75th Countdown: Lions Club Formed in Greendale; Remembrances of Hilbert Drews

Week#68: The LIons motto is 'We Serve' and that is true of the Greendale Lions Club. Last week Hilbert Drews passed away, one of the many from the 'Greatest Generation'.

History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.

History and Folklore!

In the 1950’s as the Village moved into private ownership, housing development increased, and the population exploded, local chapters of some nationally known organizations were formed. The following story about one of them was researched and written by Ron Anderson of the Greendale Lions Club.

Lions Clubs International began in 1917 as the dream of a Chicagoan, Melvin Jones. He believed that local business clubs should expand their horizons from purely professional concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large. The organization has since grown to over 1.3 million members in 200 countries.

Local History!

On November 10, 1955, 27 Greendale men received notice from Lions International that their request to form a club was accepted. They met for a Charter Presentation Dinner on February 18, 1956 at St. Alphonsus Hall. Tickets were $2.50 per person. They elected Charles Bates as president.  Long time residents will surely recognize some of the charter members: Harold Bruett, Leo Hoyer, Thomas Hartman, John Ambruster, Leon Davis and Ellis Brown, to name a few.

The motto of the Lions is ‘We Serve’. The Greendale Lions record of service to the community has been well carried out and can be attested to by the Club’s record, then and to this day.  Some examples:

  • Expansion of the Youth Memorial Building, then located at 6850 Crocus Court, was the first major project. Beginning in 1957, $5,000 was raised to improve its service as a meeting place for several community groups, young and old. Fundraising was accomplished by staffing a dunking booth at 4th of July celebrations. For 40 years thereafter, the club subsidized the building’s operation and did many maintenance chores.
  • The annual Pancake Breakfast, begun on the Youth Memorial Building grounds in 1960 and continues to this day currently at the multi-purpose room. The breakfast supports a significant portion of the college scholarship awards, currently $6,000 to $7,500 annually. To date approximately 150 scholarships have been awarded to Greendale High School graduates.
  • The annual has been in existence since 1965. This is strictly a fun event for the children, not a fundraiser. The participates with their ladder truck and blows the horn to start the event. Then the race is on for the children to find the Easter candy. Parents and grandparents come to watch this early morning scramble, come rain or shine (or snow).
  • Other projects over the years include installation of play equipment in Lions Park, participation with LensCrafters in free vision screenings, and conducting outings for the blind. Lion Gorden VonGonten convinced the Lions International Foundation to provide a $60,000 grant for renovations to the local Center for Blind & Visually Impaired Children.
  • In 1994, Lion Bob Drews lamented the fact that Greendale had no focal point where the citizenry could congregate for entertainment events. He suggested that what the Village needed was a large enough to stage band concerts. It soon became apparent that, even with volunteer Lions labor, the cost would be $50,000. Undaunted, he spread the word among other civic organizations, and a commission was formed to conduct a fund drive. The goal was reached by spring of 1995 through sales of engraved bricks for the floor at $25 each.  A contractor was hired for the foundation work, after which many Lions participated in carpentry, electrical, roofing and painting work. The gazebo was dedicated in August of 1995.  It has served the community well ever since.  Engraved bricks can still be purchased for the walkways. Proceeds sustain a maintenance fund administered by the Lions.
  • Ever since that first dunking booth, the Lions have maintained a presence at 4th of July and Village Days celebrations.  Early staffing of amusement games on the high school grounds has evolved into the current well-provisioned food, beverage and entertainment garden adjacent to the Village Gazebo.  The sale of food and refreshments, along with a raffle, and Rummage on the Green has become the club’s main source of funds to support humanitarian efforts.

Over the years, Greendale Lions donations have subsidized many Greendale services, such as the Library, Public Celebrations Committee, Health Department programs, concerts, ambulance and defibrillator purchases, to name a few.  Just recently, the club’s Board of Directors authorized a donation of $2,500 towards architectural drawings for the Greendale Historical Society’s ongoing project to restore the exterior of the now 74 year old and put its interior to new use. 

The club’s roster has been in the range of 50 to 70 members through most of its 57 years. It is not uncommon for members to ‘serve’ 30, 40 or 50 years. Some notable past presidents, now deceased, are Gerald Casey, Frank Ellison, Emory Turner, Homer Hansen and John Kovacic. The current Lions President is Jim Schutte, and the President-Elect is Gary Jacobsen. In 1987, Lions Clubs International became the first major service organization to admit women as members.  Shortly after that, John’s wife, Mary Ann Kovacic, joined the club. She is currently in her 22nd year of service, and has held the presidency twice.

