TOWN OF ROCK
Harry Hauri was headed home after World War II. He had been in Germany as the war ended, a paratrooper who never saw battle.
“I was so happy to get on that train,” the 93-year-old said in a recent interview in his kitchen, surrounded by family members, including two great-grandchildren.
His happiness at going home stayed with him as his train traveled through France. Then he saw a cemetery where war dead were buried.
“I felt real bad,” he said. “I could go home, but they could not go home.”
Hauri did not forget that feeling. Years later, he and his family donated and helped build a brick walkway at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville that features memorial bricks for families who had lost loved ones in the nation’s wars.
They called it “Where Tears Run Deep.” The path has bricks marking various wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Janesville American Legion Post recognized Hauri’s effort with a certificate in 2009:
“Your efforts ensure those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice will always be remembered, and their families will know that their gift was not in vain.”
“Where Tears Run Deep” was not Hauri’s only civic-minded effort. He has been a constant contributor to the Salvation Army over the years. He says he saw hunger in post-war Europe, and he wanted to keep people here from suffering those pangs.
Hauri also helped deliver Meals on Wheels to shut-ins for nine years, working with his daughter Chris Janisch and grandson Brandon Hollibush. They had to stop deliveries during the pandemic, but Hauri said he wants to get back to making the deliveries and talking to people who enjoy his company.
Hauri’s parents were Swiss immigrants who moved from Green County to Rock County when he was a teen. He completed eighth grade and then began his full-time career as a farmer on his parents’ dairy farm, where he lives to this day.
There were no school buses in those days, so his eighth-grade teacher offered to let him live with her so he could attend high school, but he was needed on the farm, he said.
After the war, he worked 37 years as a machinist for Fairbanks Morse in Beloit, making pistons for engines that drove nuclear submarines, he said. He also maintained the farm with the help of his wife, Dolores, and their 14 children.
Harry was drafted and went to Europe with the 82nd Airborne Division in 1945. He had volunteered for paratrooper training, which came with an extra $50 a month, a lot of money in those days, he said.
Teresa Nguyen of Janesville heard about Hauri from photographer Pat Sparling, who had befriended and photographed Hauri on his daily walks.
Nguyen interviewed and wrote about Hauri for the Rock County Historical Society, and she was impressed with his humility and service to his country and community.
Nguyen, who writes profiles of local people for her online Janesville Area Stories website, suggested the Parkview School District honor Hauri.
So today, Friday, May 28, Hauri is scheduled to receive an honorary high school diploma during Parkview’s graduation ceremony.
Hauri said he wants to dedicate the award to that teacher who offered him a place in her home so many years ago, “so up there, she can smile,” he said. “It was awful nice of her to offer it to me.”
Hauri hoped he wouldn’t have to speak at the ceremony and didn’t really want an article full of praise for him.
“But those in the service that gave their lives, those are the ones you should be talking about,” he said.
The men of a Janesville tank company were among the many thousands of Americans who witnessed the deaths of those we honor this weekend.
The horror stayed with these World War II soldiers, sometimes so strongly that it warped their spirits.
Such was Forrest Knox, one of the Janesville 99, as we now call the men of Company A.
“He was post-traumatic syndrome before they had a good name for it,” said one of his six children, John Knox.
Forrest could be cruel, and he drank, said John, one of two descendants of the 99 who will speak Sunday at the monument at the Corn Exchange in downtown Janesville.
“There was good days and bad days, but when they were bad days, they were really bad days,” John said.
“Neighbors would tell me after he would yell at me that he was just crazy from the war, that he’d be OK tomorrow,” John said.
“My father used to beat my mother,” John recalled. “It was a difficult childhood.”
The couple divorced. Forrest later remarried. John and his older sister were left to care for his younger brother and sister for a time, he said.
Among the demons that haunted Forrest was a belief that U.S. leaders abandoned the troops in the Philippines, leading to the surrender of thousands of them to the Japanese followed by years of horror as prisoners.
“He was convinced they were sent there to get captured because they never sent them any supplies after they landed,” John said. “That’s why he felt betrayed, that in his mind he got left out there to be captured. Maybe he’s right.”
Others have said the military couldn’t get supplies across the ocean after Pearl Harbor.
Despite those feelings, Forrest would dress in his uniform and march in parades each year, John said.
John knows his father suffered so much more than he did. So did Dale Lawton, another of the 99.
Lawton’s grandson Brian Lawton will also speak at Sunday’s event.
Forrest and Dale lived through the second Japanese attack of World War II. Ten hours after Pearl Harbor, they were guarding Clark Field in the Philippines when Japanese planes bombed it.
“The soldiers watched as the dead, dying and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks and anything that could carry the wounded,” according to the Bataan Project history website.
They battled Japanese troops for weeks before joining the rest of the U.S. and Filipino forces on the Bataan Peninsula on Jan. 7, 1942. Many were already suffering from tropical diseases and were on half rations when their commanders surrendered April 9.
