Shelby Keefe reflects on her time as the Pfister Hotel’s resident artist

Shelby Keefe has been the Pfister’s resident artist since April 2011. As all great things eventually come to an end, her studio torch will be passed to Timothy Westbrook in April 2012. Shelby and I had been trying to get together and talk for a few weeks and it turned out to be a good thing we couldn’t meet until this past Monday. When I walked in to her studio Shelby was standing in front of a painting. She had her hands on her hips and kept shifting her weight from one foot to the other. Then she’d cross her arms, and “hmm,” before returning the hands to her hips.  Her head tilted slowly from side to side, and alternated between looking above and through her glasses. The painting she contemplated was the largest I’ve seen on her easel.

It turned out she was at work on her legacy piece, the one which will join the Pfister Hotel’s vast permanent collection. The painting was complete, but was the painting FINISHED? Was it ready to be signed? The artist was still deliberating. I don’t want to ruin her unveiling by telling you what the piece looks like, but I will tell you the unveiling party is scheduled March 27th (more details to come). Until then you’ll have to stop by and try to figure out which canvas in her studio will rest for all time next to works by Reginald Baylor and Katie Musolff.

While Shelby contemplated the piece we talked about her time as the Pfister’s resident artist, and by the miracle of modern technology you can listen in to our conversation. Simply click the Play button below. She discusses her process of creating a painting, how she knows when a work is finished, and her experience while working as an artist on display.

If you’d rather download the piece and listen on your mp3 player, smartphone, etc. simply click the DOWN pointing arrow on the right side of the player and the Download option will appear.

Shelby Keefe reflects on her time as Pfister Hotel resident artist by Ed Makowski

The Pfister Hotel Names New York Fiber Artist Next Artist in Residence

Timothy Westbrook

MILWAUKEE – Feb. 21, 2012 – Historic tradition meets today’s talent with The Pfister Hotel’s Artist-in-Residence program. Home to more Victorian Art than any other hotel in the world, the historic hotel, which is owned and managed by Marcus® Hotels & Resorts, has hosted a popular artist residency program for the past three years. The Pfister’s selection committee has chosen Timothy Westbrook, an emerging fiber artist from New York, as its fourth artist in residence. He will move to Milwaukee for this opportunity and will work in The Pfister’s studio space beginning in April 2012, replacing current Pfister artist Shelby Keefe. Westbrook will remain at the hotel for one year.

“Drawn to The Pfister by the artistic and historical reputation of Milwaukee, I am honored by the invitation to spend a year developing my artistic voice in this unique setting,” says Westbrook. “While at The Pfister, I plan to weave cloth out of various organic and repurposed manmade materials, including items like cassette tapes, sculpting them into costumes and fashion while pulling from the inspiration of the hotel and the Victorian Decorative Arts period. I am excited to watch my weaving and costumes evolve under the inspiration of the artistic energy in Milwaukee and in the hotel.”

A recent graduate from Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY, Westbrook is a fiber artist who focuses on costume, performance and installation art. He uses fairytale themes as an environmentalist analogy. He implements his sustainable studio practices by using re-purposed materials for his work along with low-impact equipment; his favorite is a non-electric treadle sewing machine.

“We’re thrilled to welcome our first out-of-state artist to the program,” says Joe Kurth, general manager of The Pfister Hotel. “The program has been gaining national attention in the last couple of years and we’re proud it has attracted talent like Timothy’s. Selected through the juried panel process based on his impressive skill, engaging personality and unique point of view, we’re eager to introduce him and his work to our guests.”

Westbrook was one of six finalists included in the public voting period, which ended last week. In addition to the public vote via Facebook, Twitter, and in-person ballots, a selection committee, consisting of leaders in the local art community, made the final decision in choosing the next artist in residence.

For video slideshow of some of Timothy’s portfolio please visit:

About The Pfister’s Artist-In-Residence Program

Entering its fourth year, The Pfister’s Artist-in-Residence program features a working art studio and gallery that is open to hotel guests and visitors. The program encourages the public to interact with the artist and witness the evolution of each piece first-hand.

Over the past few years, The Pfister has received national attention for its Artist-in-Residence program. Since 2009, the hotel has been a member of the Alliance of Artist Communities,, an international association of artists’ communities and residencies featuring a diverse field of more than 1,000 programs worldwide. In 2011, The Pfister’s residency program was highlighted at the organization’s annual international conference.

