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People Making a Difference

Eli and Marilyn Wirtz

Two instrumental players in making On With Life a reality were Eli and Marilyn Wirtz. The Wirtz family was impacted by brain injury on November 6, 1984, when Marilyn developed a cerebral aneurysm while at home and was rushed to the hospital. 

"It was obviously a scary time for us and I was beside myself," Eli says. "Our son Jim and Marilyn's mother were also having health difficulties and both were admitted to the same hospital within weeks of Marilyn." 

Marilyn had internal bleeding on the left side of her brain, and after surgery, remained in the hospital for almost four months. It was during this time that Marilyn's neurosurgeon, Dr. Thomas Carlstrom, asked Eli if he would be interested in becoming involved with the Central Iowa Area Support Group. 

"The group's mission was to provide services and support to those living with brain injury," Eli says. "It was through my involvement with this group that I became aware of the idea to develop a brain injury rehab facility in central Iowa." 

"Marilyn received more than two years of varied rehabilitation around the Midwest following her hospital stay," Eli explains. "So I understood the need for a rehab facility in Iowa and immediately wanted to help." 

Eli became an original member of the Board of Directors when On With Life was incorporated in 1987. 

"At the time, and even today, I don't think of my service as extraordinary in any way, recalling the unselfish efforts of so many volunteers and dedicated employees who have made On With Life into everything we hoped it would be," Eli says. 

Eli continues to serve an important role on the On With Life Board, offering legal and governance skills developed through 17 years of legal practice and 21 years as corporate counsel for Casey's General Stores, Inc. Marilyn continues to offer support for those who have experienced a stroke, and volunteers her time with the Stroke Club at Iowa Methodist. 

"We're exactly where we need to be," Marilyn says. "To this day I vividly remember a vision while still in a coma. I saw my whole life in front of me as if it were a movie, and an angel telling me my work on earth was not done. It was then that I knew God wanted us to find a way to help those in need."