Bikers Found Guilty of Murder, Arson & Fraud

This article appeared on Page 3 of the national edition of
The Chicago Tribune on October 25, 1985.

By Joseph Hanneman
Special to the Tribune

MADISON, Wis. — The national president of the Ghost Riders motorcycle club and two other club members have been convicted of first-degree murder, arson and insurance fraud in a fatal tavern fire near here in 1983.

Convicted Wednesday were Alvin Hegge, 45, president of the club, based in Washington state; Scott Howard, 30; and Will Highfill, 41. Howard and Highfill also were convicted of endangering safety.

Alvin Hegge in Dane County Circuit Court. — State Journal photo by Joseph W. Jackson III

A Dane County Circuit Court jury deliberated for nine hours before delivering the verdict. The men were sentenced to life imprisonment on the murder charge. They will be sentenced on the other charges later.

Catherine L. Christian, 22, died in the March 1983 fire at Rosa’s Cantina, 5 miles southeast of Madison. Prosecutors contend the men planned to set the fire at the financially troubled tavern to collect insurance money and kill Christian, who the prosecutors say the three men believed to be a police informant.

Defense attorneys contend the fire was accidental, caused by faulty wiring.

Catherine L. Christian

Rosa’s Cantina became a hangout for the Ghost Riders when they tried to establish a chapter in Madison during 1982 and 1983, but those plans were abandoned shortly after the fire, according to court records.

Dane County Assistant District Atty. Robert DeChambeau, one of three prosecutors, said the verdict will significantly hurt the club.

“The Ghost Riders are pretty much through,” he said.

Hegge’s lawyer, Ralph Kalal, criticized the prosecutors for using convicted criminals to testify against Hegge. Kalal said the prosecution’s case was built “on a foundation of shifting sand. Yet the prosecution makes Mr. Hegge out to be the kingpin who ran the entire operation. It doesn’t make sense.”

Two other members of the bikers group were convicted last spring on lesser charges in the case.

Washington state officials say they have waited for the trial here to end and will now extradite Hegge and Howard to face federal and state charges in Spokane.

Will Highfill sports a winged-skull tattoo. — State Journal Photo by Joseph W. Jackson III

An arrest warrant has been issued for Hegge in connection with the shooting death of a Spokane police officer in 1983, according to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office. Officer Brian Orchard was killed during a police stakeout of Ghost Riders suspected of selling stolen weapons. Two club associates have been convicted of the murder.

Hegge also has been indicted in Spokane on a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Spokane.

Howard also was indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver cocaine, unlawful transport of firearms and use of a firearm in a felony, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Spokane. Both men will stand trial Dec. 9 on the federal charges.

Law enforcement officials who track the Ghost Riders in Washington state say the club has been one of the fastest growing groups in the country, but will be hurt by Hegge’s conviction.

Brent Pfundheller, a detective with the Washington State Patrol in Olympia, said Hegge was a strong group leader. “He was definitely in control of the Ghost Riders,” he said. “If he said to do something, it was done. You didn’t cross Al Hegge.”

The Ghost Riders are considered to be very dangerous and are monitored closely by law officials, said Larry Boyd, chief sheriff’s deputy in Grant County, Wash., where the group was formed in the mid-1960s.

With chapters in Washington state, Billings, Mont., British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, police estimate the group has between 75 and 150 members. •

EPILOGUE: Alvin Hegge was sentenced to life in prison for murder conspiracy and given 30 years for arson and theft by fraud for his role in the Rosa’s Cantina fire. He was also sentenced to life in prison for the second-degree murder of officer Orchard in Spokane, Wash. Highfill was sentenced to life in prison plus 34 years. Howard was given a life sentence for murder and arson in Wisconsin; and a six-year sentence for a drug conviction in Washington state.

Top photo: A view of Rosa’s Cantina on the 1983 day the fire killed Catherine L. Christian, 22. — State Journal photo by Joseph W. Jackson III.

I was among a team of reporters who covered the Ghost Riders trial for the Wisconsin State Journal.

Judge Gets Final Word, ‘You Are an Armed Robber,’ Then Drops the Hammer

This article appeared on Page 1 of the Aug. 4, 1987 issue of the Racine Journal Times.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times 

Robert Lee Jordan stood in Racine County court Monday and called the judge a racist, said jurors in his case were biased and claimed witnesses who testified against him were liars.

Then he was sentenced to 52 years in prison.

A litany of robbery-related charges stemming from a Jan. 6, 1987 attempted robbery of the Piggly Wiggly store, 3900 Erie St., was read as Jordan’s sentence was announced.

Judge Emmanuel Vuvunas, after listening to a blistering verbal attack from Jordan, said, “The only thing society can do to protect itself is to lock you up for a very long time.”

