Dad jokes posted outside couple’s home helps neighbor walk again

MADISON, Wis. — Neiva Fett has lived in the Cherokee neighborhood on Madison’s north side for the past 50 years. It wasn’t until recently, she learned to love it more than ever.

In October 2020, Fett had back surgery. Her doctor told her that in order to regain her strength and ability to walk, she needed to talk small walks around her neighborhood each day. Fett started walking with a walker in January 2021 with a hesitancy to do so in the cold winter months. But one thing motivated her to get up on her feet every day: her neighbor’s daily dad jokes posted outside their home.

“I was slow, a little worried about falling. But slowly but surely, things improved and I’m pretty much now walking at least half of the neighborhood,” Fett said.

Her neighbors, Tom and Jennifer Hanser, started posting dad jokes in April 2020 as a way to bring light in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.

“We’ve talked a little bit about how are we ever going to get out of this because it seems like a lot of people enjoy it,” Tom Hanser said.

The couple said they will see cars stop as they pass by, snap a photo and share it with friends. They have also received anonymous letters in the mail from people who say they appreciate their daily dad jokes.

“We usually would run some of the jokes by our daughter. She’s a high school senior,” Tom Hanser said. “We get the eye roll test. If she rolls her eyes at it, we know that’s a good dad joke.”

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Some of the couple’s favorite dad jokes include:

“It’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow and she’s been leaving jewelry catalogs everywhere. So I bought her a magazine rack.”

“I canceled my subscription to the Scrabble club. Now they’re sending me threatening letters.”

“I ate a kids meal at McDonald’s today. His mom got really mad.”

Fett said she has not missed a day of dad jokes since she started walking in January. Now, she’s able to walk without a walker.

“When it was really cold, I’d put boots and caps and jacket on. I didn’t feel like walking,” Fett said. “But I thought if I don’t go, I’ll miss the joke of the day!”

Fett’s neighbors said they never expected their corny jokes would help people in so many ways.

“How awesome that she has something she can look forward to?” Jennifer Hanser said. “Getting out, moving around and then at the end she gets a reward through a little funny joke.”

Fett said it not only helped her walk again, but shows why she loves her community and neighbors so much.

“What you two did is a show of caring. You’re caring for your neighbors. You’re caring for them to have a laugh. Or a smile. Because that might be the only one you have in a day,” Fett said.

The couple plans to keep putting the jokes out daily but are hoping to get the whole neighborhood involved. Their idea: each house switches who will have the joke of the day, encouraging neighbors to get out, walk and find where the joke is placed each day.