We choose to remember Frederick William Kuhl as the man he was and not the man who he became while in the grip of Alzheimer’s disease. His was a life filled with service and meaning. Through his work as an educator, he changed the lives of countless young people. The boys who played football on his teams learned what it meant to be good men, the joy of teamwork, and that winning has its benefits, but so does losing. He was our mother’s husband and our dad, these are the roles he deeply loved, and he was proud of his family.
Charles and Martha Kuhl welcomedFred, theirfourth and last child on January 25, 1932. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neckand it was a blessing he survived. He was so small he fit in a shoebox. His mother kept him warm by placing him on the opened door of the farmhouse’s oven. He grew strong and excelled in football, and was nicknamed “Ace” Kuhl by the Lake Mills newspaper because of his skills as a kicker.
He was commissioned on March 17, 1951, and he served as a Navy hospital corpsman in Korea. He was spared an almost certain death when he asked to take leave to visit his brother Charles, who was also in the service. While the brothers were reunited for the first time in two years, Dad’s unit was sent into a battle zone and all perished.
He was the first in his family to enter the world of higher education. He attended Santa Ana Junior College and was a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin. He understood that education was important. He met Mary Wolf in 1957. She was a waitress at the Ox Yoke in Jefferson, and he worked at the Purina dog food factory. He lunched often at the Ox Yoke. Family lore has it that one day Mom was working and she saw Dad’s reflection in the milkshake machine. She heard a voice say, “You’re going to marry that man.” She shook it off as nonsense, but then one thing lead to another, and on August 16, 1958 they were married.
He taught physical education in Poynette, Fall River, Woodruff, Wisconsin Dells, and was athletic director in Rhinelander. He coached football, wrestling and basketball at various times in his career. But football was his passion. In 1992, he was inducted into the Wisconsin High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, and his name remains enshrined in the atrium of Lambeau Field.
A child of the Depression, he worked hard to provide for his family. He said countless times he wanted to give us a better life, and he did. He was not perfect nor was his life always easy. He stood by his convictions. He led by example, and we strive to make him proud each day. He had his flaws. He was bull-headedand knew there was only one way to do something: his way. But he gave of himself to his church, his community and he lived a life filled with love for his faith, his family and football.
As his children, we remember him playing with us on the living room floor. We see him on Lake Mason casting a rod with his fishing partner and faithful Westie, Leo. We hear his unique singing voice echoing through church. We picture him coaching football from the sidelines. We hear the stories of our classmates and others whose lives were changed by his words and deeds. We relish the comfort that comes as we recall listening to his voice reading Bible passages to our mother as they lay in bed each night. We feel his strength and his spirit all around us.
He left us too soon, but we are grateful that he is no longer held in the prison of Alzheimer’s disease. We hold close the beautiful moments each of us has had with him in recent years. Even though we endured the pain of watching him fade away, the moments when he came back to us, as Fred or as Dad, will guide us as we navigate the difficult times ahead. His life would have never been long enough for those of us who loved him. Even though we are heartbroken, it was a blessing when his journey here ended on Sunday, April 10, 2016 at the age of 84.
He leaves behind his beloved wife of 57 years, Mary; son, Daniel (Margaret);daughters, Sara (Earle Young) and Laura; grandchildren Patrick (Lauren) Kuhl, Elizabeth (Jason) Petrella and Eileen Young; and his very special great-granddaughter, Everleigh Eve Petrella and a new great-grandson, Luca Frederick Patrick Petrella; and many other family members including Bill (Paula) Hartman and countless friends.
We know that the staff at Oak Park Place’s Autumn Lane share in our grief. We will be forever grateful for the loving care they provided during the nine months that Dad lived there. We would also like to thank the staff from Agrace Hospice for their love and support.
Visitation will be held from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. Saturday, April 16 at Emanuel United Methodist Church, Baraboo. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. at the church.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the Heather Johnson Memorial Scholarship at Wisconsin Dells Education Foundation, Attn: Bob and Diana Johnson, Administrators, P.O. Box 533, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965 or the charity of your choice.