(Editor’s note: Gordon J. Hauser passed away in 2020. This obituary contains new information about an upcoming memorial service.)
Gordon J. Hauser, 95, died peacefully in his sleep on April 13, 2020, in Century Ridge, a seniors’ community in Chilton, where he had lived since July 2016.
Over the past five years, he has struggled with several physical issues, including cancer. He was born on a farm near Hilbert on June 3, 1924, the son of Mathias A. and Frances E. (Gruber) Hauser. He lived to be 95 years, 10 months, 9 days and 2 hours, nearly “nearly 96”, which he often stated was his age.
He graduated from Hilbert High School in 1942, and World War II was raging. He was drafted before the age of 20 and was inducted into the US Army in 1944, a few weeks after his 20th birthday. Due to high casualties in the “Battle of the Bulge”, he and many other conscripts attended a shortened basic infantry course at North Little Rock, Arkansas, and were sent to Europe as replacements . He became a member of the 90th Infantry Division in early January 1945 and was immediately sent into combat. He fought in France, Luxembourg and Germany, where he was wounded. He was then transported to a Paris hospital. After six weeks of rehabilitation, he returned to his unit. Many years later, when Gordon became interested in the history of the Second World War, he learned that the crossing of the 90th Division from Luxembourg to Germany had taken place only 30 miles from the small village of Irsch, Germany, where his grandfather had lived until he was 14, after which he emigrated to the United States. The war in Europe ended in May 1945. Of the many military decorations he received, the most expensive are the Combat Infantry Badge, the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
The 90th Division was a reserve division and was recalled to the United States after May 1945, but since Gordon had served less than half of his two-year tour he was transferred to the 1st Infantry Division, a regular army division that was kept in Germany as part of the occupation force. Most of his duty with “The Big Red One” was guarding high-ranking Nazis who were on trial for war crimes.
He returned to Hilbert in July 1946, enrolled in a three-year on-the-job training program in agriculture, attended weekly training sessions, received regular visits from his teacher on the farm in his parents and worked with his parents. The program was funded by the federal government. At the end of 1953, there was an opening for the position of postmaster at Hilbert. He passed the civil service examination, won the post, and was appointed permanent postmaster in June 1954. His certificate of appointment was signed by the 34th U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II. Gordon served as postmaster until his retirement in February 1988, nearly 34 years.
After returning to Hilbert, he became very active in military and civilian organizations. He immediately joined the Hilbert American Legion Post and served for many of his nearly 74 years of membership as a Commandant, Warrant Officer or Chaplain. He was also a longtime member of the Calumet County American Legion Post, Chilton Veterans of Foreign Wars 3153, and Calumet/Manitowoc 40 and 8 Car 1434. He has been a member of many local, state, and national organizations.
Like many veterans, Gordon did not speak of his experiences, at least to anyone in his family or casual acquaintances, for over 35 years. He may have spoken with other veterans. Over the years, he befriended Dan Strauss, a longtime history teacher and coach at Hilbert High School, who knew Gordon loved history in general and had a most unpleasant military experience. Dan convinced Gordon to come to one of his history classes to say a few words about the start of World War II, the involvement of the United States, the conditions faced by soldiers, the consequences of the war , everything he was ready to share with young students. A day and time was set, the presentation went very well, Gordon said later that day the pressure he had felt and suppressed for so many years was gone. Over the years, particularly after retiring from the post in 1988, he gave several dozen presentations in Calumet, Outagamie, Brown and Manitowoc counties, primarily to elementary and high school students, but also to service clubs, assisted living facilities, group churches, men’s clubs, women’s clubs and community organizations. He was also interviewed by a few students and authors. After teachers, parents and grandparents learned that Gordon had moved to Century Ridge, school children came to his room to interview him for history projects. His last interviewer visited him shortly before the COVID-19 regulations came into effect.
Gordon was an avid reader of books and magazines on various subjects, but especially books on World War II in Europe, which he purchased, read, and donated to St. Norbert College.
