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Tragedy has a local connection

By Staff | Jan 22, 2012

Sometimes tragedy strikes us in ways we don’t even expect.

Case in point.

You have probably seen and heard about the cruise ship striking a rock and running aground off the coast of Italy.

It would be hard not to have heard, as it has dominated the state, national and even international news.

And, you have probably learned through all the news coverage that several people from the ship are still missing – including one couple from Minnesota.

Jerry and Barb Heil, from White Bear Lake, were still being reported as missing at the time this column was being written.

The Heils have a connection to Blue Earth.

Their son, Aaron, is married to Blue Earth residents Dr. Joseph and Kay Tempel’s daughter, Susan.

The Tempels have been spending most of the past week at their daughter and son-in-law’s home in the Twin Cities area. Or at their other daughter’s home, or at Joe Tempel’s brother’s home there.

After a brief stint back home in Blue Earth on Wednesday, the Tempels were headed back to the Twin Cities on Thursday.

Aaron and Susan Heil have seven children, ranging in age from 16 down to two, and the couple was – and is – needing a little help.

As you can well imagine, the family is under a lot of stress and anxiety. This is a very difficult time for them and for Aaron’s siblings and other family members.

His older brother, who lives in Chicago, has been in Italy since shortly after the accident happened. And Aaron and Susan have spent a lot of time on the phone to him and to the American Embassy in Italy.

The Tempels say the embassy personnel have been extremely helpful and compassionate to their situation.

Not so, the media.

The big city press has hounded the Heils since it was first reported their parents were among the missing.

And, not just the Twin Cities newspapers and television stations. CNN, Good Morning America, Fox News, you name it, have been knocking at the door all hours of the day and night.

A CNN crew even brought pizza and pie to the door at 10:15 at night hoping to be invited in.

They weren’t.

The Heils have had friends staying with them both to support them and to help handle the press barrage.

And the Tempels have helped by taking their seven grandchildren to their other daughter’s home.

The kids have even been given notes and business cards after school from reporters asking the notes be given to their parents.

It has been crazy – and a bit frightening. Sometimes I am embarrassed to be part of the profession known as “the media,” when reporters harass ordinary folks, just to beat the competition and get an exclusive interview or a ‘scoop.’

The Tempels have a close connection to Jerry and Barb Heil besides just the fact they are their daughter’s in-laws.

They are good friends.

After Susan Tempel graduated from Blue Earth in 1991, she attended St. Benedict’s and met Aaron Heil who was going to St. John’s, both in Collegeville.

The Tempels and the Heils got to know each other by helping plan Aaron and Susan’s wedding. And, they stayed close after that.

In fact, the Tempels went on a pilgrimage to Italy with the Heils in 2007. It was called an Italian Renaissance Adventure and was arranged through St. John’s Abbey.

The Tempels say Jerry and Barb were great to travel with and are funny, terrific, real people.

Kay Tempel says her husband Joe and Jerry Heil even resemble each other, at least sporting the same non-hair hair-do.

And, they made a great travel team. Jerry Heil can’t hear well, and Joe Tempel doesn’t talk much. So, Jerry would ask the questions and Joe would listen to the answers. True team work, Kay Tempel says.

The Tempels say the Heil family is very strong and they are prepared for whatever God is going to send their way.

But, they add, it is not an easy time right now, and won’t be for some time to come. It won’t be easy for the Tempels either. As they say, they and the Heils share seven grandchildren.

And a very good friendship.

Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.