Judge Emmanuel Vuvunas (Racine Journal Times photo by Jim Slosiarek)

Jordan called Vuvunas “nothing but a racist, biased judge” and warned, “someday you’re going to pay for it.”

He was removed from the court and watched his sentencing on a television monitor in an adjacent holding room.

Jordan, 38, was sentenced on charges of attempted robbery, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a firearm, battery to a police officer, two counts of endangering safety by conduct regardless of life, resisting arrest and obstructing police.

He was convicted in June for the robbery attempt, in which he struggled with an off-duty Racine police investigator and threatened to kill him.

The total prison term handed down was was 65 years, but several of the sentences will run concurrently.

Monday’s courtroom scene was likely a familiar one for Jordan, who has been in and out of prison constantly since the mid 1960s. Sometimes he was out on parole. Other times he escaped.

His life since his teen years has been characterized by armed robberies and escapes. Vuvunas said Jordan’s record “is one of the worst records this court has ever seen.”

According to court records, Jordan’s problems with the law began between 1961 and 1974, when several times he had run-ins with Racine police.

In September 1964, Racine County’s juvenile court turned him over to the Department of Health and Social Services and he was placed in the Wisconsin School for Boys at Wales. He was released in January 1965.

In 1965, he was convicted in Racine of armed robbery and burglary, but that conviction was erased in 1974. In April 1967, he committed an armed robbery in Effingham, Ill., and was sentenced to one to three years in prison. After serving time in Illinois, Jordan was returned to Wisconsin and paroled in July 1970.

Less than one month later, he committed another armed robbery in Racine. While in Illinois attempting to help recover items taken in the robbery, Jordan escaped from Racine police. He was captured and in February 1971 sentenced to 12 years in the Green Bay Correctional Institution.

In February 1973, Jordan was transferred to the State Farm in Union Grove. Eleven months later, he escaped from the farm. A 2½ year sentence for the escape was stayed and Jordan received probation.

He was again paroled on Nov. 19. On Nov. 20, 1974, Jordan was arrested and charged with committing armed robbery while an escapee from the Union Grove farm. Charges in that incident were considered later in a separate case. Three months later, Jordan committed armed robbery in Janesville and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with a six-month jail term to run concurrently.

Jordan was sent to Oakhill Correctional Facility in Dane County. On Aug. 31, 1978, he escaped. Eventually he turned up in Avon, Mass., where on Dec. 1, he robbed a bank. He was charged with kidnapping, three counts of assault with intent to commit murder, assault and battery, use of a dangerous weapon, armed robbery and unlawful carrying of a firearm.

He was sentenced to six to 15 years and sent to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Walpole. On Dec. 15, 1986, he was paroled and returned to Wisconsin. On February 25, 1986, Jordan was released from prison on his mandatory release date for the 1975 robbery.

On Jan. 6, 1987, he was arrested for the Piggly Wiggly incident.

Jordan represented himself during the trial, which became characterized by his flashes of hostility toward Vuvunas, Assistant District Attorney Eric Guttenberg and the jury.

He said the case was decided by an “all-white, biased jury.” Referring to witnesses who testified against him, Jordan said, “All these people came and lied.”

But Vuvunas got the last word.

“The evidence in this case was absolutely overwhelming,” Vuvunas said. “The evidence was so overwhelming in this case that it really didn’t matter whether you had an attorney.”

Vuvunas, citing Jordan’s extensive criminal record, said it is clear the only choice was to impose a stiff prison term.

“You are an armed robber,” Vuvunas said. “I don’t think you’ve changed your spots. You’re still an armed robber. 

“This court has to make sure that a person as dangerous as you be kept out of the community for a very long time.” •

EPILOGUE: Jordan remains incarcerated at the Stanley Correctional Institution in Chippewa County, Wis. He filed a number of lawsuits from prison, one seeking $2 million from the Racine County district attorney, the Wisconsin attorney general and the head of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. A federal judge denied his motions for damages and early release from prison. 

Judge Emmanuel Vuvunas is retired.

For Army Families, Emotions are the First Casualties of War

This story appeared on Page 1 of the Jan. 26, 1991 edition of the Racine Journal Times. It was based on observations during my second trip to Germany during the Persian Gulf War.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

U.S. BASE, SOUTHERN GERMANY — Some of the first casualties of the Persian Gulf War were the emo­tions U.S. troops and families stationed in Europe, as they worried about loved ones in Saudi Arabia and expressed resentment toward anti-war protests back home.

In the first-week of combat between U.S.-led allies and Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces, one U.S. base in Germany displayed fear, anguish, anticipation and a host of other emotions.

