Category Archives: General History

Traditional Priest’s 1998 Murder Moves Closer to Solution

Police Issue New Appeal; Killer Might Have Died

Catholic World Report Series:
Inside the Life and Murder of Father Alfred J. Kunz

PART ONE

“Man’s days are like those of grass; like a flower of the field he blooms; the wind sweeps over him and he is gone, and his place knows him no more.”

—Psalm 103:15, from the St. Michael church bulletin, Feb. 22, 1998

By Joseph M. Hanneman
MADISON, Wis. — Sheriff’s investigators are exploring the possibility that the man who brutally murdered Father Alfred J. Kunz in March 1998 is dead, and they are urging the public to come forward with tips and clues needed to break the case and solve one of the most vexing killings in Wisconsin histor

After a 20-year investigation involving more than 50 detectives and thousands of interviews, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office has “multiple” persons of interest in the murder of the traditionalist Catholic priest. Dane County Sheriff David J. Mahoney said investigators believe it’s possible the killer himself is dead. This has added urgency to law enforcement appeals for the public to come forward with more information.

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Father Alfred J. Kunz celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Michael Catholic Church in Dane, Wis. (Photo courtesy of Mark Nelson)

“We have to look at the possibility that the person responsible, or others who might have been aware, are dead,” Mahoney said in an interview with Catholic World Report. “If that’s the case, we’ll never solve it unless somebody comes forth with evidence.”

Father Kunz, 67, was found with his throat slashed on the morning of March 4, 1998, in a hallway of St. Michael School in the rural enclave of Dane, about 15 miles northwest of Madison. He died from blood loss suffered when his carotid artery was cut during a brief but ferocious struggle with his killer. The massive murder investigation is the most extensive in Dane County history, but has yet to yield an arrest or assignment of blame.

“Where we’re at today, we have multiple people of interest, where 12 years ago we were concentrating our efforts on one individual,” Mahoney said in an extensive interview at the Dane County Public Safety Building. “We have multiple individuals who we would consider to be persons of interest, who either have motive or had a pattern of practices, maybe in the area of burglaries. We’ve looked at this as a crime of passion, we’ve looked at this as being a crime of opportunity — a burglary that was interrupted.”

New leads developed in the case over the past year have expanded the list of persons of interest. This development comes as one of the early persons of interest, a former St. Michael teacher who found Kunz’s body, has now been cleared of involvement in the crime. Mahoney wants members of the public who might have information to take a fresh look at memories from 1998 and in the years after. Investigators are hoping someone comes forward with information that can tip the case to a solution.

“Over the years, some of our witnesses and people with knowledge have died, and with them goes the information,” Mahoney said. “That’s one of the reasons we pushed more information out on the 20th anniversary. If there were family members of people who passed (away), or friends or associates or even somebody who heard something, we want to try to try to bring them out into the open at this point. Before we lose more people.”

Father Kunz was a sign of contradiction; a tradition-minded priest in the shadow of the liberal state capital. He was a 20th century fidei defensor, upholding Catholic teachings amid a sea of post-Vatican-II modernism. He preached the truth, no matter how unpopular. A sharp critic of homosexual corruption in the Church, he worked at the highest levels to expose priestly pederasty in rectories and chanceries. He saw the coming storm of sexual-abuse allegations that would swamp the Church years later and lead to more than $3.3 billion in victim settlements and attorney fees in the United States alone. “You will find no justice in the Church today,” he told a friend not long before his death. He worried the pederasty scandals would destroy the diocesan priesthood.

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St. Michael School as it appeared on March 4, 1998. (Dane County Sheriff’s Office Photo)

His celebration of the Usus Antiquior, or the Traditional Latin Mass, drew congregants from three states. Even though he also celebrated the Novus Ordo Mass, some locals left for other churches. Kunz had a soft pastoral touch and a generous heart. He fixed up old cars and provided them to his cash-strapped teachers. He took no salary. His sister sent him boxes of socks when his became worn. He ran successful fish-fry fundraising dinners to support his parish and school. A typical day for Kunz started at 5:30 a.m. and didn’t end until well after midnight. In between, he was a whirlwind of activity at church, in school, at diocesan offices in Madison, at hospitals and among his parishioners. His sudden, violent death left a trail of tears that still flows 20 years later.

Kunz was last seen alive about 10 p.m. on March 3, 1998, when his friend, Father Charles C. Fiore, dropped him off at St. Michael’s. The pair just took part in a recording session in Monroe for the “Our Catholic Family” radio program that aired on Sunday mornings across southern Wisconsin. Kunz fixed himself some dinner at the rectory and spoke by phone with another priest at 10:23 p.m. He then retired to his sparse one-room office that doubled as living quarters in the adjacent school. Police believe Kunz encountered his killer shortly after. His body was found the next morning, face down in a pool of blood at the foot of a statue of St. Michael the Archangel. Kunz was barefoot, dressed in dark slacks and a white T-shirt.