Over the years, the club has seen fit to honor members who have provided distinguished service to the community, by naming them Lions International Melvin Jones Fellows. Five current members, all past presidents, have received the honor. They are Wayne Broeker, Robert Drews, Ted Fennig, Walt Rolfs and Lyle Dorow.  

The Greendale Lions Club, with a proud history and a promising future, continues to serve Greendale and the world communities.

But did you know? Lions clubs collect used eyeglasses which are professionally sorted and delivered to the needy in third world countries.  You can drop yours in a container in the post office lobby.

The Greendale Lions are changing their colors. After 27 years of marching in parades in yellow T-shirts with blue lettering, watch for us this summer sporting new green T-shirts with white lettering.

The 2012 Lions Pancake Breakfast is this weekend, April 22nd from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.

People, Past & Present!

"The Greatest Generation" is a term coined by journalist Tom Brokaw to describe the generation who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II, as well as those whose productivity within the war's home front made a decisive material contribution to the war effort.

On Saturday, along with a group of Greendale Lions, I attended the funeral service for fellow Lion Hilbert Drews who passed away on April 10. I did not personally know Hilbert. I did sit next to him and his wife June at several dinner meetings and enjoyed their company. When Hilbert passed away last week I set out to find out more about him and his family for this story. As I searched through the historical archives, talked to his friends and neighbors, and checked references on the internet, I found very few ‘facts’ about his life. And that’s when it dawned on me. I did know Hilbert and June Drews. They were like my parents, my wife’s parents, and the parents of many of you reading this story. They were members of the ‘Greatest Generation’.

Hilbert was born in 1922 and grew up on Milwaukee’s south side in the Layton park neighborhood. He was the youngest of Ernst and Barbara Drews nine children. He attended Concordia College and Marquette University, and then enlisted in the Air Force during World War II. After the war Hilbert joined the families’ variety store business which his father had started in 1938. Coincidentally that was the same year Greendale opened. Singing in the Lutheran A Capella choir introduced him to June Reif, who he would marry in 1947, a marriage that lasted nearly 65 years.  

Hilbert and June raised eight children, and the variety store business expanded to 14 locations at its peak. Everyone I talked to remembers going to the Drews Dime store in Greendale, most with their mothers and fathers. They remember being greeted by Hilbert and the fun they had checking out all the merchandise up and down the aisles. Hilbert worked six days a week, but never on Sunday. He and June were devout Lutherans and their faith formed the foundation for everything they did in life.

Hilbert and June along with everyone in their generation just went about their lives never thinking they were any more special than the next person. They raised a family, ran a business, served the community, and participated in church activities always guided by their Christian beliefs. It is only now looking back that we recognize their remarkable lives and accomplishments.

Let me share with you a few memories of Hilbert Drews I heard from his friends and family:

One of the neighborhood kids (now an adult) remembers the kids playing basketball with Hilbert and he always beat them. Pastor Douglas Schroeder of Our Shepherd Lutheran Church remembers his jogging all over the Village well into his 80’s, his singing in the choir, and his cheerful greeting of new church members. Members of the Greendale Lions remember he always supplied the candy for the parades from his Variety Store. He was a member of the Greendale Lions for 52 years. His children remember his playfulness and patience with them growing up. They remember that although he worked hard he always made time for the family. A very fit and handsome man, he was not just another pretty face. He was obsessed with the study of aerodynamic surfaces and talked constantly about them. I looked up 2 of his 8 patents and confess not knowing what the heck he was talking about. Check these patents out yourself:

2008/0054,678 Post Pressurizing Material Treatment for Bodies Moving Through Fluid

2002/0000,497 Surface construction for bodies moving through a fluid

Finally, there was his sense of humor, mentioned by everyone. It was subtle, thought provoking, and took some getting used to. His son told the story at the service of his humor until the end. At the hospital the nurse was concerned for his comfort and asked him if there was anything she
would do for him. He replied “A short term loan would be nice.” Rest in peace Hilbert Frederick Paul Drews. You will be missed.

Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:

Week#68 Question – What was the short street short street paralleling Grange Avenue from about the east boundry of Southridge to Avena known as?

** Week #68 contributors Sally Chadwick, Ron Anderson, Family and Friends of Hilbert Drews.


Zoli Pethes April 16, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Thank you, Mr. Miller, for highlighting the life of Mr. Drews, and his and June's commitments to his faith, family, and community. He will be missed.


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