Death is a mighty test of faith, just as much so when the beloved is of the four-paw variety as with one of our departed human family members. I learned this painful lesson anew when saying goodbye to my best little canine buddy, Mr. Puggles.
He came into our lives on October 15, 2004, fresh off of a plane ride from Colorado. He jumped from the laundry basket in the back seat of my car and nipped the noses of our three children. He was a little wild man. We knew right then that our Mr. Puggles would be a larger-than-life part of our family. I’ll never forget that first day home, when the little sprout climbed up on my head as I lay on the floor and pasted my face with wet kisses.
We learned quickly that he needed limits set, as he bolted across the street in our suburban neighborhood and led us on a merry chase. He was fast and would not be captured until he was good and ready. The kids were able to teach him a few things, but Mr. Puggles was usually going to do things his way. We just needed to figure that out.
As a growing puppy, he loved to ride in the car. This was before he learned about trips to the vet’s office. The kids would sometimes tease him, “You want to go for a ride in your very own car?” Yeah-yeah-yeah oh-boy-do-I-ever!!” So we usually piled into the car or the minivan and took him for a ride “in his very own car.”
Mr. Puggles could be naughty. He even had a “naughty face” that often gave a clue that chances were high for mischief. He once chewed a hole in our denim couch and proceeded to pull out much of the white bunting in the cushions. This exercise came to be known as “puff clouds” and, my oh my, did Mr. Puggles like puff clouds. He needed good exercise, but he barked so incessantly at everyone in the neighborhood, we had to do our walks after dark. He still barked.
His personality changed a bit in October 2006 when we adopted Madison, a fawn Pug who was rescued from one of those hoarder hell homes we all read about now and then. Madison was a street tough; used to having to fight for food. She attacked him a few times, and the sounds created nearly caused some of us cardiac arrest. Eventually they found common ground, as long as Mr. Puggles gave up his toys on demand. They ate in separate rooms under supervision. In time they both mellowed and became best buddies.
Mr. Puggles was not one to be bothered with niceties such as going to the bathroom outside. He started by jumping from the bed at night and going into the closet to relieve himself on the carpeting. Frequent trips outside were the only solution. Over the years, the carpeting in most rooms was replaced with hardwood flooring. Much easier to clean! We had to keep him away from the bottom of the Christmas tree, since he would drink the water and then have to pee more. I recall one time outside when I was talking to my daughters and Mr. Puggles was standing nearby. A minute later I looked down and he was peeing on my shoes and pant leg. At least he didn’t tell me it was raining.
Mr. Puggles was a pretty good sport. Samantha and Ruby sometimes tried to dress him up for Halloween, but any costumes were short lived. Stevie dressed him up as a character from the television show Futurama, with a cape and boots. Less than 5 minutes into the Halloween celebration and the boots were history and the cape was wound around his neck. Mr. Puggles and Madison were kid-friendly dogs who liked to sit in laps, or better yet, fed a stream of doggie treats.
Perhaps Mr. Puggles’ most valued role was that of comforter. Through many very difficult times, he was my God-given solace. There’s nothing quite like curling up in bed and having one Pug nestled just behind my legs and the other with her rear right against my neck. I wasn’t going anywhere without them knowing it. He was generous in affection, quick to forgive a harsh word, and always there with a wagging curly tail when I returned from a business trip.
The first signs that he was aging came when I lived in Georgia in 2012 and 2013. We’d be out for a walk and he would start dropping poops out like a Pez dispenser while he walked. It took me quite a while to figure out this was not intentional. Some of that nerve control was weakening. I noted it with concern, but quickly convinced myself that he would not have to worry about aging.
Mr. Puggles and Madison came with me on quite a few changes of address. They were good sports and didn’t complain about the uncertainty. During some very difficult times, we lived in hotel rooms and even spent a few crazy weeks camped in our car. None of it fazed them. If we were fed and stayed warm, it was all good. Dogs are such selfless companions. I thank God for that.
Even as Mr. Puggles’ rear legs began to fail, we still found ways to enjoy the outdoors. I bought a hip harness from a web store that caters to disabled pets. It gave his Pug caboose just enough help to still be able to roam about the yard, marking every tree and barking at falling acorns and the occasional brave squirrel. I felt slight pangs of dread as his face turned from jet black to salt and pepper. I would not want to face losing him, so I pushed those thoughts aside.
He had terrible health scares over the past year and a half. In March 2018, he stopped being able to pee and I had to rush him to Madison Veterinary Specialists. They did surgery on his bladder, which was almost completely full of what they described as “sand.” Eventually I learned those were “struvite stones,” which often form as the result of an infection. Since he wasn’t as able to fully empty, his risk of infection rose. The surgery was successful. To keep him from dribbling, I put a belly band with a bladder pad in it around his lower mid-section. He didn’t mind at all.
Over the past year, he and his new little sister Mickey had to get used to me coming and going a lot. Evenings it was off to spend a few hours watching television and visiting with Mom, who was in her final months with us. Back home after 10 and it was a late dinner, and sometimes, rawhide treats while camped out on the bed. It’s an incredible comfort having canine companions who hang on my every word like it’s REALLY interesting; who cuddle up close when I’m sick and act like I’m the best each time I come home.
The past two months were a drain. Bladder infections and upper respiratory troubles had us back and forth into the emergency hospital. This caused Mr. Puggles’ back legs to weaken a bit more. But I’d pick him up, go outside and hook up those hip holsters and he still did OK. (Later on I sat and watched security camera footage of me carrying him back and forth across many weeks.) He had trachea surgery at the University of Wisconsin to relieve his worsening breathing problems. The operation was a great success and I hoped we’d get him back to health.
Saturday, July 27 was destined to be one of the saddest and most difficult of my 55 years on this earth. I had rushed him back to the UW with labored breathing. He was placed in an oxygen cage. Scans showed pneumonia caused by him aspirating food or water into his lungs. It would be touch and go to battle yet another infection. But it wasn’t to be. With breathing getting harder, I either had to authorize a ventilator (which rarely ends well) or make another decision.
Mr. Puggles laid quietly on the exam table at the UW vet hospital. Tears streamed down my face as I petted his head and said his name. When he heard my voice, he lifted up his little head and looked at me. My heart broke into a million pieces. I kissed his soft little ear and whispered, “I love you so much, little buddy. You’re going to go home to God.” He lifted his head and looked at me again with big brown eyes. I’ve never seen that look before. It seemed to carry deep meaning; something you would not expect from a pet. The look seemed to say to me, “It’s OK. You took good care of me. Take heart. I will be here in God’s time.”
As he closed his eyes in sleep, I sobbed so hard I thought I might vomit. Tears flowed like they never have before. I felt this deeper than just about anything else in my life. It is said that St. Peter cried so hard and often after betraying Jesus that furrows developed on his face where the tears flowed. I might just have those same furrows before my grief subsides at the loss of my best buddy.
