DRUMMER FEATURE FEBRUARY 19, 2017
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After near-fatal crash, Greg and Connie Kramber gain a great appreciation for life and each other
By Ed DuBois
Just a few days after getting engaged to be married, critical injuries in a highway crash almost ended Greg Kramber’s life. He and his fiancée, Connie, went from “a highest high to a lowest low.”
Today, Greg and Connie are counting their blessings. They say Greg’s recovery was helped greatly by “so many people who cared.”
“Friends and the community really stepped up and helped us,” Connie said.
A friend Greg has known since the fourth grade, Wayne Bauernschmitt, served as his guardian during his recovery. He helped continue the sale of a house Greg had built himself. Bauernschmitt and others helped in countless ways and provided support, Connie said.
Paths had never crossed
Greg was the Wright County Assessor before the terrible accident on Feb. 23, 2014. Connie worked in real estate. She worked with the developer of the Bella Vista residential area on the northeastern side of Buffalo.
Interestingly, Greg and Connie lived about four miles from each other and worked in related fields, but their paths had never crossed.
They met through Match.com. Both had been married to other people for 20 years. Both were looking for a loving companion with similar interests.
“I was looking for someone to go to a movie or go out for dinner once in a while,” Greg said.
They met on Sept. 6, 2013. They were engaged shortly after Valentine’s Day 2014.
On the day of the accident, Greg had called to say he was leaving the church to come home.
“That’s the last I heard from him,” Connie recalled.
One of Greg's children was with him.
“I am so blessed my son was not hurt,” Greg said.
Greg explained that when it was apparent a collision was unavoidable, he popped off his seat belt and dove on the boy to protect him.
Between the two of them, Greg and Connie have four children altogether.
Coke and a kiss
Greg was in a coma for his 50th birthday on March 5, 2014. He opened his eyes on March 8.
A setback, a Code Blue (need for resuscitation), occurred on April 16, 2014. Greg underwent throat reconstruction surgery on July 1, 2014.
During his recovery, he received physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy through the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. He has received vision therapy, as well.
For a time, Greg lived at the Cottagewood facility in Buffalo for assisted living and short-term stays. The building was the Buffalo Memorial Hospital long ago, and Greg enjoyed the fact that he was living in the building where he was born.
He was able to go home on weekends. Always cheerful, he would greet Connie by asking, “Do you have a Coke and kiss?
Greg once took his walker and trekked two miles home on his own, Connie recalled.
‘Glass half full’ people
Both Greg and Connie have bright, optimistic outlooks. Connie said they are both “glass half full” people.
“He always says he’s ‘living the dream,’” Connie commented. “He says life is better now than it has ever been.”
She expressed amazement at the many things they have in common. They both had the same allergist, and they had the same landscape designer. They had both been at the same Who concert. They even order steaks the same way.
Both Greg and Connie are very social.
“It is sometimes said that opposites attract, but this way is so much easier,” Connie said about their relationship.
There are so many things they enjoy together.
Once when they met friends for dinner in Minneapolis, one of the friends knew people Greg knew.
“Things like that seem to happen every two weeks,” Connie said.
Many common interests
She and Greg discovered they both tend to be givers. Consequently, they have both learned to take turns being the receiver. Greg likes to leave little surprise gifts for Connie to find, and she likes to do things for him, too.
There are many activities they both like, such as: playing cribbage, going to comedy shows, visiting in specialty shops, listening to live music, dinner with friends, working in the yard, and taking on projects in the house.
Lately, Greg has been building a downstairs bar.
They also like to cook for each other.
Greg is retired now, and Connie works at home for Optum, a health services company. They are now with each other 24-7. Greg likes neatness, so while Connie is busy with her work, Greg likes to clean up the place.
Call Lyft for a ride
Their children include three boys and one girl. Their daughter is on a traveling basketball team, and Greg and Connie enjoy going to her games.
They also like going to car shows. Years ago, Greg and his dad were into buying and selling classic cars. They owned about 300 cars over a long period of time.
“My dad was a local assessor in McLeod County, and he encouraged me to go into assessing,” Greg said.
For a while, Greg and his dad were in the portable bathroom business. They started the Biffs company and sold it long ago. It has done very well.
Every once in a while, Greg and Connie like to go to a Gophers hockey game. However, handicap parking is not easily found near the arena, and walking longer distances to the games is difficult for Greg due to cold weather and ice on the streets and sidewalks.
The problem was solved by calling Lyft, a ride service similar to Uber. Now they get picked up at Ridgedale and are given a ride to the arena entrance and back.
This summer, Greg and Connie plan to do some river tubing and see some demolition derbies. They also want to do some bicycling. They both like to bike, and for Greg they are getting a three-wheeled bicycle.
Although Greg has come a long way in is recovery, he still has some limitations.
Unfazed, Greg smiled and said, “I can’t drive, but I have the most beautiful chauffer.”
Their wedding took place at the University of Minnesota Arboretum on Sept. 6, 2015 in the Japanese Garden. The wedding date was exactly two years after they met.
Friends at the courthouse
Back in Buffalo, Greg has visited staff and friends at the Wright County Government Center many times. He said he was blessed to work with many good people when he was the County Assessor. He likes to go have lunch with them once in a while.
Talked for three hours
With Valentine’s Day taking place this week and the third anniversary of the accident coming up, Greg and Connie are happily focused on the joys of life and love.
Connie recalled Greg described himself on Match.com as a mix of Ward Clever and James Dean. “That’s the guy for me,” Connie said.
On their first date, they talked for three hours.
“He was so much fun,” Connie said, “and he came on a Harley.”
Greg and Connie have matching Harley jackets, and although they can no longer use them on motorcycle rides, they still enjoy having them.
They say they do not feel a loss due to the accident. Instead, they have learned how quickly life can change, and they now treasure every good thing life offers.
“We are so grateful for what we have,” Greg said.
“We are so much better together. Everything else seems so much like small things,” Connie said.
They are not concerned with the small things. After experiencing “a highest high and a lowest low,” just living, loving and being there for each other is all that really matters.
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