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Happy 100th birthday to WWII veteran Joe Zadra of West Bend, WI

July 22, 2022 – West Bend, WiWorld War II veteran Joe Zadra is celebrating his 100th Birthday today.

Zadra is one of the few remaining WWII vets in the area. Zadra served in the U.S. Army from 1942-46 and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He was an intelligence officer in the 19th Tank Battalion that was sent to join the 6th Armored Division.

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Joe Zadra veteran

Zadra’s unit raced to safeguard the road to Bastogne, Belgium, on the southern flank of the battle.

Joe Zadra
WWII veteran Joe Zadra

Zadra survived the Battle of the Bulge but caught pneumonia and was taken to an aid station. He recuperated in a hospital for a couple of weeks and returned to his unit.

Zadra, who grew up in Schofield, WI, spent decades working for the Gehl Co.

Joe Zadra

Zadra’s 100th birthday celebration was hosted by the West Bend American Legion with assistance by Ed and Mike who cooked and manned the bar, the Honor Guard, the West Bend Fire Department and veteran Donna Kleinmaus

Joe Zadra
WWII Veteran Joe Zadra listens to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

The highlight of the evening was a PowerPoint presentation on Joe’s 100-year history from birth through military service, an extensive career at the Gehl Company and his commitment to his faith and family.

One rare moment at the celebration was two century WWII veterans in the room as Joe sat next to Allan Kieckhafer, 99.

JOe and Allen
Two WWII veterans Joe Zadra and Allan Kieckhafer

There were some juicy tidbits including photos of Joe and a lovely young woman he met in France while in the service. Joe remembered the one kiss and his son Nolan Zadra said, “That must have been some kiss to remember it 80 years later.”

Another charming story was a handwritten letter in cursive from Joe’s mom to her son in service. And the snake rattles found in the Zadra garage which were small tokens Joe sent home to woo Edna while he was overseas. Joe was a sharpshooter and picked off a number of rattlers; little did he know Edna despised snakes. The couple recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

Finally, a note from Nolan Zadra.

Lastly, I regret that I failed to have said (as I had otherwise planned), that most of us had parents of that “Greatest Generation.” Many like Joe came from humble means, experienced the Depression and WWII in some aspect, worked their way up and made the most of their opportunities, raised good families and gave back to their community.  As Tom Dugan told Diantha and me after, Joe could have been one of the Baily’s in “A Wonderful Life” as he has lived the American Dream.  And he sadly wondered how true that will be going forward in America.  So, in reflection, what I really wanted to say when I had a microphone in hand was “Think back to your parents of that Greatest Generation, the great memories and what they instilled in you.  And hopefully we can continue to share those values with those that follow us.”

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