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1449, 28 Oct 18

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

West Bend couple celebrate 70th wedding anniversary

It was Sept. 25, 1948 and Franklin Bales and Margaret Weninger, 90, recited their vows to remain faithful and committed for the rest of their lives. This year the couple celebrated its 70th wedding anniversary. Franklin, 91, was born on the family farm on Rusco Drive in West Bend. He and Margaret, 90, met at a dance.

“Our farm was just a mile west of Gonring’s Resort. I had broken up with a different guy and me and my girlfriends were standing there and then he (Franklin) came over and asked me to dance. Then he asked to take me home, then he asked me to another dance and from there we kept on going.”

Margaret said she “didn’t think of marriage right away. She just liked being with him.”

“I liked his laugh,” said Margaret. “We had fun.”

Margaret was 18 years old when she met Franklin. She worked at Amity Leather at the time.

Franklin was 19 and a half and he worked on the family farm.

“I like her because she was easy going,” he said. “I could handle that.”

When Margaret turned 20 she and Franklin tied the knot.

“We got married at St. Matthias Church and had dinner at noon in the school basement. Some of the neighbor women cooked the meal and then we went to Gonring’s Resort for a dance,” said Margaret.

During the conversation the black-and-white wedding photos from Kind Studio – Barton, Wisc. are passed around the room. “I bought my dress in Chicago,” said Margaret. “I had aunts and uncles living in Chicago and a couple times I went down on the train and we went shopping for the dress. It was nothing fancy.”

The wedding photos look straight out of ‘June Bride’ featuring an elegant Margaret and a dapper Franklin surrounded by a wedding party of eight set against a backdrop of blue skies, two meaty columns and drapes.

“The photographer didn’t come to the wedding, we had to go to the photographer,” Margaret said.

Franklin recalled a delayed honeymoon as chores on the dairy farm took precedent.

“She had to can pears before we left and I had to fill the silo again,” he said.

A couple days later the pair were off gallivanting. “We drove into Canada and circled around a bit just so we could tell our friends we were in Canada,” said Margaret.

The couple moved in to Franklin’s home. “I’ve always live here,” he said. “Our bedroom is the room I was born in.”

The Bales had seven kids. Daughter Kathy Bales/Stodola shared some memories:

-Mom and Dad showed us by their example the importance of helping others. Sharing Mom’s amazing cinnamon rolls and produce from the garden with those who needed a pick-me-up visit.

-Volunteering at St. Frances Cabrini: ushering, counting lunch tickets, quilting, helping at the annual Rummage Sale

-Driving their older friends to doctor’s appointments

-Volunteering at Samaritan every Wednesday evening for years

-Catholic Family Life Insurance- Mom was secretary. Helped organize annual picnic and Christmas party.

-Mom and Dad also instilled in their children a love of learning. We had few books of our own at home except for a complete set of the World Book encyclopedia and the Childcraft set. We would page through the books endlessly and often look up topics for our school projects. I still recognize poems and artwork from those volumes.

-There were always trips to our WB Public Library. We would eagerly search for books to take home with us. The stack grew to a dozen or 20 but I think we only lost a couple in all those years!

-On Sunday drives, one or the other parent would say “I wonder where that road goes” and we’d turn and see!  Even though, being on a farm, travel was limited they managed to take us all to the Milwaukee Museum or Zoo several times and it turned out that all their children are avid travelers looking to see where the road takes them. Fortunately, Dad and Mom retired early enough to enjoy quite a few long trips to places such as Mexico, California, Alaska and many more.

Recognizing anniversaries

Ever since cresting their 25th wedding anniversary the couple recognize their longevity together every 5 years. There are homemade posters from some of their 16 grandchildren still taped to the door from the last family gathering. “We also have 12 great grandchildren … with one more on the way,” said Franklin.

The Bales celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in the barn. “Our son cleaned it up and it looked just like a ballroom,” said Margaret.

When asked their secret to a happy marriage, Margaret talks about their evening routine. “At 7 p.m. we listen to the Rosary and Mass on Relevant Radio and then we hold hands every night and his hands are always cold. Then we go to bed at 8 o’clock and we talk a few minutes and then I say ‘good night, love you’ and he knows that’s the end of the conversation and he falls asleep very fast.”

Daughter Rosemary Kutz had fond memories growing up.  

-Polka dancing with dad at dances with the Julida Boys

-Finding a note on the refrigerator when I got home from school that said we should come down and help pick stones but first we could have the warm potato salad or other good food mom had left for us on the stove.

-Blackberries and cream on soft white bread.

