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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Nguyen

Sandy Hendricks

Story sponsored by Pat Wagner


Interview by Teresa Nguyen

July, 2023


Former Co-Owner of H&H Sporting Specialties

Former Office Manager of Blackhawk Roofing Co.

Former Office Manager of CESA-2

Former Office Manager of Dairyland Seed Co.

Former Co-Owner & Agent at D & S Travel Consultants

Former Officer of the Snow Chiefs Club

Served on the Leisure Services Advisory Committee

Former President, Current Treasurer of Friends of Riverside Park

Janesville Good Citizen Award Recipient, 2008


Family Heritage


My father’s family was the Kislia family. They researched our genealogy and traced the family way back. The Kislia ancestor, Charles Henry Geistlich, came from Hamburg Germany in the mid-1800s. The name was later Americanized to Kislia.



The other side of the family is traced back to the 1700s, during American Revolutionary War era in New Jersey.


Charles Henry Kislia married Julia Schooley. One of their sons was Fred W. Kislia, who married Maggie May Liddle. They were Sandy's grandparents. Together they had a large family and decided to move to Janesville.

Sandy's grandmother, Maggie Liddle Kislia. She died in Janesville in her fifties, leaving behind 12 children, six daughters and six sons. She is buried in Oakhill Cemetery.

The family, including 11 children, came to Janesville from Green Lake, Wisconsin in 1913. Their youngest, the 12th child, Dorothy Kislia (later Mrs. Gunn), was born in Janesville, after the family had moved here.


The Early Years


My father, Fred Kislia, was just two years old when his family arrived in Janesville. He worked as an electrician at General Motors for 37 years.


My dad bought a piece of land along the Rock River in 1939, around the time of his marriage to my mother.


My mother, Leona, came to Janesville after graduating high school.


My parents built their home there on that lot, next to Riverside Park. A few years later, I was born. I have one sister, Diane Porter, who is four years younger. She currently lives next door to me.

We didn’t have a lot then; I remember getting my 2 pennies for milk money. And I remember the first pair of shoes I bought with babysitting money. I’m proud of the way we were raised.


We spent a lot of time at Riverside Park, basically growing up there. I can remember going on the Silver Queen on the Rock River. Every Saturday night they had a dance on the boat.

At that time, the Riverside Park area was not a part of the City of Janesville, so we were not allowed to attend the city schools. We attended a one-room schoolhouse, called Riverside School, out on Highway 14 (near where the Fox Storage units are). The school is now a family home.


It was just like the stories you hear about with no bathrooms, so we had to go to the outhouse! The students were a variety of ages and I stayed there through eighth grade.


My mom was a born leader, and landed a job as a teacher’s aide at our country school. She put on plays and Christmas programs.


The superintendent attended one of my mom’s productions and told her that she could have a temporary license to teach music if she’d get her education. When my younger sister entered kindergarten, my mother went back to college!

She became a music teacher and traveled around to area country schools. Eventually, she received the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year award! It was special having Mom as my music teacher until eighth grade and I sang in the choir as an alto.

Young Sandy (Kislia) Hendricks

For middle school, I attended Marshall Junior High down on Main Street for one year before attending Janesville Senior High (now Craig High School). We still rode the bus, as we were outside the city limits. It would swing down to Riverside Park to pick us up. We were teased for being “country kids” on the bus, but I loved those bus trips!


Marrying Ken


I was an honor roll student and had a job during high school at Woolworth’s Dime Store. Ken and I had dated a while and then married very young, in 1959. My dad got a duplex. My parents lived on one side, and we lived on the other. My folks were very supportive.


We had our four children within five years: Kendra, Kim, Kathy and Kevin. They all have homes in Janesville today and my son lives next door on the other side.

Sandy, Ken and their four children

When I was in high school, I had exceled in math. Ken, from day one, was always a business man. When we were younger, we had a skin diving (scuba diving) shop called H &H Sporting Specialties on West Milwaukee Street. I worked in the office from about 1960 to 1964. I did all the books by hand and throughout my life I was always an office manager.


When we started our roofing business, Blackhawk Roofing Company, I worked alongside Bill Fugate, a local CPA, for many years and learned how to do the accounting. I was with the company from 1964 until 1974.

Ken and I were married for 14 years, then we divorced. But we are an unusual family. Ken and I had worked through it together and we remained friends. I’m also friends with his second wife, Diane.


I knew he loved his kids. That was what was most important to me. Ken and I always did what was best for all the kids. We didn’t have any bitterness.


The same year of my divorce, my father died. I was just 29.


Career Life


After the divorce, even though I didn’t have a formal education, I had years of experience and a lot of common sense. I had taken a couple of courses in computers at U-Rock to keep my skills up. I’d worked a couple of odd jobs, but the big opportunity came when I landed a job at CESA-2.


Mr. Briggs, who knew my mother through her work as a music teacher, was looking for a bookkeeper for CESA-2. My mother put in a good word for me, knowing all of my previous experience, and I was hired! I worked there for 15 years, from 1980-1995. Mr. Briggs, was a great boss, much like a father to me, since I’d lost my dad when I was younger.


