The Women

Learn more about the Beautiful Women here!

Meet October’s Finalists

Posted by on Sep 30, 2012 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Shannon Flammond

I’m nominating my sister Shannon. Many people may already know her because she has made it her goal to help teens and I mean any teens. On December 12 2010 she lost her son Forrest to suicide. It was not something anyone saw coming. Her boys were and are still her life. She has managed to keep pushing through and surviving for her family. She has made it her own personal goal to be her sons voice and help others kids in crisis. Simply because she loves kids and does not want another mother to go through what she has gone through. She is also the woman I trust to watch my lil girl and my daughter is so blessed for this. These two have so much fun together. She also helps take care of our father everyday who suffers from Parkinson’s. She does this all with a smile and love because family is her life! Thank you for your consideration.

- Angie Madaus Young


Diane Marthaler

Diane Marthaler or as everyone calls her “Toot” is the most beautiful women and should be recognized. She has been battling breast cancer since 2008 and was diagnosed August 27, 2012 as terminal. Through out her journey she has continued to be positive and fills her days with laughter and never has questined “why” .. rather focusing her time on her husband, Scott , 2 children Ashylnn and logan and living each day to the fullest. Every day she continues to amaze me with her faith in god. Since her terminal diagnosis rather than pity herself she has strived to get things done so that she will be able to leave her legacy to her children and her husband, spending many hours writing birthday cards, wedding cards , baby cards for her children to have when these events occur knowing that she will not be there to witness, but they will have her “words” to offer comfort to her children and loved ones. Her true testimate and ultimate faith blew me away when her and I recently spent a few hours together and she said to me. I am not afraid, the place I am going is wonderful its my loved ones here I worry about and that makes me sad that they will be sad. Her caringbridge site has close to 14,000 visits and the guestbook entries tell the story of how her life has impacted to so many and I am just one of the hundreds that my beautiful friend Toot has impacted. I hope that you will consider Diane ( Toot ) Marthaler as one of your beautiful women – she is amazing and her story of Faith and the obsticles she has went through and never consentrating on herself always about others. Even on her last few months on this earth waiting her body growing weaker and waiting for God to take her she fills her day making others laugh and making sure her legacy to her children and loved ones is fullfilled.

Visit her CaringBridge site.

-Pam Knapper


Holly Novacek

Holly Novacek is my best friend and the mother of 2 1/2 year old twin boys, Jacob and Brennan. When Holly was 24 weeks pregnant she was told that one of the twins had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Due to the heart condition Holly had to deliver the boys in Minneapolis so she could be near the team of specialists that would immediately have to take Jacob. She spent the last half of her pregnancy on the phone fighting with insurance, at ultrasounds every week, and arranging for a place to stay in the cities while most moms are concerned with nursery colors, names, etc. Many times you could see that Holly was on the brink of breakdown but she always held it together. Near the end of her pregnancy she was so miserable and uncomfortable but never complained because to her it meant that Jakey had the opportunity to get a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger while in utero. Once the twins were delivered Holly had to bounce back and forth between caring for Brennan while staying at the Ronald McDonald House and also being up at the hospital to watch over Jacob and prepare for the first of his three open heart surgeries, all after having a c-section. Again, never did she complain of the discomfort she felt. Once the family was all back at home in Fargo Holly kept it all together while trying to care for a newborn that just had open heart surgery and trying to also meet the needs of another newborn. All went well but they knew they had another surgery looming over them. Holly stays home with the boys and in the beginning this often meant she spent her days trying to get Jacob to eat without getting sick and still meet Brennan’s needs. At a little over a year Jacob had his second surgery and the recovery process started all over again, only this time it went a little slower. It’s been over a year and now Jacob’s 3rd surgery is coming up. There are mixed feelings of relief to have them all done and dread of having to do it all over again, however, Holly is as strong as ever and cherishing every minute with her boys. Holly has become very involved with different organizations and helps find resources for parents that have a child with some type of Congential Heart Disease. She has done several walks and fundraisers and is involved with Project Carson to help raise awareness. Just recently Holly completed her first 10K in honor of Jacob. I believe this shows that she is just as strong physically as she has been mentally and emotionally. She is an awesome mother to these two handsome little boys and I don’t think there is anyone more deserving of the Beautiful Woman Award!

- Lorraine Albrecht

Fill out my online form.

