Henry J. (“Hank”) Sauer, 95, formerly of Rio, passed away at Heritage Homes, Watertown, early Wednesday, March 25. He was born on Dec. 5, 1924, in Columbus to Henry and Elsie Sauer.
At the age of 18, he volunteered to be drafted into the Army and proudly served his country in World War II. As a medium tank gunner, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge under the command of General George Patton. After returning home, he had his own dump truck and lime spreader; he also worked in highway construction as a concrete machine operator.
In the early to 1950s, he got into stock car racing. At those races, he met the love of his life, Josephine Boge of Rio, whom he married April 9, 1955. Together they raised a son, Terry and a daughter, Kristine. Shortly after marriage, he worked at the Rio Farmers Union Co-op as a mechanic. In the late 1950s, the Co-op purchased their own semi tanker truck, with Hank as the driver. He hauled fuel for them until his retirement in 1986. During this time, he was inducted into the “Million Mile Safe Drivers Club” honoring his achievement of 1,000,000 miles of safe driving.
Henry participated in stock car racing for two decades, accomplishing many great things, one of which was winning 16 out of 16 features in one season at the Portage Fairgrounds racetrack. Another came about in 1957, when, as crew chief for a local stock car driver, he took a brand-new Ford to the Daytona 500 to participate in the last race run on the beach. The team finished sixth out of 50+ entries.
Henry was the flagman at many tracks in central Wisconsin, including Portage, Baraboo, Columbus, Jefferson, Oregon, Lake Geneva, Slinger and Beaver Dam until 1973. For his participation in racing, he was honored with induction into the Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame in 2016. His racing tradition is carried on by his son Terry, grandsons Steven and Greg, and now by great-granddaughter Emily. He always enjoyed hearing and talking about their successes.
Hank and Josie were nearly inseparable over the years. Together they were often seen going for car rides, Josie proudly seated by his side and for casual walks around their farm, hand-in-hand. They enjoyed gardening, taking care of their many fruit trees, and their large lawn. Sundays were spent watching the Packers and NASCAR racing. Josie passed away in 2015, two days after celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. They are now strolling hand-in-hand again, down heaven’s paths.
Hank is survived by his children, Terry (Anne Ranguette) Sauer of Waterloo, and Kristine Buedler of Watertown; grandchildren Jennifer, Steven, Greg, Eddie, Colleen, Amanda and Rachel, five great-grandchildren (and a sixth on the way); sister-in-law, Agnes Dixon, Oquawka, Illinois, many nieces and nephews, and neighbors and friends Shane and Kyle Marquardt and Alice and Scott Thompson. He was preceded in death by his wife, Josie, his parents, brother, Alan, and sister Shirley.
The family would like to thank Highland House, Waterloo, for their wonderful care and family atmosphere for the nearly five years that Henry resided there. Also, thanks to Heritage Homes in Watertown, and Marquardt Hospice for making his last days comfortable.
Due to present circumstances, only immediate family and close friends will attend his funeral to be held April 5, 2020, at Grasse Funeral Home in Rio with interment and full military honors following at Bonnet Prairie Cemetery. Rev. Robb Kolsky will officiate. There will be a memorial service held at a later date. Memorials, if desired, may be directed to Bonnet Prairie Lutheran Church, Rio; Disabled Vets; or the charity of one’s choice. Online condolences may be made at www.grassefs.com. Grasse Funeral Service in Rio is serving the family.