I later received a sympathy card from the staff at UW Veterinary Care. They took great care of him. One of the interns who cared for Mr. Puggles during his two stays ended her note with this thought:
“All good dogs go to Heaven — and Mr. Puggles was a very good dog.”
We decided to bury him at my sister Marghi’s house. She has a nice wooded back yard; the kind of place he loved to spend time in. I went to the UW clinic again to pick up his body. They had placed him in a little cardboard box that resembled a casket. On the cover, written in marker, was “Mr. Puggles” along with a hand-drawn red heart. I carried him to my car and started to drive to the pet memorial company to have terra cotta paw prints made.
I opened the box and looked at his little Pug self, motionless as if frozen in time. The whole drive I had my right hand on him, petting him and talking to him as if he were still here. I apologized for times I lost my temper, like when he’d wake me at 3 a.m. and want to have an early breakfast. But mostly I said “thank you” for nearly 15 years of companionship and unconditional love and support. As I stroked his soft little ear, I recalled all of the nicknames I had for him, and how often I made up little songs about him that probably drove him batty.
We had a good final conversation. Those who have pets will understand the depth of pain one feels in losing a friend so giving and innocent. More tears flowed and we made that drive to his final resting spot, under a maple and a pine tree. I set his box on the ground, took off the lid and tucked him in with a new dog blanket. I told him something I said every morning when he tried to get up early: “It’s OK, buddy, you can keep sleeping.” I put his favorite lion toy up near his head. On his blanket I placed a St. Benedict crucifix and a green scapular.
As I sprinkled Holy Water on the grave and on his box, it all welled up inside me. This would be a great test of faith. We are taught that our pets are not endowed with souls. Yet they stand watch over us and care for us like the angels. They love with the brave and sacrificial love of the great saints. Mr. Puggles gave everything to me and my children. He spent himself to make our lives brighter. I just have to believe Our Blessed Lord has made provisions for such a beautiful life.
My consolation came as I read prayers that are typically used to bless Catholic burial grounds:
God, Creator of the world and Redeemer of mankind, who wondrously dispose the destinies of all creatures, visible and invisible, we humbly and sincerely beseech you to hallow, purify and bless this cemetery, where the bodies of your servants are duly laid to rest, after the labor and fatigue of this life come to and end…”
There is was in the first line of the prayer. God, who “wondrously dispose the destinies of all creatures.” All creatures. God gave us animal companions for a reason. These selfless beings become an invaluable part of the family. I believe in His goodness, God will give us back our canine and feline companions in eternity. For he made them as part of his wonderful creation, which he declared from the beginning to be good.
On this day, that thought brought a measure of comfort to a grieving, wounded heart. Requiescat in pace, Mr. Puggles. May we meet again one day in an unending field filled with warmth and love.
The hospital staff wrote this on his burial box.
Tucking him in for the last time.
A new blanket and a favorite toy for the journey home.
A reader flipping through the pages of the La Crosse Tribune on March 4, 1950 might just have missed a great sports action photo buried on Page 10, the back cover. It’s a great photo because it shows real action — and it doesn’t hurt that one of the key players is David D. Hanneman of Mauston High School.
March 1950 was high school basketball tournament time. Mauston High School was one of the host venues for sub-regional tournament play for Wisconsin’s public schools. The action photo was actually from March 3, 1950, the second day of the sub-regionals; a game in which Mauston knocked off Hillsboro 45-37. In the photo, Hillsboro center Allan Wheeler grabs a rebound over the outstretched arm of Hanneman, wearing No. 24 for the Mauston Bluegold. Although he did not score in the contest, Hanneman, the Mauston center, held the prolific scorer Wheeler to just 9 points. Just a day prior, Wheeler scored 22 points in Hillsboro’s loss to La Crosse Central.
Mauston ended its season after going 1-1 at the sub-regional tournament. In the first game on March 2, Tomah stormed back from an 11-point deficit to clip Mauston 40-36. Tomah won the sub-regional title the next day by whipping La Crosse Central 67-47.
We know that Johann Adam Treutel and the former Katharina Geier had eight children who came to America between 1849 and 1854. We’ve now learned more about the life and death of their oldest child, Adam John Treutel (1821-1900).
Thanks to the recent work of a volunteer at the grave database FindAGrave.com, we now know that Adam and eight relatives are buried at Union Cemetery on North Teutonia Avenue in Milwaukee. Also buried at this cemetery are his wife, Anna Maria (Zang) Treutel (1825-1872) and four of their children.
According to Milwaukee County death records, Adam John Treutel died on July 23, 1900. That’s exactly 77 years to the day before the death of our own Ruby V. (Treutel) Hanneman. (My Dad descends from Johann Adam Treutel this way: Philipp Treutel >> Walter Treutel >> Ruby V. (Treutel) Hanneman.) We searched The Milwaukee Journal for that entire week in 1900 but could find no obituary or death notice. Adam Treutel had lived in Milwaukee for at least 45 years before his death.
As far as we know, Adam was the firstborn of Johann Adam and Katherina Treutel. He was born Nov. 21, 1821 in or near Königstädten, Hesse-Dartmstadt, Germany. He was baptized three days later in Königstädten. We have not located emigration records, except for a reference in the Hessiches Archiv, which said he emigrated to America in May 1849. Adam consistently indicated on the U.S. Census that he came to America in 1849 and settled in New York City. On June 10, 1853, he filed his declaration of intent to become a U.S. citizen. His naturalization was finalized on July 11, 1855 in Superior Court of the City of New York.
Adam married Anna Maria Zang, also a native of Hesse-Darmstadt. She died in Milwaukee on Feb. 29, 1872 and is also buried at Union Cemetery. Their firstborn, Lisette, was born in New York in April 1853. Their second child, Margaretha, was born July 21, 1854 in New York. Adam’s parents and some of his siblings arrived in America in July 1854 and proceeded to Milwaukee. Adam and his family followed in short order. The 1857 Milwaukee City Directory lists Adam as a tallow chandler; someone who made candles and soap from animal fat. Over the years, he was also a tailor (1879) and railroad laborer (1865). His longtime home was at 791 7th Street in Milwaukee. His son Adam Jr. became a lithographer and some of his daughters were dressmakers.
We still have some important Treutel family questions that need answers. Johann Adam Treutel, the family patriarch, died in Milwaukee in 1859, but we have no record of his death or burial. There is a good chance whatever cemetery in which he was buried has been moved in the years since. We also don’t know the burial place of the one Treutel brother who went south, Johann Peter Treutel. We know he lived in Louisiana and Alabama and fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. We’ve located information on all of his children, but still hope to find out more about his life.
Since we’re always keeping track, here is a list of the children of Johann Adam Treutel (1800-1859) and Elizabetha Katharina Geier (1800-1886):
Adam John Treutel (1821-1900) Milwaukee
John Treutel (1831-1908) West Bend, Wis.
