F. Joseph Mader
1880 – 1931
On March 18, 1880, Frank Joseph was born on the small white farm house in Mormon Coulee to Frank and Rosa Mader. At age 20 he worked as a coachman living with the family on 13th Street in La Crosse.
Joseph married Angeline Kaiser in 1906. Their first home was on 14th and Adams. Angeline was one of seven children born in 1878 to Joseph and Catherine Kaiser in Leer, Germany. Angeline came to America at age 11 and lived her family in St. Paul, Minnesota. Later the family moved to La Crosse.
After his mother Rosa died in 1908, Joseph returned home with Angeline and baby Joseph, moving into the lower apartment to care for his father. During this period, they became the parents of four more sons; John born in 1908, Marcus 1910, Bernard 1911, and Lambert in 1914.
For eleven years from 1908 to 1919, the two brothers Frank Jr. and F. Joseph and their families shared the house at 1402 South 13th Street. It was never meant to be two apartments. Until ca. 1935 it had a big open stairway and only one bathroom which was upstairs. Downstairs there was a half bath. “Oh, there was friction,” Viola said. “I did not like living there. My mother and Aunt Angie did not get along. My mother was easy going and Aunt Angie was strict.”
At age 34, Joseph joined the Mader Clothing Co. when his father bought out Reuter’s half of the firm for his sons in 1914. In the beginning, everyone was happy and they had a lot of friends. Remembering those times John recalls,
“On Sundays after church, Dad would march us five kids downtown to roll the awning down. We had a special zig-zag way that cut through a playground and some empty lots – two miles down and two miles back. Our dad got quite a kick out of this and would give us a treat on the way back. In the late afternoon we marched back down again in order to roll the awning up. This was when we were about 5 to 10 years old and we thought we were pretty important.”
Joseph kept a horse and buggy in the barn. (1) He thought quite a bit of that horse and buggy. Not everyone had one in those days. He rode a bike to work and later on when his son John got a car he gave him a ride.
In 1914, Frank gave Joseph and Angeline the house for taking care of him. The house had a $2,500.00 mortgage on it which Frank had borrowed against to buy into the clothing store. He later paid $700.00 back. On taking the house, Joseph agreed to pay the loan.
Later, after his father’s death, Joseph felt the clothing store should repay the loan since it was used to buy out Reuter’s share of the firm. His brothers, Frank Jr. and Henry thought Joseph should pay back the loan because he inherited the house.
In those days, $1,800.00 was a lot of money. Also Joseph had five children to support and he needed a larger salary from the store than the other two. This did not make for good feelings between the brothers. John felt those two things affected his father physically and may have been the cause of his father suffering a nervous breakdown. Joseph became ill ca. 1920 and went to Holy Hill Hospital near Madison.
This left Angeline to care for the new baby, a girl named Helen born in February of 1920 and their five growing sons between the ages of 13 and 6. Only one year before they had a lost a little two year old girl, Mary Angela, who died after a short illness. Mary was their first daughter and they took her death very hard.
Joseph never fully recovered from his breakdown, going in and out of the hospital. When he was home he went back to work at the store. John said of his father,
“I always think of the cartoon, ‘Mr. Milktoast’ when I think of my dad. Dad didn’t have very much courage, he wasn’t an aggressive person. My dad wasn’t that way. He wouldn’t argue, he’d rather let the other guy have his way.”
On February 16, 1931, F. Joseph died of pneumonia at age 50, in a rest home by Madison, WI. He had been seriously ill. His niece Florence remembers being at practice for the Holy Trinity Grade School orchestra when Mark came over to tell her his father had died that night. “Joe and his sons all had the strong Mader look after the Mader side of the family.” Florence said. “German looking, he was well dressed and always stood tall and straight.”
Having raised her family, Angeline in her late sixties took on the care of her sons Joe’s five children after their mother died until she was unable to do so any longer. When the children left, her daughter and son-in-law, Helen and Lester Beeler lived with her. Angeline suffered a stroke in 1955 and was hospitalized almost a year before she died of cancer.
Angeline directed in her will in 1946 that her home be sold (not to any member of the family) and the proceeds be given to her son John. (2) Four months after Angeline’s death, John sold the home to his sister Helen’s husband, Lester Beeler, who in turn gave Helen 1/2 interest and the house remained in the family. (3)
(2) John had supported his mother financially after Joseph’s death.
(3) The house is presently owned by Bill Beeler, Helen’s son.