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The life of Gary Hartl addressed in eloquent letter from his brother
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To the Antigo Daily Journal:

The Hartl, Bradley and Stieber families wish to express our gratitude to the people of Antigo and Langlade County for the outpouring of condolences and support on the death of Gary Hartl, beloved of his wife Eileen and his children Erin and Bret.

I'm Dan Hartl, Gary's older brother, and I made a few remarks at his funeral that a number of people have asked to be printed as part of the permanent written record of Gary's life and his contributions to Antigo and Langlade County. The Antigo Daily Journal has graciously agreed to make this possible.

The last time I spoke in public in Antigo was when I was in high school. Sixty years later I was asked to speak in Antigo once again at Gary's funeral. In these 60 years I've learned a thing or two. I make no claim to wisdom, but I'm wiser now than I was then (I hope), and what I've learned has helped me to put Gary Hartl and his legacy into perspective.

My profession took me away from Antigo. Since leaving I have been privileged to have met about 2,000 brilliant and accomplished people, most of them scientists and educators, including 25 or 30 Nobel Prize winners. Most of the people I've met have been decent people, and a few of them have been outstanding. Measured against these people, Gary Hartl stands out as one of the finest men I've ever known.

Gary's outstanding quality was his happy, cheerful, joyous nature. His happiness was so fulsome it spilled over into the room. His joy filled the room, and it also filled you. But, if you were sick or in trouble, Gary was also a man of compassion and healing.

Gary was happy even as a baby and toddler. When he was two or three years old and I was nine or 10, our mother would put him into an old four-wheeled buggy and tell me to take him for a walk. She told us that this was for us to get fresh air. Now I realize that it was to get us out of the house so that she could have some peace.

We lived on Gowan Road with its gentle hill running down toward the Spring Brook Creek, and I learned that if I released the buggy's handle at the top, it would roll downhill at an ever-increasing speed. The road was bumpy and the buggy veered to the right. Eventually it would spill into a shallow ditch.

I enjoyed guessing when the buggy would hit the ditch, and Gary enjoyed the carnival ride and the bump at the end. The buggy occasionally tipped over in the ditch and he'd tumble out into the dirt. But so what? He thought it was fun and I thought it was fun. Our mother? Not so much.

You people of Antigo and Langlade County were lucky to have him for so long. His calling could easily have taken him away. He tried several vocations. When he was in elementary school he played military. There was a strip of grass along the driveway beside our house, and he would play soldier advancing against the enemy along that strip. The enemy was unyielding until one day he found the weapon he needed. He found a box of feminine hygiene products shaped like a tube with a string at one end that our mother had neglected to put away. When he found these objects he recognized them as exactly what he needed: dynamite.

And that afternoon Gary began his campaign against the enemy, armed with a bandolier of dynamite from which he would take a stick, light the fuse with an imaginary sparker, toss it forward, crouch, and in a few seconds yell “boom, dynamite!” after which he'd advance a few feet. And as the enemy retreated, Gary advanced. But by the time our mother saw him and realized what was happening, Gary had left a long trail of "dynamite" behind. She was too mortified to even leave the house for fear of someone seeing her. Collecting the unexploded dynamite was my assignment.

But Gary didn't join the armed forces. If he had, he would have been taken from Antigo. His superiors would have recognized his worth and shuttled him about, as they do in the military, and given him regular promotions. I can imagine him as a chaplain or a medic, because Gary was a man of compassion and healing.

When Gary was 11 or 12 he tried the priesthood. Our mother had some old gold brocade curtains that he had fashioned into a chasuble of the sort that Father Charley Hoffmann at St. John the Evangelist Church was wearing at Gary's funeral Mass. Attired in his gold chasuble Gary would practice saying Mass in an upstairs bedroom on a large desktop that he used as an altar. Our mother was delighted: “Imagine that: My son the priest!”

But he didn't join the priesthood. If he had, he would also have left Antigo. The hierarchy would have recognized his worth and made him the pastor of a parish somewhere else and might eventually have ordained him bishop or cardinal. And if anyone were to challenge him to condemn any person or any person's lifestyle, his reply would likely have anticipated Pope Francis in saying “Who am I to judge?”

It was in high school that Gary found his calling. It was broadcast journalism. He recognized it at once. He became eager to finish high school and immediately enrolled in the Brown Broadcasting School in Minneapolis. When he finished broadcasting school it seemed likely that he'd get a job in some other location, because jobs for broadcasters were then, and still are, hard to find.

