Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Location Discovered for Hanneman’s Standard Service Station

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.

David D. Hanneman stands outside his Standard Oil station in Mauston in 1951.

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 1926  fire map shows a small filling station at the corner of West State and Beach streets.

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.

This 2016 Google Maps street-view image shows what used to be Hanneman’s Standard station in Mauston. (Screen capture of Google Maps)

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.

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

©2019 The Hanneman Archive

A Final Lesson Imparted, Then Heavenward

“…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.

David D. Hanneman and the former Mary K. Mulqueen were married for more than 49 years.

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 think clearly 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 would soon 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.

 

Fatal Rickman Plane Crash Caused by Faulty Part, Fire

The September 1960 Chicago plane crash that killed all six members of the Richard Rickman family was caused by a faulty engine valve and an intense oil fire, according to a federal investigation report obtained through the National Archives.

Richard E. Rickman, 34, was flying his wife and four children from Wisconsin Rapids to Detroit on Labor Day 1960 when his Beechcraft C35 Bonanza (tail number N-5816C) plunged into Lake Michigan with flames trailing from the engine. Rickman, his wife Helen and children Richard, Robert, Catherine and Patricia were killed in the crash. The plane and its passengers sunk into the dark waters of Lake Michigan off Chicago’s Oak Street Beach. [See related: Entire Rickman Family Killed in 1960 Plane Crash]

It was a horrific, haunting tragedy. The Rickmans, native to central Wisconsin, were returning home to the Detroit area after a Labor Day vacation. Following the advice of the airport manager in Wisconsin Rapids, Rickman flew across Wisconsin and then along the Lake Michigan shoreline to Chicago. That’s where the trouble started. Rickman radioed the tower at Meigs Field in Chicago that he had an emergency and needed to land. [See an aerial view of Meigs Field] He never got the chance. The plane nose-dived into the water about 1 mile offshore from a crowded Oak Street Beach. All six Rickmans were killed.

The Civil Aeronautics Board began investigating the crash just as the sections of damaged plane were recovered from the depths of Lake Michigan. The wings were sheared off on impact. Witnesses on the beach reported seeing flames coming from the engine as the  single-engine plane dove into the water. The probe was led by Clifford G. Sheker, the CAB’s air safety investigator.  The 205-horsepower Continental engine was recovered and sent off for analysis. Sheker testified before a Cook County coroner’s inquest jury twice — in September and October 1960. His preliminary finding in October was that engine trouble caused the crash.

That’s where the public attention stopped. The probe continued and led to a report of findings in April 1961, but there was no media coverage on the final cause of the crash. The Hanneman Archive began a search for Sheker’s report back in 2015. It was not on the Federal Aviation Administration’s online database of old CAB crash investigations.  The CAB was a predecessor to the National Transportation Safety Board.

We enlisted the help of the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland. After several months, an archivist named Amy R. found the answer in April 1961 meeting minutes from the Civil Aeronautics Board. She was kind enough to snap digital photos of the report narrative and send them via email. As far as we can tell, these details were not published by news outlets at the time.

The report said Rickman was about a mile offshore headed south at 7:26 p.m. when he broadcast a Mayday call: “I have an engine failure or something – I am coming in!” The flight was immediately cleared for emergency landing at Meigs Field, a single-runway airport on Northerly Island, a peninsula along Chicago’s lakefront. Sheker’s report described what happened:

“About this time ground witnesses and the occupants of another plane saw the aircraft afire in flight. They observed the plane make a left turn and go out of control twice before it crashed into Lake Michigan and exploded.”

The Continental Motors E-185 engine became disabled by an “intense oil fire” that originated in the area of the exhaust heater muff. The No. 3 exhaust valve showed “fatigue failure” that led to the fire. The engine crankcase was broken open and the Nos. 3 and 4 pistons and connecting rods were broken. The “intense, in-flight fire” entered the cabin in the area of the rudder pedals and “subjected the entire cabin to fire.”

