It’s been a tough week, news-wise.
As the mighty fall and scandals brew, as temperatures drop and tempers rise, I found myself needing something to restore my faith that people are basically decent, that happiness exists.
And then I talked with Chuck and Jamie Hertzler about their lives and their family, and I came away feeling so much better about the world.
The Fowlerville couple is being honored by the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange for making part of their family eight children — three different groups of siblings — over the past four years.
The Hertzlers were honored at a breakfast event on Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Henry Ford in Dearborn, and they were given a “wish.”
Because their kids love fish and aquariums, their wish was to take them to the Sea Life Aquarium at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills.
That there would be children wasn’t surprising; that there would be so many so quickly might sound chaotic to some.
For the Hertzlers — who celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary earlier this week — it was just a natural extension of their story.
When Chuck Hertzler first saw Jamie, he fell in immediate love and knew that she would be his wife.
Jamie didn’t even know Chuck existed. She was doing her job at a local gas station when Chuck and his friend pulled in.
“I looked through the window and saw her,” Chuck said. “I told my friend, ‘Dude, that’s my future wife.’”
Chuck’s friend responded as only a friend should: “But you’ve never even talked to her.”
So Chuck did.
“I said hello and asked whether she had a boyfriend,” Chuck said. “She said no, and I told her that I thought she was pretty.”
Jamie told him she wasn’t interested.
“How old are you,” she asked.
Chuck told her he was 26.
“Well, I’m only 18, and I am not interested.”
But that didn’t stop Chuck, who found himself back at the station the next day.
“Don’t tell me you need gas again,” Jamie said, and as Chuck struck up a conversation, Jamie’s mother pulled into the station.
Jamie introduced the two, and her mom came away thinking Chuck was nice, but “too old” for her daughter.
Over the next month, Chuck found himself needing gas — a lot. And each time he filled up, he made sure to chat with Jamie.
One day, he popped the question: “When are we going out for dinner?”
Jamie said they weren’t, but something changed her mind. She said she’d go out for dinner, but only if her dad approved.
“He’s intimidating,” she warned Chuck, who met up with her father at Meijers.
“I’d like to date your daughter,” Chuck said. Jamie’s dad gave his approval.
Jamie and Chuck went out on that first date, and they’ve been together ever since.
Four years after first asking permission to date Jamie, Chuck approached her father with a different question: “Can I marry your daughter?”
The two got married.
They bought a house.
And now, seven years later, they’ve filled that house — which has grown to include seven bedrooms — with their family of eight adopted kids, as well as Chuck’s mother.
“When we were engaged, I said I wanted 13 kids,” said Chuck, who has two siblings; Jamie has one. “She said she wanted two kids. We decided to compromise at five, and it was all a joke at the time.”
Then the Hertzler got their five kids, quickly followed by a sixth, a seventh and an eighth in the span of just four years.
The Hertzlers first became foster parents in 2013 to a set of pre-teen sisters, whom they later adopted. In 2015, the couple adopted another two sisters, for a total of four children.
They recently began fostering a little girl named Zoe, who told them how much she missed her siblings, all of whom were fostered into different homes.
Jamie started working to find Zoe’s three siblings. Within a few short months, she found them all and the Hertzlers became foster parents to her three siblings. In June 2017, the couple adopted all four children.
The Hertzler household is a full and active one. In addition to the 11 humans living there, there are also three dogs and three cats rounding out the busy family.
“The Hertzlers are a loving family willing to do anything for their children,” said Sarah Kremhelmer, the Hertzler’s adoption worker. “They are constantly encouraging them to follow their passions and hobbies.”
So, there are meetings and practices and lessons for activities ranging from archery and marching band to art club.
“Each kid is special in their own way, and we try to meet their needs,” Jamie said. “So we’re really busy.”
Chuck, a firefighter in the Fowlerville Fire Department, also works at Spicer Orchards in Fenton. Jamie, a substitute teacher in the Fowlerville Community Schools District, also works at Spicer Orchards in the fall.
And their busy family life works.
“They know the situations they came from,” Chuck said. “Each child has their own set of skills and needs. One can help the other to read. Sometimes they can’t emotionally connect. It’s no different (than in other families), but the problems sometimes are amplified.”
“This is our normal,” Jamie said.
Anybody interested in fostering or adoption can call Michael Gackler at Livingston County Catholic Charities at (517) 545-5944.