Even the night before his death, Joe Flad had the strength to coach his son’s Special Olympics basketball team.
It was just one endeavor among many for a man whose insatiable appetite for volunteering seemed to know no limits. That included stints in Fredonia as both a village trustee from 1986 to 1992 and the fire chief from 1990 to 1993.
On Thursday, April 6, Mr. Flad, 75, died at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton from pneumonia — a complication of ongoing chemotherapy treatments.
“That’s so like my dad to find it in him to give of himself right up to the very end,” said Katie Hackl, Mr. Flad’s daughter. “Everything he did he was 110% dedicated to it. That’s how he lived his entire life.”
And, despite moving to Oostburg a decade ago, Fredonia remained close to his heart. In fact, he’d make the trip each year to continue his role as Santa Claus during village functions. When he was too ill to do so this past winter, it marked the end of a 19-year tradition.
“He just loved Fredonia and he volunteered for what seemed like everything,” said his wife, Kathy Flad. “And once he was committed, you could count on him forever.”
St. Rose Parish was among those causes, as were his repeated battles with cancer — a staggering five times in all.
“He was a lector at church, and when he had to have nearly all of his jaw removed in the 1980s his main objective was to get back on that alter despite having difficulty with speaking,” Mrs. Hackl said. “He was that much of a fighter. Later, I remember when a doctor told us he had cancer of the kidney my mother and I just looked at each other and thought, ‘OK, we can do this. He’s done it before.’”
Jill Bertram, a current Fredonia village trustee who remains a family friend, always marveled at Flad’s determination to overcome his health burdens.
“It was like he had nine lives,” she said. “And it never let it get him down. He always managed to come back from it. We were amazed.”
It was a positive outlook that served him well in key leadership roles, Mrs. Hackl said.
“When he’d be at a fire, or in that ambulance,he’d put people at ease with that calm demeanor,” Mrs. Hackl said. “It’s just what the situation needed.”
His challenging work with special-needs kids was equally admirable, she said.
“That takes a special kind of person,” Mrs. Hackl said. “Take basketball for instance — whenever things got stressful he’d stand in the middle of the court and start to chant, ‘Let’s just have fun!’ And the players would join him. He’d have everyone chanting it together.”
Mr. Flad was born in Madison on October 11, 1941, the son of Thomas H. and Eileen V. Crowley Flad.
He attended Blessed Sacrament Catholic Grade School and Edgewood High School, graduating with the Class of 1960. He attended St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minn., where he played hockey and graduated with degrees in business and philosophy.
On June 3, 1967, Mr. Flad married Kathleen Engels at St. Willebrord Catholic Church in Green Bay. As a young man, Mr. Flad worked as a lineman for Hooper Electric and continued on to become sales manager for Westinghouse Elevator Co.
The couple moved to Fredonia in 1975 and Mr. Flad became involved in the community. He was a dedicated member of St. Rose Parish, where he lectored, ushered, and sat on the parish finance committee, as well as helped take care of the buildings and grounds.
Mr. Flad became a member of Northern Ozaukee Ambulance and the Fredonia Fire Department in 1976. He served as rescue captain, training captain and later as chief.
He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and served as the Grand Knight and was involved with the Boy Scouts, Special Olympics and Red Cross.
In his spare time, he enjoyed being an active participant in all of his grandchildren’s activities — rarely missing a game or performance. He also greatly enjoyed the time he spent with Boy Scout Troop 877 and his son, Tom, helping him to achieve Eagle Scout. His most recent passion was coaching both baseball and basketball for the Ozaukee County Special Olympics.
In 2007 Mr. Flad and his wife moved to Oostburg, and he opened his own business, Gym Boys. A natural salesman, he enjoyed traveling around the state, meeting new customers.
Mr. Flad is survived by his wife, Kathy; their children Annie (Rob) Flad-Jesion of Kohler, Katie (Darrell) Hackl of Oostburg, Bridget (Scott) Flad Daniels of Green Bay and Tom Flad, also of Oostburg; and grandchildren Gage and Garrett Hackl, Martin and Ruby Jesion and Stuart Loth-Jesion.
He is further survived by brothers Steve (Mary) Flad of Winona, Minn. and Charlie (Pam) Flad of Sun Prairie; sisters Mary (Frank) Balistreri of Bloomington, Minn, Rita (David) McCaffrey of Bensonville, Ill., Pauline (Rick) Gullick of Tucson, Ariz., Patty Flad of Denver.
Mr. Flad was preceded in death by his parents and sister Joan Flad.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 18, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Sheboygan. Father Neil Zinthefer will preside. Burial will be the following day at Union Cemetery in the Town of Holland. Visitation will be at the Eernisse Funeral Home, Belgium, on Monday, , April 17 from 4 to 7 p.m. There will be a walk-through for fire department personnel at 6:30 p.m. and a prayer service at 7 p.m., lead by Father Jim Ernster.
The family suggests memorials to the American Cancer Society, St. Vincent De Paul Society or Ozaukee County Special Olympics.