Harvey pulled the old, braided leather strap out of the watch pocket, sewn into the front bib of his overalls, revealing his railroad pocket watch. It was old and a little tarnished but still kept exact railroad time, that was most important. He glanced at it quickly, buttoned up his faded overcoat and put on his tattered blue and white striped railroad cap. He was ready, he knew it was time and he didn't want to be late. As he took the first step aboard, with more agility than he's had in decades, his eye caught a glimpse of a familiar face through the train window. His heart swelled with joy when he saw her...his beautiful Alice smiling back at him. He had been waiting to see her for so many long years. Taking another step up, Harvey paused for just a moment to have one last retrospective glance backward into his long life. He thought about the many cherished moments that gave his life richness and color, as well as difficult times he endured over the years. He knew it was all just a part of life’s journey. He was proud of the honorable life he lived and was very grateful. Grateful for the wonderful opportunities and experiences, for the sacred beauty of his life. As Alice tenderly reached out for him to sit beside her, Harvey squeezed her hand tightly and was surprised by the deep sense of comfort and peace that washed over him, more than he ever felt possible. With his signature grin filling his face from ear to ear, Harvey waved a final goodbye, as the train left for the last ride home.
Early Friday morning, Oct. 11, 2019, ninety-three year old Harvey Vern Western announced, “I think I am going.” Being a straight-talking man of his word, he did just that. Harvey would say, “you betcha.” Harvey was born Sept. 20, 1926 in Thorp, WI to Edward and Clara (Thielke) Western. He was the fourth youngest and last survivor of twelve children born into his Norwegian-German family. He graduated in 1944 from Stanley High school, in Stanley, WI where he excelled in math, his favorite subject. He was drafted into the Army five months out of high school and served in Europe in WWII starting in Nov. 29, 1944. His specialized training and strong math skills were required in his position as an Army “Technician Fifth Grade.” [Tech Corporal]. Eighteen months of his service was in Nuremberg, Germany during the Nuremberg trials where he took on additional duties when he became the General’s Assistant. He was honorably discharged on Aug. 21, 1946.
Harvey, fresh out of the military, found employment in the Midwest cheese factories owned and operated by his older brothers. While working at Lone Elm Cheese Factory, in Nekimi, WI.; Harvey met his life’s special love, Alice Hinz. Alice lived across the road from Lone Elm and was anxious to meet “the new cute guy” working there. It was the start of their love story and our family’s history. They married Oct. 20, 1950 and a few years later raised three children on their 40-acre farm across the road from Lone Elm. After a few years working and managing cheese factories, and a short stint at the foundry, Harvey found his life’s work on the Soo Line, holding numerous positions. He worked as a fireman, switchman, yardman, and retired after 35 years in 1989 as a brakeman.
Harvey was a lifelong learner with a curious mind, who kept up on the world and far ranging topics his adult children would bring up by being an avid reader of magazines and newspapers. He was a huge fan of all sports, especially the Packers. He looked forward to going to Press Lake Camp in NW Ontario, Canada to catch the BIG ones. It was the perfect combination of family, cold beer, fish, cribbage, Sheepshead, and the strongest, stinkiest Limburger cheese, in other words, BLISS for Harvey. He was an expert Black Jack player and jumped at every chance to go to the casinos to showcase his talent. He had quite the green thumb, producing beautiful, bountiful, bushel baskets full of produce; a life-skill he passed on to interested offspring. He was especially proud of his cucumber recipe, “Harvey’s Cuke Salad” that we all tried to replicate but somehow it never tasted as good as his. He was very good with children and had a wonderful singing voice, most noticed when singing, “The Wabash Cannonball,” while bouncing a little one on his knee. He would take music requests as long as you chose “Wabash Cannonball” or “Old Suzannah.”... so we always did. Harvey was usually pretty quiet, but sometimes out of the blue, quiet Harvey, with a twinkle in his eye and a huge grin would let out a humorous, sometimes snarky one-liner, many times about how the coffee tasted. He really enjoyed getting a reaction out of people, and making them smile. His humorous sayings and one liners are legendary and many of us will be repeating his words, with a smile, remembering him in the years ahead.
Harvey’s gentle matter of fact, can-do, glass half-full outlook on life carried him through many of life’s challenges and became a role model for all of us. As his body continually lost strength and function over the years, he was forced to accept and adapt to his new circumstances, which he did in a go-with-the-flow attitude. Amazingly he never lost his ability to find joy. This is the legacy he leaves us ...his final gift. Harvey was a kind, attentive, loving father, grandfather, and great grandfather and father-in-law; we were so thankful to have him in our lives.
Harvey was preceded in death by his wife, Alice Hinz (Oct. 28, 1981), great grandson, Braylon Western; 6 brothers: Alvin, Norman, Earl, Glen, Raymond, and Edward Western; 5 sisters: Mildred Siebert, Edna Wiles, Nora Kleist, Clare May McKnight, and Dorothy Seefeldt.
He is survived by three children and their spouses: Pam (Mike) McCormick, Kevin (Dawn) Western, Jeff (Kathy) Western; ten grandchildren/spouses: Jenny (Andy) Oestreich, Tera (Matt) Miller, Ryan (Heather) Tellock, Corey Western, Heidi (Adam) Goehring, Emma Western, Collin (Melissa) Western, Kati (Wulf) Knight, Scott (Theresa) Western, Alissa (Greg) Owen; eleven great grandchildren: Kardell, Calen, Rayna, DrewAnne, Fletcher, Eldon, Alice, Madelyn, Zaylin, William, and Aria.
Further survived by sisters-in-law: Wilma (widow of Ray) Western; Nancy (widow of Edward) Western, Bernice Clark, Anita Hinz; brother-in-law: Melvin Matulle; brother and sister-in-law: Dave and Marlene Hinz; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Our heartfelt appreciation to all the many wonderful, loving caretakers and staff who have helped Harvey, as his condition progressed over the last 13 years at Evergreen Retirement Facility. Thank you to Evergreen’s Pastor Steve who sang beautiful hymns and bible verses while playing guitar for Harvey, bringing him much joy. Thanks also to Pastor Reiff of St. John’s Lutheran Church, in Nekimi, for all of his help and spiritual support; and the Women of the church for all of their work on our behalf. To all of you, we are forever grateful.
Funeral services will be held at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Nekimi, WI - Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019 at 11:00 am; Visitation 9:30-11:00, prior to the service; burial to follow service at St. John’s Cemetery [adjacent to church], followed by a luncheon in the church’s fellowship hall.
In lieu of flowers, if you’d like, donations in memory of Harvey would be appreciated to:
Rawhide: E 7475 Rawhide Road, New London, WI, 54961 [rawhide.org]. Harvey spent a number of years volunteering there, driving cars for their auctions. Michael J. Fox Foundation can accelerate the Parkinson's research [michaeljfox.org].