Memorial Day Ceremony Includes Mural Dedication

Ruddy, with his family, last fall.

The South Milwaukee Veterans Council’s Memorial Day program is set for Monday, May 27, at the War Memorial.​

Veterans will be marching from the American Legion Van Eimeren-Kolonka Post 27 on 10th and Monroe to the memorial starting around 10:30 a.m. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. 

This year, the ceremony will include dedication of the beautiful mural painted by artist Ruddy Cancel on Tony G’s Grant Park Garage. As you may recall, Ruddy passed away last year, shortly after completing the artwork.

Lunch will be served at the post following the ceremony; there will be a collection taken up to support the Cancel family at the event.

South Milwaukee’s War Memorial is located on North Chicago Avenue south of the entrance to Grant Park.

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Saturday: U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore Hosts “Congressional Cafe” in Cudahy


May 16, 2019 · 5:00 pm

South Milwaukee Fire Department Publishes 2018 Annual Report

The South Milwaukee Fire Department has published its annual report. You can check out the full report here.

“Serving the community with commitment, concern and compassion.” I want to thank all of our firefighters and paramedics for their tireless work to deliver on that mission.

Here is Chief Knitter’s letter to the city council …

Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of the dedicated members of the South Milwaukee Fire Department, it is with great pleasure that I present our 2018 Annual Report.

This report provides only a brief snapshot of the efforts put forth by the hard working members of your fire department who continue to provide the exceptional level of service they are known for with the limited resources on hand. The changing face of our community and the increasing demand for our services keeps us continuously challenging ourselves to find new and creative ways to serve the public. While we may not face the challenges of larger cities, most evening news broadcasts lead with stories that could easily call upon the services of our department and I am confident in saying that we are well-prepared to respond.

Of significance in 2018 is the celebration of our 125th Anniversary. Our department was formally organized in 1893 and is the oldest city department. To recognize this milestone, the department played host to a luncheon, tour, and short presentation on the history of the department for the South Milwaukee Historical Society. In addition, the department accepted a plaque from the Milwaukee County Historical Society recognizing this accomplishment.

Our overall call volume increased from 3188 calls for service in 2017 to 3481 calls for service in 2018, with the increase focused on Emergency Medical Service (EMS) responses, which account for nearly 87% of our call volume. We continue to see a shift in our demographics for EMS patients to an aging population with slightly over 56% of our patients being age 60 or above. This is in stark contrast to a statistic provided by a 2017 American Community Survey 5-year estimate that lists our population of residents over age 65 as 16.2%. Obviously, the “senior” apartment complexes (age 55 & over) and the nursing home and supervised / assisted living centers and the health concerns of their residents create a challenging demand on our system.

In closing, the South Milwaukee Fire Department will continue to answer the call 24/7/365 and maintain its high level of service delivery as we respond to the needs of the community as an all-hazard, all-risk department. Our focus will remain on community involvement, risk reduction, fire prevention, public education, and delivering timely, professional, effective, and efficient service. The members of the South Milwaukee Fire Department and I would like to thank Mayor Erik Brooks, the members of the Common Council and Police and Fire Commission, and our citizens for all their hard work and continued support.

Respectfully submitted,

Joseph Knitter

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South Milwaukee Police Department Publishes 2018 Annual Report

The South Milwaukee Police Department has published its annual report, and it shows strong progress in a number of key areas.

