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Obituary: Arleen Gertrude Wiedenhoeft, nee’ Calbaum

Feb 17, 2016 10:03AM, Published by Jim, Categories: Obituaries, Today Obituary

Ralph & Arleen Wiedenhoft

Arleen Gertrude Wiedenhoeft, nee’ Calbaum, age 84, died mid-morning on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at Hillside Manor in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.    

Arleen was born on 28 November 1931 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Rudolph & Alma (nee’ Hackbarth) Calbaum, baptized on 10 January 1932 & confirmed at Milwaukee’s Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (Wisconsin Synod) on April 2, 1944. On her baby book page documenting “Happy Days”, her mother wrote “All days!” She grew up in Milwaukee near the end of the trolley line amidst the woods & fields of her grandfather Hackbarth’s truck farm, loved her attic bedroom, dog Salty, all the cats, her brother Jerry & frequent visitor cousin Elaine. She loved to read & was often caught by her parents after “lights out” reading under the covers with a flashlight. Talented in art, Arleen attended summer classes at Layton Art School. She graduated as Salutatorian & member of the National Honor Society from Custer High School in 1949. Although she always claimed she had been very shy, she was a member of the Math Club, Spanish Club, Girls’ Chorus (which she also accompanied on the piano), & was president of the Co-ed Club.

She met her future husband through his best friend with whom she’d shared Chemistry labs at UW-Milwaukee. She worked for a while at Red Star Yeast, & graduated with a BS in Bacteriology from the UW-Madison after the winter semester of 1953/54, just weeks following her day-after-Christmas wedding to Ralph Wiedenhoeft, who was on leave from Ft. Sill, OK. They honeymooned in the southwest wilds, camping in a pup tent & sketching Anasazi ruins. A household was established in Madison, then subsequently in Milwaukee, on a farm in Mequon, in Minneapolis, in the St. Paul suburb of Maplewood, in Deerfield, Wisconsin where Ralph had accepted a pastoral call, & in three different places in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, packing dishes, a growing number of kids, & dogs at almost every move.

After the death of their youngest child in late 1973, Arleen earned a degree in Interior Design from MATC in Madison, worked for Briese Home Furnishings & established her own interior design business, The Upstairs Room. Starting in 1971 Arleen was an active member of First Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Beaver Dam, where she sang in the choir & served on the banner committee, as well as on numerous other committees (building, worship, visitation, & as confirmand mentor), and sang regularly at Hillside Manor in First Lutheran’s visits there. She traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico, as part of a church mission. She was a curator & board member for many years at the Beaver Dam Area Arts Association Seippel Center for the Arts. She cared deeply about color, balance & the feeling of warmth. Her art quilts, executed even after osteoarthritis caused her fingers to diverge from her thumbs, implied messages through color & texture rather than text; she was keen to interpret what she saw in those terms, & has left us a plethora of fabric. She pursued her love of music by singing in the Oratorio Society, Green Lake Festival Choir, & church choirs. She loved to travel with either Ralph or friends, & went to many states & countries visiting their children, their friends & the sights. She greatly enjoyed the last dozen or so years in the first home she & Ralph had finally owned, where she was determinedto keep up the flower gardens, rake the lawn, sweep or shovel the driveway & hang out laundry on the line so as not to use electricity. She was active & energetic well into the evening hours until such time as she fell asleep with a cup of tea (with honey!) at her side.

Each of her children knew her as mother, friend, encourager of your talents & of bettering yourself, a snappy dresser & maker of a home. Her grandchildren knew her as the host of elegant tea parties, the maker of creative & useful fiber art, & the baker of delicious treats. A faithful mother, spouse & friend, with a deeply generous spirit, admired & enjoyed by all those who knew her, she was always ready to smile & laugh, & to bake you a loaf of banana nut bread.       

Her final two years were spent in the caring oversight of the staff of Hillside Manor, to whom we are very grateful for its affectionate and skillful service. She cheerfully greeted fellow residents, participated in baking & song, and shared a room with her beloved husband. Arleen is preceded in death by her parents, son Joseph, grandson Ryan & husband Ralph. She is survived by her brother Jerry Calbaum; a number of dear cousins; sister-in-law Gloria (Wiedenhoeft) Strauss; children Ruth (John) Walker, William (Kathi), Glenn (Mary), Paul (Kathleen), Christopher (Ruth), & Kurt (Stephanie); more than a dozen & a half grandchildren & a couple handfuls of great-grandchildren; as well as numerous close friends.

If, as Joseph Addison said, “The three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, & something to hope for,” then Arleen was that happy person.  

Visitation is Monday morning, February 22nd, from 9am until the beginning of the Memorial service at 10:30am, both to be held at First Lutheran Church, 311 West Mackie St., Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, followed by a light lunch in the Fellowship Hall. (A mingling of her ashes with those of Ralph’s & subsequent interment is being planned for late May of 2016.)

Memorial donations are suggested to the Beaver Dam Area Arts Association ( or to First Lutheran Church in Beaver Dam (

Cornerstone Funeral & Cremation Services, 135 Keller Blvd., Beaver Dam is honored to be serving the family. You may send private online condolences or sign the family’s guest book at


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