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Lunch sometimes comes with unexpected revelations

May 25, 2008
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer
Memorial Day migrated from a day to remember the military fallen to a day to also remember and honor family and friends who have died.

There’s no rule, however, about remembering just the dead people you knew and loved.

Case in point, three nursing teachers/instructors/professors — I’m not really sure how to explain what they do other than teach — from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Lincoln ate lunch together one day and started talking about what they remembered from childhood, even some of the stuff they didn’t actually remember.

Turns out, all three were born in Fort Dodge and have roots to the area.

Barb Bard Sitter is in her third year as assistant professor in the college of nursing at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Lincoln campus. Jami Lynn Kirkvold Fulwider is an instructor, and M.J. Benson Stanley is an assistant professor. At one time, Fulwider was a student of Stanley’s.

“We’re all here in the same building,” Sitter said. “We were having lunch, and the topic of Iowa came up. Somebody said, ‘I didn’t know you were from Iowa,’ and somebody else said, ‘Well, I didn’t know you were from Iowa.’”

But they were — all three of them born in Fort Dodge.

“It’s a strange commonality,” Sitter said.

Sitter, whose mother was a Mersch, moved with her family often as a youngster, but she went to Vincent and Eagle Grove schools during that time.

Fulwider, born Aug. 30, 1977, to Erwin and Darlene Kirkvold, also moved around a lot with family, and though her father worked in Fort Dodge for several years, she never attended school here.

For M.J. Benson Stanley, the tie to Fort Dodge goes deeper. Her parents, H.G. “Buck” and Louise Benson, are buried at the North Lawn Cemetery, and her twin brother, who died two days after birth, is buried at Babyland. She will be visiting the gravesites in August when she comes back to the city for her class reunion.

She’s a member of the Fort Dodge Senior High Class of 1968, which will celebrate its 40-year reunion.

Stanley, christened Mary Jane, goes by her initials, M.J., ever since her junior high history teacher, Gary Carr, started calling her that. The initials stuck through high school and nursing school, and that’s what her friends call her now.

After high school, Stanley graduated from Iowa Methodist School of Nursing in Des Moines, and from the University of Iowa with a master’s degree in nursing. She’s been teaching in Lincoln for the past 25 years — health assessment, pathophysiology and critical care nursing.

It’s funny, isn’t it — well, funny in an odd way — when people who have worked together for a long time suddenly realize a connection they never knew. In this case, thinking of the past made them realize they all started life in the same place — a hospital in Fort Dodge.

So did I. Born at Mercy Hospital because it was just a couple blocks from Mom’s parents house. Maybe I should study nursing, then get into teaching and teach with those three women.

Naw, I’m too old for that kind of a change. And if I were to change anything, I’d hope for body and soul sturdy and well enough to take a shot at riding bulls.

Ah, the memories that would make.

So long friends, until the next time when we’re together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or


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