ONALASKA — LeRoy Erling Hougom Sr., 87, of Onalaska passed away Friday, May 26, 2017, at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.
He was born Feb. 14, 1930, in La Crosse, to Myron and Izro Hougom, the first born child of four siblings. He was a baptized, confirmed, and lifelong member of First Lutheran Church in Onalaska.
LeRoy graduated from Onalaska High School in 1948, and remained a loyal Onalaska Hilltopper until the day he died. He took great pride in telling people that the color of his blood was purple. After graduating from OHS, LeRoy served our country in the U.S. Army, and was stationed in Germany.
On Nov. 26, 1950, he married the love of his life, Charlotte Beverly Hanson in Ferryville, and together they raised a family of seven children. LeRoy and Charlotte celebrated 65 years of marriage in 2015.
LeRoy’s working career involved several different areas of employment, but there were two careers he was most known for.
The first career that spanned for over 30 years, was that of the Borden’s milkman.
An excerpt from the book, “Sawmills to Sunfish,” explains it best about LeRoy … not only about his work ethic, but also about the heart of gold that he had.
“In 1947, the Krause Dairy, Holmen Dairy, and the Modern Dairy joined together into a new cooperative known as the Consolidated Dairies, Inc., with headquarters in La Crosse.
“A young man who started work with the Krause Dairy and later worked at Consolidated and Borden’s was LeRoy Hougom. He became well known to everyone in town as the ‘Borden Man.’ He wore blue and white striped bib overalls, and was always friendly and thoughtful. Children loved him. A rural Onalaska woman tells a story about LeRoy’s dedication to his customers. During the severe snowstorm of 1959, the roads and streets became impassable and nearly everyone was snowbound. About noon of that day, this woman saw something coming through the blizzard, struggling across the huge drifts toward her home. She realized when he was near her door that it was LeRoy carrying bottles of milk. He was walking to homes on his route where he knew they had small babies and would need milk.”
Many families were the recipients of his generosity as he would often leave chocolate milk or orange juice as a treat for children in the house, at his own expense.
In 1984, LeRoy established Hilltopper Refuse and Recycling, Inc., the name of the company and the purple and white trucks exemplify his intense pride for his alma mater. What started as a company with one truck has grown to a company with a fleet of 34 trucks.
Nothing pleased Dad more than when his four sons joined him in the business, and they, along with his daughter, Annette, continue to operate the company to this day.
Dad worked morning, noon, and night to make this business the success it is, and his children will be forever grateful for instilling in us his work ethic, kindness, generosity, honesty, and integrity. His motto was “If you want something in life, you must work hard for it.”
LeRoy was a fixture at OHS activities for many years, including spending over 20 years on the football chain crew, organizing the Onalaska Booster Club in 1966 with Dave Skogen, Roy Grade, Cleo Mulock, and Milo Pohl, and being a positive source of encouragement for countless athletes.
Several former OHS athletes fondly remember LeRoy paying for their entire team to have dinner at an area restaurant at the end of the football, basketball, and baseball seasons.
For many students, this was a rare treat, and the dinners always ended with LeRoy sharing how proud he was of the way the team played that season, and how good they would be the next year.
One of LeRoy’s proudest moments was Sept. 23, 2011, when he was chosen as an inductee for the Onalaska High School Wall of Excellence. He was affectionately referred to as “Mr. Onalaska” because of his tremendous support of Onalaska High School activities and the Onalaska community. LeRoy was named Onalaska Sunfish Days Parade Marshal in 1991, and was honored with the Onalaska Sunfish Days Civic Award in 1996. LeRoy was a 50 year member of the Onalaska American Legion Post 336, and was also a member of the Onalaska Masonic Lodge.
LeRoy absolutely loved watching his grandchildren participate in their activities in school. Whether it was attending a basketball, football, hockey or soccer game, a track meet, swim meet, choir, band event, or horse show, the grandchildren “always” knew they could look out in the crowd and see Grandpa and Grandma.