But lo and behold, he landed a job at WATK and became the Voice of Antigo. And what a voice he had friendly, likeable, instantly recognizable. Being the Voice of Antigo that was his calling.

How well I remember car trips to Antigo from Indiana or Missouri or wherever we lived at the time, the kids in the back seat. We'd hardly hit the Wisconsin state line and they'd start clamoring to tune the radio to WATK. And when at last we could pick up the station and they'd hear Gary's voice, only then would they be calmed and satisfied.

To be in control of a microphone in a broadcasting booth is a terrible responsibility. What you do with that microphone reveals your character. It shows who you really are. You cannot hide. You might as well be naked.

And what did Gary do with his microphone? He used it with dignity and grace. He projected:

Unity, not divisiveness

Respect, not derision

Acceptance, not rejection

Compassion, not cruelty

Tolerance, not bigotry

Gary's being the Voice of Antigo earned him tremendous trust and respect. Those were the days when you could cast aspersion by asking “Would you buy a used car from this man?” For hundreds of people in Antigo and Langlade County the answer was “Yes, I'd absolutely buy a car from this man!” Because, with Gary, you didn't have to kick the tires. He would kick the tires. You didn't have to look for dings and dents. He'd do that. And his customers would come back again and again, because he was a man you could trust.

And so, against all of the chances when the people of Antigo and Langlade County might have lost Gary to some other place, you were fortunate to be able to have him here to yourself for so many years and to have him contribute to this community. For him these were mostly happy years.

What rare good fortune for this community to have been home to this exceptionally good man and his exceptionally good wife. They both worked hard for the betterment of all, and they have inspired their children to live their lives with the same selflessness and generosity of spirit.

Gary's unexpected and untimely passing burns a deep hole in this community. We his family have lost a husband, father, brother, brother-in law, uncle. But you, the good people of Antigo and Langlade County you've lost your Voice.

Dan Hartl
space

A very casual family photograph of Dan and Gary Hartl and their wives.

The life of Gary Hartl addressed in eloquent letter from his brother
space
To the Antigo Daily Journal:

The Hartl, Bradley and Stieber families wish to express our gratitude to the people of Antigo and Langlade County for the outpouring of condolences and support on the death of Gary Hartl, beloved of his wife Eileen and his children Erin and Bret.

I'm Dan Hartl, Gary's older brother, and I made a few remarks at his funeral that a number of people have asked to be printed as part of the permanent written record of Gary's life and his contributions to Antigo and Langlade County. The Antigo Daily Journal has graciously agreed to make this possible.

The last time I spoke in public in Antigo was when I was in high school. Sixty years later I was asked to speak in Antigo once again at Gary's funeral. In these 60 years I've learned a thing or two. I make no claim to wisdom, but I'm wiser now than I was then (I hope), and what I've learned has helped me to put Gary Hartl and his legacy into perspective.

My profession took me away from Antigo. Since leaving I have been privileged to have met about 2,000 brilliant and accomplished people, most of them scientists and educators, including 25 or 30 Nobel Prize winners. Most of the people I've met have been decent people, and a few of them have been outstanding. Measured against these people, Gary Hartl stands out as one of the finest men I've ever known.

Gary's outstanding quality was his happy, cheerful, joyous nature. His happiness was so fulsome it spilled over into the room. His joy filled the room, and it also filled you. But, if you were sick or in trouble, Gary was also a man of compassion and healing.

Gary was happy even as a baby and toddler. When he was two or three years old and I was nine or 10, our mother would put him into an old four-wheeled buggy and tell me to take him for a walk. She told us that this was for us to get fresh air. Now I realize that it was to get us out of the house so that she could have some peace.

We lived on Gowan Road with its gentle hill running down toward the Spring Brook Creek, and I learned that if I released the buggy's handle at the top, it would roll downhill at an ever-increasing speed. The road was bumpy and the buggy veered to the right. Eventually it would spill into a shallow ditch.

I enjoyed guessing when the buggy would hit the ditch, and Gary enjoyed the carnival ride and the bump at the end. The buggy occasionally tipped over in the ditch and he'd tumble out into the dirt. But so what? He thought it was fun and I thought it was fun. Our mother? Not so much.