Michelle Pagel

Posted by on Sep 21, 2012 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Michelle is my mom who is the strongest person I know.In the last 3-4 years she has gone through so much to include a neck injury that almost left her to be a quadraplegic, was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer had the surgery was in remission for 2 years and just recently was told that the cancer is back and unoperable this time.She also has been diagnosed with RA. My mom would do anything for anyone and would give the shirt off her back. Because she is soo positive and strong I know that we will fight all this will prayer and support of all that surround us.I wish for her to be nominated as the most courageuos strong willed person I know!
Tanaya Halvorson

Diane Marthaler

Posted by on Sep 21, 2012 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Diane Marthaler or as everyone calls her “Toot” is the most beautiful women and should be recognized. She has been battling breast cancer since 2008 and was diagnosed August 27, 2012 as terminal. Through out her journey she has continued to be positive and fills her days with laughter and never has questined “why” .. rather focusing her time on her husband, Scott , 2 children Ashylnn and logan and living each day to the fullest. Every day she continues to amaze me with her faith in god. Since her terminal diagnosis rather than pity herself she has strived to get things done so that she will be able to leave her legacy to her children and her husband, spending many hours writing birthday cards, wedding cards , baby cards for her children to have when these events occur knowing that she will not be there to witness, but they will have her “words” to offer comfort to her children and loved ones. Her true testimate and ultimate faith blew me away when her and I recently spent a few hours together and she said to me. I am not afraid, the place I am going is wonderful its my loved ones here I worry about and that makes me sad that they will be sad. Her caringbridge site has close to 14,000 visits and the guestbook entries tell the story of how her life has impacted to so many and I am just one of the hundreds that my beautiful friend Toot has impacted. I hope that you will consider Diane ( Toot ) Marthaler as one of your beautiful women – she is amazing and her story of Faith and the obsticles she has went through and never consentrating on herself always about others. Even on her last few months on this earth waiting her body growing weaker and waiting for God to take her she fills her day making others laugh and making sure her legacy to her children and loved ones is fullfilled.

Her caringbridge site is www.caringbridge.org/visit/dianestirling

Pam Knapper

Tara Field

Posted by on Sep 21, 2012 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

THE REASON THAT I AM NOMINATING TARA IS BECAUSE SHE AND HER FAMILY HAVE BEEN THROUGH A LOT OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS-LOST HER HUSBAND TO MELANOMA CANCER, HER MOM ALSO TO CANCER, AND A FEW OTHER KNOCKS HERE AND THERE. THE THING IS SHE ALWAYS HAS SUCH A GOOD OUTLOOK ON LIFE. TARA BELIEVES THAT THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING GOOD THAT CAN COME OUT OF THE BAD. HER DAUGHTER AND HER HAVE ORGANIZED A 5-10 K WALK THAT HAPPENS IN LANGDON EVERY APRIL, THEY THEN DONATE ALL THE PROCEEDS TO THE MELANOMA RESEARCH IN MNPLS. I JUST THINK THAT TARA WOULD MAKE A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN BECAUSE SHE IS…

Meet your September Nominees

Posted by on Aug 29, 2012 in Blog, Featured, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Bea Ihlenfeld

Just shy of hitting the century mark, Bea Ihlenfeld exudes an energy many young adults would desire. An avid swimmer, Bea often jokes she is able to stay so active because she is “preserved with chlorine.”

Given her lifelong passion for fitness and sports, it’s no wonder she maintains a full lifestyle – despite her own physical limitations due to arthritis. For more than 30 years, she was a swimming regular at the local YMCA. Now at age 99, Bea swims three times a week at the Touchmark Health & Fitness Club. And, if that’s not amazing enough, just two years ago at the age of 97, Bea shared her love of swimming by teaching youngsters – 80-year-old Touchmark residents – how to swim.

Bea came of age at a time when girls’ sports were not commonplace; as a result, she is a strong advocate of girls’ sports at all levels. Aside from fitness and sports, teaching is the other major pursuit in Bea’s life. In her professional life, she was a physical education teacher in the Fargo Public Schools for many years and later was the assistant principal at Fargo North High School. As evidenced by her willingness to give swimming lessons to her fellow Touchmark residents, she is a teacher at heart who loves helping others succeed.

