CALEDONIA — In honor of longtime Racine area resident Bill Geertsen’s 95th birthday, his family on Sunday presented him with a replica of the high school class ring that he lost during World War II.
Horlick High School Principal Angela Apmann kicked off the surprise party at Geertsen’s daughter’s Caledonia home by surprising him with the ring that was engraved with his name and the year 1938, courtesy of his family.
She also brought him his transcripts found in the school’s safe, which proved he actually graduated in June 1941.
“I loved Horlick,” Geertsen said. “At our age we had people believe in living simply. It was fun. I played basketball, football and a lot of tennis.”
Geertsen was surprised and thrilled.
“In the top 10 best birthday presents, this is near the top. The rest would be from my wife,” Geertsen said.
His beloved wife, Jackie, with whom he had six children, passed away in 2012.
“I met my wife down by the lake. A friend was dancing with her,” Bill Geertsen said. “My friend said, ‘Do you want a date with her?’ I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘She’s Catholic, but I’m Protestant and my mother won’t let me go with a Catholic girl.’ Then I met her and we never left each other’s side.”
His son, John Geertsen, organized the surprise and invited the media to document his reaction.
“He’s been getting rid of a lot of stuff since my mom died — clearing the house out. What do you get a guy on his 95th birthday?” John Geertsen said. “He was talking about losing the ring at Easter, and I’d never heard the story.”
A Class-A tool and die maker for 47 years at Racine-based Walker Manufacturing Co. before and after the war, he enlisted in the Navy in 1942 after seeing too many of his friends get drafted, and some killed, in the war. He wanted to make a difference,…