Beautiful in their strength
By Gina Dewink
In Kellogg, Minnesota, east of Rochester, lives a family of four remarkable young women. Olivia, Maddie, Abby and Julia Schmoker are sisters who exemplify the mantra that strong is beautiful.
The four sisters are home for the summer, enjoying time together. They spend many summer days working together managing the farm owned by their grandparents. Depending on the day’s chore list, it wouldn’t be uncommon to find two sisters pushing lawnmowers, one running a weed whip and the other cleaning gutters, washing windows or weeding the garden. In the fall, the farmland is divided among them, each claiming a spot to set up a hunting stand in an annual contest to see who can get the biggest deer of the season. They can also be found at the family cabin in northern Wisconsin, putting out the docks for fishing and tubing.
Favorite music for dancing: metal, hip-hop/rap and 90s country
Local hangout: The Front Porch in Kellogg, Minnesota
Currently binge-watching: “One Tree Hill” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
Fears: clowns, Band-Aids and cats
Enjoys: working hard, friends, family, snowmobiling and sports
“I am the oldest—and wisest—of the sisters,” jabs Olivia Schmoker (21). “We are all so very different. Maddie is the dramatic one who has an obsession with shoes. She’s the most driven to do the best in school. Abby is the one who could care less what people think about her. Julia is the clumsy blonde who has good taste in style and makeup,” she laughs. “But we are all very hardworking and strive to be the best at what we do.”
Olivia graduated from Lake Superior College in Duluth with a degree in Surgical Technology. Currently working at St. Elizabeth’s in Wabasha as a surgical technician, she says, “In surgery, every employee is required to wear the same scrubs. This way, everyone is dressed in unison and treated equally. It doesn’t matter what your job position is, you are just as powerful as the person next to you. However you interpret strong, I believe you need to make it your beautiful in your own way.”
Though the sisters are tight, living together can bring challenges. “On the one hand, I always have someone to turn to for advice, and there is never a dull moment between all our friends,” Olivia explains. “But you should hear the disagreements about what music is playing,” she adds with a laugh. “The worst part? They are always taking my stuff!”
Favorite music for dancing: hip-hop/rap
Local hangout: The Pioneer Club, after a long day on the Mississippi
Currently binge-watching: “The Bachelorette”
Enjoys: family, friends, snowmobiling and boating
“The best thing about having three sisters is that you will always have a best friend to come home to,” says Maddie Schmoker (20). “Oh, and of course, I don’t just have one closet, I have four,” she teases.
Maddie describes Olivia and Abby as hands-on types, she and Julia as the girly girls. “Abby and I do a lot of the cooking. We try to keep the others away from the kitchen,” she laughs. “Especially Julia, she struggles with this dangerously-complicated utensil in the kitchen called the butter knife.”
Maddie graduated from Iowa Central Community College (ICCC) where she competed in track and field, throwing the shot put, hammer and weight. She plans to transfer to Wayne State University in Detroit to complete a Mortuary Science Degree, while competing in track. Maddie says, “This summer, I’m on-call for a few funeral homes in the area.” In addition, she has two part-time jobs and plays on a sand volleyball team and a women’s slow-pitch softball team, along with Olivia. “I am choosing this profession because of the determination I have to help families in one of the toughest times of their lives. It’s going to take a lot of strength, going to work every day, visiting with grieving families, but I have always been able to find ways to appreciate life.”
Maddie started track as junior in high school. She was recruited by ICCC the next year. When preparing for nationals, Maddie was waking at 3:30 a.m. to weightlift before a day of classes and labs. After class, she went straight to practice, before heading back for study hall until 10 p.m. “I used to think strength was how much weight I could lift, but I’ve learned strength is more about how much you can manage mentally and emotionally. It took a lot of mental strength to push myself through those long, exhausting days. Strength takes a lot of discipline.”
Favorite music for dancing: 80s rock
Currently binge-watching: “Lucifer”
Fears: “Snakes get me every time.”
Enjoys: hard work because of the satisfaction and accomplishment
Abby Schmoker (18) always knew she wanted to work with her hands. Spending time at their grandparents’ farm, she found enjoyment in cutting wood, mowing lawn and pulling weeds. Abby begins, “When I got to high school, I took every shop class—woods, welding, fabrications, basic auto—and I loved every one of them. My favorite became woodworking. As graduation got closer, I decided I didn’t want to go to college, but instead join the workforce right away.
“The carpenters union fell into my lap,” Abby says with a smile. “A man named Nick Wille came and talked to my shop class about the union.” After that, Abby knew carpentry was what she wanted to pursue. After a call to the union hall, Abby was told everything would be set up for her. She was matched with the company Mulcahy Nickolaus. Abby explains, “Being in the carpenters union and working for Mulcahy Nickolaus has been amazing! Walking onto a job site with no training was a little scary, but everyone was welcoming and helpful. I’ve been there a month, and I have already grown so much. I feel loved by peers and the company.” Abby recommends contacting the carpenters union to anyone interested in shop and woodworking.
Abby opines, “Strength to me is being able to hold your own, being able to stand up for yourself. No matter what you’re going through, you are strong. You can get through it.”
Favorite music for dancing: hip-hop/rap
Local hangout: my friends’ houses
Currently binge-watching: “Grey’s Anatomy”
Fears: clowns, seaweed and cats
Enjoys: friends, family, sports and traveling
Julia Schmoker (16) is the youngest of the sisters. Julia coaches youth softball. She says, “Coaching takes a lot of time and patience in teaching young girls the rules and fundamentals of the game, but it’s empowering.”
To Julia, strength is being able to adapt to life situations and overcome difficult decisions. “It is not always easy, but it is important to me to make the right decision, even if it’s not the easy one,” she states.
Julia believes Abby and Maddie are more outgoing, where she and Olivia are laid back. She defines all of her sisters as hardworking, athletic and charismatic. “The best thing about being a sister,” Julia explains, “is that you always have someone there for you. The worst thing about being a sister is sharing every product in the bathroom!”
Reminding that beauty doesn’t always have to refer to outward appearance, Julia states, “Whether it’s on the softball field, the stage or at work, beauty is what makes you, you.”
Gina Dewink, one of five sisters, is a Rochester-based author and writer publishing the book, “Human, with a Side of Soul,” in 2019 (ginadewink.com).