By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Moments in Time: Kenlyn Walmer
Kenlyn Walmer (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
ALBANY - It was Kenlyn Walmer's civics teacher at Albany High School who first noticed the amount of passion she showed when there was an issue about which she cared deeply.

That desire, along with a need to nurture those around her, has taken Walmer on a path that's kept her involved and committed to people, the community and her family. She's always been someone who listens and is known for "telling it like it is without a filter."

"Sometimes you have to hear the truth - maybe it's because of what I've lived through myself," she said. "When you live it, you experience it - and you need to share it."

She was born in Janesville, the Rock County New Year's baby in 1953. She was raised in Albany, living in town until she was about 10. When her mother remarried, the family moved to a farm on the Monticello and Albany school border.

Life growing up on the farm as the oldest wasn't always easy. Walmer often found herself caring for her six siblings while both her mother and step-father worked outside the home along with farming. They raised hogs and beef cattle; there were also two milk cows for the family.

Walmer found enjoyment in the annual county fair, however, and was involved in 4-H. She showed off cooking, sewing and gardening skills she gleaned from her mother while on the farm.

At Albany High School, Walmer said she was an average student who enjoyed being social. She was interested in almost anything and took part in the high school newspaper, along with involvement in home economics, choir, band and pep band on both the tenor and baritone saxophone. After a snowmobile accident in 1970 that left her with hundreds of stitches in her face, she changed to the drums.

Music was an important part of her family dynamic. She has sweet memories of her mother playing guitar for the children as they gathered in the basement during storms. She would sing Christian songs to put them at ease. They could also be found dancing in the kitchen - Walmer also plays piano - and her brother was often found playing drums in the yard during summertime.

At 9 years old, Walmer earned her first paycheck, watching neighbor children and younger cousins; she had an aunt with five daughters she helped regularly.

The 1971 graduate of Albany High School knew exactly where she was headed - since junior high, she had dreamed of becoming a beautician, she said. She and her mother went to "beauty school" at the same time. Walmer attended the Madison Academy of Beauty, graduating in 1972.

Her time at school there was memorable. They were required to wear white uniforms and shoes. She even had "charm class" where they were taught how to walk and talk to eventually become a hair dresser.

She landed her first job at Larry Johns Salon in Monticello, and it was work she loved from the start.

In 1975, her mother bought the shop, then known as Char-lyn's, and Walmer ran the business and worked alongside her mother for more than 18 years.

In 1999, Walmer changed careers and worked for Dean Clinic in the Health Information Services department. She is still there, now as a quality specialist.

Although she changed careers, Walmer never gave up her job. She calls herself a senior hair designer. She keeps her license and regularly visits nursing homes, shut-ins, hospitals and even funeral homes to help people look their best.

"I've always had an interest in older people," she said. "They fascinate me. They know so much and they think they know nothing."

Walmer has cared for her neighbors since being approached several years ago by her hair clients, who were asking for help. She joined Homeward Bound, helping people in their residence for a decade in the 1980s, stopping in before and after work. She said she did it in part because she loved it - and also to help support her own family.

"I just love helping people," she said. "When you have that in you - it's hard to get rid of."

Her nurturing spirit likely came from those days as a girl growing up, caring for so many siblings, cousins and children in her life. As she cares for the elderly, she said it still is something that makes her feel complete.

"My mom was also very caring," she said. "The best thing you can give older people is your time."

Walmer is no longer paid to care for elderly neighbors and friends, but still checks in regularly with several because of her genuine concern for them. She offers up rides, reads them the newspaper and, of course, often fixes their hair.

Through the years, Walmer has also taken the opportunity to foster children. One girl, Michelle Andrews, she still considers a daughter. She lived with Walmer on and off until she was 18.

"I'm still her mom," she said. "But never legally."

Working at Dean, though different from caring for others, is something Walmer enjoys. Through the years she's filed charts, answered phones and moved to management for a while. Today, she's backed off a little to enjoy life and spend more time with family.

She has lived in Monticello since 1975 and over time, Walmer has become involved in the community. She served as a Girl Scout leader, starting by leading her younger siblings and then for her own children and also served as the cookie chairperson. For several years during Bicentennial Days, she worked on parade floats. She also served as the Bible school superintendent for the Albany Lutheran Church.

For 15 years, Walmer was part of the Green County Ag Chest as the Monticello Dairy Queen chairperson, where she said she was blessed with wonderful queens. She started when her step-daughter filled the role and stayed after she enjoyed being part of the organization.

"The more she did, the more I did," Walmer said. "So they asked me to be chairperson. I loved it. I loved the kids and the experience. The girls just learned so much. I love the Ag Chest."

When her daughter Tara was on the fire department and a first responder, Walmer found herself active there as well, helping where she could. She was also instrumental in getting the Monticello pool built in the 1980s, taking the matter to the village board after months of research and working with other communities.

"It was important for me to have something for the kids to do," Walmer said.

A few years ago, Walmer delved into yet another organization, Make-A-Wish Foundation, when she saw a little boy from Monticello hoping to reach his dream of meeting the Green Bay Packers and helped him achieve that goal. Although Walmer isn't as active as she once was, she said she hopes to become more involved with the program once she retires.

"I feel the compassion and the necessity of being involved," Walmer said. "Everybody should be involved in some way or another."

Walmer is most happy when she's spending time with her husband and her two daughters, Leaora and Tara, and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She's also raised several step-children and is still close with many of them.

"I love being a mom," she said, smiling. "But I love being a grandma better."

Although it takes a lot to slow Walmer down, she does enjoy some quiet time. She still plays piano, crochets, walks regularly and does embroidery. She and her husband, Roger, enjoy going out to eat and taking small day trips to see the countryside. She has favorite television shows and considers herself an advocate for people with diabetes, a disease that's touched several of her family members' lives.

Her goals are to simply "live long enough to see my grandchildren become the people they want to be," she said. She plans to retire eventually, but it's likely she'll never stop being involved and busy. She said she likes the feeling of being needed, and helping others is her "happy place."

She also has big hopes for Monticello - and wants to see some much-needed things come to fruition for the small town. Walmer said she feels they are on the right track.

Her quote is a mantra she's preached for years - to her children and family - to help them in several aspects of life where the simple words come in handy.

"If you can't say something nice about somebody, don't say anything at all," Walmer said.