Life's Voices

s / Milwaukee Public Radio

Milwaukee native Will Radler’s life mission has been to share the beauty of flowers.

Growing up on city’s north side, he poured over his grandmother’s rose catalogs. “I think I became a garden critic when I was in my single digit years,” Radler says.

His mom was an avid flower gardener. Even before he can remember she took Radler to Boerner Botanical Gardens. “My mother has a picture of me in a buggy. Do you remember buggies?” he adds with a laugh, “Yeah, I’m that old.”

Rachel Kubik

Every year at this time, we bring you stories of people in the Milwaukee area who are working to improve the community. In today’s installment of Life’s Voices, we hear from Muhibb Dyer.

The Milwaukee native is one of the founders of both the I Will Not Die Young Young Campaign, and Flood the Hood with Dreams. Both are designed to inspire inner city youth.

One of the longest-serving ministers in southeastern Wisconsin is retiring at the end of this year. The Rev. Tony Larsen will step down after more than four decades at Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church in Racine.

In addition to his work within the church walls, Larsen has been a regular figure at outdoor vigils that are held for victims of homicide.

Larsen says at first, he didn't think that role would be an appropriate one.

WUWM's year-end Life's Voices series continues with a profile of Robert Biko Baker. After earning at Ph.D. in history from UCLA, Baker -- a Milwaukee native -- returned home to make a difference. 

After the Sherman Park uprising last year, Baker launched an internet series called "My Black Story" to tell more complete stories about African Americans and Milwaukee. He talked with WUWM's LaToya Dennis about his background, and how he got involved in creating the internet series.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Aldo Leopold’s 1949 book A Sand County Almanac fueled the conservation movement. Estella Leopold, a vibrant nearly nonagenarian, was the youngest of five Leopolds. She grew up happily oblivious of her father’s fame.

Aldo was teaching at UW-Madison in the 1930s, when he bought a shack – quite literally, a ramshackle small barn – fifty miles to the north on what was exhausted farmland.

Estella loved the land.

Many people who give back to the community are motivated by causes that touch them, personally. That's the case for Alex Brkich. Because of his experience with his mother, Brkich has made his Wauwatosa restaurant Cranky Al’s friendly to people with Alzheimer’s and other memory loss.

Ann-Elise Henzl

During this holiday season, WUWM reporters are sharing stories of local people who give back to the community. In this installment of our year-end series Life's Voices, we meet Diane De La Santos.

Marti Mikkelson

Every Saturday morning, hundreds of people wait in line for the doors to open at the Riverwest Food Pantry. It’s located in the basement of St. Casimir’s Church in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood.

Once inside, they mingle for a few minutes, then Vincent Noth calls the group into prayer. He is the director of the operation.

LaToya Dennis

There is a chaplaincy program in Milwaukee – that responds to crime scenes and fires, and even to the unrest that occurred in Sherman Park this summer.

Rachel Morello

With the end of the year comes reflection, and plans for the months ahead. And 2016 is a big year for Milwaukee Recreation supervisor Carmelo Cortes. Cortes came to Milwaukee without many plans. He was just 21 when he arrived, coming from Puerto Rico to visit a cousin. He expected to stay a few weeks.

Things did not go according to plan.

“A friend of mine asked me if I wanted a part-time job, and since I was going to stay for a month or so, I figured, [I’d] work and make a little bit of money,” he remembers.

Courtesy of Dennis Walton

You've probably heard that it's important for fathers to be involved in their children's lives. Yet some dads struggle, such as those who don't have a good relationship with their kids' mom. A local organization gives men tools to connect with their children. One of its leaders knows what the dads are going through, from personal experience.

Marti Mikkelson

Each year, WUWM profiles the unsung heroes in Milwaukee. Today, we feature Carmen Pitre, executive director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center. It shelters and aids victims of domestic violence.

Carmen Pitre sits at a conference table in the new shelter for battered women that she’s envisioned for years. It’s a huge brick building covering a square block of Milwaukee’s central city and actually won’t open until February.

S Bence

Sharon Adams sips a Purple Haze, a beet infused drink, and marvels. She’s glancing out the window of The Juice Kitchen on North Avenue off 17th Street.

“We used to walk the streets that were trouble, it would be noisy. Now it’s peaceful out there and the noise is good in here,” Adams says.

We now continue our annual year-end series Life’s Voices. We present people working to improve the community, sometimes with little fanfare. Today we meet Terri Strodthoff. She’s founder and president of the Alma Center. It helps men who have committed acts of domestic violence to discover and heal from trauma early in their lives that may have led them to act violently.

Ann-Elise Henzl

WUWM's year-end Life's Voices series continues with a profile of self-taught pianist Len Pawelski. 

He's a lifelong musician and long-time accordion player and teacher. Five days a week, he volunteers at Aurora West Allis Medical Center, playing the piano for visitors and staff.

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