People at the base clearly were in anguish. Many of them have relatives deployed in Saudi, as they call it here. Most of the deployed soldiers are in combat units.

Members of the Army’s VII Corps artillery units from this base are now at forward positions in Saudi Arabia. They would be in the thick of it if the United States starts a ground offensive into Kuwait.

“God Bless our Soldiers in Saudi Arabia,” proclaimed a banner inside one of the many post exchange shops on base. Employees wore yellow ribbons in remembrance.

At the U.S. Army hospital here, one nurse in the outpatient clinic said her husband was just deployed to the front lines.

Page 1 story from Jan. 26, 1991.

“I’ve just been pulling my hair out,” she said, adding that she has been glued to the TV set, watching Cable News Network’s coverage of the war. She said she fears a ground war is inevitable.

Discussion on the Army’s base shuttle bus turned to one active-duty soldier, who was supposed to be sent home last week because his unit was deactivated as the United States prepares to shut down some of its bases.

Three days before his plane was supposed to leave, he was told to report for duty in Saudi Arabia.

Fear has also become a staple in the daily routine.

The threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. bases is considered very real, and the military has employed many tools to reduce the risks.

Commercials on Armed Forces Radio and Television warn against speaking about military matters in public, for fear terrorists could be listening. It was reminiscent of the old war slogan, “Loose lips sink ships.”

Soldiers were also warned that Arab terrorists may try to buy military uniforms or identification cards.

Military families were told to venture off base sparingly, and try to blend into the German population as much as possible, lest they attract undue attention.

The Gulf War dominated global news in January 1991.

But the post commander appealed to parents not to pull their children from Defense Department schools on base. Many families here and elsewhere in Europe kept their children home in the wake of hostilities and terrorist threats.

Security was at a peak level, called “Threatcon Charlie.” That puts scores of heavily armed military police at every entrance, checking IDs and searching for bombs. At least two forms of photo identification were required, and every bag and package was searched.

There was growing resentment among soldiers and families as they watched news reports of anti-war protests at home.

Some soldiers who oppose Operation Desert Storm wondered aloud where the protesters were over the past 5 ½  months, when the United States built its war force in the Gulf. Others said it hurt knowing while they were overseas serving their country, some back home didn’t appreciate it.

The growing number of military reservists shipped here to fill in for regular troops sent to the Middle East complained of shabby treatment by regular Army personnel.

Some reservists said regular troops seem to resent the citizen-soldiers, and treat them accordingly. Reservists are performing a host of support duties, such as medical care, transportation and administration.

“The sacrifices we have made are not acknowledged by the regular army,” one reservist said. “They seem to consider us a burden.”

One thought was universal here — a desire for the war to end quickly. For military families, that will mean loved ones come back to Germany. For reservists, it will mean going home.

(Reporter Joseph Hanneman, who covers government and higher education for the Journal Times, travelled to Germany to visit his wife, Susan, an Army reservist called to active duty at the U.S. base in Germany.)

Feature image atop the story: A sculpture outside the museum at the former concentration camp near Dachau, Germany. Photo taken during my second trip to Germany in 1991.

©2020 The Hanneman Archive

Ruby Treutel and the 1922 Lincoln H.S. Ahdawagam

One beautiful young lady truly stands out among the 160 pages of the 1922 Ahdawagam. What is an Ahdawagam, you ask? It is the name of the school annual, or yearbook, at Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids. Ahdawagam is an Indian word that refers to the “two-sided rapids” along the Wisconsin River.

The specially featured young lady was touted for her musical talents and participation in a wide range of student activities. She is Ruby V. Treutel (1904-1977) of Vesper, Wis., before she became Ruby V. Hanneman as the bride of Carl Henry Frank Hanneman (1901-1982).

It is indeed a treat to stroll through the pages of this early 1920s book, 98 years after it was published. It was a very different era, and these young people seem so mature and serious. Although maybe that is because we came to know them much later in life.

Ruby’s first appearance in the book is near the front, in the senior portrait section. Right between Irene Timm (“Timmy”) and Florence Van Dyke (“Flo”). No nickname is mentioned for Ruby. The listing has five lines describing her school activities: Glee Club, Ahdawagam staff member, Dramatic Club, Mask and Wig Club (founding member), Gamma Sigma musical society, and a performer in the school operetta for three years. Ruby’s slogan certainly fits the woman we came to know: “Music hath charms and so has she.”

She is next listed in the “Class Mirror” section. Her answers included: Heart = Carl; Mind = Church’s (pharmacy where Carl worked); favorite occupation = singing; wants to be = opera singer; and “ought to be” = second Galli Curci. The last item is a reference to Amelita Galli-Curci, the Italy-born coloratura soprano who was an acclaimed opera singer in the early 20th century.

