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Fifty years ago, Iris Kruenegel and her friend and neighbor, Carol (then Wasmuth) Fenton, thought it would be fun and relaxing for their friends and neighbors in rural Shobonier to have a “girls only” card club.
Thus, the Country Cousins card club was born.
Several of the original members still meet, along with newer members, for their monthly “girls night out,” rotating as hosts for their gatherings.
As they gathered in the Shobonier/Augsburg home of Ruth Summan for their September 2009 meeting, there was a lot of chatter and laughter … and food.
Iris Kruenegel tells the “Country Cousins” story.
“Carol said one time, ‘Let’s just start a card club. I said ‘OK.’
“So she came over to my house one Sunday afternoon, and we just went around the area and talked to the girls – we were young girls then – and they were all in favor of it,” she said.
“Why we started playing on Thursday nights, I really don’t know, but we had 12 come then. We played progressive pinochle, we had prizes and we always ate a lot,” she said, laughing.
Some were married and young mothers then, and they called it the “Little Mommies Club.”
“As the years went by, more of them got married, and we started a fourth table, Some quit, but the same bunch has been in a long time,” she said.
As many of them are related, by marriage or birth, they renamed the club the “Country Cousins.”
Of the original 12, two have died – Carol Fenton and Alberta Grandt. Charter members still participating are Kruenegel, Joyce Bertram, Janet Metzger, Evelyn Meseke, Betty Rethorn, Pat Riedle, Carolyn Sasse, Vivian Schmitt. Janet Schukar and Kay Schukar.
Most of the players have had the same card partners they began with.
Always There for One Another
They’ve been through weddings, anniversaries, funerals, illnesses, births … so many things together through the years, and have always supported one another. Members who have lost their husbands are Norma Gable, Doris Rubin, Marion Rubin and Ruth Summann.
They have also gotten together for special occasions and gone on outings, either by car or bus. They have gone to St. Louis, had picnics at Vandalia Lake and have held Christmas celebrations, drawing names for Christmas. Sometimes they have included their husbands and families.
Once a year, they draw for the month that each will hold the club meeting in her home. The exception is Joyce Bertram.
“She’s the only one, because she usually takes October,” Kruenegel said. That’s because the other members’ husbands are farmers, and October is a busy month for them.
“Years ago, a lot of us would be in the field late,” Kruenegel said, “and none of us liked to draw that (month), because it was hard to get in and get your house cleaned up and get everything ready.
“So Janet Williams, who does taxes, and Joyce took it. It just kind of worked out, and we didn’t complain,” she said.
As to drawing for the other 11 months, “We don’t have any trouble. Tonight we will draw names for Christmas gifts and for who’s going to have the months ahead,” Kruenegel said.
“I don’t think anyone has ever had a bad word … no one has ever gotten mad or anything,” Kruenegel said.
“We had one quit, because we play cards for fun and she said we just weren’t serious enough about it,” Jeannette Sasse said.
They usually play only about five games each night, probably because they just enjoy visiting and eating … and just having fun.
“That’s what it started out as, a night out, a night out from four kids,” Kruenegel said. Evelyn Meseke agreed.
“And every two years, the house gets cleaned,” Jeanette Sasse added.
Just For Fun …
Because this is their 50th year, an activity committee of four was appointed, rather than the usual two. The committee consists of Marion Rubin, Jeannette Sasse, Norma Gable and Kay Schukar.
Rubin said, “Since this is our 50th year, we decided to do a few extra activities. We always went together in the fall and did something real special.
“This year, for our fall activity, we saw ‘The Church Basement Ladies,’ a play at the Rosebud Theatre in Effingham, and went out to eat afterward at Ruby Tuesdays,” she said.
Last October, for our regular card club night, we dressed up for Halloween. In the spring, we had a pajama party.
“These activities remind us of the things we did for fun through the years,” Rubin said.
They also boarded a small bus and visited Aviston last spring, enjoying lunch and walking around the winery. In August, they had a potluck picnic at the Vandalia Lake for all club members and their families. About 65 people gathered for a day of just getting together and visiting.
… And Helping Others
“In January,” Rubin said, “we wanted to do something for someone in the community. We chose Carol Lutz. We had a potluck lunch at the church and took her some gifts.”
The members present for a recent meeting were Janet Schukar, Iris Kruenegel, Evelyn Meseke, Kay Schukar, Joyce Bertram, Carolyn Sasse, Jeannette Sasse, Fran Schaal, Nancy Schaal, Janet Williams, June Opfer, Ruth Summan, Norma Gable, Emily Ehrat, Marion Rubin and Loretta Harrison. Regular members unable to attend were Pat Riedle and Doris Rubin.
Members shared what the card club has meant to them:
• “When one hurts, we all hurt.”
• “It’s a chance to get out with the girls one a month.”
• “A lot of good years. I was sick once with Bell’s palsy, and I thought had a stroke. Everyone was so good to me, and the next day, they were all crying for me.”
• “We are close, so close.”
• “I’ll never forget when they knocked on my door and asked me to play cards. This is the only place I ever go.”
• “It’s like a big family.”
• “The fellowship, and if you’re sick, they are knocking on your door with food right away.”
• “I enjoy the trips we take. A lot of places I would never have gotten to go too.”
• “I just enjoy being with the girls and having fun.”
One word was repeatedly used in every answer – “friends,” which seems to be the thread that weaves the lives of these women together in closeness and enjoyment of their fellowship.
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines the word friend as “a person one knows well, is fond of, an ally, a supporter.”
It could also be defined as “a member of the Augsburg Country Cousins Card Club.”