Grandchildren's Gift Honors Local Doctor's Commitment to Rainbow and End-of-Life Care
by: Kenyon Kemnitz, Rainbow Hospice Care
It’s one of the most meaningful and heartwarming gifts they’ve ever received. For them, it was the “ultimate” honor and one they’ll never forget.
But it wasn’t just an ordinary gift. When Dr. Fred and Cindy Gremmels gathered with their family for Christmas this past December, they received a shocking surprise.
Their middle daughter, Julie Kreblin, and her husband, Chad, teamed up with her two sisters (Jennifer Podolak and Jeanette Frawley) to make a $5,000 donation in Fred and Cindy’s name to Rainbow Hospice Care. That generous contribution will go toward the purchase of a fire pit for the new outdoor memorial space being built at the Rainbow Hospice Care Inpatient Center in Johnson Creek. The best part about the Christmas present was that it came from the Gremmels’ six grandchildren (Mya and Izzie Kreblin, Audrey, Peyton, and Britta Frawley, and John Podolak).
“It brought tears to our eyes,” said Cindy Gremmels. “Our grandkids are such a big part of our lives, so it means a great deal.”
"When Dr. Gremmels’ son-in-law asked if they could make a donation in honor of Fred and Cindy for to our memorial garden and present it as a Christmas present from their grandchildren, I was overwhelmed and grateful,” said Rainbow Hospice Care President/CEO Karen Carrig. “The Gremmels family, like so many others, recognizes the value of hospice care in our community and I think the love they have for one another also sets the tone for what this project is all about.”
Fred and Cindy Gremmels had a chance to look at the upcoming outdoor memorial project.
Thanks to the help of McKay Nursery, the project is now in its beginning stages with hopes to be completed later this summer.
“We wanted to do something to honor my parents’ love and commitment to our family and the community,” said their daughter, Julie Kreblin. “They have always been there for all of us and are both so willing to help others as well.”
To their grandchildren, they may just be Nana and Papa, but most people in the greater Watertown area know or have heard of Fred and Cindy Gremmels, and their tireless work in the community.
After coming to Watertown in 1976, Fred Gremmels spent 32 years working as a family physician before retiring from private practice in October 2008.
Since then, the Gremmels have been able to relax, enjoy retirement, and spend more time with their grandkids. The couple’s three daughters and their families live as close as 30 minutes to 2 hours away, so they can attend their grandchildren’s sporting events, school functions, holidays, birthdays, and even go on vacations with them to create everlasting memories.
(The Gremmels grandchildren: from left to right, Audrey Frawley, Izzie Kreblin, Britta Frawley, John Podolak, Peyton Frawley, and Mya Kreblin).
The Gremmels have found time to continue to give back to others. Fred spent several years volunteering at the Watertown Area Cares Clinic and was on the Board of the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation.
Cindy also kept busy as a former member and president of the Watertown Unified School District School Board and was active on the Library Board, the AAUW (American Association of University Women), and the Educational Foundation of Watertown, a non-profit organization that provides grants and financial resources for local classrooms. Both she and Fred are very involved in their church, Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Watertown, and volunteer for many church functions.
Fred has been an active member of the Rainbow Hospice Care Board of Directors since January 2010. During that time, he has helped oversee several operational and financial functions within the organization, including fundraising and community relations. He also played an integral role in raising community awareness of how hospice helps patients and their families.
“It was a real honor for me to be asked to join this board because when I practiced, I was always impressed with the level of care that Rainbow provided people at end of life,” said Fred Gremmels. “Not only managing their pain but especially involving and helping the family through the grieving process.”
Fred has seen the average daily census at Rainbow skyrocket over the past decade, including the launch of a palliative care program and the construction of the Rainbow Hospice Care Inpatient Center 11 years ago.
Rainbow Hospice Care has become an organization very close to the Gremmels family hearts.
Cindy’s mother, Elaine Banks, spent the last two months of her life as a resident of Lilac Springs in Lake Mills under Rainbow Hospice Care’s services before she passed away in March 2018.
“It really hit home for me during the last year of my mom’s life when Lilac told me it would help them a great deal if hospice could be involved,” Cindy Gremmels said. “And I said, ‘That would be wonderful.’” Rainbow came and they were great with mom and seeing them in action and helping gave me a new perspective.”
“Rainbow Hospice Care is a needed service in the community and our family has firsthand knowledge of the wonderful work they do there,” Julie said.
Fred is a loyal participant at Rainbow’s annual golf outing, usually forming a four-some with his son-in-law Chad. Cindy and Fred also attend the live auction and dinner following the golf outing and have donated for a hole sponsorship for several years.
“It feels great to give back,” Fred Gremmels said. “I have immense respect and appreciation for the work Rainbow does for patients and their families.”
It was during the live auction in 2021 that the Gremmels and other golf outing attendees got a sneak peek at Rainbow Hospice Care’s Brick-by-Brick campaign before it was released to the public this past November. Funding of this project provides an opportunity for families and friends to memorialize their loved ones served by Rainbow Hospice Care over the past 30+ years with a short, personalized message and to have a permanent footprint on the grounds of its inpatient center. Anyone can purchase a brick or make a donation. That friend or family member doesn’t have to be a past or current Rainbow patient. Those bricks will lay the foundation for the new outdoor memorial space that will include a fire pit, a pergola, and a water feature surrounded by a beautiful backdrop of plants, flowers, and shrubs.
The Gremmels then decided to purchase two bricks in memory of their parents. Now they will also have their name on a gift that will leave a lasting imprint on the community they continue to serve.
“Having an outdoor space like this will allow families to sit outside to contemplate and reflect,” Fred Gremmels said. “I think it will help the healing process and be a tremendous addition to the inpatient center.”
“Giving this donation in their name is a small way for us to recognize what amazing individuals they are and also provide a charitable donation to a wonderful organization my parents care about,” Julie said.
Besides being a special gift from their grandchildren, this fire pit will be a perfect centerpiece for patients and their families, who want to enjoy the peaceful and comforting feeling of being outside.
The outdoor memorial project is coming along. Here are pictures of what is looks like so far in May 2022.
“If you have ill parents, I think it makes a big difference. If the weather is good you get to go outdoors with them,” Cindy Gremmels said. “It’s almost like they come back to life to enjoy the outdoors. There’s something special about being surrounded by nature.”
Individuals and businesses have the option to purchase three different size bricks to honor loved ones or they may purchase a garden feature, such as a pergola or a bench. Donations can also be made in any amount to the outdoor memorial project by visiting www.RainbowHospiceCare.org or calling (920) 674-6255.
“It gives you a good feeling to say ‘hey, mom and dad, we loved you and we’re still thinking of you,’” said Cindy Gremmels.
Now, thanks to this very generous gift, our community’s loved ones will remain in the hearts of their families and friends forever.
“Our parents have dedicated their lives to their family and their community,” said the Gremmels youngest daughter, Jeanette Frawley. “Their genuine kindness is a blessing that leaves a mark on everyone they touch. This is a small token to honor the legacy they have created for their grandchildren.”
Rainbow will hold an outdoor celebration to unveil its new memorial space and have a brick dedication ceremony on Thursday, August 25 from 4-7 p.m. outside the inpatient center. The public is invited to attend, and more details about the event will be shared in the coming weeks.
Some bricks have already been laid outside the Rainbow Hospice Care Inpatient Center.