The surrender of 66,000 Filipino and 12,000 U.S. troops is thought to be the biggest U.S. surrender since the Battle of Harpers Ferry in the Civil War.
“They were down to their last case of bullets and no food when they surrendered,” said John, who often heard the stories from his father.
The men of Company A began the infamous Bataan Death March on April 11. The soldiers were forced to march more than 60 miles to POW camps with little food or water.
Those who stopped to drink along the way were bayonetted or shot. Those out of their minds with disease who strayed from the column were killed, too.
The POWs were starved and received little medical treatment at the filthy, crowded camps.
“Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital,” according to the Bataan Project.
Dale and Forrest both eventually ended up at a camp near Cabanatuan City, where Dale came down with malaria and beriberi. He remained at the camp until it was liberated by U.S. forces on Jan. 31, 1945.
Forrest was with a group of Americans placed on ships in October 1944 and moved to Formosa, now known as Taiwan, to work in the fields. Another ship took them to Japan in January 1945. Conditions on the ships and the camps in Japan were miserable. Men died regularly. Forrest’s prison camp in Japan was liberated by U.S. troops on Sept. 4, 1945.
Forrest spent about a year in a hospital as doctors worked to cure his hookworm before he returned to Janesville and got married.
Forrest battled the Veterans Administration with the determination that kept him alive as a prisoner, John said. He had a 20% disability rating but believed he deserved more.
In his last few years, he told his story to the authors of two books. Knowing that the story would not be forgotten made a difference.
“His last two years, he was OK with everything. He quit drinking. He was excited about his woodworking projects,” John said. “He was finally at peace.”
Lawton returned home, married, had three children and returned to work at the General Motors plant. He also served on the Janesville City Council. He was considered legally blind as a result of his POW experiences. He died in 1967.
Brian never knew his grandfather, but he feels a legacy from the Janesville 99, their commitment to country and family, and the strength they displayed at not giving up all hope during their cruel captivity.
Brian teaches his children to be grateful for that generation, and he keeps knowledge of the suffering they endured alive and how it affected wives and children, and the memory of so many who didn’t return.
“To me it’s a legacy of values, and that’s what I’ve been reflecting on as I prepare the message for that day,” Brian said.
Forrest’s grandson Steve, of Janesville, also keeps the memories alive. His daughter Lauren has played taps for past ceremonies, and in 2019 she had the honor of affixing a new barrel to the model tank atop the Janesville monument that commemorates the tank company’s service after it was vandalized.
Steve said he didn’t know the story well until 10 to 15 years ago. Now, he helps organize the annual tribute.
“I have an appreciation for the household that my dad and aunts and uncles grew up in,” Steve said, “and I am so thankful for what I have.”
John S. Gibson
Douglas R. “Doug” Hansen
Jeffrey A. Lund
John R. Olinger
Harold “Leo” Nichols
Dennis J. Venable
Longtime Janesville manufacturer Hufcor intends to shutter its manufacturing plant on Kennedy Road in Janesville and move those operations, possibly to Mexico.
Meredith Bishop, a spokesperson for Hufcor, told The Gazette in an emailed statement Thursday that the company, known for making accordion-style door systems and portable room partitions, plans to keep its research and development, testing, and customer service operations in Janesville but that the manufacturing division in the city will be relocated.
A representative for the Industrial Division of the Communication Workers of America Local 84811, a labor union that represents some manufacturing workers at Hufcor, also said Hufcor and its private equity parent company, OpenGate Capital, intend to move manufacturing from Janesville to Monterrey, Mexico.
The move would affect about 200 workers. It’s a decision the union intends to fight, regional union representative Richard Shorter told The Gazette this week.
Local union representatives wrote in a letter this week to Hufcor employees that the union plans to bargain over Hufcor’s decision in the coming days.
The union said it plans to “stand against the company’s efforts to end our longstanding relationship with the Janesville community,” but the letter didn’t lay out any specific measures the union plans.
The Gazette obtained copies of the letter Thursday through screengrabs of social media posts and via emails.
Shorter said he wasn’t at liberty to talk about the timeline of Hufcor’s plans to shut down manufacturing in Janesville, but he said the union is bracing for negotiations that could take weeks.
Bishop, the company spokesperson, said Hufcor has suffered “significant negative economic effects” tied to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and elsewhere in its global footprint, which includes operations in Asia. Bishop wrote that those woes, along with what she called an “aging” manufacturing facility in Janesville, are factors that have put “the future of the entire business in jeopardy.
“Therefore, to ensure Hufcor’s survival and long-term viability, the difficult decision was made to relocate manufacturing to an alternate facility,” Bishop wrote.
An agent at the state Department of Workforce Development said the agency had not received any layoff notices registered by Hufcor as of Thursday.
Hufcor has not publicly said when it will shutter production at the Janesville plant, which covers more than 100,000 square feet, and it has not publicly disclosed where the plant’s operations would move.
The move would end a nearly 120-year run of Hufcor manufacturing in Janesville.