Check out the report here. Among the headlines Chief Jessup shared at last week’s council meeting, where he presented the report …

  • Five year crime trends are very positive, with violent crime down 33 percent and property crime down 32 percent.
  • In 2018, there was a 12 percent reduction in crime, including a 18 percent decline in robberies, 35 percent reduction in burglaries and 12 percent drop in theft. Aggravated assaults were up from 15 incidents to 23 incidents; most were domestic violence cases.
  • Officers responded to more than 29,000 calls for service in 2018, up from about 26,000 in 2016.
  • Adult arrests increased from 452 in 2017 to 537 in 2018.
  • The department saw five retirements, including Chief Ann Wellens. We added five new officers, and three new clerks and dispatchers.
  • More than 1,600 citations were issued for speeding, OWI, and license and seat belt violations, although officers use discretion — half of all stops result in warnings.
  • The department also increased its focus on being a visible presence on the streets and in the neighborhoods. Officers performed almost 7,000 business checks in 2018, and did more than 1,110 “park and walks.”
  • That visibility will only increase, with increased bicycle patrols in 2019, including the partnership with Cheata Bikes.
  • Officers also continued to work closely with the schools, businesses and churches to conduct risk assessments and conduct active threat training. We partnered with the South Milwaukee School District to help the district obtain state funds for safety enhancements in all public schools. Other community efforts include the continuation of the DARE program, Shop with a Cop, Community Night Out, Stuff the Squad and Coffee with a Cop.

Here is the letter from Chief Jessup …

To the citizens of South Milwaukee, Mayor Erik Brooks, City Administrator Tami Mayzik, the South Milwaukee Common Council, the South Milwaukee Police & Fire Commission, and members of the South Milwaukee Police Department:

I am pleased to present to you the South Milwaukee Police Department Annual Report for 2018. While the report may look different from those of the past, I believe you will find that it continues to provide an accurate overview of the challenges and accomplishments, as well as the activities undertaken by our staff to enhance public safety in our community.

2018 began with a change in leadership at the top of the department as Chief Ann Wellens retired after more than 28 years of service. For the past 13 years she skillfully led the organization and made important changes in technology and training that kept the agency at the forefront of modern policing. I want to thank Ann for her service and wish her the best in her retirement. She leaves a legacy of progress and professionalism that will continue to pay dividends in future years and she will truly be missed.

Officer Dave Stratton and Officer Francis Rotter also retired during 2018 and we thank them for their commitment and service to the community over the past 26 years. I want to welcome Officers Garrett Rogers, Kevin Scheidt, Brennyn Sibley, Stephan Goratowski and Caitlin Schmidt to the department, as well as two new dispatchers, Elizabeth Williams and Connor Dews. They are proving to be fantastic additions to our staff of dedicated public servants.

Policing in a free society requires a partnership with the community and that partnership must be based on a mutually agreed-upon set of goals and values. We strive to make our city safer through a community-based policing strategy that is responsive to the needs of individuals and businesses while following a set of principles that fosters mutual respect. Above all else, we value the sanctity of life, hold ourselves accountable and follow the Constitution. These basic but important doctrines will continue to guide our actions as we work in partnership with the community to address ongoing and emerging issues. We thank you for your support and look forward to working with you to make South Milwaukee healthier and stronger.

Sincerely, Chief William Jessup

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On the Closing of Dairy Queen, and Change

The closure of the South Milwaukee Dairy Queen this weekend got me thinking about change — specifically, about how iconic community businesses and institutions come and go, and how properties find new life from the old.

“Time marches on,” someone reminded me this week.

My family and I will miss Dairy Queen, and based on feedback I’ve seen, we are far from alone. South Milwaukeeans grew up patronizing this restaurant, and made memories here. It was iconic in many ways, as was the Hartley family who owned it for more than 40 years.

I know closing the store was an agonizing decision for them, as Kathy Hartley-Lorisch shared in a letter to me last week (reprinted with her permission here.) Long story short, as explained to me: DQ was requiring a significant in the building that was simply too much to make.

I wish her nothing but the best, as another chapter in her life begins, and as another chapter in the life of that building ends.

The story of that property actually began in the 1920s, when it was home to a Ray’s Service Station, historian Nels Monson tells me, and it stayed a service station for decades …

Thanks, Tony Bloom, for the photo.

Two generations, two entirely different uses. From gas pumps to Dilly Bars. Will a new chapter be written? We’ll see.

