Chat ’n’ Chew

When six local women get together, it’s always over good conversation and, occasionally, even better food.

“When we get together, it’s always to talk and laugh over good food,” said Susan Hellert. “And when the food is really good, you know it because that’s when we stop talking.”

Kindred spirits since sharing classes like home economics at George Washington Junior High School in 1962, Hellert, Nancy Bradley, Vergene Mayne, Darlene Bowers, Charlene Muntz and Ruthie Caitham — who have appropriately dubbed themselves Chat ‘n’ Chew — have been through a lot in a lifetime.

All of the women continue to reside in the Dubuque area, with Caithim now calling California home, though maintaining her connection with the group.

“We just love each other,” Mayne said. “We have so many connections. Some of us go back even further and then went on to high school and college together. We even have similar names.”

The group shares several commonalities. Among them, family farming, a love of animals, a deep devotion to their grandchildren and reading.

They also are avid travelers, planning a variety of excursions that have found them gallivanting locally, as well as in San Francisco, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and even spending a week in New York City. Taking a nod from the popular HBO girlfriend series “Sex and the City,” they dubbed their trip, “Sixty in the City,” complete with matching T-shirts.

“We ended up getting lost,” Bowers said, recalling a photograph that captured their rescue from a group of New York City police officers.

The group also has provided a sense of comfort to one another throughout the years. Mayne’s husband passed away. Hellert also lost a child.

“There have been a lot of tears,” Mayne said. “There are some things that I don’t know if I would have been able to make it through without them. But there also have been happy tears.”

And what Hellert said stems from a sincere honesty.

“There is nothing we can’t share,” she said. “There is no pretending in this group. There is no judging or gossip.”

“It’s so important for women today to make time for these types of relationships and to make them a priority,” Mayne chimed in. “Women today have it so much harder. They’re so busy, I don’t even know how they know where to start. But you need that support system, outside of your career and outside of your family. We’ve all been married forever. Who else are you going to talk to about your husbands?”

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