The fall of 2020 marked the first time in 56 years that Gert Ullsperger did not meet the incoming freshman class or the university’s new faculty and staff members. Instead, she remained safe at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gert said she has some catching up to do with her Carroll family when she is able to return to work at Chartwells food service post-pandemic, which she intends to do.
She said she wants to be “with the people, to see them, to interact with them, to give them their hugs.”
When she started at Carroll in 1964, Gert was a stay-at-home mother with three children, two in high school and one attending Randall School in Waukesha. She was hanging laundry one day when a neighbor, who worked as the secretary for SAGA, Carroll’s food service at the time, asked if Gert might help out after an employee did not show up for work on the first day of the semester. After talking it over with her husband, Gert went to work for Carroll.
“The next day, I put on a uniform and went to help out. I had such a good time doing it and that lady never did show up the next day either. So, the job, they told me, was mine if I could do it,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful journey from that day up to right now.”
Gert’s last day on campus was in March 2020, as students left for Spring Break. She hasn’t returned due to the pandemic but remains employed by Chartwells. She has learned with the help of her daughter to use Zoom to stay in touch with faculty, staff, and students. She logged several times during the fall semester for a virtual chat inside the Main Dining Room, sharing her usual “Good morning!” greeting.
“It’s been a lot of fun, sitting at the same table at my daughter, Marsha’s house, and this is where we’ve been – what is it? Zooming. We’re Zooming. It was like a brand-new thing before I did it,” she said.
At 95, Gert embraces the technology and the chance to stay in touch with her university family. More than 100 well wishers from across the country helped her celebrate her Jan. 30th birthday during a virtual Zoom party on Jan. 29. When she’s not "Zooming" with her Carroll friends, she has been using her new online skills to stay in touch with her children – Russ Ullsperger ‘70, Lynn Simmons, and Marsha James – as well as her grandchildren across the country.
When COVID cancelled a Thanksgiving trip to Austin, Texas, to visit grandchildren and great grandchildren, Gert led a Zoom session on baking pumpkin pie from scratch with two great granddaughters, Billie, 9, and Mae, 7. And after baking traditional cut-out sugar cookies at Christmas, she also decorated them on Zoom with her great granddaughter Kaili, who is 2 ½, her daughter, Marsha, shared.
“Mom is a great pie maker, and makes her crust from scratch,” Marsha said. “Her apple pies are legendary, and have been auctioned off in the past at her church fundraiser and at an American Cancer Society fundraiser. She also makes delicious blueberry and pecan pies.”
When she’s not baking, Gert rarely misses a Green Bay Packers game during the season. She’s a big fan of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Marsha noted, “She told me she ‘likes to watch his face to see him smile after a touchdown’.”
What else has been keeping Gert busy during her time at home? A lot of puzzles, word search books, and “too much television,” she said. Wheel of Fortune, The Voice, Dancing with the Stars, Antiques Road Show, and programs on Animal Planet are among her favorites.
And while she is missing her Carroll family and giving out hugs, her kids are making sure she is safe and loved at home.
“My sister and I do hug her. We’re in the bubble. We’re not going to let her go without hugs,” Marsha said.