It's been a long-standing tradition of melding education, women and writers and once again the Estevan chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women did themselves proud on Friday night when about 70 members and guests gathered in the Taylorton Room at the Days Inn to visit with author Cecile Wehrman.
The event was also an occasion to officially announce that their annual scholarship will be named in memory of former chapter president Mary Rose Boyer who died recently. Host Evelyn Johnson noted that Boyer had put a lot of trust and energy into the CFUW and as an educator and historian, it was only fitting to have the annual $600 scholarship named in her memory.
The winner of the scholarship this year is Vijay Shalini, who is graduating from the Estevan Comprehensive School this June and has been admitted to the University of Toronto where she intends to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.
Cheryl Andrist, who made the presentation, noted that the selection process was painstaking since there had been 21 very worthy applicants.
Wehrman is a Crosby, North Dakota journalist who began digging into the backstory of serial bankrobber James Krimm, and ended up writing a book, The Brothers Krimm, about his misdeeds and background of abuse. She noted that the elder Krimm son took his own life practically in her rural Fortuna-area backyard.
She saw the news story evolve into much, much more as she traced Krimm's background to his hometown, his mother and his younger brother, Robert, who took an exact opposite path ... becoming a 10-year United States Marine. The story further evolved as the younger Krimm and Wehrman developed a bond of their own and later married.
“When I looked at the background of this guy who killed himself in my backyard, I saw more than a 42-year-old drifter. As a journalist, we're supposed to be objective, but we're also subject to forming our own opinion as well as informing,” Wehrman told her audience.
“Being a victim of abuse myself, I saw it in his face, another victim of abuse ... unmistakable and this story of a lifetime became much more,” Wehrman said.
She met his mother, Charlene, who had been supportive of her sons, and then her husband-to-be Robert, his brother, who had been abused by James, who had started on a road of robberies before the age of 20, a lonely lifestyle that only ended more than two decades later in a lonely North Dakota farmyard.
Krimm's path led him into Canada on a couple of occasions where he held up banks in smaller centres throughout British Columbia and Alberta and even once in Weyburn.
“He learned to blend in early. His methods included robbing small banks in small centres, 12 in one year; usually he didn't get a lot. His biggest take was $47,500, but we know that in the first 18 months, he only ended up with $39,000 and for that he served seven years in prison and as soon as he was out, he resumed his lifestyle of robbery,” Wehrman said.
She noted that Krimm must have led a lonely existence due to the nature of the “work,” he did and the fact he didn't get even one visitor while he was in prison supported that supposition.
“In that period of time he never contacted his mother or brother. He wrote his father who had abandoned the family years earlier,” Wehrman said. That was in 2008.
He served prison time in Iowa, and robbed a bank in Devils Lake, North Dakota that was less than a block from the police station, that netted him just $4,000.
Charlene, “went online, saw his picture, the masked robber and recognized her son she hadn't seen in 16 years,” Wehrman said.
When he wasn't on the road performing robberies, James Krimm lived in a small city in the American Midwest.
He never killed anyone, but he left in his wake between 50 and 100 traumatized bank employees, the author said. So there were victims, including himself, as he committed suicide in the field as the police closed in around him.
Robert Krimm, who answered questions with his wife following the presentation, stated that he honestly felt no remorse or sadness at his brother's passing since his memories of him as an older brother were only hurtful ones. He said his mother had worked many jobs to provide for the two of them and she bore some emotion at his passing, but he had found solace in the military and in the Marine Corps band which served as his escape as he sorted out his new life.
Wehrman was thanked by Astrid Friesen.
The Estevan University Women also conduct a silent auction of books, donated by other authors and publishing houses as part of their evening's entertainment in support of the scholarship fund. Once again that proved to be a big success as a number of books received multiple bids before the successful bidder was able to take them home.