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Alumni families’ dinner known for fun, good cause

The Koetter family knows well how devastating a disease Alzheimer’s is, having lost several members of the family, including Bob Koetter (Hon. ’01), to the chronic neurodegenerative disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. On Saturday, several members of the extended family will work together to put on the Fading Memories Dinner & Dessert Auction to raise money to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. Over the last five years, the dinner has resulted in more than $200,000 in donations to the association and its research for a cure. It will be held at 5:00 p.m. in the St. John Starlight gymnasium.

Jackie (Andres) Colin ’69 is one of the event’s organizers. She came up with the idea with her cousin, Jack Koetter ’72, after his father, Bob Koetter, passed away. The first year, they organized a breakfast and raised $20,000. The next year, she suggested they make it a dinner event and add an auction for desserts. The idea for the dessert auction came from a memory of her late father, who often talked about the dessert auction at their church picnic and how before her parents married how he would make sure to bid on her mother’s dessert so he could eat it with her.

Colin said Jack Koetter was skeptical about the dessert auction at first, but it proved to be a hit, and the dinner raised more than $35,000 its first year. Over the last several years, attendance at the annual dinner has grown, drawing family, out-of-town relatives, friends, and supporters of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The dinner is catered by All About Taste, owned by Colin and her sisters Joyce (Andres) Young ’67 and Ginny (Andres) Balmer ’65, and the desserts are donated by anyone who wishes to bring one. Colin said the first year she worried they wouldn’t have enough, so she and her sisters make extra. Now there are so many that the dessert auction portion takes about two hours of the event. Desserts will typically go for $100 to as much as $2,000, and the top bidders get to enjoy the dessert at their table or take it home.

Colin said the bidding can get quite heated at times, with cousins and siblings often playfully running up the bidding on someone who wants a particular baker’s dessert. And some desserts always bring a high price, including Hilda (Schellenberger) Schmidt ’56’s coconut cream pie or any dessert made by Colin or her sisters, who have a friendly competition with each other to bring in the highest bid. Last year, she baked her famous cinnamon rolls and offered a group class to learn how to make them. That auction item went to two bidders for $1,250 each, and since it was such a success, she plans to offer the class with her cinnamon rolls again this year.

The buffet dinner begins at 5:00 p.m. and is followed by a presentation by the Alzheimer’s Association and then the auction. Colin said she appreciates how informative the presentation is, especially for those unaware of the many available local resources for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and their families. But the best part is that everyone has a good time as they support a worthy cause, including those who volunteer or donate.

Huber’s Orchard & Winery donates the wine, family and friends donate desserts, and many members of the Andres family, including their cousins Vicki (Andres) Prince ’69 and Roberta “Birdie” (Andres) Koerner ’61, pitch in to help with the food.

“We have fun, and we get to see everybody we know and are related to,” Colin said. “It’s been absolutely wonderful for our parish too.”

Koetter said he appreciates the community’s support of the dinner.

“Alzheimer’s disease has certainly had a dramatic impact on my family,” Koetter said. “It robbed my father and several of his siblings of their dignity and eventually took their lives – all at a relatively young age. If there is any small thing that I, along with my cousins, can do to bring both awareness and support to this cause, I’ll be glad to do it. This event has overwhelmingly been received by our community, and for that I’m extremely grateful. “

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