A few chapters later, in the Music and Drama section, we find Ruby’s stronghold. She was president of the 87-member Glee Club, which encourages development of musical talent. The club also performs an operetta each year.

Glee Club: Ruby is in the center of the middle row.

Just pages later we find Ruby in the group photo for Gamma Sigma, which draws the most musically talented students in the school. She was among the founding members during the 1921-22 school year. The group offered regular public singing and instrumental performances.

Gamma Sigma: Ruby is seated in the first row, second from the right.

Ruby played the lead role in the Glee Club operetta production of Sylvia. The club and the performance were directed by Elizabeth Bradford, Lincoln High School’s musical supervisor.

The Cast of the 1922 production of “Sylvia.” Ruby is seated third from the right.

The operetta was no small-time school production. It received a preview article on the society page of the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune on Jan. 17, 1922.  Sylvia was originally slated to be performed at Daly’s Opera House in Wisconsin Rapids. Two weeks before opening night, the opera house burned to the ground. Firefighters were hampered because the hydrants near the opera house were frozen and water had to be pumped from the Wisconsin River. The fire forced the operetta production to relocate to Lincoln High School for the Jan. 27 performance.

Ruby V. Treutel dressed for her lead role in the musical ‘Sylvia’ in 1922.

The Daily Tribune published an extensive review in the Jan. 28 issue. The reviewer sang the praises of Ruby and her co-performers. “Miss Ruby Treutel scored in the title role, as the haughty sweetheart of the court poet. As an actress, she showed unusual ability in every situation,

“but it was as a singer that she won the hearts of the crowd completely.”

A review published in the Jan. 28 issue of the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune.

Ruby shined with her rendition of “Unto Thy Heart” with a violin obligato by Esther Levin. The number “seemed to appeal to her listeners especially, for they accorded her enthusiastic and well-deserved applause,” the Daily Tribune review said.

We’ve documented elsewhere on this site the musical talents of Ruby Treutel Hanneman. She performed in various theaters, starting when she was just 17. In April 1921, Ruby “brought down the applause of the house time after time” with her performance in the play “The Fire Prince,” according to the Daily Tribune.

Ruby’s next yearbook appearance is on a photo-collage page. She and future husband Carl are doing some kind of goofing around. The photo isn’t real clear, but it appears Carl is either playing some kind of stringed instrument or wielding a fishing pole or a sword. See what you think. Many of the photos in the collage seem to be related to the operetta.

It is impressive to see how dressed up these students are on every page of the yearbook. Ladies in dresses and the young men in suits and ties. Fashion was the rule of the day.

Finally, Ruby is pictured among 17 members of the Ahdawagam yearbook staff. She served as editor of music and drama.

Ahdawagam yearbook staff: Ruby is seated, third from the left. She was music and drama editor.

Ruby’s final mention in the book is on a list under the heading “The Great White Way.” All of the people on the list were described as lights (“head light,” “flashlight,” “candle,” etc.). Ruby is listed as “Star Light.”

Carl gets the last word. He appears in the alumni section, where he is listed for his job as a druggist at Church’s Drug Store. Carl graduated from Lincoln High School in 1921.

The staff box for the yearbook says it was Vol. 10 for the Ahdawagam. The editor-in-chief was Viola J. Nash. The book was produced by the Hein-Sutor Printing Company of Wisconsin Rapids.

Carl (back row second from left) and Ruby (front row second from left) in a previous year appeared together in “The Fire Prince.”

©2020 The Hanneman Archive

Tension Grips Base in Germany as Persian Gulf War Erupts

This story appeared on Page 1 of the Jan. 18, 1991 edition of the Racine Journal Times. I filed the story from the U.S. Army base in Augsburg, Germany.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

U.S. BASE, SOUTHERN GERMANY — Heavily armed military police patrolled in front of a U.S. Army base elementary school Thursday, with battle helmets on their heads and M-16 semiautomatic rifles slung over their shoulders.

It was an unmistakable sign that the United States had entered a war with Iraq, and that any U.S. citizen — even children — was a potential target for terrorists.

As Germany slept Wednesday night and early Thursday, U.S. and allied war planes screamed into Iraq as the offensive began to drive Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.

And overnight, this large military base in southern Germany transformed from a bustling community into an armed camp, where tension was high and fear so palpable you could almost taste it.

The Army was taking no chances amid terrorist threats against U.S. facilities around Europe and the Middle East.

At every housing facility, school and entrance to the base, military police were out in force. The grim-faced soldiers wore bullet-proof vests and carried high-powered weapons. The protective gas masks were clipped to belts at their sides.

An MP, his rifle on the seat next to him, rode the school bus with children as the vehicle darted off and on base, taking students home. This military base is home to more than 2,500 children.

