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Woman's Best Friend


March 2018

To commemorate National Women’s History Month this March, five notable Milwaukee area females — all of whom are both professionally driven and philanthropically minded — share who and what inspires them, how they give back, and why they adore their furry family members.

Faye Wetzel
Founder/CEO/CMO/Owner, Faye’s
Polly, pug, Pomeranian and Brittany spaniel mix
Panama, English pointer and Brittany spaniel mix
Emmitt, black lab

“We’ve had seven rescues in the 18 years that we’ve lived here,” says Faye Wetzel, adding that she works directly with Jaime Merkel, kennel lead at the Humane Animal Welfare Society, to find dogs. “She’ll call us and say, ‘I think I have a Wetzel dog.’”

The Wetzel brood usually includes three dogs. “As my husband says, ‘A dog is a dog, two dogs is two dogs, and three dogs is a pack.’ So we always have a pack,” Wetzel says. “When we lose one and we’re down to two for a while, it just isn’t the same.”

And yet, her role as co-caretaker of their “pack” is just one of many titles Wetzel holds. She is also the founder, chief executive officer, chief marketing officer and owner of Faye’s, a women’s fashion boutique with locations in Brookfield and Mequon. The company recently celebrated its 27th anniversary, and philanthropy continues to be at the forefront of Faye’s business model. “From day one, it’s been important to give back to those organizations that are important to our customers. It’s karmic, I think. It’s kind of how the world goes around,” Wetzel says. “Because we are a business by women, for women (and) almost exclusively staffed by women, women’s and children’s causes are really important to us.

“… Every day in the stores, we are up front and personal with women’s issues, whether it’s someone with breast cancer or a mother whose child has autism,” she continues, noting that Faye’s also supports arts in education funding. “The CEO of Starbucks talks about being that ‘third place.’ You have your home and your workplace, and then you have that third place — (a place) where people can go and feel comfortable. That’s Faye’s, and I'm really proud of that."

Peggy Williams-Smith
Senior Vice President, Marcus Hotels & Resorts
Tito, Boston terrier

Peggy Williams-Smith and her husband, Tim Smith, brought Tito home just over four months ago — on Nov. 15 of last year. The date also marked the one-year anniversary of the couple gaining custody of their 15-year-old niece, who created a PowerPoint presentation detailing why her new guardians should consider adding a four-legged member to their family. “The presentation also said that we’d name (the dog) after her uncle’s favorite vodka, Tito’s,” remembers Williams-Smith with a laugh. “His full name is Tito Fenway. He’s a Boston terrier, and my husband is from Boston.”

An active philanthropist who has spent the last two decades working her way up within The Marcus Corporation, Williams-Smith says she tries to lead by example, encouraging her niece to attend and participate in charitable events or fundraisers. “She didn’t have great role models, and I can see the transformation (happening since we gained custody). I can see the things that have changed for her,” Williams-Smith adds. “She’s been able to see really successful women in action, and that’s so important to me. That she’s not able to see just me, but the people I’m fortunate to surround myself with.”

Williams-Smith credits her boss, Steve Marcus, with sparking her commitment to giving back. “I got to learn from the best; he is so philanthropically minded,” she says. “(Steve) said to me, ‘What everyone needs to do is make the communities in which they live and work better places.’ He’s always lived by that motto.” Williams-Smith is currently involved with the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County and the United Performing Arts Fund, among other local charities, and is co-chairing two events this March: a leadership breakfast to benefit the Boy Scouts of America and the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation’s annual Vince Lombardi Award of Excellence Dinner. An aunt who leads by example, no doubt.

Marti Wronski
General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Administration, Milwaukee Brewers
Baseball Club
Hank, Bichon Frise mix
Bella, petite mini golden doodle

Marti Wronski’s professional and personal successes are both vast and admirable, but her most celebrated role to date is arguably that of mom to Hank, the Bichon Frise mix the Milwaukee Brewers famously rescued during spring training four years ago. 

“After seven days of taking possession of a dog in Arizona, you officially own him,” says Wronski, who first learned of Hank when the Brewers’ public relations team contacted her for legal advice. Multiple members of the organization, including players, third-base coach Ed Sedar and now general manager Craig Counsell, took turns caring for Hank throughout the following weeks, adds Wronski. “There are a lot of dog lovers in the Brewers, and (Hank) literally scooted wherever they went,” she says. “He was just a lover.”

After receiving the proper border-crossing approvals, Hank was relocated to Milwaukee, where Wronski and her family, which includes her husband and four boys, adopted the beloved pooch. Today Hank is philanthropically active, frequently working with the Wisconsin Humane Society and Make-A-Wish Wisconsin. “That became our mission when we brought him home — that we need a way to give back to the community,” says Wronski. “If we are asked by any charity to participate in an event or fundraiser, we try to do it.”

