A tribute to Tom Strachota
There was a pall cast over the community of West Bend this week as neighbors try to wrap their head around the recent deaths of Tom Strachota, Doug Devenport and Dan Fuge.
There is a sense of shock from many regarding the news of Strachota’s death; he died suddenly following a heart attack Monday night at Pleasant Valley Tennis Club, he was raced to the hospital down the road but lifesaving measures weren’t enough.
Friends and neighbors are recalling Strachota as a man of conviction and community spirit.
“Tom had a real commitment to West Bend,” said John Rozek. “It showed in his family’s commitment to Regner Park and he was very involved in all different aspects.”
Robb Mehring golfed with Tom Strachota during a Notre Dame outing at the West Bend Country Club.
“He was really a great person. He always made everyone feel important.” said Mehring. “They say you are remembered not by how you treated people but how that person made you feel and Tom made people feel important and respected. I will never forget that about him.”
Tom and Patty Strachota were involved in a variety of community projects. The pair teamed with local civic organizations and helped refurbish and dedicate the Strachota bandstand at Regner Park in 2010. It was part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Regner.
The Strachotas also co-chaired the 2015 United Way Campaign in Washington County and they were part of Roots & Branches.
Robby Robrahn was part of the 2015 campaign. “Tom was quiet but he always had that smile,” said Robrahn. “Tom was one of our celebrities last year during our fundraiser for Roots & Branches. He was very community minded and a backbone of the Strachota family.”
Strachota was general manager at Dairyland Seed in Kewaskum; the company started by his grandfather Simon in 1907.
Word of Strachota’s death rocked the agricultural industry. Strachota had leadership roles within the seed industry, and the American Seed Trade Association.
Gary Leeper, a sales leader at Dairyland Seed, was quoted by industry publication Seed World.
“It is truly a sad day for all of us as we have lost not only our leader, but a dear friend to every one of us,” said Leeper. “Few people enjoyed their dealers, customers or co-workers more than Tom. He always carried a smile and was genuinely happy to see and talk with everyone with whom he came into contact.
“Tom’s death is a tragic loss for all of us who considered him a close friend and co-worker as well as a loss for Dairyland Seed, our dealers, the community of West Bend, the state of Wisconsin and the U.S. seed industry,” said Leeper.
George Prescott, local philanthropist and owner of Timmer’s Resort, said he remembered when Tom paid him a visit, prior to August 2008, when Dairyland Seed was sold to Dow AgroSciences.
“He came to me when he was thinking about selling the company and I was kind of flattered by that,” said Prescott. “I thought the world of him. He had a responsibility to the family, who were his stakeholders, and he took very good care of family, shareholders, customers and suppliers.”
Prescott said it was also quite a compliment that Tom was pursued by Dow AgroSciences. “They kept him on for about five years after the sale, which is almost unheard of,” he said. “Tom was always taking the high road, representing strength and leadership. He always just did a great job.”
A Mass of Christian Burial will be Monday, Nov. 28, at 6 p.m. at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church. Visitation will be at the church on Monday from 2 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. Burial will be in Holy Angels Cemetery.
Douglas Dean Devenport, 81, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 in his home surrounded by family. He was born January 11, 1935 to Leverette (Earl) and Ethel (nee Jones) Devenport.
Doug attended the University of Wisconsin where he met his wife Norrine. Doug was a member of the UW wrestling team and the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity.
Douglas and Norrine (nee Blaha) were married on January 15, 1956 at the Corinth Mississippi Methodist Church. Doug was born and raised in West Bend and was President and CEO at Level Valley Dairy Co. in West Bend, and Cumberland Creamery in Nashville, TN. Doug and his brother Roger, grew the company to where it was ranked in the top 30 companies on the WI 100 list of largest privately held corporations.
Doug and Norrine have been long time benefactors to their community, contributing the “Ajuga Daydream” sculpture at Riverside Park, the Devenport Family Stage at the Washington County Fairgrounds, and were major benefactors of the Washington County Ice Center and the Museum of Wisconsin Art as well as many other organizations and causes throughout the community.
Doug was a member of the Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church, past member of the board of directors of M&I First National Bank, a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Doug enjoyed hunting, fishing and golfing with family and friends, as well as watching his race horses run at the track.
A Funeral Service will be 12 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 28 at the Phillip Funeral Home Chapel, 1420 W. Paradise Dr. West Bend, with Pastor Jeff Hesse officiating. Visitation will be at the funeral home from 10 a.m. until the time of service. Interment will follow at the Washington County Memorial Park.
Remembering Dan Fuge
Dan Fuge died this week. “He had pancreatic cancer,” said his cousin Bob Fuge. “I don’t think they discovered it until it was Stage 4.”
