Positively Beautiful: Sharing the stories of local treasuresI spent my Tuesday evening with a great group of women, all of them local treasures in some form. Two of them, Renee Rongen and Susanne Williams, came to share their life’s work with us, and I’d like to share their stories with you.
By: Dr. Susan Mathison, Areavoices.com, INFORUM
I spent my Tuesday evening with a great group of women, all of them local treasures in some form. Two of them, Renee Rongen and Susanne Williams, came to share their life’s work with us, and I’d like to share their stories with you.
Renee Rongen and I crossed paths in a radio station, supposedly to talk about cosmetic surgery and other beauty procedures. But the conversation effortlessly went on and continues to this day as we share stories about womanhood, parenthood, business and beauty. We both received the incredible gift of a child through adoption, and both feel strongly that our mission is to encourage and empower women.
She’s got one thing up on me though – she’s hilarious. She could easily hold the stage at Comedy Central. She’s been called a combination of “Oprah, Mother Teresa and Lily Tomlin.”
From board rooms and classrooms, to packed convention centers, Renee has inspired thousands with her humorous yet powerful messages. As the national spokeswoman for the Pay It Forward Foundation, she encourages audiences to use their unique gifts to make positive differences in the world.
She lives on a lake near Fertile, Minn., and has three teenagers, a “positively 100 percent Norwegian” husband, and considers her many friends like family as well.
She’s a keen observer of life and sees every moment as a time to gather material for her keynotes. Her experiences and family give her many laugh-out-loud moments that she delights in sharing with audiences. Her goal is to be able to say at the end of her life: “I come to you just as I am. I have nothing left. I used all of the gifts you gave me.”
Her most recent gift to us is the book “Fundamentally Female.” Renee authored and curated this global collaboration by, for and about women.
I was honored to share a story about my friend Donna Carlson, The Krumkaka Queen. The holidays won’t be the same this year without Donna’s beautiful cookies, as she passed away last winter, but I hope her family enjoys the remembrance.
Renee’s book is available on her website www.ReneeRongen.com and at Catalyst Medical Center.
I first met Susanne Williams in her little shop overlooking the Mexican Village parking lot. She was open on weekends, as she had an important weekday job in university administration. But she was a creator of letterpress notecards, pearl and crocheted wire jewelry fit for a princess bride, and beautiful purses crafted of jewel-colored silk remnants, contrasting linings and fancy buttons. I marveled at her process and at her schedule that made even me feel tired. She now has a private studio on Broadway in downtown Fargo.
Growing up in rural Nebraska, her love for creating started young, as she sewed her first 4-H project at the age 7, creating an entire outfit including a corduroy skirt and plaid button-up blouse.
Despite her academic success, art was always with her and she ultimately chose a new path. She launched her creative business WilliNilli.com, a play on her last name Williams and a nod to following her dreams. She retired from university life in June 2008 and has been a full-time artist and designer ever since.
Susanne has dabbled in many creative mediums, including painting, drawing and textiles. She has shown a unique collection of bridal gowns, and has been an annual Bras on Broadway contributor. Her most recent work has focused on leather, and she handcrafts award-winning handbags considered sculptural functional works of art.
Susanne’s work is carried by Ecce Art and Yoga on Broadway. Her portfolio can be seen on her website.
Who do you consider a local treasure, and how can you help share their story?
Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com.