Memories of My Uncles
As a boy, I was blessed to have many aunts and uncles. Both dad and mom came from big families so I grew up around seven aunts and four uncles.
Since my mother's three sisters and two brothers all lived 200 miles away in Marshfield, I never really saw them that much.
My father's four sisters and two brothers, however, lived much closer to me. I saw them quite often especially my two uncles Augie and Dick.
I was much closer to my paternal uncles than my maternal uncles. Undoubtedly, this is because Augie and Dick came to visit often and I rarely got the chance to see Raymie and Leo, mom's brothers.
In this article, I share memories of each of my uncles. I reflect on what I have learned about them while they were alive.
Uncle Augie (August Kuehn) was always my favorite uncle. As a boy, I remember seeing him the most. Augie shared my love of baseball and other sports. He even took me to baseball games when dad was working.
August Kuehn was the oldest of my father's siblings. He was born in Door County, Wisconsin, in 1914. I know little of Augie's childhood and youth except for stories that Uncle Augie rode freight trains and was like a hobo during the Depression in the 1930s. While doing ancestry research, I was shocked to learn from census records that my uncle was in Wisconsin state prison during 1940.
Uncle Augie married a divorcee named Georganna in 1943. She had four kids and a mother who all lived with Augie in an apartment on the east side of Milwaukee. Shortly after getting married, my uncle had two children, Gail and Allan, with Georganna.
Such was the situation when I first remember regularly visiting Augie on Saturday evenings in the early 1950s. We lived in West Allis at that time and I guess dad looked forward to watching his big 30-inch screen TV. Uncle Augie worked in the A&P Bakery and I remember dad taking me there once to see him work.
After we moved to a farm in 1954, Augie, Georganna, Gail, and Allan would often come out to visit us during the summer. Although Uncle Augie only helped dad once out in the fields that I can remember, mom and dad would always give him sweet corn, tomatoes, and other vegetables that we grew in a garden.
It was during these early years on the farm that I took a special interest in baseball and the Milwaukee Braves. Uncle Augie would always talk with me about the Braves and on two or three occasions he took me to games at old Milwaukee County Stadium. Since dad worked the night shift at Allis Chalmers in West Allis, he could not take me to games. Instead, my father would drop me off at grandma and grandpa's house in West Allis at about 3:30 in the afternoon and then Augie would come over and take me to the ball game and back to grandpa's after the game was over.
When I got older and after we moved to our own farm, Augie continued to regularly visit. Uncle was a golfer and once he took me to a driving range near Burlington and showed me how to hit a golf ball.
Uncle Augie kept in touch with me after I went into the Navy and then lived in Taiwan during the 1970s. When I came back for a visit in the summer of 1978, Augie even took me and my Taiwanese wife to a Milwaukee Brewers game at County Stadium.
Around this time, Georganna died of cancer in 1977 and Augie had remarried when I came back to live in the States in 1979.
Uncle Augie was a kind person and continued to support his mentally-ill stepdaughter until he remarried. Augie liked to enjoy life and spent a lot of money on new cars and traveling during the eight years prior to his death. He evidently didn't save any money or have life insurance because his kids, Gail and Allan, remarked having to pay for his funeral. I was saddened to hear of Augie's death from a heart attack in December of 1987. He was only 73 and I drove all the way to Twin Rivers in Wisconsin from Maryland to attend Uncle's funeral.
Uncle Dick was another uncle who I often saw when growing up. Richard Kuehn born in 1921 was dad's younger brother. I know little of Uncle Dick's youth except that he lived with dad in Greenfield in the 1930s and then joined the Army in 1942 during the Second World War.
Uncle was stationed in Europe and after his discharge in 1945, Dick suffered from post-combat stress and had to be hospitalized at a VA hospital.
Around 1950, Dick married Reggie in Milwaukee. During the early years of their marriage, Dick was paranoid that Reggie wanted to attack him with an ice pick.
My first real memories of Uncle Dick begin in March of 1954 when he helped dad move from West Allis to a rented farm near Mukwonago. During our first two years on the farm, Dick would often come out and help dad make hay because I was too small to do this heavy work. Dick was also an electrician and helped dad put electrical wiring into his farm buildings.
Uncle Dick had two boys, Dickie and Marty. On a few occasions, Dick and his family would visit us on our Honey Creek farm.
Many times, Uncle Dick would come out alone to visit. When he did, Dick would always stop at a tavern in the village of Honey Creek near our farm. Uncle apparently worked, drank, and smoked too much which probably led to a debilitating stroke which he suffered around 1985. Dick could hardly move with crutches and was then forced to retire.
During the 80s, 90s, and up until 2003, I would visit Uncle Dick when I made summer trips back to Wisconsin to see mom and dad. Dick developed prostate cancer and went into a nursing home around 2001. Unfortunately, around this time, Reggie started to develop Alzheimer's disease.
In the late 1990s, before both Uncle Dick and dad passed away, I took dad to visit Dick who was still living in his house in Greenfield off of Oklahoma Avenue. While we were talking, Dick suddenly brought up a matter which dad never wanted to discuss. It seems that during the early 1930s, dad was arrested for breaking into a filling station. When Uncle mentioned this, dad got very red and upset.
Uncle Dick died in early 2005 less than a year after my father passed away.
Uncle Raymie was my favorite uncle when I was a little boy. Unfortunately, I did not get to see Raymie that much. This uncle born in 1922 was two years younger than mom. Uncle Raymie lived with mom, two younger sisters, and a younger brother in Marshfield, Wisconsin, when growing up.
Before graduating from high school, Uncle Raymie quit school and worked in a shoe factory with mom. He joined the Army in 1942 during the Second World War. In a ten-year Army service, Raymie was stationed in the Pacific and then in Japan during the U.S. occupation following the end of the War in 1945.
Mom always told me about the letters which Uncle wrote to her during his Army life. We found out that Raymie was a machine gunner and had a Japanese girlfriend while stationed in Japan.
In the early 1950s, I would always see Uncle Raymie at the dinner table when we visited grandma and grandpa in Marshfield. When I asked him about getting wounded in the War, he smiled and said that a bullet went in one ear and out the other. As a boy of six, I was quite confused.
After I got older and we moved out to a farm, I didn't see my Uncle Raymie that often. When we bought a farm with a creek in 1957, however, Raymie would occasionally come out and go fishing during the summer.
By the early 1960s, Uncle Raymie was married to a divorced woman from Milwaukee where he lived. I can not remember whether he had any kids. Raymie worked for a railroad in Milwaukee and lived there until he succumbed to lung cancer in 1986.
Finally, Uncle Leo will always be remembered. He was my mother's youngest brother and most, unfortunately, Leo was born severely mentally retarded.
After Uncle was born in 1926, grandma took care of him at home most of her life. Mom said that Leo didn't start walking until he was three or four. Grandma would wash, dress, and feed Uncle Leo when he was growing up. When I first can remember seeing Leo around 1950, He would sit in an armchair in the living room all day holding his ears. Leo could recognize people because dad once asked Leo who he (dad) was. According to dad, Uncle Leo replied, "You Suck." Dad's first name was Chuck and Leo's articulation was very bad because he never went to school. Uncle Leo never talked and I can't remember ever talking with him.
About two or three years before Leo passed away in 1966, grandma had to put Uncle Leo in a nursing home. He tragically died there while choking on a piece of meat.
© 2018 Paul Richard Kuehn