Wish Stories

All Aboard! Louvenia Reunites with Her Family on a Train Ride

Have you ever seen “America’s backyard”? That’s a phrase often used by those who choose to travel by train, rolling through the open countryside and off the beaten track.

Louvenia, age 95, is well acquainted with traveling on the iron rails. She and her husband loved to travel, and the last trip they took together before he passed was by train from California to Texas to visit their daughter Kari.

Louvenia would tell you that a certain kind of magic accompanies train travel. She loved sitting in the sight-seeing car, looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows with views as far as the horizon. Depending on the day, she could see the sunrise, a storm moving across the plains, or even look up at the night sky full of twinkling stars. She and her husband loved stopping at the small towns along the way to their destination, discovering something new together at each stop.

Louvenia’s sense of curiosity and adventure comes from a life full of both great joys and challenges. Having lived through segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, she has witnessed immense societal change firsthand.

Louvenia’s husband marched for freedom during the Civil Rights Movement. He used his position in the field of tv production and broadcasting to interview and share the words of leaders in the movement, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. While they faced many challenges along the way, they believed the cause was worth their sacrifices.

Heinz stands in front of Cessna airplane before his ride
Heinz and his son hold hands and smile broadly after their airplane ride
Heinz sitting inside Cessna airplane before takeoff

Louvenia’s career was in the Library of Congress, where she worked as a search editor. When her husband’s job led them to move many times, she focused on raising their family and supporting all her children’s interests, from Girls Scouts to sports. When her husband served in the Army and Air Force and was away for long periods, she cared for all their needs.

“Mom faced and overcame all of these obstacles with grace, courage, and dignity. She made sure to instill that in her children, which I value so much today,” said Kari, Louvenia’s daughter.

Louvenia’s husband passed shortly after their train adventure, now almost 20 years ago. And with the challenges of the pandemic, nearly five years have gone by since she’s been together with all of her children in the same room.

When Wish of a Lifetime heard Louvenia’s story, we were honored to help her reconnect with her family through a memorable, meaningful experience. And what better way to do so than on a train?

Louvenia’s family surprised her by traveling across the country to meet in Fort Worth, TX. Together for the first time in years, Louvenia and her children Kari, Michi, Toni, and Edmund climbed aboard an Amtrak train car and embarked on a day trip to Austin, TX.

Heinz and Gunar stand in front of Cessna airplane and smile
Heinz stands with his pilot in front of the airplane

Surrounded by her loved ones, Louvenia was overjoyed! Coming together on the train was a beautiful way to honor their father’s memory and give Louvenia a chance to reminisce about the final trip they had taken together.

With the train whistling periodically in the distance, the family became lost in conversation. Louvenia’s children used this uninterrupted time together as a chance to record an oral history of her life, asking her many questions and listening to her favorite stories once again.

“This meant everything— the chance for us to be together and create a memory that we will all have for the rest of our lives,” Kari said.

“There was not one moment that we did not love. The talking, the laughing, the games we played. We are all so thankful, extremely grateful to Wish of a Lifetime and AARP for having this wish granted.”

Reflecting on her special day, Louvenia said she could not have wished for anything more; “It was wonderful.”

“The wish gave me a chance to see my children,” she said. “Nothing is better than that.”

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Colleen and her daughter laugh as they walk together along the ocean

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