Joe Rezmer and Meegan Winters

Recorded November 1, 2019 Archived November 8, 2019 39:16 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: cte000186


Friends Joe Rezmer (39) and Meegan Winters (39) share memories about turning 40, facing fears and life with disabilities, and navigating life in wheelchairs.


  • Joe Rezmer
  • Meegan Winters

Recording Locations

Michigan History Center

Partnership Type



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00:00 My name is Joe rezmer. I'm 39 years old today's date is 11 119th and Lansing with my friend meeting.

00:09 And my name is Meegan Winters. I am 39 years old. Today's date is November 1st 2019. I'm in Lansing Michigan with my friend Joe.

00:21 So I thought about what we could talk about today Joe and I'm just recently I think last week maybe two weeks ago. Now I sent you a text to discuss your 40th of birthday is coming up and I guess a little bit of history back into our early days as Joe and I met in 1999 is what I'm guessing and we were at a muscular dystrophy Camp. So I was at a camp counselor at a muscular dystrophy camp and I go was one of the the campers and his sister Jessica who was also one of our one of our key players in the in our story with my camper. So for one week for seven full days. We did all of these camp activities and it was just really one of them.

01:21 Incredible moment of my life. And so that is how Joe and I met and that is where Jessica comes into this and from that day on we have been friends forever and had a lot of crazy times and amazing parties and fill the parties. That's where I was getting into with celebrating the 40th birthday because probably since that day we have celebrated our birthdays together and some way or another so with Jose 40th birthday coming up I sent him a text and said Joe you need to come up with 40 things you want to do before the age of 40, so we actually haven't discussed any of the things on his list yet. And so I thought that would be a really fun topics to talk about

02:08 So what do you think? Would you have a few things on your left? I do have a few I was not able to come up with a full 40 cuz that is that has a pretty pretty challenging feet come up with 40 things cuz I was kind of going more.

02:24 Not everyday kind of stuff but towards the end of the list it was becoming more.

02:30 More vanilla

02:33 So they catch up with like 25 or 26 things. Okay. Let's hear a couple of them. There were a few that were spend more time with friends and cousins kids and that kind of stuff all my cousins and their kids cuz I think most of them have kids now. Of the more

03:06 Some of the larger items were going to see the redwoods in, California.

03:15 Bending a month outside of Michigan when it's not freezing cold and you know winter that's great. I would be happy to join you.

03:27 I don't know where.

03:31 Couple other things but I can't think of them right now speaking to those to another random thing that I did recently was. I told you do that. So I guess again I haven't really given a great background story here because you can't see us Joe is a wheelchair user and we my company is an accessibility competent company. What we do is we provide virtual tours of public places so that people whether they have a physical disability or an invisible disability can kind of see those places explore those places get comfortable before they go to those places. And so one of the other things that I said to Joe recently was that Winnebago

04:19 Has an accessible has an accessible Suite of winnebago's now and so I have them on my Instagram and every time one of them passes through it. Like I see it. I visualize it I'd like we're going to go somewhere and one of these winnebagos. I don't know how I'm going to get my hands on one of these winnebagos, but I want we can maybe go to the redwoods in a Winnebago. We may have to hire a little nervous about driving.

04:49 So what else is on your list?

04:51 I'm not really sure. I didn't look at it today, could have warned me a little bit. So what about restaurants and things like that? There was actually no just say that.

05:11 Ridge Road was give me a minute. I'll think about it, but

05:18 Well speaking of lists. I have had an idea. I guess I'm going to call it just one of those judges or an Intuition or something that I was listening to a podcast a few last week. Maybe was actually earlier this week and it was a woman that was talking about conquering her fears. And so she did a hundred things in a I don't know if she's a hundred days or in one year. She did a hundred things that she was afraid to do. And so that was something that inspired me. So after you're asking you to create a list I have started a list of I want to do 20 things in 2020 that I'm afraid of so things like in the podcast she kind of categorizes different types of fears. There are fears that disgust you so like eating a cricket would be there are fears that of being of being lonely.

