Army nurse Margaret Behlen on today’s Honor Flight
Washington County veterans from World War II and the Korean War will take off today on the latest Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. One of the veterans preparing for the trip to Washington D.C. is Army nurse Margaret Behlen of West Bend.
A 1940 graduate of Holy Angels Academy, Behlen was 22 years old when she completed nurses training at Milwaukee County General Hospital and then enlisted in the Army.
“I went up to Fort McCoy in August 1944,” she said. “All the men were overseas and all the nurses I knew were going into the Army.”
Following basic training at Fort McCoy, Behlen was transferred to a post in Illinois and was soon selected to be part of the 199th General Hospital. It was there she earned her stripes with a military nickname.
“They called me Pinky,” she said with a grin. “I think it was because I had a red face and red hair. A woman in the front office named me; she said ‘every unit needs a Pinky’ and I guess I was it.”
Transferred to Providence, Rhode Island, Behlen was then shipped to England. “We were in England for quite a long time and we were scheduled to go to France and open a hospital but the Battle of the Bulge occurred and we had to wait until that was over,” said Behlen
On Christmas day she crossed the English Channel on a ship and took a train to Rennes, France.
“On New Year’s Eve we set up the hospital – we were practically barely in there and getting patients,” she said.
On duty every day Behlen was assigned three or four patients. “You had to talk to them and keep their spirits up,” she said. Night duty, was a different story.
“We’d have to go for 12 hours from 7 p.m. – 7 a.m. for two weeks without a day off,” she said. “That was the roughest part of it and you were usually on a shift yourself and in charge of about 25 patients.”
Stationed within 100 miles of the Battle of the Bulge, Behlen recalled she spent most of her time dancing. “Surrounding our hospital there were other units, specifically ones that had parties at night and women were scarce,” she said. “We were always invited to a party at night, if it wasn’t one place it was another.”
Accommodations in the service were what you might expect, according to Behlen. “We had a Quonset hut in England and there were about 20 of us in there,” she said. “It was pretty cold and we had a home stove and we took turns each week starting the fire.”
Discharged in 1946 Behlen was assigned to a hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She said it was an outfit that had a bad reputation. “Drinking was prevalent and some of the white patients were pretty prejudice to black people,” she said. “There was a saying at the time, ‘Lucky Strike means fine tobacco,’ but we changed that to read ‘Lord save me from Tuscaloosa.’”
Returning home to Milwaukee, Behlen worked for the Veterans Hospital and later met her husband, in all places her mother’s living room. “He was trying to date my younger sister Harriet,” said Behlen. “I talked it over with my sister and I said, ‘if Morris asks you to marry him, would you?’” Harriet said no, so Morris was on Behlen’s radar.
Married and living in Cedarburg for several years the Behlen’s had seven children. She said her son Christopher will be her guardian on Saturday’s flight.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the WWII monument of course but also the Lincoln Memorial,” said Behlen.
Veterans and their guardians will spend Saturday touring memorials in Washington, D.C., including the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials as well as the Lincoln Memorial. They will also view the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Lloyd Derge Korean War veteran
Another Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is leaving Milwaukee Mitchell International airport Saturday Sept. 12. There will be 183 veterans on the flight including 44 who served in WWII, 138 who served in the Korean War, and one terminally ill Vietnam veteran. There will also be three veterans who survived the D-Day invasion and coincidentally all are named Floyd.
Quite few veterans from Washington County will be taking part in the tour to Washington D.C. including Lloyd Derge, 83, of Jackson. “I was drafted into the U.S. Army 1952 when I was 19 years old,” Derge said.
Sitting in his Jackson home, surrounded by photos of his six children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, Derge spoke about traveling to Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania for basic training. “Then we went to Korea,” he said. “It took 18 days to get over there by ship. We first stopped in Japan and then went to Korea.”
