Jerome L. Blaska

 

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Elizabeth R Blaska
Jerome L. Blaska
Cyril J. Blaska
Evelyn Owens
Gregory Blaska
Lila Blaska LaBarro
Orvin E. Walsvik
Paul A. Rietbrock
Francis B. Blaska
Bill Ostrowsky, Jr.
Burdette M. Blaska
Laura M. Blaska
Tony Blaschka

 

 Jerome L. Blaska
SUN PRAIRIE — Jerome L. Blaska died early Tuesday, May 2, 2000, at Evora Lodge after a brief illness at the age of 80.
    He was walking and talking until his last moments. He went out on his own terms, in command of his own turf, which is how he lived his life. 
    Jerome raised a large and achievement-oriented family, ran a busy farm, was immersed in the civic life of his community, and was an active player in the state’s political scene. 
    He was born July 4, 1919, to John M. and Rose (Schuster) Blaska on the family farm in the town of Sun Prairie, the middle of nine children and one of three to be born on Independence Day. He was always very proud of that and of his country.
    After graduation from Sun Prairie High School in 1937, he became the youngest fieldman for Oconomowoc Canning Company. His field crops, whether oats, barley, peas, corn, or tobacco, were always top notch.
    Later he became a tobacco buyer for P. Lorrilard Co. while still farming in the Town of Sun Prairie. In 1964, he served on the National Tobacco Industry Advisory Council. 
    His mind never rested. One cold winter day he slipped while feeding the cattle and broke his leg. He spent his convalescence devising a new way to feed livestock. His electric push-button system in 1958 was written up in the major farm magazines.
    He was proud of his service in World War 2 from 1942-46. He was stationed in the Aleutian Islands.
    He cooked many hamburgers since then as an active member of VFW Post 9362 and American Legion Post 333. 
    He fought for better farm prices and tax equity through his membership in Associated Milk Producers Inc., and as president of the Dane County Farmers Union, a position he held at the time of his death, some 25 years in all.
    He once grew a beard to protest high property taxes. 
    At Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Church, where he was baptized, Jerome served as usher, was a member of the Holy Name Society, the Catholic Order of Foresters, and the Knights of Columbus. 
    He built a bridge and washed spaghetti dinner dishes for Lions Club fundraisers.
    He was a volunteer firefighter, and — like his grandfather — clerk of Oak Lawn School, the one-room country school that he, his children, and his father attended.
    He was a founder of the Island Church Foundation, which maintained the church his German Bohemian great-grandparents helped build, southeast of Waterloo, in 1863. 
    He served in the Wisconsin State Legislature, as had his father. First elected in a special election in April 1959, Jerome served four terms and rose to become a major player as chairman of the Assembly Highway Committee. He played a pivotal role in completing the interstate highway system. It was the achievement he talked most about.
    In 1960, desiring party unity, he was instrumental in throwing the state’s support to John F. Kennedy, even though he had been elected as a Hubert Humphrey delegate.  He then spurned political rewards offered by the successful ticket so that he could remain on the farm.
 
    Born on Independence Day, he had to be his own boss. He was a Democrat who believed in growing the pie, not cutting it into ever thinner pieces.
    In later life he enthusiastically supported Governor Tommy Thompson, but beat him badly at euchre. But then, he beat everyone at euchre and sheepshead.
    In his retirement, he became an indefatigable walleye fisherman. 
    He married Helen Curl of Bloomfield, Iowa, on February 7, 1948. They contributed to the Baby Boom six times: David (Marilisa) Blaska of Madison, J. Michael (Peggy) Blaska of Sun Prairie, Elizabeth Blaska, who died in 1997, William (Diane) Blaska of rural Reeseville, Jane Ann (James) Swodzinski of Neshkoro, Richard (Margaret) Blaska of San Francisco, and nine grandchildren.
    Jerome is also survived by brothers Gregory Blaska of Sun Prairie, Cyril of Oconomowoc, and sisters Evelyn Owens of Sun Prairie, Lila LaBarro of Sun Prairie, Burdette Blaska of Sun Prairie, and Elaine Wood, of McFarland, and many nieces and nephews. 
     He is also survived by his special friend, Katie Glab, of Sun Prairie.
    His sister Juanita “Dolly” Blaska and brother John Blaska preceded him in death. 
    His life achievements were recognized nationally when he was chosen as one of 100 people, one born in each year of the 20th Century on the Fourth of July, to be pictured in the “Photo of the Century,” taken on July 4, 1999, in front of Independence Hall, Philadelphia. 
   Monsignor Duane Moellenberndt celebrated  his funeral Mass on Friday, May 5, at Sacred Hearts Church. Burial was at Sacred Hearts Cemetery. Visitation was Thursday evening at Tuschen-Newcomer Funeral Home, 302 Columbus St., Sun Prairie. 
    Jerome Blaska lived to serve.
 
Register of the Jerome L. Blaska Papers, 1959-1963
Wisconsin Historical Society
    Papers of a Dane County farmer and Assemblyman (1959-1966), consisting of campaign literature, photographs, and constituent correspondence concerning trading stamps, Sunday store closing, the 21-year-old drinking age, the state budget, and other issues of the 1963 legislative session.
    Blaska was a dairy farmer and four-term Democratic Assemblyman from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The following information on his career is abstracted from the 1966 Wisconsin Blue Book.
    He was born in Sun Prairie on July 4, 1919. After attending local schools, Blaska worked as the field manager for a cannery from 1939 to 1942. From 1942 to 1946 he served in the Army.  Blaska returned to farming after World War II, but he nevertheless found time for numerous civic and political involvements.  He was a committeeman for the Agricultural Conservation Service, a member of several farm and veterans organizations, and school clerk and a member of the school board.
    Blaska was also statutory chairman of the Dane County Democratic Party and a member of the executive committee of the Dane County Democratic Party. In April 1959, Blaska was elected to the Assembly in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Carl Thompson.  Blaska was reelected in the next three regular elections.
     In the Assembly, Blaska was chairman of the Highway Committee, vice-chairman of the Agriculture Committee, and a member of the Committee on Interstate Cooperation.  He also served on the Legislative Council's Highway Advisory Committee and its Conservation Land Purchases Committee. 
    In many ways Blaska's liberal record typified the resurgence of the Democratic Party in Dane County during the 1950's, and he won strong electoral support from both union and farm groups.  In the legislature he was an advocate for the family farm and small-town problems and a strong supporter of Democratic tax reform policies.
    The Jerome Blaska Papers are a small collection consisting of constituent correspondence concerning trading stamps, Sunday store closing, the 21-year-old drinking age, and the state budget and other issues of the 1963 legislative session, together with a small amount of campaign literature.  The constituent correspondence is arranged alphabetically by subject or bill number. The campaign literature consists of cards, clippings of newspaper advertisements, and drafts of a few press releases.  Unfortunately, the collection contains only a few isolated items concerning Blaska's own activities within the Democratic Party or as an assemblyman.
    Photographs taken for the campaign literature are available in the Visual Materials Archive where they are filed in a Name File and the Wisconsin Democratic Party file.
    Presented by Jerome L. Blaska, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, September 10, 1971.

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This site was last updated 07/28/13