All those who knew Thomas Haberman would agree no one who met him was left unchanged. He was a great conversationalist who had a genuine concern for others, and a warmth that made people feel at ease. Tom lived life to the fullest, but what made his experiences truly extraordinary was sharing them with the ones he held dear. A longtime resident of the community he loved, he left lasting impressions on those around him in ways both great and small. Life will never be the same here without him, but Tom leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will always cherish.
The 1930s brought us some of the darkest days we have faced as a nation as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, the unemployment rate soared, and things only became more dire when the threat of World War II began to brew in Europe during those tumultuous years. It was as the decade was drawing to a close that Clyde and Helen (Sommer) Haberman were pleased to announce the birth of the baby boy they named Thomas on June 12, 1939, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was one of seven Haberman children as he was joined in his family with siblings, Marilyn, James, Nancy, Carmen, Charles, and Clyde. Tom was proud to be part of a large family, and he was equally proud of his father’s elected position as Milwaukee County Register of Deeds. His mother was a homemaker who devoted herself to raising her large family with loving care. Tom was raised in family homes located at 26th and Locust, 42nd and Garfield, and 64th and North.
In many ways Tom was a young boy of his generation. He and his younger brother, Clyde, devoured the World Book Encyclopedia, often quizzing each other on history, geography, and music at night in the bedroom they shared. Even as a young boy Tom was a natural leader, having developed “The Haberman Gang,” a ragtag bunch of neighborhood kids. This group was at his beck and call, exploring Washington Park and creating some very imaginative adventures. Tom attended St. Leo Catholic School, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Wauwatosa High School. While in his late teens Tom developed a love for jazz music, which became a lifelong passion. As a young man he would regularly stop at the local record shop on his way home from high school to discover the latest albums by jazz artists like Benny Carter, Dave Brubeck, or Lionel Hampton. One of his most prized possessions was his tricolored 1954 Oldsmobile. At times Tom drove his car to Elkhart Lake to participate in drag racing competitions.
As a young man Tom was eager for all that life had in store. After graduating from Wauatosa High School, he spent two years at MATC, studying business administration. Tom also served in the United States Army Reserves from June of 1960 through 1966. While in the military his duties included working as an officers clerk at Fort Riley, Kansas, and as company clerk at 84th Division Headquarters in Milwaukee. While in the service Tom earned the rank of SP/4. Tom was also married for seven years to Nancy Horstman, and through this marriage he was blessed to become a father to three amazing children, Ann, Elise, and Kurt. In 1995, Tom became a grandfather with the birth of Ann’s child, Mariel.
Throughout his life Tom was wiling to work hard. He retired in 1999 after 20 years spent working as a stores clerk with the City of Milwaukee Water Works. He oversaw a large inventory of supplies and equipment for the water department, managing a stockroom and fulfilling requests for supplies. Tom also spent nine years as supervisor of office services for Robert W. Baird & Co. His primary work there was supervising their mail room, print shop, and records storage services.
New and exciting changes were in store for Tom when he met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Gail, and they met on a company sponsored bus trip to Arlington Park Rack track when they were both working for the Marine National Exchange Bank. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Tom and Gail were married on April 27, 1985, at the Milwaukee Grain Exchange, complete with a 16-piece swing band at their reception. In addition to traveling all over Wisconsin, together they enjoyed camping trips to Canada as well as sightseeing the cities of Ottawa, Toronto, and Quebec City. Tom and Gail also took a memorable journey to New England in the autumn of 1995.
In 1999, Tom became the adopted “dad” to Cherie, a Siberian Husky wolf dog, and two cats, Mugsy and Pumpkin upon the death of Gail’s sister. Tom could often be found sharing his lap with the cats, but Cherie found a special spot in his heart, and the two spent many hours together on long walks enjoying the outdoors.
Throughout his life Tom was very open-minded and had a willingness to try many things. He liked a myriad of activities including fishing, camping, softball, golf, bowling, and English darts. In addition, Tom enjoyed chess and was also an excellent billiards player. He continued to enjoy jazz and classical music, often attending concerts with Gail and playing the piano. Tom enjoyed attending the ethnic festivals during summers in Milwaukee. At one of his first German Fests the purchase of a beer stein led to an interest in researching and collecting antique German beer steins. Over the years he amassed a collection of nearly 40 beautiful steins. One of his greatest pleasures was enjoying fine dining, and Tom counted some of the best restaurants in Milwaukee among his dining adventures. His favorite movies included Casablanca, Key Largo, Young Frankenstein, Rear Window, Jean de Florette, and Das Boot. As his family and friends can attest, one of Tom’s favorite sayings was “Macht nichts,” a German phrase which means “doesn’t matter.”
In October of 2000, life was forever changed when Tom suffered catastrophic injuries in a head-on collision. He spent nine months in the hospital, and he faced numerous medical challenges for the rest of his life due to the accident. At times Tom wearied of medical procedures, and although he wasn’t always the perfect patient his resilience and fighting spirit helped him defy the odds.
Someone who was by nature a gentle soul, Thomas Haberman had a great appreciation for life and the people he loved. He was a man of his word who was free spirited and not afraid to speak his mind, but he would also let people know they were valued, and his compliments were generous and sincere. Tom treasured his family, and he was happiest when with the ones he loved. Although he will be deeply missed, he will never be forgotten.
Born to Eternal Life November 28, 2016. Tom is survived by his wife, Gail; children: Ann, Elise, and Kurt; granddaughter, Mariel Shlomchik; sister Nancy (Don) Hanna; brother Clyde (Beverly); sister-in-law, Gina Haberman as well as many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. In addition to his parents, Tom was preceded in death by his siblings: Marilyn Leupold, Carmen Benedict, James and Charles Haberman. Family and friends will gather at Forest Home Cemetery Chapel, 2405 W. Forest Home Ave. on Thursday, December 8, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. until the time of the Memorial Service at 12:00 noon. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Smile Train, Doctors Without Borders, or the ASPCA.