Philipp Treutel (1833-1891) North Prairie, Wis.
Twin Baby Boy (1833-1833) Burial Uknown
Sebastian Treutel (1834-1876) West Bend, Wis.
Peter Treutel (1837-unknown)
Anna Margaretha (Treutel) Bredel (1839-1898) Milwaukee
Back in 1951, David D. Hanneman owned and managed a Standard Oil service station in his hometown, Mauston, Wisconsin. When I wrote about that back in 2014, a few readers raised questions about where the station was actually located. We finally have the answer — and it’s different than any of the locations suggested earlier.
Mauston-based author and historian Richard Rossin Jr. says the Standard station was at 241 W. State Street in Mauston, at the corner of West State Street and Beach Street. It is not far from the current Hatch Public Library. The neighborhood along Mauston’s main drive looked a little different back then. To the left (or west) of the station, there are large trees in the 1951 photos. The lot immediately adjacent to the station was later cleared. That site contained an IGA grocery store at one time and is now home to a CarQuest auto parts store.
“As that station was just down the street from my boyhood home, it was a favorite hangout for me when I was young,” Rossin said. “It was Larry’s Mobil in the late 1970s. Jim Bires ran it from 1982 to 1988. Soon after that, it became a laundromat, and still is today. It’s a real treat for me to see such an early view of the place.” Rossin said in 1965, the business was called Slim’s Mobil, which it remained until Larry Dyal took it over in the 1970s.
Rossin estimated the original Standard station was built in the late 1940s. The situate the corner of State and Beach streets earlier housed a small gasoline filling station, according to a May 1926 Sanborn fire insurance map (see below). Sanborn maps from 1894 and 1909 show no structures on the site. The brick rooming house behind the filling station was shown on all three Sanborn maps. That home is still there today.
A quick look at Google Maps shows the former service station building is still there, now called Golden Eagle Laundry. Rossin said the original laundromat owners added onto the service station building, so it’s the same structure as the one shown in the 1951 photos.
The West State Street location meant Dad probably walked to work. The Hanneman homestead at 22 Morris Street was just a few blocks up State and then a turn northeast onto Morris. I distinctly remember the IGA grocery store in the 200 block of West State Street. I recall going there with my Grandpa Carl Hanneman in the early 1970s — probably sent there by Grandma Ruby to grab a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs. Now I know the building next to it was my Dad’s old service station.
My mother walked into the family room, looking almost sheepish, and said, “I want to show you something.” She was almost beaming as she got out a yellowed sheet of paper, folded into four panels, with a hand-written title on the cover: To Mary. It was evident that this paper, whatever it contained, was precious to her.
She held the document up to her heart and explained that my father had written it for her many years ago. She wanted me to know that they did have their moments of closeness that superseded any of the difficulties during nearly 50 years of marriage. And now, a couple of years removed from Dad’s 2007 death from lung cancer, Mom truly treasured a poem he penned back in the 1960s.
“Go ahead, read it!” she said, turning her head with tears in her eyes. And so I did.
It has oft been said, “Please do not grieve.”
‘Tis far better to give than to receive.
And at this time of love and of cheer,
I think of all about me here.
The loving family with which I’m blest,
And know within, I’m not a guest.
That all about me is real and true,
That what I have is because of you.
Daily you give these gifts of love,
Of which I am recipient of.
And I wonder in my small way,
‘Dear Lord, how can I ever repay?’
This woman who is always ready,
to wipe a nose or wind a teddy?
Who at this time bears the gift of gifts,
A child of God sleeps within her midst.
A child who needs loving care,
To grow strong, to know what’s right and fair.
These few reasons and so many more,
Make it easy to see why I adore.
This woman, who is my wife,
Who will share with me throughout my life,
All the joys and troubles that we will face,
And put them in their proper place.
So I offer my gift at this time to you,
My deepest love, which indeed is not new.
Needless to say, I was very touched. My father, despite his tremendous gifts in public speaking and dealing with people, found it difficult to express thoughts in writing. So this definitely came from the heart. Whenever he had a speech to give or a presentation before the Sun Prairie City Council or the Dane County Board of Supervisors, Dad wrote out a draft and Mom helped him polish it with structure and grammar. She was always the reading teacher!
I was tickled that she not only saved the poem, but seemed to get the same thrill as I’m sure she did upon first receiving it four decades earlier. This was a softer side of Mom we didn’t always see growing up, but which became a central part of her as the autumn years turned to winter. I photographed the card and gave it back to Mom, who put it away again for safekeeping.
I thought of the poem again shortly after Mom died in late December 2018. I was given the black-and-white photo atop this story to scan for Mom’s memorial video. I was struck by how young my parents looked, probably shortly after being married in August 1958. It was easy to see the sentiments of the poem in this photograph.
Dad, thank you for writing something that Mom treasured her entire adult life. And Mom, thanks for sharing it, and showing a side of you that you tried to keep hidden. As we observe the first Mother’s Day without you, we are heartened by the thought of you two, together in the company of the angels and saints. Happy Mother’s Day.
I heard the answering machine pick up a call in my office. Normally they are hangups or some robo-call, but I sensed this was different. I strained to hear what the woman was saying. It was clear it was something I needed to attend to, so I played back the message.
The caller was the owner of Suburban Studio in Sun Prairie, a portrait photography business that has been around for a long time. She had noticed my Mom’s obituary recently and realized she had a large, framed portrait of my late father from when he was mayor of Sun Prairie. The portrait hung in the studio for years as a sample of their work. She was calling to see if I would like it.
I contacted her right away and made arrangements to pick up the portrait. She did not charge for the 16×20 inch print (although I did buy the frame it was in). When I stopped at the studio the next day to pick it up, I was really taken aback. Not just by the size of the portrait, but the look of it. This was similar to the photo we used in Dad’s obituary in April 2007, but it was different. I stared at the image. Dad seemed so close and alive; almost as if he was about to speak. The studio owner agreed, saying the image had something about it. You almost sense the person is there in the room.
I kept racking my brain trying to think where I’d seen this photo before. Then it struck me. Dad used this photo in his literature when he ran for re-election in 2005. I vaguely recalled seeing his brochure back then and thinking this photo had a different quality.
I rarely believe in coincidences, so I chalk up this whole encounter to Divine Providence. It reminded me of the time I was sitting at my desk in my home office in Mount Pleasant in the early evening. I dozed off and was in and out in one of those semi-conscious sleep states. I was jolted awake though, by the sound of my father’s voice.
Hello? Are you there? Yes, it’s me. I’m still alive!