Bea’s inner beauty shines in the way she exudes kindness and compassion. Whether it’s from the smile on her face, the kind words always spoken, or her ability to overcome her physical limitations, Bea truly is an inspiration to all she meets. As a result of this, it is with great pleasure that we nominate Bea as one of the Beautiful Women of North Dakota.


Holley Jemtrud
My sister and I want to tell you about our mom. She is the most amazing person in the world. Our Dad drives truck out in the oil fields and so she is basically a single parent. BUt here is her story. My mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer back in Feb. She had to go thru 9 weeks of chemo and radiation. She was working full time then and still went to work everyday all day still not sure how she pulled that off but she did. She never once complained and continued to take care of us kids no matter how bad she was feeling. We don’t know how she does it cause my sister and I are no angels by any means. She has since been cleared by the Dr’s and is in good health. After being thru this with my family my sister and I have come to appreciate everything our mom does for us no matter how little ir bug it may seem. We are very fortunate to have her. Thnigs could have been so different for our family. I want everyone out there to know how much we love and appreciate our mom. If you would feature our mom this would be our way of saying thank you to her and letting her know how much we really appreciate her and EVERYTHING that she does. I asked my little sister who is 7 what is the one thing she loves about my mom and she said ” The way she smiles at me”. I am a boy who is 11 and doesn’t cry very easy but that brought tears to my eyes. I would have to say that i agree with my sister now matter how bad things were or how bad she may have felt she ALWAYS had a smile on her face. We just want to say “We Love you MOM. YOU ARE OUR ROCK. Nick Jemtrud

(Holley was nominated last year by her husband. This is his nomination)
My wife should be featured as she is my ROCK! I drive truck over the road which means I am gone quite a bit. We have two children a boy who is 10 and a girl who is 6. Our little girl has some medical issues and is going thru a lot right now and my wife is pretty much having to deal with it by herself. She keeps the family together and always has a smile on her face. She never lets the kids know that she may be sad or upset and she never complains to me on the phone or gets upset because I am unable to be there for her when she needs me. Being married to a truck driver is like being a widow sometimes.This would be my way of saying “I love you and I appreciate everything that she does” Please help me out.


Susan Rohde
Susan is the mother of 4 (ages 10,9,6 and 4) including son Jaxson who has Williams Syndrome. Having a special needs kid takes a lot of Susan’s time but she still works full time as a professional inpatient coding specialist for Lake Region Healthcare Corporation and volunteers for numerous organizations. Including being an official for the Fergus Falls Flyer Swim Club along with being Secretary of the Home and School board at the kids school. She truly is the definition of beautiful—”delightful to see, hear or experience; lovely to the senses; having beauty”—-both inside and out. She has a way not only with her kids but also with her friends, husband and co-workers in making them feel that they are the most important person in the world. Beauty definitely is in the eye of the beholder but anyone that knows Susan will tell you she is beautiful in many ways—even with her 9 tattoos. Mickey Rohde.

For more than 20 years, Penny Andrist has inspired kids with beauty of joy

Posted by on Aug 27, 2012 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

For more than 20 years, Penny Andrist has inspired kids with beauty of joy


FARGO – Penny Andrist greets her guests at the kitchen door with a homemade cake and a huge smile.

“Come on. I know you want some. It’s mostly butter and sugar and a little almond extract. What could be better?

The only thing missing is the chocolate,” she says with a laugh.
You’d guess that Andrist, her family and “pals” have done plenty of laughing in this kitchen. With its bright pumpkin orange and sunny yellow walls, it exudes warmth, exuberance and fun just like its owner.

Andrist has used that enthusiastic spirit to teach, nurture and entertain thousands of children for more than 20 years. For that reason and more, Penny Andrist is our Beautiful Woman for August.

Since the late 1980s, Andrist has delighted children in our region with her “Penny and Pal’s” concerts, workshops and recordings. These days she’s given up wearing her trademark overalls (“They just get too hot.”), but she’s kept the bevy of quirky characters she helped created: Bernie the Bear, Allie Alligator and Rockin Robot, just to name a few. Penny never envisioned this would be her life.

She describes herself as “shy” growing up with five brothers and sisters in the small northwestern North Dakota town of Crosby. She was musical along with the rest of her family. But as a kid, she chose to pursue sports, in part, she says because she wanted to find her own niche, and she wasn’t thrilled with being compared to her accomplished and musically talented sisters. (Older sister Pamela Burns is now the artistic director of the Lake Agassiz Girls Choir in Fargo).

