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Obituary for Alice Ruth (Neumann) Hesselberg

Alice Ruth (Neumann) Hesselberg, 92, died peacefully on October 7, 2021, in the Sussex home of her son, Todd. Alice, who spent most of her life teaching kindness by example, had lived in Bangor, Wisconsin, for many years with her husband of 70 years, Roy M. Hesselberg, who died in 2019. The youngest of five siblings, she was born at home on Nov. 6, 1928, to Julius and Clara Neumann. She grew up on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi River in Crooked Creek Township, Houston County, where the family struggled to farm during the Depression. “We didn’t have any money. We lost the farm. I was about 7 years old. We moved to a place that wasn’t much and the owner let us cut cord wood on shares. We had no water, no lights, just a spring house pump. We slept four girls in one bed,” she recalled. The biggest event for the family was when “Pa drove us to the free movie five miles away in New Albin, Iowa, on Friday nights. We got a nickel bag of candy.” German was spoken at the Neumann dinner table and Alice would still tell her grown sons and their children to “setz dich hin und iss!” (Sit down and eat!) She worked on the farm as a little girl, and started driving a farm truck to help her dad when she was 14. When the family moved to La Crosse she was 15 and got a job at the F.W. Woolworth five-and-dime store, then joined the sales clerks at Doerflinger’s department store at Fourth and Main in La Crosse, in the bedding, curtains and fixtures departments. She later worked at the Electric Auto Lite factory, and at the Herberger’s and Montgomery Ward stores. Still a teen, she loved music and loved to dance, and the hardwood floor of the Avalon ballroom beckoned on Friday nights in La Crosse. It was there in 1947 she met Roy Hesselberg, and later married in December of 1948. In 1951, when Roy was called back in to the Navy, she and their two young sons Jarlan and George lived in La Crosse at various addresses, including in a small trailer, and in a converted garage. The whole family soon moved to West Salem and then in 1955 to 1111 Cardinal Street in Bangor, where a third son, Todd, joined them. It was their home for 65 years. She had a ready smile, and was a consistent and confident supplier of good will, good food and good cheer. There seemed to be no vegetable or fruit she could not make into jam or pickles or sauce. She did not have a bad word to say about anyone, but admitted to a lifelong dislike of billy goats, due to childhood experience on the farm with a cranky goat. Alice raised her sons to value hard work, thrift, independence, education and fair play. She went to night school in La Crosse while working as a telephone operator, earning a high school diploma in 1962 and additional credits in accounting, eventually becoming a senior accounting technician and then accounting assistant chief at Fort McCoy, from which she retired in 1989. Alice developed a discerning eye for Depression-era glassware and other collectibles and enjoyed her forays with Roy to estate sales and auctions. It was difficult to convince her to throw anything out – including cold coffee. In retirement, she and Roy traveled around the country, “out West,” “down South,” to Norway and to Alaska, visiting relatives, attending music festivals and chatting amiably with strangers. She was a faithful member, attendee and volunteer of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in West Salem. She enjoyed golfing in Sparta and playing cards with her girlfriends and was a league bowler for several years, too. She was a reliable source of cookies and a proud hostess of family meals. There was always room for an extra chair. Quietly cheerful would best describe her, especially when winning while playing cards - rummy was her game, but she was slyly successful in all forms of euchre, 500 and hearts, even competitive solitaire - with her family. She was an indefatigable crafter, expert with a sewing machine and generous creator of decorations and ornaments. She collected elephant figurines of all sorts, favored images of cardinals and loved music. Her favorite meal was pork roast, favorite dessert was lemon pie, and favorite, though very rare, drink other than coffee: a fuzzy navel. She was a kind and loyal person. Survivors include three sons: Jarlan (Ellen), George (Else Karlsen), and Todd (Lucy); seven grandchildren: Corey, Ryan (Aubrey), Espen, Eivind, Anna (Steven Wedgeworth), Robert and Laura (Matt Gintert); six great-grandchildren: Roland, Adelaide, Eleanor, Hadley, Piper and Julia. She was preceded in death by sisters Elsie Mattie, Rose Pieper and Marie Heintz, and a brother, Edwin Neumann, and her parents, Julius and Clara (Esterle) Neumann. The family would like to thank Horizon Home Care & Hospice for their caring assistance. The funeral will be online at: A celebration of life service will be held at 12 noon, Saturday, October 23, 2021, at Our Saviors Lutheran Church in West Salem, with a visitation to be held one hour prior. Burial will follow in Burns Cemetery. A luncheon will be held at 1:00 p.m., at Westview Inn downtown West Salem.