Our Dad, Bill Borsch, was born January 5, 1926 in Minneapolis to Clarence and Margaret (Fitzgerald) Borsch, the second generation of German and Irish immigrants respectively. He had one sister, Marlys (Moore) six years his junior, someone whom he loved and admired all of his life.
Dad grew up in south Minneapolis and lived not too far from his grandparents, John & Clara Borsch, and Clarence’s sister, Adelaide who had married a man named Ed Wachsmuth, “a good German boy” as Dad said his grandmother Clara described him. The Wachsmuth family lived across the street and two doors down from John and Clara so Dad grew up often playing with his first cousins, John and Gene Wachsmuth.
His maternal side, the Fitzgeralds, also were close by in Minneapolis. He could be with, and visit often, his grandparents and cousins. Though he always felt more German than Irish, there is no question that he always loved that part of his heritage (and that he could ‘officially’ wear green on St. Patrick’s Day!).
He always told stories of growing up and being part of a strong, extended family and we loved his stories. Some of them you’ll read about in Stories, Photos and Video as they’re posted:
- He once told the story of growing up in the Depression and illustrated it by talking about how he, at the age of 4 or 5, would take his wagon down the alley and use a stick to poke at the ash heaps behind neighbor houses and pick up any small chunks of coal left over. He felt he was participating in helping the household since he knew, even then, that times were tough
- His grandparents had a house at 4500 Garfield Avenue South in Minneapolis and had milk delivered. See more about a prank Bill and his cousin would pull as little boys
- John and Clarence were both fastidious about their automobiles, homes and possessions and this was an ethic that Dad carried forward in his life. In fact, all his life he would use a company car in his work and he took such good care of it that virtually everyone in his company wanted to buy his used car when the lease was up!
- Dad talked frequently about taking the streetcar in Minneapolis and lamented its removal when buses appeared, a political mistake the Twin Cities is correcting today by building a network of light rail.
Dad attended Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota for one year (where he played trombone in the marching band) but was itching to get out working. He attended the then respected Minnesota School of Business, graduated with their associates degree, and went to work.
Like all of us Dad had his part-time jobs while going to high school and college. Dad worked at Art’s Service Station where he pumped gas and moved cars around for the mechanics. He landed a job in the late 1940s that didn’t use any of those skills though. It was at Northwest Airlines where he serviced airplanes. He enjoyed the job but then heard about hiring at the Ford Motor Company’s St. Paul plant and went to work there. It was backbreaking work (he emptied rail cars of parts for assembly) but the pay was awesome at over $100 per week.
DAD MEETS MOM
Since he could, Dad went to work part-time at a downtown Minneapolis shoe store called “Burt’s Shoes” in about 1950. Though he liked the extra money (he bought a brand new car) there were also many young women there he dated. Teased his whole life that “I was the last one he asked out” by our Mom, Dorothy (nee Wolla), Dad was smitten with this beautiful young lady who was fun, could dance, and hailed from a smaller town, Moorhead, MN.
After they’d gone out awhile she took him to Moorhead to meet her folks. He told Steve this story two nights before he died: One evening he and Dorothy went out to a local club and he went up to the bar to get fresh drinks. He turned to see some guy aggressively going after his date. Though he was barely conscious as he told Steve this story, his eyes welled up with tears as he said, “At that moment I realized I was in love with her” and then he raised his fists in the air while in bed and said, “So I went over and told that guy to get the hell away from her…and he did!”
They were married in 1952 and Dad went to work as an insurance adjuster, a profession he then shared with his father (and future brother-in-law). Though it was a white collar job and clearly a career, his income plummeted to $150 per month instead of the $100 per week he’d made at the Ford plant. But the hours were good, the job interesting, he received a company car (a huge benefit even today) and he knew this was a career path he could be on until retirement.
Dad and Mom were inseparable for 41 years until she died at 62 years of age. Dad, six years older than Mom, retired at 62 and always expressed how incredibly pleased he was that he had NOT waited to retire until he turned 65. “If I had waited until 65,” he often said, “Mom and I would only have had three years instead of the six we enjoyed” doing their traveling, visiting relatives across the United States, fishing and having ample time with their children and grand-children.
We four kids were very concerned that Dad wouldn’t make it too long without Mom after she passed. She doted on him and did everything around the house and she was his best friend. But Dad soldiered on and learned quickly how to do everything (instead of ironing his shirts he brought them to the cleaners!). He even went to Germany in 1997 for two weeks with Steve to tour the country (and they uncovered records from his great-grandparents in Mehren and Daun Germany...see this website built in the early days of the Web, 1997, which Steve built and published during the trip). Emboldened by that successful trip to Germany—and that he wanted to see more of the world—he even took a tour trip to London by himself a year later.
His ethics, morals, integrity, honesty and curiosity were traits he passed on to his kids who, in turn, have passed it down to their own. If that was the only thing he did he would have had a wonderful life and made his mark. But everything he did, and especially the way he treated others, make it a certainty that the metaphorical pebble named ‘Bill’, one he consciously tossed in to the lake of life, will send ripples out in to the universe forever.