I sat upright and looked around the room. Where was his voice coming from? Dad kept talking and I recognized it as part of an oral history interview I did with him in November 2006. While we were recording in Dad’s room at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, he received a call on the cell phone from his brother, Donn (1926-2014). I have no idea how this recording started playing on my computer while I was half-asleep. My tears flowed freely though, as it seemed Dad was really speaking to me from Heaven. I will never forget that moment.
Listen to a portion of the oral history interview I did with Dad while he was being treated for lung cancer:
Now I have this beautiful portrait, a gift from Louise Floyd at Suburban Studio. I look at Dad’s expression and it, too, speaks to me. Funny, it seems to say just about the same thing as the recording from my computer. “I’m still here, son. I am alive!”
UPDATE!!This will be a little hard to explain, but it brought more tears to my eyes. Yesterday I was at St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church shooting photographs. The main thing I photographed was the gold monstrance that holds the Blessed Sacrament for exposition and adoration. See my photo below. That holds the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus under the appearance of bread. When I was doing closeups, I kept noticing reflected colors in the glass of the monstrance. So I lined up my camera and shot a bunch of images. Later I sent one to Father Richard Heilman and told him to look at the reflection. I thought it looked like a veiled woman in blue.
When Fr. Heilman looked at that photo earlier today, not long before I published the first version of this article, he saw the reflection of a man in a suit and tie with glasses. When Father later read my post and saw Dad’s portrait, he said, “THAT’S THE MAN I SAW!” I saw the Blessed Virgin and he saw this very photo of my father. Let that sink in. What a blessed day this has been!
“…The time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the Faith. From now on the Crown of Righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the Just Judge, will award to me on that day…”— 2 Timothy 4: 6-8
Suddenly, the world will never, ever be the same.
Mary K. Hanneman stepped gently into eternity Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, after a long struggle with vascular dementia and congestive heart failure. Our Blessed Lord summoned his precious daughter, my mother, at 11:50 p.m. from her home at Brookdale Senior Living. She was 86 years 2 months and 5 days young. Mary was a loving wife, mother, grandmother and longtime Catholic school teacher in Sun Prairie, where she has lived since 1965.
Mary Katherine Mulqueen was born in Cudahy, Wisconsin, on Oct. 21, 1932 — the seventh of 11 children of Earl J. Mulqueen Sr. and the former Margaret Madonna Dailey. On Aug. 9, 1958, she married David Dion Hanneman at St. Veronica Catholic Church in Milwaukee, beginning a more than 49-year marriage. He preceded her in death on April 14, 2007. He was 74.
For Mary, every day was a good day to teach. She had the heart of an educator, the discipline and courage of a gunnery sergeant and, under it all, the strong yet soft heart of an Irish grandmother. Above the entrance to her kitchen hung a sign that read Failte, — an Irish welcome. Over the years, countless relatives, friends and strangers were welcomed within those walls to incredible cooking, good cheer and, very likely, a game or two of sheepshead, Kings in the Corner or cribbage.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
― William Arthur Ward.
Like most things in the Hanneman family, good teaching started at home. Mary’s kitchen table was just as likely to serve up arithmetic flash cards and sentence diagrams as it did Thanksgiving turkeys or chocolate chip cookies. She imparted many life lessons in her kitchen, from the academic (long division and phonics) to the culinary (corned beef with cabbage, lasagna and state-fair-quality bread and cinnamon rolls). Through the chaos and bustle of the annual Thanksgiving dinner, we came to appreciate the gift of family — warts and all.
Mary’s academic career began at St. Frederick’s Catholic School in Cudahy and St. Mary’s Academy in St. Francis, from which she graduated high school in 1950. After a brief postsecondary discernment at the suburban Franciscan convent, she took courses at Cardinal Stritch College and Marquette University. She studied reading literacy for elementary students for two years in Madison. Mary began practice teaching in the Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She eventually became a full-time teacher in the newly built 17-room St. Veronica Catholic School on East Norwich Avenue in Milwaukee.
After their marriage in 1958, Mary and Dave moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he held a job with E.R. Squibb & Co. She paused her teaching career to start and raise a family that came to include two boys and two girls. As a doctorate-level domestic engineer, she honed her skills wrangling hungry toddlers through the bedlam of birthday parties, sewing costumes, darning socks and hosting couples’ bridge. She set high standards for her children and expected them to reach even higher. Especially at school. She modeled her own saintly mother’s family virtuosity with things like bunny-shaped birthday cakes topped with coconut flakes and jellybeans. Or trips to Devil’s Lake and Storybook Gardens with four children in tow.
Mary learned her lessons well from “Ma,” Margaret M. Mulqueen. Her mother went out of her way to make family events special for her husband Earl, who lost both of his parents young and was denied most of childhood’s delectations. “Every year, we always celebrated Christmas. My mother made Christmas really special,” Mary said in an oral-history interview with granddaughter Ruby in 2009. “But especially his birthday. He never had a birthday cake growing up. Isn’t that sad? And yet grew up to be such a nice man.”
In 1965 Mary and Dave built their dream home in Sun Prairie’s then-new Royal Oaks neighborhood. Seventeen stately oak trees towered over the property. Much love went into building and maintaining the family homestead that stayed in the Hanneman family for 53 years. She spent those years caring for her family with special birthday meals, wonderful Christmas mornings and a thrifty way with money that allowed her and Dave to put four children through Madison Edgewood High School.
In 1980, Mary resumed her teaching career at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic School. She started as a substitute, but before long was a full-time reading specialist. She helped along the students who otherwise would fall behind. It was her passion to teach reading, and she opened the world of books to many hundreds of children. Students came to Mrs. Hanneman for extra help in reading, math and other subjects. She sent them back with the skills and desire to learn. Her career at Sacred Hearts stretched nearly three decades. Even after retirement, Mary tutored students several days a week for many years.
When her husband was dying of cancer in 2006 and 2007, she helped make his last wish come true. The couple donated four sections of beautiful stained-glass windows back to St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, where they were incorporated into the design of a new wing of the hospital that opened in 2007.
Her penultimate lessons were largely delivered in the silence of advancing dementia, which eventually crippled her ability to thinkclearly and communicate verbally. Yet she showed patience in this frustrating infirmity. If she could not form the words to say what was on her mind, she sighed deeply and simply said, “Oh, dear.” As illness struck its blows through a heart attack and repeated cardiac events, she rallied time and again to regain strength and show a smile. When hospice nurse Heidi leaned close and told Mary it was almost Christmas, she smiled and said, “I love Christmas.”
Mary’s final and lasting lesson was delivered over days of speechless suffering. Her body conspired to drain her energy. Yet she trusted. She lay still. She prayed. During her final hour, she opened her eyes, lifted her head and looked intently — at something. She tried to speak, but words were not needed. The look of awe on her face explained it all: she had a glimpse of Heaven. All things wouldsoon be new. That realization was reflected on her face. It was her final gift. She spoke in deeds what words could not say:
My work here is complete. My struggles were never in vain. Even in my brokenness, my trials fit in His design and served His redemptive plans. Watch! Hold fast to your Catholic faith — and you will one day follow me.
