Grefe, Robert N.

Died: 16 December 2014

Grefe, Robert Norbert, 91 years of Prairie Farm, Wis., was called home to his Lord and Savior on Tuesday 16 Dec 2014 at Mayo Clinic Health System in Menomonie. Robert, the third of 11 children, was born 22 Sept 1923 to Henry and Laura (Wermuth) Grefe of rural Necedah. He was baptized at home and confirmed at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mauston, on 12 June 1941. 

He attended Pleasant View Country School, and was able to attend and graduate from Mauston High School because he lived with his grandparents, Oscar and Pauline (Reese) Wermuth. After graduation, he took a machinist course at Western Technical College, La Crosse. He moved to Milwaukee and worked at Evinrude Motors until late 1942. WWII was heating up and he worked on airplane parts. 

On 13 Jan 1943 Robert joined the U.S. Army and was discharged at the rank of Staff SGT from the 1260th Combat Engineers Battalion. While in a combat engineer group, he spent time handling explosives, building floating bridges, loading and unloading landing craft, the usual rifle range work and blowing up various barriers. He landed in southern France on 13 Nov 1944. A lot of time was spent as back-up during the Battle of the Bulge. He said, “What is colder than a winter night in a frozen foxhole with no heat, no hot food and no warm footwear?”  “We had something to watch, the artillery went on nonstop and the sky was real fireworks. This was our New Year’s Eve celebration. Lots of guys had it worse.” After he was discharged from military service, Robert worked for Juneau County Highway Department as a truck driver, dynamiter and air drill and jackhammer operator. He started college under the G.I. Bill at River Falls in September of 1946. He graduated with honors with majors in agricultural education, science and math. He taught agriculture at Prairie Farm High School from 1950-1951.

In 1951, he accepted a position with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (Farmers Home Administration) and retired in January of 1980. During those years, he worked in Ashland, Wautoma, Medford and Madison. Those years were spent in financing farm operations, business, manufacturing and others.

Robert married his college sweetheart, Verda Lorraine Swenson, on 15 July 1949 at Cambridge, Mn.

Robert was a loving husband, father, neighbor, community member, and polio survivor. He served as a member and president of Wautoma Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) and was a board member at Hope Lutheran Church, Wautoma, as well as a school board member. He was also a member of the American Legion Posts of Wautoma and Prairie Farm, the Prairie Farm Lions Club and United Lutheran Church of Prairie Farm. His rural upbringing never left him and he enjoyed being outdoors, camping, fishing, hunting and making wood. Reading books and newspapers also kept him filled with ideas and opinions.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by their children Robert Paul Grefe of Madison, Gail Diane (Donald) Olson of Wheeler and Donald Scott (Christine) Grefe of Madison; their “daughter of the heart” Margaret James of Milwaukee and her daughters Amy and Hedy; grandchildren Forest, Clifton and Weston Grefe, Laura (Ryan) Doebereiner, Virginia (Jacob) Welle and Peter (Meghan) Olson; great-grandchildren Emily, Abigail and Owen Doebereiner, and Anton and Aericka Olson; brothers Paul of Wisconsin Dells, Henry of Mauston and Fredrick (Norma) of Wisconsin Dells; a sister Phyllis Moore of Mauston, as well as many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.

Robert was preceded in death by his parents; grandparents; sisters Dorothy Ruf, Eleanor Hoffman, Beverly Rothe and Doris Gourley; and brothers Gaylord and Harold.

Services were held at 3 p.m. Saturday 20 Dec 2014 from United Lutheran Church, with Rev. Shelly Schultz officiating. Interment followed at Vanceburg Cemetery, Town of Sheridan, rural Prairie Farm, with military honors accorded by Holum-Waite American Legion Post 259 of Prairie Farm. Visitation was held 1:30-3 p.m. at the church on Saturday. Rausch-Lundeen Funeral Homes, Dallas and Cameron, handled the arrangements.

Robert is pictured in the 4th edition of the Friedrich Seidemann Family Tree Book on page 180 with his parents and his sibling. He is listed on page 194 with his wife, children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren. Robert is also pictured on “Our Military Hero’s” wall at the Seidemann Reunion. Robert is a 5th generation descendant of Friedrich & Rosina Seidemann and his genealogy line is as follows: Friedrich, Fredericka, Oscar, Laura, and Robert. He is greatly missed by his loving family and friends.