My Favorite Uncle
My Favorite Uncle
August Carl Kuehn, fondly remembered as Uncle Augie was always my favorite uncle. Beginning at an early age, I always looked forward to visiting his apartment in Milwaukee. After later moving to a farm, it was always a joy and there was excitement seeing his car pulling into our driveway.
As a boy, I loved baseball. Uncle Augie shared my passion for baseball and even tried to teach me how to play golf.
Whenever Augie visited our farm, he brought his camera along and took many pictures. He also had many interesting things to talk about.
In this article, I reminisce about my uncle's life and how I best remember him.
Uncle Augie's Early Life - 1914-1929
My favorite uncle, August Kuehn, was born in 1914 in Door County, Wisconsin. He was the oldest child of my grandparents, Charles August Kuehn and Mary Kroll Kuehn. Uncle Augie's brothers included my father, Charles George, born in 1916, and Uncle Richard Paul (Dick) in 1921. His sisters were my aunts, Marie, born in 1918, Laura in 1923, Helen in 1926, and Florence born in 1929.
Surprisingly, my father had no stories to tell about Uncle Augie when he and my dad were kids in Egg Harbor Township in Door County in the 1920s. From a picture shared by my second cousin, Margie Kuehn Nelson, I learned that Augie and Aunt Marie often were together with their uncle Herman and cousins of uncle Paul Richard in the late 20s.
Early Adulthood - 1930-1942
I hardly know anything about my Uncle Augie's life after he moved with the Kuehn family from Door County to Greenfield outside of Milwaukee around 1923. Augie did not graduate from high school. There are stories that my uncle left home and became a hobo riding freight trains during the Great Depression of the 1930s. He must have briefly returned home in 1938 because he was in a picture taken of grandpa and grandma's family in 1938.
While doing ancestry research and checking the 1940 census, I was shocked to learn that Uncle Augie's residence was listed at Waupun. The Wisconsin State Prison is at Waupun and it is highly likely that my uncle was a prisoner there at this time. Uncle Augie, however, never talked about this during the time that I knew him.
Early Married Life on East Side of Milwaukee - 1943-1954
The first memories I have of my uncle date from around 1950 when he and his family lived on Brady Street on the east side of Milwaukee.
Although I have never found a marriage certificate, Uncle Augie married Georgeanna Mason Wilke probably in 1943. Georgeanna was a middle-aged divorced woman seven years older than my uncle. She had four children from her previous marriage. At the time I can first remember visiting Augie, he was living in a small apartment with Georgeanna, his mother-in-law, and two step-daughters, Alize and Roberta. Alize who was mentally ill was in her early 20s and Roberta about 15 or 16. Uncle Augie also had two children with Georgeanna - Gail, and Allen. Gail was born in 1944 and Allen in 1946.
Augie supported his big family by working in the A&P Bakery in Milwaukee. Whenever mom, dad, my sister Beatrice, and I visited, we always looked forward to watching my uncle's big 30-inch screen television. I also played marbles with Allen on the floor.
Remembering Uncle Augie While Living on The Farm - 1954-1971
After moving out of the city to a rented farm in March 1954, we were too busy to visit Uncle Augie on Saturday evenings. Instead, Augie and Georgeanna started to see us on the farm often, especially during the summer. We had a big garden where we grew sweet corn, pickles, peppers, beans, and other vegetables. Dad and mom would give Augie a lot of vegetables and sometimes his sweet corn was put into a gunny sack.
I can only recall Uncle Augie helping dad once on the farm. It was during the summer of 1954 or 1955 when dad was cutting and shocking oats to be later threshed. Since I was too young to ride and operate a machine pulled by a tractor for cutting and binding oats, Augie came out and did it one weekend.
On a few occasions, my cousins Gail and Allen would come along with Augie and Georgeanna. Allen liked to jump around on the hay in the haymow. He used to always ask mom for a tall cool glass of milk. Allen also persuaded me to help him break into a one-room schoolhouse in the neighborhood.
Augie and I started talking baseball and the subject of our discussion was always our hometown Milwaukee Braves. Dad didn't have time to take me into Milwaukee and go to games because he was farming and working in West Allis at the same time. Augie, however, offered to pick me up at grandpa's house in West Allis and take me to a few night games while dad was working.
In 1957, we moved to a newly purchased farm not far from the rented one. Uncle Augie continued to come out and see us very much during the summer. In addition to talking about the Braves, Augie always had his golf clubs along. Once he took me to a driving range near our farm and showed me how to hit a golf ball.
As I got older and went away to college and into the Navy, Uncle Augie would still regularly come out to visit mom and dad. He always had a camera along and took many pictures of our family. It also seemed that he was always driving a new car which he beeped two times while pulling out of our driveway.
In January of 1971, dad took me into Milwaukee to visit Augie on the day that I left for Taiwan. I remember my uncle driving me to the airport so that I could catch an evening flight to Los Angeles.
Memories of Uncle Augie During His Last Years - 1977-1987
While I was living in Taiwan during the period 1973-1979, I lost almost all contact with Uncle Augie. My mother, however, passed on the news about Augie in her letters.
In 1977, I was very surprised to learn that Augie and Georgeanna had been in an auto accident. Although Augie escaped unhurt, Georgeanna came out of it with a broken hip. Moreover, while in the hospital, the doctors found out she had terminal cancer. Around the end of the year, Georgeanna passed away at only the age of 70.
Uncle Augie took his wife's death very hard. Mom told me in her letters that uncle cried every time he visited and felt that he was responsible for Georgeanna's death.
During two weeks in July 1978, I was on vacation in Wisconsin from Taiwan visiting mom and dad. After reconnecting with my uncle, Augie offered to take my ex-wife and me to a Brewers game in Milwaukee. Before seeing the game, we went to his small house in the suburbs. Alize was still living with him. I saw her and also my cousin Gail whom I hadn't seen in 23 years.
When I came back to Wisconsin with my family to live for good in July 1979, I learned that Uncle Augie had recently remarried. His new wife, Sylvia, was a widow who he met through a Lonely Hearts Club. Augie had already retired from the bakery and was living with Sylvia in Twin Rivers, Wisconsin.
It seems like I never could find the time to visit Uncle Augie after returning to the United States. I was first living in Toledo, Ohio, for a little over a year before getting a job with the federal government in Maryland at the end of 1980.
Mom and dad didn't see Augie that much after he moved to Twin Rivers. They noticed, however, that Uncle Augie had gained a lot of weight and was enjoying life by traveling and playing golf.
Mom never cared that much for Sylvia. Once when mom and dad came to visit Augie in Twin Rivers, Sylvia said he was out playing golf. According to mom, Sylvia didn't even invite them in for a cup of coffee.
In December 1987, I was shocked to find out that Uncle Augie had had a fatal heart attack while pushing a snowblower. He was only 73 at the time of death. My family and I drove from Maryland to Twin Rivers to attend the funeral. Unfortunately, we arrived at the church for the funeral right after my uncle's coffin had been closed for viewing. Uncle Augie was interred in a mausoleum in Twin Rivers. Uncle Augie was very good to me and I will always remember his kindness.
© 2018 Paul Richard Kuehn