The following is a continuation of the Roots series focusing on current residents who grew up locally and have decided to raise a family here and make contributions to their communities.
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Growing up in Fort Madison in the 70s and 80s and then returning to area to start a business and a family just seemed to be the proper lifestyle “adjustment” for Dr. Lauri Wondra.
Wondra, along with her husband Dr. Tim, and sister Kassy Mancill, own and operate Wondra Chiropractic at 724 Avenue G along the Main Street district in Fort Madison. But the decision to move back to the area to raise a family and start a business was one made from family and business.
After meeting at Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City, Tim and Lauri both graduated in 2001 and started looking for a place to settle down.
“We were actually trying to find someplace in between Great Bend, Kansas and Fort Madison. My family was here in Fort Madison, and Tim was raised in Kansas,” Lauri said.
“I knew I wanted to be closer to home but we wanted to be fair so we tried to find someplace in between.
But Tim said that nothing ever felt like home.
“We were looking for something about the same size of our hometowns, which were both about this size,” Tim said. “But when we went into some of these other towns that we looked at, it just didn’t give us that feeling of home..it wasn’t welcoming.”
Since they both were graduates of chiropractic college they wanted to open their own business and become active in whatever community they would settle in.
Lauri said there were some places they knew right away they wouldn’t fit.
“We actually looked at a lot of different places between here and there and we had a lot of people who kind of pleaded with us to come back. Madeline Leake was one of the biggest advocates wanting us to come back.”
“We actually went into one town and someone said, ‘Oh, we already have a chiropractor so we don’t need that here’,” she said.
So as they moved north looking for a community that would fit their needs and feel right to raise a family, they started thinking Iowa.
Lauri said Iowa has more open regulations and laws regarding chiropractic and they started thinking that moving back closer to Lauri’s family made the most sense.
“My family was a big part of the decision to move back here. I think it’s a comfort thing,” she said. “I love Kansas city, and loved being there in that atmosphere, but when we thought about raising a family there, Kansas City, it just isn’t what we wanted.”
Lauri was raised in Fort Madison and went to Fort Madison High School where she graduated in 1987. After graduation she had thoughts of having a career in Juvenile probation. After shadowing Kathy Skewes on that job front, she realized that wasn’t for her after she had to penalize a young child who had taken some meat from a grocery store.
According to her website bio at www.wondrachiro.com, Lauri says, “Even when a very young child was caught stealing meat from a grocery store, a punishment had to be given. That was the demise of me being a juvenile probation officer. I could not bear to punish a child who I thought might be hungry and stealing to feed himself. Even though I chose not to take the route of juvenile probation, Kathy’s philosophy of firm, fair, and consistent has stuck with me to this day, I try my best to follow it, as well.”
After moving to Kansas City, Lauri started working at a sunglass shop and eventually became manager of three locations in the Kansas City area.
She said she knew that the sunglasses business wasn’t her long-term goal but wasn’t sure at that point what she wanted to do, until as fate would have it, she hurt her back at work. Her mother Sue, (now Andrews) recommended that she go to her chiropractor to get some relief. Lauri remembers going to the chiropractor and seeing the doctor was looking for help. After getting treatment and seeing the relief chiropractic could provide, Lauri started working at that clinic.
She then became interested in acupuncture and started doing seminars with one of the doctors in the clinic.
“The more I learned about chiropractic and acupuncture, the more I loved it,” Lauri says in her website. “The prospect of helping people not only feels better, but to maintain their health, pain free, was what I wanted to do with my life. This is not only my profession; it’s my life’s work.”
After marrying Tim in 2001, the two shortly thereafter had their daughter Dalyn in April 2002. They then opened an office at 819 Avenue G and then after the business expanded and parking became a problem they moved to their current location at 726 Avenue G.
Lauri is actively engaged in the Fort Madison Soroptimists and is the President-elect of the Iowa Chiropractic Society, served on the city’s Parks Board for 10 years, and helped with the Charlie Korschgen 4th of July Kiddie Parade with her step-father Andy Andrews, her mother Sue, brother Rusty Andrews, and aunt Jan Garza. Lauri was also active in the Jaycees in Shawnee, Kansas in the Kansas City area.
Tim said the college, now Cleveland University, was big into promoting community volunteerism, as well.
“They would tell us that we need to get into our communities, get involved and give back, and that was something they really pushed,” Tim said.
Tim is currently the Vice President of the Fort Madison Community School District Board and has helped with youth sports.
“When I talk to people about community service and they say, ‘Oh, it’s so nice that you have time to give back’,” that kind of makes me angry a little bit. It’s not that we have all this extra time, it’s just that it’s important to give back and it’s important for our daughter to see the importance, as well. And if everyone gave a little back…?”
Lauri said Dalyn who’s a freshman at FMHS this year, said she’s leaning toward staying in the area, but her parents would like to get her to spread her wings and get that experience outside the community and then make her own decision if she comes back.
Tim said it can be good for the community for young people to get away and see the country or the world and then bring those experiences back to the community, a sentiment that has been echoed in previous Roots articles.
“People that have gone away for a while, they see how it’s done in other places and then when they come back, it can only make us better because of that experience,” he said.
“And there is just so much support in this community and it’s so diverse with the factory jobs and the diversity of people in a town this size, that is also attractive.”
Lauri sums up her philosophy on business and community in a quote from John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist religion.
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As ever long as you can.”