Huschka remembered for his contributions

6/17/2013

Veteran, farmer built strong family, community ties.

Veteran, farmer built strong family, community ties.

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

Martin Huschka not only lived a long life, but a full one.

The Garden City resident, who died Thursday at the age of 93, not only worked to make the community a better one, but also participated in a number of organizations, making his ties to the community both deep and far-reaching.

A World War II veteran, farmer, stockman, former county commissioner, school bus driver, and member of the American Legion, VFW Club Post 2279 and Knights of Columbus organizations, Huschka also found time to be a good father.

"He always took time for us. I remember as a little kid out at the farm, in the middle of harvest one time, I said I wanted stilts and he stopped and built me stilts. I'll never forget that," daughter Celeste Petersen said. "I learned a lot from him, yet he had a soft heart. He was always wanting to help others."

Huschka was raised on a farm north of Ellinwood near Cheyenne Bottoms, where he liked to fish. In 1947, he married his wife, Mary Ellen Huschka, and the couple had four sons, Mark, Bernard, Gerald and James Huschka, and three daughters, Rosemary Corbett, Petersen and JoAnn Yager.

In 1954, he moved the family from Pawnee to Finney County.

Prior to that, from 1940 to 1945, Huschka served in the U.S. Army's 35th Division 161st Field Artillery Batallion as a forward observer, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant. During his service, Huschka participated in battles at Omaha Beach and in the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the French Legion Medal of Honor for his service with the 35th Division in helping to liberate France during WWII and had the opportunity to go on the Honor Flight from Garden City to Washington, D.C. in April 2011.

Petersen and Corbett, both of Garden City, said Huschka, one of ten siblings, most of whom were girls, felt right at home cooking and shopping, as well.

"He was one heck of a grocery shopper, that man; my mom had him so trained. It was impressive what he could do at Dillons — getting the right things, being a savvy shopper. He watched the clearance rack for blueberry pie. That's what he was known for," Petersen said. "People would even see blueberry pies on clearance and get them for my dad."

Corbett's husband, Rick Corbett, said they decided that the blueberries were the key to both Huschka's and his wife's longevity.

"They both ate blueberries all the time and they both made it into their 90s," Rick Corbett said.

Rosemary Corbett said that along with the blueberry pies, Huschka always kept a supply of chocolates on hand for his wife.

Mary Ellen Huschka died May 26, just 18 days before Huschka died, and the sisters believe that it was the separation from her that, in part, contributed to their father's declining health.

"He realized going on without her would be too hard," Corbett said.

Prior to this, even in his later years, Huschka stayed active. He delivered Meals on Wheels until he was 91, oftentimes mowed his own yard, had his own Facebook page and kept himself informed.

Huschka and Ken Minter, Duane West, Paul Hoover, Al Towles, Bob Unruh and Gerald Lightcap met for coffee every weekday morning at Traditions for years, where Minter said they often discussed current events.

"Having coffee, you discuss politics, farming, about anything that comes along, between different ones of us. I wouldn't call it gossiping, you understand," Minter said, laughing. "But anyway, we just kind of kept abreast of everything going on. We enjoyed our coffee breaks there at Traditions."

Huschka served on the Finney County Commission from 1977 to 1997 and Minter, a former city of Garden City commissioner and mayor, said Huschka was an excellent commissioner.

"We supported one another on various things and were involved with the community. Both of us were for progress, doing the best we could for Finney County and Garden City," Minter said.

Petersen said that that once her father made a decision, he stuck with it.

"And that's what made him a good county commissioner. He was a man of his word," Corbett said.

The sisters laughed as they recounted their father's tough dealings with squirrels.

"He had a constant fight with squirrels," Petersen said. "So he had what we called his squirrel relocation program and many people will associate with that. These people in the farms or the grain elevators, they wanted squirrels, and he would give them his squirrels."

Rick Corbett said his father-in-law would use live box traps to capture the squirrels and said he took a few out to Holcomb and Southwind.

"You hear people say, 'All of a sudden there are these squirrels out at Southwind,' and you just have to laugh under your breath," Rosemary Corbett said.

Through his work on the county commission, Huschka's name is on several buildings in Garden City.

In addition to serving on the commission, Huschka also served as a board member at the Area Mental Health Center and on the original school board at St. Dominic Catholic School and was a lifelong member of St. Dominic Church.

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