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Obituary for Joseph F. "Joe" Hesselberg Jr.

Joseph Franklin Hesselberg Jr., passed away at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse on Monday January 15, 2024, surrounded by his loving family.

Joe was born on October 16, 1934, to Joseph and Anna (Heintz) Hesselberg, the 6th child of 16, in Bangor, WI on the family farm. He attended Lincoln Elementary School in Fish Creek for 8 years; where he was proud to say, he was the smartest kid and the dumbest kid in the class, because he was the only kid. Joe graduated from Bangor High School in 1952. In 1953 he joined the United States Marines Corps and proudly served for 2 years until being honorably discharged.

Joe married the love of his life, Barbara Ellen Balmer, on August 17, 1957. Joe and Barb settled into West Salem to raise their family. He went to work for Bake Rite Bakery as a delivery person. Then, in 1958, he decided to attend WWTC to become a tool & die maker. From there, he went to work at various local tool & die shops.

In 1974, he started his own business, West Salem Tool & Die; the beginning of a legacy and “Tool & Die Joe.” The business started with Joe and Barb as the only 2 employees. Barb had her sewing machine in the shop as well to keep herself busy in between phone calls. Through various additions the business grew. It now has 24 employees; three of which are his grandkids, Elliot, Evan, and Ean. It started as a local business and now has customers all throughout the United States and internationally. He was a very respected man, who knew how to get something done that no one else could do in the tool & die world. Joe somewhat retired in 1998, handing the business down to his son, Eric; but always was involved in the business.

A family tradition of camping began after Joe and Barb honeymooned in Hayward, WI and it became an annual vacation for more than 50 years. That tradition still continues with their grandkids. They also took the kids on a vacation out West, all the way to California, for over 3 weeks in 1973. There were many camping memories made with family and friends throughout the years.

After retirement, Joe and Barb spent their winters in Apache Junction. AZ, in their motorhome; and did so for 26 years. They traveled to all 50 states; but, the destination favorite was Alaska in 2003.

Joe was a charter member of St. Leo The Great Catholic Church of West Salem. A member of the Berg-Hemker-Olson American Legion Post 51, where he was proud to be part of the firing squad. He served as president, for 1 year, and treasurer of the West Salem Lions Club. In 1992, they named him Citizen of the Year. In 2001, Joe and Barb were the June Dairy Days Parade Marshals.

On May 18, 2019, Joe was able to go on the Freedom Honor Flight to Washington DC, with his son Eric; this was one of his greatest moments because he was so proud to have been a United States Marine.

Joe is survived by his loving wife, Barbara; two sons, Eric (Heidi) Hesselberg of West Salem and Adam (Michelle) Hesselberg of Mound City, SD; daughter-in-law, Mindy Hesselberg of La Crescent, MN; son-in-law, Keith Magnuson of Bangor; grandchildren, Sara (Jason) Wulff, Nathan and Jon (Allison) LaForce, Elliot, Evan (Christina) and Ean (Alyssa) Hesselberg, Danielle Hesselberg, Paige (Ethan) Vieth, and Julia Hesselberg; step-granddaughter, Sara (Jesse) Otto; 10 great-grandchildren, Aven, Everet, Aurora, Franklin, Frederick, Peyton, Bristol, Eli, and 2 on the way; and step-great-grandchildren, Jackson and Elodie.

Joe is further survived by his brothers and sisters, Stanley Hesselberg, Joan Bjorkman, Florence (Don) Peters, Jean (Jim) Flock, Dennis (Sue) Hesselberg, and Mitzi Smith; sisters-in-laws, Carol Hesselberg, Rita Hesselberg, Karen Hesselberg, Bonnie Hesselberg-Howe, and Lorna Kirby; brothers-in-law, Fritz (Phyllis) Balmer and Bill (LaVonne) Balmer; and many nieces and nephews.

In addition to his parents, Joe was preceded in death by his son, Daniel Hesselberg; daughter, Rebecca Magnuson; brothers and sisters, William (Lucille) Hesselberg, Lucille (Leroy) Severson, Hugh (Mildred) Hesselberg, Donald Hesselberg, Charles Hesselberg, Larry Hesselberg, Donnie Hesselberg, Robert Hesselberg, Doug Hesselberg, and James Hesselberg; father-in-law and mother-in-law, Fred and Gertrude Balmer; sisters-in-law, Lois Hesselberg, Margaret (Dwayne) Schmaltz, and Virginia (Leroy) Simonson; brothers-in-law, Lester Bjorkman and Dave Smith.

Services will be held on Saturday January 20, 2024, at 11:00 a.m., at St. Teresa of Kolkata Parish, West Salem, WI. Msgr. Jeffrey D. Burrill will celebrate the Mass. Visitation will be from 9:00 until the time of Mass. Burial will be in Hamilton Cemetery. Military honors will be rendered by the Berg-Hemker-Olson American Legion Post 51 of West Salem and the United States Marine Corps Funeral Honor Guard. Pallbearers will be Elliot, Evan and Ean Hesselberg, Nathan and Jon LaForce, and Ethan Vieth. A celebration of life will follow at the West View Inn.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the West Salem First Responders or the American Post 51 of West Salem.

The family would like to thank Mariette and Will Stefferud, the West Salem First Responders and Mayo Health Health System for their wonderful care and assistance during this time.

“Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard but always near, still loved, still missed and held so dear.”

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