-Watching for Santa upstairs and hearing a loud “Ho Ho Ho” and bells ringing and then mom or dad saying “Come down, Santa was here”

-Learning how to be young volunteers by going with mom and dad to Samaritan

-Mom and dad always taking time to listen to us and seeming interested – no matter the subject

-Always saying just what I needed to hear if I was doubting a decision

-Teaching me to put God as a priority

Blessed with strong faith

Sitting in the living room the Bales overstuffed chairs are nestled next to each other. They’re close enough they reach out and hold hands throughout much of the conversation.

Raising seven children Margaret stressed how important it was for her to be home when the kids got home from school. “I did a lot of baking,” she said. “Sweet rolls, bread and pies and we had 3 eggs, toast and bacon for breakfast each morning. I never thought of it as work, we just did it.”

Margaret talked about when the kids were young and she’d hold one child on her hip and turn the crank on the ringer washer with the other.

Faith, according to the Bales, played a big factor in their lives. “We’d take the seven kids to church at St. Frances Cabrini and we’d pile in the car,” said Margaret. “We prayed the rosary during Lent when they were small and we had a prayer before meals.”

“We always tried to work things out,” said Franklin. “Things are easier if you try to work it out.”

“Patience,” said Margaret. “Patience is the key.”

Daughter Geralyn Kobs recalled growing up in a family of seven kids:

-Growing up in a family of 7 kids lends itself to memories of busy times, quiet moments, happy and sad days. Meals always began with a prayer and nearly always included potatoes, vegetables, meat and dessert. Mom is a fantastic cook and baker and could scrounge up a meal in no time.  All the boys (left handed) sat on one side of the table and all the girls (right handed) sat on the other to prevent elbow jabbing fights!

-Mom always read books to us and a happy memory was going to the library in WB and checking out a fresh stack of books.

-Christmas memory – the tree would be trimmed for days but the lights would not be turned on and baby Jesus would not be added to the nativity set until Christmas Eve.

-Dad coming in from early morning milking with a metal jug of fresh milk, giving Mom a kiss, and sitting down to his breakfast of eggs.

-Dad telling us – ‘put a sweater on, I’m cold’ or ‘go to bed, I’m tired.’

-Giving up candy for Lent (seemed to be mandatory) and then getting chocolate covered peanuts in our Easter baskets.

-Mom sprinkling holy water around the house and on us during bad thunderstorms.

Daughter Joan Blankenship – Some things I remember:

-Not putting baby Jesus in the Nativity set until Christmas Eve and coming downstairs on Christmas Eve after watching out the window for Santa, and seeing all the presents under the lit Christmas tree. It was so magical. Our tradition was to not turn on the Christmas lights until Christmas Eve.

-Mom not liking to wake us up in the morning so she would throw a sock on our bed to wake us up gently.  But every morning in the winter, I could hear Mom down by the wood furnace opening up the door of the furnace, and the noise radiating upstairs.

-Coming home from school and always having delicious snacks to eat – potato salad, homemade bread, coffee cake, peanut squares, Rosettes.

-Going out to the field to tell Dad, who was driving tractor, about some exciting occurrence at school. He would always stop, idle the tractor and listen, no matter how busy he was.

-Going swimming in between loads of hay.  That pool was so enjoyable.

-Two plates with huge stacks of sweet corn placed on the window sill to cool off.  Mom always gave me the lighter-color ones because they were easier for me to digest.

-I remember Dad always reading the paper every night while drinking a bottle of beer. He was always current with local, and world events.

-We had a set up encyclopedias which were so helpful when doing reports for school. We made many a trip to the library. They paid for all of the kids’ college tuition.

-We always had holy water in the hallway. Mom would sprinkle us with the holy water before we left on trips to help keep us safe and she would sprinkle around the house during thunderstorms to keep us safe. It worked. We always said Grace before meals. After my brother Paul passed away, they added another prayer to say, to always include and remember him and others who passed away.

Thank you for being the best parents ever. I always felt safe and cared for and loved. I always appreciate how you took such an interest in our life and activities. You’ve always been so helpful and generous. I feel so lucky to have you as my parents. I could not ask for more.

Trees are leveled as construction begins on new Fleet Farm

The logging trucks are clearing the 192,000-square-foot lot to the south of Highway 33 just east of County Highway Z for the new Fleet Farm. On Thursday a tree-cutting operation quickly moved through the property cutting trees and leveling the land for future development. Start date is listed as Oct 1, 2018. Completion is listed as September 9, 2019. 192,000-square-foot retail store and 7,100-square-foot convenience store and 652 parking stalls

Aside from the store there will also be a 7,162-square-foot gas station and convenience store. The proposed gas station would include 18 fuel pumps and 9 islands. Fleet Farm opened the existing West Bend store in 1961 as the sixth store in the company’s fleet. The existing 45,000-square-foot West Bend Fleet Farm will close when the new store opens in the fall of 2019.