There were no signs of forced entry, so the killer gained access without leaving evidence behind, had a key or was let in by Father Kunz. Police said the attack was sudden and unexpected. Kunz, a Golden Gloves boxer in his youth, put up quite a fight and might have gained the upper hand on the suspect before being knocked to his knees by a blow from a weapon, Mahoney said. His throat was then cut with some kind of sharp-edge instrument, severing the artery that carries blood to the brain. No weapons were recovered.

Police believe the killer was a man, who might have been familiar with Kunz and St. Michael parish. While an FBI profile suggested the killer might have had an argument or altercation with Kunz in the 72 hours before the murder, Mahoney said it is possible the priest simply interrupted a burglary. The killer was likely shocked by the amount of blood that flowed when he cut Kunz’s throat. When he escaped from the school, the murderer was covered in blood and bearing noticeable injuries to his face, Mahoney said. Based on the wounds on Kunz’s hands, police believe the priest landed serious blows to the head of his attacker. An autopsy photo released by the sheriff’s office in 2018 shows Kunz’s right hand with major bruising along the index finger, bruises on three of the four knuckles and several small puncture-type wounds across the back of the hand.

“Father Kunz did engage physically with his murderer,” Mahoney said. “We believe whomever was in fact involved probably had some significant facial injuries and probably was visibly injured.” The assailant would have “looked like he had been beaten up,” Mahoney said. “Father Kunz had hand injuries. He knew how to land a punch.”

Profilers said the killer did not go to St. Michael’s that night intending to kill Kunz. Investigators believe the killer felt regret afterward. He went home with clothing soaked in blood that he would seek to wash or destroy. Family or friends would have noticed facial injuries. The suspect might have missed work the next day. The killer could have used a favorite hunting knife, box cutter or other instrument that he then discarded. Friends or co-workers could have noticed he no longer carried the cutting instrument and that he had a story for what happened to it. In the weeks, months and years afterward, the person could have had mental health issues, or struggled with alcohol abuse, police said.

Could something as simple as a burglary be the answer in this case? Kunz’s office was burglarized in 1994. The priest’s late-night routine was predictable, a fact that could be crucial if a burglar was watching the property. Kunz was security conscious and the school doors were always locked at night, friends said. Some collection money went missing in the weeks before the murder, police said. It was not unusual for bags of Sunday collection money to sit at the church, undeposited, sometimes for weeks. Large amounts of money had been moved between parish accounts in the months before the murder, and some large checks were cut, police said.

Early in the investigation, detectives questioned two men with ties to Kunz who were involved in burglaries. Jeffrey L. Maas of Pewaukee, Wis., pilfered statues, chalices, candles, books and artifacts from churches in five Wisconsin counties, police said. He was convicted in 1999 of four misdemeanor and five felony counts of theft and receiving stolen property. Robert M. Pulvermacher of Dane was arrested shortly after the Kunz murder and later sentenced to nearly four years in prison for burglary. He escaped from a prison work camp in December 1998. While on the lam, he attacked a local constable and wrestled his gun away, police said. During a massive search of central Wisconsin, a deputy confronted and disarmed Pulvermacher. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison on escape-related charges. Investigators concluded the men were not involved in the priest’s murder. The burglary motive, however, remains an active focus.

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The Father Kunz murder series was the top story at Catholic World Report on Aug. 8, 2018.

The Kunz homicide was the first in the village of Dane since March 1971, when William C. Chambers shot and killed his 22-year-old son, Kenneth D. Chambers, during a long-simmering family feud. The father fired three bullets into the heart, brain and lungs of his son. He was later acquitted of first-degree murder. Kenneth Chambers was a member of St. Michael Catholic Church. Father Kunz officiated at his funeral Mass on March 13, 1971.

Read the rest at Catholic World Report

(Matt C. Abbott contributed to this report. Anyone with information on Father Kunz’s murder should contact the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, (608) 284-6900 or tips@danesheriff.com.)

Procession Brings Body of Fallen Firefighter Home to Sun Prairie

Dozens of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles escorted the body of  fallen Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Cory Barr from the medical examiner’s office to the funeral home late Wednesday.

The 15-year fire department veteran was killed Tuesday evening July 10 when a gas leak set off a massive explosion in the 100 block of West Main Street. The blast leveled several buildings and triggered a five-alarm fire that required mutual assistance from area fire departments. Sections of downtown Sun Prairie were still off limits four days later.

Fire engines, squad cars and rescue vehicles from around southern Wisconsin formed a long memorial procession from McFarland to Sun Prairie. The hearse carrying Barr’s body processed through fire station No. 1 before arriving at the Tuschen-Newcomer Funeral Home. Ladder trucks from the Waunakee and Columbus fire departments formed an arch under which the procession traveled.

