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Cashman: People you should know from 2012

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Ruth Dewitt was one of my favorite people of 2012.

Dewitt started receiving equine therapy treatments in June at BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center in Harvard.

The former McHenry resident was stricken with Huntington's disease. She was a patient at the Amberwood Care Center in Rockford.

Horses raised her spirits. Passages Hospice arranged visits to BraveHearts.

Northwest Herald photographer Sarah Nader's picture that accompanied a June story about Dewitt showed her riding a horse – tall in the saddle, with a huge smile on her face.

After her first lap around he ring, Dewitt laughed, and shouted "woo-hoo!"

"Go, Ruthie!" yelled one of her nurses.

Dewitt, 52, died in July. "Her last therapy session was the week before and she really enjoyed it, but declined rapidly," said Kaitlyn Henderson, communications manager for Passages. "She loved being in the spotlight the day your photographer came."

As part of the memorial service, her urn was taken to BraveHearts. The staff walked the urn around the stable on Ruth's favorite horse – Tali.

* * *

Donna Frett of McHenry got a second chance at life. After suffering from liver disease a good part of her life, Frett was hospitalized on June 6, 2005, with compete liver failure. "I was told I was not coming out." Two days later, there was a match, and Frett received a liver transplant.

Since then, she has devoted her time and energy to organ transplant awareness. The Donna Frett Organ Donation Foundation has raised more than $78,000 for various organizations, including the Restoring Hope Transplant House in Middleton, Wis., the Illinois Eye Bank, and the University of Wisconsin Organ Procurement Organization.

Her work has resulted in being named the recipient of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce 2013 Frank E. Low Award, which will be presented at its annual dinner Jan. 26.

"I'm glad to say I'm 57," Frett said. "I didn't think I would ever see 50."

* * *

It was August, and Ronald Koeller's beard was nearly Santa-Claus ready.

Koeller has for years played Santa Claus for the Crystal Lake Noon Rotary's Christmas program, which provides gifts to the county's underprivileged children.

"After Christmas, Santa goes back to the North Pole and the beard is gone," Koeller said.

He is active in the Crystal Lake chamber and volunteers at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington for stroke survivors.

Koeller turned 80 this month, and still works Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at his shop, R/K Autobody in Crystal Lake.

He's not the retiring type.

"I get retired every day," Koeller said. "I was tired yesterday, and I'm tired today."

* * *

“We want people to think of a slower time when they come in here,” said Edna McCall, owner of The Flag Store in downtown Crystal Lake. “That’s why we play the music-box music.

“We just think the building deserves to be slowed down,” McCall said of the former Raue Hardware store.

McCall's husband, Doug, was a printer. His legacy lives on in the basement of The Flag Store where printing equipment is still maintained.

McCall has written and printed a series of booklets about Crystal Lake’s history. One of her latest is “Forty-nine years of Crystal Lake History as We Have Lived it.”

“These are stories that should not be lost,” McCall said.

* * *

Every day is Earth Day at Roy Tessler’s house in Hebron. From the front it looks like a fairly normal four-bedroom home.

A plaque on the front door gives away its true nature: Earth Home.

Tessler was slightly ahead of his time when he built his earth-sheltered house in 1981. “I wanted to leave a small footprint,” said Tessler, 68, a retired carpenter.

“When I built the house, I was thinking about energy efficiency, but there’s more than just that,” Tessler said. “It’s not a toothpick house. This is a very firm, secure home, that high winds just roll over.”

He said years ago when he lived in Franklin Park, the roof was blown off his house. “That was never going to happen again,” he said.

This spring, he'll be mowing his roof with the rest of his lawn.

• Email ccashman@shawmedia.com

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