Eventually, she graduated from Minot State University and got a job as a learning specialist for Williston Public schools. She and teaching partner Gail Benson were finding it hard to reach some of their students with learning disabilities when Benson suggested they use Andrist’s guitar in class.

“Music just taps into a different part of your brain. There’s science behind why it works. So we decided to try it,” says Andrist.

They soon found the music got through to the children like nothing else. Andrist began to write songs, and after about six years, in 1990, she and Benson decided to take a “leap of faith,” leave the classroom and move to Fargo to start recording songs and pursue a career in children’s entertainment.

They named their new business, “Kids Kollectibles,” which she says in hindsight was not a good idea.

“We used to get calls all the time from people asking if we sold cribs or furniture,” Andrist says.

A name change was needed, and because Andrist was front and center and Benson was more behind the scenes, it made sense to name the group after her.
“Penny and Pals” was born.

Andrist says in the beginning it was hard to book their gigs, “The Fargo Park District was great in helping us get our start. We started with park events, and that lead to festivals and bigger shows.”

Children in the community began to respond to Andrist’s mix of songs and silliness. She started with the simple ABC’s using characters to teach her audience about letters and reading. In addition to Allie, Bernie and Rockin’ Robot, Penny brought children the “Copycat Rap,” “Pig Parade” and “Uncle Underwood’s Unbelievably Ugly Underwear.”

She says she’s loves singing all the old classics, but longs to sing her newer material, too.

“I’m sure it’s the same thing Springsteen goes through,” she says with a laugh.

But over the years, not only have Andrist’s songs changed, their purpose has: from simple literacy to self-esteem and character building.

“In addition to the more traditional things we were doing, we decided to take on the platform of becoming a ‘very good me.’ I’d ask the kids, ‘What does that mean to you?’ More than anything, I want to communicate to them that ‘You are amazing just the way you are, you have a special place in this world, you should be good to people, and take care of yourself.’ And that’s all that really matters.”

Jacky Arness, a sophomore at Bethel University in St. Paul, guesses she was about 4 years old when she first heard Penny and Pals. She ended up getting the chance to sing with Penny on her “Wiggle, Giggle and Sing” CD, and she appeared in one of Penny’s videos. It was one of the first performances for Arness, who went on to appear in many local productions, including starring roles at Trollwood Performing Arts mainstage musicals.

“Penny and Pals is what made me fall in love with performing,” Arness says. “It taught me at a young age to be comfortable with who I was, and to be unafraid to show what I was capable of to others. Penny was the key ingredient in making that happen. Her enthusiasm and genuine interest in each child made you feel valued and capable.”

Andrist says she just loves seeing kids from those early years all grown up and sometimes bringing their own small children to a Penny and Pals show.

“It makes me feel so good really. They obviously had a positive experience with me, and they want to share it with their children. It’s great!”

And while she’s 20 years older now, she says she doesn’t have trouble keeping up with this generation of fans.

“I think I can still outlast them,” she says with a laugh. “It’s really a reciprocal thing. We feed off each other’s energy.”

She says grown-ups can make her cranky and anxious. Not so with kids.

“I never had kids of my own, but I just love them. I’m completely comfortable with children. I’m as happy as I can be. I don’t find anything as intoxicating as watching children be joyful,” Andrist says.

And the adoration seems to be mutual. Benson, who nominated Andrist, says she thinks children see Penny as a favorite friend or playmate, “Kids and their grown-ups feel the warmth and real connection that Penny has with children, and her passion for helping them grow,” says Benson.

Still Andrist has had times where she questioned her life’s choices. She recalls the long trip to perform in the small town of Circle, Mont.

“When we got there, they didn’t have anything we needed. No sound system. Nothing. I was kind of crabby – thinking what am I doing here?”

They managed to put on the show anyway. It was a small crowd, but Andrist noticed a young girl in the front row.
She was obviously disabled in some way. She just sat there unresponsive as Penny performed. But then after the show, the girl came up on stage and starting talking and singing into the microphone.
“Her teacher came up to me and said, ‘We’ve never heard her talk before. This is the first time she’s uttered a word.’ I went from thinking I need to get a job to realizing I have one.”