Mary is survived by her children: David (Lisa) Hanneman of Naperville, Ill., Joe Hanneman of Sun Prairie, Margret Mary of DeForest, Amy Bozza of Woodstock, Ill.; and special niece, Laura (Doug) Curzon of New Berlin, Wis. She is further survived by nine grandchildren: Abby, Maggie and Charlie Hanneman; Stevie, Samantha and Ruby Hanneman; and Justin, Kyle and Claire Bozza. She leaves two sisters, Ruth (Tom) McShane and Joan (Dick) Haske, both of Cudahy; a sister-in-law, Elaine Hanneman of Minneapolis; and brother-in-law Gordon Wellman of Sun Prairie. She was preceded in death by her husband, her parents and eight brothers and sisters.
A visitation will be held from 10:00 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 at Tuschen-Newcomer Funeral Home, 302 Columbus St., Sun Prairie. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held at noon Saturday, Jan. 5 at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church, 227 Columbus St., Sun Prairie. Monsignor Duane Moellenberndt will preside. Burial will be at Sacred Hearts Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Sacred Hearts School Endowment Fund, 221 Columbus St., Sun Prairie, WI 53590.
Jane Hanneman’s 3rd Birthday October 1958
David D. and Mary K. Hanneman, wedding day 1958
Mary K. Hanneman feeds son David Carl Hanneman in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Mary K. Hanneman with daughter Margret Mary, 1967.
Mary with daughter Amy Jo, 1969.
Hanneman Family portrait for the St. Albert’s parish directory.
Family trip to Ormond Beach, Fla.
The 1975 Mulqueen family reunion in Cudahy.
Mary and Dave with son Joe, Dec. 1, 1990.
David D., David C. and Mary Hanneman at Amy Hanneman Bozza’s wedding.
Grandma Mary holding new granddaughter Ruby, 1999. Samantha Hanneman is at left; Abby Hanneman is at right.
David D. and Mary K. Hanneman at their Sun Prairie home.
A great photo! Mary’s birthday in 2014.
Mary with her little buddy, Chewie.
Mary’s birthday 2017.
Mary’s birthday 2017.
Looking over a recently discovered photo from her 1958 engagement party.
Son Joe hold’s Mary’s hand on the day she was born to eternal life.
The September 1960 Chicago plane crash that killed all six members of the Richard Rickman family was caused by a faulty engine valve and an intense oil fire, according to a federal investigation report obtained through the National Archives.
Richard E. Rickman, 34, was flying his wife and four children from Wisconsin Rapids to Detroit on Labor Day 1960 when his Beechcraft C35 Bonanza (tail number N-5816C) plunged into Lake Michigan with flames trailing from the engine. Rickman, his wife Helen and children Richard, Robert, Catherine and Patricia were killed in the crash. The plane and its passengers sunk into the dark waters of Lake Michigan off Chicago’s Oak Street Beach. [See related:Entire Rickman Family Killed in 1960 Plane Crash]
It was a horrific, haunting tragedy. The Rickmans, native to central Wisconsin, were returning home to the Detroit area after a Labor Day vacation. Following the advice of the airport manager in Wisconsin Rapids, Rickman flew across Wisconsin and then along the Lake Michigan shoreline to Chicago. That’s where the trouble started. Rickman radioed the tower at Meigs Field in Chicago that he had an emergency and needed to land. [See an aerial view of Meigs Field] He never got the chance. The plane nose-dived into the water about 1 mile offshore from a crowded Oak Street Beach. All six Rickmans were killed.
The Civil Aeronautics Board began investigating the crash just as the sections of damaged plane were recovered from the depths of Lake Michigan. The wings were sheared off on impact. Witnesses on the beach reported seeing flames coming from the engine as the single-engine plane dove into the water. The probe was led by Clifford G. Sheker, the CAB’s air safety investigator. The 205-horsepower Continental engine was recovered and sent off for analysis. Sheker testified before a Cook County coroner’s inquest jury twice — in September and October 1960. His preliminary finding in October was that engine trouble caused the crash.
That’s where the public attention stopped. The probe continued and led to a report of findings in April 1961, but there was no media coverage on the final cause of the crash. The Hanneman Archive began a search for Sheker’s report back in 2015. It was not on the Federal Aviation Administration’s online database of old CAB crash investigations. The CAB was a predecessor to the National Transportation Safety Board.
We enlisted the help of the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland. After several months, an archivist named Amy R. found the answer in April 1961 meeting minutes from the Civil Aeronautics Board. She was kind enough to snap digital photos of the report narrative and send them via email. As far as we can tell, these details were not published by news outlets at the time.
The report said Rickman was about a mile offshore headed south at 7:26 p.m. when he broadcast a Mayday call: “I have an engine failure or something – I am coming in!” The flight was immediately cleared for emergency landing at Meigs Field, a single-runway airport on Northerly Island, a peninsula along Chicago’s lakefront. Sheker’s report described what happened:
“About this time ground witnesses and the occupants of another plane saw the aircraft afire in flight. They observed the plane make a left turn and go out of control twice before it crashed into Lake Michigan and exploded.”
The Continental Motors E-185 engine became disabled by an “intense oil fire” that originated in the area of the exhaust heater muff. The No. 3 exhaust valve showed “fatigue failure” that led to the fire. The engine crankcase was broken open and the Nos. 3 and 4 pistons and connecting rods were broken. The “intense, in-flight fire” entered the cabin in the area of the rudder pedals and “subjected the entire cabin to fire.”
Rickman was an experienced pilot with 379 total flight hours, including 228 hours with the Beechcraft C35. His Beechcraft was manufactured in 1951 and licensed to Rickman in 1957. It’s unknown if the CAB or later the FAA took any action as a result of the Rickman crash, such as issuing an airworthiness letter. There was no indication in the CAB report of the maintenance history of the plane, or if the No. 3 exhaust valve had caused other engine fires.
Just 18 months before, superstar singers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed when the Beechcraft C35 Bonanza in which they were traveling crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. February 3, 1959 became known as “The Day the Music Died,” memorialized in Don McLean’s 1971 song, “American Pie.” The Civil Aeronautics Board faulted the pilot for taking off in poor weather when he was restricted to visual flight rules.
One of the most heartbreaking scenes from Sept. 5, 1960 was the sight of little Catherine Rickman, 4, being carried from a rescue boat to an ambulance by lifeguard Fred Rizzo. Boaters found her floating in the water shortly after the crash. She had burns on her face, legs and feet. The girl was revived briefly in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, but she died a short time later. Her grandparents, Edwin and Renata Rickman of Saginaw, Mich., identified her body. The search for her parents and siblings went on for days.
