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Mercyhealth requires employees to get vaccinated


The Mercyhealth system announced Friday that it would charge a fee to any employee who doesn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The fee will range from $60 to $265 per month, depending on what the employee is paid, according to a news release.

The “vast majority” of Mercyhealth employees are already vaccinated and wear masks in all patient areas, according to the release.

“Those who remain unvaccinated will be tested on a weekly basis and required to wear a mask at all times, even in non- patient facing areas,” the release continues.

The fee “recognizes the additional risk and added cost to Mercyhealth of being unvaccinated,” the release states, noting that 16-year-old drivers pay higher insurance costs because their age group is at higher risk for losses to the insurance company.

“We require all of our staff, in all they do each day, to assure patient safety while serving our patients,” Mercyhealth President and CEO Javon Bea is quoted as saying. “The new policy provides employees a choice while also encouraging them to get vaccinated, and the requirement of weekly testing and masking at all times assures patient safety.”

The release references research showing that unvaccinated employees are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19, be out of work for an indefinite amount of time and have increased hospitalization rates, exposing Mercyhealth to “additional risk and costs.”

“Mercyhealth continues to follow the science, and it is clear: The COVID-19 vaccine prevents serious illness, hospitalization and death, infectious diseases, and are (sic) the best way to battle this pandemic,” the release states.

SSM Health, which operates Janesville’s other hospital, told its employees in late June that they had three months to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

SSM Health offered exemptions for medical or religious reasons. The Mercyhealth news release did not mention an exemption.

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Janesville marks 20th anniversary of terror attacks


It has been 20 years, but the wounds of the Sept. 11 terror attacks are still with us, as is the need to fight terrorism, said speakers at Janesville’s 9/11 memorial ceremony Saturday.

Everyday Americans, they said, have a role in dressing the wounds and addressing the threats.

Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag, who was in the Army in Louisiana on 9/11, thanked the 150 or so people who attended the memorial in Firehouse Park, where a 9/11 monument was erected in 2012.

“Terrorists attacked our nation. They attacked our Constitution, they attacked our way of life, and they attacked each one of us as Americans,” Freitag said.

Freitag noted the attacks changed the ways authorities keep people safe, from airports to sports arenas.

Anthony Wahl 

Police Chief Dave Moore speaks during a 9/11 memorial ceremony at Firehouse Park in downtown Janesville on Saturday morning.

“We’ve also embraced this new mantra of ‘See something, say something,’ and that is, we have to be vigilant,” Freitag said. We have to be aware of our surroundings, and if something doesn’t look right, we need to be suspicious and we need to report it to authorities. …

“But those attacks did not change who we are as Americans—brave, patriotic, compassionate—and I pray that they never will,” Freitag said. “That American spirit rose to the occasion. In the following weeks, months and years, thousands more died fighting the global war on terror beyond American soil. Recently the war in Afghanistan has officially ended. Folks, I will tell you that our war against terrorism has not. And anybody who believes differently, I would offer, is kidding themselves.

“Terrorism is rooted in evil, and this is a sin-filled world,” Freitag continued. “We cannot concede to terrorism, and we will not let it tear our nation down.

“I call on all Americans … to put “united” back in United States,” Freitag said. “I encourage everybody to work toward common good with courage, common sense and collaboration. We can honor those that died on Sept. 11, 2001, and those that have died since by becoming better and making this nation a better nation today than it was 20 years ago.

“We need to embrace our diversity and recognize that our differences make us strong,” Freitag said. “We are the great melting pot, for through our freedom, our prosperity and our culture, we defeat the broken, misguided and evil actions of immoral, barbaric and murderous terrorists worldwide.”

Anthony Wahl 

About 150 people attended a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Firehouse Park in downtown Janesville on Saturday morning. Note the Janesville 9/11 memorial in the foreground, with a beam from the World Trade Center pointing east.

Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said “America let its guard down” before 9/11 and that security and intelligence gathering are much better now because of improvements made since then.

“The American way of life and our significant freedoms offer significant challenges to law enforcement,” Moore said. “We all want to enjoy our uninterrupted freedom. We also demand to be safe. These two rival interests are forever interconnected. So today we stand in the shadow of this monument. We reaffirm our honor to those that have passed. We affirm our respect for freedom, and we reaffirm our promise to be vigilant to indications of terrorism.”

Janesville Interim Fire Chief Jim Ponkauskus said the story of 9/11 must be passed to the new generation. Only 18 of the city’s 95 sworn firefighters were with the department 20 years ago, he said.

Ponkauskus pointed to one lesson of that day: the fragility of our lives. He quoted New York Fire Department EMS Chief Lillian Bonsignore: “Your today can end today, and what you have today you may not have tomorrow. You should spend every day just remembering that. And the people you have and the memories you have with those people can come to abrupt ending.”

Janesville police chaplain Jason Benjestorf asked God to comfort the survivors and dispel their anxiety and nightmares.

Anthony Wahl 

Boy Scouts with Troop 405 attend a 9/11 memorial ceremony at Firehouse Park in downtown Janesville on Saturday morning.

“May our suffering from these attacks awaken in us an awareness of the pain and fear that so many around the world live with each day,” Benjestorf said. “May we know how to pray for those who struggle against oppression and injustice. Heal the wounded of these attacks and help their family and friends rest in your security.

“Guide the choices of our world leaders. Give them wisdom and discernment not only as they work to resolve the lasting effects of 9/11 but also as they try to alleviate terror of all sorts. From genocide to hunger, from drought to bombings, may their actions bring your peace to all the people of the world,” Benjestorf said.