The following departments were represented in the procession: Belleville-Exeter-Montrose, Black Earth, Burke-Bristol-Sun Prairie, Cambridge, Columbus, Cottage Grove, Cross Plains-Berry, Deerfield, DeForest, Fitchburg, Footville, Madison, Maple Bluff, Marshall, McFarland, Milwaukee, Monona, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Stoughton, Sun Prairie, Town of Madison, Verona, Waunakee and Wonewoc.

Sun Prairie Tragedy Reminds of Massive 1975 Downtown Fire

The huge explosion and fire that leveled numerous buildings in Sun Prairie on July 10 and 11 reminded me of another massive fire in the same area more than 40 years ago. On March 3, 1975, a fast-moving fire destroyed the Schweiger Walgreen Drug Store and Hillenbrand’s shoe store in the 200 block of East Main Street.

The fire alarm was sounded at 1:51 p.m. that day, bringing 33 firemen from the Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department to the scene. They were shortly joined by another 25 firefighters and trucks from Stoughton, DeForest and Marshall. The fire was discovered in the basement of the Schweiger Walgreen’s store, 214 E. Main St., and quickly spread to the adjacent Hillenbrand’s and apartments above both buildings. It took more than five hours to fully contain the blaze. The last crews left the scene at around 11 p.m.

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Firefighters battle a blaze at the Schweiger Walgreen Drug Store in Downtown Sun Prairie on March 3, 1975. (Sun Prairie Star-Countryman photo)

Margaret McGonigle, 75, became trapped on the roof of the drug store building when the stairs down from her apartment were blocked by fire. She was rescued by the snorkel truck from the Sun Prairie Fire Department, according to the March 6, 1975 issue of the Sun Prairie Star-Countryman. Mrs. McGonigle was the widow of pharmacist John M. McGonigle, whose family owned and operated McGonigle’s Drug Store for more than 50 years before Robert Schweiger purchased it in 1970. She was also postmaster of Sun Prairie for 38 years before retiring in 1966. John McGonigle died in September 1965.

I distinctly recall going downtown with my father to view the aftermath of the fire. I recall the outriggers on the snorkel truck, and large amounts of road salt around the tires of the fire engines. The pharmacy held special memories for us, since my grandfather, Carl F. Hanneman, was a reserve pharmacist who occasionally worked for McGonigle’s. The Hillenbrand clothing and shoe stores were run by John Hein, a good friend of my parents, and the shoe store was managed by Roger Reichert, also a family friend. Reichert lived above the store and lost all of his belongings in the fire.

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Volunteers move boxes of shoes from the Hillenbrand clothing and shoe store, 206 E. Main St., Sun Prairie. (Sun Prairie Star-Countryman photo)

The state fire marshal investigated the blaze, but was unable to determine a cause. Damage to the structures and contents was estimated by Fire Chief Milton Tester at $200,000. Within a week, Schweiger’s opened in temporary quarters on Bristol Street. The buildings were a total loss and had to be demolished.

“Many fine things have been said about our volunteer firemen before. But last week’s fire had to be one of their finest efforts,” read the “Shavings from the Editor’s Pencil” column in the Star-Countryman. “I spent nearly three hours in that biting cold watching those magnificent, heroic firemen work. Not once did I see anyone so much as flinch at going into a burning building or otherwise approaching a dangerous situation.”

Both the 2018 fire that claimed the life of Capt. Cory Barr and the 1975 fire had one thing in common: a pharmacy. The Barr House tavern at the corner of Bristol and Main streets, owned by Capt. Barr and his wife, once housed the Crosse and Crosse Drug Store, according to the Sun Prairie Public Museum. The building dates to the 1890s.

The Schweiger fire was one of three major blazes in Sun Prairie in 1975. On Aug. 10 that year, fire swept through the Moldrem Furniture store at 13 N. Bird St. in the Bird Street Centre. The fire did about $185,000 damage to the 34-year-old business. The store was a total loss. A backdraft blew two firefighters out the front doors of the store. Retiring assistant fire chief Arnie Kleven described the fire as his most frightening in an August 2017 interview with The Star. Kleven said the doors probably saved his life that day. Wiring in the air conditioning system was cited as the cause of the fire.

In July 1975, shorted wiring sparked a major fire in the garage and offices of Bill Gawne Ford Inc., 425 W. Main St. That fire caused an estimated $85,000 damage.

(This post has been updated with details on the Moldrem and Gawne fires.)

©2018 The Hanneman Archive

Cudahy Marine Corporal Helps Put WWII Bond Drive Over the Top

As 1944 came to a close, Sheboygan County was still short of its nearly $1.2-million goal for sales of Series E war bonds. The captains of industry in that fine Wisconsin county did what America has always done in times of crisis: they called in the U.S. Marines. Although in this case, a lone Marine from Cudahy handled his share of the duties.

