Small-town newspaper wedding announcements often provide all sorts of details that might otherwise be lost to history. While scanning a box of photographs I discovered a 1958 clipping about my parents wedding from The Reminder-Enterprise, a weekly newspaper in Cudahy, Wisconsin. The late David D. Hanneman (1933-2007) and the former Mary K. Mulqueen (1932-2018) were married at St. Veronica Catholic Church in Milwaukee. At the time, Mary was a teacher at St. Veronica Catholic School.
The text of the article is below the line, followed by a gallery of photos from the wedding and reception. A memorial Mass will be said for Dave and Mary at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020 at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church in Sun Prairie. August 9 is the 62nd anniversary of their wedding.
Miss Mary K. Mulqueen became the bride of David D. Hanneman at St. Veronica’s church on Saturday, Aug. 9, at 11 a.m.
The Rev. Johnson performed the double ring rites as the bride’s father gave her in marriage. Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. E.J. Mulqueen Sr., 3854 E. Cudahy Ave. The groom’s parents are Mr. and Mrs. Carl Hanneman, of Mauston, Wis.
A gown of Cupioni silk, in princess style, was worn by the bride. Panels of Chantilly lace were fashioned in the front and in the back. The back of the skirt extended into a short train. A Sabrina neckline and long sleeves were also featured.
The bride carried white orchids attached to a mother of pearl prayer book. The prayer book was given to her by the sisters of St. Veronica’s parish.
Joan E. Mulqueen was maid of honor for her sister. Bridesmaids were Lavonne Hanneman of Mauston and another of the bride’s sisters, Ruth. They wore aquamarine sheath dresses fashioned of delustred satin with tulip overskirts. They wore aquamarine feather headpieces.
The maid of honor carried yellow spider mums with a rust and yellow mixture of leaves. The bridesmaids carried bouquets of yellow spider mums shaped in a spray. Slippers in the color to match their gowns were worn.
Donn Hanneman of 8518 Stickney Ave. was best man for his brother. Attendants were Thomas Mulqueen of 3723 E. Edgerton Ave. and Jack Richards of Madison. The groom and attendants wore Oxford suits, (black suit coats with gray vests and striped trousers).
Earl J. Mulqueen Jr., Patrick Mulqueen, Thomas McShane and Donald Dailey were ushers.
About 300 guests attended the wedding dinner and reception at the St. Frederick’s hall following the church ceremony. Mrs. August Lachal and the ladies of St. Frederick’s prepared and served all the food.
The young people will live at 3263 E. Layton Ave. when they return from a two week honeymoon in northern Wisconsin and Canada.
The bride attended Cardinal Stritch College and Marquette University. The groom attended La Crosse State College and the University of Wisconsin.
The wedding date proved to be an anniversary date for several members of the families. Ruth Mulqueen, sister of the bride, and Lavonne Hanneman, sister of the groom, both celebrated their 21st birthday on the wedding day. A cousin of the bride celebrated their 20th anniversary on that day. The wedding was also a reunion of Donn Hanneman and Thomas Mulqueen who served together in the U.S. Navy and have not met for 14 years.
There was a time when letters were the primary means of long-distance communication for families and friends. Even short updates were dashed off on a card or a sheet of special stationery. Long-distance telephone calls were expensive and typically reserved for special occasions or emergencies. For family historians, finding old letters can unearth all sorts of details about life way back when. Sometimes the reveal big details, but often the small things that are otherwise lost to time.
I recently scanned a series of letters my mother wrote to her in-laws, my grandparents, Carl and Ruby Hanneman, who lived in Mauston, Wis. At the time, Mom was living in her hometown, Cudahy, Wis. In the first note, she was not yet married to Dad, but in the other ones they were newlyweds. They were married on Aug. 9, 1958 at St. Veronica Catholic Church in Milwaukee, where Mom was a teacher. I’m sure Mom kept up this correspondence beyond 1959, but only these letters survived (no doubt they were kept safe by my Grandma Ruby Hanneman).