And while children were being zealously protected, they also were not beyond suspicion. Youngsters returning home from school were required to show ID cards before entering housing complexes.

The author in the German countryside during one of two trips to Germany.

At each gate leading to the base, cars were stopped and searched. Guards looked in trunks and under hoods; they pushed large mirrors under vehicles to check the undercarriages for bombs.

No one, soldiers of all ranks included, escaped scrutiny.

At the entrance to the post exchange, 55-gallon drums filled with concrete were lined up to prevent cars or trucks loaded with explosives from reaching the building, which is usually filled with soldiers and family members.

Barbed razor wire was laid along the length of the sidewalk. Visitors had to pass through an armed checkpoint and were only allowed in the building with two forms of photo identification. Bags were searched.

Inside the PX, yellow ribbons hung fro the ceiling outside the cafeteria. Many soldiers from this base — including medical units and some of the heaviest armor units in the U.S. Army — were sent to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield, transformed Wednesday into Operation Desert Storm.

At the commissary (the Army’s version of the grocery store) aisles normally crowded on a weekday were deserted. Families, it seemed, preferred to stay home this day.

Area car dealerships that cater to U.S. soldiers closed early, and one U.S. club posted a sign that it would not be open Thursday, a day the sign labeled “Doom’s Day.”

Even the Burger King just outside the boundaries of the post was surrounded by armed guards. Only persons with military ID cards were allowed to eat.

At the U.S. Army Hospital, soldiers, nurses and visitors crowded around a television set in the internal medicine department, watching live cable news network accounts of the air attacks on Iraq and Kuwait.

Faces were stern. No one spoke. The expressions told of concern and relief that the operation had finally started.

Hospital officials refused to discuss the hospital’s role as a possible airlift treatment center for wounded soldiers. A reporter was told he could have access to medical staff only if he did not discuss Operation Desert Storm.

But it is widely expected here that the medium-size hospital would be pressed into service if casualties in the Middle East become heavy.

Soldiers said mobile hospital beds arrived in recent days to expand the facility’s capability.

And members of the 44th General Hospital, an Army reserve unit from Madison, began arriving here Thursday to fill in for medical staff shipped to the Middle East.

Bases all over Germany were setting up temporary hospital facilities to handle the wounded. German hospitals say they would assist with casualties. And the U.S. Veterans Administration was making ready 25,000 beds in the United States for possible casualties, according to local news accounts.

Elsewhere on base, soldiers listened to Armed Forces Radio for news about the start of the war. In between news dispatches, soldiers called in to request songs. Some were love songs for family members stationed in Saudi Arabia. Others, with titles like “We Will Rock You” and “Heads Will Roll” were dedicated to combat soldiers at the front.

(Joseph Hanneman is the state government/higher education reporter for the Journal Times. He flew to Germany last week to visit his wife, Susan, who is a reservist called to active duty there. Both live in Racine.)

Army Couldn’t Wait for Couple’s Christmas Wish

This article sat atop Page 1 of the Racine Journal Times on December 25, 1990. It was one of the few times I wrote about my personal life in the pages of the newspaper. The memories are still vivid nearly 30 years later.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

For many Americans, Christmas Eve was spent gathered around the tree with family members, exchanging gifts and enjoying the holiday spirit. 

But for my family, there really is no Christmas this year. 

Instead of wrapping gifts, toasting with a glass of eggnog or listening to Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas,” my wife of three weeks, Susan, and I spent our first Christmas Eve together saying goodbye. 

Tears streamed down my face as I watched her board a bus Monday at Fort Sheridan, Ill., as her Army Reserve unit shipped out on its way to Europe and Op­eration Desert Shield. 

It seems for the U.S. Army, there is no Christmas ei­ther. 

The Persian Gulf crisis could not wait. 

Fort McCoy, Wis., where my wife’s plane will depart today -— Christmas Day — could not wait. 

Reserve units from Illinois and Wisconsin, which will board planes and leave on the one day of the year that symbolizes peace and brings together families, could not wait. 

It could not be Dec. 26, or 27. It had to be on Christmas. 

It was necessary, they say. I just wish I could believe that. 

If I have just one Christmas wish this year, it is that the people of this country think about what is happen­ing in the Persian Gulf.

As you open your gifts today and hear songs about “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men,” think about it. This year, those words should carry extra meaning. 

As Christmas dinner is served, don’t forget what this crisis is doing to the citizen-soldiers of the military re­serves, or the sacrifice they are making. Remember their families, who this year spend the holidays filled with worry and uncertainty.

And realize that the impacts of this crisis go well be­yond what most people have heard. 

When George Bush decided to turn up the heat and mobilize more reservists than have been called since the Korean War, he affected more people than most of you will ever know. 

