Alumnus visits UW-L’s tribute to veterans

Alumni Larry Ganske, ’77, and Ed Ganske, ’41

From left, Alumni Larry Ganske, ’77, and Ed Ganske, ’41, stand inside UW-L’s Veterans Memorial Stadium Hall of Honor, completed with the goal of honoring veterans in 2009.

Alumnus Ed Ganske, ’41, looked out from a suite atop the new UW-L stadium. He remembered the repetitious football drills he performed about 70 years ago out on the field. He remembered the glory of leading his team as captain in the 1941 Homecoming football game against UW-Superior.

The game of football hasn’t changed much, he says. The 94 year old still talks football strategy with his grandson, a coach at Eau Claire Memorial High School.

But this campus — the place where he played it — looks a lot different. Ganske attended UW-L when it was called La Crosse State Teachers College. He majored in physical education and coaching — an educational path that led to participating in athletics and coaching throughout his life.

With the building of the new stadium and Veterans Memorial Stadium Hall of Honor, it seemed like the right time to come back to campus, explained Ganske’s son Larry, ’77. The two visited UW-L’s tribute to veterans on Sept. 16 and then took the Freedom Honor Flight to visit memorials to veterans in Washington, D.C., the next day.

It was an emotional trip — one in which his father was recognized for his years of service, notes Larry.

Ganske was drafted in July 1941, right after graduated from La Crosse State Teachers College. After basic training, Ganske led calisthenics on a ship full of GIs traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to an airfield in England. There he loaded oxygen units on B-17 Bombers, was one of the athletic directors on base and helped facilitate the intramural sports program. In 1945, Ganske came back to the campus and met with Walter Wittich, director of physical education, who helped him land his first teaching and coaching job in New Mexico. He eventually moved back to northwest Wisconsin where he taught and coached for the rest of his career.

UW-L’s Veterans Memorial Stadium Hall of Honor

UW-L’s Veterans Memorial Stadium Hall of Honor, located inside the entrance of the stadium, was dedicated in Sept. 2009. Inside the Hall of Honor, TV monitors play a slideshow of war experiences, including the stories of local veterans. A smaller replica of the “Three Soldiers” sculpture at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is on display. It is estimated that, to date, $750,000 raised from private gifts has been allocated for construction, finishing, technology and ongoing operations for the Hall of Honor, says Natalie Olsen, UW-L Foundation Program Associate.

About the Freedom Honor Flight

Freedom Honor Flight is a La Crosse-based organization founded in April 2008. The goal is to fly veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials that stand in their honor. Read more information here.