A Lasting Tribute
When Al Ritsema moved his family to Oshkosh in 1968 to take a position at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, his wife Wilma became very involved in volunteer work. "She was looking for ways to serve," Al said. In 1982 she became a volunteer at Mercy Medical Center and achieved 5,340 hours of service over the next 18 years which included two years as president of the Mercy Medical Center Auxiliary.
Even a major stroke in 1996 didn't end her volunteer career. Instead, Al, who had retired, joined her at Mercy and they served as a volunteer team until 2000. "We enjoyed interacting with other volunteers and realizing that what we were doing made a difference for the patients and staff," he said. Although Wilma now requires nursing home care, they still get Mercy's volunteer newsletter. "That's what gave me the idea to establish a volunteer scholarship to honor Wilma and all her work," Al said. "She deserves it." His inspiration was the Natalie Kate Bolin Mercy Medical Center Student Volunteer Scholarship Award which was established by Natalie's family in her memory through an endowed fund within Mercy Health Foundation. Al has now done the same for Wilma by creating an endowed fund to award a $500 Wilma Ritsema Student Volunteer Scholarship annually to a Mercy student volunteer. The very first scholarship went to Karley Bartlett, a 2014 Lourdes graduate who will attend UW-O this fall.
"It's nice to know that after we're gone, it will continue and it's so easy to do." Al said. "It's a worthy cause. Health care is so important in the lives of people. It's a way of enhancing the work that is done at Mercy."