One of Paul's passions is researching and narrating family history. He has written many articles about grandparents and great-grandparents.
Uncle Dick with my Aunt and Her Husband
Memories of Uncle Dick
Richard Paul Kuehn, or Uncle Dick, as I called him was my second favorite uncle. In this article, I explore Uncle Dick's early life and my memories of him from the early 1950s until 2003.
Uncle Dick was my father's younger brother. Born in 1921 in Door County, Wisconsin, Dick was the fourth eldest child of Charles August and Mary Kuehn.
In 1923, he accompanied my grandpa and grandma, father Charles, eldest brother Augie, and elder sister Marie to Greenfield, a western suburb of Milwaukee.
In 1942, my uncle enlisted in the Army during the Second World War and served until his discharge in 1945.
After getting married in probably 1946, Dick lived in Milwaukee until about 1960.
My uncle then had a house built in West Allis in the late 1950s and lived there until he died in 2005.
Each period of Uncle Dick's life is examined in this article. Facts are taken from census and military records, old Door County newspaper articles, my father's stories, and personal observations.
My Paternal Grandparents, Father, Uncles, and Aunts
Early Life in Door County: 1921–1923
Uncle Dick was born on August 17, 1921, in Door County, Wisconsin. He was the fourth child of Charles August and Mary Elizabeth Kuehn. Dick had two elder brothers and four sisters.
Uncle Augie and my father were born in 1914 and 1916 respectively.
An elder sister Aunt Marie was born in 1918. Three younger sisters, Aunts Laura, Helen, and Florence were born in the years 1923, 1927, and 1929 respectively.
Grandpa Kuehn was a farmer in Egg Harbor, but unfortunately, his mortgaged farm was foreclosed on and sold at a public auction in November 1922.
In 1923, the Kuehn family lived with mother Bertha and great-uncle Paul on a farm on Sunny Slope Road. They stayed there until moving to Greenfield just outside of Milwaukee in October 1923.
Life on 97th in Greenfield: 1924–1942
After grandma and grandpa Kuehn left Door County in October 1923, they settled with their children in Greenfield a few miles west of Milwaukee. My dad always talked about living on 97th Street as a boy; however, I am unsure whether the Kuehn family initially settled there.
I know next to nothing about Uncle Dick during the Greenfield years. What I do know is from my father's stories. According to dad, the family was poor. Grandpa got a low-paying job at the Milwaukee stockyards and grandma was busy caring for seven children. My youngest aunts Laura, Helen, and Florence were born after the move to Greenfield.
My dad recalls first going to a Catholic school but later being sent with his brothers and sisters to a public school. In the summer, his siblings and he would run around outside barefoot.
Ancestry.com census records reveal that none of my aunts or uncles graduated from high school. Both my dad and Uncle Dick dropped out after their sophomore year.
Dad then got into trouble stealing from a gasoline station as recalled by Uncle Dick. This happened in probably 1931 or 1932. For punishment, my father was sent to a reform school in Green Bay for a few years.
After reviewing my father's selective service registration in 1940, I learned that he was going to the Milwaukee Vocational School and living with grandpa at 97th and West Burnham St. in Greenfield. A 1940 census record showed that Uncle Dick was living with grandpa, grandma, and all of his siblings except Uncle Augie. Dick was also working for Lippman Engineering In Milwaukee.
Military Life: 1942–1945
I learned from a military record on ancestry.com that Uncle Dick was in the Second World War. He enlisted in the Army on August 21, 1942, and served until November 9, 1945. While in the Army, my uncle was a shipping and receiving clerk. He saw duty in Europe and I can remember seeing a picture of Uncle Dick in uniform.
I never asked him about it, but my uncle must have seen some battle. After discharge from the Army, Dick was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at a VA hospital in Milwaukee.
Life in Milwaukee: 1946–1960
After discharge from the Army in 1945, Uncle Dick most probably got married in 1946. His wife was Regina Skibinski whom he met in Milwaukee.
Dick's eldest child Richard Carl commonly called Dickie was born in 1947.