Devenport family home is raised to make way for West Bend Honda Subaru

The demolition of the Devenport family home on the southwest corner of Highway 33 and Scenic Drive started at 8 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26, 2018.

It was a mere 28 minutes later and the old red brick two-story farmhouse was no more. The live broadcast drew thousands of viewers; many lamented the loss of a fine structure and some expressed sadness at what may be deemed “progress.”

According to records in the West Bend city assessor’s office the Devenport property on W. Washington Street, was annexed into the city in February 2018. The 39.575 acres sold to Morries West Bend H RE, LLC.

Long time teacher and coach Bob Neja has died

Robert H. Neja, 84, of West Bend, entered Eternal Life with Jesus on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 after 62 wonderful years of marriage with Anne “Dolly” Neja.  Bob passed away at home, surrounded by his family, after his battle with pancreatic cancer.

Bob was born on Jan. 16, 1934 in Milwaukee to the late Daniel and Marion Neja.  Bob started his athletic career at St. Boniface Catholic Grade School and continued at Messmer High School, becoming a three sport letter winner in basketball, baseball and football.  After graduating from Messmer High School in 1952, he attended St. Norbert College, earning a degree in Education.  While at St. Norbert, Bob lettered four years in basketball and baseball. He was named Most Valuable Athlete. He also earned All-Midwest Catholic College Basketball team honors.

Bob married the love of his life and high school sweetheart, Anne Poehlmann on June 30, 1956.  He then entered the U.S. Army on July 6, 1956 and was honorably discharged July 5, 1958 as a First Lieutenant MSC.

After the Army, Bob began his illustrious teaching and coaching career at his Alma Mater, Messmer High School in Milwaukee. During his time at Messmer from 1958 to 1970, Bob taught biology and coached football, track, baseball and basketball. He accumulated a record of 158 wins and 63 losses as head basketball coach and his teams were Conference Champions four years and WISAA State Champions in 1966 and 1968. They were State Championship Runners-up in 1967, losing the title game by one point.

Bob continued his teaching and coaching career at West Bend East High School from 1970 to 1995.  He was the West Bend East Boys Basketball coach for five years and the West Bend East Girls Tennis coach for over 20 years. His tennis teams won eight conference championships, while qualifying numerous players and teams to the State Tournament.

His positive influence on students and athletes cannot be overstated. His philosophy was to help the kids grow to be great people first, winning along the way.

In honor of his years of success, Bob has been inducted into several Halls of Fame: Messmer High School, St. Norbert College, Wisconsin High School Basketball Coaches Association, Wisconsin High School Tennis Association, West Bend East High School, and the Old Time Ballplayers’ Association.

Bob was an active member of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus Fr. Casper Rehrl Council #1964. His faith was his priority in life.

Funeral services in honor of Bob will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church (1025 S. 7th Ave, West Bend) with visitation from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. followed by a Knights of Columbus service at 4:45 p.m. and Mass of Christian Burial at 5 p.m.  After the Mass a reception will be held in the church hall.

 Updates & tidbits

 In-person absentee voting is underway in Washington County for the Nov. 6 General Election.

– Sale price the Seed of Hope Center in West Bend paid for the former Graymont Western Lime building, 206 N. Sixth Avenue was $350,000. The building on the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Elm Street was built in 1961. It went on the market in March 2016 and was listed by RSM Property Management & Realty for $495,000. The 2018 assessment was $414,500.

-This week the West Bend Common Council approved a request to install a Civil War Memorial at Pilgrim Rest Cemetery on Chestnut and Summit in West Bend.

– Stephanie Salentine, Med/Surg RN, has been recognized with the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin St. Joseph’s Hospital first quarter DAISY Award for her care and comfort.

-The city of West Bend Police Department, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration will participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at 1115 S. Main St., in the parking lot in front of West Bend City Hall.

– Details on the sale of the property for the Bob Fish Dealership show four parcels were involved and Lynch Ventures LLC paid $2.4 million for the land and building at 2275 S. Main Street.

The second white bridge arrived in downtown West Bend on Wednesday, Oct. 24 and placed over the Milwaukee River. The bridge is installed to the south of where the ‘bridge to nowhere’ used to be located.

Slinger Honorary Fire Fighter Ed Wolf, 76, passed away Wednesday morning, Oct. 24. Slinger Fire Department will be performing a bell ringing ceremony and walk through at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct 28. Members of Badger Firefighters association are welcome to attend. We will be meeting at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford at 1:40 PM to line up.

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1449, 28 October 2018


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