Verona Longtime Resident and Veteran Interviews, Events

NOTE:  Some of these recordings will play in your browser, but some of the larger ones make you download the file first.

Welcome to our online archive of audio interviews!

Many of the earliest interviews in our archive were done on cassette tape in 1972 when various older Verona Residents were interviewed about their early memories here - some dating back to the late 1800's.  This was done to provide material for a play that was to be produced about Verona in honor of our 125th anniversary that year.  These stories provide a very personal look back Verona's past.

In 2016 we began a new initiative to interview additional longtime residents and area veterans.  Let us know if you have folks in mind who might be up for being interviewed, or who might volunteer to do interviews today.

1970s through 1980s

1990s through early 2000s

Ernie Johnson, date of interview unknown but likely around 2008.  Ernie was village president of Verona from 1953 to 1957, a longtime barber, and friend to most of the village and later city.

Verona World War II Veteran Interviews 2001-2003, by Karl Curtis and the Verona Press.

Karl did a wonderful interview series of articles with many Verona area WWII veterans.  Included are:

2016 and Beyond

We began a new effort in 2016 to capture more stories....

William E. Kunstman - Interviewed 7/7/2016.  Mr. Kunstman was an army tech sergeant in WWII from 1941-1946 serving in the 100th infantry division

Warren Webster - Interviewed 7/21/2016. Mr. Webster was born in Reedsburg, WI in April of 1915 and was 101 years old during this interview.  He was a pilot in WWII, serving in the 406 Fighter Group and its 514 squadron.  He moved to Canada in 1940 to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he became a flight instructor.  He came back to the United States in 1944 and served in the Air Force in 1944/45 in Europe flying P47 Fighter Bombers.  His service included being part of American forces pushing back Germans at the battle of the bulge.  He moved to Verona, WI around 2006.

Viola House - Interviewed 10/28/16.  Mrs. House has lived in Verona since the 1950s.  She reflects on some of the Verona landmarks and traditions she recalls, her two decades working in the Verona Schools' cafeteria, and a few thoughts on how the city has changed in the last half century.

John Scharer - Interviewed November 27, 2016 by Jesse Charles.  John moved to Verona in May of 1936 at the age of four and grew up living and working in "The Eagle's Nest" - an iconic Verona bar and restaurant which stood on our main intersection from around 1850 to 1970.  As a young man John came in contact with countless Verona "Characters" from all walks of life, and recalls them in detail.  He was drafted into the Korean War on 3/29/1951 and was discharged on 3/21/1952.  He was trained in the First Armored Division in Fort Hood Texas, but served in Korea as part of the Army's Third Infantry Division north of the 38th parallel near Chorwon.  John was present at the Battle of Pork Chop Hill and in the area known as "The Iron Triangle". 

Virginia "Ginny" (Marty) Witt - Interviewed Feb 5, 2017 by Jesse Charles.  Virginia grew up on the Marty farm on the north side of Verona.  She attended the Gordon School in the 1930s, following its reconstruction after the 1928 tornado.  Ginny recalls farm life, complete with stories like being pulled to school on a sled behind a tractor after a snowstorm.

Pete Way - Interviewed March 5, 2017 by Jesse Charles.  Pete grew up in Mount Vernon just west of Verona, and served in the Navy on an air craft carrier during the Korean War.  Pete described growing up in the rural countryside, as well as the day to day life on a Navy ship.

Bill Rettenmund - Part 1, Part 2.  Interviewed 5/13/17.  Bill has lived in Verona since the 1990's, having grew up in Black Earth, WI.  He was drafted into the army in May of 1965 and trained as a helicopter mechanic and crew chief.  Bill landed in Vietnam in February of 1966 as part of  the 162nd Assault Helicopter Company "The Vultures", which belonged to the 11th Aviation Company.  Through January of 1967 he flew air assault and transport missions on a D-model Huey helicopter from a base camp in Phouc Vinh.Bill discusses surviving two helicopter crashes in 1966, the first being caused by contact with a pole and the second from hitting a berm on takeoff.  On June 13, 1966 Bill was injured by shrapnel during a mortar attack and received a purple heart.