The diver who first found the bodies was Jeffrey Daxe, 34, a Chicago pilot and lifeguard. Daxe lived just across Lakeshore Drive near the beach. He was able to quickly gather his diving gear and have a lifeguard row him out to the crash site. The experience haunted Daxe for decades, according to his son, Jeff Daxe of Dayton, Ohio:
“As he told the story of the recovery of the victims, his face would transform to one with a look of concern. He would look away from his outstretched hand almost as if he could see, or didn’t want to see, the faces of the victims as he brought them to the surface.”
The senior Daxe went on to a career in aviation, and moved to Valparaiso, Ind. He told the story of the Rickman crash often. Even in recent years, when visiting Lake Michigan, his son said, he spent a long time gazing out on the water, expressing concern for the safety of boaters and windsurfers. “I believe the experience had a tremendous impact on his life.”
Tom Metcalf remembers the Rickmans well, growing up for a time in the same neighborhood in Redford Township, a western suburb of Detroit. “I remember playing with Richard and Robert,” said Metcalf, who was 6 at the time of the crash. “I also remember flying with them in their aircraft. My father was a military pilot and he and Mr. Rickman were friends with a common interest in flying. I also remember my mother chasing some news reporter out of our back yard after catching him trying to ask me questions after the accident.”
Like Daxe, Metcalf was deeply affected by the Rickman tragedy. He said he hopes to visit the family’s graves at Forest Hill Cemetery in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. “I have thought of them often and sent prayers their way throughout my life,” Metcalf said.
Richard E. Rickman, the son of longtime shoe-store proprietor Edwin J. Rickman, grew up in Wisconsin Rapids. He was a descendant of pioneer resident Matthias Hanneman, who came to Wisconsin in 1866 from Pomerania. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve in World War II. His father had served in WWI. A factory representative for the Ogden Manufacturing Co., Rickman married the former Helen Anderson in December 1949 and they later moved to Michigan. Their first child, Richard Edward, was born in Lansing in May 1953. Robert John was born in Lansing in March 1955. Catherine Helen was born in Detroit in June 1956; and Patricia Ann joined the family in Detroit in September 1957.
The epitaph on the Rickman Family monument at Forest Hill says simply: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
Most family history never makes the newspaper, so unless it is documented or passed down in oral stories, it can be lost. Even items that made the papers over the decades and centuries can be hard to spot. With that in mind, The Hanneman Archive has added a NewsBits page with a growing collection of “all the little news that was fit for print.”
Historic newspapers carried regular columns on what might be called “neighborhood news.” These items varied from who had dinner at whose house last night, to births in the family, to strange happenings like the poisoning of a farmer’s horses. We are fortunate, especially with our Hanneman and Treutel family lines, to have relatives who enjoyed reporting their comings and goings to the local paper. One of our favorites was when Donn Hanneman brought a tomato in to the offices of the Mauston Star in September 1942, showing the salad fruit seemingly had a V for victory grown into its skin. During World War II, patriotism was the order of the day.
Read more NewsBits and enjoy! We try to update the page weekly.
The house was silent and the wooden bookshelves were empty, yet a small something caught my eye. In the corner of one shelf stood a tiny metal figurine: an Indian in headdress, from a cowboys and Indians play set from long ago. The man was kneeling with a rifle pointed off in the distance. The figurine was hand-painted; possibly made from lead. It was just the kind of little toy I recall seeing in the house in which my father grew up in Mauston, some 70 miles from where I now stood. There was a box in my Grandpa’s den office that contained cowboys and Indians, toy soldiers, wooden blocks and other assorted goodies that we grandkids played with.
I looked around the room, amazed that this one little item remained hidden after all of the furnishings were gone. The house I grew up in was nearly ready for market, mostly empty of content but not of memories. After days helping clean and polish the house, I found myself saying goodbye. Yet here, some 52 years after first setting foot in this place, the house was saying something to me as well.
The Indian figurine was the second surprise of the day as I made my way around my parents’ home. A few minutes before, I noticed some crumpled salmon-colored construction paper jammed into the corner of a cupboard beneath the basement bar. I figured it was a random scrap that should be out in the trash. But as soon as I picked it up, I realized it was anything but. It was a play program from Mauston High School’s January 1950 production of The Atomic Blonde, a play my father starred in. As I carefully opened the brittle paper, I recognized my Grandmother Ruby’s handwriting across the top of the first inside page: “Jan. 6 – 1950.”
This sure was a treat. The Atomic Blonde, the program read, “takes place in the lobby of Bob Nickerson’s and Skid Weiling’s hotel and and healthitorium in Silver Springs, a summer resort town in the mid-west.” On the other inside page was the cast listing for the play, “presented by the junior class of 1950.” Dad played Skid Weiling, one of the main characters. I recognized many of the cast names from when I helped Dad design a program for his 55th high school reunion in 2006. Mary Crandall, Carol Quamme, Roger Quick, Robert “Jigger” Jagoe, Clayton “Ty” Fiene, Bob Beck and others.
I dug around in my news clippings and found an article, “Atomic Blonde Scores Hit Here,” from the January 12, 1950 issue of The Mauston Star. That article made the play sound more interesting: “Take a couple of love-sick guys, one of their pals masquerading as a blonde glamour gal, a headless ghost, a gigolo or two, an ambitious mother and several lovely gals and stir them into a broken-down resort hotel warmed by a steam bath.” Pretty spicy stuff for 1950. The paper was effusive in its praise of the student actors. “Heading the cast were Dave Hanneman and Pat Dougherty, who were well chosen and able in their resort-operator roles.”
It appeared that my late father, who died in April 2007, was here in this empty house, reminding me there are still memories to be preserved and celebrated. So, as I did years ago when I said goodbye to my own home,I walked the three levels and tried to unearth as much as I could from 52 years of memories.
The Hanneman house was built and then occupied in 1965. It was one of the first homes in the Royal Oaks subdivision of Sun Prairie. And royal the oaks were, with 17 of them towering over the rear of the half-acre property. The house’s blueprints came from Better Homes & Gardens magazine and its signature home design for 1965. While the house was under construction, we lived in a rented home on Lake Wisconsin in Columbia County. Dad made frequent stops at the house and often found things on site not to his liking. One day he was so disgusted by the builder’s sloppiness, he redid an entire window frame. Dad complained for many years that the builder messed up the plans. One room was too big and another too small. We couldn’t tell the difference, but Dad was very exacting.
Over the years, many hundreds of people came and went through the front door, including grandparents, neighbors, school friends, card buddies, bridge club members, foster children, cousins, a couple of reigning Misses Wisconsin, doctors and, in later years, paramedics. I won’t describe here about the events surrounding Dad’s lung cancer and death, since I wrote about that extensively in my book The Journey Home.