In fall 1944, Marine Cpl. Earl J. Mulqueen Jr. was still recovering from the loss of his left leg in the Pacific theater when he was pressed into service promoting war bonds on the home front. The effort was one of the eight national war-bond drives between 1942 and 1945 that raised more than $190 billion. Investors purchased $25 bonds for $18.25. Bonds were redeemable after 10 years.

For the Sheboygan war bond tour, Mulqueen was paired with an Army man from Milwaukee who had been held in a Nazi POW camp. The boys made a whirlwind tour of Sheboygan to explain the importance of supporting the war effort. The county war bond committee placed a full-page advertisement in The Sheboygan Press featuring Mulqueen and Staff Sgt. Azzan C. McKagan, who was held captive for 14 months in Stalag 17B Braunau Gneikendorf near Krems, Austria. “You think you’re making ‘sacrifices’ when you buy an extra ‘E’ war bond?” the headline read. “Look at these two Wisconsin boys and say that!”

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This full-page ad appeared in the Dec. 22, 1944 issue of The Sheboygan Press. Mulqueen is at left.

At a bond rally at Benedict’s Heidelberg Club, Mulqueen talked about his experiences fighting with the 2nd Marine Division on Guadalcanal and Tarawa. He noted the tremendous cost of fighting the war. At the U.S. Marine rest camps, he said, no rallies were necessary. The Marines gladly bought their share of war bonds. “The boys at the front are tired — damned tired — we all have to buy bonds to get them home as soon as possible,” he said.

McKagan described being shot down from the ball turret of his B-17 “Hellzapoppin” bomber, and how German civilians beat him after he parachuted to safety. McKagan suffered severe shoulder wounds from anti-aircraft fire. The Gestapo held him for two days and refused to provide medical treatment. He later underwent surgery, but German doctors withheld anesthetic. On Christmas Eve 1943, he was told he would be shot dead the next day for being a saboteur. Instead, he was moved to another POW camp. He was liberated by the Russians in September 1944.

“When I landed on German soil with my right shoulder joint knocked out as a result of flak, the younger German civilians in the vicinity immediately jumped on me and beat me up,” McKagan said. “The civilians that were too old for that sort of thing spit in my face.”

Mulqueen and McKagan appeared at American Hydraulics Inc., The Vollrath Company, Associated Seed Growers, Curt G. Joa Inc., Phoenix Chair Company, Garton Toy Company, Kingsbury Breweries Company, Armour Leather Company, Sheboygan North High School and Sheboygan Central High School.

At the high school rallies, “they were enthusiastically received, as both of the heroes were quite recently high school students,” The Sheboygan Press reported. McKagan attended Rufus King High School in Milwaukee. Mulqueen was a graduate of Pio Nono High School in St. Francis. Mulqueen was too young to enlist and needed written permission from his parents to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

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The Sheboygan war-bond tour received extensive media coverage.

On Dec. 7, 1944, the men appeared at halftime of the professional basketball game between the Sheboygan Redskins and the world champion Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons at the Sheboygan Municipal Auditorium and Armory. Some 3,400 fans gave full attention to the war heroes. “The messages of these young men who have sacrificed their limbs in the fight for victory brought every person in that vast armory to the realization that wholehearted support of the Sixth War Loan drive is the least that civilians on the home front can do to help these young men carry on at the fighting fronts,” read the sports page of The Sheboygan Press.

The rallies had the desired effect, helping put Sheboygan County over its Series E goal, with $1.21 million in bond sales. Overall through December 1944, county residents and businesses purchased nearly $8.6 million in World War II bonds — more than double Sheboygan County’s quota.

Mulqueen was a veteran of war-bond rallies by the time he hit the circuit in Sheboygan, In November 1944, he stood with two of his brothers at Schuster’s Department Store in Milwaukee at a bond rally that helped raise more than $500,000. None of it was easy for Mulqueen. Just six months earlier, he was blown off the deck of a landing ship-tank (LST) at Pearl Harbor in what would come to be known as the West Loch Disaster. The chain-reaction explosion that day killed 163 and wounded nearly 400 as the Marines prepared for the eventual invasion of Saipan.

After the war, Mulqueen returned to Cudahy, married and became father to six children. He had a long, successful career with his brother, Tinker Mulqueen, running Earl’s Automotive in Cudahy. He died of cancer on August 2, 1980.

Even though he was partially disabled, McKagan re-enlisted in the Army in March 1947 and became a small-arms instructor at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. He was awarded the distinguished flying cross for his World War II service. McKagan was killed in an automobile accident in Germany in July 1947.

