Northeast Iowan legend Art Huber turns 99 Sunday, April 6! He is an inspiration to us all in northeast Iowa! Art usually takes in his daily constitution by walking a block to visit the four generation family owned Huber’s Store in Ft. Atkinson, which his son Don now owns. As a matter of fact, when we caught up to him at his home recently, he was just finishing up the weekly bookwork for the store.
Art is a mover and a shaker of Northeast Iowa when it comes to his community and his age has not slowed him down a bit. Not only did he run Huber’s Store when his father Joseph retired, but was the buyer of the South Winneshiek Golf & Country Club when he and his friends decided to start the club up in 1960, he also watches over St. Anthony of Padua Chapel (Smallest Church) by Festina and does the accounts for the church, has organized the Fort Community band for over 60 years with the Wednesday night jamming sessions, even after he hung up his clarinet, and the list goes on. Art may not be out golfing every Thursday at South Winn, but you can catch him at the card table with his friends now that the season has started. He loves to do the sudkoku puzzles in his daily Cedar Rapids Gazette, plays games on computer and checks on the daily chats on the Notre Dame website, plays cards whenever he came get a game going, and loves to watch sports with his son Virgil and Don most weekends, football being his favorite to watch. When the weather isn’t fit for him to walk or drive, he gets antsy ramblin’ around in his big house his father bought for him and the place where he raised his children, right next door to his childhood home.
Arthur Francis Huber was born to Joseph and Ida (Chizek) Huber on April 6, 1915, completing their family as he joined his older brother Virgil. To help put the time in context, exactly a month later, May 6, Babe Ruth hits his first career home run off of Jack Warhop. Two years later the United States formally declared war against Germany and entered the conflict in Europe. It was a dangerous time to be living anywhere in the world. The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than World War I at somewhere between 20 to 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history according to the Stanford Education website. Yet young Art and his brother Virgil managed to thrive.
Art has always loved sports, something he shared with his father. He loved to play baseball and golf, and already at a young age was good at it. He won his first golf tournament at Oneota Golf Course when he was only 17, playing against adults in a handicap match play He would go on to win several more tournaments during his lifetime. He met Babe Ruth, shook his hand and has an autographed baseball kept in a bank vault. Art’s father drove Virgil and Art to see the legendary Bobby Jones capture the first of his four majors the year of 1930 when the U.S. Open was held in Minnesota. He traveled to Pebble Beach to see Tiger Woods win in California. Art has continued to golf, and at age 93 he was still shooting an awesome 39 (par is 36), something many never accomplished even in their younger days. At age 95, Art took on Matt Haupert of the KWWL sports team on the toughest hole at South Winneshiek Golf and Country Club, hole five during video coverage for a sports segment on the news. Art putted in at 30 feet away for par and the two tied the hole.
Even in the Great Depression his father insisted Art was to go to college. Art was among the eight that graduated from Ft. Atkinson Public School in 1932. There was no other college but Notre Dame for Art whose hero was Knute Rockne, legendary football coach of Notre Dame. In his high school senior year, Knute died in an airplane crash and poor young Art, took the news like it was a death in the family. Even though Knute was gone, Art hopped on a train and headed to South Bend, wanting to follow in Knute’s footsteps and joined the football team there. It wasn’t long before an injury kept Art from playing, but not from the football field, as every Saturday he was part of the marching band. He also played for the Fighting Irish baseball team. He graduated from Notre Dame in 1936 with honors and an accounting degree.
“I married the competition,” says sly Art as he laughs. Art says there were three general stores in Ft. Atkinson at one time. Vivian Moser’s father ran one, while his father ran another. “She kept me waiting and it was hard to be so far away from her,” says Art. Vivian worked as a country schoolteacher to pay off her college here, while Art worked at General Motors in the accounting department. The high school sweethearts who share the same birthday were married August 12, 1940. Vivian died of ovarian cancer in 1984 at age 67.
Art has kept a diary since his college years, just like his mother did. He recalls looking back at the journal entries when they were first married living in Norwood, “Found out wife is pregnant, thinking November 20 the baby may arrive” and when he checked back at the journal, Art had predicted correctly as their first bundle of joy was baby boy Joe arriving into this world on November 20th, the first of five. Joe followed his father’s footsteps and went to Notre Dame before entering law school at Stanford and now is a judge in San Jose, Calif. Art made sure all five of their children, Joe, Cathy, Tom, Don, and Bill went to college. Don continues the Huber Store legacy as the fourth generation to own and manage the store since 1876.
After the war Art’s father was ready to retire. He was thinking of selling the store. Virgil and Art decided to come back and take over the store, later Virgil retired and Art brought in his son Don, who now owns and manages the store.
Of all the legendary people Art has met over his lifetime, he is grateful to have come back to Ft. Atkinson to be with the greatest people around, his community. And the community feels the same about Art and thanks him for all he has done, from continuing the family business, buying land to start the country club, watching over the historical family church, and organizing music nights in Fort. Art has become a legend in his own right, as he touches all who know him. If you would like to send Art a birthday card, his address is: P.O. Box 8, Ft. Atkinson, IA 52144.