I was now standing in the family room, which was the heart of group activity. On one side I could see my Grandpa Carl, rocking in the mahogany recliner. On this day, he looked rather sad. It was probably 1978, not long removed from the July 1977 death of Grandma Ruby. Many a Friday we drove from Sun Prairie to Mauston to bring Grandpa back for a visit. He was so sad and lonely after losing his wife of 52 years. It always started the same way. One of us would pick up the phone on a Friday afternoon and hear a long pause before Grandpa burst into tears. He couldn’t even get the words out. “It’s OK Grandpa, we’ll come get you! Don’t be sad!” I still get a lump in my throat thinking about it. A few of those calls took on serious urgency, like the time Grandpa said he was laying on the floor and could not get up or walk. Dad quickly drove to Mauston to retrieve him, discovering Grandpa had a case of gout that needed attention. Our home became a haven for Grandpa Carl up until he fell to liver cancer in 1982.
A few feet away stands the white-brick fireplace with double mantle. What a treat it was when Dad would bring some firewood from the woodpile out back and build a roaring fire. We would lay in front of it, propping our bare feet on the lower mantle and toasting our toes. Each kid jockeyed for position to get the best “seat” for the fire. I noticed the upper mantle was decorated with greens for Christmas, interspersed with fake fruit covered in glitter. I can still see the Christmas stockings. Most of them were not hung but set on the lower mantle due to the weight of the oranges and apples always at the bottom of each. The fireplace became a critical asset one spring week in the 1970s when a massive ice storm hit Dane County. We had no heat or power for three days. Dad was gone on business and could not get back due to the icy weather. Mom kept things going. The experience was surreal, especially the creepy groans and creaks the tree branches made under weight of the ice. Then came cracks like thunder just before branches fell to the ground. We used the fireplace for heat. We took turns bailing out the basement sump pump to prevent the house from flooding.
The television set always stood under the bookcase to the left of the fireplace. I vividly recall watching one of the Apollo moon landings with the Greens, our next-door neighbors. Way back then, the television was a black-and-white console with vacuum tubes that glowed in the back of the cabinet. The TV had to “warm up” before it showed a picture. Every so often, repairman Phil Wedige came over to replace a tube or some other part. We watched countless hours of programs as a family. Among the most memorable were “Jesus of Nazareth,” the “Roots” miniseries and the four-part “Holocaust” miniseries recounting the Shoah. Dad loved his Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne westerns, and we all enjoyed Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider.
Televised Green Bay Packers games were always memorable, even when the Packers were forgettable. The kids sat on the floor and the adults had the real seats for the Sunday spectacle. Our usual guests for the games were Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Behrend. Dr. Joe was our family physician. I remember more groans of pain from him and Dad during those games than I ever heard at the medical clinic he founded in Sun Prairie. I was too young to really remember the Lombardi glory years, but I sure remember the painful seasons under Dan Devine, Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg and Lindy Infante. It wasn’t until 1992 that the Pack really was back, and those sad little bumper stickers we put on the car finally meant something.
A Love of Reading
A couch once stood in various places in the family room. We went through several couches over the years, from one with solid green upholstery to a truly gaudy scotch plaid number that made up for its appearance with comfort and extra length. I recall Mom reading to me from toddler age on. Even busy with five kids, she found time to read to each of us. My favorites included “Harry the Dirty Dog,” by Gene Zion. “Harry was a
white dog with black spots who liked everything … except getting a bath,” the story went. Then there was “Crictor” by Tomi Ungerer, a story about an old lady and her boa constrictor. Perhaps my favorite, though, was “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman. The charming illustrations in this book (edited by Dr. Seuss) captured my imagination. They detailed in colored pencil the adventure of a baby bird who fell out of the nest and went on a grand search for his mother. Mom read these books countless times. I never tired of the stories.
When the house was first built, it had a back patio under roof with posts that supported the overhang. Eventually, Dad framed it in and installed screen panels. That was a luxury, having a screened-in porch. It was quite a treat to dine al fresco, without Wisconsin’s state bird (the mosquito) interfering. My most vivid memory of the screened porch came in July 1975, when we hosted a reception for Grandpa Carl and Grandma Ruby for their 50th wedding anniversary. Grandpa wore a dark blue blazer, crisp white dress shirt and silver-blue patterned tie. Grandma wore a pearlescent seafoam green dress. Her corsage was a lily; his was a yellow rose. I stood at the entrance to the back porch and noticed how the late afternoon sun cast itself warmly across the happy faces of people no longer with us, such as Uncle Wilbert, the “rock hound,” and my dear Aunt Lavonne, who was taken from us just 11 years later at age 48.
The kitchen of course held a special place in our hearts. As I walked in on this day, I saw Grandma Mulqueen, Mom’s mother. For some reason, we never called her by her beautiful given name, Margaret Madonna. She was just Grandma Mulqueen. She rode the Greyhound bus from Cudahy to Sun Prairie to spend a few days. Her visits meant fresh bread and cinnamon rolls; her own secret recipe. She and Mom mixed up huge batches of dough in a green plastic tub, then tucked it away under the sink, where heat from the dishwasher and water pipes helped the dough to rise. Of course we couldn’t resist pulling back the dish towel that covered the green tub and taking a pinch of dough. “Don’t touch that bread or it will never rise!” came the admonition from another room. Too late.
I sat in Grandma Mulqueen’s lap and she told stories. About what I don’t recall, but I do remember her voice was kind and soothing. We begged her to make us a big pot of oatmeal, acting like Mom never fed us. At night, after Grandma retired to her guest room, we peeked into the bathroom to see if her dentures were sitting in a glass of water. They always were. We always looked. It was always gross. Such memories!
The kitchen was also the main spot for playing board games and cards. It was the site of many bitter losses in Monopoly. Bitter for us children, who were almost always bankrupted by landowner Dad. Usually you could tell the game was nearing an end when Dad said to one of us, “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.” This was usually followed by confiscation of property, and for some players like my sisters Marghi and Amy, occasional tears. Dad laughed, but not in a mean way. It was more of an “evil but loving” thing. He was competitive like that.
Other games that graced the kitchen table included cribbage (which I regret never learning), poker and dirty clubs. It was the latter card game that was responsible for some epic battles. One night, Grandpa Carl got especially upset, slammed his cards on the table and stormed away. He then uttered words that will forever live in Hanneman lore: “Baby bullcrap! I’m walking home!” If Grandpa Carl lost that game, it was a rare letdown for the veteran card shark. He was every bit as competitive as Dad. One night in high school, I sat at that table until midnight and took an unparalleled pounding at dirty clubs. When the smoke cleared, it was Carl with 80 wins, Joe with 1. One. Win. Every time he won, Grandpa patted my hand, giggled and said, “I’m so sorry.” Ha. He enjoyed every one of those 80 wins.
