Harry Hauri - Photo by Teresa Nguyen
A Veteran's Diploma
The Remarkable Story of Harry Hauri
“You can't take the pain away from the family, but you can show them that you care.” ~ Harry Hauri on funding memorials for fallen soldiers
As a local storyteller, I have the good fortune of meeting a lot of amazing people.
A few years back, a beautiful photo taken by Pat Sparling captured my attention. It was a picture of an old farmer named Harry, with a weathered face, a broad, beautiful smile and a twinkle in his eyes. Almost instinctively, I knew I had to meet this man and hear his story. Finally, I tracked Harry down and he became a kind of instant friend after chatting for an interview at his kitchen table.
Behind that cap and wide grin is a man with a heart of gold, one who served our country, surviving things he shouldn’t have and one who diligently gives back with generosity, kindness and humility.
Harry grew up on a beautiful, little farm between Janesville and Orfordville and still lives right there. His family worked hard to put food on the table and when the choice between high school or helping the family on the farm came up, the decision wasn’t difficult for this kind-hearted man. He chose his family over himself.
The Board's Decision
I was so moved by Harry’s incredible story that I often thought of him and called on occasion. The idea to reach out to the schools had come up in conversation with others, but nothing had been done about it. Finally, in January, 2021, I decided to reach out to the Parkview School District to see if Harry, who never graduated, could receive an honorary diploma.
After learning Harry’s story, Superintendent Lutzke was right on it, bringing the idea to the district’s next board meeting, where they approved the recommendation. They voted “yes” for Harry to receive an honorary high school diploma this Friday with the Class of 2021. How cool is that?
The wonderful Parkview School District board is fulfilling one of the it’s missions; Family & Community Engagement - valuing all Parkview families and community members.
Many members of the Hauri family have attended the Parkview schools and they are very excited about Dad, Grandpa or Great Grandpa, whichever he is called, being allowed to receive this award!
Photo by Mike Kohlbauer
93-year-old Harry is the kind of example we would want our young graduates, the future generation, to follow. He is hard working, kind and empathetic, generous in spirit, devoted to his community and to our country. He truly inspires so many.
This is the remarkable story of Rock County’s very own, Harry Hauri.
Harry's parents, Robert Sr. & Elsie Hauri
Swiss immigrants to Wisconsin
A Farm Boy
Harry was the fourth boy of seven children born to immigrant parents, who came to America from Bern, Switzerland, shortly after WWI. They first lived in Green County, Wisconsin, then bought a farm nestled in the heart of the gently rolling hills of Rock County, southwest of Janesville.
Growing up on a farm, Harry had to milk the cows and harness their 6-8 horses so he could help with all the field work; plowing, disking and planting. His family didn’t own a tractor until he was 16.
Harry would walk all the way to and from school, as there were no buses then. When it was time for high school, one of his teachers offered to let him stay with her so he could attend, but he knew he didn’t have enough clothes for school and, more importantly, his family needed him to work on the farm. So, that’s what he did.
Entering World War II
Harry entered the service in the latter part of World War II, with the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division. He trained in Georgia to be a paratrooper and was sent overseas to Germany. Harry cheated death on one of his jumps near Frankfort, Germany, when his parachute wouldn’t open! It’s a story he didn’t tell his children for many years. He feels lucky and grateful to have survived the accident.
Harry Hauri in WWII
The U.S. 82nd Airborne Division of World War II
Harry served in Germany during the 1945-1946 occupation, which wasn’t the safest place to be. But, he did what he had to do, like so many others of the Greatest Generation.
While in Europe, Harry witnessed a lot of hunger…terrible hunger where people only had potatoes to eat, or sometimes nothing. He vowed to himself to help the hungry throughout his life. And that he did.
Work and Love
After returning from the war, Harry worked for a year at General Motors in Janesville.
A sketch of Harry with his wife, Delores
He met his future wife at the local roller rink. They fell deeply in love and were very close.
He married that sweetheart, Dolores Mae, and they went on to have 14 children; eight girls and six boys! Most have stayed in the area. The family has grown and grown, with over 100 grandchildren, and a few great-grandchildren. They often gather for big reunions at the farm.
After GM, Harry farmed for a bit, then went to work at Fairbanks Morse for over 37 years, retiring in 1989.
In 1962, Harry bought his parents’ farm after they had passed away. He grew corn, beans and hay for the cows.
They sold the milk to a milk company and later to a cheese factory. The milk cans would go in a tank of water on the truck to keep them cool. Delores and the kids helped out on the farm, too.
Harry has lived to a nice, old age and says that some of his secrets to good health are eating oatmeal for breakfast and walking every day. The smiles his large family bring to his face have likely added much joy and time to his life, as well.
Photos of Harry and Delores' 14 children hang on his livingroom wall
Harry found beautiful ways to give back to this community. In 2007, he funded the “Where Tears Run Deep” Memorial Path at Rotary Botanical Gardens. It is a memorial, which Harry created, to honor Rock County’s fallen soldiers. Harry’s children also helped to build the walkway. He received an award from the American Legion for the walkway, for his continued service, honoring the memories of the fallen.
More recently, a young soldier named Tyler Kreinz died while serving in Afghanistan. Harry donated a bench for the Beloit High School graduate saying, “You can't take the pain away from the family, but you can show them that you care.”
In keeping with his promise to help feed the hungry, Harry has donated $600 each year to the Beloit and Janesville Salvation Army chapters. His donations have provided immediate relief for hundreds of people in Rock County who struggle with hunger.
Harry has also been a Meals on Wheels delivery volunteer.
On May 1, 2019, the Salvation Army gave Harry Hauri its Others Award, for a lifetime of helping people.
A framed Gazette article about the walkway, "Where Tears Run Deep" hangs on Harry's wall
The best part of it all is that Harry does these things with a rare humility. He never makes a big fuss of his giving, but just goes about generously sharing what he has to help others.
Such a brave and wonderful man and a fine example for us all! Harry is the kind of gentleman who will make the Parkview School District and all of Rock County proud; a true American hero.
On Friday, May 28th, in an extraordinary moment, 93-year-old Harry Hauri will be handed his high school diploma at Parkview High School.
Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of this story, which will focus on the graduation, the movers and shakers in this decision and what it all means to Harry and his family.