Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.
By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot & Review
Wayne Lemmens, 70
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I went to high school in Denmark, Wisconsin, but later built a house in Green Bay and lived there from 1971 until moving to Wausau in 1990. In January, it will be 30 years that I’ve lived in the area. I live in Kronenwetter now.
What did you do for a living?
I graduated high school in 1968 and got a part time job at a trucking company called Gateway Transportation. I was great at typing and they were looking for someone to type up freight bills before computers. A couple years after being at Gateway full time, I was dispatching. They sold out to another company which eventually closed their trucking operation so I was laid off. A year later, I started at another company in the same capacity. I went to a few other places, but then eventually got a job at Greenheck and retired from there in 2012.
If you had to give advice to anyone, what would it be?
Enjoy things while you’re young and have the chance to do it. My wife passed away almost 9 years ago at the age of 61. We planned on retiring at 62, traveling, and doing fun things; we had a lot of fun traveling experiences after we got married. We built a house five years after we married and my mother would say, “Why don’t you spend your traveling money on your house? Save your money and pay your house off.” We had the ability to travel and we enjoyed doing it. My mother never traveled and now she can’t anymore because she’s not able to. You have to budget what you can do and if you have a chance to do things you want to do, do it while you can.
Was your wife’s passing unexpected?
No, she had ovarian cancer and lived a little over four years after finding out she had it. She found out around February or March and then died in August four years later. Three years after she found out she had ovarian cancer, I was told I had prostate cancer; they took my prostate out. A year after that, my wife died and two years later I had kidney cancer; I had to get my right kidney removed. We have gone through a lot of cancer in our family which is why you should always do things when you can. I still retired at 62 and enjoy playing golf and bowling.
What was one of the hardest moments of your life?
When my wife was going through her cancer. We knew it wasn’t going to be cured and was more of a question of how long she could live a comfortable life with it. It was hard knowing her end would be near and knowing you have to deal with it. We always had a lot of animals; my kids had animals and if they moved away and couldn’t take their pets, they would end up here. At one time we had three dogs, a cat, rabbits, turtles, mice; all kinds of things. I had two dogs left when my wife died and a year later had to put one to sleep; she was old and was getting sick. Two years later, I had to put the last one to sleep and that was the toughest because that meant I was going to be alone; I ended up getting a cat. I live alone so I had to have something in the house with me.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
I love golfing in the summer and bowling in the winter. Arrow Bar sponsors one of my bowling teams at Dale’s Weston Lanes three nights a week and I bowl once a week at Coral Lanes. I also have quite the cap collection.
How did you start collecting hats?
I never started collecting them – I started accumulating them. When I was 6, my parents leased a tavern. From the ages of 6 to 21 I lived in a bar until I got married. My dad never wore caps and he would get some from distributors and he would give them to me. I didn’t wear caps at that time, but I kept them and put them in my room. As the years went on, I started wearing them and kept getting more and more to hang up. When I started my job, the dispatchers at my job would find a neat cap somewhere and bring me one. I didn’t buy half the caps I have, but received them as gifts. I now color coordinate all my hats with my outfits and get a lot of comments on it. One of my proudest caps is my “Hole in One” cap from Crane in 2012. Joe makes caps for Weston Lanes from a little shop in the back and Dale’s wife runs it while Joe helps; he made me that hat. I retired April 12, 2012 and 8 days later I was playing golf in Red Wing, Minnesota with my son-in-law and got a hole in one at Mississippi National on a short par 3. At that point in my life, I had been playing golf for 40 years and never had a hole in one. Two months later, in July, I was playing golf in my league and got another hole in one. I had two holes in one in two and a half months; I haven’t had one since.
I also collect Playboy magazine; Playboy doesn’t make paper subscriptions anymore. I have every Playboy magazine from 1976 through the spring issue of this year.
What motivates you each day?
Living life; I always look forward to going out and doing things with my friends and family. My kids always ask me, “Dad, when are you going to grow up?” I always tell them, “I hope never! I’m having too much fun the way I am.”