Rickman was an experienced pilot with 379 total flight hours, including 228 hours with the Beechcraft C35. His Beechcraft was manufactured in 1951 and licensed to Rickman in 1957.  It’s unknown if the CAB or later the FAA took any action as a result of the Rickman crash, such as issuing an airworthiness letter. There was no indication in the CAB report of the maintenance history of the plane, or if the No. 3 exhaust valve had caused other engine fires.

Just 18  months before, superstar singers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed when the Beechcraft C35 Bonanza in which they were traveling crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. February 3, 1959 became known as “The Day the Music Died,” memorialized in Don McLean’s 1971 song, “American Pie.” The Civil Aeronautics Board faulted the pilot for taking off in poor weather when he was restricted to visual flight rules.

Lifeguard Fred Rizzo carries the lifeless body of little Catherine Rickman from a police marine boat to a Chicago Fire Department ambulance on Sept. 5, 1960. Efforts to revive the girl were unsuccessful. (Screen grab: Chicago Tribune Photo by James O’Leary)

One of the most heartbreaking scenes from Sept. 5, 1960 was the sight of little Catherine Rickman, 4, being carried from a rescue boat to an ambulance by lifeguard Fred Rizzo. Boaters found her floating in the water shortly after the crash. She had burns on her face, legs and feet. The girl was revived briefly in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, but she died a short time later. Her grandparents, Edwin and Renata Rickman of Saginaw, Mich., identified her body. The search for her parents and siblings went on for days.

A lifeguard gives oxygen to Catherine Rickman in a Chicago Fire Department  ambulance on Sept. 5, 1960. (Screen grab: Chicago Tribune photo by James O’Leary.)

The diver who first found the bodies was Jeffrey Daxe, 34, a Chicago pilot and lifeguard. Daxe lived just across Lakeshore Drive near the beach. He was able to quickly gather his diving gear and have a lifeguard row him out to the crash site. The experience haunted Daxe for decades, according to his son, Jeff Daxe of Dayton, Ohio:

“As he told the story of the recovery of the victims, his face would transform to one with a look of concern. He would look away from his outstretched hand almost as if he could see, or didn’t want to see, the faces of the victims as he brought them to the surface.”

The senior Daxe went on to a career in aviation, and moved to Valparaiso, Ind. He told the story of the Rickman crash often. Even in recent years, when visiting Lake Michigan, his son said, he spent a long time gazing out on the water, expressing concern for the safety of boaters and windsurfers. “I believe the experience had a tremendous impact on his life.”

Pilot Jeffrey Daxe in the 1950s with his Stearman biplane. Daxe, who was also a lifeguard and diver, was the first to find the bodies of Richard E. Rickman, his wife  and three of their  four children. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Daxe)

Tom Metcalf remembers the Rickmans well, growing up for a time in the same neighborhood in Redford Township, a western suburb of Detroit. “I remember playing with Richard and Robert,” said Metcalf, who was 6 at the time of the crash. “I also remember flying with them in their aircraft. My father was a military pilot and he and Mr. Rickman were friends with a common interest in flying. I also remember my mother chasing some news reporter out of our back yard after catching him trying to ask me questions after the accident.”

Like Daxe, Metcalf was deeply affected by the Rickman tragedy. He said he hopes to visit the family’s graves at Forest Hill Cemetery in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. “I have thought of them often and sent prayers their way throughout my life,” Metcalf said.

Richard E. Rickman, the son of  longtime shoe-store proprietor Edwin J. Rickman, grew up in Wisconsin Rapids. He was a descendant of pioneer resident Matthias Hanneman, who came to Wisconsin in 1866 from Pomerania. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve in World War II. His father had served in WWI. A factory representative for the Ogden Manufacturing Co., Rickman married the former Helen Anderson in December 1949 and they later moved to Michigan. Their first child, Richard Edward, was born in Lansing in May 1953. Robert John was born in Lansing in March 1955. Catherine Helen was born in Detroit in June 1956; and Patricia Ann joined the family in Detroit in September 1957.

