Obit: Leason, W.
A. Dr. #2 (1860 - 1951)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Leason, Frank, Griesch, Bennett, Crisafulli, Nulton, Wagner, Wilsmann, Wightman, North, Allen, Robinson, Rosekrans, Scott, Jackson
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI.) February 8, 1951
Leason, Dr. W. A. (10 November 1860 –3 February 1951)
(The following obituary of Dr. W. A. Leason was written by his son J. A. Leason, at the request of the editor)
Dr. W. A. Leason, one of Neillsville’s oldest residents, died at 5:45 p.m. February 3, in St. Joseph’s hospital, Marshfield, at the age of 90 years. Although in failing health for some time, he appeared to be in his usual good humored spirits until Thursday afternoon when he complained of abdominal distress. Dr. Horace Frank, who was called directed that he be taken to Marshfield, where a consultation resulted in the opinion that his condition was due to the complications of old age and that there was nothing that could be done to prolong his life.
Although still able to joke with the nurses when he got to the hospital, he lost strength rapidly and Saturday his doctor announced that pneumonia had set in and that the end was near. A few hours later he slipped away, as serenely as the farewell glow of a cloudless sunset, blending with the deepening blue shadows of twilight.
The Son’s Tribute - With that final, feeble breath passed the fantastic 90-year-long life of the greatest man I have ever known. No son could have had a better, more patient more understanding, more inspirational example of fatherhood than this continuously good natured, witty old gentleman of a grand era that is all too swiftly fading from the American scene - the era of personal and national independence. Some call it the free enterprise system, but if the old timers knew what it was, they never mentioned it. They were too busy, "getting ahead" and preparing for their own old-age security to go into the sociological aspects involved, which in late years have brought about the revised belief that one’s own security is not the problem of the individual, but that of his fellow beings. Whether this new approach is the proper one is another matter, but in the days of the Vermont Yankee, of whom Dr. Leason was a direct descendant, there was only one way to tackle a problem and that was with one’s own mind and hands. If one did not tackle it himself, he wound up on skid-row or at a poor farm, and if he did tackle it, the degree of his success was measured exactly by the amount of honest efforts and thought expended.
He Did Many Things - True it came about that father, who was born the son of Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Leason in the town of Scott, Sheboygan County, Nov. 10, 1860, began at an early age to explore the various means by which people went about the solemn task of making a living. While a boy, still attending school in Hingham, Wis. he tried his hand at trading, doing odd jobs, learning to play the fiddle for square dances, mending tinware, trapping muskrats, shooting pigeons, or selling lemonade at ball games. From the time he was 12 years old he bought his own clothes.
Then came young manhood and more mature employment; for a time he traveled by wagon through the country buying eggs for the Hyde Commission Co., of Milwaukee and later packed eggs for that company. In those days cold storage was not used and the eggs were pickled in lime water. Then he worked a winter or two packing shingles in a saw mill at Romeo, near Spencer, and shared lice with the rest of the crew in the stuffy bunkhouses.
Employee Stole All - At about the age of 18 he drifted to Minneapolis and opened a poultry and produce commission store on Washington Ave., near Hennepin. He bought railroad tickets from scalpers at a discount and visited nearby towns buying poultry and eggs for his store. While he was out on one such trip, an employee sold all of the stock on hand and disappeared with the money, leaving father stranded with a few dollars.
Being unable to continue in business, he hunted up a friend. They got a rowboat and started down the Mississippi River, taking two weeks to make the trip to La Crosse, from where he returned to Hingham.
At that time his father offered him a partnership in a pump and windmill business he was planning to start "at an up and coming logging town called, Neillsville." Father accepted the offer when he heard it was a good place to hunt and fish. In 1880 the family moved by team from Sheboygan County, bringing machinery, boiler and engine overland via Marshfield. A pump and windmill factory was erected on the site now occupied by the Hubert Quicker residence. The business flourished and soon Leason wooden windmills and wooden pumps were a common sight in town and on the farms of this area.
Works with Dr. Pitcher - Shortly after father came to Neillsville; a dentist, Dr. Pitcher, took an interest in him and asked him if he would not like to become a dentist, a suggestion which father adopted. He gave up his partnership with his father and went to work with Dr. Pitcher at no pay for the next several years.