Richard "Dick" Doerfer - Interviewed 8/2/17.  Dick was well known to many Verona residents in many capacities:  First, for his large family farm located just East of Verona on Whalen Road.  Second, for the various civic hats he wore throughout his life including president of the Verona School Board and also town treasurer.  Dick recalls farming throughout the years and other facets of Verona life from decades gone past.

Marv Thompson - Interviewed May 5, 2017 by Ruth Witt Jensen.  Marv grew up on a farm on the west side of Verona, near where Nine Mound Road intersects West Verona Avenue.  Marv’s maternal grandparents lived on this 160-acre Land Grant farm on the near west side of Verona.  About half the original land was eventually sold.  His folks took over the dairy operation around 1918. For almost a decade he worked as a ‘hired’ for his folks before marrying Delores and then buying the farm from his parents.  It was Marv’s 40-acre parcel where the West End apartments are and the new Verona High School is being built. He continued raising dairy cows and their milk was sold to the University of Wisconsin.  

Mary Fritz - Interviewed July 1, 2017 by Jessica Popp.

Maurer Family - Interviewed  August 6, 2017.  The Maurer family has been a fixture in Verona back to the early 1900s when Heinrich Maurer (born in Germany around 1860) and his wife Anna settled on to a farm on Maple Grove Road (where Chavez Elementary is today).  Several generations grew up on that farm and in the surrounding area and have witnessed and been involved in many aspects of life in Verona for over a century.  In this interview, we sat down with Heinrich's grandsons Ray and Len Maurer, Len's wife Judy, and Heinrich's great granddaughter Diane Maurer to talk about their early family history and memories they have from growing up here.

Doris Waldman - Interviewed August 7 and 11, 2017 by Ruth Witt Jensen.

Doris lived on a farm in rural west Verona and spent her first three school years at West Middleton Grade School.  It was then her parents Lena (Eberhardt) and Rudy moved their 4 children to South Shuman in downtown Verona where their 5th sibling was born.  Her father was well-known and respected as a mechanic for Niglis Implements “because he could fix anything”.  Doris shares her wonderful humor and memories of growing up in the village from ice skating on top the nearby village Pump House to setting pins at Fischl’s bowling alley.   

Herman Duerst - Interviewed January 21, 2018 by Jesse Charles.  See also this written account of Herman's military years, provided by his daughter Sue.  Herman grew up in southern Verona and various nearby communities.  He describes his memories from growing up, as well as training as a paratrooper for WWII.

Anna May (Herrington) Rhiner, interviewed July 3, 2018 by Ruth Witt Jensen.

Anna May grew up on Nesbitt Road on a farm that was divided by both Highway 18/151 and the railroad tracks (now Military Ridge Trail).  Currently Barnes Landscaping owns part of the acreage where her parents Walter and Helene Elizabeth (Mauer) Herrington farmed.  All of her years have been spent in the Verona area so in this interview she shares many memories of familiar people and places that most listeners will recognize.  She attended Maple Grove and then Verona Area High School.  After graduating she worked for the University Hospital until her marriage four years later.  Her marriage ‘united’ the Mauer family of northeast Verona to her husband Julian’s family on the west side (County G).  She and Julian spent nearly 30 years farming on Riverside Road before retiring and building a comfortable house on Barbara Street in the city. 

Bernice (Synon) Hughes, part one - Interviewed by Ruth Witt Jensen on  6/7/2018, and later for part two on 8/30/2018

Bernice is one of our oldest interviewees, 98, who was born in Verona.  With her sharp memory, she vividly recalls all her neighbors during her childhood on 302 Shuman Street.  Her father Jerome was the rural mail carrier for Verona (1912 to 1940).  One of her favorite memories was to be able to ride on the cutter when her father returned from his route.  Her grandfather had built a house across Shuman, the ‘White’ house which was moved during Miller’s store expansion.  When asked if she could just run down the street to her grandparents, she exclaimed, “Oh, no, I wasn’t allowed to cross the street because there was too much swift traffic” (because of the bustling activity at the mill and other businesses near the Auditorium).