06:15 So for some someone it might be scary to go to a restaurant by yourself or to take a vacation for a weekend by yourself. Those are things that people are afraid to do their mannerists 7 things out that kind of friend of those categories and how danger is one of them still like skydiving could be dangerous. And so I want to kind of find some of those things in each of those categories and then do them in 2020 and I'm going to I think start a Facebook group or something to inspire other people to do the same because I think when you can conquer your fears those the other fears seem so insignificant things that hold us back from really achieving what we can achieve I know starting a business that presenting in front of people with something I was terrified of and now it's something that isn't that big of a deal. I've done it a few times and I've conquered fears

07:15 Bigger than those that fear, so I don't know a few things that I think I might do is I'm terrified of spiders. So I might go to their little ones are what I want to go to preuss pets, which is also a stabilized acceptable business and I'm going to ask to hold a tarantula.

07:47 And of course all of this needs to have photo evidence tried it and so if if I start this group of people, it doesn't have to be men or women can be both don't couraging everyone to make sure that you have photo evidence our a video evidence of all of these things. So I don't want to commit to something is like skydiving yet, but it could something like that could happen.

08:19 So yeah, I but it's scary roller coasters. Those are scary for me.

08:25 So I have a lot of I have a lot of ideas rolling around in my head and I just need to narrow it down to 20 to a hundred. Not getting 40 + 4 is hard to get 40. It's a big number 20 20 20 20. It really has to do with the Ring of saying that to me before 40 has a ring 25 Before 40 does not take it before 40. I thought I took it more as like during 40.

08:59 Atlas well, I can start happening anytime you have up until the day before your 41st birthday. Perfect because I would really like to go to California with you too. And I'm I'm going to work on that Winnebago. I'll just call him I will just call them and say Hey would like to use a Winnebago we will record I will have video evidence of this amazing Excursion and it will be great advertising for Winnebago. They're very cool that is for sure the pictures and stuff. It's an amazing.

09:34 Amazing vehicle being a part of our story and there's there's the fourth member of our story Susie is another one of her good friends that the four of us were very close and Susie is working today so she can be here today. But as you would have been definitely she she would have been the humor of this podcast if she were available because I'm sure she is very outgoing and says whatever is on her mind, but we love that about her. But I'm I'm thinking if we could you don't do something like that in a Winnebago with Susie. It would be really cool. I need to driver then. Yes for sure. Absolutely.

10:25 And one of the things I really would like to include her in something because I don't know probably four years ago. Now we went Joe and I and his family went to Boston to do a whale tour with the whales in memory of Jessica. That was something that was really on that. She had requested prior to her passing was that she would like to have her ashes with the whales so we went to Boston in July of 16. Do you think

11:07 Yeah, I don't remember you said I think I had there been 17, okay.

11:12 She said yeah, she wanted her Ashes to be at the house for a year. Okay, so 15 I had to been 17 Again that Susie would have would have been definitely included in that experience, but it was something that she couldn't get away to be a part of and so we had this incredible experience kind of honoring Jessica's life and she wasn't a part of it. So I think that if there is an opportunity for us to do something that includes her and there's you know, of course a way to honor Jessica, it would be really meaningful to her for sure. So we have a blessed that we have a lot of things going in 2020.

11:59 Should be busy.

12:02 Do you have any other what about you? What if you had to make a list of 20 Fierce? What would be something that's on your list?

12:13 I don't know. It's it I'm not very fearful about things that I get more anxious anxious.