The program’s current artist is Shelby Keefe (2011-2012), Past artists include Katie Musolff (2010-2011),; and Reginald Baylor (2009-2010),


Reflections of Remarkable Milwaukee

Last Monday January 28th an event was held at the historic Pabst Theater,which is just a stroll down the avenue from the Pfister and Intercontinental. The evening was titled Remarkable Milwaukee and gathered many of Milwaukee’s innovative business leaders, successful creative types, and championing envisionistas. The group relaxed on stage while seated on Victorian couches to discuss their visions for our city’s future over coffee and cocktails. The occasion was also a fundraiser for Historic Milwaukee, a non-profit whose goal is to both increase awareness of Milwaukee’s architecture and preserve our built environment.

In front of a packed house the participants discussed issues and positives within our city. Many issues which are not unique to Milwaukee. Ways to maintain our unique existing architecture while making it fit inside the box of modern use. How to attract and retain both businesses and skilled labor to the city. How do we make productive space out of industrial buildings which may no longer house the industry they were built by (This always makes me think of our enormous Cold Storagewarehouses sprinkled along the riverbanks). The urban education elephant in the room. How to rebuild any city’s areas of urban blight. The discussion was a unique gathering point for intellectuals who wanted to do more than demonize cities with a fast attack of scary soundbites. I gathered that they viewed cities were a gathering point of culture, art, work, and living and there was no need to work in an environment miles away from where one lives. That this city is a great trove of activity and history, which is and will be as fantastic as we decide to make it. Our quilt, per se. Within the hour of conversation nobody arrived at rushed conclusions, and I don’t think it was the goal.

The Pabst Theater was an entertainingly appropriate location to discuss Milwaukee’s health and future. Before existing as The Pabst the venue had been called The New German City Theater, and had been built by Frederick Pabst. However this structure burnt down in 1895. When word reached Captain Pabst he wrote back from a European vacation, “Rebuild at once!” and within a year the Pabst Theater stood.

It seemed serendipitous that exactly one week later I met a couple named The Williams’ from Philadelphia. We were sitting in the Pfister lobby lounge and a conversation struck up about beer. Talk regarding microbrews between a bartender and two fans of what made Milwaukee famous pours easy and quickly spills over into other topics.

They were well-versed in restaurants around the Downtown area, microbreweries, the East Side, Bay Vew. This lovely retired couple was already familiar with nearly all over my favorite corner establishments. I finally asked how they’d become so acquainted. “Oh we own a condo over near Brady Street. We come here several times throughout the year for a week or two at a time. Milwaukee’s our retirement city.”

I asked what drew them to Milwaukee as a retirement town. They don’t have any family ties and neither of them had spent much time working in Wisconsin. It was more simple than I might have guessed. They’re big baseball fans so they come in to watch games and like to ride their bikes to the stadium. From Brady Street they can take the Lakefront trail through Lakeshore State Park (the park between Discovery World and Summerfest grounds) and bounce around to connect with the Hank Aaron Trail just across from the Harley Davidson Museum, which heads straight by Miller Park.

Ms. Williams explained that they’d shopped around in Florida and Arizona but they found that although those states offered Baseball’s Spring Training the climate was too harsh for any daytime activity other than sitting and watching baseball. Plus, when they do have to get in the car Milwaukee is an easy and quick place to navigate.

In addition we have restaurants and night spots offering a level of quality to which they’ve grown accustomed on the East Coast. Galleries, museums, other sporting events, music festivals. Culture, I suppose, if you want to boil it down to one word.

After shaking hands and saying good night talking with the Williams’ made me chuckle. It seemed they epitomized many of the points this discussion panel had been trying to touch on the week previous.

In the early 1960’s the Pfister Hotel reached a crossroads. After years of neglect and mismanagement the landmark was scheduled for demolition. To the chuckling whispers of many Ben Marcus purchased the Pfister. He saw the value in this building and decided to not only save the structure, but invested in the future of the location. To him the Pfister Hotel was more than a stack of bricks and a number on paper. It represented a potential. Now here I am sitting in the lobby lounge. Talking with a couple of transplants who enjoy remarkable Milwaukee as their retirement playground.

All these years later it appears that if you build it they will come.

