By Thomas J. McKillen
Ongoing improvements to Kiwanis Park in Menomonee Falls will include tree memorials to six members of the Kiwanis Club who contributed to the club’s mission over the past four decades.
The park is located at the northeast corner of Menomonee Avenue and Town Hall Road. A dedication ceremony was held Aug. 24 that included a retrospective of the contributions of club members Art Joy, Wally Rousseau, Delbert Erdman, Earl Becker, Paul Schryer and John Deady.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Randy Newman, Menomonee Falls Village President and Menomonee Falls Kiwanis Club member, at the start of the dedication.
Members of Cub Scout Pack 60 raised the American flag to begin the program, which was followed by the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
At the start of the program, Newman said the club was formed at St. Mary’s Church in 1956 by men “who wanted to make a difference in Menomonee Falls — and that they have. Along the way, they taught us to have fun and give back to the community.”
Newman explained that the club purchased land in 1963 that was near Maple and Christman roads with plans for a development in the future. That land was transferred over the village in 1978 for park use. However, the village moved south and the club asked to swap land and adopt what had been known as Village Green Park.
At the time the Kiwanis adopted the new park setting, there had been a ball diamond on the land and it also had been used as an ice skating rink in winter. Starting with memorials from the Art Joy and Wally Rousseau families, Kiwanis members began to fix up the park starting in 2005.
Members then spoke of the late members whose memorials will be included at the park. Neal Sykora recalled that Art Joy joined in the early 1970s and was sponsored by Wally Rousseau.
“Art was a really important part of our club in the ‘70s,” Sykora said. “He was very active with the club. He was truly dedicated with the club and was involved in all of our events.”
Sykora noted that Joy was president in 1979-80 and was then honored as a distinguished president by the Kiwanis district. He was named Kiwanian of the year in 1982.
Joy died in a vehicle accident in northern Wisconsin in 1985. Carol Joy, Art’s wife, received donations in his name and wanted a memorial for late husband. It was Carol’s idea for a community fitness center. Kiwanis members built a nine-stage fitness center, where new playground equipment currently stands after the original fitness equipment was removed due to limits on the village’s liability insurance.
Sykora then introduced Rousseau, calling him “a Kiwanian Kiwanian.”
“He promoted Kiwanis wherever he went,” Sykora said.
Richard Rousseau noted that his father served as club president in 1975-76. He said his father attended many district conventions and multiple international conventions. In 1980, Wally Rousseau was named Kiwanian of the year. Richard Rousseau added that Wally was an active member until he died in October 2004. Richard thanked the individuals who have contributed in making the park improvements possible.
“Thank you very much for all of your hard work and attention to the park,” Richard Rousseau said.
John Rousseau recalled that when he was younger he would regularly go to the airport to pick up his parents after the attended Kiwanis international conventions.
“I really appreciate how this park looks, it really is upgraded,” he said.
Member Jim Rafferty recalled that Delbert Erdman was part owner of Wisconsin Gasket. Erdman joined in the 1970s and worked on the home show, a Kiwanis carnival, the bingo event, grand prix, and a sponsored youth picnic. Rafferty noted that Erdman also attended the senior picnic at Rotary Park in the summer.
Rafferty recalled how Erdman taught other members to play pooch and also remembered the bingo fundraisers where members were playing cards afterwards.
“Delly was truly a good guy, one of the really good guys of the club, and I’m glad to see the club has recognized him with a memorial tree,” Rafferty said.
Erdman died in February 1996. Rafferty added that “I was glad to call him a friend.”
In speaking about Earl Becker, Neal Sykora noted that Becker joined in 1997 after being a member of another Kiwanis club and was a regular at the Falls club. Becker was 81 years old at the time he joined the Falls Kiwanis Club and was a member of the club for a few years.
“Earl was a member of our club for a short time but he contributed a lot to our club,” Sykora said. “We appreciate his service.”
Joe Bourassa recalled the Becker “always had a smile on his face and he was just a great gentleman.”
Dan Hart said it was an honor to commemorate the six club members. In speaking about Paul Schryer, he recalled he went to St. Mary’s school along with Schryer’s children. When Hart joined Kiwanis in 1973, he got to know Paul Schryer.
“Just a hard-working, nice guy — salt of the earth type of person,” Hart said.
Schryer was a 1956 Falls Kiwanis Club charter member. Schryer died last year.
“He was a great guy to everybody. I’m just so proud to meet him and know him,” Hart said. “I know his children were very proud of him, too.”
In speaking about John Deady, Neal Sykora noted that Deady came to the Falls club in 1997 and “he got involved in everything right off the bat.”
Sykora noted that Deady was a “low key” person who had perfect attendance at club meetings for several years. Sykora said that Deady influenced several of the younger members of the club.
“His smile and soft-spoken attitude made him a welcome member at all of our meetings,” Sykora said.
Sykora also recalled that Deady make dulcimers by hand and he and his wife Betty performed the dulcimers at a Christmas meeting. Jerry Bannerman recalled that Deady was instrumental in organizing team captains for a hole-in-one tournament the club held for 10 years.
“When I first joined the club he made me feel welcome,” Bannerman said of Deady.
Newman, speaking as the village president, thanked Kiwanis for the efforts in helping reinvigorate the club.
“We look forward to the continued contribution of the Kiwanis Club to expand this park and make it better,” Newman said.
Rafferty, chairman of the Kiwanis committee overseeing the park improvements, explained that the club will improve the tree memorials while future plans included the village removing street parking and installing a parking lot and a bridge that will go over the stream at the park.
“It’s not going to stop,” Rafferty said of the park improvements.