12:22 For example this morning. I switch on my wheelchair quit working. So luckily it's in the on position, but that's something something I get anxious about. It's okay. I check what's now, you know stuff like that. Absolutely definitely a valid fear. That's a fear anxiety is fear. I think it's just what we identified as

12:47 Is just there's just a different name for it. There's also so I am presenting in San Francisco next week and people keep asking me if I am nervous and I've said over and over again. I am identifying my emotion as excited as I am excited to go to San Francisco and I'm excited to fetch able eyes in the city. I've never been to I'm traveling all by myself. I'm so if it was 20 20, I would have this I would have conquered a female because you're going to San Francisco by myself. I'm staying at a hotel by myself. I'm presenting to I'm really influential people in the travel industry by myself dog from your family for

13:34 Guess there's so many things in pieces, but I know that upon coming home. I will feel so empowered and a proud of myself for accomplishing us. No matter what the outcome is. So it's just how you identify your your fears.

13:54 Have you ever had that had something like that happen that actually Sparks a really great conversation that I think you know what I'm going to say. So Jessica was at so I went to Central Michigan University and my last year with her first year, so she came to Central Michigan. We live together for a semester and then I was going back home to do my student teaching and she ended up staying at Central completed her bachelor's and almost completed her master's degree.

14:29 And there was a time so several times when we would go Suzy and I would go to visit at Joe and we would pick up Jessica on our way.

14:39 And so we would stop it in Mount Pleasant Michigan and then we would go to Joe side of the state and there was one time. I don't know if it was that we couldn't fit the chair or the chair wasn't working to remember Joe.

14:58 It seems like you would be able to though but maybe maybe that's what happened. So we got ter she Susie got to Mount Pleasant and couldn't fit Jessica's chair and go see you found this little recliner that it would have to be a recliner for a toddler. I'm a little tiny recliner chair in her van and the Buckle Jackson and off they went so and then I met them a little bit later. I think I was camping with my family and my husband drop me off and we met Susie and Jessica kind of part way.

15:38 And then we went all the way back to Jessica and Joe's house in Pinconning, Michigan. So that day Jessica was without a chair. She had no way to move around because she didn't have her chair and we had absolutely the most incredible day. We usually was probably drinking involved in almost any of our encounters, but we always and always always had an amazing time. And so this one this particular trip, we said Jessica you're going to experience things that you've never experienced before.

16:20 So they have an amazing beautiful property. Keep in mind. We didn't leave the yard. They'll have an amazing property. And so we found all of these experiences and there's photo evidence of all of these kind of stations that we created. So for example, we they have a pond in there at the back of their property. And so we put her in a rowboat. We put her chair her the kids the kids recliner chair floaties. We like little kids weenie floaty things. How much do you think she weigh Joe? I think the toddler chair and so we put her recliner chair in the boat. We put her in floaties and for some reason Susie and I dressed up in some goofy clothes.

17:20 Packing some glitter had something and so we took her out and about we said we're taking you on a boat ride until we rode basically in a circle and the pain because it's not a huge isn't much larger than a boat ride, but it was a great experience and then we also they had a snowmobile in the back that was not funny. They was not functioning at all and we put her on the snowmobile and we took a picture of her on the snowmobile and said that Jessica was snowmobiling today. And then we there was a big rock is humongous rock out there. We put her on the Rock because we had I mean you had to carry her from all of these these places because she didn't have her chair to move around. So we put her on the Rock and said Jessica went rock climbing.

18:20 And what else did we do? I feel like something further out.

18:29 I don't know what that I don't remember what this pill is out there wasn't it was on the trail. We're further down the trail. And so that that is one of the most amazing days. I will never forget my life. I just we had even despite any challenges any disabilities any everybody involved like we had just the most amazing day and had an incredible experience because that's that's just the one of the things with having your and maybe you could speak to this more Joanna having a disability because I don't personally have mobility issues, but it can be

19:16 You can become a victim of it or you can live your life to the fullest and I feel that Jessica lived her life to the fullest and I feel the same way about you that it never really talked about it. I don't even I don't even see your chair ever know that isn't usually aware of your doors and things like that and just being considerate but just seeing you. I don't see your chair. Right and it's and it's a lot of it's a lot of choice on like RN to you know, we choose to

19:48 To make things happen. They might not happen the way.

