WORTHINGTON — Within a span of three and a half years, Robyn Moser purchased a clothing business and downtown Worthington storefront, lost her husband to kidney cancer and then, in late May of 2019, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She underwent chemotherapy treatments, had a double mastectomy and then reconstructive surgery — enduring it all with a 100% flawless attitude, according to Susanne Murphy, one of her close friends.
Moser’s inspiring attitude toward others put her on the receiving end of a community pride project over the weekend.
It all started when Chad Cummings, working through a pile of papers on his desk at RadioWorks, discovered a note written by his longtime friend and radio station cohort, Kenneth Moser. Kenneth was a list maker, and during a conversation one day with Cummings about possibly buying The Stag and the building in which it was located, he made a list of the things he wanted to do to improve the building.
The list was short — four items in all — but they were items that would take both time and money. Kenneth wanted to replace the roof, carpet and HVAC system and give everything a new coat of paint.
“Two of the four things got completed within that first five months,” Cummings shared. “Then Ken started not feeling good and six months after they purchased it, Ken passed away.
“It’s been nearly three years now and nothing more got done,” he said of the list.
When Cummings discovered the handwritten note in October, the thought immediately came to him to do something about the work that remained. He first reached out to Murphy and pitched the idea of raising money and finding volunteers to surprise Moser with new carpeting.
A plan, and fibs, come together
With Murphy, along with Marty Rickers and John Standafer — both friends of Kenneth — the foursome worked on a plan.
Cummings met with Matt DeWall, owner of Carpet Plus in downtown Worthington, to price carpet. DeWall, already aware of Moser’s desire for new carpet in The Stag, created a fib about an upcoming sale to get Moser in his store to select the style and color she wanted.
Once Moser and her mom chose the new carpeting — a grey-toned tile style — Cummings lined up carpet layers Lonnie Johnson and Bruce Stugelmeyer, who in turn reached out to other carpet layers to help with the installation at no charge.
Meanwhile, Murphy developed a string of fibs to get Moser out of town for a weekend. She planned a girls trip to a casino for Moser and two other friends. Then, knowing she would have to stay in Worthington, Murphy brought her Illinois family into the mix.
She asked her siblings to pile into a car and take a picture, then text it to her saying they were on their way to Worthington to visit her, since she didn’t make it home for Christmas.
Murphy forwarded the message to Moser, apologizing about missing their girls weekend, but telling them to have fun without her.
Moser later said Murphy’s excuse would have been the only acceptable reason she would go on a weekend trip without her friend.
While stringing together fibs to get Moser out of town, Murphy lined up a demolition crew of volunteers to cut and rip out the old carpet. Schaap Sanitation offered to provide a rolloff dumpster at no charge.
With the donations of labor, the dumpster and special discounts and a donation from Carpet Plus, Cummings set a fundraising goal. Within a month, he and Murphy, Rickers and Standafer raised the money — enough to pay for the carpet with leftover funds now dedicated to replacing The Stag’s HVAC system. Cummings said he hopes to raise additional money so the system can be installed by spring.
“We have a couple local contractors who are friends of the Moser family who are working with us now,” he said. “It’s going to get done, but we are still seeking funds.”
Said Murphy: “It’s all in the spirit of love and support.”
Weekend of work
Through more than a month of prep work, the four organizers constantly feared Moser would somehow learn of their plans. People, though, can keep a good secret.
Once Moser was on her way out of town, they sprang to action.
“Three minutes after we got a text that they were out of town, Susanne said a crew was there and ready to start cutting,” said Cummings, who was still en route.
Over the course of the day, Murphy said roughly 70 volunteers showed up. Most knew the Mosers through their work on various boards and committees, from hospice volunteers and dart players to church members and friends. The Worthington High School boys hockey team, under the direction of Coach Tyler Nienkerk, even showed up to help.
“They just heard about it and wanted to get involved,” shared Murphy. “They were powerful in getting all of the material in.”
Rickers, who worked for Bishop’s Clothing in 1969 and continued on when it became The Stag, recalled well the installation — and subsequent vacuuming — of the gold- and green-toned floor covering that was pulled up on Saturday. The carpet, which had been special-ordered from Minneapolis and cost about $2,500, had been in the store since 1971.
“Carpeting has gone up four or five times since then,” said Rickers.
By 12:03 p.m. Saturday, Cummings said the clothing racks had been moved and covered, the carpet had been ripped out, the dust was sucked up and the first five pieces of carpet tile were laid.
“By 5 p.m., maybe all but 10 pieces of carpet tile were on the ground and everything was back in place,” Cummings said, adding that there was about an hour’s worth of work to do on Sunday, before Moser arrived back in town.
Upon returning to Worthington, Moser’s friends took her on a roundabout route (based on another fib) that ended at the front of The Stag. Not suspecting a thing, she wondered aloud why the lights were on in her store. It wasn’t until she reached the door that she realized something was different.
“She cried and cried — it was so cool,” shared Murphy, saying that coming together to give Moser such a gift felt like Christmas. “There were a lot of tears on Sunday, and it wasn’t just Robyn.”
“When your community rallies around you to an extent like this,” said a still-overwhelmed Moser on Monday. “I have a really hard time asking people to help me. Having people step up and do it — I was just totally overwhelmed by all of the people that donated time and money.
“I can’t say enough about Worthington as a community,” she added. “It’s beyond me, just the love that everybody showed.”
Quoting the words of Maj. Frank Burns in the 1970s TV sitcom "M*A*S*H," Rickers said, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.”
“We all think the world of Robyn and we want to make sure she can stay in business there. Worthington needs a store like Robyn’s very badly,” Rickers said. “It was probably one of the neatest community involvement things I’ve been involved in.
“(Robyn is) so willing to give of her own time,” he added. “This was just sort of giving back to Robyn for some of the things she’s done for the community.”