The epitaph on the Rickman Family monument at Forest Hill says simply: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

© 2015, Photo Courtesy of  Ben Chitek

Procession Brings Body of Fallen Firefighter Home to Sun Prairie

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

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

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

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

Sun Prairie Tragedy Reminds of Massive 1975 Downtown Fire

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3615
Volunteers move boxes of shoes from the Hillenbrand clothing and shoe store, 206 E. Main St., Sun Prairie. (Sun Prairie Star-Countryman photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018 The Hanneman Archive

Double Overdose Ends Multi-State Crime Spree

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

An escaped federal prisoner from Indiana was captured by Racine County sheriff’s deputies early Saturday after he took a hostage, went on a three-state crime spree and shot an Oak Creek police officer, authorities said.

Ronald R. Plummer, 39, a federal prisoner awaiting sentencing in Indianapolis, and his alleged accomplice, Elizabeth Bonvillain, 31, a jail social worker, were captured in a town of Raymond barn after they took an apparent drug overdose.

Both were in critical condition early today at St. Luke’s Hospital in Racine. A nursing supervisor said the couple were starting to come out of drug-induced comas they had been in much of the day.

A bullet tore through the patrolman’s badge. (Charles S. Vallone photo)

The couple are under armed guard. If they regain consciousness, they will be turned over to Oak Creek authorities to face charges of attempted murder of a police officer, police said

They also face a long list of charges in other jurisdictions-so many that police had not sorted them all out late Saturday. Charges could include kidnapping, federal escape, attempted murder and possession of firearms by a felon.

Meanwhile, Oak Creek Police Patrolman John Edwards, 26, was treated at a Milwaukee hospital, then released after he was shot in the hand and nearly shot in the chest, police said.

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Sidebar that ran with the Page 1 news article on Ronald Plummer’s crime spree.

Edwards was shot about 4:15 a.m. in the parking lot of the Union 76 Milwaukee Truck Stop, at Highway 100 and Interstate 94, as he routinely checked what he believed to be a suspicious vehicle.

“The driver of the car got out and had two guns pointed at officer Edwards — one in each hand,” said Oak Creek Police Lt. Gerald Stahl.

Plummer ordered Edwards to lie on the ground, but the patrolman turned sideways and started to run, Stahl said. Plummer fired a shot at Edwards.

“The bullet came from the side and hit his badge,” Stahl said. The bullet ripped a hole in the badge, which was knocked off, but the bullet did not enter Edwards’ body. A second bullet struck Edwards’ right index finger.

The escaped bank robber then got back in his car and fled south on I-94 with Edwards in pursuit.

Police lost sight of Plummer and Bonvillain as they headed west on 7 Mile Road in Racine County. About 6 a.m., Racine County sheriff’s deputy Jeff Holmes spotted Plummer’s car parked in a driveway at 3526 7 Mile Road.

Authorities from Racine County, Milwaukee County, the State Patrol and the U. S. Marshal’s office surrounded the barn next door after the Racine Police Department’s dog, Bonny, picked up the couple’s scent.

Bonny was sent into the barn at 3516 7 Mile Road ahead of officers and bit Plummer on the arm. Police found Plummer and Bonvillain in an animal stall, covered with hay, and semi-comatose from an apparent barbiturate overdose, authorities said. Two .38-caliber pistols were found.

Bonnie Falkowski, co-owner of the barn, said she found three “really big” prescription pill bottles and a bottle of water next to where the fugitives were found.

The bottles, which apparently had a woman’s name on them, were empty, Falkowski said. “It makes sense,” she said. “They probably had the water to take the pills.”

Spree started in Indiana

Plummer’s bizarre journey to Racine County began Friday in Indianapolis, where he was awaiting sentencing for a June 1987 robbery of an Evansville, Ind., bank.