19:52 It should but you'll go and make it work and that was kind of part of my whole whole growing up and leaving my career. Really.

20:04 I got heavily involved in some engineering and worked as a product design engineer and stuff like that for 21 years and it's basically because of the way I grew up. I wasn't challenor. I was challenged every day somehow or someway, you know, I need to get from here to there. How do you do it her? I can't pick this up, but I don't have anybody here to help me right now. How do I how do I move in or how do I get this or you know, if you come up with creative creative ways sometimes and you're so good at that. You can like MacGyver anything. You can't figure out any way to make something happen anything Emmaus all the time by the things that you do when you're super handy.

20:54 And speaking to what you were talking about and growing up. You also come from the most amazing family on Earth for sure. Your parents are absolutely incredible. And I feel like you have always been involved in your community. You've always been involved in any anything that any other kids were involved in you had parties you I had great friends you went on vacations, like what were some of the best vacations that you went on?

21:25 Well good the one vacation for sure was.

21:30 Previous to putting Jesse's actions with the whales. We went to a New York. We did the New York and Boston week. So we went to New York City stay there a couple please Central Park and all that, you know all the all of the cliche things you do when you go to New York and then we went to Boston like we didn't even research. You know what Boston I mean, I knew it Sam Adams was there so that was one thing I did was go to Sam Adams. But as far as the other stuff we didn't have a clue. So one day we just kind of went. Okay. Well towards let's go take a while to her and that was probably one of the coolest things I've ever done.

22:15 Get on a big boat near your right out in the ocean for about 3 hours and they somehow magically know where these whales are and they show up and you can watch him. It's just a crazy cool agree. That was one of the going back with you. So your second time. That's definitely one of the most memorable moments. I feel like I've said this a lot. That's one of the most memorable moments life's. So apparently she's a huge impact on my life. But yes seeing those wheels and and I think what I remember Jessica saying is that there was such a sense of freedom in and I remember your parents or maybe you talking about how when she went with you guys that she just kind of sat outside in the cold just staring mezmorized by these whales and their sense of freedom.

23:09 And that was something that I mean she I think was you looking for or felt moved by and that is why she wanted that's where she wanted her ashes and Ahern was in a whale tail as well and she thought everything through she she thought everything through.

23:31 What about airplanes? Have you you've been on an airplane once right? I'm curious about the planets. Specially coming from an accessibility. Like what would I do now? Yeah, it wasn't the process was once we get through customs or checking security or whatever. You want to call it you transfer from your chair to some.

24:05 Wheelchairs things the airplane can get down the aisle of the airplane.

24:13 And transferring to a chair that you'd like a normal chair that you would sit in which were there that whole process was kind of interesting. Luckily we had

24:26 A good group of people that went with us and most of them are EMTs and stuff like that that we're friends was so they knew how to to pick me up and move me and stuff like that. And then once that happens the wheelchair gets loaded underneath the plane with the rest of the cargo and that's all I've heard horror stories about that and likely are the word transferred with no issues, but you can hear him down there push him around until I call a cow with a doing interesting now adventure for sure.

25:07 Luckily, we had the the foresight to bring a pair of ramps with us portable ramps because we knew we were going to do a little bit of traveling while we were down there. It wasn't much away from our hotel or Resort, but we did go to town once I think yeah once or twice and we were under the assumption that we are going to need them so that we were able to strap them on the back of her chair and what time we come around the corner and it was not the probably the best ally to be walking down but there was a bunch of guys sitting on the side having lunch and to come with me and Jessica and I got these big old aluminum ramp strapped to the back of my chair and they're just looking as we go by it was just it was a pretty comical thing. You can see there are smirking and laughing but

25:55 I don't know if that trip wasn't too bad other than the trance the the airplane part of it the trip went. Well. It's just one of those things are like those ramps we had to bring the ranch because at that time this was I mean this was back at least 20 years ago. I want to say

26:22 The word is not a large selection of Transportation vehicles that were accessible either. So the ramps were more of a safety net for us to know that okay. They do have Vans. We just ran over to get into home with these the Rams did allows to get into the van. So, you know, that was that was one of those things that we just brought with us just because and luckily we didn't work. So I was well.