©2017 The Hanneman Archive

Related: “You Buy the Bonds and the Mulqueens Will Win the War”

Related: Mulqueen’s Donated Knife Makes it to War in the Pacific

 

Will Houdini Break the Bonds of Death?

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

Before super magician Harry Houdini died in a Detroit hospital 61 years ago today, he made a pact with several people that he would try to return from the dead and make his greatest escape.

On his deathbed in 1926, Houdini took his wife’s hand and made her repeat their pact – that the first one to die would try to come back.

They agreed on a message, the name “Rosabelle,” followed by code words spelling out “believe.”

For 10 years, Bess Houdini held seances on Halloween in a desperate  attempt to find her husband.

Detpite one well-publicized “contact,” she gave up in 1936 after many unsuccessful attempts.

The legend of the great escapist has grown over the years as fans and spiritualists have tried time and again to help him accomplish his greatest feat, escaping the bonds of death.

For 61 years, all attempts have failed.

Seeking Coded Message
In the true spirit of Halloween, a group of Houdini experts will gather tonight at a seance table in Los Angeles and again try to contact Houdini, in front of a national television audience.

The syndicated program, “The Search for Houdini,” will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on 141 stations, including WVTV Channel 18 in Milwaukee and WGN Channel 9 in Chicago. William Shatner will host.

At the table tonight will be a pair of Houdini’s handcuffs and a coded message he left his magician colleague, Joseph Dunninger, which will be used as a test if spirit contact is made.

That message includes 10 words circled on a letter written to Houdini from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of “Sherlock Holmes” fame. Ten more code words are on a piece of paper in the pocket of a Houdini expert.

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Like all other attempts before it, the nationally televised seance on Oct. 31, 1987 failed to contact Harry Houdini.

Most people don’t believe it will get that far.

At a seance last year in Appleton, where Houdini grew up, Houdini ap­parently declined the invitation. A “spirit” contacted by seance participants had trouble answering basic Houdini trivia questions.

Houdini experts are skeptical that the master magician will return tonight, but admit if he did come back, a national television audience would be a perfect forum.

“He thought if anybody could make it, he would,” said Henry Muller, owner of the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Canada.

“What we’re willing to do is try,” Muller said in a telephone interview. “I personally don’t think he will make it.”

“If Houdini would want to come back, he would want to come back in a glamorous, spectacular way,” said Sidney Radner, of Holyoke, Mass., who arguably has the largest collection of Houdini’s paraphernalia.

“I’m obviously a skeptic,” said Radner, who before World War II was a protege of Houdini’s brother-magician, Theo Weiss, whose stage name was Hardeen.

“I would like to be around if Houdini or anybody else comes back and can prove it,” he said, also in a telephone interview.

Both Muller and Radner will be at the table at tonight’s seance.

“Like Houdini, I’m ready to be shown,” said Dr. Morris Young, a New York physician who watched Houdini’s performances in the 1920s and has written a book about Houdini.

“A lot of people would like to believe,” Young said. But, “I think we’re going to reach a black hole sooner than that.”

In 1926, Houdini fell ill after a performance in Montreal when a McGill University student punched him in the stomach to test the strength of his muscles.

By the time his tour reached Detroit in late October, peritonitis set in and Houdini’s fate was sealed.

Birthplace Controversy
Born Erich Weiss in 1874, Houdini’s place of birth remains a controversy. Houdini, who took his name from French magician Robert Houdin, claimed his birthplace was Appleton, but some biographers believe he was born in Budapest, Hungary.

Not at anytime since humbug king P.T. Barnum hornswoggled thousands in the mid-1800s had there been such a showman as Houdini.

The larger-than-life master of escape thrilled audiences with derring-do and sleight of hand and body. No pair of handcuffs, no straitjacket, packing crate, coffin or chain could hold Houdini.

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Magician Harry Houdini in an 1899 publicity photo. (Library of Congress)

He accepted challenges from jailers, prisons and packing crate companies. He won every time.

Audiences were amazed as he escaped from the Chinese Water Torture Cell. He spent 90 minutes underwater in a soldered coffin. And he walked through a solid brick wall.

Houdini also spent time disproving those who claimed to make contact with the dead.

He made no friends in the burgeoning spiritualist movement by exposing fraudulent mediums – proving those who claimed to speak for the dead were fakes.

Tonight’s seance, despite the obvious commercial draw, carries on that work.

“In essence, we’re doing exactly what Houdini would do if he were alive,” Radner said.

“In my opinion, by not having him come back, it ought to put doubts in the minds of intelligent people that it can’t be done,” Radner said. “If Houdini can’t do it, why could their Auntie Mae do it?”

And how would Houdini view the continuing attention to his life and death?

“He was the (best) showman that ever lived,” Muller said. “That’s exactly what he would love was the publicity he’s getting – to the point of being immortalized.”

