Willard Arnold Hoeft, born May 31, 1915, died December 30, 2012, in New Hope, Minnesota, at the age of 97.
Willard was born to John and Augusta Hoeft and was raised in Lake City, Minnesota. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he married his sweetheart, Rosella “Sally” Gasteyer, and enlisted in the Navy. A Ham Radio operator during the time that radio was “high tech,” he was recruited to be a member of the Navy’s first RADAR repair school. Willard was assigned to the USS Strive, a mine sweeper, and saw action in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy. Upon returning to New York City, he received an Officer Commission as Ensign. He served through the end of World War II at the Brooklyn Naval Yard.
After the war, Sally and Willard returned to Minnesota, where he was employed by Northwestern Bell Telephone Company. Ultimately he became central office foreman of the Winona telephone office. During Winona’s record 1965 flood, Winona’s telephone service was threatened because its power supply was located in the telephone building basement. By having dozens of wells drilled around the telephone building, and pumping around the clock, he and his co-workers kept the basement and the basements of several nearby downtown buildings dry, avoiding a prolonged loss of telephone service for the city. In 1969-70, he assisted the transition of Winona’s telephone service from a system with four and five digit phone numbers to the seven digit numbers and direct long distance dialing we know today. He retired from Northwestern Bell and continued to reside in Winona until shortly before his death. Willard was a member of Central Lutheran Church. He belonged to the Westfield Golf Club, the YMCA, the Winona Ham Radio Club (W0QXK), American Legion Post 9, Telephone Pioneers of America, and was a charter member of the Mine Warfare Association.
Willard is survived by Sally, his loving wife of 71 years; children John Hoeft and Pat Brown; daughter-in-law Nancy Hoeft, son-in-law Jim Brown; grandchildren Katie Hansen and her husband, John, Matthew Hoeft and his wife, Jen, Phillip Brown, Annie Brown, Marin Hoeft and Michael Hoeft; and great-grandchildren Alexis Hansen, Josh Hansen and Shelby Hoeft. His gentle nature and devotion to his family will be missed by all.
Services will be held at Fawcett–Junker Funeral Home, Thursday, January 3, 2013, at 2 p.m., with visitation beginning at 1 p.m. Placement in the niche will be at Woodlawn Cemetery, Winona, Minn.
Military burial honors will be provided by the American Legion Post 9 at the funeral home.
Memorials in lieu of flowers to St. Therese of New Hope Care Center, 8000 Bass Lake Road, New Hope, Minn., 55428, where Willard was cared for with compassion, love and respect for most of 2012.
Words of sympathy or remembrance may be left at www.fawcett-junkerfuneralhome.com. Services entrusted to Fawcett-Junker Funeral Home and Cremation Service, Winona.