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Moments in Time: Henry Tschanz
Henry Tschanz (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Henry Tschanz is a workaholic who doesn't often stop or slow down.

He says since he has been blessed with good health, he has just always felt a need to give back to the community that's given so much to him. He enjoys staying busy with work, volunteering and any other projects that come his way.

He was born in Mount Horeb but moved to Monroe on a farm on County Y by the time he was 3. He grew up on the dairy farm with his three siblings and says it was where he first learned to work.

He did chores every day before making the trek to Valley View Grade School, a country school with one room for all eight grades. He says it was a good experience where he learned a lot, but he preferred to be on the farm.

Once he finished eighth grade, he didn't plan to go to high school but a law was passed that required children to attend school until the age of 16. He headed to Monroe High School and enjoyed his time there, he said.

He played on the FFA basketball team and was a 4-H member, but mostly he was expected to be home to work. His fun came by way of making hay and cultivating corn. He was part of a thrashing crew in the rural area and remembers helping neighbors with their harvest.

He recalls heading into Cheese Days and seeing neighborhood farmers from the community. It was a great celebration and time off from his farm chores, he said. He graduated from high school in 1953.

His plan was always to stay on the farm, but Tschanz volunteered for the draft in December 1955 and headed to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for basic training. From there, he went to Fort Sill in Oklahoma for field artillery training, which prepared him to run 8-inch guns that shot 12 miles. His battalion went to Germany during the Cold War in peace time to protect the country in case war broke out.

After 14 months there, Tschanz says he appreciated Germany but was ready to be home. He took a year of reserve training and left the Army in September 1957.

After 40 years, that Army crew began having annual reunions. He and his wife, Melva, have attended all but two of them, traveling all over the United States to reconnect with his fellow veterans.

When he returned to Monroe, he began working at Lougano Cheese Factory in Orangeville, but it closed after a year. He then moved to Lakeshire Marty Cheese Factory in Monroe for four years making block Swiss cheese. He and Melva, who he met at a Turner Hall dance, were married.

He spent some free time water skiing and boating at Yellowstone Lake in Argyle and Lake Mendota in Madison.

But after five years as a cheesemaker, he says the salt from brining bothered him, and he decided to move on. He began work at Crandall Oil Company in 1963, which was located where Culver's now sits. He spent time fixing cars, tractors and truck tires along with farm service work. He enjoyed the job and stayed for 23 years.

When the business closed, Tschanz says he went to find more work. He landed a job at the Monroe Wastewater Treatment Plant as a labor worker and stayed there for a decade. He enjoyed the job and decided at age 62 he would retire.

But that didn't last.

"I thought I was ready to retire," Tschanz said. "I thought I'd watch TV, and there was a soap opera on. I turned it off and haven't seen it since."

Instead, Tschanz went back to work again for U.S. Suppliers, driving truck to haul chemicals for farmers. After two years, the hours were long and he decided instead to work for the Monroe Street Department mowing lawns. He stayed there for 12 more years.

Eventually, Tschanz retired again. But, he still felt like he couldn't sit still.

He was a member of the Turner Hall Board, serving as president for a year, and still helps and volunteers there. He is a volunteer at the National Historical Cheesemaking Center and enjoys the people he meets there. He and Melva are active at St. John's United Church of Christ, where he's been a lifelong member. He has served on the church council and taught youth groups for years. The couple also are servers and ushers regularly.

After Hurricane Katrina, he and Melva went three years on mission trips to Biloxi where they helped repair buildings with other people from church. Then, they decided they wanted to continue helping but closer to home. Six years ago they became coordinators for Family Promise, a group that works with homeless people in Green County.

"I just enjoy volunteering to help people," Tschanz said. "I've always been active in different things around the city."

In 1992 the couple began their involvement with Cheese Days after their daughter was one of the co-queens and worked with the parades and took the Swiss Chalet float in numerous parades. In 1994 they took over the float committee and scheduling. In 2006, Tschanz says they were honored to serve as the Cheese Days King and Queen for Monroe, which was an enjoyable time for them.

Tschanz has been a member of Knights of Pythias since 1963 and was active until about seven years ago. He served as the grand chancellor for the state of Wisconsin for two terms in the early 1990s.

Since he returned from service, he has been an avid blood donor and has donated more than 20 gallons of blood.

Today, he and Melva often use the Behring Senior Center and support the Monroe Arts Center.

He also drives for the Aging and Disability Resource Center and has since was first employed by the city. He says he needed something to do when he would get off work early on Fridays. He enjoys taking people to appointments, shopping trips and other activities.

"I'm just comfortable driving," Tschanz said. "And (Melva's) a good navigator so we'll go anywhere. It works well."

It isn't all work anymore, however. Tschanz says he finds enjoyment caring for about 45 acres of land he owns near Argyle for recreational purposes. His son-in-law got him back into hunting for a time and although he no longer hunts, he still enjoys the land, the fruit trees and mowing there. It's been a special place for his family.

He's happy he's raised his two children in Monroe. His son is still in town, and his daughter lives near Chicago. They also often spend time with their five grandchildren.

For he and Melva's 45th wedding anniversary, they made the trip to Switzerland with the Swiss Singers group and visited relatives. It was a memorable trip during which he was able to connect with cousins and other family members still there. They have past memories of camping trips with family.

With an upcoming knee replacement, Tschanz says he'll have to settle down for a while. Melva has finally talked him into sitting long enough to work on word search puzzles, but that's about the extent of it.

His strong work ethic is something he's also tried to pass along to his own children. They know that when he approaches them and announces that he's "been thinking" the jobs will be plentiful and the ideas as well.

"My wife and I have always felt fortunate to live in the Monroe community," Tschanz said. "We have always had a job, and we have been blessed with pretty good health. Monroe was a great place to raise our children. We feel the need to give back to the community that has given so much to us."