Gordon J. Hauser, 95, died peacefully in his sleep on April 13, 2020, at Century Ridge, a senior living community in Chilton, WI, where he lived since July 2016. During the past five years he battled through several physical issues, including cancer. He was born on a farm near Hilbert, WI, on June 3, 1924, a son of Mathias A. and Frances E. (Gruber) Hauser. He lived 95 years, 10 months, 9 days, and 2 hours - close to “almost 96” which he often professed as his age.
He graduated from Hilbert High School in 1942, and WWII was raging. He was drafted before he was 20 and was inducted into the US Army in 1944, a few weeks after his 20th birthday. Because of a large number of casualties in the “Battle of the Bulge”, he and many other draftees went through a shortened Basic Infantry course in 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 immediately was sent into combat. He fought in France, Luxembourg, and Germany, where he was wounded. He then was taken to a Paris hospital - after six weeks of rehab he returned to his unit. Many years later, when Gordon became interested in the history of WWII, he learned that the crossing of the 90th Division from Luxembourg into Germany took place only 30 miles from the small village of Irsch, Germany, which is where his grandfather had lived until the age of 14, after which he emigrated to the USA. The war in Europe ended in May, 1945. Of the many military decorations he received, the most-cherished are the Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart, and Bronze Star.
The 90th Division was a Reserve division and was recalled to the USA after May 1945, but because Gordon had served less than half of his two year tour-of-duty, 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, attending weekly training sessions, having regular visits by his teacher to his parents’ farm and working with his parents. The program was funded by the Federal Government. In late 1953, there was an opening for the postmaster position in Hilbert. He took the Civil Service exam, won the job and was installed as Permanent Postmaster in June, 1954. His appointment certificate was signed by 34th US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during WWII. Gordon served as Postmaster until his retirement in February, 1988, nearly 34 years.
After he returned to Hilbert he became very active in military and civilian organizations. He immediately joined the Hilbert American Legion Post and served in many of his almost-74 years of membership as either Commander, Adjutant, or Chaplain. He also was a long-time member of the Calumet County American Legion Post, Chilton Veterans of Foreign Wars 3153, and the Calumet/Manitowoc 40 et 8 Voiture 1434. He belonged to many local, state, and national organizations.
Like many combat veterans, Gordon did not talk about his experiences, at least not to anyone in his family or to casual acquaintances, for over 35 years. He may have spoken with fellow combat veterans. Over the years he became friends with Dan Strauss, a long-time Hilbert HS history teacher and coach, who knew that Gordon liked history in general and had military experience of the nastiest kind. Dan convinced Gordon to come to one of his history classes to say a few things about how WWII began, how the USA became involved, the conditions faced by the soldiers, the aftermath of the war, anything he was willing to share with young students. A day and time was set, the presentation went very well, Gordon said that later in the day the pressure which he had felt and suppressed for so many years went away. Over the years, especially after he retired from the post office in 1988, he made many dozens of presentations in Calumet, Outagamie, Brown, and Manitowoc Counties to mostly grade school and high school students, but also to service clubs, assisted living homes, church groups, Mens clubs, Women’s clubs, and community organizations. He also was interviewed by a few college 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 a short time before COVID-19 regulations were put into effect.
Gordon was an avid reader of books and magazines on various subjects, but mostly books about WWII in Europe - these he bought, 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 would draw cartoons, tell stories (mostly whoppers), take them for snowmobile rides, shopping at dime stores, visiting farms that had kittens to pet, and, of course, fishing, which was his favorite pastime until he could no longer get into/out of his boat. For a Hilbert Boy Scout to earn a Fishing merit badge, one of the requirements was to meet with Gordon and get his approval. Those meetings must have been interesting, but every Boy Scout was approved. He also chaperoned Hilbert High School events: (1) in several years the football team qualified for the state championship in their Division, so students were bussed to Madison to watch and cheer, (2) in several years students attended “Trees for Tomorrow”, an extended weekend in Northern Wisconsin to learn about forest preservation.
In his younger years Gordon hunted deer, pheasants, and small game, he bowled for quite a few years and enjoyed snowmobiling for many years. He watched GB Packers games at Lambeau Field for many years and continued to follow them, as well as the Milwaukee Brewers, on TV. He loved music. He played clarinet in the Hilbert HS band and in the Hilbert Community Band which performed during summers. As electronics improved and became affordable, he discovered quality stereo music reproduction, bought many 12-inch vinyl long-play records, then even more compact discs, and the electronics to play them. He enjoyed listening to several kinds of music. He also enjoyed traveling by air, railroad, and cruise ship.
During one of his health episodes in St. Vincent Hospital in 2018, a kind Certified Nursing Assistant noticed that he was anxious, edgy, and uncomfortable. She brought a small box of colored pencils and a coloring book to him. He took to it immediately, he relaxed and told his brother that more colored pencils and coloring books were needed soon! During the rest of his life he did a lot of coloring while listening to music from Public Radio. Even after his body was shutting down he managed to do a little coloring.
Gordon is survived by his brother and sister-In-Law: Myron and Margaret Hauser, De Pere; nieces: Kathryn (Timothy) Slusher, Minneapolis, MN, Susanne (Daniel) Geraty, Tomahawk, Lisa (Allan Jensen) Steiner, Englewood, CO, and Linda (John) Moehr, De Pere; nephews: James (Karen) Hauser, Green Bay, Brian (Dana) Steiner, Pasadena, CA, Daniel (Christine) Steiner, Granite Bay, CA, Donald (Kathy Cernohous) Hauser, Chippewa Falls, and Jeffrey (Jan) Steiner, Albany, OR; great nieces, great-great nieces, great nephews, great-great nephews, cousins, and many friends.
Gordon was preceded in death by his brother and sister-in-law: Earl and Rosella Hauser; sister and brother-in-law: Dolores and Gerald Steiner; niece: Carol Hauser; great niece: Kaitlyn Brunette; and great nephew: Nicholas Brunette.
The family extends special thanks to APNP Amanda Hackbarth, of Ascension Calumet Medical Center, for the professional, diagnostic, advisory, and compassionate treatment she provided to Gordon for 3+ years; to Melissa, Holly, and Barbara from Calumet County Hospice Agency, who kept Gordon calm, comfortable, and pain-free during the last two months of his life; to Century Ridge caregivers, 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 was held 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 viewing, visitation, and prayer service. Burial 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 scheduled to take place at 11:00 am on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at St. Mary Catholic Church (108 S. 6th St.) in Hilbert. Friends may call from 10:00 am until 10:45 am at the church on the day of service.
During Gordon’s lifetime he was a strong supporter of education, especially grade schools and high schools. In lieu of flowers, if you would like to honor Gordon, please consider making a donation to St. Mary School in Hilbert, where Gordon and his three siblings learned their A,B,C’s and much more in grades 1 through 8, MANY years ago. Checks can be sent to Wieting Family Funeral Home, Inc. 411 West Main St. Chilton, WI 53014