Derge, a Corporal in the 5th Regimental Combat team, was a heavy-equipment operator working to repair roads damaged in the war. “The weather was just like Wisconsin,” he said. “Once I got workin’ it was like I was just in the states.”
Returning to Fort Campbell, Kentucky after one year in Korea, Derge was discharged and returned home to work at Weasler Engineering. “I haven’t been to Washington D.C.,” said Derge about Saturday’s flight. “I’m interested in whatever happens.” Lloyd’s son Dean Derge will be his guardian.
Korean veteran Calvin Langer
Calvin Langer, 91, of Hartford was working on his family’s farm in Adams County in 1949 when he was drafted by the U.S. Army. “I was 25 years old,” said Langer. “I went to Camp Breckenridge outside Morganfield, Kentucky for basic training and then to Fort Lewis, in Washington for infantry training.”
Langer served a year, was released with other draftees in October of 1950 and was called back to service. In March 1951 Langer was shipped to Korea.
“I served in the 1st Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment,” he said. Stationed on the front line Langer fired mortars. “I was at Bloody Ridge,” he said about the conflict in the central Korean mountain range. “There was a heavy mortar fight which included the rest of the 1st Battalion with infantry and riflemen and machine gunners; we started firing mortars around 5 a.m. and kept firing until 6 p.m. They estimated there were 500 Chinese killed,” said Langer.
Langer was discharged in November 1951 after returning from Korea by ship. “We actually returned to Fort Lewis and then I took a plane back home,” Langer said. “I wished later I would have taken the train and saw some of the country.”
Langer farmed for a while until he lost some fingers in an accident. “I went to college at UW-River Falls and studied agricultural education,” he said. “One day a guy came in looking for a field man and that’s how I got a job at Kraft Foods in Hartford.”
Langer, who has been to Washington D.C. before, said he’s looking forward to seeing the Korean Memorial. Cathy Feutz, Langer’s daughter, will be his guardian.
Other local veterans on today’s Honor Flight: Bill Wilde, 88, of West Bend who served from in WWII from Nov. 1945 – 1946, George Fassbinder of West Bend who served as a cook in the Navy during WWII, Willard Kaun of West Bend who worked in the Army Air Corps Supply in WWII. John Steinmetz of Slinger who was an Army gunner in Korea, John Tessar of Kewaskum who was in the Army in Korea, Ralph Willing of Jackson who was in the Army Signal Corps in Korea and Duane Skofronick of Germantown who was a radar mechanic in the Air Force.
Tree cutting at Old Settlers Park unsettling for some
The triangle corner of Sixth Avenue and Main Street in downtown West Bend had a very open-concept appearance Friday as crews from the city Parks Department removed all the trees at Old Settlers Park.
The work is part of a major remodel although some neighbors in the community thought the mature trees should stay. “They never should have taken out that honey locust; the most beautiful tree in downtown West Bend they have to get rid of it,” Greg Chmielewski, owner of Idle Hour or Two, said.
The restaurant is across the street from Old Settlers Park. “Somebody puts in money and they do whatever they want,” said Chmielewski, referencing the $200,000 the city received from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to complete the remodel.
“I hope they put in trees that grow tall with a nice crown up high so you can see the businesses,” he said.
Justin Nothem from Modern Woodman in West Bend was walking down Main Street this morning. He admitted he really hadn’t noticed the missing trees but supported the process to remodel the park. “I’m sure they have it planned out when all is said and done it will look fantastic,” he said.
West Bend Parks and Forestry Superintendent Mike Jentsch is the project manager. “It’s unfortunate,” he said. “But in a situation like this with all new elevation and retaining walls, we looked over and over to see if we could save any but with all the construction those trees wouldn’t have survived.”
On Friday morning as work crews reviewed the project at the park Jentsch said he hadn’t heard any complaints about the trees. “Everyone I’ve talked to has been very positive about what’s going on down here,” he said. “Specifically about tree removal I have not received any comment.”