26:49 Add a week of Cancun Sun and Fun must be a lot of work to pack all of the things in the battery is low pressure equipment. I mean that's a lot of work for everybody involved but your parents and your family and your family friends were like, let's do it. Let's have this. Yeah. And I just died. I just admire that so much. Yeah, but it wasn't the most work and packing though. We're back in 14. I think it was her maybe even 13th. We went to

27:28 Las Vegas and Grand Canyon

27:32 And we did a lot of had to do a lot of packing for that one.

27:37 Because I had to bring all the equipment and everything. We needed my sister had specialized equipment for her that she needed for breathing and whatnot. And

27:47 She was worried about the elevation. So we had to bring a small oxygen supply and some other things and just packing all that into a minivan with two wheelchairs in three people. It was a lot we started that week like she was a two week two week vacation. We started the

28:11 The first weekend out at Family reunions, downtown, Louisville.

28:15 And then drove from there to

28:21 The Grand Canyon in the neck of the Grand Canyon to be swim through Vegas.

28:27 Then from Vegas we came back through Denver and Illinois and that whole make a big circle.

28:34 That's so awesome. I think you maybe have been two more states that I have been like I haven't really been to that many knots a lot of wife on that trip cuz we made a big loop Australia been to Florida. We have the whole Disney.

28:55 That was a long time ago. That was I think I was 13 or 14.

29:02 Next that was kind of going to the the back to the realtor stories. That was my first power wheelchair. I got it the weekend. We went to Disney World. No, but I did I crashed into something.

29:18 It was the first time that I had control of any kind of speed or motivation or moving and we were here driving around we drove down of course to Wheelchairs and whatnot. But we stopped at the gas station. We all went to the bathroom and I was

29:37 Just being a Hotrod the gas station and I ran into the stable flu shot glasses. I think I cleared probably about half of the table. It must have been a 200 shot glasses. I just went right off the table. That's amazing. That is I've never heard that story Joe my very first accident in the wheelchair which

30:01 It wasn't that bad, but it was fun. And how many accidents have you had in the wheelchair not many I run into stuff all the time what could be wrong, but I don't like full call plant into a table and knocking off half the shot glasses. That was probably one of the more aggressive ones I've ever had.

30:26 Have any none that I know of but I don't know to slow more timid than I was so she might have but I don't think it was anything major.

30:37 I mean

30:38 Running this stuff just like you stub your toe everyday, you know something like that. It's kind of a similar similar thing.

30:51 Yeah, I got to see trim trim on the wall in the corner.

30:56 Quite a bit

31:01 Interesting, I fell through a ramp.

31:05 Places that you in Boston that cheers was that at Sears.

31:22 I wasn't wasn't really wrap. It was all the stair floaties. That was yes. That was cool thing ever. It was cool. It was like a little elevator or went out on a rail and then fold it out of the way and

31:35 Was that was floating?

31:38 Stop Crucible sketchy at the time but it wasn't mad just because I don't think I can at least I have learned through a blithe and is that places that are historically a preserved? So any buildings that are historically preserved do not have to be that I would imagine that all of Boston the table historically Freezeria that does not have to be accessible. Not that anyone is intentionally making it not accessible but they don't have to meet the same requirements. So appreciative that places like that in place to make sure that people can get in go downstairs. Now, there was no bathroom I could get to I know that that was an issue, but we took care of that one, too.

