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0641, 24 Oct 15

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Roger Heberer on the Honor Flight

Saturday is the 30th mission of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight and Roger Heberer of Kewaskum is one of the veterans from Washington County that will be on the trip to Washington D.C.

Heberer, 82, was drafted into the Army on Aug. 17, 1953. “I had just turned 20 a few weeks before that,” he said. Working on his father’s farm at the time, Heberer traveled to Fort Riley, Kansas for basic training. “Then they shipped me to Fort Knox, Kentucky and I spent my entire time in supply at one unit,” he said.

There were about 400 – 500 men in Heberer’s outfit. “I made sure there were enough food rations for them every day; steak and lobster were their favorites,” he laughed. “I’m just kidding about the lobster but we had some nice roasts and very good meals.”

Heberer was also in the Army field forces where he tested the new equipment including tanks, jeeps, and trucks. “We tested it to see how much abuse they could stand,” he said. “Eventually we were able to disable them all.”

Heberer was married when he went into service. He said he found an apartment off post. “My wife packed up and moved down there with me,” he said. “She held a couple jobs in different restaurants and in April 1955 our oldest daughter was born in the Army hospital.”

In service for two years, Heberer came back to Kewaskum in August 1955.  “Two days after I returned home I started working at the West Bend Company,” he said. “For 11 years I was in production and ran presses and then I became a set-up man and then a foreman.”

Heberer when he was at the West Bend Company they manufactured the electrical appliances including the fry pans, Dutch ovens, and slow cookers. “I worked 23 years 10 months and then I started my own business in partnership with my two brothers, Norman and Bill.”

With that Heberer Brothers Construction was born. “We all were doing a little bit of construction here and there and we finally got the idea – if we can do it for other people on the side why can’t we make it a full-time job,” he said. “I’ve worked on just about everybody’s house in his area. We did siding and roofing and then in the early years we even built house.”

Neighbors in Kewaskum also know Heberer as the commander of the Kewaskum American Legion Post and he’s a member of the Honor Guard.

“I have not been to D.C. before and I’m looking forward to seeing all the monuments but the Korean monument in particular,” he said. Heberer’s youngest daughter Wendy Dondlinger will be his guardian.

Eugene Herman on Saturday’s Honor Flight

There are almost a dozen veterans from Washington County on this weekend’s flight including Eugene Herman, 82, of West Bend. “It was 1953, I was 20 years old, living in Milwaukee, working in a manufacturing plant and I was drafted,” Herman said.

Fit and soft-spoken, Herman talked in quick spurts about his service. Basic training was at Fort Gordon near Augusta, Georgia and then onto Fort Monmouth in New Jersey.

“I was going to be a pole climber but that didn’t work out,” he said with a short laugh. “They trained me to be a weather observer and after 10 months of school I was a U.S. Army air controller in Arizona.”

Herman, a corporal, had his sights set on helicopter training. “My eyesight didn’t warrant it, so I guess maybe that was a good decision,” he said.

Although never shipped overseas, Herman said he took advantage of his time in the service to travel. “When I was at Fort Monmouth, I jumped on the train and went to New York City a lot,” he said.

After being discharged Herman and a friend took a trip up the west coast into Canada. Gone about a month, Herman returned to the Milwaukee area where he worked at his father’s business as a printer and typesetter.

“It was called Herman’s Printing Service and it was located at 20th and Hopkins,” he said. “Then I went to work for Altenhofen Typographers.”

Herman spent his entire career in the typesetting business until he retired in 1997.

Eager to participate in the Honor Flight, Herman said he has heard good things about the experience and he is looking forward to seeing all the memorials. “And my guardian called and offered to pick me up and take me to the airport,” he said.

Herman met his guardian this week. “I think she’s almost more excited to go than I am,” he said about Cindy Polinz of Cedarburg. This Saturday the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will mark a special achievement as it takes its 4,000 veteran on tour.

Joseph Kuehl Jr. preparing for Saturday’s Honor Flight

The latest Stars and Stripes Honor Flight will take off Saturday from Mitchell International in Milwaukee and local veteran Joseph Kuehl, 87, of Colgate will be on board.

A 1947 graduate of Gillett High School, Kuehl was 18 years old when he and his buddy David Smith enlisted in the Air Force. “We took the train out of Green Bay and went down to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas,” said Kuehl. “I had 22 weeks of jet mechanic training.”

Kuehl was shipped around a bit, traveling from Texas to Chanute Air Force Base in Champaign, Illinois, to Berkley, California and then onto Guam.

“We were there about three weeks, right outside the jungle and then we flew to Okinawa, Japan,” he said.