Radner said Houdini’s continued popularity is due to an air of uncertainty and magic.

“Everything about Houdini leaves questions and doubts and wonderment,” Radner said. “This is what makes the mystery so great.” ♦

– This article originally appeared on Page 1 of the October 31, 1987 edition of the Racine Journal Times. View the original newspaper pages.


Postscript: The nationally televised seance failed to make contact with the long-departed Houdini. Sidney Radner died on June 26, 2011 at age 91. In 2004, he sold his 1,000-piece Houdini collection at auction. Henry Muller died on February 28, 2017. He was 86. His Houdini museum operated from 1968 to 1995, and housed many artifacts from Radner’s collection. Dr. Morris Young died on November 13, 2002 at age 93.

Further Reading: “Wild About Harry” Web Site

Further Reading: Houdini: His Life & Art

 

 

Loftus Campaign Hits a Bad Spell

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

Candidates for governor often face tough questions from their opponents and the press, but Thomas Loftus got stumped Tuesday by a third-grader at Johnson Elementary School.

Loftus, the Democratic legislator challenging Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, asked students if they could think of any difficult words he could spell.

“Chrysanthemum,” chimed one student, referring to the flower.

It appeared the Assembly speaker from Sun Prairie regretted ever asking.

He turned to the chalk board and hesitantly wrote, “chrysanthinum.”

Several people in the room shook their heads, indicating Loftus’ version was wrong, but no one offered the correct spelling.

For the record, it’s c-h-r-y-s-a-n-t-h-e-m-u-m.

Loftus, who was in Racine to discuss his plan to reform school financing and cut elementary class sizes, had some other interesting exchanges with the students.

He asked kindergartners what the governor does.

“He tells people stuff,” one boy offered.

“Yeah, he tells people stuff,” Loftus replied, “some of it accurate.”

After speaking with fifth graders for about five minutes, one student raised her hand and said, “I forgot what your name was.”

“Dan Quayle,” Loftus quipped.

He then signed autographs for the students, which helped engrain his name in their minds.

As he left the room, students could be heard saying, “Loftus, Loftus, Tom Loftus.” ♦

– This article originally appeared on Page 1 of the Racine Journal Times on June 6, 1990. View the original newspaper page.

Dachau Stands as a Silent Reminder

Dachau: A Silent Reminder of Nazi Brutality

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

DACHAU, Germany — Forty-six years after it was liberated from Adolf Hitler’s brutal regime, an unsettling quiet hangs over the massive grounds of Germany’s first Nazi concentration camp.

A cool wind rustles through the dead leaves of last season. It whispers what seems to be an audible tale of the cruelty and atrocities committed here between 1933 and 1945.

Village near Munich

The picturesque village of Dachau, a 1,200-year-old community in southern Bavaria, is located only a few miles northeast of Munich. The area has a rich culture of its own, but the world will always associate Dachau with death.

Dachau records show 31,957 registered deaths between 1933 and 1945, but many historians believe the number is much higher. The tally does not include the scores who arrived dead in train cars from other camps.

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Dachau’s ovens are a stark reminder of the tens of thousands of victims who were cremated at the concentration camp. (Photo by Joe Hanneman)

When American soldiers liberated the camp on April 29, 1945, there were bodies all over the camp. A mass grave was established near the camp, where about 4,000 people were buried shortly after liberation.

The concentration camp site, on the northern outskirts of Dachau, has been maintained by the Committee International de Dachau as a permanent memorial and reminder of what happened here.

Directly inside the original electrified barbed wire fence is a museum that opened in 1960. The rest of the site opened as a memorial in 1965.

The museum holds haunting pictures of the torture, starvation and death that were everyday occurrences here. A stunning film was confiscated from German soldiers when the Allies liberated the camp.

In the center of the museum is a heart-rending picture of an emaciated prisoner laying flat on his stomach, arms outstretched, The look on his face seems like a silent cry for help.

Gruesome Pictures

Other pictures show stacks of corpses waiting for incineration at Dachau’s two crematorium buildings, piles of valuables pilfered from prisoners, and two men — hung upside down — being beaten by smiling Nazi SS guards.

There are also depictions of the cruel experiments carried out by the SS, which stands for Schutzstaffel — Hitler’s elite police. Some prisoners were put in special suits to determine how they reacted to depressurization.

An original torture rack stands in the center of one room of the museum.

In a display case hang examples of the identification badges prisoners were forced to wear. Jews wore stars of David. Non-German prisoners wore colored chevrons: green meant professional criminal, black meant “asocial,” violet was for “Bible inquirers,” and pink was for homosexuals.

Outside, the cement foundations of the 34 barracks stretch for hundreds of yards. The barracks were decrepit and rotting when the camp was liberated. They were torn down, but two were rebuilt as part of the memorial.