In addition to OHS, LeRoy loved the Green Bay Packers, the Milwaukee Brewers, FORD vehicles….which he used to say meant “First On Race Day,” NASCAR racing and the drivers who drove Fords, and country music…..especially Johnny Cash.
Dad was a Norwegian Lutheran, strong in his faith, and a true believer in the Lord.
He loved lutefisk and lefse, and besides serving this specialty every Christmas Day, LeRoy and Charlotte traveled miles in every direction to attend as many lutefisk church dinners as they could.
People called LeRoy the Milkman, Mr. Hilltopper, Mr. Onalaska, Senior, or Hougie.
We called him Dad, Grandpa, and Great-Grandpa.
The love a parent has for their child is endless, but the love our Mom and Dad had for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren cannot be put into words. A plaque they displayed proudly in their home says…”Our greatest blessings call us Grandma and Grandpa.”
Dad’s smile would light up a room when they walked in, and we know his legacy and everything he taught us will be passed on to them, and to many generations to come.
Our Mother, Charlotte, preceded our Dad in death Feb. 7, 2016, and that is truly the day Dad died as well. His broken heart never healed, and life was never the same without his beloved wife by his side. We take great comfort in the fact that Mom and Dad are now reunited in heaven, with one holding their son, George Allen Hougom, and the other holding their grandson, Peyton Lee Erling Hougom.
A golden heart has stopped beating, and hardworking hands will now be laid to rest…
LeRoy is survived by his children and spouses, LeRoy Jr. (Wanda) Hougom, Beverly (Robert) DiNicola, David (Sheilah) Hougom, Annette (Russ) Holderness, Gary (Dawn) Hougom, and Larry (Lori) Hougom. He is further survived by grandchildren, Jason (Kelly) Hougom, Tyler (Jenny) Hougom, Adrienne DiNicola, Lindsey DiNicola (fiancée, Bart Hand), Brandon and Noah Hougom, Alisha and Aubrey Crawley, Brittany, Brett, and Brianna Hougom, and Cody and Colton Hougom. Also surviving are great-grandchildren, Amaya Crawley and Ivy Charlotte Hougom, with the third great-granddaughter due July 23rd. LeRoy is further survived by sisters, Bonnie Hotson, Eleanor Udulutch, and Barbara Anderson; as well as many cousins, nieces, and nephews. In addition, he is survived by his stepgrandson, Jim (Karena) DiNicola; and stepgranddaughter, Amber (Kris) Tanke; and stepgreat-grandchildren, Jake DiNicola, Kaydence, Kailand, and Kamdyn Tanke.
LeRoy was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Charlotte; his son, George Allen Hougom; his grandson, Peyton Lee Erling Hougom; his parents, Myron and Izro Hougom; in-laws, Lawrence and Alice Hanson; and brothers-in-law, Wayne Hotson, Olaf Anderson and Chuck Udulutch; and by his niece, Kim Hotson.
The family of LeRoy Hougom Sr. would like to extend a special thank you to Dr. Lee, Dr. Morris, and ALL the nursing staff of the Palliative Care Unit at Gundersen Health System.
Thank you for the excellent care and true compassion you have for your job. You treated our Dad with respect, dignity, and kindness during his final three days on earth, and for that, we will be forever grateful.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 1, at First Lutheran Church, 410 Main St., Onalaska. The Reverend Karyn Bodenschatz will officiate, and burial with military honors will be in the Onalaska Cemetery. Friends may visit with the family from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, at the Chuck Deeth Fieldhouse at the Onalaska High School, and again from 9:30 a.m. until time of services Thursday at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to The Lighting Project at First Lutheran Church in Onalaska, The Freedom Honor Flight, or the Palliative Care Unit at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.
The Dickinson Family Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements. Information and online condolences may be given to the family at www.DickinsonFuneralHomes.com.