32:38 In college dress and I did that a lot just have to be creative with what you got. If it was going to a house party. There were plenty of fellows that I've had a few drinks that would lift her chair right up into the house and she would be good to go until we never I never felt like in college that we missed out on anything. There was never a time that I've said. Well, we can't go experience this thing because Jessica's in a wheelchair. We just had to make the best or be creative with what we had and that whole process for her was you getting her involved in that to her that would have never happened. So kudos to you. Thank you. It was it was really an incredible. It was an incredible year and an incredible experience and was so proud of her for as much as like being operated. I just can't even imagine we are obviously relying on your parents as much as she is she had had to sit saying what I'm going to go to college an hour away and rely on.

33:38 People to make sure that I'm alive because things like taking a bath and then you can just you can't just layer in the back then let the water run. I am other people to make sure that she went to the bathroom and that she didn't drown in the bathtub. And you know, I was only probably 50% of her help because I was going to classes to sew flashlight 75% cuz of nighttime, but if she had other college kids that were that she had to rely on and depending on what happened the night before they may or may not show up and do their is it was definitely very challenging but she was able to navigate through that whole process by herself and you'll get the help that she needed and stay there for one another. Oh, it was a while before 5 for sure.

34:38 Aladdin to me and when she did come home and was nearing the end of her life know she was also very independent in mail making plans. Anyone wouldn't have done it for her, but that's just who she was and she just took care of those things for herself and do just so much respect for for her and

35:02 Her heard bravery and her independence and and knowing you had mentioned that she is very timid as she also was anal could be very she worried a lot. She worried about a lot of things and so going off to college had to have been just very worrisome. Very very very worried. It was a lot of worry and everybody's Parts. Actually there is yes, my parents were

35:32 Supportive as they could be but you had to have the whole inkley in the back your head going, okay.

35:40 I didn't sense there. I didn't sense their nervousness at all here when we moved into our apartment enter at so I think that they did a nice job of supporting her without showing too much that they were nervous.

35:58 So well, is there any last remarks that you have or did you think of any one more? If you have one more one more of your things on your list? I'm sure you can think of a big one. Actually. It was to help by help of my friends and family with their

36:16 Businesses. Did you want to help with Abel eyes more? I think I do.

36:23 I'm so excited. I haven't been dreaming of the day that you would say that I know it's recorded and then there's evidence that you said that.

36:33 Yeah, we'll see and I've been I do and also today I did a contest for able eyes and so on Monday Joe sent me a text and said do a contest this week. I have fight I challenged you to do it because I knew if I didn't put a little behind and it would have been a little casual. So yeah, I didn't need the challenge like I do that do that stuff, but he said I have I have five prizes to give out and so today after this recording or sometime this afternoon. We're going to award five. He finally he finally gave in does hard to sell someone to participate when they don't know the prices are for the fun, but they turned out super cool. He sent me a picture yesterday and I we will be giving

37:33 Play five able eyes winter hat so their winter hats with a ball on top and they have a table light logo on the front of them. So we will be awarding that later today. So that was today's the first day of the rest of your life with a blue eyes. So and I know you can't see Joe but the shirt that he's wearing. I bought him for Christmas and it's an evil eyes shirt that has the logo on one side hit the button down shirt as a logo on one side. And on the other side. It says the boss that is in lowercase letters boss is an uppercase letters because I already mentioned he's kind of bossy, but I'm super excited and then know that I've known I've known that he would be a part of this cell today is the first day of the rest of the rest of our lives as with a blue eyes.

38:28 All right.

38:32 Should we wrap it up?

38:36 All right.

38:38 Yeah. Alright. Well, thank you. Thank you Joe. This is awesome. I'm assuming she said that you did this I had to ask him a few times I had to ask before I got the commitment out of him obviously doing something like this is not comfortable for anyone but it is it wasn't that at all and this is something that could be preserved for forever and ever that our amazing friendship and all of the amazing things that we've been through.

39:11 Alright. Thank you.