Nov. 17, 1932 ó Feb. 17, 2017
Willard Erwin Graese of Mondovi passed to his eternal home on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at the age of 84 after losing his long battle with cancer.
Willard was born on the family farm in Kirchayn on Nov. 17, 1932, the second of four children born to Albert and Elsie (Hardt) Graese.
Willard was baptized and confirmed in his faith at David Star Lutheran Church. He attended David Star Evangelical Lutheran School. With the passing of his father, he had to quit school and work outside the family farm to help take care of his mother and the family.
In Willardís late teen years, at the age of 17, he contracted infantile paralysis (polio). He was paralyzed from the chest down, measured for an iron lung and never was expected to walk again. Due to a miracle from God, he recovered with some damage to his lungs, stomach muscles and leg muscles.
A few years after his recovery Willard bought and operated two fuel delivery trucks for Tri-Par Oil Company in Cedarburg.
On June 22, 1957, he was united in marriage to Ruth Baumgart at David Star Evangelical Lutheran Church. Their marriage was blessed with three children, Kathryn, Roger and Randall.
In May 1959, Willard purchased the Mileage Service Station in Mondovi from Ole Evenson. Willard, Ruth and daughter Kathryn (6 months old), along with the two fuel trucks, moved from Cedarburg to Mondovi. Pastor and Mrs. Hemer from Trinity Lutheran Church (now Zion), which was just across the street from the Mileage Station, welcomed them with open arms to Mondovi. Willard owned and operated the Mileage Station and started his own fuel route, employing many high school students. Along with the station and fuel route, he sold Christmas trees for many years, donating two of the biggest, most beautiful trees to the church. During the í60s, Willard joined the Mondovi Businessmenís Association, of which he became president. With the help of Don Wiseman, they were instrumental in bringing a hospital to Mondovi, they implemented bicycle inspections for the children to keep them safe when riding their bikes, among many other acts helping out small-town businesses. Willard enjoyed being a part of the Businessmanís pancake breakfasts to raise money for Mondovi. He also played Santa Claus during the Christmas season. Willard later purchased rights to a trucking company, which grew from one truck to a fleet of more than 20 trucks. He started hauling livestock and added seed corn for Jacques Seed Company, Prescott. He hauled the seed corn from the fields at harvest time and to the seed dealers during the winter and spring. Willard also hauled hay and grain for many of the local farmers.
His semi trucking took him to many states and Canada. After selling most of his trucks, he was down to one and spent the last six years hauling for Walmart on a dedicated route. In 2001 he was forced into retirement due to the deterioration of his muscles, called Post-Polio Syndrome.
Willard was a loving husband and father who took great pride in his family and all of his accomplishments. He will be missed. WCFW 105.7 FM has lost a faithful, longtime listener from 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. every morning. Willard loved the old-time polkas.
A special thank you to the Mondovi Ambulance Service for taking such good care of Willard, to Mayo Hospice Care Team Members: Brenda, Amanda, Matty and Nancy, who assured us we were not alone, and to Pastor Paul Bittner for his special visit and words of comfort.
Willard is survived by his loving wife, Ruth, of almost 60 years; daughter, Kathryn (Norman Bauer, deceased); and two sons, Roger (at home) and Randall (Gail). He is also survived by a brother-In-law, Erwin Schmidt, and niece, Debra (Mike Ladwig), along with many other nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Albert and Elsie Graese; parents-in-law, Fred and Ann Baumgart; dear sister, Betty (Jan. 4, 2017); and two brothers, Elroy and Marvin Graese.
A memorial service celebrating Willardís life was held at Zion Lutheran Church Mondovi on Saturday, March 11, 2017, at noon with Pastor Paul Woebbking officiating. Talbot Funeral HomeĖ Mondovi Chapel assisted the family with arrangements. Please share your memories or condolences online at www.talbotfuneralhomes.com.