He was brought to Indianapolis from the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa., where he was serving a sentence for robbing two Ohio banks and a federal savings and loan, police said.

Plummer apparently self-inflicted a hand injury at the jail and was taken to Wishard Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis for treatment, according to the Marion County (Ind.) Sheriff’s Department and the Indianapolis office of the FBI.

Plummer was shackled to a gurney in the X-ray room when Bonvillain, wearing a nurse’s coat and armed with the pistols and a bolt cutter, burst in and tried to give the gun to Plummer, police said.

“Evidently, the gun was on a table,” said Garry Schoon, FBI special agent in Indianapolis “Both the deputy and Plummer went for it. The deputy grabbed the top of it.”

Schoon said Plummer attempted to fire the weapon at the deputy, but the officer’s hand blocked the gun’s hammer from making contact with the bullet. Confronted with the loaded pistol, the deputy backed off. Plummer and Bonvillain took X-ray technician Donald Elsner hostage, and fled to a waiting car.

Fled in rental car

About three blocks away, on the Indiana University campus, they dumped the escape car and got into a rental car and fled north on Interstate 65, police said. Elsner was released unharmed in the Chicago area and the duo continued north on I-94 into Wisconsin.

Police believe there was “a considerable amount of planning” involved, said Sgt. Randy Russell of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. “It looked to be fairly well thought out,” Russell said.

Police found a sketch of the hospital’s layout in the original escape car, Russell said.

Schoon said Bonvillain apparently met Plummer at the Hamilton County, Ohio, jail in Cincinnati, where she worked as a counselor. “They did have some contact in the Hamilton County Jail,” Schoon said.

Hamilton County authorities said Bonvillain was acting coordinator of the mental health unit at the Hamilton County Justice Center in Cincinnati. She was employed by Correctional Medical Services Inc., which provides service to the county.

She apparently met Plummer in February 1988 while he was awaiting trial on two Ohio bank robbery charges, police said. She called in sick on March 17 then began a vacation last week, Hamilton County authorities said. Last Monday, she purchased the two pistols in Cincinnati, police said.

On Thursday, she checked in to the Inntowner Motor Lodge in Indianapolis. Shortly before leaving for Wishard Hospital she took three calls from Plummer, who was in the jail, police said.

If the couple survive the drug overdose, they could face a long list of charges and warrants from numerous law enforcement agencies.

“He would be considered for kidnapping charges, probably federal and state,” said Jon Wendt, FBI special agent in charge of Wisconsin. “Traditionally, you look at the more violent crime first.” Marion County will consider “five or six” charges against the pair, Russell said, on top of charges being considered by the U.S. Attorney. ♦


— From the March 26, 1989 edition of The Journal Times. Read the original news pages.

EPILOGUE: In December 1990, Plummer was sentenced to 100 years in prison for the kidnapping of X-ray technician Elsner. He was earlier sentenced to more than 130 years in prison for a series of bank robberies. ….Bonvillain pleaded guilty to armed escape and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. In September 1990 she was sentenced in Marion County, Indiana, to 20 years in prison.

Cudahy Marine Corporal Helps Put WWII Bond Drive Over the Top

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

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

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

The_Sheboygan_Press_Fri__Dec_22__1944LG_
This full-page ad appeared in the Dec. 22, 1944 issue of The Sheboygan Press. Mulqueen is at left.

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

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

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

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

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

VeteransStories
The Sheboygan war-bond tour received extensive media coverage.

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

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

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

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

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

©2017 The Hanneman Archive

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

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

 

Loftus Campaign Hits a Bad Spell

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He asked kindergartners what the governor does.

“He tells people stuff,” one boy offered.

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

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

“Dan Quayle,” Loftus quipped.

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

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

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

Armless Musician Strikes Emotions

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

Tony Melendez has serenaded Pope John Paul II and performed in front of thousands, but he says he is still shocked by the emotional reaction from the people he touches with his music.