Boy Scouts from First Lutheran Church were there to support the organizers, Fire Fighters Local 580, as they have done for 10 years, said Scout Leader Rick Elliott.

The Scouts planted 343 small American flags in the grass, symbolizing the firefighters who died while responding on Sept. 11, 2001.

Anthony Wahl 

A color guard walks into Firehouse Park in downtown Janesville to present the flags at the start of a 9/11 remembrance ceremony Saturday morning.

The boys weren’t born when the attacks happened, Elliott noted, so the activity made recognizing 9/11 special for them.

“9/11 is for all the heroes that went there and saved other people’s lives, and a lot of people died during that, which is really sad,” scout Dylan Fowler said.

“All those people were heroes, who went in the buildings and saved lives,” scout Alex Snook said. “It means a lot because a lot of people died just for being human. They didn’t do nothing wrong. So it’s very important to me to learn about it.”

Anthony Wahl 

Miniature flags were placed at the foot of a flag pole for the 9/11 memorial ceremony at Firehouse Park in downtown Janesville on Saturday.

Obituaries and death notices for Sept. 13, 2021

Elizabeth A. Archambault

Marble LeRoy Blakesley

Susan Kay “Sue” Bouska

Betty Lou Drinkwater

Eileen M. (Paterick) Evans

Scott V. Francis

Kelly Jean Gray

Gary J. Hill

Kirk Hollenstein

Phyllis Jean C. Nelson

Ansil B. O’Connor Jr.

Trenton J. Ott

Cheri Lynn Paul

Jack David Street

Cindy L. Tabbert

Elizabeth Ann Welch

Jacqueline Wilson

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Memories remain for Janesville woman who lived in historic Milton Avenue house


Some say home is where you hang your hat or where you lay your head. For others, home is a place that embodies a life’s worth of cherished memories.

At 92, Janesville resident Mary Ann Venable looks back fondly on her childhood home—the Victorian built in 1870 and moved in 2015 to 340 Milton Ave. to make room for the Janesville Central Fire Station across the street.

Submitted Photo 

The John C. Jenkins House was built in 1870 at 327 Milton Ave. The house was moved to 340 Milton Ave in 2015.

The house is being restored by its owner.

“We had a lot of good memories in that house,” Venable said.

In the late 1930s, when she was in fourth grade, Venable’s family moved into a house. Her parents, Harold and Myrtle Boos, wanted to be closer to her father’s workplace, and the house was within walking distance of most places the family frequented.

“We walked everywhere,” Venable said.

As a student at St. Mary’s Catholic School, she walked to school and came back home for lunch. Football games at Monterey Park and stadium were also within walking distance.

Venable said the home was a gathering place for family and friends.

“It was just a big house where we could have a lot of company,” she said.

The kitchen was always open and ready to serve guests.

“They just ate whatever we had,” she said.

The Booses were Catholic, so they had fish on Fridays.

“Our house was always open for teenagers,” Venable said.

Sleepovers were common, as was music. Her father was a skilled pianist and was always playing for his family, teaching the children new songs regularly and giving them lessons.

Even when he was out doing yard work, Venable said her father had a keen ear for his children’s piano playing. Through an open window he could hear and point out incorrect notes even while mowing the lawn.

Venable said her mother had a lingering ailment that worsened over the years. That meant the children had to take on more of the housework.

The family owned five lots, so a lot of mowing and shoveling occupied their time.

One winter, there was an especially harsh snowstorm. Venable said her brother, Harold Jr., had gone off to war, leaving she and her two sisters, Kay and Jean, to shovel the snow.

“We took pictures” of the snow, she said, “and sent them to him (asking) ‘Where the heck are you?’”

Submitted photo 

Photos of the Boos family house on 327 Milton Ave. during a winter storm in 1945.

Christmases were always festive and eventful with a large, real tree and a fire going in the fireplace, Venable remembered. Because the country was coming out of the Great Depression, she said holidays weren’t as lavish as they might be today.

“You didn’t get a lot of gifts; you might get a handkerchief or a ribbon for your hair,” she recalled. “But we always had a nice meal.”

With their mother ill, the children helped make dinner. On one particular occasion, the sisters were charged with preparing the turkey.

“We didn’t know anything about (cooking) a turkey,’’ Venable said.

So in order to prepare the meal properly, the sisters went to a neighbor’s house to ask for help.

“We would go down the backyard, ask her what to do, go home and do it and come back to have her tell us what to do next,” she said.

As the years went on, Venable’s career aspirations came into view and she began working and saving up to train as a nurse. After graduating from high school in 1947, she attended nursing school and left the house. Around seven years later, her family moved out of the house and into a new one her father built.

Sixty years later, in 2015, the city of Janesville acquired the old Boos family home, along with several others nearby, to clear the area for the new fire station.

The house was purchased by Fred Harmon, who then had the structure moved across the street.

Submitted photo 

Mary Ann Venable (formerly Boos) sitting at her front porch during her senior year in high school in 1947.

“I thought nobody was going to buy it,” Venable said. “I’m glad somebody (did). ... Both my sister and I cried when they moved it.”

Venable still lives in Janesville with one of her sons. She lights up when discussing her former Milton Avenue home.

She said she accepts that the house will never be the same as when she lived in it. So she holds on to her memories that much tighter.

“I can still see my dad playing the piano and us kids dancing,” she said.