He never married but enjoyed being with children of all ages – his younger brother, nieces and nephews received the most attention. He drew cartoons, told stories (mostly whoppers), took them on snowmobile rides, shopped at dime stores, visited farms that had kittens to pet and, of course, fished, who was his favorite pastime until he couldn’t get in/out of his boat. For a Hilbert Boy Scout to earn a fishing merit badge, one of the requirements was to meet Gordon and get his endorsement. These meetings must have been interesting, but every Boy Scout was approved. He also chaperoned events at Hilbert High School: (1) for several years the football team qualified for the state championship in their division, so students were bussed to Madison to watch and encouraging, (2) for several years, students have attended Trees for Tomorrow, a long weekend in northern Wisconsin to learn about forest preservation.
As a young man, Gordon hunted deer, pheasant and small game, bowled for several years and snowmobiled for many years. He watched Green Bay Packers games at Lambeau Field for many years and continued to watch them and the Milwaukee Brewers on television. He loved music. He played clarinet in the Hilbert High School band and in the Hilbert Community Band which performed during the summers. As electronics improved and became affordable, he discovered quality stereo music reproduction, bought many long-playing 12-inch vinyl records, and then even more compact discs and the electronics to play them. He liked to listen to many kinds of music. He also enjoyed traveling by plane, train, and cruise ship.
During one of his health episodes at St. Vincent’s Hospital in 2018, a kind certified nursing assistant noticed that he was anxious, edgy and uncomfortable. She brought him a small box of crayons and a coloring book. He took to it immediately, relaxed and told his brother that he needed more crayons and coloring books soon! For the rest of his life, he colored a lot while listening to the music of Public Radio. Even after his body shut down, he managed to do some coloring.
Gordon is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Myron and Margaret Hauser of De Pere; nieces Kathryn (Timothy) Slusher of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Susanne (Daniel) Geraty of Tomahawk; Lisa (Allan Jensen) Steiner of Englewood, Colorado; and Linda (John) Moehr of De Pere; nephews James (Karen) Hauser of Green Bay; Brian (Dana) Steiner of Pasadena, California; Daniel (Christine) Steiner of Granite Bay, California; Donald (Kathy Cernohous) Hauser of Chippewa Falls; and Jeffrey (Jan) Steiner of Albany, Oregon; great nieces, great great nieces, great nephews, great great nephews, cousins and many friends.
Gordon was predeceased by his brother and sister-in-law, Earl and Rosella Hauser; sister and brother-in-law Dolores and Gerald Steiner; niece Carol Hauser; grandniece Kaitlyn Brunette; and great-nephew Nicholas Brunette.
The family gives special thanks to APNP Amanda Hackbarth of Ascension Calumet Medical Center for the professional, diagnostic, consultative and compassionate treatment she provided Gordon for over three years; to Melissa, Holly and Barbara of Calumet County Hospice, who kept Gordon calm, comfortable and pain-free for the last two months of his life; and to the caregivers at Century Ridge, especially Mary, who helped him in so many ways during his 3.7 years as a resident.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a private service has been arranged for Gordon on Friday, April 17, 2020 for family members and a few of his closest friends. At the Wieting family funeral home in Chilton, there was a visitation, visitation and prayer service. Interment followed at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church Cemetery in Hilbert. Both prayer services were led by pastoral associate Diane Wickersheim.
A memorial service followed by full military honors is to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 11, 2022 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 108 S. 6th St. in Hilbert. Friends can call from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. at the church on the day of the service.
During Gordon’s lifetime, he was a strong supporter of education, particularly primary and secondary schools. In lieu of flowers, if you would like to honor Gordon, please consider making a donation to St. Mary’s School in Hilbert, where Gordon and his three siblings learned their A’s, B’s, C’s and more from the first in eighth grade. from. Checks can be mailed to Wieting Family Funeral Home, Inc. 411 W. Main St., Chilton, WI 53014.