Later I took a job at Dairyland Seed Company in Clinton. I was working with the doctors who tested the area crops doing agricultural research. I worked there starting in 1995 until I was 70 and retired in 2012.


Meeting Denny


For several years after the divorce, I was making up for lost time during my teenage years with all that responsibility. I partied a lot with a kind of wild group of friends during the 70s. But I was still responsible with my own children and kind of the ‘mother’ of the friends group. I had to go to work the next day, too, so never got too crazy.


After dating other guys, I met Denny, my significant other, who was very laid back and easy going. I met Denny at Nino’s, a little bar in Janesville. Everybody who has grown up in Janesville knows Nino’s. We used to go there after work. He had been divorced, like me. I knew I was better off going with someone who was caring and dependable and who always had my back.


Sandy & Denny

We’ve been together since 1984. We even knew each other in high school and Denny was a year ahead of me.


We've traveled together and have shared a good life. This year marks 39 years together!



A Love of Traveling


When I worked for Dairyland, we had researchers going all over the world and I was booking all these flights. I thought it was pointless to go through travel agents, when I could do it myself. So, I got certified in being a travel agent and a cruise consultant and got to do promo trips with that.


We started D & S Travel Consultants (The D & S stands for Denny and Sandy) around 1998 and continued the business through 2008, when people could book their own flights via the internet. Costa Rica was one of my favorite places. We had such a great experience with our guide there. I also loved going to Mexico on a lot of trips. I really enjoyed the islands and cruises. St. Martin was one of my favorites!


Another favorite was when I traveled to my granddaughter’s wedding in Italy. I’d always wanted to see David.


I’ve traveled so much that now when someone tells me where they go, I often say, “Oh, I’ve been there!”

Sandy & Denny

God must take care of me in a way…I’ve had such opportunities. And my kids and grandkids are all settled and live in beautiful places that I can visit. I don’t crave traveling as I used to. I think COVID ruined a lot. I still own time shares, so we do spend a month in Florida every year and drive down.


I was born and raised in Janesville, but I’ve been fortunate to travel all over. It opens your eyes!


Riverside Park


Growing up along the river next to Riverside Park it was only natural that I got involved with Friends of Riverside Park in 2005. Prior to me coming on board, we had several great charter members of Friends of Riverside Park. But it was Pam VanBrocklin, our Former President, who had been instrumental in leading the preservation of our beautiful park.


Pam was the spark that started Friends of Riverside Park. Her interest in the historical preservation of the park took her to the City of Janesville's informational meetings, where she encouraged people to join the group. Under her leadership, she helped to fund the restoration of the entrance gates to the park and her family also donated the river wall staircase near the South Pavilion. Pam has been involved from the beginning.


She always gives 150%! She was also a recipient of the Janesville Good Citizen Award in 2008.


Three generations of the family enjoying Riverside Park!

Pam had been in contact with Tom Presney, the City’s Parks Director to get the gears turning.


I found out, through the rumor mill, that they were going to sell part of Riverside Park and put condos in near the golf course. The park would have ended at the most beautiful part, the north part. We said, “We gotta’ stop this!”


There were City Council members who said, “You’ll never stop this.” They needed the taxes.


I said, “Don’t tell me never. That’s my park and that was given to the community!”


There were dozens of us going to City Council meetings. Bill Truman was President of the City Council then and it didn’t take too much to convince him and some of the others, just enough to tip the scales.


Bill later got involved in our group, Friends of Riverside Park. He knew all the ropes with the city, so that was great! Recently, he has stepped down.


I’m still Treasurer with the Friends of Riverside Park. Sometimes I say that I’m going to step down from it, but it’s really hard when you have that experience and you want to help. There are still things to do and I want to keep going!


For my birthday, one year, my kids had the north boat dock put in, “Sandy’s Pier”. It’s the perfect spot! I've also helped to fundraise to replace the roof of the north restroom, helped raise funds for the repainting of several shuffleboard courts, and funded a river wall staircase. The park is very special to me.


We encourage anyone who wants to support this gorgeous natural area in our community to attend our meetings. FORP general meetings are held three times a year on the third Wednesday of March, June and September at 10:00 AM at Premier Bank in Janesville. Visit the website at: https://jvlriversidepark.com/ Or visit and follow the Facebook page: Friends of Riverside Park.


A trail through Riverside Park

We post all work days on our website and on Facebook and send emails to our members. Currently, we have about 100 members. We encourage new membership as our group is aging. Our president, Mary Frei, would be glad to talk to anyone willing to volunteer.


Right now, our flower beds are in rough shape. We just don’t have enough hands to care for them. Would love to see the flower plots adopted by families or organizations. Currently, we aim to keep the park beautiful and we are working on maintenance. We love having community volunteers! All are welcome to help.


Riverside Park is my passion. I always say you should have one thing that you’re passionate about. Pick one thing that you like in the community and support it.



Other Involvement and Hobbies


I’ve been involved in lots of groups. When my kids were growing up, I was very active and head of the East Side Girl Scouts, and I was very active in 4-H. At St. John’s Lutheran, I was involved in organizing the pageants (now I’m at First Lutheran). It seems everything I join, I end up being a leader. It’s just the way I am.