You people of Antigo and Langlade County were lucky to have him for so long. His calling could easily have taken him away. He tried several vocations. When he was in elementary school he played military. There was a strip of grass along the driveway beside our house, and he would play soldier advancing against the enemy along that strip. The enemy was unyielding until one day he found the weapon he needed. He found a box of feminine hygiene products shaped like a tube with a string at one end that our mother had neglected to put away. When he found these objects he recognized them as exactly what he needed: dynamite.

And that afternoon Gary began his campaign against the enemy, armed with a bandolier of dynamite from which he would take a stick, light the fuse with an imaginary sparker, toss it forward, crouch, and in a few seconds yell “boom, dynamite!” after which he'd advance a few feet. And as the enemy retreated, Gary advanced. But by the time our mother saw him and realized what was happening, Gary had left a long trail of "dynamite" behind. She was too mortified to even leave the house for fear of someone seeing her. Collecting the unexploded dynamite was my assignment.

But Gary didn't join the armed forces. If he had, he would have been taken from Antigo. His superiors would have recognized his worth and shuttled him about, as they do in the military, and given him regular promotions. I can imagine him as a chaplain or a medic, because Gary was a man of compassion and healing.

When Gary was 11 or 12 he tried the priesthood. Our mother had some old gold brocade curtains that he had fashioned into a chasuble of the sort that Father Charley Hoffmann at St. John the Evangelist Church was wearing at Gary's funeral Mass. Attired in his gold chasuble Gary would practice saying Mass in an upstairs bedroom on a large desktop that he used as an altar. Our mother was delighted: “Imagine that: My son the priest!”

But he didn't join the priesthood. If he had, he would also have left Antigo. The hierarchy would have recognized his worth and made him the pastor of a parish somewhere else and might eventually have ordained him bishop or cardinal. And if anyone were to challenge him to condemn any person or any person's lifestyle, his reply would likely have anticipated Pope Francis in saying “Who am I to judge?”

It was in high school that Gary found his calling. It was broadcast journalism. He recognized it at once. He became eager to finish high school and immediately enrolled in the Brown Broadcasting School in Minneapolis. When he finished broadcasting school it seemed likely that he'd get a job in some other location, because jobs for broadcasters were then, and still are, hard to find.

But lo and behold, he landed a job at WATK and became the Voice of Antigo. And what a voice he had friendly, likeable, instantly recognizable. Being the Voice of Antigo that was his calling.

How well I remember car trips to Antigo from Indiana or Missouri or wherever we lived at the time, the kids in the back seat. We'd hardly hit the Wisconsin state line and they'd start clamoring to tune the radio to WATK. And when at last we could pick up the station and they'd hear Gary's voice, only then would they be calmed and satisfied.

To be in control of a microphone in a broadcasting booth is a terrible responsibility. What you do with that microphone reveals your character. It shows who you really are. You cannot hide. You might as well be naked.

And what did Gary do with his microphone? He used it with dignity and grace. He projected:

Unity, not divisiveness

Respect, not derision

Acceptance, not rejection

Compassion, not cruelty

Tolerance, not bigotry

Gary's being the Voice of Antigo earned him tremendous trust and respect. Those were the days when you could cast aspersion by asking “Would you buy a used car from this man?” For hundreds of people in Antigo and Langlade County the answer was “Yes, I'd absolutely buy a car from this man!” Because, with Gary, you didn't have to kick the tires. He would kick the tires. You didn't have to look for dings and dents. He'd do that. And his customers would come back again and again, because he was a man you could trust.

And so, against all of the chances when the people of Antigo and Langlade County might have lost Gary to some other place, you were fortunate to be able to have him here to yourself for so many years and to have him contribute to this community. For him these were mostly happy years.

What rare good fortune for this community to have been home to this exceptionally good man and his exceptionally good wife. They both worked hard for the betterment of all, and they have inspired their children to live their lives with the same selflessness and generosity of spirit.

Gary's unexpected and untimely passing burns a deep hole in this community. We his family have lost a husband, father, brother, brother-in law, uncle. But you, the good people of Antigo and Langlade County you've lost your Voice.

Dan Hartl
space

A very casual family photograph of Dan and Gary Hartl and their wives.
2019
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ANTIGO DAILY
JOURNAL
612 Superior Street
Antigo, WI 54409
Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
MapOnUs Location: (local)

WEEKLY
JOURNAL
EXPRESS
612 Superior Street,
Antigo, WI 54409
Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
MapOnUs Location: (local)

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