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Genealogy: Family Histories

Sussex Supporter Passes

Charles Zimmermann

by Fred H. Keller, Sussex Village Historian,

Source: Retrospect, Living Sussex Sun, Tuesday,  April 13, 2010

Last Revised 04/17/2010

Charles, "Charlie" Zimmermann a lifetime member of the greater Sussex area will be remembered for the large, positive imprint he left on his community. Zimmermann who was vacationing with his wife, Shirley, just three weeks ago in Las Vegas found himself weak and short of breath. After returning home, he was diagnosed with cancer and passed April 8 surrounded by his family at age 79.

Zimmermann was born May 15, 1930, on a 128-acre farm east of Town Line Road and Hamilton High School. His parents were Harry (1900-1993) and Clara (1903-1997) and he had two brothers, John and the late Lyle (1934-1981).

He attended Willow Springs school graduating from eighth grade in 1944 and continuing at Waukesha High School graduating class of 1948.

While in high school he started dating Shirley Schlei who graduated from Menomonee Falls High School class of 1948.

At 20 years old, Charlie was drafted into the Korean War and went through basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. Short furloughs and weekend passes are almost non-existent to basic training soldiers, but he somehow talked his commanding officer into allowing him to have a weekend to return home and schedule a wedding which took place on Sept. 29, 1951. And Pvt. Zimmermann was present in time for first formation on Monday morning.

Zimmermann was slated to go to Korea, but just as his group was set to leave he came down with the mumps and stayed behind. A stroke of luck came as he recovered and he was re-assigned to the Occupational Army in Germany. He served there in an engineering outfit that was stationed near Munich.

On discharge, he came back to the greater Sussex area and took up his life trade, carpentry. He built many homes in the northern Waukesha area. Meanwhile he and Shirley bought a home in Sussex-Lisbon and raised three daughters.

Charlie joined the Sussex Fire Department in October of 1957 and over the years moved up in the ranks. In the beginning of 1985, he was named Sussex Fire Chief, the very first fire chief chosen by the new Sussex Village and Fire Commission. Prior to 1985 membership elected the chief annually. Zimmermann remained chief until 1990. During his term he organized the hazardous waste material team, purchased a new ambulance and purchased the former Sussex Fire Department 1931 Pirsch fire truck from the George Schilling estate (by the Smoke Eaters Association). In all, Zimmerman served his community for nearly 33 years as a Sussex fire fighter.

Shortly after he left the armed service, he joined the Sussex Veterans of Foreign Wars post serving as commander from 1962-63 and becoming a lifetime member of this group. In 1962, Zimmerman purchased the Sussex Fuller-Goodman Lumber Company in east Sussex (old Templeton). It was later named Sussex do-it Center. He enlarged its footprint to include the property that once held the adjacent Mary Haasch General Store and the Busse Meat Market and the nearby home. In this space he built a large hardware store, lumber ordering office and warehouse plus he remodeled some of the former Fuller-Goodman buildings. He later added another self storage building business on the property's back acres.

Shirley and to some extent their daughters worked at the do-it center as Charlie ran it until 2004 when he sold part of it to Seigo's Japanese Steak House, sold the self storage business to another individual. Zimmerman was recognized by the former Sussex Lisbon Business and Professional Association for owning the longest operating business in Sussex that began in 1886 with the span of 1962 to 2004 being the longest era belonging to one owner, Zimmermann.

Zimmermann also served on the advisory board for the Farmers and Merchants bank and was the building inspector for the village for a period of time.

Zimmermann loved to travel and chalked up trips to New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Canada and traveled the U.S.

In 1960, he joined the Sussex Lions Club and was a member for 50 years. Although he never served as Lions president, he was awarded the prestigious Birch-Stern International Award for his contributions to the local charitable organization.

Zimmerman is survived by his wife, Shirley, (nee Schlei), daughters Nancy (Dick) Titus, Donna (Roger) Volden and Barb (Tim) Stowasser. He is further survived by grandchildren Christy (Craig) Vitense, Sara (Matt) Schroeder, Todd Volden, Melanie (Victor Seastone) Titus, Natasha (Rob) Remis and Daisha (Jake) Rand. Other relatives include brother John (Sally) Zimmermann, sister-in-law Betty (late Arne) Peterson, brother-in-law Adena Schlei and sister-in-law Pat Frantl and many other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his brother Lyle.

Services were held Monday at St. James Catholic Church with burial following in the church cemetery. Former St. James pastor Fr. Gene Doda and Fr. John Schmidt presided. The family suggests memorials in Charlie's memory to the Lions Foundation, TR Diabetes, St. James Catholic Church or the Sussex Fire Department.



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