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Wolfe's parents on a mission to raise fentanyl awareness

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HARTINGTON — Jeff and Carol Wolfe are still struggling with the grief over losing their son, Josh, to fentanyl poisoning nearly a year ago.

But the Coleridge couple are finding strength and a renewed purpose in carrying his memory in their hearts and speaking out to others about the dangers associated with the drug.

“If we can save one life, it’s worth it,” Carol said. “This is what Josh would want us to do.”

The Wolfes will join Amy Holman, project coordinator at the Nebraska Pharmacists Association, for several upcoming talks at area schools — some geared toward students and others geared toward the public.

Hartington-Newcastle and Cedar Catholic junior high and high school students will be listening to the program during the school day Monday, March 20, and the public is invited to attend a session at 7 p.m. at the Hartington-Newcastle school gym titled “Understanding the Opioid Crisis in Nebraska and What You Need to Know to Stay Safe.” The public presentation will focus on the dangers of opioid misuse, fentanyl poisoning and how to access the life-saving drug NARCAN. Carol said she’s learned more than she ever wanted to know about the drug’s dangerous effects and its infiltration into society since Josh’s death last May in Nashville, Tenn., where he was attending a destination wedding. He called his mother to tell her he was extending his stay by an extra night. But he never came home.

Josh and two other men were found unresponsive in downtown Nashville on May 3, 2022.

Thirty-four-year-old Josh and a 26-year-old Canadian man, Karl Smith, died. The third man, a 26-year-old from Elkhorn, was revived after being given naloxone, a medicine to help reverse the effects of a drug overdose.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients and is usually applied in a patch on the skin, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Because of its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl is also illicitly manufactured and available on the drug market in different forms, including liquid and powder.

Powdered fentanyl looks just like many other drugs. It is commonly mixed with drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine and made into pills that are made to resemble other prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Investigators were not able to confirm where Josh and the other men may have gotten the drug or what exactly happened that night.

It’s the not knowing that makes it difficult to find any closure, Carol said. However, the Wolfes said the support of the community has been “above and beyond.”

They also find solace in the memories shared among so many who were impacted by Josh. Since his passing, the Wolfes have learned that Josh was known as “the mayor” of his apartment complex in Omaha. He was described as inclusive, outgoing and friendly by the tenants who held a memorial swim party in his honor.

Among many other things, Josh will be remembered as a doting uncle; accomplished in his accounting career; and an avid golfer.

A memorial golf tournament event raised funds to accomplish a new mission in Josh’s name — a mission that will be carried out by his loving parents to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl.

Carol said she hopes the upcoming area presentations are just the start of something much larger.

“I hope my phone starts ringing off the hook,” she said. Those interested in learning more may contact the Wolfes at 402283-4521 or