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Spaghetti dinner to honor Gempler
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What: Harris Gempler Spaghetti Dinner, a fundraiser for Restoring Hope Transplant House, a nonprofit home for recovering transplant patients in downtown Middleton

When: 4-6:30 p.m. Feb. 21

Where: Moose Lodge, 639 3rd Avenue, Monroe

Cost: $8 for adults, $5 for children 10 and younger; carryouts available

MONROE - Spaghetti dinners are commonplace in small towns throughout Wisconsin, spanning from Boy Scouts fundraisers to cancer research rallies, while the latest in Monroe is set to serve a special purpose for a city native.

February marks the 25th anniversary since a spaghetti dinner was held in honor of Harris Gempler. This year, another Harris Gempler Memorial Dinner will be held, with organizers hoping to continue the tradition annually. A native to Monroe, Gempler died in 1989 from complications with kidney disease; he would have been 91 this year.

Gempler first began organizing spaghetti dinners in the 1980s when he decided there should be a dialysis center in his hometown. That goal was accomplished with Liberty Dialysis Monroe, but now his daughter Terry Gulessarian hopes to make a mark on another facility helping those with health problems.

From 4 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21, Gulessarian will host the spaghetti dinner at the Moose Lodge in Monroe. Gulessarian said it will be a buffet-style gathering with a menu that includes meat, vegetarian and gluten-free options with salad, bread and dessert. Carryouts will also be available. The aim of the dinner is to honor her father while gaining support for the Restoring Hope Transplant House in Middleton. The facility houses recent transplant patients who have undergone surgery in Madison. Gulessarian has seen the positive effect of an affordable place for people to stay as they recover.

"These people will sit around and talk to one another," Gulessarian said. "They become lifelong friends because they go through this together."

Gulessarian has a plan to name a room in the Restoring Hope Transplant House after Gempler. She said she has been happy to see the support of the city in her effort to revive the fundraiser.

"People in Monroe have been amazing," Gulessarian said. "It's been quite striking how much they remember my father and the things he did for the city."

A constant in the community, Gempler was a member of the Rotary Club of Monroe and the National Kidney Foundation. He ran the family business, Gempler's Tire Shop, for 40 years after inheriting it from his father. When Gempler was no longer able to run the shop, it was sold and became Pomp's Tire.

Gulessarian shared happy memories of the love her father felt for Monroe.

"He loved the community and how wonderful the people were," Gulessarian said. "It was everything to him."