That job means doing about a 100 shows a year throughout the Midwest and beyond, and trying to market her seven CDs, and one DVD. She also works in children’s ministry at her church. She doesn’t know what the future holds or how long she’ll do this. But for now, she’s living in the moment.

“Right now I feel good. I feel like this is exactly where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to being doing. When I’m doing these shows, I really feel like God is saying, ‘Here’s why I created you.’”

More than anything she says she wants to feel like she made a difference.

“I want people to think that I had a positive impact on their life, that I’m full of joy, that I’m funny and charming, and of course, extremely good-looking.” More laughter.

All joking aside, she dismisses herself as a Beautiful Woman.

“I don’t feel beautiful at all. What is remarkable is that I figured out exactly what I wanted to do and I had the courage to do it.”

And children all over the Midwest are better because of it.

Congratulations
Congratulations to the other nominees for August: Dawn Peters and Roxane Romanick.
On the air
Penny Andrist will be on The Christopher Gabriel Program on 970 WDAY today at 11:35 a.m.
Online
For more information about the Beautiful Women project or to nominate your own beautiful woman, go to beautifulwomenof.areavoices.com.


Tracy Briggs is the digital content development director for Forum Communications.

Alma Pusic

Posted by on Aug 21, 2012 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Alma is my aunt and is the strongest/bravest person I have ever met. She truly is The Most Beautiful Woman.
After a tough life, she escaped war torn Bosnia and moved to USA as a single mom in 1996 with two boys ages 14 and 10. She also had to leave her daughter Maja behind because her father would not let her go.
In 2003 she was diagnosed with lung cancer. The struggle has been hard. SHe has undergone several surgeries including one removing brain tumor,several chemotherapies and many tests.
Alma and her boys lived in Florida but with economy being so bad, she relocated to North Dakota in June so her son could have a job and a chance for a better future. She faces her illness with dignity and humor. When she arrived to North Dakota and we picked her up at the airport, it was a rainy day, she joked about rain messing up her “hairdo” We all laughed. She loves watching Tampa Bay Rays and has gone to few games herself when she lived in Florida.
In July, we found out that her cancer spread to her liver and bones.You will never hear her complain. When you ask her “how are you doing Alma” you will almost always get the same answer “It will be better” I sure hope so, Alma, I sure hope so. Maya Schmoll

Barb Jensen

Posted by on Aug 21, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Barb Jensen should be your Beautiful Woman! Barb demonstrates the beauty of giving, kindness, and hospitality each and every day. Barb is a Social Worker by trade and education, and has used her gifts to give to others personally and professionally. She and her husband Steve have operated a foster home for troubled teen girls in the past. They now operate both a resort on Otter Tail Lake as well as an Adult Foster Care in their own home. Barb is such a good example to others as a hard worker and someone who gives of herself so that others can have it a bit easier, without a complaint, and always with a smile. She is incredibly busy, but never too busy for her grandchildren, family , friend, or anyone who needs a helping hand. – Rebecca Robertson

Meet your August nominees!

Posted by on Aug 1, 2012 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Meet your August nominees!

Penny Andrist

Penny Andrist has been entertaining and educating children for over twenty years though her magical show, Penny and Pals. Kid and their grown-ups feel the warmth and real connection that Penny has with children, and her passion for helping them grow. Her shows are fun, heartwarming, and active. Children see her as their favorite friend and playmate.
Her topics are building character, building healthy habits, and building relationships. Her pals help her make those points in a most entertaining way.
Penny began her work in a public school classroom with at-risk learners. As teacher and mentor, she realized she could reach even more children through her work onstage and in workshops for kids. Her career includes working with other organization to develop curriculum and activities that enhance learning and bring concepts to life through music and active engagement.
Penny and Pals has received numerous national awards such as Parents Choice, Parents Council, and others recognizing her work for its educational value and appropriateness for children.
Penny is a beautiful woman of ND – ask any kid!

