March 2, 2020 – West Bend, WI – Norman L. Esser of West Bend died on Sunday, March 1, 2020 at Ivy Manor at the age of 87.
He was born on October 4, 1932 in Lomira, the third child to Frank and Frances (nee Reimer) Esser. The family moved to their farm in Campbellsport when Norman was 4 years old, where he assisted his pa in the blacksmith shop and accompanying him with horse-shoeing rounds along with all the farm responsibilities as he grew up. Norman graduated high school as class president and valedictorian, but was required to continue working the farm after graduation despite asthma and allergy issues.
On Feb 4, 1956, he married Loretta Wiesner. In 1959, they moved to West Bend, where he worked at Gehl’s for almost 40 years in the Tool & Die Department while they raised their three children. During those years, bowling was a popular past time as were the many associated parties and tournaments.
Norman also enjoyed golfing until a work injury happened, but he continued watching pro golfers on TV. A lifelong Packer backer, Norman enjoyed sharing stories about how others mistook him for Lombardi-era great, Ray Nitschke. Another favorite story he enjoyed telling involved meeting Wayne Newton while in Las Vegas. Mr. Newton was talking with audience members, when Norman said he had a question—he then proceeded to ask, “How’s your brother?” which caused Wayne to pause & give a puzzled expression, allowing Norman to clarify—“Your brother, Fig”, resulting in lots of laughs then and years later!
In 1964, Norman joined the Knights of Columbus fraternal organization, belonging to it ever since. He was extremely proud that his son, Curt, followed in his steps, joining the KC’s while in college and even became a Grand Knight.
Travel was an enjoyable opportunity that Norman and Loretta took advantage of as the years passed. Favorite destinations with multiple visits included Ireland, Hawaii, and, of course, Crivitz. Over the many years during the summer, we became another extended family with those who also gathered in Crivitz at the same resort at the same time.
Reading became, once again, a favorite activity for Norman the past few years as the West Bend Librarian would bring him bags of books to enjoy every few weeks, no matter where he was residing. Thank you to the West Bend Library for providing this program for the home-bound. He always looked forward to the librarians’ arrival and visit, anticipating what types of books would be shared.
What made Norman the proudest was seeing the many accomplishments that his children and grandchildren made with their education, achieving college and advanced degrees.
Norman is lovingly survived by his wife, Loretta; his children, Pam (Paul Opichka) of Whitefish Bay; Joyce (John Koerth) of Casa Grande, AZ; and Curt of Appleton. He was the adored grandpa to Sarah (Kyle Ehrhardt) of Denver, CO; Jason (Janassa) Opichka of Denver, CO; and Kimberly Koerth (special friend Zach Thomas) of Tempe, AZ. Special great-grandfather to Lailah and Mila Opichka. Further survived by his sisters, Carol (the late James) Murphy of Eden and Jane (Ed Gurno) of Fond du Lac; sister-in-law, Katherine (the late George) Reimer of Hartford; along with numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; and his siblings, Roy (the late Dorothy) and Sister Jeanette Esser, SSSF.
A special thank you to Lisa Heineck; Preceptor Home Care and Hospice staff; and Ivy Manor Building 2 staff.
Visitation will be Sunday, March 8 at the Schmidt Funeral Home from 2 until 5 p.m. with a Knights of Columbus Prayer service at 5 p.m. Visitation will also be Monday, March 9 at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church from 9:30 a.m. until the Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. Entombment will follow at Washington County Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to West Bend Community Memorial Library or St. Frances Cabrini Church.