Selby, Lester E.
Entered into heaven on June 17, 2015 age 90 years. Beloved husband of 65 years to the late Martha “Marty”. Loving father to Carol (James) Surges, Jerry (Jo Marie) Selby, and David (Mikki) Selby. Proud grandpa of four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Further surviving are treasured nieces and nephews, other relatives and friends.
Visitation Monday, June 22 at the funeral home from 4-7 pm and on Tuesday, June 23 at OUR FATHER’S EV. LUTHERAN CHURCH, 6025 S. 27th Street, Greenfield from 9-10 am. Funeral service to follow Tuesday at 10:00 am. Interment Highland Memorial Park Tuesday 11:45 AM (Please meet there).
Lester Eugene Selby was born near Taylor, Wisconsin on December 17, 1924, exactly one week before Christmas, making him the family present that year. He already had three siblings: a sister Ethel, and brothers Harlan and Bernard. Eventually two brothers were added to the family (Eldon and Ray) making Lester the middle boy of an active family. He grew up attending a one-room school house, working on the small family farm and occasionally accompanying his father into town for variety. As a youngster, he belonged to the 4H and enjoyed the gardening and forestry programs that were offered.
At fourteen he ended his formal education and entered the work force. He worked at a smattering of jobs around central Wisconsin including a stint at a cheese making company and working in the woods felling trees for a lumber business. His paychecks went home to help support his family. When World War II broke out he was eager to serve his country but because of a permanent limp caused by the polio he suffered as a child, he was initially refused. This didn’t deter him and eventually he was accepted in the army, going through basic training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. From there he was shipped to China where he provided communication services as a radio operator. Memories he shared with his children included an illness that put him in a hospital while his company moved on, leaving him to figure out how to re-connect. He also remembered eating in restaurants without the usual utensils and having to use the serving spoon for his ‘fork’.
After returning to Wisconsin he joined the migration from rural areas into the cities. He followed a cousin to Milwaukee in search of work. While attending a cousin’s wedding in the city he was introduced to Martha Schoba. Her friend Audrey was the bride. Soon the two were dating and on July 10, 1948, less than a year after meeting, they were married.
Home for their first years of marriage was a small house trailer parked on Martha’s parents’ property. They began their family (a daughter, Carol in 1950 and a son, Jerry in 1952) there while building a home in Greenfield. He had fond memories of meeting his brother Eldon and a friend or two after work to continue the construction and share a few beers afterwards. By 1953 they were ready to move into the nearly completed house … at that time far out in the town of Greenfield. In 1954 they completed their family with their second son, David.
By that time Lester had found his life’s work in commercial construction, first working at Universal Construction Company and when it folded, quickly moving on to Kotze Construction Company. At Kotze he was a trusted and reliable employee often leading a crew at work sites around the city. But work was never enough for Lester and over the years he found ways to serve his community and his church.
Martha and Lester had been the first couple married in Our Father’s Lutheran Church. Initially it was a tiny clapboard building on Ramsey Avenue but the congregation grew quickly and soon they moved into a modern building on 27th Street. By the late 1950s they were talking about building a school. Lester became actively involved in church activities at that time. His long list included: usher, trustee, church steward and church elder. He joined the education committee and put his construction skills to work on the school building committee – monitoring the plans and construction phases closely. He was always available to assist with maintenance and renovation projects around the church buildings. Church was a social outlet for Lester and Martha as well. They were active in the Couple’s Club and later the 55 and Over Club.
While his two sons were growing up, Lester joined them in Scouting, first as a committee member for Troop 579 at Maple Grove Elementary School and soon as the Scout Master. When Jerry and David lost interest, Lester stayed on moving into more responsible positions at the district level. He spent many weekends and evenings training adult leaders and working with boys at jamborees and other outdoor events. He received numerous awards over the years including the Silver Beaver Award in 1981, Boy Scouts highest honor for adult volunteers. Eventually he joined the Lutheran Scouting Association and actively supported it, working at the annual pancake breakfast, manning the griddle for many years. Once again he received their highest volunteer honor, the Lamb Award, for his service to the group.
When retirement began in 1989, Lester did not slow down. He and Martha had purchased 40 acres in central Wisconsin in the 1970s and they continued spending time there tending a second garden in addition to the large one on their city property. They also joined the Wilson Senior Recreation Center where they became fixtures at the multitude of activities the center offered. It was during that time that Lester moved his hobby of wood carving to a new level. While he had always been a whittler and was known as the unofficial award maker for the Boy Scouts he now began turning out carved creations regularly. Every year his family and friends anticipated his next Christmas tree decoration which he shared generously. Stained glass became a new passion and he was quickly skilled enough to act as a back-up or assistant instructor for new class members. He shared those creations as well, providing decorations for many of his relatives and acquaintances. It was during this time that Lester designed and made the stained glass inserts for the doors of the chapel of Our Fathers and finished a praying hands carving for the waiting room in the back of the chapel.
During retirement he renewed his army experience, becoming an active member of the American Legion Post 416 in Greendale, remaining active through 2011. He maintained the facilities, working both outside and inside. His most fulfilling work at the Post was with the firing squad. He acted as Lieutenant for years, coordinating the schedule that could be as busy as three funerals a week and organizing transportation for the other volunteers. This provided him with an outlet for giving back to his country and his fellow servicemen. In 1997 Les discovered the China Burma India Veterans Association (CBI) Milwaukee Basha #1, an affiliation of service people who were deployed to the eastern front during World War II. Lester, the youngest and newest member at 73 years, was immediately recruited as the Commander of the group. He arranged monthly meetings and special outings for the group and oversaw the installation of a memorial monument on the Veteran’s Hospital grounds on September 14, 2002. This had been a long discussed project that members had feared would never materialize.
Of his many achievements, his proudest was his marriage of 65 years to Martha and the three children they raised. Martha preceded him in death on September 1, 2013. He is survived by his daughter Carol and son-in-law Jim Surges, his son Jerry and his wife Jo Marie, and his son David and his wife Mikki. In addition he has four grand children, Chad (Linda), Jed (Corrie), Greg (Hannah), Becca (Ryan) and four great-grandchildren: Amanda, Erin, Jocelyn, and Deacon. Other family members are too include sister-in-laws, a brother-in-law, nieces and nephews, and cousins. Lester had always hoped to live to 92 which was the age of his Aunt Annie – his oldest surviving relative. He was proud to have lived the longest of his siblings to the grand old age of 90 and one half years to the day, June 17, 2015!
HERITAGE FUNERAL HOMES
6615 W. Oklahoma 414-321-7440
Guest Book & Directions