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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
retirement, he became an indefatigable walleye fisherman.
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
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.
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.