Dan owned Fuge Heating & Air Conditioning; it was a business started by his father, Herb and uncle, Robert H. Fuge. At one point Fuge Hardware Co. was in downtown West Bend.
“Do you remember when the Fuge building was across the street,” said Todd Tennies from Tennies Ace Hardware. “It was across Main Street just to the south of Collin’s Deck Bar by Tony Jasen’s building.
“During Thanksgiving the Fuges would put two live turkeys in the window,” said Tennies.
Tim Stern remembered the turkeys. “My grandfather Robert Fuge continued that tradition when the store turned into Fuge Plumbing & Heating” he said. “My brother and I along with the family would always help get the window ready and take care of them.”
Bob Fuge remembered a contest and the prize was a turkey, sometimes a live turkey. “I was very involved with doing those turkey windows and finally I talked my dad into going to frozen turkeys because it was such a hassle with those live turkeys,” he said.
Robby Robrahn was a good friend of Dan Fuge. “He was a big Indy race fan,” said Robrahn. “He also sponsored a duck every year in the Duck Derby. He was a quiet guy but supportive in the community.”
Dan Fuge was a life-long resident of West Bend. He attended local schools, graduating from West Bend High School. He also was a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church. Dan Fuge was 60.
For the third year in a row members of the West Bend Professional Firefighters Union gathered this week with members of West Bend Early Risers at Decorah Elementary to carry out Operation Warm; a program where more than 200 down winter coats are distributed to students in need. Alyana, 9, got a turquoise coat. “It’s my favorite color and it’s totally warm,” she said.
Ayden, 9, said he already had a coat. “I have one but this one is better because it’s softer,” he said. “I also like dark colors because it’s easier to hide when I play hide-and-seek.”
On a side note: As kids were gathering in the classroom waiting for the coat distribution to begin they plopped themselves on the floor and looked at the adults in the room. Pretty soon one man was tossing out arithmetic problems. “What’s 11 minus 9,” he asked. A couple hands went up. “What’s 7 plus 5,” he said. Then from the back of the room one of the firefighters said, “What’s 4 and 6? Third place in the NFC.”
Husar’s holiday ornament
Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds has unveiled a new glass ornament for the holidays. For the past seven years the Husars have been highlighting West Bend with Norman-Rockwell flair. The first year the ornament featured the Husar building with the West Bend Theatre marquee in the background. This year the ornament features the Gehl Company building.
Husar’s President Mike Husar said his dad, Marvin Husar, was the one who came up with the idea of featuring significant buildings in the community as the ongoing theme for the annual ornament. The ornaments are painted using a Chinese form of age-old art called Li Bien, which means “inside.” The ornaments are for sale at Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds.
Declaration of candidacy papers distributed
City and Village clerks in Germantown, Hartford, Slinger, Kewaskum, and West Bend are prepping for a primary in February 2017.
Aldermen in the even-numbered districts in West Bend are up for election and along with the mayor. Aldermen include Dist. 2 Steve Hutchins, Dist. 4 Chris Jenkins, Dist. 6 Steve Hoogester, and Dist. 8 Roger Kist and Mayor Kraig Sadownikow who already indicated in July he’d run for another term in office.
Aldermen can start circulating papers December 1. They need to collect between 20 – 40 signatures and the mayor needs to collect 200 – 400 signatures, which are due Jan. 3, 2017.
In Slinger, Village President Russell Brandt is up for election as are trustees Rick Gundrum, Richard Kohl, and Dean Otte. Each seat carries a 2-year term.
In Germantown, 4 of the 9 trustees are up for election including Dist. 1 David Balm, Dist. 2 Rick Miller, Dist. 3 Robert Warren, and Dist. 4 Jeffrey Hughes.
In Kewaskum, Village President Kevin Scheunemann is up for reelection along with trustees Jim Wright, Jim Hovland and David Spenner.
In Hartford, Dist. 1 alderman Robert Jewell is up for a 1-year term, Dist. 1 Randy Meyer for a 3-year term, Dist. 2 Dennis Hegy for a 3-year term and Dist. 3 Barry Wintringer for a 3-year term.
In Richfield Village President John Jeffords, and Trustees Rock Brandner and Sandy Voss are up for election. All terms are 2 years, and 20 signatures are required for each position.
There will be a primary Feb. 21 as four candidates are running for state school superintendent including: Tony Evers – Incumbent, Jeff Holmes – Administrator, Germantown School District, Lowell Holtz – Former superintendent, Beloit School District and Remy Gomez – 2016 candidate for mayor of Tomah
Updates & tidbits
– Circle your calendar for this year’s West Bend Christmas Parade. The theme is Let it Snow. The parade steps off at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27 from the corner of Main and Silverbrook across from Tochi and Rivershores.
