Follow Us

Jessica Schimmel, formerly of Racine, surprised her family by coming home for Christmas. Schimmel is an aircraft handler in the Navy.Jessica Schimmel, an aircraft handler for the Navy, made her family’s Christmas special by surprising them and coming back home to Racine, even though she didn’t think she would get leave because she had some medical issues that played havoc on her taking leave.

She surprised them separately — her mother, Kim Schimmel, by having herself wrapped in a box; her father, Matt Schimmel, by showing up during a service at Faith Community Church in Mount Pleasant on Sunday; and her boyfriend, Darren Rutowski, by meeting him at the airport when he came home from leave from being in the Marines.

Schimmel initially didn’t get her leave approved because she had a seizure while she was on a ship and even though she was on medical leave to sort out the medical issue she was charged for leave in error. Once she resolved the issue with the Navy, she learned that she could then take leave and kept that she was coming home a secret from her family.

“I just like seeing their faces when they didn’t think I was supposed to be home in the first place,” Schimmel said. “I wanted it to be as special as I could make it.”

Jessica cooked up a plan to surprise her mom with her aunt, Laurie Fritsch, by having her wrap Jessica up in a big box like a Christmas present. When Kim came home from work at 8 a.m. on Saturday, the present was sitting in her living room and Fritsch told Kim that instead of buying her a pizza maker, she bought this instead.

“When I opened it, Jessica was inside and she said: ‘Surprise Mom!'” Kim said. “I was so excited. She said she wouldn’t know until Monday whether she would be home for Christmas…we weren’t sure if she was coming home for Christmas at all.”

Kim, who is a security guard at Carthage College, said that if she could, she would take the next two weeks off to spend it with Jessica. But she just can’t take the time off now.

“Having her home has made our Christmas so much better,” Kim said. “She’s the only one that was not going to be here.”

Check out the video of Jessica surprising her dad Matt at Faith Community Church.




Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.