August 31st of 2005 Phillip Hernandez was killed in a cycling accident when he was hit by a suburban while out for his evening bike ride.
November 3rd of that same year, Daniel Dippel died of complications of Esophageal cancer. Little did either surviving spouse know that they would be connected and become lifelong friends.
Michele Neff Hernandez and Michelle Dippel shared a first name, birth year and the experience of outliving their spouse in their mid-thirties. Connected through a distant family connection, the two women became each other’s lifeline through the ups and downs associated with grief and widowhood. They soon realized the difference made by having each other for processing, venting, and rebuilding through this challenging experience, and began to craft a plan for offering other widowed people the same experience.
After dreaming up the Camp Widow event while driving home from visiting Daniel’s grave, these two women have continued to serve millions of widowed people who have benefitted from the community these two women have created. Michele and Michelle still count each other as best friends and the work they do is still inspired by the power of the early connection and their shared desire to ensure that no widowed person grieves alone.