Details, in photographs

So much of the Pfister Hotel is about details. See if you can pick out where I took some of these photos. A cheat list is included at the end. Happy Hunting!


































































































1. Frame Detail, 2nd floor

2. Face on a planter in the lobby

3. 2nd floor chandeliers

4. Light and shadow compliments of a chandelier

5. Entrance to Mason Street Grill

6. Door frame detail of the freight elevator

7. Table setting at Mason Street Grill

8. Detail of metalwork on a table near the 1st floor ATM

9. Light and shadow detail from a light near the Mason Street entrance

10. Letter box detail across from the Cafe at the Pfister

11. Lobby mural and plaster detail

12. Rainy Reflections by current resident artist Shelby Keefe

13. Signature on painting by Henri Matisse in Mason Street Grill

14. Radiator guard in Wisconsin Avenue entrance

15. Railing

16. Looking at the front desk

17. Floor mosaic outside of 8th floor South elevators in the original Wisconsin Avenue building

18. Detail of ornamental railing between the 7th and 8th floors

19. “Down” light for the 8th floor south elevators. There is no “Up” light because you’ve hit the top!

20. Entrance to Cafe Rouge

21. Thanksgiving menu from 1899 on display in the 2nd floor mezzanine

22. Chrome polished to such a shine that one can see their own reflection





A brief history of Spring Street, Grand Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue

Bridges crossing the Milwaukee River in Downtown Milwaukee

The Pfister Hotel is located on Wisconsin Avenue and sandwiched between Jefferson, Milwaukee, and Mason Streets. 424 East Wisconsin Avenue to be exact. That may seem like a simple enough fact; Wisconsin Avenue is a main street through the heart of downtown Milwaukee, a city not coincidentally located in the state of Wisconsin. However the history of Wisconsin Avenue is not as simple as one might guess. It’s actually a tale of Spring Street and Grand Avenue. To understand the story we actually have to delve into a tale of two cities. (Technically three considering George Walker and Walker’s Point, but for our immediate purposes only two are necessary to reference.)

Solomon Juneau relaxing for the camera.
Byron Kilbourn sported quite the beard.

Solomon Juneau was born in Quebec, Canada and arrived in Milwaukee in 1818. Juneau made his fortune as an employee of the American Fur Company. The American Fur Company was named by another man also imprinted in Milwaukee, John Jacob Astor. Upon moving to what we now call Milwaukee Mr. Juneau learned to speak fluent Menominee and Potawatomi before learning English. In the 1830’s the fur business was starting to appear less fruitful compared with real estate and Solomon had a ground floor opportunity to begin developing. The place where three rivers converge upon an enormous lake is not bad positioning for the start of a city. His portion of land was between the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan and he opened an outpost store. Shortly after Juneau became the city’s first postmaster. He went on to be Milwaukee’s first elected mayor.

Byron Kilbourn arrived later than Solomon Juneau. He didn’t show up on our shores until the 1830’s. Kilbourn had already been involved with real estate in Sheboygan and Manitowoc and from the start seemed to have a much wider scope than Solomon Juneau. By comparison Kilbourn had more of a “fat cat” scope for his Milwaukee plans. Even though Chicago holds the title of the Windy City, Byron Kilbourn’s town was pretty liberal with bribes and corruption. Eventually Kilbourn’s railroad company was exposed for bribery relating to railroad land acquisition.

Looking west on Wisconsin Avenue. Notice the angle of the bridge across the Milwaukee River; crooked to accommodate for the angle of the two streets. This was taken during a 1919 parade.

In 1837 both men officially dug in their heels and named their plots, predictably, Juneautown and Kilbourntown (come on guys, a little creativity?). Competition between the two cities eventually came to a head during the Bridge Wars of 1845. Milwaukee’s east side is effectively an island between Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River. Bridges are a necessity to get to the larger mainland. Byron Kilbourn and the residents of Kilbourntown hoped to freeze Juneautown out of access to the mainland. A resolution was reached to build a new bridge as the current network of bridges was deemed inadequate. But Kilbourntown refused to share in payment for the bridge’s construction. Residents of each side spent weeks voicing their opinions. Eventually violence erupted and in protest residents smashed and burned two of the existing bridges. Eventually each side concluded they needed one another and merged to become the City of Milwaukee in 1846.

What does this have to do with street names? While each side of town operated independently they developed their own road system. They even laid their roads at different angles so their streets wouldn’t easily meet with one another.

Painting "Bridge War" by Clarence Monegar.

Spring Street was called such due to the luck of a spring that existed on the street prior to indoor plumbing. The street also came to be called Grand Avenue. The Grand had, and still does possess many theatres, department stores, and other entertainment. It’s likely the name was also a result of the grand mansions built farther West on the street (such as the Pabst Mansion). Eventually everyone agreed on Wisconsin Avenue and the Pfister has it’s current home at 424. Voila!

