By KIM LOCCISANO
Times Leader Staff Writer
Friendship is a gift freely given and graciously received.
With deep appreciation for an amazing friendship through good and bad times, Martins Ferry resident Joanie Appenzeller, right, happily nominated her close friend and neighbor, Jessie Worthington, left, to be honored as this month’s neighbor.
A friendship for the ages is one of those rare treasures that, when looked back on, is clearly a source of things that unfailingly help separate a person's days from the night, and even from their nightmares.
Friendship is one of those things you can't order from a catalogue, or purchase anywhere.
It definitely cannot be mass produced.
You can't put a price on it, and you can't put conditions on it.
You certainly can't demand someone be your friend, or impose your friendship on someone else.
What you can do when given a gift of friendship - be a friend in return both in good times and the tough ones as well.
It is in appreciation of just such a friendship that Martins Ferry resident Joanie Appenzeller nominated her close friend and neighbor, Jessie Worthington, for consideration as the "Hey! That's My Neighbor" honoree for June.
The motivation behind the nomination is simple, explained Appenzeller.
It was a gesture of thanks.
"She has always been so kind and generous. Her regular phone calls, and the wonderful meals and desserts she would make sure were shared with me, especially during holidays. She always sent enough food for two meals," said Appenzeller. "It was a kindness which meant so much to me, especially while Bill was sick and I was caring for him here at home alone. I will never be able to thank her enough for her many kindnesses and acts of thoughtfulness."
The longstanding friendship between Appenzeller and her neighbor is something both women continue to treasure.
It has seen them both successfully through some of their individually darkest days, as well as some of the brighter ones.
Few things can challenge the strength of a friendship more than traumatic events and their aftermath, especially when those life-changing moments arrive without warning or real hope of reversal.
Times such as those are often what really provide an unfettered look at who your true friends are.
Being friends with someone can be simple when everything is going along smoothly. Hit an unexpected bump in the road - or fall into one of life's deep sink holes - then take a look around to see who is still there to help make sure you regain your footing and get to safe ground.
So it was with Appenzeller and Worthington.
Appenzeller did not ask for outside caregivers to help with her husband's care until the couple were three years into the illness.
"Most people did not know he had gotten sick, and certainly had no idea how seriously ill he was," she offered, recalling not wanting to paint her husband in a vulnerable light to his friends.
Joanie and Bill Appenzeller's life together had always been a full and rewarding one filled social events.
That all changed in July 2000 when Bill developed a blood clot on his brain.
Things in their day-to-day life would never be the same for the outgoing and very socially-involved couple.
A harsh reality only underscored when in 2001, Bill suffered a devastating stroke from which he would never recover. The message from the physicians was his condition was dire and would quickly get much worse.
She made the decision to care for him at home.
It was a 24-7 commitment which would span six years. But it was a decision she says she never regretted on any level, though readily acknowledging it often proved a daunting and isolating task.
"In January 2001, Bill had a stoke leaving him unable to talk, walk or eat without the aid of a feeding tube in his stomach 24-7," shared Appenzeller
The Appenzellers had enjoyed a very full social life for many years. He was a retired police officer, was the head of the Lions Club and had earned his way to the number two position at one of the busiest organizations in the area, the Osiris Shriners, headquartered at Monument Place in Elm Grove, to list just a few of their activities and interests.
Their days of traveling and socializing had come to an abrupt halt.
Days, months and even years would come to feel as though they were being lived inside a sort of cocoon. But through it all, they were able to enjoy many moments together in the comfort of their own home, thanks to her decision to see to her husband's care herself and the regular connection Worthington provided her to the world beyond the increasing isolation of the walls of their family home in Martins Ferry.
"My neighbor Jessie Worthington has a job, but every holiday, she cooked and made pies and cakes. Jessie always had a house full of family and friends but always made sure I had a meal for every special holiday. She always sent enough of everything so I would have a second meal later.
"For all the holidays, I had a hot and delicious meal. This was truly appreciated and enjoyed. Jessie would not only send a piece of cake, but several pieces of different homemade pies.
"At Easter, she sent me a beautiful Easter basket filled with candy, along with my food. At Christmas, she made sure I had one of her delicious nutrolls, knowing it was my favorite," offered Appenzeller of her friend's acts of kindness.
"For six years, Jessie never once forgot me on any holiday. It has been six years since Bill passed, but Jessie will still call me to ask if I have plans for the holiday.
"Being alone on some holidays, Jessie has brightened my day many times in these past 12 years," offered Appenzeller. "She has been a truly wonderful neighbor."
According to Worthington, the friendship flows in both directions, noting Appenzeller has helped see her though trying personal times as well over the course of those years.
"Our friendship is not about sitting down at the table and having a cup of coffee together. It is about making sure you know someone is always going to be watching out for you, that you know there will be a phone call coming sometime soon from somebody who just wants to let you know they are thinking about you," said Worthington. "I guess you could say our close friendship is about making sure the other person never feels alone, or lonely."
"I never have to feel alone, and neither does she. But most importantly, neither of us is ever going to be alone or feel isolated from life. If something goes wrong, all either of us has to do is pick up the phone and call," said Appenzeller.
Their bond of friendship that has built up over the years is something of a quality not often seen or experienced in this hectic age - but it should be.
Nominate your neighbor!
Send your name and phone number, the nominee's name and phone number and the reason for their nomination to Shaunna Dunder Hershberger, The Times Leader, 200 S. Fourth St., Martins Ferry, Ohio 43935 or email firstname.lastname@example.org