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A fairy tale gone wrong: After selling Selma’s, McGee family has been mired in misfortune

Laine McGee, left, is pictured in the hospital with her mother. Submitted photo

The story of Selma’s ice cream shop in Afton has been one of great success. For more than 20 years, it was held together by Laine McGee, a single mother with a knack for overcoming adversity.

The business was threatened first by perception. It was about 1980 when she purchased the business, said her daughter, Kelly McGee, and it was still a hard time for women to own a business. She had to plow her way through gender bias both from the business world as well as the public she aimed to serve. While she owned it, Selma’s also survived 17 floods.

“She had a lot of hurdles to get over,” Kelly said.

Through it all, Laine did her best to help others overcome as well. She saw a lot of single mothers who needed jobs, Kelly said, so she hired them to work while their children were at school. Then, when their children grew up, she hired them.

“So we had whole families working for us,” Kelly said.

Laine taught everyone who worked for her the proper way of doing things. She developed a public service video on how to properly handle floods.

“She helped not only in her neighborhood, but people across the state,” Kelly said.

Laine’s daughter isn’t entirely sure what made her mother fight so hard to help people.

“I think God just made her that way,” she said.

It’s possible, she added, that her mother felt she had to fight.

“Maybe she wanted to make sure no one else had to,” she added.

In 2007, Laine and her family decided to walk away from Selma’s. Time had taken its toll, Kelly said. Laine suffered a heart attack, several strokes and even had one arm temporarily paralyzed. Laine’s mother had served as their bookkeeper, but she was going blind then, and Kelly was already working 90 hours a week while trying to raise her family. It was time to let the business go.

They put Selma’s up for sale and found a buyer they believed would take it in the same direction they started. The sale was finalized on a contract for deed, and all seemed to be going well for the McGees.

Just months later, however, the buyer died and his wife filed for bankruptcy.

“We lost everything,” Kelly said. “We’re talking millions.”

The downward plunge

The loss of the business and the sale was just the beginning, though.

Family members had to sell their homes and move into a single house together southeast of Hastings. Currently, there are five generations all living under the same roof.

Laine’s mother’s condition has since worsened, and besides being blind, she’s also now deaf and was diagnosed with dementia.

Laine re-met the love of her life, and things started looking up, but he developed a cancer that eventually took his life.

“It broke her heart,” Kelly said.

Then, just nine months later, Kelly’s husband died. Next was Kelly’s daughter, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer while she was pregnant. Although her daughter survived and is now cancer free, doctors were unable to save her baby, Kelly said.

Through it all, Laine kept putting others ahead of herself.

“My mother held up the house here,” Kelly said, “but all that time she was withering away.”

She lost weight at an alarming rate, and none of the staff at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester could figure out why, Kelly said. Every week for the past five years, Laine has been getting intravenous fluids, but she’s continued to get weaker and has developed a number of other ailments as well, including kidney failure, problems with her pancreas and, most recently, losing blood flow in her entire right leg.

Now, the once-strong woman is down to just 87 pounds and can’t even roll herself over in bed, Kelly said.

“It’s terrifying.”

Laine has been in the hospital for more than three weeks now as doctors try to treat the latest issues affecting her and manage her pain. Kelly is hopeful that her mother will be able to come home soon, but she’s also concerned about her comfort. The home is situated on a little hill with only steps leading up to the door, and Laine’s bedroom is on the second floor. It’s difficult to move her comfortable at this point, Kelly said, and every little bump causes pain.

Asking for help

After so many years of looking out for themselves and taking care of others, the McGees now find themselves in a position where they need others to help them.

Bills are piling up, and there’s only so much Laine’s insurance will cover. Kelly is still able to work, and her employer, Coborn’s in Hastings, has been amazing, she said. But it’s been hard for her to work and be the whole family’s primary caregiver at the same time, she said.

The home needs some upgrades to help Laine be more comfortable there, and they need a new vehicle they can get her into and out of. They currently use a simple minivan.

At the end of July, Kelly set up a fundraising site and started sharing her family’s story on social media. Since then, the family has started to see just how much of an impact they’ve had on their community. Her own Facebook page has exploded with prayers and well-wishes, she said. The fundraising site shows a number of comments from people who remember Laine from Selma’s.

So far, the site has helped the family raise more than $3,000 of their $50,000 goal.

A man who used to partner with Selma’s to sell nuts reached out to The Home Depot, and that company has now volunteered to provide the materials and manpower to build a new ramp leading up to the home’s front door, which will make the trip from the vehicle to the home much safer and more comfortable.

And the current owners of Selma’s are doing their part, too. On Aug. 9, the ice cream shop will hold a fundraiser day; the new owners will donate $1 for every ice cream cone served that day.

Besides trying to raise funds to pay for medical care, Kelly said she’s hoping that more people will show her mother how much she’s appreciated and loved. She encouraged people unable to contribute financially to send a card or a letter to Laine at their home: 17650 E. 200th St., Hastings, MN, 55033.

Those who would like to contribute to the family’s financial need can do so online at c9cywg.

“She’s an amazing woman,” Kelly said of her mother. “Her heart is still as big. It’s just her body can’t handle it anymore.”