The letters reveal that my Dad had a temporary job at Sears before he started his career selling pharmaceuticals. It sounds like it was a bit of a grind with regular night and weekend hours. Sometime in mid-1959, he got a new job in sales. I can’t tell from these letters, but I know back in that time frame Dad started working for E.R. Squibb & Co. Mom and Dad had an apartment on East Layton Avenue in Cudahy, which they later traded for a brick ranch home in Greenfield before moving to Grand Rapids, Mich.
The letters contained some good chuckles, too, like this train wreck of a sentence: “I hope this restful letter finds you all rested, at least a little bit rested, as well as I am rested.” Not what you’d expect from a woman who taught reading. But I considered the possibility that it was intended as a joke.
The regulars mentioned in these letters include my maternal grandparents, Earl J. and Margaret M. Mulqueen; Mom’s younger brother Joey Mulqueen; Dad’s sister Lavonne (Hanneman) Wellman; Evelyn Mulqueen, wife of my Mom’s brother Earl J. Mulqueen Jr.; Donn and Elaine Hanneman (Dad’s brother and sister-in-law); Mom’s sister Ruth (Mulqueen) McShane and her husband Tom; Mom’s sister Joanie (Mulqueen) Haske and her husband Dick; Mom’s sister the nun, Sister Madonna Marie; and Jack Richards, one of three groomsmen in Mom and Dad’s wedding.
The text of the letters is below:
Undated letter (prior to Aug. 1958)
Dear Mr. Hanneman,
I hope you’re fine and dandy – Lavonne and Mrs. Hanneman too! The reason for this little note is to ask a favor of you. Would you please order the man’s matching wedding band & my rings? I don’t know which catalog it was from but it’s an Honor ring. I’m sure Lavonne will know which set it is! As far as size is concerned, Dave’s ring is at Novak’s in Mauston to have the size adjusted. I’m quite sure it’s an eleven. You could check there on size. It’s just the plain silver band. If you run into any difficulty please call me – Sh. 4-5862 any nite about 5:30 or 6:30. I will then pay you as soon as I see you.
Also, my folks will be coming up this week-end if nothing unforeseen comes up. They will leave here about noon on Saturday. Joe would come with them. I don’t know if David & I will get there. We’ve been busy getting our place ready. I got sick from the paint. Ugh!!
Dave is fine – his foot is okay. Last Friday he had a wisdom tooth pulled. Don & Elaine & the kids are fine too. I must close now as I want to get this in today’s mail. I would certainly appreciate you ordering Dave’s ring. If you are unable to get it, I’ll match one as close as possible from a store here in Milwaukee. Tell Lavonne the dresses are in at Boston Store, but there’s no hurry to try hers on. So long for now,
Nov. 11, 1958 (postmark)
Mr. and Mrs. C. Hanneman
22 Morris Street
Hi! Hope all is well with you. Everything is fine down our way. I’m writing this at school at noontime, so one of my “monsters” can run it to a mailbox.
Dave plans on coming up this week-end to get in some deer hunting. We probably will get there on Friday night about 9:00. If for some reason our plans are changed, we will call you.
My mom is doing very well. Will have to leave all news for the week-end, as I don’t have too long a lunch period. Love to you both again.
See you soon,
Mary and Dave
Dec. 31, 1958 (postmark)
Mr. and Mrs. C. Hanneman
22 Morris Street
We rec’d your letter and was glad to hear too you had such a nice trip back. I’m sure you’re quite busy with your newly acquired family. The reason you couldn’t reach us Sunday afternoon was that we went over to Dick’s house while he changed clothes, and then Joanie and Dick and we went to the orphanage and visited with Sister Madonna Marie. She was very lonely for company and we had a nice visit with her and her boys. We came back about 6:00 and made a spaghetti supper. We drew names for the dishes and Joanie & Dick won. It was all Joanie’s idea.
Well, the main reason for my my writing is to inform you that Dave & I won’t be able to be with you this week-end. Hamilton at first said he could even have Friday off, but later changed his mind & said he wanted to take inventory on Friday & Saturday. That means Dave will even work Saturday. We’re disappointed because we did so want to do something different. We may, if he’s not too beat, drive to Madison and see Jack Richards, but even that is just a maybe!
I’m very happy you all enjoyed your visit with us as really the pleasure was all ours. You know you’re welcome anytime. That bed is up permanently, so there’s always plenty of room. I talked to Donn & he & Elaine are cleaning house like mad as long as there are six feet less to be underfoot the broom!!