The river has always attracted me. I’ve always been very involved in activities on rivers. I love boating and have taken several trips to the Mississippi to go boating there.

Sandy, upper right, with her bowling team

Another joy is bowling with my team. We’ve had a lot of fun together! I joined the team in 1989 and stayed with it until my retirement in 2012. I was caption and I told the group we had to stay together until I turned 70, in 2012. That way, I could reach the rank of a Grand Duchess, which is earned if you’re still bowling at 70 years of age. My Mom, Leona Kislia, was also a Grand Duchess!


My team took a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate. Am happy to say all seven of us are still able to get together to this day. We had traveled all over the county and would go to state tournaments. But now we get together monthly for cards and supper club outings. And each Christmas we go to the Duck Inn.

Bowling friends - fun on the Rock River

I’ve been involved with the Snow Chiefs, a snowmobile team. I was an officer in the club as well as a member for 25 years (1980-2005). I left when Friends of Riverside Park needed my help. I love to snowmobile and this club maintains all the county trails. We did lot of trail rides, which is great fun! They are still active today and my son is now a member.


One of my other favorite things to do is to cook for my kids and my grandkids.

Cooking a Thanksgiving feast

Home on the River


When Ken was still a teen, he was racing boats and worked for Riverside Marina, who had this property here. The secretary had told him that these three lots were up for sale. She ended up buying one. Somehow, Ken convinced my parents to purchase this second river lot and Ken bought this one! My dad was all about being next to the river, so he didn’t hesitate.


We sold our boat and with Ken's income as a full time roofer, we were very proud that we had enough to buy the lot and build the house. We were married 9 years when we moved in. We started the house in 1964 and moved in by 1968.


When we got the divorce, Ken left the house with me and the kids.


When my parents passed away, my sister got the house next door. When the other neighbors retired and moved to Florida, my son bought their house. So now, it’s all in the family, the three lots side by side here along the Rock River.

Beautiful view of the Rock River from Sandy's home

In 2008, during the flood, I had water all the way up my back yard to the concrete on my patio! We had sandbags piled up. My sister had a lot of damage. Mine wasn’t as bad, but I had to rip out the downstairs carpet.


Today, I’m concerned about the Rock River. I was very active in trying to save the Monterey Dam. I’m still concerned about the Center Way dam. In ’08, they were afraid that one was going to go. Today our water levels are so low.


For boating, the seasons have changed a lot. There are way fewer boats now, as they’ve all gone to Lake Koshkonong.


Role Models


I’ve looked up to my Aunt Dorothy Gunn. She had married a judge. She was such a role model for me and saw me through my mother’s dementia, which lasted 14 years, and was there when I lost my mom. It was a trying time and Aunt Dorothy was always good to me.



Pat Wagner, of Janesville, is also someone I look up to, like my mentor. She reminds me of my aunt, who passed away. We work together through Friends of Riverside Park. She is still an active member and I have a lot of respect for her. With her enthusiasm and energy, she inspires me to keep going. She’s in her 90s and I’m in my 80s. We could all easily get grumpy as we age, but it’s positive people like Pat who motivate me!


Family


Between our two families, there were seven children. The kids all stayed in the family business. All seven of the kids get along. Ken wanted to make sure the children were taken care of.

Sandy (center in red, white & blue), with kids & grandkids

Though my children live here, my grandchildren are spread out all over the world. We recently had a big birthday gathering of the two families.


I have ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren. I love spending time with them.



Community Changes


I thank God every day that I’m in Janesville. Every community has issues, we’re not perfect, but I feel really lucky that I’m here. I’ve traveled around and, when I go on vacation, I always love coming home to Janesville.



Losing Parker Pen and General Motors was challenging, but still, I’d rate our community really high. And I’m happy with the current City Council.


Sometimes I wish that people were more visionary, like Ken, but we’re starting to think in terms of "What can we do with this property?" and "What can we do with that property?" We’re addressing those issues.


I’m concerned about the future, as anyone is, but the city itself is doing really well!


Life Today and a Words of Advice


I used to be the role model and example in the family. It’s a little different when you’re older. When I turned 70, I started losing some of my ability to do all things I used to do. That’s when you need someone to give you pep talks. We all want to have purpose in life. I don’t have as much energy, but I still get up and write a list every day, because I have things to do.

Sandy and her kids

I’d had a health scare a while back, about two years ago, and thought I wouldn’t be able to walk. It was post-surgery and the doctors didn’t know what happened to me. I was falling all the time and I had a lot of physical therapy. They said there wasn’t much they could do. I remember thinking, “God, if you let me walk again, I never complain again.” Then, one miraculous day, about three months later, I woke up and, just like that, I could walk! It’s given me a really good attitude on life. I am just so happy because of that experience!


I know I said I’d slow down, but I’m staying involved. It’s important that you get involved. And don’t be afraid. You don’t have to start off being a leader, but just pick one thing you care about in the community and get busy with it. I would especially encourage the younger “me generation” to step outside of yourselves and give something back to the community.


Finally, live each day. Stop waiting for retirement. If you want to travel, or do something special, do it now!






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