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'Connected At The Soul' Family Dies Days Apart

Funerals are a difficult time for any family. Friday could be specially taxing for Kim Butkowski and her three brothers.

Their sister, Sandy Schulte, died last Friday at 57 after a long illness. Less than 24 hours later, their mother, 76-year-old Sharon Schulte, succumbed to complications from lung and brain cancer. And on Tuesday, their father, 77-year-old Thomas Schulte also died after a stay at a local Hospice Home.

"Sandy was born with Down syndrome, Kim Butkowski, Sandy's sister, said. She was the oldest of us kids and my mom and dad promised they were going to keep her at home with them as long as they could."

She functioned at the level of a 4-year-old ... Sandys health had deteriorated the last couple of years and she got real weak. She had trouble walking and was to the point where she couldnt feed herself. I think she aged very rapidly...

About a year ago mom got lung cancer and that metastasized to brain cancer, Butkowski added. In November, my dad started stumbling and falling and having some memory trouble. When we brought him in to the doctor, we learned he also had lung and brain cancer. None of them could take care of themselves.

The Schultes had three boys Thomas, Troy and Tedd, who are 54, 51 and 42 respectively. Sharon Schulte was a writer, authoring a couple of books, and for a time, an at-home joke writer for the nationally known comic Phyllis Diller.

I have no idea how that came about but I can remember as a kid she would write these jokes on a typewriter and send them off, Butkowski said. Phyllis Diller would pick some and she paid my mom $5 a piece. And mom of course watched Phyllis Diller every chance she could so she could see if any of her jokes were used. She had a good sense of humor.

Thomas Schulte worked primarily as an over-the-road truck driver. He also had an interest in auto racing, participating as a driver at area tracks and passing that passion on to his son, Tedd, and two of Thomas sons. Butkowski said her father was a heavy smoker, which could have contributed to her parents illnesses.

But their wish came true, Butkowski said. They wanted to walk Sandy to heavens gate. Thats what they did. It was like, after Sandy died, it was OK for those two to let go. They were connected at the soul. Its mixed emotions for the rest of us. We tried to rally around them but it was so difficult at the end. It was just too much. We lost half our family in four days time.