According to the 1950 census, Uncle Dick was living in Milwaukee with his wife and son as lodgers in the home of a widow. He was employed as a maintenance man in a hotel.
My first memories of Dick aren't until about 1950. On an occasion when my dad and Dick were visiting grandma and grandpa, my uncle remarked that their cat was so big. I remember grandma's big tomcat called Puddy.
I also recall from my dad's conversations that Dick was probably in and out of the VA hospital during the early 1950s. My uncle was paranoid at that time and convinced that his wife was trying to harm him. I also think dad talked about my uncle hiring a private investigator.
In March 1954, Uncle Dick helped my mom and dad move their furniture from West Allis to a farm that my folks had just rented outside of Mukwonago. While we lived on the rented farm from 1954 through 1956, Dick would often come out and help dad make hay and store it in the barn. I was still too little to help at that time.
After Dick and dad made hay one time. they went to a tavern in Mukwonago to have a drink. After dad came home, mom was so upset and gave dad hell.
In March 1957, Uncle Dick also helped my folks move from the rented farm to a farm north of Honey Creek that was just purchased. Later, in November 1957, we were so excited to watch Dick bowl on TV one Sunday morning.
Uncle Dick was very good at electrical wiring. After dad built a kitchen addition to our house, Dick came out and put the wiring into it. This was in 1960 right before Dick probably bought his new home in West Allis.
Uncle Dick in the Early 1950s
Life in West Allis before Suffering a Stroke: 1960-1985
Probably in 1960, Uncle Dick bought a new house on 99th Street in Greenfield, West Allis. In 1960, his last child Martin (Martie) was born.
After grandpa Kuehn's funeral in January 1963, I got to see Dick's new house for the first time. When we all came back from the cemetery, Reggie and Dick served buffet lunch in his home. It was a one-story house with three bedrooms and a detached garage.
While I was in college and in the Navy, I saw very little of Uncle Dick. I do recall, however, visiting Dick and his family in 1967 with mom and dad while I was on 12-hour liberty from Navy basic training at Great Lakes, Illinois.
In 1971 before going back to school again, I lived at home. During that time, Dick and Reggie would often come out to visit. When he was alone, he would often stop at Honey Creek's one tavern that was not far from the Sioux Line train station.
In 1978 or 1979, Uncle Dick came out to help dad do more electrical wiring. At that time, my father was building a new milkhouse and remodeling our barn so that he could ship grade-A milk.
Because I was living first in Taiwan and then in Maryland, I don't remember seeing Uncle Dick until the summer of 1983. Dick was very busy at that time working a lot of overtime at the Peck Meat Packing Company in Milwaukee. I also heard from dad that he was smoking and drinking a lot. That probably caused a debilitating stroke leaving my uncle partially paralyzed on one side of his body. Although he was only about 64, Dick was forced to retire.
Author Next to Uncle Dick's Home on 99th Street
Post-stroke Life in West Allis: 1985-2005
I next saw Uncle Dick in December 1987 about two years after his stroke. The occasion was my Uncle Augie's funeral a few days before Christmas. I remember Dick struggling with his crutches to get in and out of a church pew. Later, when my dad was gathered with all of his siblings, Dick asked the question, "Who's next?" Uncle Augie's death from a heart attack at the age of 73 was unexpected.
Uncle Dick never made it out to my dad's farm after his stroke. Dad, however, would often go into West Allis to visit his brother. Around 1989, dad even took Dick on a trip up to Marshfield.
While visiting mom and dad almost every year from 1992 until dad died in 2004, I would always accompany my parents when they went to visit Dick. On one visit around 2000, Uncle Dick brought up dad's theft from a filling station in the early 1930s. I never saw my father so embarrassed in all his life.
When I saw Dick for the last time in 2003, he was in a nursing home and getting treated for prostate cancer. Sadly, his wife Reggie had Alzheimer's.
Strangely, I never saw Dickie and Martie after 1963.
Uncle Dick talked a lot about World War II Army service a few years before he died. He was a kind man and easy to talk with.
My Uncle Dick passed away in 2005 and Reggie died a year later.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Paul Richard Kuehn