Today (Dec. 31) Dave is working and I want to go downtown with my mom and just look around, then do grocery shopping, and then press our clothes for the party tonight. I must close now, wishing you & Carl a very Happy New Year filled with the best of health & happiness.
Tell the kids Happy New Year from us too. Carl, here’s to you (drawing of a drink glass) cheers!!! Hope to see you before too long. Still want to ice fish & skate on the Lemonweir!
Apr 29, 1959 (postmark)
Mr. & Mrs. C. Hanneman
22 Morris Street
I’d been intending to write sooner than this as I knew you probably were wondering how the dedication went. Well, all went very well indeed! Sister’s visit also but she was coming down with the flu bug that’s been hitting everybody. I wasn’t feeling too sharp that day either and was sick by ten that night. I missed the first three days of school last week & dragged myself back on Thurs. & Fri. I still have bronchitis or something. I’m seeing the doctor this week-end. Ten children from the class were out today, so that “bug” is really getting around. Some nice sunshine might help the situation, though.
We can’t thank you enough for being so thoughtful to remember to send the films & slides along. We were most anxious. They don’t look too bad at all.
We’ve been very busy with choir rehearsal two nites a week. I’ve had to have a dress made for the concert & had to “run out” for fittings. I’ll be glad when it’s over, because it has involved so much chasing. I’m just not in a “chasing” mood.
Dave & I were both very surprised to hear about Jack Richards. If you hear anything else, let us know.
Dave has been busy at his temporary job & much busier answering ads, having interviews and weighing advantages & disadvantages. Nothing is definite yet & I feel he should take his time, as there’s no reason at all for a rush!
We hope Bob & Ruth Schroeder had a good time here. They seemed to. Too bad both games were called because of rain.
We also hope this letter finds you both feeling well and in good spirits. We haven’t talked to Vonnie yet but should tomorrow (Wed.) or Thursday. Dave doesn’t get home until 6:15 or so, by the time we eat and relax a bit, it’s time for choir. He works nites a few nites a week & Sat. until 6:00. Sometimes we go to choir at 9:30, practice until 11:30 & don’t get home until midnite. We’re both tired.
Ruth & Tom are back from Florida and had a wonderful time.
I must close now and get ready for bed. David is writing a letter to some friends from Davenport, Iowa. This is catch up on letters nite.
I don’t know when we’ll be coming to Mauston since Dave works Saturdays. I may have a Monday off soon & we could come Sun. & Mon. or when the job he wants comes through & he quits Sears. Til then, take good care of yourselves, enjoy life & remember we think of you often! Carl, don’t work too hard – go fishing! Catch me a big one & eat it all!
May 20, 1959 (postmark)
Mr. & Mrs. C. Hanneman
22 Morris Street
I hope this restful letter finds you all rested, at least a little bit rested as well as I am rested. What I’m trying to figure out right now is where the fine line is drawn between resting and being plain lazy!! I’m close to one or the other.
Dave arrived home quite excited about his job and week in Minneapolis, but very tired. He really is impressed with the company, their policies & all the people he’s met. This week he’s working with his boss from Minn. in the Milw. area and doing quite well.
He thinks he will be going up into Green Bay and Escanaba next week, but isn’t too sure. We sold the car to Lou Ehlers Buick (where he bought it) on Monday. On Sun. we picked up his company car. It’s a beautiful bronze Bel-Air Chevrolet. He’s very pleased with it. Tonite we’re having dinner with his boss. They’re letting me pick the spot. I can’t decide where to go, but I want to go someplace where I haven’t been.
I have to get a desk for Dave, take the bed out of the spare room & set him up a place to work with a filing cabinet for his records.
We got our TV back and it works very fine, finally!
Elaine came down for supper last nite. She left the children home. She really seemed to enjoy the evening very much. She looks at bit thin, but says she and the kids feel fine. Donn called her from New York here. The Mason girl sat with the kids.
I must close now and wash my hair & try to make myself beautiful for this evening. Thank you again Vonnie for coming down last week with me. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you.