My favorite lady lives on the 2nd floor

Georges Jules Victor Clairin's "The Dancer" gracing the 2nd floor mezzanine of the Pfister Hotel. Yep she's my favorite. Le sigh...

My mother has always had portraits of women around the house. Her taste for paintings and sculpture spans the 1870’s up to early art deco. Overall she’d probably list Monet as her favorite painter. I grew up with these ladies hanging around so they’ve probably influenced which variety of painted ladies I find attractive and prefer to have in my walled company. I’m sure Freud would have plenty to say…

The art collection encompassed in the Pfister is the world’s largest hotel art collection on permanent display. Given that the hotel was initially completed in 1893 most of the hotel’s artistic style dates from near this time period.

I asked the Pfister’s Chef Concierge Peter Mortensen if he could fill me in on a little about Georges Jules Victor Clairin’s “The Dancer,” and he had plenty to whet my curiosity. But first I was lambasted for not knowing much about Sarah Bernhardt. Allow me to explain…

Clairin was a French painter who began exhibiting at the Salon in 1866. For folks like myself who haven’t yet visited Parisian museums or galleries, The Salon was an annual showcase of France’s premier academic artists. From what I can conclude the Salon shows fell in prominence around the rise of Impressionism. Impressionist art of the time was not generally accepted into the Salon shows and may account for it’s gradual skid in importance. Impressionists such as Cezanne, Monet, Degas, and Renoir are household names but I had to look up the Salon. I guess history shows who won that debate.

Georges’ specialty in painting became the female form. He loved to paint lavishly costumed women. Dancers and costumed actresses became models, muses, and lovers.

Clairin's rendering of Sarah Bernhardt as Ophelia. To be clear this piece is not possessed by or displayed at the Pfister Hotel and is merely shown for purposes of comparison.

Sarah Bernhardt was an actress. Well, more correctly she was the actress. From her very start Sarah Bernhardt is a story not easily discerned. Sarah is believed to have been born in 1844 as Rosine Bernhardt to a mother named Julie and an unknown father. She began acting in the mid-1860’s but her birth papers were lost in a fire. She became Sarah by creating falsified birth documents. By the 1870’s her star grew to the point that she was known simply as “The Divine Sarah.” Bernhardt was the most sought-after actress of the time and traveled to the United States and Cuba to perform and teach aspiring lady actresses. Along the way she got married, had children, was known to sleep in a coffin (method acting preparation), got divorced, lost a leg to gangrene, had affairs, (in no specific, often overlapping, order) and performed exhaustively until her death in 1923.

Clairin ended up painting Ms. Bernhardt’s likeness several times. He often rendered her while costumed. Our concierge Peter explained that at one point Mr. Clairin and Ms. Bernhardt shared a house in the south of France. Although Georges Clairin is probably best known for painting Sarah Bernhardt, she is far from being the only woman to see the end of his paintbrush. Walk up to our second floor mezzanine to see the beauty my photograph of “The Dancer” cannot replicate.

As for Ms. Bernhardt, I’ll give you one guess where she stayed in Milwaukee.

Resident Pfister artist Shelby Keefe gives walking art tours Fridays and Saturdays at 4pm (Or by prior appointment, stop by her studio on the first floor to schedule directly with her). Tours are free and open to the public.


Your City Through Visiting Eyes- “Absolutely Gobsmacked!”


The other night I was sitting in the lobby lounge editing photographs on my computer. Something a bar patron said caught my ear and made me laugh. I don’t remember what exactly he said, but the gentleman’s tone and volume invited anybody within earshot to join. Hearing my chuckle he turned around, delighted that another was entertained by his observation. As he approached my table with a glass of beer in hand I closed the screen on my laptop and returned the machine to it’s case.

See that white whale tail in the distance? It's a piece of artwork masquerading as a museum.

Wayne was this fellow’s name and he was in Milwaukee for a very brief stay. Wayne is the director of a company called SMAC Technologies and they’re located just outside of Adelaide, South Australia. SMAC is an acronym for Shaw Method of Air Conditioning. Wayne’s company recently won the Australian Clean Technologies Ideas Competition and he was in the U.S. to spread word of his company’s innovative take on the cooling process. As you might guess air conditioning in Australia isn’t a mere creature comfort; when living there it’s something closer to necessity. Imagine grandparents retiring to Florida without air conditioning. Not likely.