My situation is painful, but I am very lucky. My wife will not be in Saudi Arabia, scorched by heat, bored by the de­sert and worried about war. I thank God for that every day. 

Our story is far from unusual. Since the reserves were first called up in August, our lives have been under a cloud.

The specter of being sent to Saudi Arabia filled every day with worry. Every day that should have been full of excitement as we planned our wedding was shadowed by fear that the ceremony would not take place. 

We heard a million ticks of the clock during those months, but we made it to our wedding day, Dec. 1. We forgot about the Army for a while. We went on our honeymoon.

But we cut it short and came home when her unit was activated.  “That’s all right,” we said, “we will still have Christmas.” 

Between scrambling to put wed­ding gifts away and move into our home, our days have been filled with tension and bureaucracy. Power of attorney had to be de­cided, many forms filled out.

She will take a more than 40 per­cent pay cut from her job by being on Army pay. Forty percent cut, but no relief from creditors. Our in­terest rates are reduced a bit by Uncle Sam, but the bills keep com­ing. 

So we will sell one of our cars. We don’t have to, but we have this crazy idea about having enough money for phone bills, and for plane tickets when I go to visit. 

But again, we are lucky. She will be stationed where there are phones, and where a husband can fly in and see his wife. 

We are lucky, because we don’t yet have children who will see their mother taken away on Christmas Day. She’s not one of the single mothers who was forced to find care for her baby because the Army called her to duty. 

We don’t have a new house to worry about, or mortgage payments to make, like many reservists.

And we have had time together. It took getting up at 4 a.m. each day to make sure she reported promptly by 5:30 for duty, but we had time. Time to talk, and prepare, and pray for the day this whole thing ends and everyone comes home. 

We got so close to Christmas, we felt sure we would be safe for the holiday. Surely, I thought, even the Army believes in Christmas. Now, I know better. 

But we are lucky, I keep telling myself. And in the end, I know I will see the wisdom in those words.

But standing on the wind-whipped pavement of a cold military base on Christmas Eve, I don’t feel very lucky. 

(From the Dec. 25, 1990 issue of The Journal Times, Racine, Wis.)

Tom Hanneman Taken Hostage: ‘He Threatened to Blow Our Heads Off’

Television reporter Tom Hanneman thought he was going to die on May 19, 1979 when a combatant in a violent feud between factions of the Red Lake band of the Chippewa Indians held a gun to his head and threatened to pull the trigger.

Hanneman and cameraman Keith Brown of WCCO-TV Channel 4 in Minneapolis were getting video footage of a fire on the Red Lake Indian Reservation when they were attacked by an armed 20-year-old man. While Hanneman sat in a rental car, his cameraman was outside. “We came to the main road and wanted to get a final shot,” he said at the time. “A short time later I heard a ‘smack’ like a rock hitting the pavement.

“It was a bullet. Keith said it missed his head by about two inches.”

Cameraman Keith Brown and Reporter Tom Hanneman (Minneapolis Star photo by William Seaman)

A tribal member armed with a pistol approached the journalists and ordered Brown to smash WCCO camera equipment valued at $60,000. He then ordered the men to lie down on the road. “He tormented them by holding the gun at their heads ‘cocked back and saying he is going to blow our heads off, how would we feel,'” Hanneman said, according to an account in the Minneapolis Star. “I thought I had had it.”

While Hanneman and Brown were prone on the pavement, the man got in their car and tried to run them over. “He got in the car and started coming at us,” Hanneman said. “I got up and put my hand up and tried to talk to him. He told me to get back down. But when someone tells you to lie down and is trying to run over you, I didn’t want to stay down.”

The gunman eventually left with the rental car. A nearby family offered the journalists refuge, and then helped them get to Bemidji, Minn.

Earlier that day, an armed faction of dissidents raided the Indian Bureau of Law Enforcement building on the Red Lake reservation and took four police officers hostage. They later set fire to the building and a number of law enforcement vehicles.

Dramatic Newscast

On the WCCO 10 p.m. news that night, Hanneman recounted the terrifying day. A transcript of the dramatic interview is below. A video of the newscast (from TC Media) is at the end of this story.

***

WCCO Anchor Don Shelby: Tom, tell us your story.

Hanneman: “We found the main road leading into Red Lake was blocked by a Red Lake fire truck. We got out of the car to shoot some scenes at the police station, which was still smoldering. At that time we heard shots fired and some ricochets off the fire truck that we were standing next to. Obviously we were being shot at. We threw our hands up and a group of Indians came over and wanted to know what we were doing and we explained.

“We left that area to go and shoot some more scenes. Keith Brown drove to a back route to shoot the police station, and also a police car that was aflame, an abandoned police car. He went into the woods and came running back a few minutes later. They had fired on him and the bullets hit the water right in front of his feet.