Within a couple weeks Kuehl was introduced to his M-80 fighter jet. “I didn’t fly the planes, I just maintained them,” he said.

For 15 months Kuehl worked on planes. He recalled an air show in Japan where the hydraulic pump on his jet wasn’t working right. “Me and another guy had to crawl up the air duct to get at it because it was underneath the engine,” he said.

When the Korean War broke out, Kuehl’s service was extended and he was shipped to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan where he rebuilt plane engines.

“We’d put those engines in a big metal container about 15-feet long and every five inches we’d put a 1-inch bolt in,” he said.

The crews worked in a hanger, said Kuehl that was four-stories high with a cement ceiling. “The mechanics were testing the pressure build up and just about that time here comes a coffee wagon and just then the whole side blew off where I was sitting and those bolts sheered the cement off the ceiling,” he said. “That coffee wagon saved all of us.”

After four years Kuehl left the service in 1951. He returned to Sheboygan and worked at various companies including the Kohler Company, International Harvester, Coca Cola, Harnishfeger, and Briggs & Stratton. Kuehl retired after 31 years with Badger Meter.

Kuehl is looking forward to returning to Washington D.C. His guardian is being assigned by the Honor Flight.

St. Mary’s School to close in 2016 

More than 75 people, primarily senior parishioners and parents, attended the morning Town Hall meeting at St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Parish.

The topic of discussion was difficult as members of the parish council from St. Frances Cabrini and St. Mary’s outlined a pattern of declining growth, deficit budgets and an eventual decision to close St. Mary’s School at the end of the 2015/2016 school year.

Shared parish pastor Rev. Nathan Reesman was charged with relaying the news along with pastoral and finance council members Chris Kroll, Al Pauli and Sue Nygaard.

The group took turns outlining various scenarios to moving forward with Catholic education in the community including creating a parochial high school, building a West Bend/Newburg cluster school, or even sharing a principal.

A demanding financial situation and declining enrollment were powerful factors that led to the decision to close St. Mary’s School in June of 2016/ 2017 and establish a tuition reciprocity arrangement with St. Frances Cabrini so the most students can stay within Catholic education.

“Prolonging the inevitable will be expensive and if we dip into our reserves too much that will place the parish in jeopardy,” Nygaard said.

“I was expecting this news,” said Mary Larsen, a parishioner for 23 years. “The writing has been on the wall unfortunately there’s a group of parents that’s very active and they work very hard and they try to keep it going and I’m sure they’re saddened.”

As folks filtered out of the parish, heads hung in disbelieve and dipping their fingers in holy water as they left there was discussion about possible school choice, rallying the troops to save the school and even some reflection on how the small school in Barton got to this point.

“I’m sure it’s a matter of priorities,” said Larsen. “I don’t think there’s a priority for Catholic education yet people will spend the money on cell phones and trips. I just don’t think the structured church or education has the importance it once did. It’s sad and there’s a cost, but you don’t see the attendance at church anymore either.”

Harriet Knoeck Martin has been a long time parishioner. She relayed the story about the priest in the 1930s asking her dad John and his brother Alex to build the grotto on the south side of the parish.  “I am extremely sad – I had a hard time keeping the tears back,” said Knoeck Martin. “Such a small amount of people pay regular church dues and you can’t support a school if you don’t have the money.”

Knoeck Martin said, although she didn’t like the news she did realize it was a difficult decision-making process. “I totally appreciate and respect the people working on these committees especially Father Nate,” she said. “I told him I really appreciate your respect for our history and we have to pray and let the spirit take us wherever we have to go.”

Former parish trustee Kevin O’Meara “It’s a long tradition at St. Mary’s and it’s kind of sad but perhaps it’ll help the whole Catholic school education in West Bend,” O’Meara said.

The news did not sit well with a group of young moms who attended the meeting. Parent Lisa Shirkey has a 9-year-old daughter in fourth grade. “This is our home, St. Frances Cabrini is a house and can all put our kids there but this is our home,” she said.

The parent group has been extremely active in the school with fundraising and many had heard talk about the school closing, some said they’ve heard the same conversation for 15 years.

The parents said they wished they knew all the options before a final decision was made.

Kris Deiss is a 1961 graduate of St. Mary’s School. “We had 15 to 20 kids in our eighth grade class,” Deiss said.

Reflecting on her days at the school on Jefferson Street, Deiss said the news was disheartening because St. Mary’s is one of the oldest schools in the state, if not the country. “To have been a part of that is very rewarding,” she said.

Reflecting on the benefits of a parochial education, Deiss said “it certainly gave me a foundation that has stayed with me my entire life.”

