The message on the cell phone was, “I hope you packed your long johns, the temperature last night was 23 below zero.” It was February, and we were in Minnesota, a long way in miles and temperature from Florida! The caller was Paul Olinski, and we were on our way to visit him and Khemissa Bejaoui, who live near Marshfield. Khemissa, many of you will recall, was the researcher at the Day Lab who independently identified the genetic defect that causes HSN-1. She took a personal interest in the family and memorized the names and relationships of the members of the family!
In 2003 she left the post-doctoral position through which she did work on another myopathy and then HSN-1 at the Day Lab. She now has her own lab at the Marshfield Clinic. We spent a weekend at their home, set on several acres outside of town. The large “living” room is the original homesteader house, with fireplace, high ceiling, cozy seating, and table and chairs. Out the back window we could easily see the dozen or so deer who came to raid the corn crib, and the flock of wild turkeys who came right to the back door, looking for a hand out!
Khemissa took us to the prestigious Marshfield Clinic, which serves people from Wisconsin and Michigan, and the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, which focuses on diseases that impact the lives of Midwesterners.
Dr. Bejaoui’s state-of-the-art laboratory is involved in research for Multiple Sclerosis. As part of her work, Khemissa has interviewed many people, some with various neuromuscular diseases. Some of the people she has met are named Dieter. A letter from my Great-Aunt Alice Deater Greevy to my father, Harvey Deater, mentions visiting “Aunt Clara” in Kingston, Pennsylvania. Aunt Clara said that her son, Ivan, had received a letter from a cousin in Wisconsin shortly before he died. Aunt Alice wrote, “He” (the cousin) “said his grandfather and my grandfather came over together from Holland, then my grandfather came East but his gr-f- stayed there and we have loads of relatives there. Maybe that is why my grandfather took his family to Wisconsin when his wife died and was buried.” We wonder if there is any connection?
Khemissa and Paul have good memories of attending the Deater family reunion, and send greetings to all.