Published On: Wed, Nov 9th, 2011

‘Steffen girls’ celebrate sisterhood

HARTINGTON — The Steffen “girls” know how to celebrate sisterhood and have fun doing it.
When the six “Steffen” sisters – Charlotte Feilmeier and Elaine Arens, Hartington; Ruth Riesselman and Mary Lou Dietsch, Omaha; Joyce Massop, Independence, MO and Romaine Wiebelhaus, Sergeant Bluff, Iowa – gather for their annual sister’s weekend there is lots of laughter and talking.
The siblings, who are daughters of Ike and Hilda Steffen, were born within 10 years of one another.

They grew up on the home place four miles west of Hartington and are all graduates of Holy Trinity High School.
For the last 22 years the six sisters have been adding a few days into their busy schedules in order to get together and spend time with one another.
Elaine remembers hearing one of her sisters say, “Some day is now – it is here. Don’t wait or it might never happen.”
The six ladies are committed to having a sister’s trip or gathering each year.
“At first we just met up with one another but during the last years we started branching out,” Charlotte said.
The first year the sister-trip involved spending time with one another at one of the sister’s lake houses.
This fall the six ladies took a five-star vacation and cruised down the Mississippi River on a replica of an old fashioned riverboat.
“It was a wonderful time of the year – the trees were just starting to change colors. The sunsets were beautiful. We went through the locks on the Mississippi River,” Elaine said. “The river was so calm. It was a relaxing trip. We sat in rocking chairs on the deck and talked.”
It began in 1989 when the six siblings met up at Joyce’s lake house at Sunrise Beach, Mo. The next year they were at Romaine’s cabin in Miners Bend, Iowa and the third year they pitched tents at a campsite near Yankton for two nights.
In 1992 the sisters met up in Omaha. The following year they made a trip to Fort  Randall where they visited historical sites, trudged through old cemeteries, did a little gambling and ended up on the stage alongside two stars that had appeared in a television show.
“We sang on stage with the Hegar twins – Jim and Jon – from the television show Hee Haw,” Elaine said.
During the next five years they stayed at Joyce’s lake house; at Romaine’s home in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa where they did some shopping and went out to eat; enjoyed the musical “Beehive” in Omaha; rented cabins near the Missouri River by Yankton and hung out with one another in Kansas City.
In 1999 the sister’s gathered in Hartington as their mother was sick.
In 2000, the ladies then found the perfect place to celebrate “sisterhood” when they stayed at the Big Red Barn at Platte River State Park.
In nearby Louisville they had tea at the “Art Chicks” – a business which is based on the notion that women do not play enough or take enough time to enjoy friendships.
The ladies dressed up in furs, hats, gloves and jewelry, all furnished by “Art Chicks”, while they sipped tea and enjoyed lunch that always includes dessert.
In 2001 the gathering involved a Halloween party. The six ladies went to the Good Will store and found all kinds of costumes. Charlotte was a jelly bean, Mary Lou a cow – other costumes included a jester and witch.
“We went down to Fourth Street for a Halloween party,” Elaine said.
The following year the sisters traveled by Amtrak train to Chicago where one of their first cousins live.
They walked “the magnificent mile” in downtown Chicago which is known as “one of the great avenues of the World”.
They took in some museums, ate Chicago hot dogs and pizza and had a dress-up dinner where they sipped chocolate martinis.
They took a seven minute ride on Navy Pier’s big Ferris wheel which is advertised as great fun for kids of all ages.
“It was an incredible ride. I like Ferris wheels but it was scary,” Charlotte said.
A couple of the sisters got lost in 2003 while they were staying in Las Vegas.
The next year the sisters visited Kansas City and stayed at Joyce’s home in Independence, Mo. In 2004 they headed to Denver where they took a tour bus up through the mountains.
“It was gorgeous,” Elaine said.
They had fun at Lake Okoboji, Iowa in 2006 and 2008. They visited the shop of former Hartington resident Jan Bottolfsen and purchased huge decorative sunglasses which they wore on their trip.

A trip was not scheduled in 2007 as two of the families celebrated confirmations  during the year.
The sisters all traveled to the Black Hills in one van in 2009. The next year they flew to St. Louis, and visited cathedrals and the Botanical Gardens. A cab driver also offered to take them on a tour of some of the old mansions in the city.

“They were huge mansions. They were beautiful with manicured lawns,” Elaine said.

This year the sister-trip included a cruise down the Mississippi River and the sisters are already looking forward to next year’s Telluride vacation in the Colorado Mountains.
Sometimes the ladies wear look-alike sister shirts and each sister receives a bracelet on a mile-stone birthday as a special gift.
Elaine had been very upset when she had lost her sister-bracelet but this year’s trip included a happy surprise for her.
“I found it on the trip this year,” Elaine said. “It made my day when I found it on the way back home.”
The ladies are happy to have had the last 22 years to be able to spend time with one another and continue their bond as sisters.
“We do a lot of talking, laughing and reminiscing,” Elaine said. “Who needs a therapist when you have sisters?”