Remembering Jimmy Gish
There was a strong turnout this week as neighbors gathered to remember Jimmy Gish of West Bend. Gish had quite an influence on the local racing scene and it seemed cars were always a part of his life.
Born in West Allis in 1937, Gish was an amateur boxer who also had a strong passing for racing and when he wasn’t behind the wheel he was selling them. “Dad owned one of the most successful salvage yards in Southeastern Wisconsin,” said Dan Gish.
His father worked at Bradley Auto Salvage on 43rd and Lincoln in Milwaukee. Later he purchased Krause Salvage on County Highway A just off Highway 144. “My dad knew a lot of racers and they said he’d give them the part for nothing,” said Dan Gish.
Some of the racers Jimmy Gish competed against included Etchie Biertzer, Willie ‘The Rabbit’ Goeden, and Miles ‘The Mouse’ Melius. “My dad sponsored Willie for years and he bought a lot of parts for his business from my dad,” said Dan Gish.
Alan Kulwicki was another family favorite. “When Alan was about 18 years old my dad helped him with his first car,” said Joe Gish. “Alan would come to the salvage yard and he wouldn’t get one fender, he’d leave with them all. He was racing hard and my dad helped him financially; he never expected to be paid back but Alan paid him back.”
In 1986 Jimmy Gish sold the salvage yard and built Jim’s Car Wash on South Main and Butternut Street in West Bend. “It was a full-service wash with six people in back vacuuming and prepping cars,” Dan Gish said. “On a Saturday we would have cars lined up to the road and they would be double wide.”
Returning home from college on the weekends, Gish said on certain days there would be no break. “You’d have 600 – 800 cars in one day and work from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.”
Burger King, he remembers vividly, was across the street. “We’d all put our money in and one unlucky guy would have to go over and make all the orders.”
Gish said his dad also purchased the lot to the south. “He did that so he could widen the lot so we could get in more cars,” he said. “We had the police telling us we had to get the cars off the road. There would be cars parked and waiting to come in.”
Dan Gish said there was a house on the lot before his dad built the single-bay car wash. Wollner did the excavating did the work. “There was a car wash in Hales Corners and he thought it was the future,” said Dan Gish. Indy car racer Arie Luyendyk also had an interest in car washes and according to Dan Gish the racer visited his dad’s car wash in West Bend.
“My dad was an entrepreneur. He knows cars more than anything and he always thought a neat investment would be a parking structure,” said Dan Gish. “He’d say, ‘Boy if somebody could buy a parking structure that would be a real money maker.”
Following the death of his wife Bonnie, Jimmy Gish purchased the Beaver Dam Raceway in 1992. “Open wheel dirt racing was in its heyday and my dad saw the stands were packed,” said Dan Gish.
Following a serious remodel the track took off and racers included Tony Stewart, Sammy Swindell, and the World of Outlaw racers.
Lou DiBella, 80, is a lifelong friend of Gish. “I met him in 1940 on Adler Street in Milwaukee,” DiBella said. “We stuck together for 75 years.” The fellas had a common interest in racing. “I remember Jimmy won the main event at Wisconsin State Fair Park when they ran the modifieds on the quarter mile track,” said DiBella.
“The next day in the West Allis Star the headline read, “Hometown boy wins feature event at State Fair Park.”
Jimmy Gish of West Bend died unexpectedly on Thursday, Dec. 24. He was 78.
Allenton volunteer firefighter Paul Wolf has died
Longtime Allenton firefighter Paul C. Wolf, 49, has died. Wolf passed on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. Wolf lived all his life in Allenton in his family home and attended Slinger High School. On Nov. 16, 1996 he married his best friend, Susan “Sue” Gundrum, and they spent over 19 years together. Paul had three children and loved the farm, Sunset Farms, where he grew up and worked all his life.
Wolf served on the Allenton Volunteer Fire Department for 29 years; he was an EMT and firefighter and was Deputy Chief of EMS for 22 years.