Dawn Peters

A beautiful woman devoted to everything she touches: Dawn Peters is such a spectacular woman, one I could only dreamt of being. Although there is more than twenty years difference in our ages I admire her so for all that she is. First and foremost she has raised three of the most intelligent, polite, kind and loving children. I wished I’d have known her 50 years ago when I began raising my children not that mine aren’t very successful adults, but she would have been a perfect role model. There will be a time when she is just a kid playing stupid games with them, but also a time when she is their mother, their disciplinarian. That’s how they got to be who they are. She holds down a full time job as an officer of the ND Juvenile Court. A forty hour job that sometimes takes her all over the state. She cares deeply for these children that she works with trying to make them see where they are going, and where they should be going. Dawn has a very serious disease but it doesn’t hold her down. She is a runner. She runs 5-7 miles every day. She does a 5-10K for every event in town plus of course the Fargo Marathon. When you say does she have time for her husband? She makes time. He runs with her, does things around the house with her, they roller blade, ride bikes, and loves her. One of their great families secrets is for everyone to be home for dinner each night if they aren’t working. And then there is their ‘Special Sunday Night’, A Night everyone is together watching movies, things they have taped, or just playing games. The oldest son has just finished his first year at MSUM but rather than run with his friends you will find both he and his wonderful girl friend home with family. The same with his sister who is a senior graduating this year and her boy friend. They love home because Dawn has made it a comfortable loving environment. Somehow she makes time to be my best friend. With a wit that is quicker than you can think. When I want to have a really good time or I just need her, she makes room in her calendar to spend with me. I am so fortunate to not only have worked with her in the past but also have become her friend. Her plate is so full I wonder all the time how she does it all baring no mistakes with the love she has for all of us. It is my privilege to call her my best friend. Bonnie Ruscheinsky

Roxane Romanick

Roxane is truly a beautiful woman. She’s dedicated her life to helping children & families.

She is a strong advocate for children with disabilities, especially Down syndrome. She’s grown the local Down syndrome support group, Designer Genes, and is co-coordinator of the awareness Buddy Walk, now in it’s 8th year. She visits new families when they get a diagnosis or have a child with DS and brings them care packages, and more importantly excitement for their precious child.

She works to connect families with early intervention services to ensure children get the best possible start to an amazing life. And she strongly advocates for services families both on national committees and in our local legislature.

Roxane was the person who visited me when I had my child with DS. She brought hope and friendship that I have been inspired by for the last 10 years. She’s truly a beautiful woman.

July’s Beautiful Woman: Two-time organ recipient Kristi Fabre looks at life with the beauty of optimism

Posted by on Jul 31, 2012 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

July’s Beautiful Woman: Two-time organ recipient Kristi Fabre looks at life with the beauty of optimism

GLYNDON, Minn. – Kristi Fabre giggles as she poses with her husband Ryan in the farm field behind their house in Glyndon.
It’s hot and muggy. But the thick air isn’t what stands out most. It’s the blinding brightness of it all: The golden wheat, the blazing sun and Kristi’s broad smile.
This woman, nicknamed “Smiley” by an uncle, has a “what-the-heck” attitude that serves her well as a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, nurse and organ-donation recipient. Her strength, advocacy and infectious optimism make her the Beautiful Woman of July.
As Kristi gives a tour of her home, it’s hard not to notice all of the family photos. Beside the couch are the smiling faces of nieces and nephews, who are obviously the apple of Aunt Kristi’s eye. There are also photos of Ryan Fabre, the high school sweetheart she married four years ago.
“We’re best friends. We have a lot of fun together,” she says.
You get the sense that fun and family are a big part of her life and the driving forces in getting for this 28-year-old registered nurse through some rough times.
It began in the summer of 1990, when Kristi was 6 years old and soon to start first grade. Her mother, Nancy Nelson, says Kristi was suffering from flu-like symptoms and a low-grade fever. Doctors told Nancy it was just the flu. But a couple of days later when Kristi was still lethargic and dehydrated Nelson decided it was time to take her to the emergency room.
“We spent hours in the ER – finally they came back with the Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome diagnosis. Kristi was in kidney failure,” Nelson says.
Nelson says the disease was brought on by E-coli poisoning. They were never able to determine how or where Kristi contracted the bacteria, but it was serious. She spent almost two months recovering in the hospital.
Nelson says through it all, Kristi was incredibly brave.
“I really only saw her cry once – when a port in her neck had to be removed,” Nelson said. “She even sent me out of the PICU when a new procedure was going to be done. I found out later she didn’t want her mom to cry anymore so she wanted me to not have to watch. She even sent us home from the hospital at night – telling us she could sleep there by herself.”
When Kristi was discharged from the hospital, doctors required her to go to dialysis twice a week for six months. But even as a very little girl, Kristi doesn’t feel like the illness slowed her down much.
“I guess you could say I was a healthy sick,” she says.
After a few months, doctors said Kristi’s kidney function was strong enough to stop dialysis. They carefully monitored her for the next three years and everything was fine.
But by the summer of 1993, Kristi’s blood pressure was up and her kidney function was declining. It was time to talk transplant.