“We had three incidents that happened this afternoon, Don, the third was by far the worst. We were about ready to leave the area and Keith was going to shoot the final shot of the main street. I was in the car. Keith was outside with the door, the back door open. At that moment I heard what sounded like a rock hitting the car. It was a bullet. It hit the door, ricocheted up and Keith said it missed his head by no more than two inches. A man again came at us with a pistol, ordered us out of the car, and at gunpoint had Keith smash our videotape camera and the tape recorder onto the road. 

“He then had us lay in the road in the median, threatened to blow our heads off holding the gun at our heads, tormented us for a while and then got into our rented car, turned around toward the road, sped up — what seemed to be an obvious attempt to run us over. I got up. I just couldn’t sit there and let him go at me and he told me to lay down, and drove by and again threatened us many times with a gun to our heads. He finally left the area, telling us to stay. A short time later he drove off a few blocks and parked, went into an area. 

“We got up, just, we were afraid if nothing else that a passing car might hit us. Didn’t really know what to do until someone that lived right in the area, in a trailer home, yelled for us to come over. We were a little concerned that, we didn’t know what we were getting into at the time, Don. We went into his  home and (he) gave us refuge. A half-hour later took us, swept us out of town into Bemidji and we got out safely.

Don Shelby: How does it look up there now Tom, your last sight of the place?

Hanneman: “Most of the residents of Red Lake have left the area. It seems that a group of maybe 100, 150 Indians are in town. They’re all armed. It seemed to be a deserted town with just a few people running around firing guns.”

Don Shelby: How about the FBI? Have they arrived on the scene?

Hanneman: “They are there now. They have blocked off the main road into Red Lake at this time. They were nowhere to be seen at 3:30, 4 o’clock this afternoon.”

Don Shelby: You have not told your story to the FBI.

Hanneman: “No I have not. Not yet. We have just really gotten here and just starting unravel now.”

***

A few weeks later, the FBI arrested Gordon Wayne Roy, 20, and charged him with assault with a deadly weapon. On July 30, 1979, Roy pled guilty to one charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Five other assault charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal. Police said Roy had been in jail on the reservation when the dissidents stormed the building. They released him, and later that day he accosted Hanneman and Brown.

A more recent look at Tom Hanneman (©Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Five other men were convicted of various crimes in association with the armed takeover of the law enforcement building and the shooting deaths of two youths. Sentences ranged from 10 to 26 years in prison. The violence that day stemmed from a running dispute the dissidents had with long-time tribal chairman Roger Jourdain, according to news accounts.

Seven years later, in September 1986, Roy was arrested again; this time for murder. In early 1987, he was convicted of stabbing and slashing Edward White with a machete after a dispute. Roy was sentenced to life in prison.

Hanneman is a first cousin to the proprietor of this web site. He is a well-respected sportscaster in the Minneapolis TV market and beyond. For more than 20 years he was play-by-play announcer for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association. He has also worked as reporter and sports anchor for CBS affiliate WCCO-TV and as an analyst for Fox Sports North. Here’s where he fits in the Hanneman tree: Matthias Hannemann >> Charles F.C. Hannemann >> Carl F. Hanneman >> Donn G. Hanneman >> Tom Hanneman.

 

Hanneman House, Tunnel Story Appear in Breweriana Magazine

The story of the Hanneman house in Mauston and its ties to the historic Mauston Brewery was retold in a 2019 issue of Breweriana magazine. The article was written by Mauston historian Richard D. Rossin Jr., a friend of these pages.

In the brewery history magazine, Rossin tells the story of the Mauston Brewery, which operated at the corner of Morris and Winsor streets from 1868 to 1916. He also recounts the Hanneman family story of a tunnel that was said to run from the house at 22 Morris Street under Winsor Street to the former brewery site.

Rossin said when he first encountered the tunnel story, he and a group of friends rang the doorbell at the Hanneman house to ask about it. My grandmother, Ruby V. (Treutel) Hanneman (1904-1977), answered the door. She took the children back to the pantry just off the kitchen. She showed a trap door in the floor, which was slightly different in color from the surrounding floor boards. Ruby told the children the tunnel ran from a cistern beneath the pantry across the street, Rossin recalled.

The Hanneman house is shown at lower right in the brewery magazine. (Image courtesy of Richard D. Rossin Jr.)

That’s a slightly different tale than the one I recall hearing from Grandpa Carl F. Hanneman (1901-1982) and my Dad, David D. Hanneman (1933-2007). I recall as a child going down very steep stairs into the basement, where Carl had a bar. He showed us a large archway in the north wall. It was filled in with bricks. He said behind the wall was a tunnel that at one time ran across the street. I don’t remember any mention of the Mauston Brewery. According to Rossin’s research, the home across the street once owned by Dr. Samuel Hess Jr. had a beer cellar with a similar stone archway.

