One of Jefferson County’s most heinous crimes and painfully drawn-out cold cases — the murders of Tim Hack and Kelly Drew — could not crush the dream of a woman with the closest of ties to the couple.

After four decades, Sam Hack finally has been able to return to her Fort Atkinson home and, in a few days, will work in the same hair salon her close friend and childhood idol, Kelly, did.

Born “Susan,” Sam Hack has been called “Sam” since she was 2 years old. She now has conquered any apprehensions she had about returning to her hometown, which carries with it many wonderful memories of spending time with her brother, Tim, and his girlfriend, Kelly ... as well as painful ones of their deaths.

Tim and Kelly disappeared Aug. 9, 1980, after leaving a wedding reception at the Concord House in the Town of Concord. They had arranged to meet friends at Fort Fest in Fort Atkinson after attending the dance, but never showed up.

The couple’s skeletal remains finally were discovered by two Milwaukee squirrel hunters on Oct. 19 at the edge of the woods near a cornfield off Hustisford Road in the Town of Ixonia. They were along a railroad track that still parallels State Highway 16, approximately eight miles from the Concord House.

No one was arrested … until 29 years later.

It was in June of 2010 that drifter Edward W. Edwards was convicted of murdering the two Fort Atkinson High School graduates. Tipped off to sheriff’s detectives by his own daughter, Edwards was arrested in Louisville, Ky., after a DNA match between Edwards and semen found on Kelly’s pants, found in a Concord-area ditch shortly after Tim, 18, and Kelly, 19, went missing.

Edwards, an itinerant con man who lived with his family in a campground adjacent to the Concord House near Interstate 94, and did some handyman work there, was ordered to serve two consecutive life terms in prison by Jefferson County Branch II Circuit Court Judge William Hue.

The 76-year-old former Kentucky man, now deceased, also was directed to spend the rest of his life in an Ohio prison and died in Ohio Corrections Medical Center in Columbus April 7, 2011. He admitted to killing an Ohio couple, as well as his foster son, in separate incidents decades ago.

Tim and Kelly’s murders are part of terrible, but fading, memories for Jefferson County residents. To Sam, her family and the Drews, however, they remain vivid.

Sam still has strong fondness for Kelly, whom she viewed as an older sister. She loved hanging around the teenage girl when she herself was 10 and 11 years old.

“I was so much younger than she was,” Sam said.

Barbara Congdon has owned and operated the Robin’s Nest salon in Fort Atkinson for almost 50 years. She also owns similarly named salons in Jefferson, Whitewater, and Watertown.

Congdon recalled that she had cut Kelly’s hair since Kelly was 2 years old and all the girl ever wanted to do after that was to be a hair stylist, like Congdon. She went on to do just that, with Congdon in Fort Atkinson, until Edwards ended her life.

“When they went missing, the police came right to me and questioned me,” Congdon said. “It went on and on, about whether (I had seen anyone suspicious come into the salon). From that day on, it all just started.”

Barb went on to establish a scholarship for people interested in becoming hair stylists, in memory of Kelly. She recalled that, fairly recently, Sam returned to Fort Atkinson and came into her salon.

“Sam came back and wanted to be a hairstylist with me. She wrote this letter that was just incredible and she wanted to come back to her roots, here in Fort Atkinson,” Barb said. “It made my heart feel so good and it’s wonderful. Kelly encouraged her as a youngster. It’s quite a story about how this all came into her life.”

Sam had been married and raised several children, who are now adults, in Madison. She lived in the state capital city for 35 years, working for three more years as a hair stylist in Lake Mills, while commuting from Madison after her divorce. In recent years, she and her boyfriend relocated to Fort Atkinson, leading Sam to commute to, and from, Lake Mills each day.

“When my oldest child graduated from high school, my boyfriend and I came across a house in Fort Atkinson. This was about two-and-half years ago,” Sam said. “This meant I’d drive by Kelly’s former house, then the Robin’s Nest, on my way home. One day, I think it was in the fall of 2018, I pulled over and ran in and met Barb again after many years. So here was this beautiful woman, with this wonderful southern accent, in the exact same place Kelly once worked. When she saw me, she said, right away, ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’”

Congdon holds Sam’s talent and charisma as a stylist in high regard.

“She is so good that all her clients came along with her from Madison to her (salon) job in Lake Mills,” Congdon acknowledged. “(Sam) came in a year ago to ask if she could work with me and I said, ‘By all means.’ It was incredible.”

“I had been driving by (the Fort Atkinson Robin’s Nest) for a year-and-a-half and something just caused me to stop and think, then turn in,” Sam said. “There is not a day that passes that I don’t think of Tim and Kelly. Everything came full circle and I wanted to move back.”

Sam was 11 years old when Tim and Kelly went missing. Not only did Sam lose an older brother, but she lost an older girlfriend she revered.

“She was like an older sister to me,” Sam recalled. “She would come around our farm a lot. We played ‘hair’ a lot — combing and cutting. We’d go shopping. We’d do makeup. She’d put makeup on me and I’d put makeup on her. She was just fun to be around and she was about nine years older.”

Sam also remembers making cookies and crafts with Kelly.

“We’d always meet up in the kitchen, and we’d be baking and cooking. She’d give us our haircuts,” Sam said. “We’d go to her house, go in her closet and wear her shoes.”

Sam said her brother dated Kelly through high school and they enjoyed attending formal events, the last being the wedding reception in Concord.

“She was around a lot. I idolized her. I always wanted to be just like her. I tried to chew the same kind of gum she did and use the same lipstick — everything,” Sam said.

Sam went on to be the winner of a Kelly Drew Scholarship for budding cosmetologists, established by the Hack and Drew families. A few years later, she presented the award to another young woman, keeping Kelly’s love of cosmetology alive. Sam wants to create another scholarship to inspire more careers.

Sam’s return to Fort Atkinson also means she is closer to her father and other family members, while having a chance to renew old friendships.

“I have a lot of family here and we’re close,” she said. “Fort Atkinson is a great little community. I never dreamed I’d come back, but there is a stronger attraction now. It wasn’t a hard decision. It was comfortable. Everything just connected. I use Kelly’s name for the middle names of my children and two of my girls are in cosmetology.”

For many, such a change in lifestyle, carrying so much significance, might be emotionally taxing. Sam, however, said she feels satisfied that her decision will not only be sustained, but will grow.

“I haven’t officially started work at the Robin’s Nest yet, but I think I can do this,” she said. “I’ve run into a lot of familiar faces in Fort Atkinson. I remember so many people. So often, over the past couple of years, I’ve heard myself telling people, ‘Oh my God, it’s so good to see you!’” There will be so many faces that I will be seeing that I haven’t seen since a funeral, or maybe a wedding a long time ago.”

Sam said she often ponders what life would be like if her childhood hero still was with her.

“I keep wondering where we would be in our relationship if Kelly had lived,” Sam said. “Would we still be close and would we be working in the same salon? I would call my coming to the salon at this point in life a triumph. Kelly was passionate about cosmetology and hairstyling.

“I still want to follow in those footsteps. Maybe I want to share my spirit with Kelly. I don’t know. It just all feels comfortable.”

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