“When I was there we still had some nuns,” she said. “But I have  nothing but good memories despite the fact I do remember having to stay after school one day and write on the blackboard, I can’t remember how many times, that I will not chase the boys on the playground.”

“It was a difficult decision because there is a great deal of history as well as emotion wrapped up in it,” Reesman said. “People’s hearts, souls, and lives are in this school and that has been a factor all along, but at the same time, I think our process was as good as it could have been, and that helped lead us to what I would call an objective conclusion, even if hard.”

St. Mary’s School was dedicated in 1876 and celebrated its 139th year of continuous operation in September 2015. According to archives in the Research Center at the Washington County Historical Society, this is a record unsurpassed by any private or public school in the U.S.

Updates & tidbits

There is a dedication of Schoofs Nature Preserve, 5443 Shannon Road, Town of Erin on  Saturday, Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. –  2 p.m. It’s the official dedication as an Ozaukee Washington Land Trust preserve.

– The Downtown West Bend Association has hired Carol Baranyk as an administrative assistant. Baranyk comes to the DWBA from Alexssa Computing Solutions, a local downtown business, where she was the retail manger/lead accounting function for the past 12 years. Baranyk has been on the promotions committee of the DWBA for five years and has been an invaluable volunteer.

– Students at Badger Middle School in West Bend are gearing up for the Oct. 25 My School Color Run to raise money and have fun instilling a healthy lifestyle

City considers one-time payment to Senior Center

City officials in West Bend are considering making a one-time $50,000 payment to the Washington County Senior Center. During Monday’s Finance Committee meeting Mayor Kraig Sadownikow talked about the value of the Senior Center and its impact on the community.

“The seniors in this community donate thousands of volunteer hours and they’re also a vital economic driver in terms of housing, where they buy their vehicles and many work in the city where they shop,” he said. “West Bend is fortunate that for the 50-year life of the Senior Center their operations have been maintained without direct financial support from the city.”

The Senior Center is moving to a larger space at The Threshold. It will be a shared space with Kettlebrook Church and the Family Center. Sadownikow made clear, he did not believe it was the city’s job to fund ongoing operations but he realized the seniors in West Bend are “our fastest growing demographic.” He understood the  space challenges but recognized the plan to expand also included investing “a significant amount of financial resources into a property.”

District 8 alderman Roger Kist agreed with the financing discussion but asked that going forward the Senior Center be named the West Bend Senior Center.

Senior Center board president Mike Sterr said, “Obviously on the cuff it feels very good but we have another vote to go through and we have to name it the West Bend Senior Center.”

Sterr said he would take the update back to the board of directors. “We do not want to be reliant on the city’s funding,” he said. “With all the baby boomers coming up we’re thinking we’ll get a lot more people through the door and that means a lot more revenue so we won’t need (money from) the city or the county. We’re hoping to be in our new space by April 2016. But we know we have to be out of our current space by June 30, 2016,” Sterr said.

Anderson said, the funding will certainly make the members of the Senior Center feel they matter. “We’ve been working really hard the last four years to show the seniors are a part of not apart from West Bend,” she said. “This helps validate to our seniors they are a part of the city.”

City budgeting for police radio upgrade:

During Monday’s Finance Committee meeting Dist. 3 alderman Ed Duquaine brought up some “serious expenses” ahead for the city as the police and fire departments upgrade its portable radios. Police Chief Ken Meuler said even if the upgrade is approved in next year’s budget, the work wouldn’t be done until 2017. “The cost of the radios could be as much as $3,500 a portable and right now I have about 80 in the police department,” Meuler said. The city’s present radio system does not work inside buildings. Early indications are the cost of the upgrade will be split between 2017 and 2018. More details will be available in the next two weeks.

BID kicks in money to bring color to park

The design of Old Settlers Park is being revamped to add some color. This week the Business Improvement District approved up to $20,000 to help add some red color to the sidewalk. One of the primary complaints is the lack of color in the new park. A major renovation is underway following a $200,000 grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

Mike Husar, president of the downtown BID, has been critical of the design. “Why did we change from the historic red brick to the ugly gray cement,” commented Husar during an Oct. 6 BID meeting. Craig Hoeppner, director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, said there were cost limitations. Husar, in a one-on-one conversation, said the BID was never asked about the design nor did the city ever ask them to kick in on helping to finance the project.

Remembering Nicole Kopfmann

An overflow crowd at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church last Sunday afternoon as family and friends gathered to remember Nicole Kopfmann, who died Oct. 11 following a battle with cancer.

Poster boards of photos of Kopfmann filled the lobby of the church. There were pictures of her years at Slinger High School and at the University of Minnesota. Several tables held items from Kopfmann’s every-day life including her pallet of watercolors, a ukulele, a hat from Slinger High School Marching Band and playbills from performances like Wicked.