One of Bernice's daughters shared another quick note with us in Fall of 2020:  "(Bernice) used to say that when they (her family) rode the mail route with their father, they made it a game among the sisters to name the husband, wife and all of the children at each of the stops on the route.  I guess she started training her good memory at a young age!"

Gladys (Zingg) Behnke, interviewed by Jesse Charles on 8/11/2019.  Gladys's grandfather Fred Zingg immigrated from Switzerland, eventually settling in Verona with wife Ella around 1900.  Gladys's father Ernest R. Zingg was born in 1900, later moving to New Glarus where Gladys was born in 1928.  Gladys and her parents moved back to the Zingg farm in Verona on the northwest corner of highway M and Cross Country in 1937 when she was nine years old.  In this interview, Gladys discusses growing up on the farm, attending the Verona Graded School and working at the original Dane County Poor House and Asylum from 1946 to 1948.  She would also later return to working at both institutions later in life until retiring in 1990.  Gladys saw life at the poor house and asylum first hand, and shared her memories of patients and other employees with us.

Phil and Laura Roethlisberger, interviewed by Jesse Charles on 9/8/2019.   Phil grew up attending our Valley View rural school and Laura attended the White School, which still stands on land donated to the township by her great grandfather and pioneer settler Solomon White. They talked about growing up on a farm, their experiences in various Verona schools and other social events, as well as they themselves being farmers for many decades.

Beatrice (Mullikin) Keller, interviewed by Ruth Jensen on 1/26/2023.  Beatrice was born in rural Crawford County, Wisconsin.  Her birth as the 5th child was in the farmhouse where her parents, Alfred and Josephine (Mullikin) lived.  As a farm girl she tended the chickens, brought in the eggs, minded the cows, and helped in the garden.  Her memories of that time are of an enjoyable childhood spent outdoors.

A bright girl eager to learn, she began her formal education at age six at a one-room school called Honey Ridge.  Before she finished elementary school she moved with her family, graduating at the top of her class from Cadenovia High School in Sauk City in 1948.  With a one-year State scholarship she attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison and then finished the next year at Sauk City Normal.  Possessing her new teaching certificate, she began a fulfilling lifelong career in education at age 19 in a one-room school in Hay Creek.

Beatrice married and soon found her way to Verona.  She was the second-to-last teacher at our one-room White School (immediately before Eric Nemec), and tells several stories from that time including having to creatively discipline a pair of spit ball enthusiasts.

She wore many hats in her career - teacher,  a specialist in reading and other areas, an assistant principal, and possessor of five licenses in various areas of education plus her Master’s Degree.  What is even more astonishing about this woman is that she did all of the above while raising seven children.  You’ll enjoy listening to this remarkable woman’s tale.

Don Mahoney, interviewed by Jesse Charles on 3/5/23

This interview with Don Mahoney captures his personal experiences from the 1930s through the 1950s.  Topics include growing up in the great depression and coming of age during the WWII era in the midwest - with a great focus on the railroad industry of that time.

Don was born on 8/9/1927 in Parshall, North Dakota in a box car that has been added on as an extra bedroom to the railside residence his family lived in at the time.  Because of this, Don says he was "born in a boxcar", stating his love of the railroad at the youngest possible age!  Don's father Edmund Mahoney (buried with Don's mother Margeret in Ryder, North Dakota) worked for the Soo Line under various capacities such as section laborer and section foreman.  Their home at Don's birth was a trackside dwelling near the depot that resided on the 15 miles of track his father was responsible for maintaining.  His maintenance jobs included fixing the spacing between rails and reinforcing the ballast below the tracks that was at that time made of sand.

