Greenwald man has been ‘rounding the bases’ for 96 years “Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance.” ~Author Unknown Adam Van Beck, 96, believes in leading a full life, and that includes ‘Whoopee John’ music. He is a staunch baseball fan, a bowler with a vengeance, has speared some humongous fish over the years, hunted squirrels with the best of them, but admits he lost his taste for shooting a 12-gauge when he had to pick himself up off the ground after his first firing. His sons are all hunters, but he definitely is not. Deutschland Adam Van Beck’s grandfather, Peter Van Beck, came from “Deutschland, somewhere near Holland,” said Van Beck. He settled on a farm south of Greenwald. History has it that on his way home one day during a bitter cold blizzard, Peter’s team of horses got away from him and in the storm he could not find his way home. He then took shelter in the overturned wagon box, where he stayed till morning. He then found his way home, but he was frozen badly. He lived only a short time after that. Memories of Home Peter Van Beck’s grandson, Adam Van Beck was born May 31, 1915 to Albert and Mary Kolb Van Beck who also settled south of Greenwald. His siblings were Edwin, Beata, Monika, Irma, Kitty, and Rueben. “There was no electricity (that only came in around 1936) or indoor plumbing at that time, and that meant lanterns at night and using the Montgomery Ward catalog!” laughed Van Beck. A time that sticks in Adam’s memory is when his mother got sick and had to be in the hospital for around three months or more. During this time they hired Regina Lieser, who did the milking of the cows, washed the milking utensils besides doing chores in the house with the Van Beck children. She received six dollars a week. Work on the farm was done with the aid of horses, and the Van Becks, like most other farmers, had some strong horses that served as a tractor and also at times, their means of transportation. There always was a certain pride in those horses, and they named them and took good care of them. Young Van Beck often rode to school on his horse. Other times he went by horse and buggy. More often than not, he walked the two miles to District 135, a one-room, one teacher and all grades school house. The teacher was Julius Schmidt. Marriage On June 2, 1941, Adam married Cecilia Fuchs. She passed away March 15, 1993. “We would have been married 70 years this fall,” said Adam Van Beck. Their children are Norma (Kaluza), Peter, Vernon, Lawrence, and Ralph Van Beck. Today Adam has 16 grandchildren and 35 great grandchildren. He remembers every birthday. Throwing out the first ball Adam collected tickets for the Greenwald Cub Baseball Team for over 30 years. He was asked to throw out the first ball at the Regional Baseball Tournament that was sponsored by the Greenwald Recreation Club in Greenwald last fall. Adam got the job done and added the finishing touch to a well put together tournament for which Greenwald can be proud. “When Adam was younger, they went to every baseball game,” said daughter-in-law, Joan Van Beck. “As he got older, he would take some of his grandchildren along to games. He would sit in the car and listen to the Minnesota Twins at the same time he watched the local ballgames.” Van Beck still lives in his own home, which is located just behind the Greenwald Cub’s ballpark. The family bought Van Beck a television set that was able to get the Twins games, and now he watches every single game there is on TV. At least six of his grandkids played baseball, and Grandpa Adam has been right there supporting them. Adam’s home is spotless. His family keeps tabs on him and helps him with his cleaning and wherever they can. So far Adam is usually busy with his hobbies, and spends very little time at home. He has done some of his own cooking, but recently he appreciates getting the Meals on Wheels Program. He is often able to take advantage of gift certificates given to him for dinner at the local “Pub,” where he can enjoy a good meal while visiting with his many friends. Everyone knows Adam, and he possibly could recite to you the date of their birthdays too. “Adam has a gift for remembering things,” confirmed Joan Van Beck, his daughter-in-law. Here’s a good example of that exceptional memory. On June 8, 1924, Adam made his First Communion at the Meire Grove School basement where they celebrated Mass since the church had burned down earlier. “There were eight boys and eight girls in my Communion Class,” said Van Beck, “My partner for Communion was Rose Luetmer from Meire Grove.” He still has a hand-written list of everyone that was in his Communion class, and remembers the birthdays of every student on the list! “Fr. Phillip was the priest,” he added. An Inspiring Bowler Adam started bowling with Stan’s Bar many years ago. He is still bowling at the Melrose Bowl twice a week with a pretty good average. He recently had a 199 game and blew the 10th frame. On Wednesday afternoon his team includes Norb Funk, Otto Thelen, and Mel Paavola and on Friday afternoons he gets together with more ‘younger’ men, including Bennie Nietfeld, Ken Sinclair and Butch Klaphake. Tom Kluempke subs. They named their team the Easy Rollers, and they all have a good time. Ken Sinclair noted, “Adam is something else – a really fun guy. He is our spirit and inspiration!” Two or three weeks ago, Adam slipped on ice and fell and hurt his knee and didn’t know how he would get home, but he said proudly, “I managed to get up and got home!” He continued, “The week before I had bowled with Otto Kaschmitter and he had a 179 average and I had 129. Then with the three games he had 530 and I had 538,” said Van Beck with a grin. Otto Kaschmitter, who is an excellent bowler, commented, “Everyone knows Adam Van Beck at the bowling alley. He is a fun guy to bowl with and to talk to.” Daughter-in-law, Joan Van Beck, mentioned that Adam had complained about his hip hurting, and he only bowled off and on for a few weeks. “The other morning I asked him how his hip was, and he said, ‘the other day I was high man, and those young guys, they have to bowl better!’” Whoopee John!! Adam and Celia loved old time music. Celia was a good dancer, and their favorite band at that time was ‘Whoopee John’ Wilfahrt, who was a very popular and famous band then, and still rates high in the ‘Old Time Music’ circle. It happened that this famous band visited Meire Grove in 1932, at a ‘Bowery’ dance that was included in their annual 4th of July celebration. They also played in the upstairs of the school there at times, where dances were often held. Of course, Adam and Celia were there. They enjoyed following the band to different places. “Celia could dance,” said Adam, “Years ago we couldn’t go to dances on Sunday due to church rules. Then there were lots of dances, and now you hardly hear of them anymore.” Adam talked about driving to New Ulm to see 75 Years of Whoopee John,” which left good memories with Van Beck. Adam remains friends with Whoopee John’s son, who played in his brother’s band. He took the Van Becks some miles out of town to see their home place. “I even danced with his wife one time,” laughed Adam. Van Beck has signed phonograph records from Whoopee John that he would love to play again, but he cannot find needles for his phonograph. If anyone knows where he can get them, he would appreciate a call at Greenwald, 987-3332. I’d bet anything he could dance to that record all around his kitchen table!
A home run life
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