In addition to serving as Hank’s counterpart at charitable events, Wronski sits on the board of directors for the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and is a trustee for St. Norbert College, her alma mater. When asked how she handles herself in a male-dominated industry, she points to the late Katy Feeney, a longtime Major League Baseball executive who died suddenly last year, as her role model. “(Katy) was truly that graceful pioneer for women in baseball,” Wronski says. “… (I try to take) on Katy’s approach to being a real leader — stand up for yourself when necessary, appreciate your intellect and know its worth. … You have a voice, and using your voice is effective. But use it when it’s appropriate, and really lead through your actions and demonstrate that you’re a positive contributor.

“… I used to resist the issue (of female inequality and/or harassment in the workplace) because it wasn’t mine. I didn’t have that personal experience,” she continues, noting that she’s always felt well respected within the Brewers organization. “I’ve (now) been around the sport for almost 15 years, and I’ve learned a lot. I decided, after hearing others’ stories, to pay more attention, and that I could do it my way. It doesn’t have to be a conversation about being wronged about what we don’t have. It can simply be a conversation about: How do we ensure that we’re a part of the conversation? How do we ensure that we’re invited to the table? It’s something I’ll continue to happily be a part of.”

Faithe Colas
Assistant Divisional Director of Development, The Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters
Maxx, shepherd, lab and terrier mix

For lifelong Milwaukeean Faithe Colas, companionship is perhaps Maxx’s most valuable asset. Colas’ late husband, radio host and political commentator Eric Von, passed away unexpectedly two years ago with Maxx at his feet, just seven months after the couple had adopted their sweet pup from the Wisconsin Humane Society. “(Maxx) is so sweet, but he’s fierce at the same time,” she says. “He’s good company.”

Colas’ chief role at The Salvation Army — to generate donations through fundraising events and public relations efforts — also keeps her plenty occupied. She manages a team of six, whom she describes as “spectacular,” and refers to the nonprofit’s Milwaukee County Red Kettle Campaign as “her baby.” “I live and breathe The Salvation Army,” Colas adds, recalling a story about the its founder, William Booth. “In 1810, he wanted to share a Christmas message to (The) Salvation Army supporters. With limited funds and telegraph messages charging by the word, Booth searched his mind and heart and decided on the one word that describes his ministry. He telegraphed the word ‘Others!’ That word still resonates today. It’s the center of my life and my career.”

Beyond her day job, Colas’ passion lies with educating and mentoring Milwaukee’s underserved youth. She is actively involved with UW-Milwaukee’s Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship, which was established to honor her late husband’s memory. “The first Von fellow was (recently) named, and that was exciting. A lot of my efforts are going there, when there’s such a thing as spare time,” Colas adds with a laugh. She is also a member of the Wisconsin Black Media Association, sits on the advisory board of Forest County Potawatomi, and will debut her new Saturday morning radio show, “There’s Always Something Good to Talk About,” on 860 WNOV this March.

“We need to be talking about some of the good things,” says Colas of the radio show’s mission. “You (can) talk about social justice issues, like crime and poverty, but let’s (instead) talk about what people are doing to make those things right.” She says she plans to highlight young people, especially those of color, who are positively contributing to their communities. “There’s so much focus on kids who aren’t doing well,” she continues. “… People make mistakes, but there are just so many good-hearted people (too).”

Nicole Koglin
Anchor and Reporter, Fox 6 Now
Mo, cat
Molly, Australian shepherd

A 13-year-veteran of Fox 6 Now, Menomonee Falls native Nicole Koglin is also a wife, mother of two young girls, and the owner of two rescue animals: 8-year-old Molly and 14-year-old Mo, who is named after the state of Missouri. “I found him as a stray, living on the street in Missouri,” says Koglin, who worked at stations in Idaho and Missouri before returning to her hometown of Milwaukee. Six years after rescuing Mo, Koglin and her husband adopted Molly from the Elmbrook Humane Society. “She was one of a full litter that was rescued from the back of a station wagon,” Koglin recalls.

“(Pets are) such a part of our families,” says Koglin when asked what Molly and Mo mean to her. “The six of us are always together. … If the girls are taking a bath, (Molly and Mo) are both in the bathroom. Somehow they just know that they’re a part of you. I think (pets) are a lot more intuitive than we give them credit for.”

Koglin’s natural affinity for animals is frequently evident on Fox 6 Now, where her personal and professional interests collide every week during the station’s segments with the Wisconsin Humane Society. The segments, which promote an animal in need of adoption, typically air on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and Koglin is the go-to anchor, often scooping the adoptee into her arms with little hesitation. “That (segment) is definitely one of my favorite parts of my job. … I feel so fortunate that I can be there for these animals,” she says. “Most of the animals that come on that segment find homes, which is super rewarding. I feel like I’m actually making a difference.”


This story ran in the March 2018 issue of: