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History      
Fritz "Fred" Ehrensperger         
   
[??-??-06, Zurich, Switzerland; 4-22-98, Sunnyvale, California]
    Buried: Greenwood Cemetery, Monroe, Wisconsin

Fritz
Ehrensperger
1906 - 1998

Fritz Ehrensperger
   
by: Margaret Irwin, his daughter

Some of you know him as Fritz, some as Fred.  His given name is actually Fritz, but to us he is also Dad and Grandpa.  Dad was born near Zurich, Switzerland in 1906.  His childhood was not an easy one. His father died before he was born, and when he was just thirteen, his mother died in the great flu epidemic that swept through Europe and America.  His older brother and sister arranged for him to live with some relatives in Dachsen, right on the Rheinfalls, the biggest waterfall in Europe.  Dad kept busy working in the familyís tavern and bakery and taking care of the cow and the pigs.  He walked to a nearby town to attend secondary school and to receive religious instruction at the Reformed Church, where he was confirmed.  He then served as an apprentice in a metal working shop for 3 Ĺ years.

But Dad dreamed of bigger things.  He wanted to seek his fortune in America.  Eventually, he obtained one of the prized visas to emigrate to the U.S., and at the tender age of 20 he set out on the S.S. Berlin on an adventure that would change his life forever.  If you went steerage, you ended up on Ellis Island.  Dad didnít want that, so he had saved up his money to go second class.  He was supposed to go to Pittsburgh where Westinghouse had hired a lot of Swiss engineers, but he met a man who persuaded him to go to Chicago instead.  Dad was very resourceful; he took any job he could get.  When the employer asked him if he could do such and such, he always answered yes, whether he could or not.  Then he got busy learning the ropes as fast as he could.

In 1932 he ended up in Madison, where he started to work for Albert Endres of Endres Electric.  Eventually he became a partner with Albert and then sole owner when Albert retired.  Dad sang in the Swiss Maennerchor, and there he met an older man named Gottlieb Marty.  Gottlieb said he would like Fritz to meet his daughter, Lena, who was a high school teacher.  When Gottlieb told Lena he had met a very nice young Swiss, Lena was not interested.  She had had dealings with some other greenhorns who had come from the Old Country, and she wasnít having any of it.  But somehow she was persuaded to meet him, and the rest is history.  They were married on a very hot June day in 1937 in Monroe, Wisconsin.

Fritz and Lena saved up enough money to build a house in a new housing development called Crestwood, which was then on the far west side of Madison.  It was there that I was born in 1942, and Mary in 1947.  It was a great place for kids to grow up.  Fritz worked very hard to support Mom and Mary and me, and our grandfather, Gottlieb, who came to live with us after my grandmother died.  Since Dadís childhood had been such a hard one, he wanted life to be easier for us, and he succeeded.

Dad didnít have a lot of time to play in those days, but he and Mom did find time to go square dancing with a group from the Congregational Church.  He and Mom were very active in the church.  He helped the building committee with electrical repairs, and he called on people for the every member canvass.  One Sunday afternoon he came back to report that someone had slammed the door in his face, but that didnít deter him!  He and Mom also kept up their relationships with other Swiss immigrants in the area through the Swiss-American Club.  For a number of years he served as host of Alpine Melodies Saturday afternoons on WHA, a half-hour program of traditional Swiss recorded music.  Mary and I got a big charge out of hearing our dad on the radio - and talking Swiss yet!

Af
ter working hard from childhood on,  Dad really took to retirement like a duck to water.  He started taking classes in metal work in the Art Department at the University.  He crafted many vases, pitchers, bowls, and other objects in pewter or copper.  He also started making silver jewelry - bracelets, earrings, pendants, rings, and so on for his wife and daughters.  Each of the women in the family is wearing at least one piece of his jewelry today.  People often wanted to buy what he made but he said then it would be like work, and he wasn't going to work anymore!

He and Mom enjoyed traveling in Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand.  Everywhere they went, they made new friends.  They continued square dancing and added ballroom dancing as well.  And much to Mom's chagrin, Dad became a health nut.  She went with him to the YMCA for exercise classes and swimming, but she drew the line at most of the big pile of vitamin and mineral supplements he took and some of his more austere dietary practices.  We're grateful that he was able to stay active right up until the end.  And we're grateful he found so many friends, both old and new, here at Oakwood.

We have compiled a list of the things we admire about Fritz, and we would like to share them with you:


    ∑   
his methodical nature and great organizational skills;

    ∑    his self-discipline; when he decided not to eat sugar anymore, he
               simply stopped;

    ∑    his work ethic - he set quite a model for us;

    ∑    his parsimonious Swiss nature coupled with his extreme generosity;

    ∑    his courage and strength in coming to a new land to start life over;

    ∑    his enthusiasm to keep learning new things throughout his life;

    ∑    his hospitality - even though he couldn't stand beer, he always had
               one on hand for his sons-in-law;

    ∑    his creativity, which really blossomed in retirement;

    ∑    his droll sense of humor;

    ∑    his gentlemanly manner;

    ∑    his willingness to help others; and especially his undying devotion
               to Lena, his wife of 61 years, and our mother and grandmother.

For all he has been to each of us, we give thanks, and we now entrust him to
God's never-failing care.

 

 

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