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Moments in Time: Ellen Hossman
Ellen Hossman. To order this photo, click here.

Moments in Time

A weekly series featuring recollections of area residents.

To suggest someone to feature in Moments in Time, please contact Mary Jane Grenzow, editor, at

MONROE - Family might not have always been geographically close for Ellen Hossman, but she found friends and neighbors that felt just as close - a gift that she's cherished dearly over the years.

She said it was her family of friends that started from her childhood, and another family of friends she made in Monroe, who were always there when needed for both the successes and heartaches of life.

Hossman grew up in Watertown and recalls being part of the first kindergarten there. She has memories of walking to school and being just a block away from the Rock River, enjoying skating and spending time there often with friends.

As a student, she was involved in the art club through high school as well as school plays. She began working at age 15, at restaurants and as a car hop, but looked after neighborhood children long before that.

She and her five siblings would play together often, but some of her most precious memories from childhood are with a family that weren't related but were just as close to her.

Hossman has memories of them heading for a movie after a large Thanksgiving dinner with everyone. It's memories like those that have stuck with her over years and made her realize just how important friends can be.

"We've found that here in Monroe, too," Hossman said. "Where friends became family - and it's still that way. To have that gift is something I cherished growing up."

The 1969 Watertown High School graduate always hoped to go on to art school of some kind, but instead love guided her way. She married her high school sweetheart, Dan. He was in the military, and it was during the Vietnam War. The couple moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky. He was never deployed and took an early out to finish school.

The couple ended up in Monroe after Dan landed a job as one of the first physician assistants at Monroe Clinic in 1971.

Monroe wasn't an easy town to come into as outsiders, Hossman said, but it wasn't long before they worked their way into the tightly-knit community and met some wonderful people along the way.

"We knew nothing about Monroe," Hossman said with a laugh, noting how they quickly found friends through people at the hospital and the families there who reached out to them. "As newlyweds, we had a lot to learn about life."

Hossman soon landed a job at Schultz Pharmacy, and it was a great fit for her.

"I just love people," Hossman said. "I have such a wonderful group of friends that grew out of my work in retail, and the people I became friends with through my work are priceless. I don't know how many people can say that."

Hossman would end up making a career in the retail field. She moved from the pharmacy to das Baumhaus, a women's clothing store on the Square, and spent 35 years there.

After four years of battling cancer, Dan passed away in 1998. Six weeks later, Hossman lost her mother as well. During that time, Hossman said she learned a lot about her relationships and life.

"I learned how fragile life is and how precious family and friends are," she said. "We felt the love during that time."

Hossman said she never considered leaving Monroe for a second. It had become her home and she felt very loved and supported by those around her. She soon earned her marketing degree from Blackhawk Technical College and, as the oldest student in class, found a new perspective.

On the day of her graduation, she didn't attend the ceremony, but instead headed for Texas to watch her daughter receive her master's degree. She decided it was where she needed to be.

Hossman has been a Green Haven Crisis Line volunteer for at least 15 years and said one of the reasons she started was to force herself to be home at least one night a month during a busy time in her life. But after taking a few calls, she realized how much the line was needed.

"If I've helped one person come to grips with what they're facing, it's been worth it," she said. She served on the Green County Crimestoppers board for six years and, while her daughter was growing up, she was a Girl Scout leader as well.

One of the most important things in Hossman's life has been her role as the director of the Green County Literacy Council. A friend approached her about applying for the job when it opened up about 10 years ago, and she went for it. Giving people the gift of life skills and opening up a world to those who may not otherwise have seen it has been highly rewarding, she said.

"It's a true, humbling gift that I'm able to be a part of," she said. "I had no idea that I would fall into this position that allows me to use my brain, my heart and learn so much about other cultures."

Recently, she was awestruck when asked to attend a blessing at a Hindu temple in Madison for one of her students. Hossman said it was a true honor to be there.

"Many people want to have a passion in life but they don't know who or what it is," she said. "But I've found mine with (the literacy council)."

Hossman has juggled life between retail work, the literacy council and being with family, but she knew she would retire from das Baumhaus when she turned 65. The store owner also decided to retire shortly after and closed the store's doors after more than three decades in Monroe.

Hossman loved working there, and both she and the store owner did a lot of looking out for community members and reaching out to people they saw in need, which is something she misses.

But retirement has also been very enjoyable and Hossman is happy to have some more free time these days.

"My gardens were happy this summer," Hossman smiled.

She also just finished her training and will become a hospice volunteer after the first of the year. She's looking forward to that, saying that it's something that's always been in the back of her mind and she feels that compassion and listening are skills she does well.

Hossman also takes time for yoga and several art classes, things that are great stress relievers for her own well-being.

One of the things Hossman loves most is spending time visiting with her daughter, Sara, who lives in the D.C. area along with her two grandchildren. She's ready for her first road trip to take Sara a chest her father built her before he died. Hossman said while she's there, she too, is welcomed with open arms by her daughter's family of friends - much like the one her daughter had growing up in Monroe.

"There's so much we can learn from each other," she said. "It doesn't always have to come from a book."