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Somebody should tell the story

Anderson holding a copy of his book
Tom Anderson holding a copy of his book, Somebody Should Tell the Story: The Dennis Rasmussen Story & Community Connections. Submitted photo

By Olivia Coffin

Contributing writer

GREEN BAY ‑ Despite facing the challenges of an intellectual disability, Dennis Rasmussen’s life was anything but ordinary.

He not only navigated his circumstances during a time when few services were available for people with disabilities, but he also was involved in his community, becoming a beacon of positivity and hope.

Tom Anderson felt a calling to tell Rasmussen’s story, collecting multiple stories from himself and other community members.

His book, Somebody Should Tell the Story: The Dennis Rasmussen Story & Community Connections, highlights six main themes related to Dennis’s life and impact.

The key messages from the book that apply to any period of time for any person are; advocate, compassion for others, connections that are meaningful, empower others through community actions, inclusion and overcoming stereotypes and barriers.

As a former All-American athlete who played for UW-Green Bay Phoenix men’s basketball, Anderson’s personal connection to Rasmussen began in childhood.

The two met through Little League, and Rasmussen remained a constant presence in Anderson’s community.

“The reason why I wrote the book is that Dennis had a huge impact on my life personally. When I went to his visitation, which he passed in 2010, I saw the people there, I saw all the pictures of all the people that he impacted. Then there was a plant arrangement from Packers Coach Mike Holmgren. And then some others, and there was also a plant arrangement from Fritz Shermers family. Fritz Shermer was the defensive coordinator for the Packers when they won the Super Bowl in 1995,” Anderson said.

“Dennis worked at the Packers in the early 1990s. This is now 2010. So why would the former head coach of the Packers and Fritz Schumer’s family send this plant arrangement for Dennis. This is almost 11 years later so I thought to myself, he had to have a huge impact on not only me, but on so many other people. So at that point, I had this calling to write his story.”

When Anderson met with Dennis’s nieces they told Tom that somebody should tell Dennis’ story.

“Most people don’t know our complete story. And I only knew a piece of Dennis’s story. So I needed to talk to like 50 or 70 other people in order to fill out the rest of his story because I only knew part of it. That’s how the title came about from talking to the nieces; they said somebody should tell his story. I changed it to the story because we all have a story,” Anderson recalled.

Anderson met Dennis when he was just nine years old at his baseball game.

“It was the end of our season. It was the last minor league baseball game. I was sitting there talking to some friends when Dennis came up and introduced himself to me and asked if he could be our bat boy. That’s how our connection started,” he added.

Tom and Dennis lost touch when Tom was in high school but was able to reconnect during their 40-year Little League All Star Team reunion.

Tom’s wife took a group picture that day.

“I brought the picture over to his group home unannounced, so I might have woken him up or surprised him, I’m not sure. But I gave him the picture and he was very talkative. But he wasn’t this time,” Anderson said.

Dennis ended up passing away a few months later.

“If I could talk to him I would tell Dennis that I wish I would’ve stayed in touch with him more than I did. I would also like to be able to tell him how big of an influence and impact he had on me. Special needs people like him were not in the community during our time, he was, but I didn’t think about him that way. You knew he was a little different, but you always wanted him to be around because he was so positive,” he added.

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