Paul E. Hassett, age 92, died Friday, April 16, 2010, after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.
Paul was best known for his services as chief-of-staff for Governor Warren P. Knowles and president of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Association, but he was much more than that. In his life-long love affair with the State of Wisconsin, he touched many lives as a school teacher, editor, coach, mentor, and civic-minded volunteer.
Paul was executive secretary to Governor Warren P. Knowles from 1965-1970, and president of Wisconsin Manufacturer's and Commerce Association from 1970 until his retirement in 1986.
After his retirement he served on numerous boards and committees and as a volunteer at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics. He also served as president of the Wisconsin Vocational School System and on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents.
He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on September 4, 1917, the seventh child of George and Rosealind Hassett, and they moved to Milwaukee in 1925. He was a "four letter" athlete in high school, and won the state cross-country championship in 1934 and 1935. He graduated from LaCrosse State University in 1940, and began his career teaching English at Phelps High School where he met his wife, Charlotte Arians, another teacher from Dancy, Wis. They were married on June 27, 1942, shortly before he enlisted in the Air Force.
Paul taught navigation for two years in Texas, before being sent to Burma, where he made more than 50 flights in C-47s over "The Hump", delivering supplies, mostly gasoline, as well as Chinese soldiers to the battle front. He wrote about and took pictures of the surrender of thousands of Japanese troops to Chinese and American officers at Nanking, China as the war ended.
In 1945 he began teaching high school in Menomonie, Wis., and in 1947, became editor of the Dunn County News. There he met local Republican leaders including former State Senator Robert Knowles and his brother, Warren, who was later to become governor. He involved himself in both of their political campaigns, and was also active as member and president of the School Board, the Federal Housing Board, the Dunn County Selective Service Board, and the local National Guard unit.
In 1952 he was called to active duty as a navigator flying B-29s from Okinawa over North Korea, for 35 bombing missions. On one mission his plane was shot-up badly, with several casualties, but he was not injured. He continued his newspaper column in the Dunn County News from Korea, and returned to the newspaper until 1960.
The family then moved to Madison, where he took a job with the Wisconsin Petroleum Council, holding public meetings of local gasoline dealers in every county in the state, providing many opportunities for local fishing experiences as well. As Charlotte said, "he couldn't pass a puddle without throwing in a line", often with one of his children. During this period he also wrote a state-syndicated column entitled "See Wisconsin First".
Paul left the Petroleum Council in 1964 to join newly-elected Governor Warren Knowles as his executive secretary for six years. He was "gate keeper" for the governor's office, handling appointments, legislative issues, budgets and speeches. He traveled extensively with the governor to the national Governors' conferences and to Europe for the first 21-day trade mission. When Gov. Knowles decided not to seek a fourth two-year term, Paul was asked to lead the Wisconsin Manufacturer's Association, a major association of manufacturers started in 1911. In that position he negotiated a merger with the Wisconsin State Chamber of Commerce, increasing membership from 1,100 to 3,000 in the next five years. He also added the Safety Council to W.M.C., and started the annual "Business School" for high school juniors and teachers during which they learned how business works from business leaders. His last project was to move the W.M.C. Headquarters from Milwaukee, to their own new building in Madison, which opened in 1986, with his retirement. He was renown for his bipartisan values and ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans.
Dad was devoted to his children and grandchildren, teaching them the joys of reading, fishing and traveling. In addition to family he was dedicated to public service, education and the environment, and the betterment of the citizens of Wisconsin. He cherished his friends in the Friday Avenue Bar lunch group.
He was preceded in death in 2001 by his wife of 59 years, Charlotte; as well as six siblings, George, Dwight, William, Howard, Oliver and Rosealind.
He is survived by his daughter, Sharon Lukas (David) of Manitowish Waters; his son, Scott Hassett (Chris) of Lake Mills, and a son, Steve Hassett (Carol Landsman) of Portland, Oregon. His five grandchildren are, Jennifer Lukas-Jackson (Kendall) of Washington D.C., Mike Lukas of Vancouver, British Columbia, Jeff Lukas of Missoula, Montana, Whitney Hassett of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and P. Tyler Hassett of Minneapolis, Minnesota; great-grandchildren are Charlotte and Abigail Jackson of Washington D.C.
Services will be held on Wednesday, April 21, 2010, at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3610 Speedway Road, Madison, with a visitation beginning at 10 a.m. and the service at 11 a.m.
Many thanks to Hospice and the staff at Trinity Senior Community and to the many others who cared for Paul in recent years. Suggested memorials include Hospice and the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.
"Don't weep for me, for I have lived a wonderful life."
Cress Funeral and Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Road