winter said, and although she’s retired she’s busy with volunteer activities galore. “I enjoy it,” the mother of four and grandmother of eight said. “I never say I wish I had something to do.”
Winter ran a beauty shop for 30 years out of her home off Highway 32 north of Pulaski — “The job’s a lot like counseling,” she quipped — then switched gears to deliver the mail in Gresham and later to work in the post office in nearby Krakow.
Both her Catholic faith and her concern for the welfare of others can be traced back to her upbringing in the Krakow area by her parents, the late Bert and Evelyn Terry. “We said the rosary around the bed every night, my parents, my three brothers and me,” Winter recalled. She still says the rosary daily, and, as she’s still in recovery from cancer, she prays “quiet and alone. to all my saints. I need all the help I can get.”
Living on a farm, she saw her mother care for an ailing neighbor and take care of the neighbor’s children. When her parents bought a tavern later, every Friday she and her siblings packed up a meal from the fish fry to take to the sisters and priest at the church in Krakow. “My parents never said we were doing something good,” Winter said. “That’s just how we were brought up.”
The wife of the late Tom Winter, Sue first got involved in parish ministries teaching CCD and first Communion preparation when her own children were young. She’s still an extraordinary minister of holy Communion at the parish. “You know how it is,” she said. “They draft you, and they keep on drafting you.”
She called becoming involved in the Council of Catholic Women at Assumption B.V.M. in Pulaski “the greatest gift I ever received.”
She explained, “I only had brothers, so the friends I made in the CCW, they’re like my sisters.”
Shyness is not an issue for her.
“If I see someone standing alone, I’ll walk up to them and say, ‘Hi, I’m Sue Winter. Are you new here?’ she said.
Being unafraid to take the initiative led to leadership roles in the local and diocesan CCW and other organizations like the Ladies Auxiliary of the American Legion and the Red Cross.
It was when she attended a National CCW convention that Winter said she became aware of the plight of women suffering domestic abuse.
She was instrumental in starting the “Lick Family Violence Campaign” to raise awareness about the issue in the Green Bay Diocese through the DCCW. To date the campaign has raised more than $200,000 for women’s shelters in the diocese.
After hearing Fr. John Girotti speak about the plight of the homeless, Winter began volunteering at St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter in Green Bay. Now every month she cooks a chicken dinner and takes five to seven people with her to help serve a meal there. “I never have trouble getting people to come with and help. I have wonderful friends I can ask for anything,” she added. “I always do the dishes. Somebody’s pushing them, and somebody’s pushing me.”
Visiting assisted living homes opened Winter’s eyes to another need: “There are so many lonely women,” she said.
She started The Marionettes, a group that sings at nursing homes and assisted living centers.
“It’s funny, because I’m a terrible singer,” Winter said with a smile, “but we have good singers. We have a piano player, a guitar and an accordion, and we do the old standards, ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ ‘Amazing Grace,’ ‘God Bless America.’ And we always finish with ‘The Hokey Pokey.’”
Although there are regulars, the group advertises its dates in the Assumption parish bulletin. “Anyone can come along,” Winter said.
“We don’t stand like a choir,” she added. “Everybody’s moving, touching folks. Afterward we sit and talk with the people, learn their history. There are a lot of older people that need a visit.”
Winter said she enjoyed organizing a Cemetery Walk during the Village of Pulaski’s centennial year, getting local people to dress the part of the founders of the town and tell their stories at the founders’ gravesites.
At another shelter for victims of domestic abuse, Golden House in Green Bay, she came up with the idea for a Birthday Bag project. Thanks to the very generous people of Pulaski, volunteers put together baking supplies, a cake mix and frosting, candles and maybe balloons so that mothers living at Golden House can bake for a child’s birthday. “I really like it because it’s something a mother can do with her kids,” Winter said.
“What I realized was that you don’t have to go to a Third World country to find women you can help,” Winter said, “they are right on your doorstep.”