My Northern Wisconsin

Covering Ashland, Iron, Lincoln, Oneida, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, and Vilas Counties


[Image: sandyonchuck.jpg]
By:  Sandy Onchuck

We often see an accident that delays our travel plans as time lost, but it often becomes the circumstances for a "better life found."  Unexpected changes are the colored threads the Lord uses when weaving our life's tapestry.  The nine-day delay following Dennis’ accident in Alberta resulted in him crossing paths with numerous people traveling up the Alcan to Alaska.  One of those persons, Donna McConkey, (pictured below), would become Dennis' "matchmaker."  That thread would become the "multi-colored" strand that would forever change Dennis' life for the "BETTER" (my opinion, of course).

Dennis met Donna and her family about the second or third day after leaving the Reukerts in Beaver Lodge.  Donna and her family were headed to Alaska and were interested in homesteading.  The parties met in a small cafe on the Alcan and struck up a conversation.  Those who know Donna know she is as friendly as Dennis, and as they traveled up the highway, often stopping at the same campgrounds or to refuel, they forged a friendship that continues today.

...Fast forward 14 months:  July 1974...

"Oh, Sandy, you've gotta meet Dennis Onchuck; you two would be perfect for each other," this was how Donna introduced me to the idea of meeting Dennis.  And, when you are a 27-year-old unclaimed blessing in a field of "culled" choices, your ears perk up.  Donna and her family had returned to South Carolina months earlier after their plans of settling in Alaska had fallen through.  I didn't have anything to lose, so I agreed.  Dennis wrote his first letter to me on July 12, 1974.  (No connection to my Dennis story, but July 12th commemorates the hanging of my great-great-great-grandmother, Frankie Silvers, the first woman legally hung in North Carolina in 1833 for murdering her husband).  Frankie's story has been shared in numerous books, such as The Ballad of Frankie Silvers by Sharyn McCrumb and The Untold Story of Frankie Silver by Perry Deane Young.  I didn't share this information with Dennis until we were blissfully married.  I also failed to mention that Frankie's daughter, Nancy, who was only 13 months old when Frankie killed her husband, “may” have murdered her second husband as well.  Curious about that story?  Then read A Life for Nancy by Riley Henry and Danita Stoudemire.  It is a historical fiction book but follows the storyline passed down by our grandparents.  They don't say in the book that Nancy murdered her second husband, but that is the general thought among some of her descendants.

...Now, back to my Dennis story...

I visualized this muscular, handsome, kind he-man from Donna's description.  I imagined and expected he would send a picture flexing his muscles with perhaps Mt. McKinley or wildlife in the background.  But no, not Dennis; instead, he was standing before a crashed C-130 Hercules at Galbraith Lake, Alaska, where he worked on the trans-Alaska pipeline.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the only words I could come up with were, “Donna, what part of, 'you two would be perfect for each other' was I missing?"

Yes, I know you can't judge a book by its cover, in this case, "its coveralls," greasy, dirty coveralls at that, but I admit, I was tempted to close the book on this relationship before it had even begun.  But he said he would ask his mother to send a better picture, so I decided to wait and see how well he cleaned up.  That was one of my better choices in life because the following pictures caused my heart to flutter.  Despite his "out of date" crew cut, I thought he was a hunk.

...Fast forward to the present:  2023...

Forty-eight years and a few old Maytags later, I realize the initial introductory picture said it ALL.  So, what does this picture say?  First, he is the most unpretentious man you will ever find - what you see is what you get.  He isn't out to impress anyone.  Secondly, he's not afraid of hard work.  That answered my youthful prayers for a good, hard-working husband.  I must note that when the Bible says God "will do above and beyond all we ask or think," He does!  I expected a good "hard-working" husband, but a "workaholic" was the "above all we ask or think.”  Still, I would rather he be a workaholic than be a couch potato.

A thousand words can't even begin to describe the never-boring life I've "sometimes enjoyed and other times endured" with this fellow.  And his most notable attribute - he can fix almost anything.  The downside is that he finds it almost impossible to let things die.  So, for forty-eight years, I have been patching the patches on those old coveralls, and he has been resurrecting old Maytags to wash them in.  Folks, I have learned to choose my battles, so I wash our clothes in those slow, slow, slow agitating machines.  Still, unbeknownst to him, I often run the laundry through the wash and rinse cycle twice, but don't anyone reading this tell him.

Most importantly, the introductory picture didn't tell me how faithful he was/is to the Lord.  I would discover from Day One that he begins each day reading his Bible and ends the day writing in a daily journal.

...Now, about that journal thing...

He has recorded every disagreement we have ever had and all from his point of view.  I just hope that when my great-grandchildren read his accounts, they will not think, "Uh-huh, Frankie Silvers' blood ran through her veins.”

Yes, the accident that interrupted Dennis' long-ago journey was not an accident in the Lord's overall PLAN for Dennis and Sandy Onchuck.  Sometimes it seems like we have been "off the road" more than on.  Still, for the most part, those colored threads have brought more blessings than failures and more laughter than tears.


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(This post was last modified: 08-24-2023, 04:10 AM by My Northern Wisconsin.)