Menomonee Falls' Baer was "always looking to help"
WWII vet owned Dan's Tog Shop for more than 50 years
Menomonee Falls — Somebody else now will have a chance at winning the Rotary Club and VFW Post 9496 raffles now that Robert S. "Bob" Baer, the unofficial "mayor" of the village, died June 3 after an extraordinarily productive and colorful 88 years.
But who now will buy the tickets at every meeting?
"He told me after winning one once that we have to go out and get new prizes," Post 9496 Commander Robert Schmitt said at Baer's services at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in the Falls on Saturday, "because he said I already have four flashlights (the prizes at the time for the Post)."
A small round of laughter followed.
But those kind of prizes usually wound being recycled by Baer back into the organization, especially if they were cash prizes. Either that or they wound up in the hands of his beloved grandson, David Manke, who spoke lovingly of the strong relationship he had with his grandfather and how his grandfather's deep sense of obligation kept him active in the village and his well-known business Dan's Tog Shop until just a few weeks before his death.
An Eagle Scout, a veteran of World War II who landed on the shores of France on the second day of the 1944 D-Day Normandy invasions (he received some long overdue service medals at a Rotary meeting last summer and they were on prominent display at the visitation) and a businessman in the area for over 50 years, Baer was the devoted husband of Patricia ("Patsy") and loving father to daughter Robin.
As Menomonee Falls Area Rotary Club President and long-time friend Ric Hartman noted, Baer was always nattily dressed in a suit, tie and fedora (one of which was lying beside him in his casket), as he went on his rounds (always on foot) in the uptown area of the Falls around Main Street, near the "Four Corners" with Appleton Avenue.
Hartman, in a series of statements that were alternately touching, humorous and always almost dead on the mark based on the amount of knowing chuckles or nods of the head that arose from the large number of mourners at the service, said Baer always seemed to be looking out for the welfare of the women and children of the village.
He could be a curmudgeon, castigating Hartman for parking in the very public parking area of Main Street in front of Dan's Tog Shop because Baer wanted to save those spots for his customers, and he could be the genial "man of the people," bringing sweet treats to his staff after making his way back to the store.
And active, always active. In the beginning of his work, the uptown of Falls was that of Strom's Pharmacy, Lohmiller's Drug Store, John the Barber and my father Llewellyn's Falls Ideal Insurance Agency, which was almost directly across the street from the Tog Shop. Baer, my mom, Alice, and my dad were Falls High schoolmates, class of 1942.
Baer later adapted as the uptown adapted and Nino's Bakery, which eventually replaced Lohmiller's, became a favorite stopping point of his.
Always known for having only the finest in men's clothing at his shop, Baer became a leader of the Main Street Business Association, a President of the Chamber of Commerce, a board member and Vice-President of Community Memorial Hospital, a member of the Waukesha Memorial Hospital Board, a 32nd degree Mason and a 37-year member of Rotary.
Baer was Hartman's sponsor when Hartman joined the Rotary, and he kept perfect attendance almost until the end. Hartman said Baer's record will be amended to make sure it remains spotless.
Hartman said Baer was so much fun to be around, as he kept Matchbox toy cars around the shop and when in the right mood, he could laugh and laugh.
Baer was accorded full military honors, including a 21-gun salute.
"He always came to the veteran's funerals," Schmitt said. In fact, Schmitt read a poem at Baer's service he had written long ago for his own father's funeral. Baer heard Schmitt read that same poem at a previous service and requested that Schmitt do that for him, too, when Baer passed.
It spoke of "tomorrow going on without me."
The question in light of that, is who will replace the loving husband, who patiently always took his wife shopping to her favorite places, the father who was endlessly proud of his daughter Robin's own women's clothing store and of her work with the Falls' Food Pantry and the grandfather who would have been very pleased with the way his young adult grandson handled himself in front of a large crowd on a difficult and solemn occasion?
Who will fill the void?
And further, who will be the good citizen to step into the very large (and well-polished) shoes of this man of small stature who stood so tall when it came to all things Falls?
The line at Holy Cross was 40 minutes long at its height, speaking of a long life of influence, but all were patient as they looked upon the neatly arranged rows of ties, the medals, the pictures of family (he was absolutely beaming in his wedding picture) and the other pieces of a life well-lived.
He was a man of the community and of his time, who would have been pleased with the hearty lunch and fellowship at Holy Cross that featured food from area businesses, including Nino's.
"He was always looking to help," Hartman said. "That's what he was about."
And he will be missed.
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