Visitation will be at the Shimon Funeral Home (824 Union Street Hartford, WI 53027) on Sunday, January 3, 2016 from 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. The Allenton and supporting fire departments will pay their respects at 6 p.m. and a prayer service at 7:30 p.m. will conclude the visitation. The Mass of Christian Burial for Wolf will be Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at 11 a.m. at Resurrection Catholic Church in Allenton. Additional visitation will be held prior to Mass at the church from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. on Monday. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to St. Peter’s Catholic School (206 E. Washington St., Slinger, WI 53086) or to the Allenton Volunteer Fire Department (431 Railroad St., P.O. Box 107, Allenton, WI 53002) are appreciated.
Record fundraiser at Taste of Washington County
Records were broken this year at the 17th annual Taste of Washington County. The event held Dec. 2 at the Washington County Fair Park drew 1,004 people. “More than $140,000 was raised for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington County,” Jay Fisher, club executive director, said. “$67,000 was raised on the live auction, which was an all-time record.”
Money raised will go for programming at four Boys and Girls Clubs with locations for 3,000 kids in West Bend, Jackson, Kewaskum, and Hartford. Since the Taste of Washington County began, $1.5 million has been raised through the event.
Details on new Kwik Trip in W.B.
There will be 26 pumps and a car wash at the new Kwik Trip coming to West Bend in 2016. Design plans will be presented to the West Bend Plan Commission on Tuesday, January 5. The gas station will be constructed on a 3.5-acre parcel on the west side of Silverbrook Drive just to the south of Commerce State Bank, 1700 S. Silverbrook Dr. Designs show there will be one entrance on Silverbrook and there will be a huge sign in the back of the lot- easily visible to traffic along Highway 45.
Hans Zietlow, director of real estate for Kwik Trip, said West Bend will be one of 35 stores built in 2016. Kwik Trip already has 41 locations in the eight-county southeastern Wisconsin area including Slinger and Hartford.
New CEO to take the reins Monday at Cedar Community
For only the third time in its 62-year history, Cedar Community will embrace a new Chief Executive Officer as Steve Jaberg steps down in the coming weeks.
Jaberg joined the West Bend-based organization in 1984 as administrator under founding CEO Rev. Louis Riesch, and was named CEO in 1991 following Riesch’s retirement.
During Jaberg’s tenure, Cedar Community grew from one campus setting to its present six campuses, now serving more than 700 employees and 1,100 residents from skilled nursing and inpatient rehabilitation to assisted living, memory-loss care and independent homes and apartments.
Jaberg oversaw expansion into home-based health care, hospice and supportive care in six southeast Wisconsin counties, as well as home medical equipment.
He has served on state and national boards for LeadingAge, a national association of not-for-profit senior care providers, and has spoken extensively across the country, most recently on Cedar Community’s state-of-the-care memory loss assisted living, the Cottages at Cedar Run.
“What has been so interesting, in my nearly 32 years here, has been both the tremendous amount of change in our organization, and yet how little changed in our mission to meet the needs of our community,” said Jaberg. “We are facing a new wave of seniors who will come to us with great expectations. I believe we are poised to meet the challenges ahead, and will continue to thrive.”
Following a 10-month search, Cedar Community announced Lynn Olson would be stepping in to replace Jaberg.
Olson, the former President / CEO of Hannibal Regional Hospital, Hannibal, Mo., will start at Cedar Community on Jan. 4, 2016.
“I am excited about the opportunity to serve Cedar Community,” Olson said. “Cedar Community has a rich history of providing compassionate, Christian-based, high-quality senior living and related services and I look forward to being part of tradition, and continuing their commitment to excellence”
Olson, who is in his early 50s, was one of 20 highly-qualified candidates that applied for the position.
Joan Adler, president of the Cedar Community Board of Directors, spearheaded the search. “We picked five semi-finalists for face-to-face interviews,” she said. “We were impressed with Lynn’s leadership capabilities and the fact he had experience replacing a legacy leader. He said, ‘It’s very important to honor the legacy you’re inheriting’ so we know he gets the culture of Cedar Community.”
