RACINE, Wis. — With a life-loving grin almost permanently curled on his ruddy face and a mischief-making twinkle in his eyes, Joseph Fink is no grim, grave German.
Even now, at 93 years old, Fink will unleash a Bavarian yodel or a German drinking tune at the drop of a felt Tyrolean hat, The Journal Times (http://bit.ly/2cLCNOX ) reported. He’ll deliver jokes and life lessons in genial, gentle, slightly accented English. The loudest laugh in the room invariably comes from him.
After almost a century on Earth and 60 years in Racine, Fink still loves his family and making new friends. He loves sitting in his small backyard garden off Yout Street and thinking about something close to nothing.
And he really loves beer.
Fink can drain a draft with the best of them. While he prefers the lager of his hometown of Traunstein, Germany — made under strict national purity laws — he’ll settle for whatever is nearby. Or cold. Or in the glass handed him by a new friend.
“When I came to Racine I had to get used to everything,” said the garrulous nonagenarian. “The beer wasn’t that good. I really had to get used to that.”
To get his fill of pilsners, lagers, and almost any other kind of beer, Fink heads to the Great Lakes Brew Fest, organized by his nephew, Racine resident Curt Foreman.
Fink has attended every Brew Fest so far and intends to make it 13 straight on Saturday when the 2016 Brew Fest will be held at the Racine Zoo.
“They’re expecting me,” said a smiling Fink while raising a tall glass of Paulaner, a German Weiss bier made in Munich.
“He’s the mayor of Brew Fest,” said Foreman, who also helped organize Racine’s HarborFest back in the day. “It is pretty amazing. He’s a 93-year-old guy in the body of a 78-year-old man.”
“My family has always supported my crazy ideas, and Joe has always been there,” Foreman said. “He’s like my security blanket. I know if he’s having a good time, pretty much everyone else is having a good time.”
For Fink, having a good time is another way to stay young. He lives by himself in the house he and his late wife, Theresa, built when he came to Racine in 1956. He tends the garden and does the laundry. He loves taking pictures and has more than 700 Facebook friends.
“It’s all about staying busy,” he said.
Fink came to America in 1956, following his wife’s sister and her husband — Curt’s parents, Howard and Philomena Foreman.
During World War II, Fink was a German paratrooper. He served in the army’s elite airborne corps but was captured at Normandy during the D-Day invasion. He spent almost four years as a prisoner of war in Canada.
After being released he was transported to Great Britain and returned to Germany in 1946. Former German soldiers had to wait six or seven years to emigrate to the United States. He finally arrived in Racine in 1956, got a job at the Downtown J.C. Penney, built a house, had two daughters and has been here ever since.
“Germans don’t move too much,” Fink said. “In my hometown, everyone knew everyone all the time.”
Foreman said his mother always wanted to be an American. But Joe and Theresa, he said, kept the German traditions alive for the family.
“They did the German cooking, the baking,” he said. “They did German Christmas. We went to their house and got all of that.”
A German custom Fink passed on to his nephews is what he calls the “slowing down.” When life gets too hectic for Curt, and his schedule gets overloaded and there seems to not be enough time to finish everything, Fink invites him over. He brings out the German cold cuts, some wurst, and nice, soothing beer. They sit in the garden and think about almost nothing while enjoying the day.
“Reminds me of the days when everyone went to the beer garden to relax, eat, drink and listen to music,” Fink said. “You can’t race all the time. Sometimes you have to pause and enjoy.”
Information from: The Journal Times, http://www.journaltimes.com
An AP Member Exchange shared by The Journal Times.