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Following Son's Drowning Death, Mother Wants High-Proof Alcohol Ban

Luanne Wielichowski has reached out to politicians at all levels in an effort to make alcohols such as Everclear, a 190-proof liquor, unavailable in Wisconsin. Luanne's son, Jeff, died last month after drinking Everclear mixed with energy drinks.

Jeff Wielichowski, 22, started drinking Tucker’s Death Mix—a concoction of 190-proof Everclear, Red Bull and Gatorade—at 8:30 p.m. July 15. Two hours later, his mother was performing CPR on him.

Luanne Wielichowski urged her son to take it easy an hour before he drowned in the family pool while partying with friends. She remembers what he told her: “Don’t worry. I’m at home. I’m not driving. I’m OK.”

Not long after, Wielichowski was at her son's side when she was alerted something was wrong.

“I was his best bet that night,” she said. “As soon as someone got me, in a half-second, I was out there. I said ‘He’s breathless and pulseless. Someone call 911.’ … The problem was, the kids did not recognize the trouble he was in. Kids don’t recognize how dangerous alcohol intoxication is. You can talk to them until you’re blue in the face and they still don’t think it will affect them.”

Neither Wielichowski, a nurse practitioner and nursing professor at , nor  paramedics were able to revive Jeff. He was  at approximately 11:30 p.m.

Spreading the word

With her son’s death Wielichowski has a mission. She is passionate about it, yet wishes it wasn’t hers.

Wielichowski wants Wisconsin to join 15 other states in banning the 190-proof Everclear (it is also produced as a 151-proof) from its liquor department shelves. She aims to get all 160-proof or higher alcohol banned in the state.

It didn’t take long for her to start work.

She sent a version of to Joyce O’Donnell, a citizen member of the State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, to be shared at its Aug. 15 meeting and later at a Department of Health Services state committee meeting.

She didn’t stop there.

Wielichowski fired off the letter to anyone she thought could help. She emailed Sen. Herb Kohl, Gov. Scott Walker, state senators Tim Carpenter and Peggy Krusick and others. Krusick, Wielichowski said, has been her strongest supporter so far and is in the drafting phase of a bill that would ban high-proof alcohol from the state.

Wielichowski also emailed Greenfield Mayor Michael Netizke and the city’s alderpersons. Although municipalities do not have the power to enforce specific alcohol bans, the issue will be discussed at the Sept. 8 Board of Health meeting; Wielichowski is a member of the board.

After learning of Wielichowski’s quest, Alderwoman Linda Lubotsky went to local liquor stores; many owners voluntarily pulled the product from their shelves.

“I, too, am a mom of a son the same age as this young life that passed too soon,” Lubotsky wrote in an email. “That alone isn't the reason I did this. It just was the right thing to do to protect our youth. The family can now ease their worries at least in Greenfield, for now, this poison will no longer be sold here.”

Wielichowski said that’s something, “but it’s a drop in the bucket.”

“This guy on the corner may have taken it off the shelf when Linda went in there and said, ‘Did you know someone died drinking this?’ My guess is it’s not going to be gone long. … And kids can just go to another city to get it.”

She knows the problem is bigger than Everclear.

“Even though Everclear killed my son, there are other high-proof alcohols out there,” she said. “High-proof alcohols have to be banned in this state. We need a bill put forward and a governor that will sign it. I think we’re a long way off before that happens.”

Aug. 30 would have been Jeff’s 23rd birthday. Three of his friends spent two hours in the rain planting a tree as a memorial to their friend up on the bluffs in La Crosse, where Jeff recently graduated from Virterbo University. Just last week, Jeff’s graduation pictures arrived at the Wielichowski’s home.

Two more reminders to Wielichowski of why she is now on this unwanted mission.

“It was a senseless, senseless death for a child that had everything in his future,” she said. “(My goal) is getting rid of high-proof alcohol so no other child has to die needlessly because they make a stupid mistake. So no other parent has to go through what we went through. I don’t know if there is a chance of recovery. I will never be the same. Never.”

