Have you ever instantly met someone you knew you would like?
That is how I felt the first time I met Teri Jendusa Nicolai in person.
We had been at a luncheon for the Waukesha Women's Center and sat at the same table. I remember thinking, she is so down to earth, naturally beautiful, and had a wonderful spirit. There are some people who have natural magnetism. They say most stars have it in person, and can translate that on screen. Well, that is what Teri had to me. Just a natural appeal that I liked.
Over the years, I had often thought about her, and wondered what she was doing. Then one day, a former TODAY'S TMJ4 employee e-mailed me and said she ran into Teri in the mall. She stopped and chatted with her. Stephanie was also struck by how friendly Jendusa Nicolai was. Well, to make a long story short, she emailed me Teri's contact information, and we set up a meeting.
Teri has been through hell. Her first husband tried to kill her. After beating her with a baseball bat, he tied her up, stuffed her in a garbage pail and left her in a cold storage locker in Illinois. To call it sad is an understatement. It's cruel, evil and repugnant.
Teri survived the harrowing experience thinking about her two young daughters. Today, she is a sought after advocate against domestic violence. She speaks at schools, universities, women's centers, shelters, you name it. She was even recently on Oprah.
Jendusa-Nicolai has helped raise awareness and money to combat domestic violence. Most recently, she raised $14,000 for a Women's Center in Racine.
But perhaps the most remarkable part about Jendusa-Nicolai is that she is not seeking celebrity or the limelight. She is just a good person who wants to help others. She considers herself first and foremost a mom. And despite the heinous act her ex-husband tried to commit, Teri is quick to smile and has a wonderful sense of humor.
One story she told me is hilarious. She says after she was beaten by her husband, and had bruises, one plastic surgeon asked if she wanted her nose fixed. She said, "He did not hit my nose. Is something wrong." And then she laughs heartily. That's the kind of women Teri is.
She is filled with fun, laughter, and has a sweet spirit. She is the kind of person you want in your family or as your friend.
To think that someone would want this woman dead is maddening. But, thank God, she survived, because she now has a new life, a new mission, and she is a gift to the world.
We are blessed that Teri-Jendusa Nicolai is in our community. I have no doubt she has saved lives.