-Enchantment in the Park got underway Friday, Nov. 25. Tonight, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. is the big raffle drawing with a top prize of $5,000.
–The West Bend Parks Department will fill Regner Park Pond for ice skating this winter. The rink and the warming house are expected to open Dec. 17 at the earliest, once weather permits.
-A Christmas Tea will be held Monday, Dec. 5 at 1:30 p.m. in the Grand Hall at Cedar Ridge. The tea will be presented by Jessica Michna in Margaret Cummins “Christmas at Balmoral.” Michna will take at look at the traditional celebration of Christmas as seen through the eyes of the head housekeeper at the Balmoral castle.
– Sunday, Nov. 27 is the First Sunday of Advent.
-Earlier this week there was frost on the grass, kids were actually wearing coats, the temperature read 25 degrees and West Bend crossing guard Chuck Fellenz showed Mother Nature who’s boss by wearing khaki shorts during his shift on the corner of Decorah and Main.
– The Jack Russell Memorial Library in Hartford had new audio/video equipment installed this week. The library also received a new train table and Lego table through a very generous donation from a private foundation.
-Ashley Lynn of Campbellsport, a RN in the Birth Center, has been recognized with Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin St. Joseph’s Hospital’s first quarter DAISY Award for her patient care and professionalism.
-Equipment problems have delayed the project to repair building lights in downtown West Bend. Work is scheduled to resume on Main Street on Monday, Nov. 28. The project, funded by Downtown Business Improvement District (BID), will replace the small light bulbs that extend across the tops of the buildings.
– Konnor Sadownikow, 12, is the talk of the town at Holy Angels School in West Bend as the story made the rounds this week about how he took down a 14-point buck on Sunday.
-Last Saturday, Nov. 19 was opening day of the gun-deer season in Wisconsin. On the west side of the Washington County Courthouse in the city of West Bend motorists stopped to take note of a buck and a doe standing on the grass. “It’s like they’re mocking us,” said Marge Gengler.
– The Madrigal Dinner is Friday, Dec. 2, from 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., at the West Bend East High School cafeteria. Musical entertainment is presented by students from the Choir & Orchestra programs. A limited number of tickets are available at the door the nights of the performances.
– Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School purchased a new marimba for its band and percussion ensemble. Band director Dan Hubert said the new instrument is top of the line. “You can’t get one any better than this,” said Hubert. Story courtesy Jacob Mueller.
Promoting Small Business Saturday
Businesses in downtown West Bend are working to promote Small Business Saturday; Nov. 26.
The day after Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year dedicated to supporting small businesses. Small Business Saturday was an effort launched by American Express; the goal is to encourage area families to shop small, independently owned businesses in their community and help fuel the economy.
“Family-owned businesses have big advantages over big box stores,” said Todd Tennies with Tennies Ace Hardware. “You see us in our stores, we know the factory representatives, we stand behind our products, and we generally go the extra mile when it comes to customer service,” said Tennies.
“Family-owned businesses often support community events, fund raisers and local sports teams,” said Tennies. “And we have a great deal of concern for what happens in our community.”
Phil Dhein is a longtime Tennies Ace Hardware employee.
“We work to understand the customer’s problem; whether it’s showing them how to repair a toilet or install a light switch. We also follow up on special requests and orders that are a normal part of the job with local businesses,” said Dhein.
“Big-box stores often lack the ability to take the initiative to order unusual items or they think there isn’t enough profit in it.”
Tennis Ace Hardware is a well established business in West Bend dating back more than 40 years.
There are many other locally-owned businesses in downtown West Bend including Sager’s Men’s Apparel, Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds, Mountain Outfitters, Idle Hour or Two, Café Seourette, and Laurel’s Camera and Gift. “Money spent at a locally-owned business is more likely to be spent again at another locally-owned business,” said Pat Fehring from Laurel’s Camera.
As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear the business community in downtown West Bend is encouraging neighbors to spend their money locally.
Today marks the 87th anniversary of the West Bend Theatre
November 26 marks the 87th anniversary of the grand opening of the Historic West Bend Theatre. In an effort to mark holiday traditions past, present and future there is an effort afoot led by local historian Terry Becker to gather below the West Bend marquee for a photo and to show support for the preservation and renovation of this cherished downtown landmark fondly remembered as simply “The Show House.”
The gathering will take place after the 64th Annual Christmas Parade on Sunday, Nov. 27. Neighbors are invited to please take a few minutes after the parade to gather and share memories, hopes and dreams for the future of downtown. Without community support the theatre’s future is uncertain and may very well be in jeopardy.