Faith, pageantry run in the family

Serena Larie follows in sister’s footsteps as Miss Oshkosh

OSHKOSH — There are many threads that go in and out amongst the family life of Ken and Annette Larie and their children. All are members of Most Blessed Sacrament Parish.

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Serena Larie, left, Miss Oshkosh 2016, has a special connection with her sister, Janelle Larie Galica, who also held the title of Miss Oshkosh in 2006. Their cousin, Susie Schoenberger, was also crowned Miss Oshkosh in 1960. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

“The threads all weave together, and it forms a basket,” said Ken Larie. That basket is constructed on the firm foundation of family and faith. All the members of the family have been constant and active volunteers with the church.

In March, the Laries’ second daughter, Serena, won the Miss Oshkosh scholarship pageant — exactly 10 years after her older sister, Janelle Galica, won the crown. But they weren’t the first in the family. A cousin, Susie Schoenberger, won the same title in 1960.

“Since the pageant started in Oshkosh, there have only been a certain number of people in the community” selected as the city’s representative, Annette Larie said. And three of them have come from this close-knit family.

Serena said Janelle introduced the Miss America organization to her and what it stood for, and she admired her sister’s service as Miss Oshkosh.

Serena received first runner-up in last year’s competition and “this year was my year,” she said. Her pageant message is advocating for “GIVE,” or Get Involved Via Engagement, which encourages people to use their talents to better their community. Whether it’s volunteering, serving on boards or giving blood, everyone can contribute, she said.

She won special honors during high school for donating more than a gallon of blood and posed for promotional materials for Community Blood Center. “What better way to give back than saving lives in your community?” she asked.

Serena is a communications major and business administration minor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She also stays active at church. She started as a cross bearer, then moved on to altar server, lector and occasional usher and cantor. She said giving back to the church has influenced her morals and values. “Not a lot of people realize the impact of it,” she said. “When I’m at church, I feel that I’m a part of the church and it’s really uplifting.”

Her sister, Janelle Galica, said she and her siblings are third-generation Oshkosh residents, and it was an honor to represent the city as Miss Oshkosh 2006. “It is one of those life-defining moments that changes your course and impacts you the rest of your life,” she said.

Faith and community service are important parts of the Larie family’s lives. Parents Ken and Annette Larie, right, are pictured with daughters Serena and Janelle, son-in-law Jeremy Galica, grandchildren, Ivy and Evan; and son Grant at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Oshkosh. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

Faith and community service are important parts of the Larie family’s lives. Parents Ken and Annette Larie, right, are pictured with daughters Serena and Janelle, son-in-law Jeremy Galica, grandchildren, Ivy and Evan; and son Grant at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Oshkosh. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

Janelle taught for six years at Madison Middle School in Appleton.

She now is the community engagement coordinator for the Day by Day Warming Shelter in Oshkosh and will graduate in May with a master’s degree in literacy from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

She calls her family a “jack-of-all-trades family” at church, but her special contribution is her musical ministry. “I’ve cantored since I was 17,” she said. “That’s when I feel the closest to God. I’m right up there on the altar. Both of my parents are eucharistic ministers, and, ultimately, I’d like to do that, too.”

Janelle’s husband, Jeremy, served six years’ active duty in the Army and now is a sergeant first class in the Reserves. He is the veterans’ academic adviser at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, and went through Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) about seven years ago. He has become active in the church, including ushering and serving as a former food chairman for the parish picnic. “When you’re part of a family like this, you want be a part of that, as well,” he said. “It has an impact.”

The Laries’ son, Grant, recently graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, and is an Eagle Scout. He has served the church as cantor, lector and usher, and often sings with his sisters for services.

“I think being involved in Mass helps keep me engaged in church as a young person,” he said. “By providing my service and gifts, it’s a way for me to give back.”

“Faith has been the core of our family identity and individual identities,” Janelle said. “It’s our faith that sustains us.”

That faith was firmly established for the family by Annette’s mother, Louise Schoenberger, who was a member of the former Sacred Heart Parish. “She was so faith-filled,” Annette Larie said. “She lived it. I can’t image my life without faith.”

Annette is the director of field placement for the Human Services Leadership program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. For the church, she has filled several roles, including baking for bake sales, doing parish laundry, lectoring and helping out at the parish picnic. She currently is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion.

“Faith is the foundation of my life,” she said. “It’s what anchors me and grounds me. It’s to be actively involved with the Mass.”

When Fr. James Jugenheimer, pastor, felt called to offer their church as the location for the Day by Day Warming Shelter, Annette said she felt called, as well. She served on the mission board for four years, and her family collectively has made and served many meals there.

“We’re so proud of our children for carrying on their beliefs and their faith in God,” she said. “We think they all enjoy and support each other as siblings. The faith they have enriches our life as a family.”

Serena Larie was crowned Miss Oshkosh at a scholarship pageant held March 12 at Alberta Kimball Auditorium. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

Serena Larie was crowned Miss Oshkosh at a scholarship pageant held March 12 at Alberta Kimball Auditorium. (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

The father of the family, Ken, is director of sales for Cal-Ray, a company which sells and services medical equipment for hospitals in upper Michigan, Wisconsin and areas of Minnesota and Illinois. He also has ushered at various parishes in Oshkosh and served as school board president and with the Unified Catholic Board.

He continues to usher and now serves as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. He also enjoys spending time at the perpetual adoration chapel at Most Blessed Sacrament-St. Mary site. The 24-hour-a-day chapel allows him to “be in the presence of Jesus Christ, pray and reflect,” he said. “It’s a great time to get close to God.

“The gifts, my family and the security that have come into my life have come through Jesus Christ,” he said. “He has been our savior and our strength in times of sadness and weakness. Anything we can give back in gratitude, respect and love, I just want to continue, continue, continue to give back to the church.”

“It’s about salvation,” Annette added. “Jesus is our salvation and there is no way to repay this. What we do honors the church I believe was started by Christ. These gifts we give are so small and they’re really easy to do, but it’s something. I saw the power it had in my (childhood) family, and I wanted to have the same for mine.”