An 80-year resident of Altoona with a passion for Eau Claire area athletics will turn 104 on Friday.
Even at 103, Wisconsin native Harry Boehm still makes it to many Altoona and UW-Eau Claire sporting events, said Kevin Boehm of Eau Claire, Harry’s son.
“He loves all of the sports in Altoona,” Kevin said.
Harry, several family members and Grace Lutheran Communities staff and residents celebrated his upcoming birthday with a celebration Tuesday at Prairie Pointe Rehab Suites in Altoona.
Before moving to Prairie Pointe, Harry happily lived on his own, said Harry’s son-in-law James Ganrude of Eau Claire.
But the move hasn’t stopped Ganrude and Harry from heading to Harry’s favorite place: The front rows of local gyms, courts and ballfields.
“I retired in 2011 and since then, we’ve just been on the trail,” Ganrude said Tuesday. “It’s the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds, all the softball whenever the weather (allows), women’s basketball, volleyball and all the Altoona sports, boys and girls.”
Harry’s love of baseball stemmed from his childhood: Born near Mosinee on July 12, 1915, Harry was a star hitter on his town’s baseball team, Ganrude said.
Though he didn’t attend UW-Eau Claire, Harry has forged a longtime relationship with the university: His late wife Rose Boehm and his seven children are all alumni.
His children all work in teaching and administration, Kevin said.
Harry attended so many on-campus sporting events that several Blugold athletics staff members and athletes consider him the program’s top fan, said Blugold Marketing and Promotions Director Clare Hohman.
“We don’t charge him any admission, ever,” Hohman said. “He’s older than the university and he paid for all those kids to go to school here. He gets to come to any sporting event free.”
Hohman even nominated Harry for the university’s Honorary Alumnus Award. He received the honor in May.
The UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association gives the award people “who have demonstrated great love of and service to UW-Eau Claire or the greater community,” according to the university’s website.
Harry’s dedication made him an obvious choice, Hohman said.
“He came to every home volleyball match, climbs the bleachers and goes right to the top,” Hohman said. “The guy is unbelievable.”
After injuring himself in a fall, Harry could no longer attend the games without a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop the athletes from coming to him.
“When he was in the hospital after he got hurt, several (women’s volleyball) players and the coach visited him in the hospital, and had their photos taken with him when they won the conference title,” Hohman remembered. “The teams have embraced him.”
After the fall, Harry moved in late 2018 to Prairie Pointe Rehab Suites in Altoona.
“He’s a wonderful, appreciative, sweet man,” said Prairie Pointe activities director Linda Holzhausen. “He’s got a deep faith and he reads the newspaper every single day.”
For Harry, who celebrated an early birthday with Mass Tuesday morning, there’s no magic secret to living over a century.
“I eat the right foods, and my wife and I walked for 20 years,” he said. “Walking every day helps very much.”