I recall as a child someone pulling up that trap door in the pantry and allowing us to peer down into the deep darkness of the cistern. I think we were told it had been used to store rainwater but was no longer functional. It only added to the allure of the old house, with its stained glass accent windows, four-footed bathtub and a “secret” servant’s staircase from the kitchen to the upstairs.

What we know as the Carl and Ruby Hanneman home was built around 1893 by Charles F. Miller, owner of the Mauston Brewery. Miller took full control of the brewery in 1888, according to Rossin’s article, and sold his interest in 1901. Miller and his wife Frederica had six children. Miller died in August 1907 at age 54. Mrs. Miller lived in the home for nearly two more decades. She remarried in the 1920s and sold the Morris Street property.

The Mauston Brewery was located across Winsor Street from what later became the Hanneman house.

Myrtle Price bought the house in 1932 and began renting it to Carl Hanneman in 1936. The Hannemans bought the home from the Price estate in the 1950s. They raised three children there: Donn Gene (1926-2014), David Dion and Lavonne Marie (1937-1986).

Read the full Breweriana article

The Hanneman house in Mauston, circa 1959. The little brown blur in the photo is my parents’ dog, Cookie.

“Get Off the Wheels and on the Heels,” Former Green Beret Says

This is one of my favorite stories from my newspaper days. Fritz was a decorated veteran of the 82nd Airborne, a former Green Beret and a colorful character who became well-known and beloved in Wisconsin and Tennessee.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

Fritz Bernshausen has walked 4,500 miles — just to deliver a message.

You might have seen him, two times a week, carrying the American flag from his south side Kenosha home, through Racine, to downtown Milwaukee.

What could be so important?

Fritz was front-page news in The Journal Times on August 29, 1987.

“I have a message,” Bernshausen said Friday on his way through Racine. “Walk America. That’s all it is. Two words — one verb, one noun.”

Bernshausen, 59, started walking the trail to Milwaukee about 3 1/2 years ago. In July, he started packing Old Glory to grab more attention.

“This is the 119th time I’ve done it,” he said. “I’m going to keep walking with that flag until I see some indication of a transposition of those two words — America walks.”

Bernshausen believes in foot power over gasoline power. You know, pedestrians over petroleum.

“America is in trouble all the world,” he said. “I figure the only way to solve that problem is to make America energy self-sufficient.”

Bernshausen said he is concerned about tensions in the Persian Gulf and Middle East, tensions he says cause two much risk and danger, just for the oil.

“A lot of boys are probably going to die for a barrel of oil,” said Bernshausen, a veteran of Army special forces from the Vietnam War. “It ain’t worth it.”

Fritz from his Vietnam days. (Johnson City Press photo)

“I’m concerned about my country,” he said. “I consider myself a public-spirited American…. This is my contribution to America.”

That contribution usually takes between 10 and 13 hours per trip, depending on the weather and how many people stop him along the way. If they ask, he gladly obliges.

“I got stopped by a policeman, I got stopped by a kid and a public works man,” he said, just before a photographer caught up with him. “I’m going to have to roll up the flag and run like hell.”

On occasion, Bernshausen packs some fruit to hand out to people along the route, which has become so familiar he said “I can almost do it blindfolded.”

Besides the flag, there is one other important bring-along.

“I carry some toilet paper,” he said, “just in case.”

While Bernshausen’s message is serious, the flag and the walking are good-natured ways of prodding citizens to think about fuel consumption.

“It’s real important to me,” he said. “It’s just too important (that) you can’t be serious.”

In that spirit, he quotes a phrase to sum up his effort: “Get off the wheels and on the heels.”

Once the long journey is finished, Bernshausen usually takes the bus home from Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Avenue. That was not the case on Friday. He met his daughter for dinner in Milwaukee and had to accept a car ride home.

A tough sacrifice for the cause.

(From the Aug. 29, 1987 issue of The Journal Times)

EPILOGUE: Fritz Albrecht Bernshausen died on March 13, 1993. He was just 64. He is survived by a son and four daughters. He requested that his  cremains be scattered from an airplane at 1,200 feet — a paratrooper’s jump altitude.

A Mother Dearly Missed, One Year Later

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.

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Mom a number of years ago with another type of candle, celebrating the September birthday of her granddaughter Samantha.

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.

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“And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” —John 1:5

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. •

©2019 The Hanneman Archive

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Candles on Mom’s final birthday cake, Oct. 21, 2018.

 

History Preserved. Lives Treasured.

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