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Joseph Karlen (1919 - 2013)

Obituary
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Karlen, Joseph A.

Joseph Karlen, 93, Wausau, Wisconsin, loving father, grand-father, and great-grandfather, was called home to God on Saturday March 16, 2013. Joe was born on May 7, 1919 to the late Louis and Mary (Heil) Karlen near Marathon City.

Joe was drafted into the service of his country during WWII. He was shipped out to the European Theater where he became a part of our Nation's History, taking part in the infamous Landing at Normandy and The Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded a number of times during his tour of duty and carried shrapnel near his spine and a bullet lodged between his skull and brain the rest of his life. He earned several medals including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He returned home in December, 1945. A kind stranger gave him a ride from the empty bus station to the family farm in Cassel, Wisconsin. On May 27, 1947 Joe married Dorothy Hoffmann. Together they had eight children

Joe was employed as the chief electrician at St. Mary's Hospital and Wausau Hospital retiring after 40 years of service. He also worked independently as an electrician to support his family. Joe continued to work after his retirement from the hospital but as the years passed, worked only for a few long-time friends until a fall from a ladder at work necessitated his total retirement in October 2012 at age 93.

Joe was a founding member of St. Anne's Catholic Church in Wausau which he attended regularly until his health started to fail in June 2012.

Joe and Dorothy were able to travel the United States extensively after Joe's retirement taking bus tours to all 50 states..

On April 27, 2010, Joe took part in the first Old Glory Honor Flight out of the Wausau area. Prior to leaving, he kept reminding Barb of the time she was to pick him up when he returned. Just one of the joys of that day came at the amazing "welcome home" when the veterans returned to Central Wisconsin Airport. Several family members were at the late night welcome home celebration, telling Joe that we, too were worried Barb would forget what time to pick him up. He was absolutely speechless! Once he started sharing his experiences of this day, it was clear how special and amazing this day was to him. He shared with family how the entire day was just like the welcome home celebration at the airport. He was overcome with the gratitude shown him for the sacrifices he made for this country. He became a media darling during this trip which was how the family learned most of what they know about his time during the war. For the first time he was sharing these experiences

Joe was a man of few words but when he had something to say, it was worth stopping to listen. He was a fountain of good advice for his children and his grandchildren and was well respected by all who knew him. He set a beautiful example of commitment to marriage by the 60 years he shared with Dorothy. He exhibited strength of character often lacking in this world and expected the same from his children.

Joe is survived and will be deeply missed by his children: Kathryn Wilde, Barbara (Steve) Reichl, Jean (Bob) Klos, Charles (Debra), Robert (Gretchen), Donna (Jeff) Stary, and John (Jenny), and son-in-law Larry Bembenek He is further survived by his sister, Adeline Schara, 19 grandchildren: Jody (Michelle) Bembenek, Chad (Stefanie) Bembenek, Shawn (Heather) Wilde, Terry Wilde, Erik (fiancé Nann Paduan), Ann Wilde, Jerry (Amy) Reichl, Niki (Chris) Miller, Heather Klos, Tom Klos, Michelle Klos, Steven (Laura) Karlen, Bradley Karlen, Cameron Karlen, Joe Karlen, Kristi Stary, Mark Stary, Josh Karlen and Jessica Karlen, 13 great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

Joe was preceded in death by his wife Dorothy, daughter Char and son-in-law Fred, grandson Andrew Wilde, and great-granddaughter, Journey Bembenek. He is also preceded in death by his brothers Herbert, Alex, Clarence, and Edwin and his sister, Mildred Gruny.

The funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at The Church of St. Anne, Wausau. The Rev. Jeffery Hennes will preside. Burial will be in St. Mary Catholic Cemetery, Marathon. Friends may call on Tuesday from 9:00 a.m. until the time of services all at the church. In lieu of flowers a memorial has been established in Joe's name.

Peterson/Kraemer Funeral Home, 1302 Sixth Street, Wausau is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be expressed at www.petersonkraemer.com

The family would like to thank Mount View Care Center for the excellent care they took of Joe during his final weeks. He regularly commented that they" treated him like a king" and he called them "my angels". God Bless all of you. A sincere thank you also to some very special friends who rarely missed a day to visit with Joe: Don and Sally Kowalski, George and Carla Waldvogel, and Mary Eggebrecht who is still waiting for her polka with him.

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Published in the Wausau Daily Herald on Mar. 18, 2013
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