It was one of those days that heightens the senses, tests emotions and really brings home the meaning, beauty and challenges of life. The first day of school in Racine was arguably like countless other August days in Wisconsin. Except this time it was my 6-year-old son Stevie heading off to a new life.
Much to my surprise, it was I who felt the impact. And ironically, I was the one who learned the most that warm August day.
While I had worked all summer to prepare Stevie for what it would be like to start first grade, I wasn’t ready for how it would affect me. I’d never thought much about it, frankly. Why should it be any different than kindergarten, or day care? But by the end of this hallmark day, I came to realize many things, not the least of which was just how much I love and admire my children and my wife.
As I watched Stevie get dressed for his first day of first grade at Racine Montessori School, he seemed to grow up right there before my eyes. His nervous look as he slung his backpack over his shoulders and walked to the car stirred old feelings in me, memories of stiff new outfits, hairspray and early morning front-porch pictures. As we drove the 5 miles to school and chatted about what first grade would be like, I saw myself in the back seat. Only braver. Still shy, but more sure.
Things were changing this day. Big things.
I walked Stevie to his new classroom and watched him put his lunchbox on the hall shelf. I felt proud of him. But I was nervous because I knew he was about to pass into a new phase of his life. I stood in the comer of the polished hardwood floor as his new teacher showed him his school supplies and sat at the table explaining the new routine. He looked apprehensive — just how I felt. But he was OK. I gave him a quick hug and kissed the top of his head, just like I’ve always done. I wanted to cry. I wanted to take him back home, roll back time and replay our years together. Iwanted to once again play blocks, to have him crawl on my back, or run to me when I got home from work, shouting, “Daddy!”
Instead I stood in the doorway of this magnificent old brick schoolhouse and watched as the teacher’s aide snapped Stevie’s picture. More kids entered the room. A new school year. Time to go, Dad. It’s OK. We’ve got many more milestones ahead.
Until my dying day I will not forget that scene, a picture of my little boy sitting at that little table in a big place. It’s burned into my memory like a favorite page in a scrapbook, only this page is marked with a teardrop.
As I drove back home, I listened to Elton John sing, “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” on the radio and laughed. Too late. I realized our baby was on his way in life, a journey that would take him through science camps and football games, sleepovers, Boy Scouts and someday, dating. It had never hit me like this before. He’d be home by 4, still my boy. But older. Taller. More handsome.
He’s growing up. Didn’t I see it before? Never like today.
This was quickly becoming a day of epiphany for me. I got home and our 2-year-old, Samantha, ran to give me a hug with her enthusiastic shout, “Dada!” I realized more than ever how much I loved being father, a Dad. I treasured the morning, as Sam and I read books and played Dolly House. “Don’t read your paper, Dada,” she said. Okay, honey. Okay. Let’s read your books. Let’s play horsey. Let’s just sit. One day when I walk you to first grade I’ll stand in the doorway and remember today. And I’ll smile because I was here. I experienced it — and I appreciate it.
After Samantha and my wife Sue left to run some errands, I had more time to think. Clear and vivid thoughts. Almost revelations. Surely I knew all of these things before, but God chose today for me to really see them.
As I looked out our front bay window at the perfect blue sky and sunshine, I felt in my heart how blessed I am. I thought how much I admired Sue. The night before she and Stevie set up orange cones in the back yard and practiced soccer kicks for his upcoming foray into youth soccer. She’djust spent three hours in a clinic for new volunteer coaches for Stevie’s new team, the Bears. No hesitation for her. She and the other would-be coaches waddled around the practice field with soccer balls stuck between their legs, learning creative coaching techniques. I need to take on more things like that with such enthusiasm and energy. I draw strength from her.
I folded laundry, did some work on the computer and listened to CDs. Now James Taylor was singing to me, but this time I didn’t laugh. I listened to the soothing vocals:
Only for a minute, to find yourself in it, to wait by the stream, to drop out of your dream. Look on up, look up from your life. Look up from your life.