There were five trees that were removed from the park including the honey locust, a hickory tree and a couple maple trees. Jentsch said the hickory was in decline but the others were healthy. The roots of the honey locust, according to Jentsch, would not have survived because the new retaining wall would be right up to the tree.
Craig Hoeppner with the Park and Rec Department said they will plant more trees to make up for the trees removed. He did not know how many more trees or the species.
The rest of Old Settlers Park will be demolished next week. Hoeppner said the new plants will be put in in spring 2016. “Both Vest Park across the street and Old Settlers Park will be more modern looking with better amenities including benches and bike racks,” he said.
Old Settlers Park is scheduled to open June 1 next year.
Proposal to turn Second Avenue into one-way street
There’s going to be a hearing Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at West Bend City Hall as the Traffic Safety Commission considers a request to change the 500 block of S. Second Avenue from a two-way street to a one-way street.
Neighbors in the area received a note from Police Chief Ken Meuler about the proposal. The flow of one-way traffic would be from Maple Street south to Oak Street. Richard Sussman has lived at 508 S. Second Ave. for the past 20 years. He said he’s the one who initiated the request.
“There’s nowhere to park on this street,” Sussman said. “When Habitat for Humanity added six living residence at the end of the street it added 14 cars that need parking on the block. Some of those vehicles are not running and they park those on the street for storage and that gives long-time residents on the street no place to park.”
Sussman said if the street was changed to a one way there would be room to park 12 vehicles on the other side of the street and that would alleviate the issue. “It would also make it safer for the children that play in the street at the end of the block,” he said. “They would only have to worry about traffic coming from one way.”
Several weeks ago Sussman went up and down the block collecting signatures.
Scott Gerritson lives on Second Avenue and said he signed the petition but now is having second thoughts. “Parking is an issue but turning the street into a one way would be unreasonable,” he said. “The company at the south end of the block has big trucks going down the street and if you park on both sides the street is barely wide enough to get one car down.”
Gerritson said the house on the northeast corner of Second Avenue and Oak Street was built by Habitat for Humanity and it has quite a few vehicles.
“That makes it hard when handicap people on the block need the taxi,” he said. “They have to access it in the alley. In the winter it would be terrible to have parking on both sides as far as snow plowing and stuff.”
Currently there is no parking on the east side of Second Avenue. “I just see traffic patterns changing and being a disaster,” Gerritson said. “People would end up using the alley as a street and we have grandkids and people are in the alley all the time and I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Sussman turned in about 26 signatures on his petition to make Second Avenue a one way.
Neighbors who would like to express an opinion at the meeting next week are being asked to submit a letter to the Chief or call 262-335-5010 prior to Monday, Sept. 14.
Sales recorded at Coachman House and Albrecht Clinic
The sale price has come in for the new Albrecht Free Clinic in West Bend. Jim Strachota, executive director of the Albrecht Free Clinic said the clinic purchased its own building, 908 W. Washington St., on August 25; that property was formerly the Verre Young Eye Clinic. Dale and Joy Matthies sold to Dr. James E. Albrecht Free Clinic, Inc. for $265,000. LCM Funds 19 Kenosha, LLC and the Dale H. Sterz and Shirley A. Sterz Trust purchased the property 1006 S. Main Street in West Bend from MDR Properties, LLC for $320,000. The property was previously sold to MDR Properties, LLC in 2011 for $233,800. There are plans are to demolish the existing structure and redevelop the property into a Forward Dental office. Adam Williquette from Anderson Commercial Group handled the transaction.
Jesse Kremer proposes transgender legislation
State assembly Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) unveiled a bill this week during the Common Sense Citizens meeting at the West Bend Moose Lodge.
“The measure will provide policy affecting public schools in Wisconsin relating to students who may identify as a different gender and accommodations for them,” he said.
