Northwoods Notebook: I understand why they keep coming back

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Like so many of you, we had guests from the Twin Cities visiting over Rutabaga Festival weekend. After spending time at the sidewalk sale and the food stands, we took a boat ride, attended the Ole and Lena play at the arts center and, on Sunday morning, went to mass at St. Anthony’s.

After mass, while standing in front of the church talking to John and Kathy Epple,  a woman walked down the church steps and approached my friend, Charlie, who was visiting from Minneapolis with his wife, Cathy.

“Remember me?” the woman asked Charlie.

Turns out she was another one of what I call the “Cumberland Homing Pigeons.” She had grown up in Cumberland, lived for many years in the Twin Cities, where she got to know Charlie, and now had returned to The Island City with her husband to live their retirement on Beaver Dam Lake. Charlie and Cathy visited us with another friend, Maureen. Ann and I know these three from the church in south Minneapolis where Ann and I met 24 years ago, where we were married 23 years ago. We’ve met Charlie, Cathy and Maureen, but few others in this large parish know us by name – not even the pastor, I’m sorry to say.

But when we attend the little church in Cumberland, there are a number of folks who recognize us and call us by name: The Epples, the Cohens, the Peichels, the Thorps and Sharon Herman, to name just a few. And that familiarity exists out in the community, where I can’t walk through town, or eat at a local restaurant, without hearing someone call my name.

When we were out on the lake, in fact, we passed a boat that had been pulling water skiers. Since it was a Saturday, I was paying attention to the busy weekend lake traffic and didn’t notice who was in that ski boat.

“Someone said, ‘Larry Werner,’” Charlie shouted from the back of my pontoon. It was Abby Geisler, owner of The Turn restaurant at the Cumberland Golf Club, recognizing me and calling out a hello from the helm of her boat.

Abby, like Charlie’s friend at church, has decided Cumberland is a better place to live than in the Cities, where she is part-owner of another restaurant. She spent summers here when she was young and has a cabin on Beaver Dam. She’s sold her house in the Cities and is living the Island Life.


Life is not only easier in a small town, it’s friendlier. People not only know your name, but speak it when they see you. I sometimes wonder if that always mattered to me – being recognized and greeted. Probably not.

For so many years, we ran the rat race trying to make a living, trying to get ahead, sometimes succeeding. We raised our kids, raced to their soccer games and school plays, and took a few weeks’ vacation each year to get away from all that.

we retired, and we realized that the people who have been living next door might not know who we are. The professional rat race might be over, and the kids might be gone, but there’s still the hassle of city life. During Baga Fest, I came to understand once more why I enjoy living in a town of 2,000.
It’s good for the local businesses that so many people were walking the streets during our festival, and so many cars were parked up and down the streets of town. But I bet you, like I, found the days after the festival a relief from the crowds and the noise.

We got back to life in a place where there are few people on the streets and sidewalks. But the ones who are there know who you are and, more important, care.

Ann’s been dealing with back problems for a couple weeks. I can’t tell you how many times in those weeks someone in Cumberland has asked how she’s doing.
These are reasons why people like Charlie’s friend convinced her husband to move to Cumberland in retirement. And Julie Burma got her husband, Lance, to do the same. And Linda Bavier got John to retire here and join the board of the Beaver Dam Lake Management District and the Island City Co-Op. I could go on.
People are nice here. And life is good.
“Gee, Larry,” Charlie’s wife, Cathy, said as we cruised the lake on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, “I just don’t understand why you like it here so much,” she joked.
That was right before Abby called out my name: a simple greeting and an affirmation that the choice we made to buy a home in Cumberland was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Larry Werner’s email is




Cumberland Advocate

375 2nd Ave, PO Box 637
Cumberland, WI 54829
Phone: (715) 822-4469
Hours:  8:30 AM–4:30 PM M-F