Finally Dr. Pitcher told father he was ready to start out on his own. Father borrowed a hundred dollars from C. C. Sniteman with which to buy a few dental instruments, got a suit of clothes on credit and started in the general direction of Ashland where he heard there was an opening for a dentist. He stopped at Thorp and other towns on the way up, going from house to house as dentists often did in those days, looking for business. He "pulled" teeth for 50 cents and said it was surprising how many people at the homes, he visited, wanted teeth extracted. As local anesthetics were no in use at that time, the ordeal of having a tooth out was anything but a laughing matter.
Hung out a Sign - By the time he reached Ashland he had enough money to rent an office and hang out a sign. A year later he moved to Plymouth, Wis., and opened an office. It was while at Plymouth he was married to Anna Griesch July 3, 1890. At Plymouth he organized a baseball team, played shortstop, and the team won 16 out of 17 games that season, and was one of the good teams of that section for a number of years. He also became interested in trotting horses and drove in many county fair races.
In 1893, he was not feeling well and decided to give up dentistry and try to regain his health as a farmer, a business about which he knew nothing. He sold his practice and home in Plymouth and purchased a 160 acre place west of this city where he built a home and other farm buildings. However, he ran head-on into the panic of the early nineties and to save his property he had to return to dentistry and opened an office in Neillsville. For more than10 years he also maintained a branch office at Merrillan, driving down there with a horse and buggy or cutter one day a week. He carried a rifle on those trips and frequently shot at deer, wolves, foxes and occasionally a bear.
By 1900 the country was coming out from under the panic and a market for Clark County farms was developing. His health also had improved. When an opportunity arose to sell the farm, father decided to return to town, and the family move to the residence at 143 North Hewett Street, which he was occupying at the time of his death.
Roamed the Open - Throughout the years here; Dr. Leason spent all his spare time in the out-of-doors. He was a family figure to hundreds who, like himself, enjoy the fishing and hunting facilities of this community. He particularly liked the company of fellow sportsmen and would spend any length of time listening to, and telling of, hunting and fishing exploits.
It was not entirely the attraction of hunting and fishing that lured him to the streams and woods, but a sort of Henry Thoreau love of nature. He never looked at a twig, a leaf, a frog or a fish and saw only a twig, a leaf, a frog or a fish. He saw in them the depthless mystery of all nature and life and a long, long story about each. He knew what the fish were saying to each other, what the birds were talking about, and what the bee on the blossom was thinking of. I knew he knew what all those things were saying and thinking about, because he would tell you or me anytime we asked him, and you couldn’t help but believe he knew what he was talking about. He could look into the reflective waters of Black River as he sat waiting for one of the fish to call on him and he could see the Old West Indian fights, Gold Rush days, buffalo stampedes and give you facts, figures, dates and details. He could look at the Mounds around Neillsville and tell you how the face of the shrinking world puckered up one day and got all wrinkled and how the ice of the glacial age came scooping along and so beautifully landscaped Neillsville’s countryside.
He Was Good Fun - It was good fun being with father in my kid days, it was fun being with him in his old age. He was fun yesterday and always and it will be good fun thinking of him in the days ahead.
Surviving Dr. Leason are a daughter, Mrs. M. E. Bennett of Neillsville and a son, J. A. Leason, of St. Paul; a brother, E. R. Leason of Neillsville, a grandson, Keith Bennett of Chicago, a granddaughter, Mr. M. J. Crisafulli of Mesa, Ariz.; and three great-grandchildren, the children of Dr. and Mrs. Crisafulli.
The funeral was held at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday from the Georgas Funeral Home, Rev. Virgil Nulton officiating. Burial was in the Neillsville City Cemetery beside Mrs. W. A. Leason who died March 5, 1943.
Pallbearers were: William J. Wagner, William H. Wilsmann, Sr., A. B. Wightman, Herman North, W. H. Allen, and Glen Robinson.
Dr. Sarah Rosekrans sang two selections "Tears" and "Let Me So Remember", Mrs. Jess Scott was the accompanist.
Out of town relatives attending the services were John Leason of St. Paul, Minn. and Mr. and Mrs. Leo Jackson of King.
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