As we wait, the story continues to evolve with properties across the city, from the former Bucyrus campus to small, independent businesses.

Last week, for example, I met with Humayun Khan, owner of Borak Entertainment — the next generation of the building at 1912 12th. He has already brought new life to the facility — including a fashion show tomorrow — and has exciting plans to make this a truly unique regional dance destination, one that has big potential for our downtown and city.

It will be the latest use of property with a really cool history. This was South Milwaukee’s first factory. Nels tells me it was owned by the Shutz Bros., who made extension tables there. Around 1908 it became Racine Fire Truck Co. until Bucyrus-Erie bought it around 1911. It became the Bucyrus Employee Club, then the South Milwaukee Community Center, then Papa Luigi’s.

Six generations, six unique uses. From tables and fire trucks to Salsa. How will this next chapter be written? We’ll see.

Here is another one: the parking lot on 11 and Milwaukee. Soon to be home to Da Crusher statue, it is home to community events throughout the summer, from the Rotary Club’s Food Truck Sunday to the South Milwaukee Downtown Market to Crusherfest.

For many years, this was Depot Park, a community gathering spot that housed the city Christmas tree and a farmers’ market almost 100 years ago, before making way for a Bucyrus parking lot. The city bought it in 2018, and we’re proud to turn it back to the community.

Three generations, three uses. From a Christmas tree to Da Crusher, and cucumbers.

One more example: the now-closed Scrappy’s BBQ. For decades this was Lloyd’s lunch, where I remember getting ridiculously low-priced soup as recently as 2003. It closed, only to be replaced by a Mediterranean grocery store and then Mike Hintz’s terrific barbecue restaurant.

Three generations, three uses. From lunch counter to burek to burnt ends.

By now, I hope you see where I am going with this … that this is nothing new. This is how communities develop.

Does that make the closure of an institution like Dairy Queen any easier? No. Do we root for this to happen? No way.

But I also know this: This story is playing out across South Milwaukee, across America for that matter: Sites finding second, third-, fourth and fifth-generation uses (sometimes more), often in ways no one could have ever imagined. And we must embrace it.

Decades ago, who would have thought a gas station would become an ice cream shop? Similarly, who would have thought a former hotel and then a drug store (which burned down in 1963) would become a martial arts studio (Sorce Martial Arts), or that a truck factory and tannery would be home to a Walmart, or that a former baseball field, later a shopping center, would become home to senior apartments (Marquette Manor)? Or that a former elementary school would become City Hall and a police station?

The list goes on and on and on.

So it goes for the former Bucyrus campus. Our city was born by the Mill Pond, but grew up around this factory, which is headed for second-generation reuse soon. What will come of it? Stay tuned.

We as a city must help shape this change when and where we can. We’re doing that with the Bucyrus campus, just as we’re actively working to breathe new life into properties across South Milwaukee. It’s work that brings some pain. Losing businesses like this hurts.

But I can still check out Ferch’s Beachside Grill at Grant Park Beach this summer – located where early resident John Fowle built a schooner and a scow 170 years ago, with the bath house coming in 1935 — or AM Ice Cream at 1232 Milwaukee Ave., itself a former tavern.

This is the new normal. Either we adapt, or we don’t. What we can’t do is ignore it or fight against it, nor dwell on the disappointment.

The next generation is coming. And we’ll be ready. I just wish the Hartley family was a part of it.

As they leave, I thank them for their longstanding commitment to this city, and for the countless memories they helped make by being a part of it.

Good luck, Kathy. Your next Cotton Candy Blizzard is on me.


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Honor Your Hero: Rotary’s Flags for Heroes Returning to South Milwaukee

Excited to see this terrific program return to South Milwaukee!

Look for the beautiful flag display outside City Hall in time for our Flag Day event on Friday, June 14, and sign up to recognize your hero.

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Check out these South Milwaukee headlines …

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