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The statue of the unknown victim stands right outside the crematorium. (Photo by Joe Hanneman)

Each building was designed for 80 prisoners, yet at the height of the war, some held more than 400.

In the courtyards between the barracks, prisoners once stood for roll call. Sometimes, they stood motionless for hours in rain or snow, the so-called “standing torture” that claimed many lives.

Even the dead had to show up for roll call, dragged by compatriots who were forced to make sure the deceased were counted each day.

Ironic motto

The original front gate still open-, adorned in iron by the camp motto – Arbeit Macht Frei – a cruelly ironic phrase that roughly means, “Work shall make you free.”

Just outside the perimeter fence are the two crematorium buildings that were once so busy that rotting bodies stacked up in a gruesome backlog.

The oven doors stand open. On the hinge of one door hangs a single, drying rose. A wreath hangs on an oven in the adjacent room.

Prisoners who died here were often shot to death. Others died of disease or torture. No one was gassed to death at Dachau, although a shower room for gassing had been installed. Prisoners marked for gassing were sent to Linz, Austria.

Several chapels were erected on the site in the 1960s, as if in an attempt to heal the destruction wrought at the camp. The Carmelite order of nuns built a convent here.

A huge granite memorial near the entrance sums up the reason the camp has been maintained for so long:

“May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom, and in respect for their fellow men.” ♦

– This article originally appeared in the April 28, 1991 issue of the Racine Journal Times. View the original news page.

NewsBits Section Highlights Hidden Family Gems

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.

Gov.-Elect Orland Loomis’ Painting Comes Home Again to Mauston

A beautiful painting of three dogs in an ornate gold frame hung in our family’s living space and commanded attention for more than 50 years. Once belonging to Wisconsin Governor-elect Orland Steen “Spike” Loomis, the painting used to hang in the Mauston home of my grandparents, Carl and Ruby Hanneman. After a journey of 75 years, the painting is back home in Mauston and will hang permanently in the Boorman House Museum run by the Juneau County Historical Society.

The pastel artwork was delivered on Wednesday, August 2 to the museum, accepted by Nancy McCullick, president of the Juneau County Historical Society. It was a gift from the entire Hanneman family, made in memory of Carl and Ruby and their three children: David, my Dad (1933-2007), Donn (1926-2014) and Lavonne (1937-1986). It now hangs over the bookcase in the library of Mauston pioneer Benjamin Boorman. Propped up in a temporary space on Wednesday, the painting already looked at home. Its beauty and historic significance will fit in very well at the Boorman House.

Orland S. Loomis
Orland S. Loomis

The painting was a gift from Orland S. Loomis to Carl Hanneman, given in recognition of Carl’s help getting Loomis elected Wisconsin governor in 1942. It previously hung in Loomis’ law office in Mauston, and in his office in Madison when he was Wisconsin attorney general from 1937 through 1938. Loomis died on December 7, 1942 after suffering a series of heart attacks. He was 49. Loomis was the only Wisconsin governor-elect to die before taking the oath of office. Loomis previously served as Mauston city attorney (1921-1931), a state representative (1929-1930) and state senator from Mauston (1930-1934). Loomis also served as a special prosecutor in the 1930 case of the assassinated Juneau County district attorney, Clinton G. Price.

We’ve chronicled some of the other stories of Carl’s relationship with Loomis, such as the touching 1937 letter he wrote seeking help obtaining a full registered pharmacist license. Carl was in the Loomis home on election night in November 1942, and his photo of the governor-elect on the telephone ran on Page 1 of the The Wisconsin State Journal on November 4, 1942. It was published on Page 1 again on December 8, 1942, the day after Loomis died. Carl’s 1942 news article on reaction to Loomis’ death appeared in a 2014 Wisconsin Public Television “Hometown Stories” documentary.

RubyandCarl
Ruby V. and Carl F. Hanneman lived and worked in Mauston for decades.

The beauty of the painting can be most appreciated when viewed up close. The dogs are at the edge of a wooded area, and appear to be listening to their master’s call. The woods look peaceful and serene. In the right light, the painting takes on incredible depth. It looks as if you could step into it and venture into the woods. That effect was very noticeable in the lighting at the Boorman House. The pastel work was created by an artist named F.M. West. So far we have been unable to learn anything of his or her history. More research will be needed to determine if Loomis commissioned this painting, or if it was a gift from a family friend or a constituent. West was a common surname in Juneau County in the early 20th century.

The painting was the second Hanneman donation to the Juneau County Historical Society since 2007. That year, the family donated a collection of historic photographs, ephemera and memorabilia from the Hannemans’ nearly 50 years in Mauston. The donations are in keeping with David and Mary Hanneman’s long-held practice of giving back to the community, such as the four ornate stained-glass window sections donated to St. Mary’s Hospital in 2006 while Dad was being treated there for lung cancer. In 2017, the family donated Carl F. Hanneman’s pharmacy school papers to Marquette University, where he studied in 1923 and 1924.