The transgender issue, according to Kremer, is going to be on the forefront in the next several years. Kremer’s interest was heightened following an issue at Kewaskum High School where a student identified as a different gender.
“My understanding was she was walking into the boys bathroom,” said Kremer. “The school district came up with a policy that said the person could use the faculty restroom but could not use the opposite gender restroom.”
School districts across the state, said Kremer, are coming up with their own policy and every district, right now, is on its own. Kremer relayed the story about a school district in south central Wisconsin involving a seventh grader that has come before the School Board with a similar situation to Kewaskum. “The district doesn’t know what to do and there are lawyers lined up,” said Kremer. “Not for the district but the student.”
Kremer said the bill will set policy statewide for school districts so if there is some sort of litigation in the future the Department of Justice will have to defend it and it won’t be up to the school districts to take it on their own.
“The bill will say if you’re born a boy you will use the boy’s bathroom and locker room. If you’re born a girl you will use the girl’s facilities and if you identify as something else the school district will provide reasonable accommodations, which is similar to what Kewaskum did,” he said. “This bill will protect school districts and it will provide protection for all students for their dignity and privacy.” Kremer predicts the biggest challenge will be possible discrimination charges by students that identify by a different gender.
Alderman Ed Duquaine has sold his home
West Bend Dist. 3 alderman Ed Duquaine has sold his home on Crestwood Drive and moved to 1123 Timberline Drive. Aldermen are required to live in the district they represent and Duquaine said the Timberline Drive home is in Dist. 3. Duquaine confirmed he is building a home in the Town of West Bend. Asked whether he will run again in April 2016, Duquaine said, “I don’t know.” Duquaine was first elected to office in April 2010. He replaced incumbent Alderman Richard Lindbeck, who did not to seek re- election.
Updates & tidbits
–The Fall Diva event is Thursday, Sept. 17 in downtown West Bend from noon – 9 p.m. There will be Diva specials at participating restaurants, door prizes, and a complimentary Hummer limo. Century Farmhouse Soaps will have 20 percent off any one item in the shop that day only.
– Watch for the gazebo in Old Settlers Park to be removed from downtown West Bend next Tuesday and relocated to an area next to Dublin’s. Final approval by the common council happens Monday night. Kevin and Amy Zimmer bid $18.45 and are responsible for removing it.
-Concerned Citizens of West Bend next meeting Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at West Bend City Hall. Featured speakers include Washington County District Attorney Mark Bensen and a member of the Metro Drug Enforcement Unit. Concerned Citizens, a local organization started by former Dist. 4 alderman Randy Koehler, is designed to promote neighborhood awareness.
– Assembly Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) is putting together state legislation regarding drones and aviation safety. “The FAA is taking far too long to address the issue,” Kremer said. “If you have any comments or would like to weigh in on the issue, please do.” Contact Rep. Kremer at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide “Drones” in the subject of the email.
– Interfaith Caregivers of Washington County is moving to the Threshold building. Interfaith was previously located at 819 Schoenhaar Drive, in the same building as the American Red Cross. Interfaith began scouting for a new location when the building went up for sale after the Red Cross office closed last October.
-All in Books had a new sign installed at 136 N. Main Street, the former location of Ruth Anne’s Gourmet Market. Along with the new sign store owner Betty Bartelt will host weekly special events for children including a Kid’s Club membership card where participants will receive 30 percent off all children’s books every Thursday.
-A new sign for Angels Nails & Spa was installed this week at 535 N. Main St. Owner Charlie Tran said, “My shop will have six manicure stations. We’ll offer manicures, pedicures, and waxing.” Tran has remodeled the south end of the building formerly home to Sweet Creations. Tran expects to open Sept. 13.
WWII veteran George Fassbinder
Today’s history photo is of George Fassbinder of West Bend who served as a cook in the Navy during WWII. Fassbinder, third from the left, is one of 23 veterans from Washington County on today’s Stars & Stripes Honor Flight to Washington D.C.