Bio: Struensee Family Reunion (Miracle - 2016)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Struensee, Payne, Degnitz, Shearer,

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 8/17/2016

Struensee Family Reunion (Miracle - 30 July 2016)

Struensee Family Reunion (Miracle - 2016)

By Nancy Curtin

Mother Nature gifted the Struensee family with sunshine and warm weather for their July 30 reunion at Snyder Park.

For the past 18 months, the family of the late Richard Struensee and Erdine (Struensee) Payne had been excitedly planning for this day. While most reunions consist of a meal, games and a group photo; this one also included a miracle.

Most of the family members live in the Neillsville area. Several family members from Utah experienced a unique journey to attend the reunion.

Erdine’s grandson, Jess Degnitz, faced his first-ever cross-country road trip, after being practically homebound for his entire life.

Jesse was born with spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair. His mother, Donna Degnitz, chose to raise her son in Sandy, UT, which is near Primary Children’s Hospital, for close proximity of his care and treatment.

After suffering a major stroke in March 2015, Jesse has been restricted to staying at home with very limited travel.

“Jesse needs me,” Donna said. “I’m his whole life.”

Thanks to his older brother, Glenn, who lives in Maryland, Jesse’s road trip to Wisconsin was made possible. Jesse was able to meet his grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins for the first time.

Glenn said after 10 years of searching, he stumbled across a mini-bus in fairly good condition at a reasonable price. With the help of many good friends, Glenn was able to renovate the bus to accommodate Jesse and his wheelchair for a safe and comfortable journey.

The bus has a carpeted floor and includes a futon and a TV with a DVD player. It is fitted with five seatbelts and a special place for Jesse’s wheelchair to be secured in place.

The retrofitted mini-bus has a carpeted floor and includes a futon and a TV with a DVD Player. It is fitted with five seatbelts and a special place for a wheelchair to be secured in place.

“It’s really nice,” Jesse said. “I think it’s pretty cool.”

When Glenn found the bus, the seller had a long list of buyers, many with the intention of flipping it for a profit. After Glenn shared his story, the seller gladly sold it to him.

Glenn and Heather Degnitz pose in front of the handicapped-accessible bus parked at Snyder Park July 30 during the Struensee family reunion. With the help of some good friends, Glenn retrofitted the bus to accommodate his brother, Jesse, their mother, Donna, and other family members on a 1,300 mile trip from Utah to the Neillsville area to attend the gathering. Glenn drove the bus from his home in Maryland to Utah so the family could begin their remarkable journey.

“He said he had hoped to find a family truly in need of the bus and that would really appreciate it,” Glenn said.

Donna said having use of the bus was a dream come true.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I never expected this, but I’m so thankful Glenn did this for Jesse and the family.”

Making the trip with Donna and Jesse were her daugher, Michelle, her grandson, Joe, and her two granddaughters, Hanna and Brianna.

Their journey from Utah began July 20, the day of Jesse’s 35th birthday. Over the span of three days, the road trip covered over 1,300 miles and included several pit stops and a few hotel stays.

“The whole trip was fun,” Jesse said.

Donna made several short trial runs with Jesse to prepare him for the long trip. She said he did fairly well on the excursion.

“I have wanted to do this since Jesse was born,” Donna said. “But it just wasn’t a possibility until now.”

Donna said Jesse has undergone 135 surgeries since birth, most of them on his brain. Despite his condition, he had been able to stay very active. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and biking.

After his stroke last year, Jesse hasn’t been the same. He suffered severe brain damage, causing him to become disoriented at times. He now requires 24-hour supervision every day.

“That’s why this road trip holds so much meaning for all of us,” Donna explained.

Donna and her family stayed with Tim and Bobbi Struensee in Neillsville. Jesse beamed from ear to ear when meeting members of his extended family. KUTV Channel 2 News put together a story about his visit, spending nearly three hours with Jesse and the family to gather information.

After arriving in Wisconsin, the bus needed replacement of the exhaust pipe and tires. Family members rallied to fix the bus, with Tim Struensee building a storage rack on the back.

The engine blew on Glenn’s way to Utah to deliver the bus. Glenn, Hannah and Brianna were able to stay with Josh Shearer (godfather of the girls) while the engine was being fixed.

After the reunion, Donna and her family rested for a day before heading to Maryland to spend some time with Glenn and his family.

The family of the late Richard Struensee and Erdine (Struensee) Payne pose for a photo at the Struensee family reunion held July 30 at Snyder Park. Jesse Degnitz, 35, who was born with spina bifida and has been confined to a wheelchair most of his life, was able to travel 1,300 miles from Utah to Neillsville to meet his grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins for the first time, thanks to a retrofitted mini-bus provided by his brother, Glenn. Shown above, (front, l-r) great-granddaughters: Brianna, Nadya and Abby; (middle) great-granddaughter, Hanna; grandson Jesse; and grandmother, Erdine; (back) great-grandson Joe; granddaughter Michelle; daughter, Donna; granddaughter-in-law, Heather; and grandson Glenn. (Photos by Nancy Curtin/Clark County Press)



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