The Hannemans moved to Mauston from Wisconsin Rapids in 1936. Carl was the druggist at the Hess Clinic on Division Street until his semi-retirement in the 1960s. He served for 26 years on the Mauston Police and Fire Commission, the Juneau County Fair Board of Directors, the Mauston Chamber of Commerce, and the Solomon Juneau council of the Knights of Columbus. In April 1978, he was honored by the Mauston City Council for his lifetime of service. The state Assembly passed a resolution, authored by Rep. Tommy G. Thompson, honoring Carl for his civic and community service. In 1966, Carl closed the pharmacy early and took the young state Assembly candidate Thompson around Mauston to meet members of the business community. It was a gesture Thompson would never forget, even when he was the longest-serving governor in Wisconsin history.

The David Hannemans moved to Sun Prairie in 1965. Dad was a longtime member of the Sun Prairie City Council and the Dane County Board of Supervisors. He served as mayor of Sun Prairie from 2003 to 2005. Mom taught reading and other subjects for more than 25 years at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic School. In 2007, Dad was posthumously honored by the City of Sun Prairie and the Dane County Board for his service. In November 2006, Gov. Tommy Thompson took time away from a presidential campaign stop to call an ailing Dave at St. Mary’s Hospital. The call brought tears to Dad’s eyes and buoyed his spirits throughout his cancer battle.

– Read more about Loomis’ life in this 1943 resolution from the Wisconsin Legislature

©2017 The Hanneman Archive

 

God Bless America – A Beacon and a Promise

It was just after daybreak on a Saturday when Father M.W. Gibson climbed to the spire of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Racine, Wisconsin. In a bold sign that faith and patriotism go hand in hand, he hoisted an American flag onto the spire, where it waved in the breeze for all to see. It was April 20, 1861 and the War of the Rebellion had just broken out. Father Gibson wanted to remind area Catholics what was at stake in defending the country’s sovereignty.

Later that same day, a crowd of 1,000 people gathered in Racine’s Market Square (now called Monument Square) and marched north across the Root River to St. Patrick’s. They sought to thank Father Gibson for his patriotic statement. Gibson implored the crowd to recall that the country for which their forefathers lived and died was calling to them. The time had come, he said, to answer that call.

BeaconPromise

This true story is from a ceremony I wrote for the Knights of Columbus in 2009 to honor the American flag and those who have died defending it.

“Let us commit to always honor our flag and protect it. Protect it from enemies without – and within – who seek to diminish its honor, lower its stature or desecrate it in protest.”

Those words were used in a ceremony providing a reverent retirement by fire for American flags that were no longer fit for service. On this Independence Day, they also offer a look at how previous generations viewed the United States and the symbol of its freedom. We quoted the stirring words of Father Raymond Mahoney, who as chaplain of the Racine Knights of Columbus penned a poem in May 1920 honoring the American flag:

“Heaven itself is unfurling the flag of the land we love, and I hear Columbia telling her children the story of how the flag came to be”

In the blood that they gave for the cause of right
A thousand true martyrs lay
And the angel that tends on hero souls
Came down at the close of day
To gather them in, and to carry them
Before the Lord of all
Then as over their forms she kindly stooped
Her snow white wings let fall

On the ground that their blood had incarnadined
And it left on them a stain
And she feared that the Master would chide her
When she came to His presence again
Because on those wings once so undefiled
Now glowed that crimson stain

But as she passed on through the evening skies
The souls to her bosom clung
She tore from the skies a bit of the blue
And over her shoulders flung
That azure so deep, that was star begemmed
In thought perhaps it might
When she came to the throne of the Master, hide
The stain of blood from sight

So she lay at his feet those hero souls
And bent low with wings outspread
And he saw that those wings were star sprinkled blue, and white, and bloody red
He asked what it meant, why the wings were stained
In fear the angel said
“Oh, the red is the blood that theses heroes spilled
The blue is Your own fair sky
And with it I have sought to hide the stain
Lest it displease Your eye”

“The stain on your wings,” he answered her
“Is truly a blessed one
And is always the mark of a crimson tide
That for liberty has run

“For it tells of service and sacrifice
Of a life and a death or right
And the blue speaks of hope, the white as truth
Sends forth a welcome light
To gleam for mankind as for travelers beams
The building star of night

“Spread out your wings o’er the universe
That all who behold may see
The flag that speaks of love, truth and hope
The virtues that make men free”

You can watch the entire flag retirement ceremony below.

Read More: Flag Retirement Ceremony Script

Read More: Father Mahoney’s Flag Tribute