Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr.
A transient farm machinery repairman who took up residence in the Lincoln House has pled guilty to the murders of two women in Merrill and has been sentenced to life in prison. Wayne Leslie Smith, 30, who last lived in Minnesota, has been in custody since shortly after the Dec. 6, 1973 murder of Hye Son Hanke and had originally pled not guilty of the crimes by reason of insanity. Special Agent John Schulz, an investigator from the state, testified that Smith confessed to the murder of Hanke and Katherine Schmidt, who was found dead in her apartment after a fire on July 14, 1973. Smith told Schulz that he began following Hanke after she left work at the House of Hibachi restaurant in the basement of the Lincoln House and grabbed her in the 200 block of Hendricks Street. Smith related he murdered Hanke after assaulting her so she could not identify him. In the Schmidt murder, Smith said he broke into the girl’s apartment and murdered her after she resisted his efforts to date her. Schmidt worked at the now defunct Fin and Feather Restaurant, also located in the Lincoln House. (Smith spent the rest of his life in Wisconsin prison before dying in 2012. He never had a visitor the entire time he was there, and if he was paroled would have gone to Minnesota to serve a life term there for murdering another young woman).
Two long time city employees retired this past week. After 36 ½ years working for the water utility, Howard Sayers spent his last day at work on Friday. Sayers will still be on the payroll through March as he uses up his vacation time but he will start his retirement spending time in Florida with his wife Jean. Sayers began working for the city in 1937 as a fireman at the Third Street water pumping station along the Prairie River. The city pumped the water from the river, chlorinated it twice and then held it in a settling tank before pumping into the city water mains. Sayer recalled one of his earliest duties was listening for fire calls and then sounding the fire whistle to alert the volunteer firemen in town to the fire. Short blasts on the whistle identified which ward the fire was in. The city began buying land for wells in 1948 with the first well at Ott’s Park and three more were added along with the water tower ending the city’s use of the Prairie River as a water source in 1949.
Elmer “Madam” Kleinschmidt will retire his badge this month after serving 28 ½ years on the police department. Kleinschmidt has become a familiar sight to Merrill residents as he walked his beat on the east side business district. He joined the force in October of 1945 when he was 31 years old. Kleinschmidt stated his most memorable experience was dealing with the murder of police captain Elmer Krueger in 1952. Krueger even told Kleinschmidt after his shooting “see Elmer, that’s what you get for not wearing a gun.” Kleinschmidt said the city has not changed much since he joined the force but the police station did. “We did not have much more than a desk when I joined,” he said. Although he is retiring, Kleinschmidt won’t be erased from the public view; he is running for alderman in the ninth ward unopposed and has accepted a part time job at the Lincoln County Bank. He and his wife Grace reside at 1500 E 2nd Street.
Sister Jeanne Marie has announced visitors are no longer being allowed at Holy Cross Hospital due to the flu bug.
The murder trial of Joseph Kasmierski has entered its third day in Lincoln County Court. Kasmierski is charged with the June 20, 1983 murder of Ronald Dittmer, 29, of Tomahawk. Kasmierski has been in custody since shortly after the shooting at the home of Dittmer’s ex-wife on South Tomahawk Ave. Dittmer died as a result of two shotgun wounds at close range. The two men had reportedly been arguing immediately prior to the incident. A jury of seven men and five women are hearing the case as presented by Lincoln County DA Christopher Coakley. Kasmierski is defended by attorney Richard Olson, and Judge J. Michael Nolan is presiding.
Sister Mary Charles has advised visitors are not being allowed at Holy Cross Hospital if they are showing any signs of the flu or a cold.
The first ever city wide talent show was a huge success. The event, sponsored by the Good Samaritan Health Center, was held this past Saturday at the Merrill Senior High School Auditorium. Following opening remarks from Dr. Todd Hehli, master of ceremonies Wayne Smith directed the acts on stage. Audrey Taylor and Carol Green were the co-directors for the “Review.” Opening acts included the Odyssey Brass Quintet, Christie Nurre and Starr Evans doing their Forensics selection; the Merrill Child Care Singers, Dave and Carol Finanger on the violin and harp; the Park City Barbershoppers; the Community Theatre Juggler Act and Mary Jo Warchala and Andy Ament’s vocal duet. In the second set, three groups from Dorinda Rasmussen’s Dance Studio performed, violinist Derek Smith accompanied by Shelly Nulton, and the Faculty Dixieland and Jazz Band rounded out the evening. Refreshments were provided between sets by the Good Samaritan Health Center Auxiliary.
Page seven holds the obituary for former city and school band director Fredric Mumma. Fred was born on Nov. 25, 1917 in Whitewater and came to Merrill in 1952 when he began teaching and directing the band until retiring in 1980. A veteran of the US Army, he served in China during World War II; he was a retired Colonel in the Wisconsin National Guard with his last assignment being commander of the Wisconsin Military Academy. In 1961 he was sent to Fort Lewis, WA, with the Wisconsin 32nd National Guard during the Berlin Crisis. He served as the band director for the City of Merrill for 27+ years. The funeral was held today at St. Stephen’s United Church of Christ with Rev. Dale G. Kuck officiating; burial took place at Merrill Memorial Park.
Researched by Michael J. Caylor Jr.