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Albert Willis Bott, age 89, of La Crosse Wis. and La Crescent, Minn. passed away September 5, 2014, at Gundersen Hospital. He was born in 1925, the oldest son of Willis Lucas Bott and Helen Gertrude (Poehling) Bott of La Crosse. He was preceded in death by his brother Lawrence Bott and his wife of 62 years, Harriet Carolyn (Netzel) Bott. He will be missed by his surviving brother, Clement A. Bott (Karol Schlosser Bott), his six children, Carolyn Ann Bott of La Crosse, Susan Marie Bott of Onalaska, Kathryn Jean Salazar of Seattle, Wash., Laraine Rose Fraley of Mankato, Minn., Margaret (William) Andersen of Onalaska, and Michael John Bott of Oshkosh, Wis., his grandchildren Shiloah (Benjamin) Baker, Genevie (Matthew) Doyle, Julia Parks, and Bobbie , Heywood, Phillip and Curtis Fraley, Joseph and Samuel Andersen, Andrew and Ashley Bott, and numerous great grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins.
After graduating from Aquinas High School in 1943, Albert Bott volunteered for duty in the U.S. Army. His unit, Company C of the 243rd Engineer Combat Battalion, was assigned to a mine-clearing and road building unit of General George Pattonâ€™s Third Army. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and onward through France and Germany, and helped bridge the Rhine and the Danube Rivers. He witnessed the horrors of the first concentration camp freed by the Allied Forces, at Ohrduf, Germany. He was awarded two overseas service bars, the American Campaign Medal, the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze battle stars, the Good Conduct Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. Albert Bott was modest about his service. He never mentioned his awards, and when pressed for details, questioned why he survived when heroes perished. However, in 2013, he was selected to join other veterans on a Freedom Honor Flight to the memorials in Washington D.C.
After WWII, Albert Bott attended the University of Wis., graduating with a degree in Agricultural Science. In Madison he met Harriet Netzel of Crandon, Wis., and they married in 1950, built a home in La Crescent, Minn., and raised six children. He worked most of his career at the Trane Company Laboratory until his retirement in 1987.
Albertâ€˜s life centered on church, and charity, and home. A member of the Cathedral Men and Boy Choir in his youth, he later sung tenor in local choirs, including La Crescent Crucifixion, the Resurrection Choir, and St. Patrickâ€™s in Onalaska. He was a Knight of Columbus, regularly working school fundraisers and transporting disabled veterans to Mass.
Albert cherished the local wilderness, believing it was Godâ€™s natural cathedral, inspiring faith and renewing the spirit. He was familiar with the names and habits of native animals and wild flowers, and trees. He advocated protecting natural resources so they could be enjoyed by future generations, and taught countless people to enjoy the outdoors in a responsible manner while hiking, boating, camping, fishing and hunting. The volunteers of the Boy Scout group in his youth guided him on the path to the Eagle Scout Award, and he spent his remaining years passing his knowledge forward. He advised a La Crescent Boy and Girl Scouts and the Gateway Area Council, teaching canoeing, camping and orienteering.
Albert aspired to be a good role model to his children. He and Harriet raised six children in the Roman Catholic faith, and the second row of the La Crescent Crucifixion was filled with six scrubbed and polished children every Sunday–and on time. He mixed that faith with joy and optimism. Sunday afternoons often included a winter hike, a campfire, tobogganing, or best of all, skating on the Pettibone Park ice rink. In retirement he finally found time for woodworking, gardening, and reading.
Albert was a quiet hero to the end of his days. He and Harriet had vowed to remain together for better or for worse, through sickness and health, good times and in bad. As their health failed their caring for each other grew deeper. They sold the family home, lived with their daughter Susan in Onalaska, and eventually need nursing care. Albert endured the loss of Harriet in 2012, and explained to his children that now his purpose on earth must be to show the children how to bear great grief with dignity. Three months later he was diagnosed with Alzheimerâ€™s disease. Again, he committed himself to enduring with dignity. Although he had to relive the death of his wife, and endure mental confusion, he kept a cheerful demeanor, with a smile and a joke for the doctors, nurses, volunteers and patients with whom he lived. As his mind failed he remembered that his â€œjobâ€ was to attend the memory and physical therapy classes, and be kind to all he met. The day before he passed away, he smiled and laughed while eating cherry ice cream, though he could barely rise from his chair. On his last day he was wracked with pain, but when asked how he was, responded â€œI am just fine.â€ Now he is.
The Bott family is grateful for the compassionate care from Causeway Interfaith Caregivers, Bethany Lutheran Homes, Clare Bridge Memory Care, Gundersen Hospital, Gundersen Hospice, and the many volunteers who helped him and his family on this final journey.
A visitation will be held at St. Patrickâ€™s Catholic Church, 1021 Main Street, Onalaska, Wis. in the gathering space on Saturday, September 13, 2014, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., and a funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 in the church with Military honors following the Mass by the Gittens Leidel American Legion Post 595. A private interment will follow at a later date.
Memorials may be sent to the Albert Bott Family in care of Blaschke & Schneider Funeral Home at 1501 West Avenue South, La Crosse, Wis., 54601, or to the donorâ€™s charity of choice.
The Blaschke & Schneider Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.
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