I probably will be going back to school next week. I hope so. I have to have some blood tests done which will tell exactly how the liver situation is, but I feel pretty good. I hope everybody home there feels fine too! We probably won’t be up to see you folks until the first or second week of June. I will write before then & let you know what’s happening.
Til then, so long. Enclosed is a check for films. Carl, don’t argue about it!! (Teacher speaking)
Sept. 1, 1959 (postmark)
Mr. & Mrs. Carl Hanneman
22 Morris Street
Thought I would write and say “thank you” both again for your generous hospitality shown Joe and myself when we visited you. He really was quite excited telling of the good time he had fishing running the boat on the river!
It’s Monday evening, the end of the month as I write this. It has finally cooled down here. I hope you people have had relief too! Dave’s hay fever has been quite bothersome this past week. But he left for Michigan this a.m., which means he’ll have relief while there.
I had intended to go with him but didn’t, since I’m helping Evie with the new one – (a boy, 9 lb. 3 oz – last Wed.,), a beautiful contented baby. I kept house for her from last Wed. thru Sat. while she was in the hospital. They’ve asked Dave and I to be sponsors this coming Sunday – his name will be Brian David Mulqueen. Also, I didn’t go with him because I’m going to teach 5th grade for a good part of September for a sick teacher, and so I’m busy this week getting the class room in good shape for the big day – September 9.
I hope you’re still coming down over the Labor Day week-end. Would be very nice to return some hospitality to you for a change!!
I’m going to help my mom tomorrow a.m. She’s having her Jesuit mission club for a luncheon. I have plenty to do during the day – but right this moment I’m kind of lonely for Dave. I think though I’ll survive until Friday. Must close now – I hope I hear from you if you don’t come down. We would much prefer the latter!
Handwritten letters are a lost art, so it was particularly thrilling to find one inside a card from my paternal grandparents, Carl and Ruby Hanneman, sent for my first birthday in June 1965.
My grandmother was a prolific letter writer, note scribbler and update scrivener. She wrote in a stream of consciousness. Sentences didn’t always have punctuation and could stretch on for half a page. But she captured details that might slip past a less-careful correspondent. Like exactly what time on Tuesday she and Grandpa Carl got their car back from Floyd “Snuffy” Clark at the auto body shop.
Unlike a photograph, a personal letter brings out the writer’s personality. Reading the note in the birthday card, I could almost hear my grandparents voices. They switched off writing in the card. Grandpa went first, telling how Grandma loved the birthday card and money sent by my parents. Then Grandma Ruby took over and provided a full update on the happenings on Morris Street in Mauston, Wis.
June 27th, 1964
Dear Little Baby Joey,
The little sweetheart — one year old! Grandpa Carl and I send our love with big hugs and kisses to you — God blesses always Baby Joey —love, love, love from Grandpa Carl and Grandma Ruby xxxxx
Dear Baby Joey & Little David, Little Lori & Mama Mary and Daddy David:
Grandpa: Ruby got her beautiful birthday card and money from all of you and she wants to say thank all of you so much — it was too much after all the others you have given me —
Grandpa wants me to go to Carpenter’s now to eat it is 7:30 p.m. & bad storm warning out & it’s thundering now.
Grandpa Carl had a nice Father’s Day — we stayed home and we ate at Noneng’s new restaurant — he got nice cards and things, too, and it was stormy bad weather then, too. David we got your nice letter & the check — Dad destroyed the other one. Pretty soon will have you all hear (sic) again. I think I will go to Aunt Emma this week. Donn is driving Tom, Jane & Mary Ellen on July 3rd. I go back on Sunday. The youngsters will stay here & at Lavonne’s for several weeks.
I called Marvin’s, talked to Mabel — I am not going to Aunt Emma’s this week. Marv is taking a week of his vacation & they leave Fri. a.m. for Tomahawk — so that upsets my plans. Now I won’t be able to go until later in July.
Mary is to have planter warts treated on bottom of feet 1st and 2nd of July. They had planned to come this Sat. & with my planning to go to Arpin we changed it. Now I wish they would come sooner.
There was a big extra addition on Parade of Homes in Mad. Sun. paper for open house. 15th annual Mad. Parade of Homes from June 20th thru June 27th on Madison’s far west side. I hope David knows about it by now. I have the booklet saved for him whenever he comes this week.[Nota bene: I believe we were still living in Grand Rapids, Mich., in June 1965, but would soon move to a house on Lake Wisconsin. This was shortly before construction began on my parents home in Sun Prairie, Wis.]