Kristi Fabre. Bill Marcil Jr. / The Forum


Family was the first option, and even though doctors initially advised him not to, Kristi’s dad Kevin decided he would donate his kidney to his little girl.
The surgery was a success. Kristi’s body took to the new kidney, and she continued living a pretty normal Minnesota childhood. She loved the lake, hanging out with friends, and taking part in gymnastics, dance, and even state softball.
A few years later, at age 15, she met Ryan through friends. The high school sweethearts married on the 14th anniversary of her kidney transplant.
They set up home close to both sets of parents, and Ryan began farming with Kristi’s dad – a pretty tight-knit bunch.
“It’s like Christmas every day around here. We’re never lonely because our family is always around,” Kristi says with a laugh.
Everything was great. Kristi had a new husband and a good job as an orthopedic nurse at Sanford. She was required to get checkups at the Mayo Clinic every year, but they were normally “no big deal.”
Until last year.
Even though she was feeling fine, doctors found Kristi’s kidney function was declining again. The kidney her father had donated had lasted a good 18 years, but was wearing out – typical for donated organs. Doctors told Kristi she would need another transplant.
“I remember calling my mom and just breaking down. I told her our second journey has begun,” says Kristi.
Immediately, the search for a new kidney was on. Obviously, her father was out. Medical complications, pregnancy and non-matching tissue meant the rest of her immediate family was also out. But what she didn’t know was that her husband had sent in a blood sample of his own.
“I was shocked that he would do that. This is a guy that’s never had surgery, never had a broken bone. He just called Mayo on his own and decided to get tested,” says Kristi.
Ryan says he remembers getting the news that he was a match for his wife.
“That was a good day,” says the matter-of-fact farmer.
There really was no decision to make, he says. He would donate his kidney to Kristi.
After surgery both Ryan and Kristi say nothing really changed.
“I think he got a better sense of what my life has been like. But we’ve always been the best of friends, and that didn’t change,” she says.

Kristi and Ryan Fabre are pictured in a wheat field behind their home. Ryan donated a kidney to Kristi when the one she’d received from her father as a girl started to fail last year. Bill Marcil Jr. / The Forum

When talking about the transplant the couple waivers between joking that donating a kidney should get him out of helping with the dishes for a while to real emotion from Kristi to Ryan, “Do you even understand how much that meant to me?”
Kristi is adjusting to life with her new kidney. She’s required to take 10 pills a day, something the eternal optimist says “isn’t that bad.” She also hopes to have kids someday.
Even though none of this has been easy, it’s been her path to take and has made her who she is today, Kristi says. She credits her time in the hospital as a child to her career choice as a nurse. Whenever she hears about a patient facing a transplant, even if the patient isn’t her own, Kristi goes to visit and tells them what to expect.
She also tells anyone who will listen about organ donation. She literally wears it on her sleeve. She has “gift of life” tattooed on her wrist and organ donation magnets on the fridge. She says one person can save 20 lives, and for those waiting for organs that means the world.
“They need to know that someone out there can make their miracle happen,” she says.
A positive attitude is everything, she says. Instead of asking “Why did this happen to me?,” she has a sense of gratitude that she had two donors right in her own family and didn’t have to spend years on a waiting list. She says what she witnessed as a kid changed her forever and made her see the glass as half-full.
“I remember the girl in the bed next to me had severe burns, and I’d see kids in stocking caps suffering from cancer. That really stuck with me,” Kristi says. “I knew that others had it so much worse than me. I knew I’d be fine and I’d get to see another day.”
That kind of strength still astounds her family. Her sister Erica calls her, “the strongest person I know.”
Kristi just brushes it all off with a big, broad smile. “You know I just take it all one day at a time. Life’s too short not to be happy!”
Congratulations to the other nominees:
Lindsay Onufrock Erhardt and Mary Langseth.
To read more about all of our nominees, watch video of their stories, or to nominate your own Beautiful Woman, go to our website at www.beautifulwomenof.areavoices.com


Tracy Briggs is the digital content development director for Forum Communications.