For more on the Wielichowskis, read a story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.

read you will September 05, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Richard, I'm sure Jeff's "mom" will read your comments - which are pretty hurtful and ignorant considering she just lost her son. Shame on you. This boys death had nothing to do with parenting, but had everything to do with a very dangerous product which is banned in many states. Everclear is lethal. I hope our Wisconsin legislators recognize that and ban this poison.
Joe September 05, 2011 at 05:13 PM
Thank god someone has identified another area where the Government needs to step in and protect us from our poor decision making. After all, doesn't this mother and all of our elected officials know what's good for us more than ourselves.If you are too stupid to take care of yourself, no worry, the government will take care of you.
Michelle September 05, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Richard, I find you comments sad and offensive. Instead of calling you ignorant, I will assume that you are uninformed. What purpose does it serve for you to post judgemental comments on such a tragic story? This mother in her grief is sharing her son's story so that all of us can learn and be informed about this poison. My heart breaks for her and I can't begin to imagine her pain, but I am inspired by her strentgh and willingness to share her son's life and death with us, strangers, so that our children, your children might be protected from this same fate. In my opinion, you owe Mrs. Wielichowski a heartfelt apology! I also suggest that if you have not already, you read her letter that explains the details of the incident so that you are informed before you question someone's integrity.
Roger September 05, 2011 at 09:04 PM
I'm so sorry for this family's loss. Also a interesting point after writing to numerous politicians at all levels nobody seemed to care enough to help this family at all. but one local lady Alderwoman Lubotsky who cares more than the average person. She not only cared but apparently took upon herself not to wait to try and pass a law to ban everclear she went to ever place that sells it and asked them to remove it from the shelves! hows that for taking the bull by the horns? however small a step but a step? to try and prevent a copycat tragedy yes teens and college kids can binge drink beer and other high proof drinks but she helped and she cares more than ANY politician my wife and I have ever met. If the state wants help in banning high proof alcohol you better get this intelligent lady on board with you!
Bob September 05, 2011 at 09:18 PM
I don't want any mother to have to bury her son. I hope this family can continue to live their lives remembering their son for the joyful person he appears to have been. However I do not wish her success in this new found mission to ban high proof alcohol. After reading the letter it appears Red Bull is what gave her son the extra energy to jump in the pool. Why not blame Red Bull? Her son was 22 years old and made a decision. He decided to mix alcohol with an energy drink and a sports drink. By mixing the alcohol hendid several things. Most importantly he diluted the alcohol concentration. I would he interested to know the actual proof of what he was drinking. Not the proof of one ingredient.
Tom September 06, 2011 at 01:37 AM
Very very sorry for your loss, but I do not agree to have my life further policed and effectively changed by the government because of your loss.
Jared Witcomb September 06, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Most people don't drink it alone, they use it in mixed drinks, like this kid did. Nobody is actually saying that the proportion of Everclear to other substances in his drink was, or exactly how intoxicated he was. All we know is "drunk person drowns in pool," which is pretty much par for the course.
Resident of O.C. Paul September 06, 2011 at 01:54 PM
I agree with Tom Kenny. I too am sorry for your loss, but your son made his own decision to mix high proof alcohol with energy drinks. I too do not want to be further policed by the government in my choices, and what I decide to do. We all should know right from wrong, and be able to understand that every choice and decision we make has consequences, some good, some bad, but when bad choices and decisions are made we should be adult enough to accept them, and admit that they were made, and not expect the government to step in and protect us.
CK September 09, 2011 at 12:51 AM
High proof alcohol isn't to blame here - stupidity is. He could've been drinking Watermelon Puckers, but if he drank enough of it - same result. So now, an absent mother is on a crusade to quell her own guilt, and give the government even more ammo to further infringe on our rights.
4 Greenfield September 09, 2011 at 01:40 AM