Dad has been feeling much better. Mr. Clark (Snuffy) had the car Mon. & fixed all the rust spots & put new chrome on front — we got it back Tues 22nd at 4:00 p.m.
Thurs. a.m. 24th:
Dad drove to Camp Douglas & Hustler this a.m. to solicit more ads — he wants to go to Necedah tomorrow a.m.[Nota bene: Carl helped put together the printed guide for the Juneau County Fair. One of his duties was ad sales.]
Mary I keep thinking about your Mom. I hope and pray she is getting along nicely & eyesight will be helped.
How are our three little cherubs? I really did miss them and Grandpa did too. He felt badly because he had to be in bed so much while they were here. They are little loves and we enjoyed all of them so. David wrote that Little David asked about us. How does Baby Joey manage in the little walker? If the back wheels rotated like the front ones do, I bet he would really walk soon.
Have some birthday cake for us & we will be singing Happy Birthday to Joey here — all love & XXXes to all.
Dad & Mom xx
Top Image: The front of the birthday card at left, with a photo of Carl and Ruby Hanneman from around 1960.
High school yearbooks are an excellent source for family historians to find sometimes-hidden facts and images from a loved one’s past. And as I discovered with my late father’s copy of the Mauston High School 1949 yearbook, it’s wise to stroll through the pages multiple times so as not to miss things.
Mauston High School’s yearbook is called Hammer. It was first published in 1916. Dad (David D. Hanneman) enrolled at Mauston High in the fall of 1947 and graduated in spring 1951. As we’ve noted elsewhere on these pages, he was part of the 1947 football squad that won the West Central Conference title with a 7-1 record. The 1949 Hammer covered his sophomore year.
The biggest surprise came on the page featuring the student newspaper, The Blue Quill. Dad is listed as one of two staff artists. I had viewed this yearbook before, but never noticed this. We have no issues of the The Blue Quill, so we don’t know what he and co-artist Donald Krueger sketched for the news, feature and sports pages. I’ve seen a few simple sketches and doodles he drew on the yearbook autograph pages, but nothing else. Art talent ran in the family, we covered elsewhere regarding Grandpa Carl F. Hanneman and his drawings for the Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School Ahdawagam.
There were no surprises in the yearbook on the athletics front, where Dad always excelled. The 1948 MHS Bluegold finished in a tie for second in the West Central Conference with a 5-1-1 record in football. The team was on pace to win its second consecutive title, but a late-season 7-0 loss to eventual champion Sparta knocked them into second. The Bluegold finished the season with a 12-12 tie with Viroqua after the visitors stormed back in the final 54 seconds to secure the draw to ruin Mauston’s homecoming.
The1949 Hammer featured a football team photo. I recalled that Dad had saved a large-format print of the photo, with many of the player names written on the back. Years ago I scanned the image (below) and even used it to promote my genealogy business.
For his sophomore year, Dad was on the B Squad for basketball. His final two years he played center on the varsity squad.
Dad was also pictured with the science club, Sigma Gamma Pi Beta. He served as vice-president during his sophomore year. It was the only year he is listed as a member of the science club.
Not surprisingly, Dad was a member of the Boys Glee Club. He enjoyed performing arts even more than athletics, and won more medals and awards for his singing than his prowess on the field and the basketball court.
Dad was among the members of the M Club, made up of winners of athletic letters. He won letters for football, basketball and track.
One of the most touching things in all of Dad’s yearbooks was the autograph left each year by his younger sister, Lavonne. Dad was four years older and took seriously his job of protecting Vonnie. They had a special bond. Here she wrote a tribute note, erased it and penciled in another one, circled by a heart. After her 1986 death at age 48, Dad told me these notes held very special meaning for him.
Below is one of the frequent doodles found in Dad’s yearbooks. He was part of a double quartet that competed every year in Wisconsin School Music Association events.
Top Photo: Mauston High School as it appeared in the center spread of the 1949 yearbook. The yearbook cover design is shown upper right.
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.
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.
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).
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. •
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!