Passing the torch, continuing a community's legacy
We miss hearing their voices, listening to their stories, the warmth of their smiles, the comfort of their touches, the pleasure in their laughs, the strength in their silence, and the love in their hearts.
It is the same for a community.
We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, who built our community. When they pass, there is a sense of loss. We come to grasp with that loss when we understand that the best of them lives on through each of us, just as they would have it wanted it, living our lives as examples of what they taught us, living in appreciation for what they shared with us, ensuring that what they gave us will be passed down to our children and our children's children.
Over the course of one month, between April 24 and May 24, 2017, New Richmond lost three honorable men who figured prominently in the community's coming of age. Eugene A. "Corny" Cox, 88, died April 24. John W. Beebe, 87, died May 10. Curtiss A. Anderson, 87, died May 24.
They were all members of what has come to be called the Greatest Generation. Raised during a great depression in a world divided by a catastrophic war, their generation harnessed the momentum of victory and turned it into arguably the most productive, inventive and inspiring chapter in human history. What made this phoenix more remarkable were the equal parts of humility and humanity that shaped its rebirth. Their generation truly believed in a purpose larger than themselves and was committed to seeing that purpose realized without reservation and often at the cost of great personal sacrifice. They accepted that it would be their children who benefited from their sacrifice, dedication and hard work. As they forged this new world, they also came to appreciate that it wasn't just their families that were meant to benefit from these new opportunities but everyone; whole communities should have the opportunity to better themselves, to pursue happiness and success. To those ends, they built businesses, employed community members and supported families, provided leadership through civic organizations and foundations, and exercised their faith as members of local denominations. Maybe their most important contribution were the families they raised and the community members whose lives they affected who honor their legacy by continuing to serve in the communities they so dearly loved.
Eugene Cox married Margie (Zimmerman) and together they celebrated their 65th anniversary in June 2016. Margie and four children, Barb, Karen, Kathy and Brian, as well as, 10 grandsons, three granddaughters, two nieces, three nephews and nine great-grandchildren, survive Gene. (bakken-young.com/eugene-cox)
"One thing that always stands out in my mind when I think about my dad is, every Father's Day he would write us a long letter and give each of us a copy. I saved a bunch of them. He would tell us how thankful he was to have us kids and how proud he was of our accomplishments. He would write, 'I'm so proud of how you kids get along and I thank God for each of you,'" recalled daughter Kathy Leverentz.
Gene took over a business, Cox Motors, started by his father in 1934. He ran the business with his brother Dick and eventually, his son Brian. If he wasn't out on the golf course playing in an event for a charity, you might find Gene at a Vikings or North Stars game. He was a season ticket holder for both teams. He also gained some notoriety for attending 45 consecutive Super Bowls.
"My dad loved to sing. He had a great voice. As a matter of fact, he was singing at a wedding when I was born. No matter where he'd go, out to dinner or wherever, if there was a band or a piano player, the next thing you know, my dad would be up there singing," said Leverentz.
But Gene's real passion was people.
"My dad's soft spot was people. He just loved people, loved meeting and talking to people.
Folks would tell me, 'I sat and talked with your dad for two hours. He wanted to know all about my family, how so and so was doing, and then we would get around to the car business,' said Leverentz.
Gene trusted people.
"I've heard many stories from people. 'I'm just getting a new job and I need a car,' and my dad would let them take the car, 'Just pay me when you can.' He was a very hand shake kind of a guy," she added.
John W. Beebe married Beverly (Anderson) in 1951. His three children, Debbie, John and David, as well as, five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews, survive him. (bakken-young.com/john-beebe)
"My dad lived his entire life in New Richmond. He loved the small town atmosphere. He cared very much about his community and was committed to helping people," said Jack Beebe.
John graduated from New Richmond High School in 1946 and Mortuary Science School in Milwaukee in 1950. He worked for the family furniture store and mortuary until he retired in 1991. John served as past president of the District Funeral Directors Association, First Lutheran Church, New Richmond Chamber of Commerce, St. Croix Valley Shrine Club, and New Richmond Kiwanis Club. He served on the New Richmond Planning Commission Advisory Board of the St. Croix Correctional Center, the Board of Directors of the New Richmond Preservation Society, St. Croix Telephone, and New Richmond Cemetery Board. John was an active member of the Masonic Lodge, Shrine Club, PWP and trustee of OES No. 37, and a former member of Roberts Odd Fellows.
"Dad enjoyed his family, fishing, golf and hunting. Sometimes when playing golf, he would occasionally use his little foot stumble to reposition the ball more favorably... People would always comment on how he was always out mowing the lawn and working around the house. After Mom passed, he tried his best to keep her flower garden up to her standards. He was still committed to her up until his death. He was always trying to do things that she would have wanted done. That was pretty much Dad," said Jack.
Curtiss A. Anderson was born and raised in Star Prairie. He married Elaine LaMirande in 1951, and they enjoyed 66 full years together. Curt is survived by his wife, Elaine; children, Mick, Michele and Marin; nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. (bakken-young.com/curtiss-anderson)
"As most people know, Dad spent his entire 67-year career, from 1950 until he died, with Johnson Motors. He pretty much worked six days a week all his life, and he had such an incredible work ethic and huge sense of responsibility for making the world a better place for others. He was a 21-year-old mechanic, selling and fixing chainsaws and lawnmowers, who went on to buy the business from Joye Johnson and work with his son to grow it into what it is today. He did that because he truly enjoyed the business of ensuring people had reliable transportation and because he loved people. His career was about the employees and the customers most of all," said daughter Michele Hermansen.
She remembers her dad for his hands on, roll up his sleeves, get it done approach to life. He served on his church council (First Lutheran), city council, and various service organizations and, along with Elaine, sponsored kids to go to Shriner's Hospital.
"He believed that you could do anything you set your mind to if you wanted it badly enough. He still washed his own car, right up until he died. He served others every day and never sat on the sidelines. He was a man of great faith. He would want us to remember that tomorrow's a new day. We need to get up and do what there is to be done, treat others with kindness and live with a sense of abundance, because as long as we're here, it's a great day to be alive," said Michele.
Gene, John and Curt have passed on the responsibility to care for what they built and employ what they taught us, we have become the stewards of their legacy and builders of our own.