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Remembering Charlotte Hoecker and her legacy of living to the fullest in Wausau

Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 7:14 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Saturday, people will take time to honor a Wausau treasure. About two weeks ago, Charlotte Hoecker died at the age of 92. She was involved in three choirs, numerous volunteer opportunities like mobile meals, but she is best known for her love of teaching ice skating.

Charlotte designed her life around her favorite activity. Her father taught her to skate on Arrington Lagoon in Evanston, Ill. when she was 4-years-old and she was hooked.

“My sister and brother liked it, but I loved it,” Hoecker told NewsChannel 7 in an interview in 2016 celebrating 70 years of her teaching skating.

She and her husband lived in several states, the warmest being Dallas, Tex. Five years in Texas was long enough for Hoecker because there were no indoor ice rinks available there. They had to move to a colder climate so they could keep up their skating. They had four children, two boys and two girls, when they settled in Crystal Lake, Ill.

“They bought a house in Crystal Lake with a big enough yard and they made their own skating rink for almost 10 years,” Marian Hoecker-Hahn, Charlotte’s third child said, “and that’s where Mom taught skating lessons.”

She also ensured each of her children learned to skate too.

“I was old when I started skating... I was like 6 or 7,” Henry Tilden-Hoecker, Charlotte’s oldest son said. It really does sound old when his youngest sister, Sarah Hoecker says, “I was 26 months old when she put me on skates.”

The philosophy Charlotte carried through her life is that no one is ever too young or too old to skate.

“If you can walk, you can skate. So, there’s no excuse,” she exclaimed in a 2013 interview with NewsChannel 7.

Charlotte Hoecker, 84 at the time, glides on the ice as she teaches students of all ages.
Charlotte Hoecker, 84 at the time, glides on the ice as she teaches students of all ages.(WSAW Tom Zurawski)

Hoecker moved to Wausau in 1979 for more convenience for her husband’s work and because of the many recreation opportunities in the community, especially the skating rink.

“She started their basic skills program here in Wausau,” Sarah Hoecker stated, adding Wausau really became home to her after that.

“She was a very exacting instructor,” Carole Machek, her skating friend stated.

Machek called Charlotte her coach. The two met about nine years ago, shortly after Machek moved to Wausau. She saw the add for ‘Skating with Charlotte’ and gave it a try. It was the first time Machek learned Charlotte’s attention to detail.

“We got off the ice and she said, ‘How long have you had those skates?’ And I said, well, since I was 15. She said, ‘Well, I think you’ve gotten all of the use you need out of them. We’re going to go buy a new pair of skates,’” she laughed.

Charlotte was known to advocate for people getting new skates.

“It’s not the ankles, it’s the skates,” she said in an interview. She told “Emily 2,” a.k.a. NewsChannel 7′s Emily Davies, who was a student of hers the same thing.

“Did she tell you to go to Goal Line?” Sarah Hoecker asked.

She did. That made her children laugh, “that’s Charlotte!”

Her attention to detail, her persnickety personality, and her energy and enthusiasm to serve others was carried into all parts of her life. She volunteered for things like mobile meals for 30 years, Special Olympics where she always encouraged athletes to finish, and she served her church. She also participated in three choirs: Wausau Pro Musica, Center Stage, and Show Choir.

Her children say she loved music almost as much as she loved skating. Her children say she actually began teaching skating so she could earn the money to purchase a piano, which she had the rest of her life. She sang in Wausau’s first Silver Pageant. Her choirmate who stood next to her for 20 years in Wausau Pro Musica, Liz Corbett, said she never let anything stop her from doing what she wanted to do, like bravely singing a solo for the song “Blessing.”

“She really put everything she had in whatever she did,” she said.

“She was really someone who invested in the community and I think our community is a richer place because of her life here,” Machek concluded.

Her intense involvement and zest for life will be felt too.

“One of the songs we sang throughout the years, ‘Sing Me to Heaven,’ and I think we’ll be thinking of Charlotte in heaven, singing,” Corbett said.

“I’ve never really spent a lot of time here without her either on the ice with me or on the side watching and I don’t know,” Machek paused. “It’s going to be difficult.”

However, the lessons learned from this 5-foot-1... “Don’t forget the half,” her daughter-in-law Marsha Hogg-Hoecker chimed in... tall, spunky lady will continue her legacy.

“Find a passion. Find joy. Find a pair of skeleton earrings and wear them proudly,” Marian Hoecker-Hahn noted along with her siblings.

“Keep your knees bent and always be flexible,” Machek explained as not only a skating, but a life philosophy. “Be flexible. Learn to keep your balance in challenging situations.”

“You’re never too old to try something new and when you do it, give it all you’ve got,” Corbett noted.

“Go ice skating,” her children exclaimed.

And stay forever young in mind, body, and spirit; in her own words, “Part of me has never grown older.”

Charlotte Hoecker 1929-2021
Charlotte Hoecker 1929-2021(Emily Voss, VOSSTUDIOS, Tom Zurawski, Emily Davies)

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Oct. 2 at St John the Baptist Episcopal Church, 330 McClelland St, Wausau, at 2 p.m. A visitation will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Livestreaming will be available at www.brainardfuneral.com. For those attending in person, masks are required to be worn and the family encourages people to be vaccinated.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Special Olympics of Wisconsin and St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Wausau.

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