Charlene C Johnson (Collins)

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09/10/09 11:00 PM #1    

Bill Edwards

Charlene's daughter, Lisa Nowak graciously sent us the below writings to tell us more about her mom. We could not post the great pictures here that Lisa sent, so we will post them on the home page.


My name is Lisa. I am the daughter of Charlene. Since there isn't much posted about my mom, I thought I would add some info to here for you guys to post about her. Maybe someone wonders what happened to her.

She originally married Tim Nowak, my dad. I don't know when they married. I think she was 24 or so at the time. They had my older brother, Stephen (in 1979), and I was born in 1983. My parents got divorced sometime in the late 80s or so. Then when I was in 6th grade (not sure of year), she married Jeff Collins.

Things went well til 2000, when I entered my senior year at Nicolet High School. She was diagnosed with lung cancer, small cell from smoking. It only took less than a year for the cancer to spread to her liver, brain, spine, and possibly shoulder. On May 23, 2001, she was taken to a hospice and passed away there.

She was a happy women. She tended to be a home-stay mom. Loved to clean and cook. She would do a lot of Jewish catering too. And occasionally she worked at college cafeterias. She passed away at 46 years old. It was her liver that finally gave out on her.

I hope you share some of this info on her memory page. I'm sure some of her classmates may wonder what happened to her. I have photos of her before she got sick. Not many since was camera shy but I can pass some along. Just let me know. Thanks!

Lisa Nowak

Note: We also asked Lisa to kindly tell us more about herself and what she did after graduating Nicolet (2000). You will see how her mom and our classmate, Charlene is smiling above the horizon and so proud of her daughter, Lisa:

Lisa writes:

I am now 26 years old. I graduated Nicolet 2 weeks after my mom passed away. It was 2001. I originally tried to go to UW-Oshkosh that fall but withdrew and took a year off to deal with my mom's death. In fall 2002, I returned to UWM and graduated in May 2008 with a major in Women's Studies and a certificate in Cultures and Communities.

While in college, I traveled a lot and volunteered. I went to Costa Rica in 2004 with an organization called International Student Volunteers. For 2 weeks, I volunteered on a macaw farm-taking care of the birds and starting an organic farm. Then, there was 2 weeks were extreme adventure stuff-whitewater rafting, ziplining, hiking, climbing trees, etc. During the winterim of Jan 2005, I studied abroad for 2 weeks in Ireland and Scotland. The class was "Myth, Murder, Magic, and Mayhem in Ireland and Scotland." Then I visited my brother in Cantebury, England for a week in Nov 2006. After that, I went with ISV aboad again in 2007 to Ecuador. This time, I volunteered in the rainforest for 2 weeks and then did extreme stuff for 2 weeks, like jumping off of bridges, going down mountains on bikes, etc. In the winterim of Jan. 2008, I went to Ghana for a study abroad about Africology for 2 weeks. I've also been on two cruises - one in the Caribbean and one around Hawaii. During the summer before 8th grade, I traveled to Australia and New Zealand.

All of that to say that I like volunteering and traveling. Thus, I now live in Nevada as an Americorps volunteer, which is like the Peace Corps but in America and with shorter terms. I have worked for the Nevada Conservation Corps for a year. My first contract was from 8/17/08-9/13/09. I start my 2nd contract on 9/14/09 and work til 9/9/10. We get moved around from Reno to Vegas depending on the year. The work entails camping from 4-8 days and we do anything from trail work (building trails, maintaining them, rock work, cutting corridor, etc.) to getting rid of invasive species (picking weeds, spraying pesticides), to reducing fuel for fires (cutting down trees to thin the forest.


WOW LISA! You have been busy, and again THANK YOU for sharing your memories of your mom and yourself. We're all very proud of you!

09/12/11 10:25 PM #2    

Darcie J Thiet (Elshoff)

 Thanks Lisa for posting more info about your Mom.  I knew her best in Grade school.  We would walk to Parkway school together. I remember her asking me if I wanted to be her friend.  I said yes, and remember being facinated by her red hair.  She always had an easy smile. Great times in 4th grade when Miss Watts had us make our own puppets out of paper mache.  I remember being shocked because your Mom made her puppet with "Boobs". I also remember her being the first girl in the class to get "her "friend" as she called it.  Lots of early memories of your Mom's friendship.      I do miss those good "ol days with her in the neighborhood.  Sorry she had to die so young. God Bless you Lisa.  Fondly, Darcie

08/23/12 01:09 PM #3    

Deborah Stack (Gulbranson)

Charlene and I were very close in younger days also.....elementary...middle....she will be missed....she was a fun fun person to be around......only in the last year 2011...did I find out via this amazing website that she is of a kind.....DSG...( THANK YOU LISA FOR THESE MEMORIES OF MOM)....

07/01/13 12:35 AM #4    

Kathleen Schulz (Raddatz)

Lisa, you have carried on in an exciting, inquisitive way. I am certain your mom is proudly watching.
I knew your mom since "Jr. high"- Riverview. She had a great laugh and smiled regularly. We graduated Nicolet together. I am happy that your mom was a part of my life in my school years. Best wished to you!

08/15/13 07:22 PM #5    

Mary C Grass (Pierson)


It is so gratifying to hear how well-traveled and educated you are.  Who knew!  It's been a long time since you were on our softball team and in middle school.  Charlene was a super-nice person and I know that this has been tough for you.  Thanks for the update.

Mary Pierson

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