Entered God’s loving arms on June 26, 2020, at age 75. Beloved husband and best friend of Elke (nee Pauer) for 53 years. Loving father of Erik (Monica) Zabel, Stephanie (Tony) Stamos, Andrea Zabel, and Mark (Kimberly) Zabel. Proud Opa of Alex, Maria, Lukas, Isaak, Madeline, Elena, Sam, Chloe, and Ethan. Dear brother of Siegfried (Sandy) Zabel, Gisela (Volker) Neumann, and Robert (Elaine) Zabel. Also loved by nieces, nephews, other family and friends.
Visitation at Ridgewood Baptist Chuch, 2720 North Lilly Road, Brookfield, Wisconsin, on Thursday, July 2, 2020, from 4:00 PM -6:45 PM. Service at 7:00 PM. Private burial at Sunnyside Cemetery in Lannon.
In lieu of flowers, memorials appreciated to Ridgewood Baptist Church.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Hartmut (“Hardy”) Johannes Zabel was born on July 23, 1944 in Neidenburg, East Prussia. He was the second child born to Johannes and Luise Zabel. Hartmut had three siblings – Siegfried, Gisela and Robert.
In 1945, while Hardy’s father was serving in the German army, Luise and her two children (Sieggie & Hardy), fled from their hometown to Germany, due to the advance of the Russian army. Eventually, they made their new home in Drevenack and then Obrighoven, located in West Germany. When Truman was President, the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 provided the means for European refugees to become US residents. When Hardy was 7 years old, his family headed to America for a fresh start. With a sponsorship through the Baptist World Alliance, the family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana on June 14, 1952. The family’s sponsor was benevolent and later helped to unite the extended family of uncles from across the United States. While in Shreveport, the family lived on a farm and raised chickens, turkeys, and pheasants for their sponsor. After two and a half years in Louisiana, the extended family traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where friends in the German Zion Baptist Church promised work and a new home. German Zion Baptist Church (now known as Ridgewood Baptist) became his church home, until this day.
While in high school, Hardy was an accomplished athlete. He lettered in Track and Field, competing in distance running, pole vaulting (clearing 12’6”) and wrestling. After graduation, he played left field and catcher for the YMCA and church softball team, on which he continued to play for decades.
He met the love of his life, Elke Pauer in 1966. He was singing bass in the choir at church, and saw Elke and her friend Uschi sitting in one of the pews. After the service, he told his mom that he saw a new girl from Germany in church and said, “That is the girl I want to marry.” His mom said, “Better today than tomorrow.” They were married on April 8, 1967 in a German Baptist Church when Hardy was 22 years old. After Hardy and Elke were married, they bought a four-family apartment in Milwaukee on 84th & Villard, which was their first home. Hardy was offered his bricklaying apprenticeship by Sawall Masonry and worked for them for years. At one point, he competed in and won the statewide Bricklayer Championship at Wisconsin State Fair, which was a very proud moment for him and his family. (He even had the trophies to prove it!) Later, he worked for James Luterbach Construction Company and was a bricklayer/foreman until he retired. He received his 50 year membership pin from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers in 2014, being inducted as a Lifetime Member.
Hardy and Elke’s first son Erik, was born on November 27, 1968. Soon afterwards, Elke became pregnant with Stephanie and they bought and moved into a duplex on Milwaukee’s northwest side. On April 2, 1970, Stephanie was born. In the winter of 1972, Hardy, Elke, Erik and Stephanie went to visit Elke’s mother in Hamburg, Germany, where Hardy met his mother-in-law for the first time. On December 1, 1973, Hardy and Elke were happy to have another daughter, Andrea. Their youngest son, Mark, was born on November 10, 1975. In 1977, the family of six was running out of room in their duplex and Hardy moved his family to their current home in Menomonee Falls.
When the kids were young, he enjoyed taking his family camping in Door County’s Peninsula State Park. The adventures that were had were comical and still bring much laughter to the family (tent collapses, camping stove explosions, kerosene lantern fires, and food lost in the fire due to tripod mishaps). The food supply was always in jeopardy until the family figured out how to outsmart the raccoons (like don’t put your cooler in the tents at night!) The camping tradition has continued – the entire family still loves to camp and even tries to gather together in Door County annually.
Hardy worked as a bricklayer until he broke his leg in 2004, which forced him into retirement at the age of 60. Even though he was retired, he never stopped being a bricklayer. He could never walk into a brick or stone building, without critiquing the craftsmanship – the size of the joints, the layout, the spacing, the color of the stones, etc.
Hardy was passionate about helping others and was never asking nor accepting payment for his hard labor. He kept himself busy in retirement with repairing chimneys, shoveling neighbor’s driveways, mowing lawns and working on other miscellaneous projects.
Hardy loved when he could relax and fish with his other half, Elke. He enjoyed his retirement – traveling, visiting his grandchildren in Houston, his Sudoku books, reading the newspaper, and spending time with his family and wife. He also enjoyed his iPad and would spent hours playing games or watching videos on various educational topics. He was also quite the conversationalist and enjoyed meeting new people and sharing stories. New friends were always welcome to visit their home and sit around his homemade fire pit. He and Elke were weekly visitors at the family company, KLM Machining; bringing the employees smiles, laughter and always two boxes of doughnuts. The smile on Hardy’s face was never as big as when he was watching his nine grandchildren. Both Hardy & Elke were so proud to attend their grandchildren’s many sporting events and he always enjoyed coaching them to be stronger and better athletes (even though as kids we sometimes took it as criticism).
Dad will be missed greatly by his wife, Elke “Schatzi” and his entire family. We will miss his love, his stories, his goofiness, the jokes he always told wrong and his wonderful, genuine laughter.
Dad trusted in the Lord his Savior with all his heart and wasn’t afraid of his last day here on earth. We are thankful he is in our Lord’s heavenly embrace and reunited with his beloved family members. We love and miss him, but know one day, we will see him again!