Don grew up in Garrison, North Dakota in the Great Depression of the 1930s.  His house had no indoor plumbing or electricity.  An outhouse behind their house provided the only bathroom, and a bathtub resided in the living room.  Being a residential neighborhood, the nearest water source was a water station several blocks away that Don and his brother would make daily trips to with jugs on their wagon, returning with their family's water supply for the day.  Baths were only taken once a week using water brought using this same method, heated up on the stove and used for consecutive baths by family members.  Don said you always wanted to be the first one in line!  Don's railroad job during the depression only employed him during the summer months, so he was unemployed in winter and the family had no income.  Don's parents managed to keep the family fed during this time, but there was no money to spend on "fun" or entertainment, so he played with kids on his block mostly without toys.  One Christmas he did get a small toy car that he treasured for many years.  A fond memory from that time was visiting local churches on Christmas to get treats of popcorn.

In 1939 the family moved to Benedict, ND, a town of about 100 people.  While getting his shoes patched at Tomlinson's Show Shop, Don heard news of Pearl Harbor over the radio.  In an interesting observation, Don remembers the WWII era as being much better for him and his family than the depression because there was now more work available as the country geared up for the war.

In 1941 at age 14 Don got a job helping the depot agent in nearby Garrison for a few months.  He became enamored with telegraphy, and had noticed that a depot agent had a more comfortable situation than Don's father's all-weather maintenance work done outside on the track.  Don learned to key morse code from a list of the morse alphabet given to him by the agent.  Don would turn off one of the "keys" (the device used for tapping messages) and practice the morse alphabet over and over in the evenings until he became proficient.

In August of 1943 a depot agent (Vic Harrison) in nearby Kongsberg, ND got drafted - leaving that very important position empty.  Kongsberg has faded from the map today, and even at that time the town was centered around one business and one grain elevator.  Don was asked to fill the depot agent position in Kongsberg because he had already learned to telegraph and has proven his quality of work with the local railroad folks by working with his dad when young and at the position in Garrison.

In this interview Don details the many responsibilities of a small town depot agent.  These included sending telegraph messages with the railroad headquarters, relaying Western Union messages via telegraph, unloading freight and weighing / charging for it, receiving / delivering mail to the trains, and calculating fees and selling tickets to passengers leaving his depot.  The depot agent was, in Don's words, "the busiest man in town!"

In Spring of 1944 Don was promoted to the Soo Division Headquarters in Enderlin, ND.  This headquarters sent out instructions to local depots.  Phone lines were being used to communicate with depots in the direction towards the big city of Minneapolis, but telegraph was still used heading to small towns in the other direction.  Don could have worked either line but chose the telegraph side due to his passion for telegraphy.

At age 17 Don voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Navy with hopes of being trained in radio.  He was not able to get into the Navy's radio program due to a waiting list and he ended up becoming a recruiter in Salt Lake City - canvassing four local high schools for enlistees even as the war was drawing down.

In 1945 after the war Don returned to the railroad industry, becoming a supervising agent at Enderlyn.  He married in 1955 and around that time began selling insurance as a side job (most depot agents had side jobs).  In December of 1959 he accepted a very good position at the insurance company that later became American Family insurance where he worked until his retirement.  Even though he no longer worked in the railroad, the passion never left him and he has spent a half century collecting items, photos, and stories on the subject and presenting his telegraphy skills and experiences at conventions and for groups such as our historical society. 

Ken Kittelson, interviewed by Jesse Lisa Olmsted on 8/18/23. 

Verona resident and centenarian Ken Kittelson was born in 1923 on a 180 acre farm in Green County, Wisconsin.  In this interview recorded shortly after his 100th birthday, Ken recalls memories from growing up and discusses the interesting paths his life and careers have taken over a century.  One story shared describes how he was able to win over the prestigious account of the Goodmans of Madison to the Wisconsin National Bank he worked at (now called U.S. Bank) using creative strategies such as offering their employees free rides to the airport, assuring vegetarian snacks were available when they visited, and by inventing a way for their payroll checks to get generated several days faster.

When asked in this interview what future generations should know about his, he replied:

"Well, they (should) know we were a serious minded generation, that we want to do things the right way, and we wanted to be a success in whatever we endeavor.  To think positive and do what our mothers always said; be kind to everybody, and be believing in what you do.  Be positive in what you hard, be honest, be truthful, and do the best you can in life."