Adler said residents can expect a smooth transition with little change. “As important as a CEO is to the community, at Cedar Community there is a strong executive team that will remain in place,” she said. “The ship will continue to sail; it has a new captain but it has the same crew that residents interact with on a daily basis.”
Olson has more than 28 years’ combined leadership experience in acute care and elder care settings. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Winona State University and a master’s of science in health care administration from the University of St. Francis, Joliet, Ill. Jaberg’s last day will be Jan. 22, 2016.
Deb Anderson retires from W.C. Senior Center
There were hugs and dancing and plenty of good treats on Wednesday as the folks at the Washington County Senior Center said goodbye to executive director Deb Anderson as she officially retired.
“Deb welcomes anybody,” said Carolyn Volk of West Bend. “It doesn’t matter what your age is or disability, she makes it family; this is what we all need in this community, this is my family.”
Anderson started at the Senior Center Nov. 1, 2011. “When I was interviewed for the job they asked if there was one thing that stood out that I’d like to do and I said I’d like to get the Senior Center into a place that was not institutional.”
Four years ago Anderson saw the need; as baby boomers in the community age she thought the Senior Center had an ability to do more. “This is a place where senior citizens can come for recreation, education and social programs and last year our seniors donated over 4,000 volunteer hours,” Anderson said. “My other goal was that we become part of the community. Not apart from, but a part of.”
Anderson saw the impact the facility had, especially for a majority of seniors who come following loss. “They’ve lost their home, their health or their spouse,” said Anderson. “So they come here and they have to build up. Seniors who have been here many years already have established friendships; they move along to their next stage in life. We are a place of support.”
During the afternoon gathering at the Senior Center members talked about gaining friends and how the Senior Center and its activities made them feel relevant.
“Deb’s brought a lot of stuff to this place,” said Senior Center volunteer Linda Marquardt. “She got us out there so people know we’re here; she always has a smile on her face and she never says no.”
“Deb came in with the idea to make a difference,” said Senior Center member Deb White. “And get us into a new place and she’s finally succeeding.”
The Senior Center will be moving to a new space next to The Threshold this spring. Anderson was an integral part of making that happen. “She was so energetic and helped in all ways,” said Sharon Tesker, manager at Senior Center. “She’s going to be missed but Mary’s going to fill in and I have confidence in her.”
Mary Russell is taking over as executive director of the Senior Center.
Theatre/bridge project moves forward in WB
There was a lot of energy at Dublin’s Tuesday evening as the West Bend Cultural Alliance gathered to craft a plan to save the bridge and breathe new life into the downtown West Bend Theatre. “I am really encouraged,” coordinator Nancy Storrs said.
“I’m hearing a lot of wonderful ideas and I’m seeing a lot of synergy between the folks at this table; that bodes well for the bridge and the theatre.”
Ten people attended the meeting and in quick order officers were elected. Storrs was voted president of the WBCA, John Sancomb was tabbed vice president, Patricia McIntyre stepped up as secretary and a treasurer will be named later. The WBCA, which started in 2011, has a goal of “bringing the arts and the community together” said Storrs and the West Bend Theatre / bridge is one of the key projects at the top of the list.
Highlights from the meeting:
-Kevin Zimmer, a key player in saving the bridge and rehabbing the theatre, gave a brief primer on the history of the effort to date citing the critical need for the bridge to stay in order to provide added parking for the theatre. Mark Pfaller from Pfaller Architectural Associates has said, “Saving the bridge is number one. There’s not enough parking to facilitate the theatre anywhere downtown. If the bridge does not stay and get renovated it could be a deal breaker.”
Pfaller, who has renovated and restored more than 40 theatres in his career, was hired along with Gene Eggert from Architectural Designs Inc in Delafield to complete a study on what is needed to resurrect the downtown West Bend Theatre.
-Zimmer noted a storm-water study is currently underway; the $7,000 for the study was donated to keep the project moving forward. Those study results and a plan by the WBCA on how it will approach the project will be rolled out during the Monday, Jan. 4 common council meeting.
-“The bridge really drives what can make the downtown theatre happen,” Storrs said.