Back to Nature
One of the great features of our home was the huge backyard. At one time, there were 17 huge oak trees creating a dense canopy. It’s down to about six now. When I was a preschooler, I hauled my bedroom pillow down into the yard, lay in the grass and just looked up. The giant limbs swayed in the breeze, only occasionally letting a ray of sunlight pierce the cover to reach the ground. The high canopy provided a test to us budding athletes, too. If one of us could punt a football high enough to hit one of those high limbs, an offer from the Green Bay Packers was sure to await us. I’m still waiting.
In the early days before neighboring houses were built, my brother David and I liked to make our own “snow” in the back woods. We rubbed Styrofoam on the bark of the oak trees. One time we got bawled out by some nosy lady who happened upon us. She yelled that we were going to kill the trees. Pah! Never happened. On one side of the lawn near the house, Dad built an incredible rock patio out of sandstone. It included a horseshoe-shape wall and a patio surface that was probably 10-by-20 feet. The borders between the rocks were filled with tiny pebbles, which we were forbidden to mess with. Of course we did, although quickly discovering the unpleasant duty of sweeping them back into place.
During at least a few winters, Dad poured an ice surface in the back yard. It wasn’t as smooth as the local ice rink, but heck, who else could say they had a skatable ice sheet in the back yard? In the fall, we all worked to rake up what seemed like millions of oak leaves. We never had a fancy lawn vacuum like some of the neighbors. So it was a bamboo rake, blisters and arm aches for all. Our efforts created a leaf mountain that we all jumped in, which at least partially made up for the pain of raking. The video below shows my firstborn child, Stevie, romping in the leaves on a 1990s fall afternoon at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, along with Bailey the golden retriever. Aunt Marghi was behind the camera.
Back inside the house, I continued my tour with the dining and living rooms. We usually were not allowed in either unless it was a special occasion like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Thanksgiving was a big deal in our house. I recounted in my book The Journey Homehow exacting Dad was in preparing for and then carving the turkey. Those celebrations changed over the years as grandparents left us and grandchildren appeared on the scene. Eventually, the dining spread spilled onto several tables, with the grandkids assigned to the card tables. I never felt so adult as when I carved the turkey one of the first years after Dad’s death. It just wasn’t the same. The large group in a smallish space created lots of chaos, noise and stress. One of the last years we had a large Thanksgiving gathering around that table, Mom’s nerves were a bit frayed. During a particularly loud time during the meal, she snapped at my youngest daughter, Ruby, “Would you shut up and eat your dinner?” Whoa. Poor Ruby looked around the table in stunned silence, since she hadn’t said a peep.
Christmas was another chaos-inducing holiday at the Hanneman home. Everybody talked at the same time, which is evident on the video below from December 1994. When we were little, my parents made sure we had lots of things to open. I don’t know how they did it, especially when money was tight. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was a die-cast metal Batmobile with a missile launcher. It actually shot tiny plastic missiles off the back. Perhaps the most lasting, beautiful gift was an art print by Wisconsin wildlife artist Owen Gromme, which Dad exquisitely framed and signed on the back. When my son Stevie was 11 months old, my brother David taught him a disgusting skill on Christmas Day. Grandpa Dave walked in to the bathroom to discover Stevie flushing toilet paper and splashing in the water. “Don’t teach him that,” grandpa boomed. Watch below and chuckle.
Back in the 1970s, Mom and Dad decided to turn the basement into a rec room. About two-thirds of the basement was covered with a commercial-grade red carpet. Dad put wallpaper on the east wall. The pattern showed chess pieces on a board. That was OK, but the way it hung on the wall made the whole wall appear to be tilted. Even though the paper was hung with total precision. I know this bothered Dad to no end.
The centerpiece of the basement was always the pool table. I don’t know where he got it, but Dad in the 1960s put in a gorgeous full-size billiards table from the Sydney Laner & Co. of Chicago. Sydney Laner established his billiards firm in 1918. It operated in Chicago until 2010. Dad carefully laid the huge slate on the supporting beams of the table, then leveled the entire table using playing cards as shims to ensure every area of the playing surface was level. Even after 50 years, the green felt has no wear marks, and the cushions have just as much pop as the day they were installed.
As was the case with cards, action on the pool table was dominated by Dad and Grandpa Carl. Both wielded the cue stick with power and precision. There was nothing like the sharp cracking sound when the cue ball hit the racked pool balls to open each game. I learned all I know about pool from them: how to line up a shot, figure angles on the bumpers, properly chalk the cue tip, etc. My skill never rose to the level of our resident pool sharks, but it was so fun to play against them. I’ve not played pool in many years. I have fond memories of my own children playing “rollin’ bowling” with the pool balls. I will miss that table.
During the early years, the basement frequently got rainwater and an occasional sewer backup. Dad got into an epic battle with Sun Prairie city hall over the drainage for the entire subdivision. One backup was awful. It burped brown sludge 3-4 inches deep across the entire basement. This was just after the new carpet was installed. Outfitted in rubber boots, gloves and masks, we used shop vacs to slurp up the mess. We each got a 2-by-4 to squeegee the filth from the carpet. Dad used Nolvasan, a surgical scrub, to help disinfect the entire basement. What a horrid mess. I vaguely recall there was litigation over the sewer backup.
Eventually, Dad contacted NBC 15 television about the drainage controversy. They sent Bob Richards, the ‘Contact 15’ consumer affairs reporter, to city hall to cover hearings on the issue. Dad, a former Sun Prairie alderman, was interviewed on TV. The publicity helped pressure the city to put in new drainage pipes and tiles at Main Street and Thompson Road. Ultimately that solved the issue for the entire subdivision. I was so impressed with the TV reporter, I went to watch him in the studio during a 6 p.m. newscast. It was a major influence in my decision to become a journalist.
The final memory I have of the basement was of the beautiful stained-glass windows that stood hidden across from the furnace for decades. Dad obtained them from St. Mary’s Hospital as the hospital demolished its old chapel in 1973. The two tall windows included four sections. When Dad was being treated for lung cancer at St. Mary’s in November 2006, he got the idea to donate the windows back to the hospital. It was providential timing, since St. Mary’s was in the midst of a $182 million expansion. The hospital not only accepted the donation, it asked the architects to incorporate the windows into the new hospital wing. Today, there are four waiting areas at St. Mary’s graced by the windows, backlit with beautiful dramatic effect. “I want these windows to come home to St. Mary’s,” Dad said at the time. And so they did. You can read more about the windows in The Journey Home and on the Hanneman Archive website.
I walked the house a final time, impressed by how many memories flooded back to me. They could fill a book. This home has ably done its duty for more than five decades. The man of the house has gone back to God, and Mom needs the sale proceeds to ensure good ongoing healthcare. How do you say goodbye to such a special place? I thought I accomplished that by quietly pulling shut the door into the garage. On second thought, no goodbyes. Only memories, written here and displayed in the photo gallery below. My hope for this place is it takes such good care of another family for many decades to come.