May 26, 2015
In early September of 1990, Angie Nesper parked her bicycle outside of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck. She had a business proposition for Fr. Thomas Kramer. Finding volunteers to provide childcare during the 10 a.m. Mass was an ongoing problem for him.
“Hire me to do it,” Angie offered. She told him that she loved watching babies and children. If Fr. Kramer would pay her, it would provide a little extra income doing something she loved.
“Let me think about it,” he told her. A week later, he offered her the job. Almost 25 years later, Cathedral has not had a problem finding a childcare provider since. In all that time, Angie has only missed about four Sundays and half were for vacation. She is reliable in all that she does. After stocking shelves for 14 years at her Stamart job, she has only called in sick four times.
Such reliability is remarkable in view of the fact that Angie has a learning disability and does not drive. She takes the transit bus to work, but on Sundays, walking, riding her bike or getting a lift by parishioners Jim and Sharon Wilson, are her modes of transportation. “We would see her walking from church in the bitter cold,” Sharon said. “So we offered her a ride and she accepted.” The Wilsons told Angie to call on Sundays if she needed a ride to church, which she has been doing now for 15 years. But if Angie calls, it’s only because the temperature is too cold for bike riding.
Some 20 years ago when Angie’s bike was stolen, Frs. Kramer and Austin Vetter pitched in to buy her a new one. She was still using that same bike until three summers ago when Marilyn Keller took her to Scheels Sports and let her pick out a new one.
Angie’s bike is one of the ways that she has made herself a part of the Cathedral parish community. “She has more friends than anyone that I know,” rector Msgr. Thomas Richter said. “It reminds us that a parish is supposed to be a source of friends, family and social life.”
Monsignor’s sister-in-law, Sarah Richter, occasionally uses the childcare during Mass when her husband Jerry is out of town. “She’s great with the kids,” Sarah said, “and she has gotten to know our whole family.” Sarah said that when Angie pulls up on her bike, the kids’ voices echo throughout their house, “Angie’s here!”
Angie always comes to visit the whole family. Jana Heen said that she often stays for dinner and will pitch in with yard work and play games with the kids. Her son Logan, a sixth-grader at Cathedral, smiled when asked about Angie and said, “She’s fun to play with because she tries to win.”
Barb and Tom Thorson used Angie’s help many years ago, whenever any of their seven children were too fidgety to sit quietly at Mass. “To this day, Angie has a connection to our family,” Barb said. “She has attended First Communions and even graduation parties.”
Youngest daughter Jenna, who is now a freshman at the University of Mary said, “Angie genuinely loved and cared for us.”
Stephen and Susan Braun brought their children to Angie for childcare her first year on the job. They moved to McVille 20 years ago, but Angie maintains the friendship. “Even though the years and a move have separated us,” Susan said, “Angie keeps in contact, calling and sending Christmas cards and wanting to know what is happening in our kids’ lives.” Their oldest daughter, Andrea, now a mother herself, has brought her children for Angie to watch when she occasionally attends Cathedral.
Parishioner Thomas Seifert does not remember going to the nursery when he was little, but does remember helping out to earn service hours when he was in junior high. “You can tell Angie has a true love of children,” he said. “She’s always excited to see them.” Thomas said Angie is very good at remembering their names, even after they grow up and graduate. He said that if there comes a time when his five-month old son, or any future children are hard to handle in church, he wouldn’t hesitate to bring them to her.
Diane Roller said she considers Angie a good friend. “She has taught me so much about courage, perseverance, and trust,” she said. “Angie is a very happy, optimistic person who knows how to really enjoy the simple things in life. Recently, Diane helped Angie begin a new hobby of scrapbooking. “Angie jumps in without reservations at every opportunity that comes her way.”
The secret to Angie’s people skills is simple. She loves kids and getting to know their families comes naturally to her. “I have always loved kids,” she said. “I enjoy entertaining them.” Building with Legos, shooting baskets, doing puzzles and reading are some of the things she loves to do with them in the nursery. “I also like to read them stories like Mother Goose and Green Eggs and Ham,” she said. The latter book Angie said she has read hundreds of times. “I know it by heart,” she laughed.
The love that Angie gives to others, returns to her in many ways. Parishioners gave her surprise parties for her 30th birthday and another one last summer for her 50
“Angie is a constant reminder to us that unless we become like a little child, we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven,” Msgr. Richter said. “We need to become like her—a servant leader in the simplest of ways.”