“Some of the people’s responses are so touching,” Melendez said. “I can’t believe the response Some come crying and give me a hug. Some want to kiss the same cheek the pope kissed.”

The strong reactions are not just because Melendez, 26, sings with a smooth tenor voice, or that he plays nearly flawless acoustic guitar.

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Tony Melendez plays flawless guitar with his feet. (Racine Journal Times photo by Paul Roberts)

People are inspired because Melendez was born without arms and plays guitar with his feet, in a seemingly effortless manner.

Whole new world

“The music has just opened up a whole new world for me,” Melendez said before a performance Saturday night at St. Rita’s School, 4433 Douglas Ave.

“It’s been scary,” he said of the reaction he gets. “I’m not used to that overwhelming thrust toward me.”

Melendez, of Chino, Calif., performed for about 200 people at St. Rita’s, combining Christian music, storytelling and a healthy sense of humor.

Melendez is at ease with the fact he has no arms and does not consider himself handicapped. He even calls his company “Toe Jam Music.”

He told the group he stopped using prostheses because “my feet could do it so much faster quicker, neater. People ask me, ‘Do you eat with your toes or your feet?’ ” he said. “I eat with my mouth.”

With the guitar flat on the stage before him, Melendez’s bare feet glided up and down the strings effortlessly, while he sang about hope, inspiration and God.

Crowd’s response

As he walked to and from the stage, people pulled him aside for a hug, or kissed him like he was their own son.

“It still to me is very surprising,” he said. Crowd response comes from “a lot of young, and old. It’s really neat.”

Melendez earned national recognition last year when he played and sang for John Paul II– a performance that so moved the pontiff he touched Melendez’s legs and kissed his cheek.

Eight months later, Melendez recalls that performance as “a moment in my life I never thought would happen.”

John Paul’s reaction was nothing short of shocking to Melendez.

“I thought I was going to sing, then ‘clap, clap, clap and go home,” he said. “It really was a true blessing for me when he came over and gave me that kiss.”

In the time since, Melendez has been to 29 states, sometimes doing three performances a day.

Melendez was born in Nicaragua in 1962. His mother took thalidomide, an anti-nausea drug that caused the birth defect he has overcome. He spent much of his life in schools for handicapped children, but decided as a high school sophomore he wanted to be in public schools.

It was at about that time, when he was 16 he first tried playing his father’s guitar, after learning how to tune it with his feet.

“I did it and it just worked, and I kept at it,” he said. “I didn’t consider it practice. I loved it so much, I played five to six hours a day.”

While still getting a case of stage fright now and then, Melendez said the music helped him grow. He now promotes a pro-family, pro-love message during performances.

Music opens doors

”Once I start, it just automatically flows,” he said “Once I’m up there, something just takes over.”

Music “opened a lot of doors,” he said. “It’s given me a little more sense of security.

“I think they (spectators) sometimes go home saying, ‘If he can do it, I can do it,’ ” Melendez said. “When people go home, they feel a little bit better about themselves.”

Jose Melendez Jr., Tony’s concert manager, told the St. Rita’s crowd he learned things by watching his brother. He said one day when the pair was younger, he wanted to play Frisbee, but could not bring himself to ask, for fear he would hurt Tony’s feelings.

But Tony picked up the Frisbee in his toes and threw it, striking Jose in the face. It was then, Jose said, he realized his brother’s strength.

“That’s the first time I saw his arms and his hands.” ♦

– This article first appeared in the May 8, 1988 edition of the Racine Journal Times. View the original newspaper page.

Postscript: Tony Melendez continues touring, recording music and sharing his story around the world. He performed for Pope John Paul II four more times. He has recorded a number of contemporary Christian albums. He is married and lives in Branson, Missouri.

Further Reading: Tony Melendez Web Site

Amazing. Simply Amazing.

