Harley said he and John were long time friends and he is reserved and quiet, and doesn’t like to talk. I asked if he would ask John S. if he would talk to me. Harley said he would, but seriously doubted he would, especially after the paper “fucked him over like they did.” I persisted and Harley said he would ask. Ron and I left thinking, well we had tried.
The next day, Harley called Ron who then called me. It seemed that at least John would meet with me but any talk about the past was off limits. Ron picked me up at the coffee shop and we felt some excitement, why I wasn’t sure. As we turned up the alley, we could see the garage was open and sure enough, Harley sat in one of the three chairs, and there was John Senenfelder, in his wheelchair, smoking a small cigar. I was nervous and so was he. We exchanged an awkward handshake and I pulled up a chair on his right side. Ron and Harley lit up and moved a few feet away. I tried my best to tell him as gently as I could that I was grateful he consented to meet me, and did not want to cause him pain. He nodded in silence and stared out into the alley as cars came by. It was certainly a busy alley. The sun shone on our faces as I outlined the book I was writing and just wanted some background on Ada. There had to be more than I had. What was she like as a wife? I tried to start a conversation but was going nowhere until I asked him if he was from Winona? John replied he was from Iowa. I told him I was in Iowa recently to visit some of my cousins for the first time. He seemed to perk up just a little under neath his shell and asked me where? I told him and we started to talk.
He came to Winona in the late 1960’s after a huge storm had knocked down a lot of trees. He got work cleaning up the town and stayed on. He eventually became a plumber and made “big money”, as he characterized it several times. I asked how he met Ada, and he softly replied it was “through friends”. I asked him to rate his marriage to her and he said there were many good times. I knew that Ada was married to Casmir Flak, and there was three children when he married her. I didn’t know how Casmir died so I asked him. He just said ” cancer”. I was encouraged now and asked what Ada was like? He glanced at me and said she liked to party a lot. At that point he thrust his arms down and wheeled away. I watched him as he went down the alley home. I had really talked to John Senenfelder. Harley said he had never seen him talk so much. Ron and I left there with me thinking I had done my share of harm to a man who seemed kind and gentle, though shielded. Something in me liked this man, a man convicted of molesting his step-daughter. Just before he took off, I sensed I was losing him, and asked if I would come back to see him again? He said yes.
to be continued…
This exchange is found in the book Murder and Deceit – the story of Jack Nissalke and available on Amazon.com.