News: Neillsville - Smiling for Samuel Memorial Completed (2022)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Strangfeld, Kapusta, Buffington, Genteman, Statz, Buchholz, Roehl, Listeman, Schmalz

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 10/05/2022

Smiling for Samuel Memorial Completed (2022)

Smiling for Samuel board members and Neillsville Area Chamber of Commerce representatives join together to cut the ribbon for the “I Knew You in the Womb” memorial in the city cemetery. Shown (l-r) are Janalee Kapusta, Lori Buffington, Sierra and Lee Strangfeld, Caitlyn Genteman, Whitney Statz and Alan Buchholz. Valorie Brecht/Clark County Press

By Valorie Brecht

On a dreary Saturday, supporters came together to recognize the completion of a memorial in the Neillsville City Cemetery that will help provide closure to grieving families.

Local nonprofit organization Smiling for Samuel held a ribbon cutting for the “I Knew You in the Womb” statue and walkway Sept. 24. The 900-pound bronze statue, designed by Timothy Schmalz, depicts an angel weeping over an empty crib. The plaque below it reads, “We remember the babies born sleeping./Those we carried but never held./Those we held but could not take home./Those who came home, but could not stay.”

Lee and Sierra Strangfeld of Christie established Smiling for Samuel in 2019. The Strangfelds’ son, Samuel, passed away Sept. 5, 2019, just a few hours after birth due to a condition known as Trisomy 18.

“They took this tragic loss and turned it into something beautiful for grieving individuals and families. [The memorial] will serve as a place of healing and comfort for years to come,” said Lori Buffington, who represented the Neillsville Area Chamber of Commerce at the event.

Janalee Kapusta also was there on behalf of the chamber, along with Smiling for Samuel board members Caitlyn Genteman, Alan Buchholz and Whitney Statz and Rex Roehl.

“The reason we did the statue is because not everybody has a place to go to mourn the loss of their child, and I know what it felt like in the year we waited for Samuel’s headstone, not having a place and visit and find closure in that,” said Sierra. “So, this vision started coming at that point and it’s taken almost three years to get everything here. So after a year of a lot of work and help from everybody in the community, we’re finally here so I’m really happy to have that and have this place for others to go.”

This newly installed bronze statue depicts an angel weeping over an empty cradle, providing a place to grieve for those who have suffered any type of infant or child loss. Submitted photo

In addition to the statue, there are two benches for a place to sit and reflect, and 35 personalized bricks along the walkway remembering loved ones who have passed away, and businesses and individuals who have supported the project. Bricks are available for purchase by contacting or calling 715-937-4944.

The ceremony concluded with the reading of a poem, “Look for Me in Rainbows,” and the opportunity for attendees to place a carnation in the crib part of the statue.

Smiling for Samuel continues its mission of helping and supporting families who suffer infant and child loss and also parents going through the journey of Trisomy 18, through various initiatives. The organization provides memory boxes to families challenged with infant and child loss, and sibling books to help siblings understand infant and child loss. Smiling for Samuel also provides $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors of Neillsville High School pursuing an education in fields related to infant or maternal health.

The public is invited to join Smiling for Samuel for its next event, the 2022 Run/Walk to Remember, in recognition of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The event will take place at Marguerite Listeman Park in Neillsville this Saturday, Oct. 8. The run/walk will start at 10 a.m. with registration beforehand. People can choose a 3K or 5K route. Visit the “Smiling for Samuel” Facebook page for details.




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