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

UNION GROVE, Wisconsin — Louis Armstrong, Liberace and Tiny Tim made concert appearances here Thursday. Well, not really, but it was probably as close as anyone has ever come to imitating the performers.

For nearly two hours, Leslie Lemke, 35, of Arpin, Wis., performed flawless piano and voice renditions of “Satchmo,” the king of the candelabra and the man who tiptoed through the tulips, among others.

If any of the 700 or so students and teachers in attendance at Union Grove High School had closed their eyes, they could have easily imagined Liberace’s glittery Rolls Royce, Tiny Tim’s ukulele or Armstrong’s smiling face and sassy delivery.

All this came from Leslie, a man with no eyes, severe brain damage, cerebral palsy and an IQ of of 58.

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Leslie Lemke turned in a virtuoso performance at Union Grove High School. (Racine Journal Times photo by Paul Roberts)

Leslie cannot carry on a dialogue or feed himself, and he requires constant care. He has never taken music lessons, plays piano with only nine fingers and cannot see the keyboard.

Yet he is a musical virtuoso.

In 1971, Leslie sat down at the piano and shocked his parents by playing a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

It is difficult to come up with words to describe or explain Leslie’s abilities. Those who see him perform call it amazing. His family chooses stronger terms.

“I feel it is a miracle from God,” said Juanita Voge, Leslie’s niece. “I’ve been around him all my life, and it still amazes me.”

“I believe it’s a gift that God has given Leslie,” said Mary Parker Larsen, Leslie’s sister and caretaker. “He has the mentality of being 1 to 3 years old, yet, in this field, he’s a genius.”

Leslie has been featured on television’s “That’s Incredible” and in was the subject of an ABC Afterschool Special, “The Woman who Willed a Miracle.”

Leslie’s ability is known as the savant syndrome. Despite his disabilities, he has an island of brilliance that allows him, based on one listen, to reproduce any piece of music, even years later.

And reproduce he did.

A smooth baritone by nature Leslie’s vocal range is as broad as his piano repertoire, from the lowest gravel of Armstrong to the highest falsetto of Tiny Tim.

The Union Grove students, who might be expected to be restless with distraction during an assembly, were mesmerized. They heard Leslie perform near-perfect renditions of Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire,” Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood,” and Armstrong’s “Hello, Dolly.”

He then accepted challenges from students and teachers, who came on stage and played short songs on drums, trumpet, trombone, flute and oboe. Then they listened to Leslie play the tunes note-for-note.

Union Grove was the latest concert stop for Leslie, who continues his tour into North Dakota and Iowa. He recently played 31 concerts in 33 days in Japan.

“We like to compare Leslie’s story with a rose,” Larsen told the group. “It starts out as a rosebud and it slowly opens up into a beautiful flower.”

Larsen said Leslie – one of 12 known savants in the world – keeps expanding his ability and learning more music. He has never studied a sheet of music. He has always learned by repetition,” Larsen said.

“If we weren’t so busy flying around the world … he could probably master every instrument we gave him.”

Despite a repertoire that includes many classics, Leslie will never admit he doesn’t know a song.

“Leslie always says yes,” Larsen said. “Then he nicely makes up a song to replace the one he doesn’t know.”

Larsen said she and Leslie travel the country performing to try to have an impact on people, as part of a “ministry of love.”

The idea is to “bring a miracle of l love,” she said. “That’s one of our main purposes – to bring happiness to other people.” ♦

– This article originally appeared on Page 1 of the Racine Journal Times on October 2, 1987. View the original newspaper page. This blog post has been updated with more information on Leslie in 2017.

Postscript: Leslie’s adoptive mother, Mae Lemke, died in 1993. According to Dr. Darold Treffert, an internationally recognized expert on savant syndrome, Leslie is doing well and “playing as marvelously as ever.” He lives with his sister, Mary Parker, in north central Wisconsin.

Further Reading: Islands of Genius’

Further Reading: Whatever Happened to Leslie Lemke? (Scientific American)

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