'Brownie' celebrates 100 years

Apr. 16—GOSHEN — Walter "Brownie" Braunshausen turned 100 years old on Tuesday.

Braunshausen and his wife Eilen (Apel) came to Goshen when looking for a retirement community in 2012. Braunshausen was born in Maywood, a suburb of Chicago.

Living just outside of Chicago, in Lombard, for most of their life, Braunshausen said the options in that part of Illinois weren't what he was looking for.

"We'd get letters, 'Come over and have supper with us. See what we've got,'" Braunshausen said. "Nobody over there has a campus like this place. We'd see the rooms and the park area. One had a little gazebo not as big as these two rooms, and some had a little path to the local store. I was used to having this big yard and cutting grass."

In addition to the space, Braunshausen said Greencroft has plenty of programming and activities to keep him occupied, but lately, he does "precious little."

"We had a guy come in and play the organ the other day — all my music from when we were young and courting and after we got married," he said.

Braunshausen's wife passed away in 2015. Their children are Ellen, Tom, Ruth, Donna and Carol.

Braunshausen worked for a hospital in Chicago, running electrocardiograms.

"The hospital was so big it took four of us technicians just to do the EKGs," he said. "We had to develop them, which made it much harder."

It's where he met his wife. She was a ward clerk at the hospital.

"My car was in the shop, so I got on the bus," he said. "And somehow or another because we sat next to each other, something came up about hairpins and bobby pins, and (she) told me the difference, but I let her talk ... and then they had a ward picnic. The staff had a picnic in one of the parks. In any event, each of the staffers could bring a guest, so she asked if I would come with her and I said 'Yeah, that would be swell,' and so we played ball. That was a high point. One of the doctors pelted one, and he called to one of the other doctors to catch it. She was short; it was a big softball, and she practically got in front of him to grab the ball. It was funny."

Later on, he transitioned to working for a funeral home and cemetery.

"I was working inside all the time," he said. "I enjoyed getting out."

He helped direct parking outside during services, getting himself an extra two hours of sunshine every year, and the pay was better. With five children to feed, the money mattered.

Braunshausen also served in the armed forces and was stationed in Wales, U.K., from 1943-46, as a hospital corpsman and later as a technician.

"I never had to shoot, because the Germans respected the Red Cross," he explained. "After V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day), if we were going to go to Japan we had to learn how to shoot, so we were cleaning rifles, and they were getting ready to teach us, and then it was V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day), so it was like 'OK, duration plus six months.'"

"I didn't see much point in hanging around," he said of his decision to enlist, rather than wait to be drafted into service. At the time, he was working at a printing company that set the matrix for advertisements.

Braunshausen's daughter Donna Corbett and her son-in-law Tom came in from Phoenix, Arizona, to celebrate with him, and his friends and staff at Greencroft Tuesday morning. All weeklong is a celebration, but this weekend, they'll have a bigger party bringing family and friends from across the region.