By Doug Schroder


It took 34 years, but Australian Michele Suters Van Vliet made a return visit to Winnebago recently. Michele first came to Winnebago in 1981 as an exchange student through the American Field Service exchange program, staying with the family of then-married Dick and Joanne Vettore for the school year. She made many friends that year and returned to Winnebago in 1982 to be a part of the Jodi Vettore’s wedding. Jodi is the daughter of Dick and Joanne.

Much has changed in Winnebago since Michele’s last visit, but some things remain the same, as Michele noted.

“Winnebago has definitely grown-population and subdivisions. The high school is considerably larger. Many more shops…and McDonalds!!! Lol!! And not quite as much snow as I remember, however we did get our white Christmas thank goodness. But the people are just the same, it’s like I was just here last week,” said Michele.

This time Michele came with her husband, John Van Vliet. It was his first visit to the USA. The two spent three nights in LA, and then four nights in Las Vegas, before moving on to Winnebago.

In the 34 years in between visits, Michele had gotten married to John. They have three grown daughters now. Michele spent the early years of her marriage raising the girls, while John worked in the commercial glass and aluminum industry making doors and windows for office buildings and shopping centers.

After the girls were grown Michele went back to school and got her teaching degree. She has been teaching K-2 for the past 14 years.

Michele and John were quite busy while here, visiting with her American family and friends. They did a lot of catching up with the Vettore’s, having dinner with Dick and his second wife Joanne, while staying with Joanne (the first Mrs. Vettore) and her second husband, Paul Finley.

Michele and John also had lunch with Scott and Lori Schultz, and then later on with Penny Fry.

For Christmas she made some Australian desserts for the get together, and for New Years she treated her American family to an Australian roast.

On Friday, Dec. 30, there was a get together at Rock-A-Bago Hall, where former classmates of Michele stopped by to visit.

Michele and John left Winnebago on Jan. 3, where they went to visit San Francisco before returning home to Australia. The trip between San Fran and Sydney is much shorter now than it was when Michele first came here 36 years ago. At that time it took 22-24 hours with two stops. The flight is now direct and only takes 13 hours.

Michele and John enjoyed their time here, while Michele was able to reconnect with her American family and friends.