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Most of the Wessel Family Gets Into the Act and Has Fun Clowning Around

June 22, 1988|Herbert J. Vida

There's something about being the class clown. Just ask the Wessels, who form a clown team that includes father Keith, 51; mother Joanne, 52; stepson Steve Lee, 31, and grandchildren Jason Brunner, 8, and Kevin Brunner, 6.

All except Kevin are clown school graduates. And it is serious fun stuff when the Fullerton family gets together to bring some laughter, happiness and diversion to shut-ins, senior citizens and kids celebrating birthdays.

Sometimes they are part of a community event, such as the recent Fullerton Founder's Day Parade, and other times they perform at children's and veteran's hospitals. Most of the time they perform free. But when they do collect something, it goes to the grandchildren.

"We get a great kick out of performing for those people," said Keith Wessels, who cleans windows and buildings for a living. "But the best reason for us is keeping the family together. I like to say that the family that clowns together stays together."

So involved is the whole family that great-grandmother Marguerite Keller of Fullerton designed the colorful costumes they wear.

It was only a couple of years ago when Joanne Wessels had a fleeting thought about running away and joining a circus that was performing in town.

"I took the grandchildren to the circus and watched as the clowns put on makeup and it intrigued me," she said. "But when I asked about joining them, they told me I was too old to be a clown. I was kind of taken aback. But I guess it is a strenuous life, so I didn't push it."

So she and grandson Jason went to a six-week clown school sponsored by the Cal-Nevada Moose Assn. Her husband already had graduated from the school.

"Clowning truly is a joy for me," she said. "The kids really love it, and I think they understand the happiness they spread when they're clowning. I get a great big kick out it."

Jason likes his clown role and the colorful costume he wears, but he isn't all that happy about putting on makeup.

To Joanne, though, "My whole personality changes when I get that makeup on. I feel no one will know who I am and I can be another person and do whatever makes me happy, no matter how foolish or silly it may be."

Her clown name is "Rainbow." Grandfather Wessels calls himself "Harpo" and the grandchildren are "Jelly Bean' and "Scooter."

Steve Lee is a sergeant in the Air Force and sometimes joins in on weekends for some clowning around. Wessels would like his other stepson, Scott Lee, 29, of Corona, "to be part of our clown act as a clown."

Scott is an accomplished magician and when he tags along with the clown team, he does magic. "Maybe he'll change one of these days," his father said.

Sign of the Times: After the 1,500th 7-Eleven store was opened, company spokeswoman Jeanette Wilson touted the new market in Anaheim as an "international" store with bilingual employees and foods such as burritos.

Down the street, she noted, another 7-Eleven store has employees that speak Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, Arabic and Filipino dialects.

Also English, she added.

In a 7-Eleven store in Brea, owner Dave Chlebik and three of his clerks wore T-shirts that said: "I survived Lotto fever $51 Million." The store sold 25,000 state lottery tickets for the recent $51-million jackpot.

Helen Mary Amgwerd is proud of her Indian heritage and has traced her bloodlines to Chief Tamenend, who signed a treaty with William Penn in 1683.

Another Indian ancestor, she said, was Chief White Eyes of Delaware, who aided the American colonists in the Revolutionary War.

Amgwerd of Yorba Linda, who was once Queen for a Day on the television show of the same name, is currently teaching Indian Lore for the North Orange County Community College District.

She also has written a book called "A Remarkable Punctuation Trip," using Indian symbols for some punctuation marks. She believes that it should be published by "a publisher with foresight and insight."

Amgwerd also writes fairy tales, poetry and plays for children.

And she signs her letters "Indianrootfully yours."

Acknowledgments--Orange resident Gordon Owens, science teacher at Garden Grove's Santiago High School, was presented UC Irvine's Science Education Advisory Board's Award of Excellence in teaching. Owens also was identified in a poll of UC Irvine students as their most influential high school chemistry teacher.

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