-Some of the other interested parties involved in the Board at Large and various task forces include Bink Steinbach, Amy Zimmer, Shawn Graff, Ron Gumm, Therese Sizer, and Judy Steffes.
-The immediate goal of the WBCA is to save the bridge. “If you put stairs on and paint it that gives the bridge purpose,” Amy Zimmer said.
– Ideas on the table about the future of the theatre including seating for 400, working with the State of Wisconsin Historical Society to roll out its archive of United Artist Films, approaching private schools, theater groups and area musicians.
-Plans for a public open house at the West Bend Theatre are currently underway along with creation of a Facebook page, video projects, and fundraising.
-City leaders and taxpayers have been adamant no public taxpayer money be used on the project. Currently the Downtown West Bend Business Improvement District has covered a surety, should theatre plans go south.
-Matt Prescott, the owner of the theatre, is expected to attend Monday night’s council meeting. Prescott has said he’s encouraged by the “huge momentum” behind the project. Prescott and his company, Madison-based Ascendant Holdings, bought the theatre in May 2012.
“This is great news because the majority of the people connected to the restoration are pretty convinced the bridge is an essential part and certainly the city is in a no lose situation. This is certainly great for the theatre.”
Prescott said the next phase of the project is now starting to take shape. He said he is encouraged by a group of people coming together to officially start the restoration process. As far as the Prescott commitment is concerned, he said, “I still own the theatre. I’m holding it for now for this effort and I’m fully supportive of it.” Questioned whether he planned to sell, Prescott said that had “yet to be determined.”
“If I do it or my family donates it has yet to be determined,” said Prescott. “I’m fully supportive as is my dad, George Prescott. It would be hard to imagine the Prescotts not involved in some way, shape and form going forward.”
-The WBCA is incorporated under Chapter 181 and is awaiting confirmation from the IRS on its status as a 501c3.
Updates & tidbits
-The Albrecht Free Clinic opens Tuesday, Jan. 5 at its new location at 908 W. Washington St. in West Bend. The new clinic will now offer medical and dental services.
-The annual Nabob Snowmobile Club Winterfest and Fisheree at House of Heileman’s is Saturday, Jan. 9. The Fisheree at Gonring Launch opens 6 a.m. and Winterfest tent opens 9 a.m.
-January 2016 is the 11-year anniversary of Maricio’s Pizza, 1726 Barton Avenue in Barton. On a history note, in September 2012 Tomaso’s changed its name to Maricio’s in Barton. “It’s a combination of our names, Rick and Mary,” said co-owner Mary Waters. “It was a business decision,” according to Waters as the family-run operation separated itself from the Tomaso’s franchise of Cedarburg.
-About 25 people jumped into Big Cedar Lake on New Year’s Day for the 3rd annual Polar Bear Plunge at the House of Heileman’s.
–West Bend’s Steve Volkert, 48, left this week as the city of West Bend Director/Assistant City Administrator to take up his new position as City Administrator in Hartford. Volkert takes over for retiring administrator Gary Koppelberger. Volkert signed a four-year contract for $115,000. Amy Reuteman is the new HR Director/Assistant City Administrator for the city of West Bend.
-The Kohlsville Kruisers Brat fry and Fisheree is Sunday, Jan. 10 at Jug’s Hitching Post in Kohlsville from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
– American Exchanger Services, Inc. in Hartford has been nominated in the small business category for the 28th Annual Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year awards. Mayville Engineering in Mayville has been nominated in the mega category (800+ employees). Advanced Tooling, Inc. of Mt. Calvary in Fond du Lac County is nominated in the small category. Masters Gallery Foods, Inc. of Plymouth is nominated for the large category. Winners announced Feb. 25, 2016.
-There’s an open house Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. at Limitless, 1204 Highway 33 across from West Bend Lakes Golf Course. The facility is a non-alcohol bar and concert hall run by Larry Last. Opening day is 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016.
History photo Jimmy Gish
Today’s vintage photo is of Jimmy Gish with one of his vehicles. Courtesy the Gish family.