I keep hearing the song. I think it’s telling me something, especially on this day.
When Stevie got home from school, he looked different— and I felt different. He excitedly told me about volcanoes and melting ice and magic potion and Frisbee golf. Wow. Keep telling me, buddy. I’m here. I’m listening. All the while, Samantha sat on my lap, chiming in, “I go to school too, Dada. I do that, too.”
We ate ice cream sundaes and celebrated our momentous day. I was certain that I was the one who learned the most that day. For not since Samantha’s birth two years prior or Stevie’s in 1992 have I felt like this. The world stood still for just a moment. Just long enough for me to step off, step back and look.
While I saw many things I see every day, I thank God because on this day, I saw many, many things that I don’t. •
(This article was written in August 1998 with my intention of submitting it to my former employer, the Racine Journal Times. That didn’t happen, and I forgot about it until 22 years later, as I was digitizing some old journals found in the garage. Quite a find, indeed.)
As I pulled my car into the darkened Sacred Hearts cemetery earlier this week, I noticed something remarkable. The cemetery was dotted by lights, even in the depths of winter darkness. So I felt right at home, as I had come to place a candle at the grave of my mother, Mary K. Hanneman.
Mom left us at 11:49 p.m. on Dec. 26, 2018. That moment remains forever suspended in time for me. Her final moment reminded me in many ways of the birth of my three children. As soon as they entered the world, there was a moment before the first breath; a moment of anticipation. Time stopped and eternity intervened. This was so similar for the end of Mom’s life. With her last breath drawn and exhaled, there was also tremendous anticipation. Time stopped. Only I didn’t get to see her first moment in eternity. Although I knew it by faith.
Mom was a woman of great Catholic faith. She always arrived early at Saturday 5 p.m. Mass at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church in order to pray the Rosary. She was always in touch with her prayer life. On any occasions that one of us needed extra prayers, Mom was on the phone to the good sisters at the Sacred Hearts convent. Much grace flowed from those prayers — great examples of persevering faith. In her final weeks and days, Mom knew where she was going. The night she died she sat up in bed and looked off into the distance with a look of wonderment. She knew. She saw.
We waited more than an hour at the beginning of a new day for her death to be officially declared. That could not be done until a hospice nurse arrived to check for a pulse. After she recorded the legal time of death (as inaccurate as it was), the nurse related some of her experiences at the bedsides of dying patients. She talked of the bodies of the recently deceased giving off smells. At first I thought of something unpleasant, but she quickly clarified these were good scents, like roses.
As I pondered that notion, I looked around Mom’s small room at the Brookdale care center. I felt for a moment like someone unseen walked past me. I smelled a scent that I cannot accurately describe. It was not roses, or flowers at all. It was the most pure, clean scent I ever experienced. The closest descriptor would be a citrus smell. I looked around the room and in the hall to see if someone was using a cleaning chemical. Nothing. Then it was gone. I remarked to the nurse about it. “Did you smell that?” I said. I tried to describe it. “You see!” she replied. Then just as quickly as it left, the scent returned. It was powerful and amazingly present. I felt there was something well beyond a mere olfactory manifestation at work. What is that?
After perhaps five minutes of this scent permeating the room, it disappeared. Gone with no lingering trace. I was quite struck by it all; unsure if I had imagined it. Over the coming days and weeks, I pondered the experience. Could the presence of angels leave a heavenly scent behind? I’d often read about the bodies of saints giving off what is called the odor of sanctity, but this was typically a floral smell. I searched the internet, but could not find anything that described what happened in Mom’s room that night.
I turned to my friend Steve Ray, a Catholic filmmaker, author and great teacher of the faith. He did not hesitate. “God gives graces to those who love him,” he wrote. “It seems like a great grace was bestowed on you in the death of both of your parents.”
Steve recalled my description of my Dad’s death in my 2010 book, The Journey Home.How even after Dad died and was silent, he returned long enough to mouth the word “love” three times. I never thought I would have another experience so profound. Until Mom left us. It was so very different, but just as impactful. Mom’s final gift.
