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Staying strong for Angel

November 24, 2008

True angel holds together former Rockford family

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

ROCKFORD, MN – There’s an angel holding together a Zimmerman family, formerly of Rockford.

This angel is an adorable baby girl, born prematurely, weighing only one pound, 12 ounces.

When her tiny fingers grasp the hands of her grandmother, Kari Palashewski, she gives a glimmer of hope to a grieving family.

The infant’s mother, 22-year-old Jamie Baer, a 2004 graduate of Rockford High School, was a passenger in the backseat of a 1999 Ford Mustang Aug. 21.

According to a report filed by the Minnesota State Patrol, the driver of the vehicle, Frank Joseph Tregoning, 21, of Ostego, lost control of the vehicle while traveling at a high rate of speed along I-94. When he lost control, he spun to the right, hit an embankment and reportedly rolled over 10 times before hitting a stand of trees.

Jamie and another passenger, Kelsea Palmer, were wearing seat belts, had to be extricated from the vehicle, and were airlifted to hospitals, the report stated. Tregoning was ejected from the vehicle, transported to the hospital by ambulance, and later released.

Authorities believe speed and alcohol may have been a factor in the crash. However, Tregoning has not been formally charged due to reconstruction of the accident still taking place and the accident still being under investigation, according to Lt. Mark Peterson of the Minnesota State Patrol.

Palmer was released from the hospital, but Jamie remained with a broken neck, severely damaged lungs, and other extensive injuries.This young woman, known for her energetic personality, fought for her life, but lost the battle 25 days later.

The little girl born minutes after the car crash, at 25 weeks along, also began a fight for her life.

“She was born in cardiac arrest,” said grandmother Kari Palashewski. “She had to be resuscitated four times. We had our pastor there. We were waiting for Jamie to name her, but that didn’t happen. We decided the baby needed a name to go to heaven and we named her Angel, because she really is one. I think Jamie gave all her strength to Angel.”

There were plans for Angel to be released from the hospital Nov. 20, but it could be another five to seven days while they wait for her heart rate and oxygen to improve.

This little girl, the little angel who wasn’t expected to live, now gives Jamie’s family and friends a reason to be strong.

Jamie, her sister Jessica Baer, and their mother shared more than just their blonde hair – they were close friends and nearly inseparable.

From a trip to Europe, tractor pulls, going to salons together, and many trips to snow-covered Mille Lacs Lake, these woman enjoyed being together and have memories that will last forever.

“We were friends,” said Jamie’s mother, Kari Palashewski. “Jamie wouldn’t go a day without calling, and never hung up without saying, ‘Love ya.’”

A celebration of life for Jamie took place Sept. 20 at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove, where a large crowd remembered Jamie for her infectious smile and zest for life.

While attending Rockford High School, Jamie was involved in band, soccer, ski team, and she snowboarded. She went to school for cosmetology and was working at Regis at Ridgedale in Minnetonka.

“This social butterfly is remembered greeting each day with a sense of newness and specialness,” said long-time family neighbor Sharon Raskob. “She was such a fun-loving person.”

A Caringbridge web site has been keeping friends and family updated, and more than 9,000 of them have visited the site – www.caringbridge.org/visit/jamiebaer – to date.

Because Jamie did not have insurance, her daughter Angel is without insurance, as well. The medical bills are estimated to be in the millions, and will continue to climb during Angel’s continued care.

Not only is this family grieving a tremendous loss, but now they are faced with caring for an infant who will require much special care.

With this in mind, family and friends have rallied for Jamie’s family and plan a benefit for Saturday, Dec. 6 at the St. Thomas Parish Center in Corcoran.

From 5 to 8 p.m., there will be a pork sandwich dinner, raffle, silent and live auctions, plus fun and games. For more information regarding the benefit, contact Sharon Raskob at (763) 478-2166.

A Jamie Baer trust benefit account has also been established to which donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank.

“Our lives changed overnight. I’m still numb and feel almost robotic,” said Kari. “It’s because of Angel that I try to stay strong and keep going.”

Benefit for Angel set for Saturday, Dec. 6

Join Jamie Baer’s family and friends as they celebrate her life and raise much-needed funds for her baby Angel and her ongoing medical and living expenses.

The benefit will take place Saturday, Dec. 6 at the St. Thomas Parish Center, located at 20000 County Road 10 in Corcoran from 5 to 8 p.m.

The benefit will feature a pork sandwich dinner, and cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 10.

Raffle tickets will be available for $5 each, with the top prize being a Lake Minnetonka dinner cruise for eight, second prize a Wii game system, third prize two Grand Casino jacuzzi rooms and two $50 dinners, and fourth prize a one-night stay at the Marriott in Minnetonka.

Other prizes include gift certificates for entertainment, dining, golf, and more. The drawing will take place at 8 p.m. There will also be many silent and live auction items to bid on.


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