Fr. Loehr, who turned 87 on June 30, loves the game so much that – over the last 20 years – he donated his own personal trust to the community of Dotyville to build a baseball diamond and pavilion. A sign next to the ballpark includes his name and picture, along with the quote: “The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; an opponent, tolerance; your child, a good example; all men, charity.”
It’s a saying that appears to echo the life work of Fr. Loehr. He grew up on a corn farm two and a half miles from Dotyville, with his parents and eight siblings. It was there that he discovered his love of America’s national past time.
“When I was a kid in the ‘40s, we played baseball in a cow pasture, south of Dotyville,” he explained. “Then a farmer donated 20 acres of land to the Forest Athletic Club in Dotyville, and they sold lots along the highway and St. Michael Church bought a big area and they built a hall there; now, it’s a junkyard,” Fr. Loehr kidded. In between hoeing corn on the family farm and attending St. Michael Elementary School, he worked on perfecting his pitching arm.
Although he was an avid player, becoming a professional ball player never rivaled his dream of joining the Air Force to become a pilot during World War II. His mother, however, told him that it was too dangerous, and so he began to explore other vocation options.
“I enjoyed serving the Mass and I enjoyed working with the pastors, so I went to St. Lawrence and Saint Francis seminaries” to become a priest, he explained. Fr. Loehr spent six years (including high school) at St. Lawrence Seminary in Mount Calvary, later heading to Saint Francis Seminary, St. Francis. He was ordained June 7, 1947 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee.
Fr. Loehr served parishes in Milwaukee, Port Washington and Beaver Dam, before moving to St. Theresa in Theresa, which he describes as “the suburb of heaven.” He spent 25 years as pastor of the congregation before retiring in 1992.
While Fr. Loehr has many happy memories from the parishes he served, his favorites were always associated with the social gatherings.
“Fiftieth wedding anniversaries and graduations from the school – those were terrific times. They helped bring the parish together in a happy way,” Fr. Loehr described.
During his 45 years of ministry, he never lost his interest in baseball. He retired to Mullet Lake in Dotyville, a creek that runs to Sheboygan Falls, where he built a small house. He became involved with the community and once more attended games, but he noticed a need within the seven teams formed at that time through the athletic club.
“They needed (a new field) real bad,” Fr. Loehr said. Knowing that he had a charitable trust, Fr. Loehr put that money to use right away, instead of waiting until after he died to distribute as needed. He donated money for the community to build a pavilion adjunct to the clubhouse, and about five years later purchased three acres of land so they could build an additional ball field, which was later named after him after the field was complete, 10 years ago.
“Oh, they were enthused!” Fr. Loehr said, describing the reaction of community members. “Now they could play all the games on the weekend. Oh no, they were very happy. In fact, if I didn’t do it, I think they would have forced themselves to borrow money to do it, because (baseball) was so great and still is.” With the pavilion also came toilet amenities, cooking facilities and a concession stand.
In addition to donating money, Fr. Loehr sponsored the Forest Athletic Club’s seventh and eighth grade girls’ baseball team for years, although “that wasn’t too hard. I didn’t coach them; just helped to keep their uniforms cheaper,” he laughed. As a thank you, the team gave him a chair which he occupies during every game with “#1 Fan” printed proudly on the back.
“When we were kids, girls couldn’t play,” Fr. Loehr said, describing why he chose to sponsor the community team of young girls. “They all washed dishes and played volleyball. Now, they’re terrific.”
Tom Roehl, president of the Forest Athletic Club, has known Fr. Loehr for 15 years, and describes him as a generous priest.
The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball team at St. Michael Parish in Dotyville needed new uniforms, so Fr. Loehr “told me to go buy them a new set for them and send him the bill,” Roehl said. “He’s great.”
“He’s all about what amateur athletics is all about,” Roehl added. “He just wants to see the kids have fun and have a place to play ball. He enjoys coming up and watching the games and cheering the kids on. He just wants to see the kids have fun.”
During the summer, the park and pavilion are a whirlwind of activity as teams from all over the community come out to play. Fr. Loehr himself used the pavilion to celebrate his 50th and 60th anniversaries as a priest, with an outdoor Mass celebrated in the good-sized structure with parishioners, friends and relatives present for the special occasion. As a retirement present, parish members from St. Theresa created a blanket with 120 square- foot names under which he sleeps every night.
“We wouldn’t have the facility we have now without his generosity,” Goebel said about Fr. Loehr.
Steve Roltgen, a friend of Fr. Loehr’s for 25 years, acknowledged that Fr. Loehr has been generous monetarily, but he said what really matters to people is that he’s so generous with his time.
“Fr. Chuck’s love for baseball is second to none,” he said. “He loves to watch the kids play and that’s probably the most joyful time of his retirement – watching the kids play ball.
“I think it’s wonderful that he supported that kids and gave them a place to play on. He’s always at every game.”