Anyone who is accustomed to drinking spiked punch with normal proof alcohol would be absolutely astounded at how extremely fast an Everclear spiked punch can make you totally inebriated and not in control. Young people often engage in risky behaviors that could have lethal consequences, but in this case, this young man was not driving and was in a safe place - his home. I think most reasonable people would agree that alcohol this potent is unnecessary and should not be sold in Wisconsin. Years ago, a friend accidentally swallowed a shot of Everclear, mistaking it for vodka, temporarily paralyzing his throat. He could barely speak, eat, or drink for hours. Someone lined up shots of Everclear, not understanding how a drink this potent could cause damage to someone's throat if not diluted!
Resident of O.C. Paul September 09, 2011 at 02:47 AM
The young man was not in a safe place, there was a pool in the vicinity of where he was consuming the Everclear, The Everclear may have contributed to his death, but the blame goes solely on the person drinking such a bad concoction as Everclear and energy drinks. He could have been smarter and not have consumed such a mixture. And to blame the Everclear for his death is plain wrong. He made a choice to drink it, It did not magically pour its self into his cup of Red Bull. There are alot of things we use in everyday life that according to your opinion of what is bad, should be banned from sale to anyone, things like Chainsaws, Lawnmowers, Cars, a Hammer, Water...Etc...Etc, because just like Everclear and other high proof alcohols, they could all cause death if used or consumed improperly.
Sarah Osborne September 11, 2011 at 11:11 PM
As a friend of Jeff's, I know that this sort of drinking behavior was not typical for him. Yes, he drank, but mostly beer, and not to the point where he was completely intoxicated to the point of non-functioning. Jeff's death was a tragedy and I cannot believe some of the comments I am reading. I gasped outright after reading such things as "absent mother" and "stupidity." People are grieving and to write things like that is just unnecessary. If you do not support the ban of Everclear, thats fine. Dont support it, but dont make uninformed comments about his mom not wanting to be a mom. Jeff was old enough to make his own decisions, and this decision was not stupid, but uninformed. There are so many people that are unaware of what the mixture of drinks can do to people. I fully support the ban of Everclear. I do not support it because I lost a close friend as a result of bad decision making involving it. I support it because I do not understand why it is necessary for any liquor to be that potent. Why is it necessary to have alcohol that gets you really drunk, really fast? I most definitely cannot think of any benefits to having this strong of a liquor available.
Reggie Henry December 08, 2011 at 01:57 AM
Jeff was not drinking alone. Also when someone drinks a mix drink that includes everclear they don't understand how drunk they may become. I am a friend of Jeffs and find it crazy that people who dont know him or anything about the situation that ended his life make assumptions. Jeffs mom was a wonderful mother and he talked about her often. So all you DOUCH BAGS with negative comments about Jeff or his mom find something better to do then bash someone you dont know. With that said Jeff we all miss and love you, in the end my friend we will all be together again
Terry Godchaux July 31, 2013 at 01:41 PM
There is never an appropriate answer or salve to anyones emotional heart who has suffered a loved ones death. Like the 'fight or flight' physiological effect we receive when in shock, we either attack the perceived causal factor that caused the death, or we run into depression or worse. While fighting a perceived monster responsible for such a death provides direction and purpose for us, they are not usually effective politically or financially, and almost always creates yet another government project that costs millions/billions without any substantial return. We look to prohibition, the war on drugs, gambling, prostitution and the list keeps rolling along. Some have suggested the best way to ensure our children are safe is to prevent them from driving until age 25. Statistics show this is the greatest death machine that exists, but that wouldn't work either. The best we can do is prepare our kids to make safe choices. Ultimately, we cannot always hover over them, or restrict their travels. I know your campaign to limit high volume alcohol is heart felt and seems reasonable, but this will not prevent such a death, and someone who wishes to imbibe will seek other means to have their way. Lets not throw more money at more regulation that will do little to service a personal choice. If we want this, then we should spend monies on better education and teen services regarding alcohol abuse. In 25 years of law endorsement, I've never seen laws that prevented crime. They usually only keep the honest people honest, and provide a mechanism for enforcing laws through a system of penalties.

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