It took me a full year to be able to write about it. I knew it would be impossible to accurately describe what happened. What words could convey the depth of what I experienced? Surely writing about it would be almost a disservice, since words on a computer screen simply would not suffice. But it seems a gift like that should be shared, so I do my best in writing this post.
I thought about all of this as I placed the battery-powered candle at the graveside. I asked Mom and Dad to pray for me and my family. I looked around the darkened cemetery again and was impressed with the flickering of candles and the glow of lighted wreaths at the graves of dozens of souls. “Look at all of these lights in the world, still with us,” I thought. As I walked back to my car, I said a prayer of thanks for the lives of everyone buried there, amid my hope they are all with Christ in Heaven.
Just before I pulled away, I turned back to look at Mom and Dad’s headstone.
It was just a little light, but how it overcame the darkness. •
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.
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!
Video can convey meaning in a story unlike just about anything. Which is why I created a memorial video dedicated to my late mother for use at the visitation back on Jan. 5, 2019. I’ve done three of these previously and found them to be very cathartic.
One of the opening images of this video, showing Mom as a toddler in a snowsuit, was a gift from Mom. We found the photograph in her nightstand about an hour after she died. It is the first image I’ve seen of her younger than 16.
“Memories are time that you borrow, to spend when you get to tomorrow.”
“…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.
When one of my sisters first showed me this photograph, I knew it was a major discovery. We know the occasion (Mom and Dad’s engagement party) and the time frame (June 1958). The task ahead is to identify every one of the 26 people in the photo. After discovering the medium-format negative, I scanned the photo larger to aid with identifications.
David D. Hanneman and Mary K. Mulqueen were married on August 9, 1958 at St. Veronica Catholic Church in Milwaukee. About two months prior, an engagement party was held in their honor. I’m not fully sure of the location, but it could be at the Cudahy home of my grandparents, Earl J. Mulqueen Sr. and Margaret (Dailey) Mulqueen.
We’ve made pretty good headway on photo identifications with the help of the then-bride-to-be and her sisters. The result so far? Of 26 people, only two remain unidentified, with one additional identification being tentative. View the full-size version of the photo here.
Since this post was first published, readers have identified several more people in the photograph. Elaine Hanneman reports that No. 2 is Bob Ripp, No. 24 is his wife, Marjean, and No. 4 is Ruby Curtis. At this party, Donn G. Hanneman and Tinker Mulqueen recognized each other from serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Elaine said.
Lois (Detlaff) Mulqueen (Identified by Jean Mulqueen Maule)
Bob Ripp (identified by Elaine Hanneman), 1927-2016
Vina M. (Tucker) Seely (1919-2008)
Ruby Curtis (identified by Elaine Hanneman)
Donn G. Hanneman (1926-2014)
Elaine M. (Kline) Hanneman
Ruby V. (Treutel) Hanneman (1904-1977)
Margaret M. (Dailey) Mulqueen (1895-1982)
Ruth (Cieszynski) Mulqueen (1926-2008)
Mary K. Mulqueen (1932-2018)
David D. Hanneman (1933-2007)
Eleanor (Deutsch) Mulqueen (1929-1963)
Donald J. Dailey (1935-2009)
Thomas H. Dailey (1904-1983)
Joan (Mulqueen) Haske
Friend of Joan (Mulqueen) Haske
Earl J. Mulqueen Jr. (1923-1980)
Tinker Mulqueen (1926-2007)
Joseph A. Mulqueen (1944-2015)
Edward J. Mulqueen (1931-1991)
Marie A. Mulqueen (1925-2010)
Lavonne (Hanneman) Wellman (1937-1986)
Marjean Ripp (identified by Elaine Hanneman), 1933-2004
Florence (White) Dailey (1869-1966)
James Grattan Seely (1916-1990)
If you recognize any of the unknowns, leave a comment below so we can update this post.