Former teacher and mentor Kristin Erdmann talked about sitting and talking with Kopfmann. “I’ve learned we’re called to love everyone and everything we’re given, as hard and as well as we possibly can and then to be OK with letting it go,” she said.

Pastor Darin Wiebe said Kopfmann was “inspiring.” “She did not allow the cancer to put an end to her college education. She graduated and was on the dean’s list,” he said. “Nicole checked into the Kathy Hospice and then… she checked out of the hospice. She had planned a trip next spring to be Cinderella on a cruise ship.  Her life, strength, and hope reflected her faith.”

Nicole Kopfmann was 23.

Effort to save the bridge

Local state lawmakers Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) and Rep. Bob Gannon (R-Slinger) are currently involved in an effort to save the bridge that extends from the back of the downtown West Bend Theater over the Milwaukee River.

Gannon agreed to speak after being advised a freedom of information request would be filed if necessary.

“I was asked to intervene with the Department of Transportation to see if there’s any chance to delay the demolition of the bridge stub,” Gannon said. “That’s based on the possibility of the bridge being used for some other purpose.”

That “other purpose” is connected to discussions and a study that are currently underway regarding redevelopment of the West Bend Theater.

“We met with the DOT over the last 10 days on behalf of a request from the city,” said Gannon. “We talked about delaying the date the grant would expire for the bridge demolition.”

The city of West Bend currently has a bridge contract with Janke General Contractors, Inc. the Common Council approved the $567,946.05 contract on Oct. 5, 2015.

The bridge project includes construction of a pedestrian bridge over the Milwaukee River between Veterans Avenue and Service Drive, as well as removing two existing bridges in the area. City administrator T.J. Justice said once the contract is signed “the city can negotiate the terms and conditions of the contract so the scope of the project could change.”

That change is connected to the request being made by Gannon and Stroebel to delay spending DOT grant money without losing the funding.  “The new bridge contract has money in it for demolition but the city is just asking for some time,” Gannon said.

That “time” request is because the West Bend Theater study is not yet complete and there’s an effort underway to see whether the DOT can reallocate some of the money meant to demolish the bridge and have it go towards renovating the bridge instead.

A note from Justice dated Sept. 22, 2015 indicated talks were underway on whether the state DOT “can be flexible with us on the use (and timing) of a portion of the TE grant that’s been awarded to the city.”

Mike Husar is president of the downtown Business Improvement District and he owns the property on the north side of the bridge. He said “that bridge needs to stay.”

“They need to come up with a way to use it and keep it,” Husar said. “We have a theater that could potentially use the bridge.”

Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said he is pleased a local group is interested in remodeling and, in some way, saving the theater. “If they’re motivated to doing something positive in downtown and they think we need to save the bridge, I’m happy and I’m sure the council is happy to explore that,” Saddownikow said.

The scenario gets a little muddy because the theater project is still in an exploration stage however the DOT funding available to the city comes with an expiration timeline.

“The city is in an unusual spot because we have until May 2016 to complete the bridge project and the way the DOT has approved the project involves demolishing the existing bridge,” said Sadownikow. “If we don’t demo the bridge we lose the potential funding and if the plan for the theater falls apart we now have a bridge standing there with no financial means of removing it.”

Sadownikow said the ball is in the DOT’s court regarding funding. “But as long as there’s motivation coming from the community I’m willing to be part of it,” he said.

The enclosed pedestrian bridge was built in 1982. It was originally a two-span bridge that connected the enclosed walkway to the Outlet Mall. The purpose of the bridge and walkway was to provide a climate-controlled passage from Main Street to the Mall.

The Outlet Mall later became the Fields Furniture store. In 2006 the existing abandoned railroad east of the Fields Furniture store was constructed into the Eisenbahn State Trail. The Fields Furniture store has since been bought by the city of West Bend, demolished in 2007 and the property was redeveloped. The portion of the existing enclosed pedestrian bridge that spanned from the east river bank to the Fields Furniture store was also removed in 2007. Veterans Avenue originally passed between the east side of the Fields Furniture store property and the Eisenbahn State Trail.

The West Bend Theater is owned by Matt Prescott and Eric Nordeen, partners in Ascendant Holdings. The pair purchased the theater, 125 N. Main St., in May 2012. Since then the interior of the theater has been returned to the original single-screen format.  Currently all parties are waiting on a decision from the DOT.



0641, 24 October 2015


  1. scott

    Nothing would signal downtown vitality more loudly than that theater repurposed and reopened.

  2. Kevin Scheunemann

    I agree with Scott!

    I’m going to repent because the end must be near!

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