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Two Ossian KCs earn 70-year pins
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Art Hemesath, Bill Dessel
‘Every person has to live his faith; by being a KC, it gives him a chance to do it.’
Bill Dessel, Ossian
By Rich Holm
It was a historic presentation in Ossian recently when not one, but two Knights of Columbus members were awarded their 70-year pins.
Actually, Art Hemesath joined the Catholic fraternity one year earlier than Bill Dessel. Both men are lifelong Ossian residents.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was president when Dessel and Hemesath joined the fraternal benefit society. They and other members have never strayed from the KCs’ founding principles, which are charity, unity, and fraternity.
Art is age 89. It was his father, Henry, who was a KC first and wanted his son to join. Together they farmed until Henry died when Art was young. Art left school after ninth grade.
Hemesath would start a milk route before serving two years in the Navy. He came back to Ossian to build a roller-skating rink, which he operated for 22 years when all of northeast Iowa flocked to the town of 800 to skate to the Grand March.
Art never left Ossian, selling steel buildings and then running an auction house that packed the town.
Hemesath raised six kids, Cliff, Rick, Ron, Rodney, Luann, and Arlinda. When asked how many grandkids he has, Art answered, “A mess of ’em. I think I have more great-grandchildren. I would have to get all my pictures and start counting.”
Art once served as the Grand Knight for the Ossian KCs, whose membership was very high when he joined. Art noted that as many as 40 men would attend meetings.
“Ossian was our home, and we benefited it in many ways,” recalled Art. “I remember a successful turkey raffle we had. We drove a truck down to Bob Nieskern’s, who raised turkeys. We crated up 35 of the birds.”
He added, “Our families joined in during most of the activities, as we hosted Christmas parties and had picnics in the summer. Those were the best of times; everyone was proud to call Ossian home. We all wanted to make it better, and we did.”
Dessel will be 89 in April. He graduated from St. Francis DeSales High School on June 6, 1941. On June 6, 1948, he was presented his diploma from Loras College.
But it was in 1941 when Bill joined the KCs, as he remembered, “All the KC candidates went to Mass. It was Sunday, and I remember it being a very nice day.”
From the church, the KCs went to the Ossian Opera House, which later became the KC Hall after the organization purchased it.
Dessel started out with his dad in John Deere and Ford Motor Co. dealerships, which Ossian had. Bill would become an insurance man for most of his life.
But he has held Ossian dear to his heart for his entire life. He and his wife, Elsie, raised nine children, Frank, Nancy, Richard, Tom, Peter, Lorna, Margureite, Jean, and Susan.
“They gave Elsie and I 16 grandkids and three great-grandchildren,” Bill smiled.
Elsie died three years ago, six years shy of the couple’s 58th wedding anniversary. She was heavily involved with the Catholic Daughters, the wives of KC members.
“The charitable work the Ossian KCs have done over the years is too numerous to mention,” Bill said.
His 1941 Ossian graduating class had 13 members. Only he, Gene Graff, and Clete Bodensteiner remain.
“We were all taught by the nuns from Mount St. Francis in Dubuque,” Bill pointed out. “The sisters all had master degrees, and we got such great educations studying Latin, math and English.”
Art Hemesath and Bill Dessel only have great things to say about Ossian and the KCs, who have been a big part of the community.
If someone wanted to join today and would ask Bill why he should join the organization, Dessel has the perfect reply for the young man, saying, “Every person has to live his faith; by being a KC, it gives him a chance to do it.”