Marisue Zillig poses
in a dressing room at St. Vincent de Paul in West Bend,
where she had left her wedding rings on a hook in one of the
dressing rooms. Zillig realized hours later and checked back
to discover someone had returned the rings for her to pick
Two gold rings on a chain. Marisue
Zillig left the representation of her life with her husband in a
dressing room at St. Vincent de Paul in West Bend last Friday.
"I didn’t hope to dare that someone found them and turned
them in," she said. "I called anyway." Debbie Lauer,
lead cashier, said it was a woman, but does not know her name, and
knows Zillig by sight only as a regular customer. "The lady
gave it to me and I said, ‘Oh, my God!’ Because it was two rings
and I knew it was significant."
"It was symbols of our lives together," said Zillig, whose
husband Matt died Sept. 17.
She is, understandably, grateful to the anonymous woman who did the
"It might have been tempting for
someone to say, ‘Oh well, finder’s keepers,’ especially in
Married for 32 years, the his-and-her wedding bands remind her of
the happiness they shared as two kindred spirits.
They met while she was a nurse at Milwaukee County Medical Complex
in the spring of 1976, before Froedtert Hospital was built on the
grounds. He was a patient, and she learned through a friend of his
mother’s that he spent time in Africa, where he taught geography
and mathematics in Zambia in 1973.
"I was a confirmed bachelorette," she said, until he
"A phone call, a date at the zoo and that was it. I knew if I
was ever going to marry, that was the one."
He proposed to her on her 31st birthday.
Herself a former Peace Corps volunteer in Panama and resident of
Mexico when she was 17, travel would serve as a lifelong bond.
In the early years, when they had little money, they enjoyed tent
camping in Wisconsin. They both taught for several years, including
in Zambia from 1980 to 1982.
He worked as a computer instructor for University of Wisconsin
campuses and his computing consultant business bloomed, allowing
them to travel farther afield, including to Europe and Asia.
"We traveled a lot. We tried to do two trips a year. He was
self-employed and I was doing volunteer work. "The more
adventures the better. We enjoyed going off the beaten path,"
she said. "In 2001, we went with 16 of our friends and
relatives to Zimbawe, Botswana and South Africa.
"We traveled the world and enjoyed mixing with people. He made
friends everywhere with that booming voice."
Ah, that deep, resonating voice. Anyone who ever heard him will
never forget it. They both sang in the Moraine Chorus and were in
Musical Masquers, but he was the star, she’s quick to add.
"Many, many, many people say they remember him in ‘The King
and I’ or ‘The Pirates of Penzance.’
Yes, he played the king, both times.
He was in the theater group at Georgetown University from which he
graduated with a B.A. in history.
But most people remember him from the computer classes he taught,
she said. He had a natural affinity for computers – as well as
"He was very likable. He was a good person to the core. A good,
kind, gentle, loyal person, and very smart," she said.
"His laugh was so wonderful."
They never had children, "just naughty dachshunds," she
said with a laugh.
When he was ill, she updated their many friends around the world
from their town of Barton home, using the simple computer skills he
had taught her.
"We have so many mutual friends that keep me in their
lives," she said.
"I feel very fortunate for every day that I had with him. He
was a wonderful man and a wonderful husband." And she thinks of
him warmly every time she looks at those rings she left behind for a
couple hours at the thrift store. "I will always think of that
person who turned them in."