WEST FORK KICKAPOO - While you were sleeping, Kasie was watching over Jan; Dane was watching over your horses; and your friends and family were all praying, lighting candles, sending good wishes, and thinking of you.
John Henry Sime, friend to many, undertaker and longtime owner of Sime Funeral Home, author, poet, UFO enthusiast, and world-class story teller, suffered double trouble recently: COVID and pneumonia.
Alone in his room at Gundersen Hospital in La Crosse, John was put into a medically induced coma and on a ventilator while his wife, Jan, recovered from COVID alone at home. However, neither of them was ever really alone. Kasie—John and Jan’s ‘apprentice daughter’—was busy overseeing John’s medical updates, caring for Jan, keeping their friends updated, and encouraging everyone to keep on praying.
If you know John, you know he tells (and writes) a great story. The first time I met John, he told me a story that stuck. It was about Atley’s Bar in Readstown. As John described it, the owners, Atley and Janie Fortney, treated the place as though it was their own living room. Atley could often be found holding court or barking orders from the comfort of his recliner.
One evening, John was having a beer, another man was drinking alone at the end of the bar, and Atley and Janie were squabbling back and forth while the TV was blaring.
The man kept trying to get their attention: “I’ll have a Blatz and a package of Camels.” But Atley and Janie didn’t hear him over their bickering, so he tried again: “A package of Camels, please, and a Blatz.”
Still no luck. John was amused, Atley and Janie not so much, and the guy trying to get the beer and cigarettes not at all. After clearing his throat, he tried again: “I’d like a package of Camels and a Blatz.”
Dane and I were rolling on the floor laughing as John told this story in a deadpan voice. When I asked if the guy ever got his Camels and Blatz, John said, “I don’t think so,” making me howl even louder.
John loves his wife Jan, Kasie and her three children, Readstown, and writing. He also loves his Peace Corps buddies, his horses Ginger and Zip, Bert the cat, his many friends, his church, and food.
When John was little, he’d help his dad out at the funeral home. He inherited the business from his father in 1996, ran it until he retired, and sold it in 2019. At his retirement party, person after person stood up to sing John’s praises. Many knew John first as the local undertaker but soon after became lifelong friends.
I was in awe (and in tears) at how many people stood to thank John for the time when their loved one had died unexpectedly, leaving them worried about the costs of services and burials, and miraculously, it seemed, John had told them their bills had been paid.
Kasie Moran, who’d known John forever as her dad’s friend, started working for John in 2014. Soon she was his inspired apprentice, and no one was prouder of Kasie than John and Jan when she was offered a job with the new owners and continued to do the work John loved.
Their relationship grew, and John and Jan became like second parents to Kasie and grandparents to her kids. They’ve attended first communions, holiday gatherings, dance recitals, birthdays, and her children’s school programs.
Jan has always been grateful that Kasie can boss John around, so she doesn’t have to do it and risk hurting John’s feelings. Nowadays, Kasie is busy telling John’s nurse that John hates Christmas music and to put something else on, and that feeding John is the best way to get him to respond. She’s also telling Dane how much grain to feed Ginger and Zip each morning, and when to shovel so she needn’t worry about Jan slipping.
While you were sleeping the last nine days, John, you’ve been blessed to have a real-life angel watching over you, a loving and devoted wife, loyal friends, and a community who have all come together to see you get back home.
We can’t wait to hear your stories.(John has spent 19 days in the hospital. He is now at Soldiers Grove Health Services to regain his strength before going home. Send him a card! 101 Sunshine Boulevard, Soldiers Grove, WI 54655)