A 2000 Gazette story estimated Hufcor employed about 350 workers. Rock County data from 2019 listed the employee headcount at about 250. It wasn’t clear if that number included part-time workers or positions filled through staffing agencies.
Hufcor operated at various locations in Janesville since 1902 and was initially a manufacturer of porch shades and awnings, woven hammocks, and factory windows with built-in blinds. More recently, Hufcor has specialized in accordion doors and room partitions.
The company has been at its current Janesville headquarters and manufacturing location at 2101 Kennedy Road for about 40 years. Hufcor also has a global manufacturing presence in Germany, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong and Australia.
In 2017, Hufcor was acquired by OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm whose leaders said at the time they considered Hufcor a company on the upswing.
OpenGate has come under fire in the past for its handling of companies it has acquired, including its dealings with Waukesha-based Golden Guernsey Dairy. In 2013, OpenGate placed the dairy under bankruptcy protection and shut it down less than two years after buying it, according to reports in the Orange County Register.
The Golden Guernsey plant was shut down so abruptly that workers who showed up at the dairy were locked out and unable to retrieve their tools and other personal belongings, The Gazette reported in a 2017 editorial written shortly after OpenGate acquired Hufcor.
The Orange County Register reported that OpenGate also failed to properly notify Golden Guernsey employees about layoffs and compensate laid-off employees for accrued wages and vacation.
Shorter said Hufcor and OpenGate had told union officials the moveable door market, popular in the hotel and event center industry, had seen a fall-off during the pandemic. He also said union representatives monitoring Hufcor were aware the company had been receiving work-share funding from the state of Wisconsin off and on over the last year to offset pay for some employees who faced hourly cuts.
Despite that, Hufcor had been hiring manufacturing workers and advertising temp-to-hire jobs for $16 an hour through local staffing agencies as recently as January, according to online local job listings.
One longtime line worker at Janesville’s Hufcor plant said their hours had been cut in recent weeks to less than 20 hours a week. That is unusual this time of year, the worker said; in the past, some workers on the line could average 50 or 55 hours a week during late spring.
The employee asked not to be identified, citing concerns of possible retaliation. The worker said they had worked for more than 15 years on different manufacturing lines at the plant.
The last several weeks, the worker said, production and work orders have seemed to dry up. This week, the worker got a note sent from a local union officer that indicated the plant was shuttering.
The Legislature’s Republican-led budget committee voted Thursday to end a UW System tuition freeze that has been in place for eight years and has long been a GOP priority that had bipartisan support.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers proposed, and the university supported, extending the tuition freeze for another two years, along with spending $192 million more on the UW System.
But the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee went in a different direction Thursday, voting to end the tuition freeze and adding just $8.25 million in state funding for UW, $9.5 million for technical colleges and $5 million for a nurse education program for students at both private and public colleges and universities in the state.
All 11 Republicans voted to end the freeze; all four Democrats voted to keep it.
Republican committee member Rep. Dale Kooyenga said killing the tuition freeze was the right move even though “this is tough to explain politically.”
The tuition freeze can’t be in place forever and it was time to lift it because UW has become more transparent and accountable and a UW education is a “great value,” he said.
But it came with a warning.
“If UW decides to jack up tuition in a tone-deaf manner, this body will take action,” Kooyenga said.
The budget proposal would have to pass the full Republican-controlled Legislature and be signed by Evers to become law.
University leaders for years have criticized the tuition freeze, saying it makes it hard to fund the university and threatens educational quality. While university leaders didn’t ask for it to be lifted, they praised the move.
“We appreciate the end of the tuition freeze, allowing UW institutions to manage tuition increases within reasonable limits,” said UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank in a statement.
Ending the tuition freeze “offers the UW System flexibility to develop talent, generate life-changing research and deliver the education students expect and families deserve,” UW President Tommy Thompson said in a prepared statement.
UW Board of Regents President Andrew S. Petersen said in a statement that ending the tuition freeze “is a positive development in the relationship between the UW System and the legislature.”
Republicans have touted the freeze as a way to make UW more affordable, even during years when funding was cut or increases were smaller than university leaders wanted. Then-Gov. Scott Walker signed the freeze into law in 2013 after criticism over years of tuition increases.
“It’s a surprise to me to see the Republicans ease on what has been for the past several years a major talking point or campaign piece in the portfolio on higher education,” said Democratic Rep. Evan Goyke, a member of the budget committee.
A spokeswoman for Evers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Terry Warfield, a UW-Madison accounting professor who serves on the steering committee for PROFS, a group of faculty at the state’s flagship university, said the organization was pleased to see the freeze end. He said the Board of Regents is in the best position to set tuition rates.
Warfield said he doubts the regents will make dramatic increases immediately because he thinks they understand that people are still struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic. But he said many people are able and willing to pay higher tuition over time, which will help the UW System provide quality instruction and programs.“Over time, that will compliment other resources that hopefully the Legislature commits to the university and help us do the things the university does,” he said.