Straightaway Wayne told me he was “absolutely gobsmacked” with Milwaukee. Throughout our conversation it amazed me the sort of reverence Wayne had for the opportunity to visit our part of the world. He remarked, “With Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, Honeywell in Minneapolis, Carrier a bit farther in Syracuse, it’s very exciting for me to visit what can be considered the birthplace of my field of study.” I’d never quite thought about our region that way, that far back. I suppose the Midwest was a vital epicenter of the industrial revolution. One’s definition of hometown is specific to their experience. Milwaukee’s always been where I’m from and to hear someone so impressed made me think more critically about the prominence of this city.

My new acquaintance told me that he’d walked five blocks east on Wisconsin Avenue to see the moving sculpture we call an art museum. Strolled his feet in the sand on the public shores of Lake Michigan, the 5th largest body of fresh water in the world. Came back and sat at a bar sampling beer that was brewed within walking distance. He then traveled in an elevator and slept in history’s first building to feature individualized temperature controls in each room. Ensconced in indigenous Cream City Brick. Absolutely gobsmacked indeed.

I suppose living in the same place for a long time can be like marriage. You wake up in the morning and consider your sleeping wife’s adorable curl above her right temple. You go about the morning routine and while in the shower think of how the relationship has evolved but you still love those dimples on the small of her back and admire her stubbornness (most of the time). After toweling off you walk down the hallway to mention her haircut, but her words arrive first. She asks how one of the kids is getting home from soccer practice. In your mind you envision the soccer schedule and forget about her hair, her dimples, her cleft chin. Her calf muscles’ perfect taper toward the ankle. You imagine sitting in the car while driving to soccer practice. That car should have the transmission fluid changed. Before winter. Better buy a snow shovel by December, the old favorite’s blade is too curled to be of use any longer (but shall remain lovingly displayed in corner of the garage). Do the gutters need to be cleaned of autumn leaves before snow and ice? We have to remember to go ice skating at Brown Deer Park this winter… “Oh, yes, sure I can pick them up from soccer.”

I was born in Milwaukee, my parents too. My dad graduated from Granville High School, my mom Brown Deer. Same school, but the town’s name had been changed from Granville to Brown Deer. Brown Deer Park is one of 9 public golf courses in Milwaukee. At nearly 750 square feet per person our city ranks 8th for park acreage in the United States. Lake Michigan is free, public, and welcoming your presence. Olympians train at the Pettit. We host the world’s largest music festival. We offered electric temperature control to the world.  We invented the typewriter and consequently the QWERTY keyboard. From a list of 30, Milwaukee claims 3 of the country’s top restaurants. Wayne is right, there are no shortage of reasons to be absolutely gobsmacked with Milwaukee, regardless if you call it home.

I suggest spending some time at the lakefront- because you can, because it’s yours. It’s even more lovely in winter. Or visit a new park you’ve yet to see. There are 136 in Milwaukee.  And go tell your spouse something. The something only you know.

Generations of Serendipity Swirl Through the Pfister

It’s not every day a person informs you the place you work probably had a hand in their family escaping the Holocaust.

This past weekend the Pfister was blessed to host the wedding of Mr. Wiley Norden and Ms. Marissa Mullen. Marissa recently followed her career to Chicago but left her heart in Milwaukee. With the man willing she decided not only to marry in Milwaukee but wanted their big day to contain components specific to the city. Area beer, wines, and cheeses were par for their course and Marissa wanted them to be encompassed within a prominent Milwaukee landmark. When looking at potential locations the Pfister surfaced as a viable option and once dates were nailed down schedules meshed. But Marissa had yet to discover the deep connection her family had with the Pfister Hotel.

The postcard Marissa's great-grandfather sent home in 1938. The Mason Street tower behind the 1893 structure wasn't added until the 1960's.

In the interim Marissa’s mother, Sharon, inherited a treasure trove of family letters and correspondence, some of which were sent to and from the “Old Country.” In their case Sharon’s family were German speakers native to Czechoslovakia. Sharon has yet to learn German so the text itself didn’t tell much of a story. Except, however, one postcard contained an old photograph of the Pfister Hotel, dated 1938. This immediately piqued Sharon’s curiosity, given that her daughter had decided to hold her wedding at the Pfister.

Sharon’s grandfather, Ernest Prager, (therefore the bride’s great-grandfather) owned a wool coat and glove lining company in Czechoslovakia and in the 1930’s began branching the family business beyond Europe. No one is certain why he was in Milwaukee but at the time Milwaukee created more leather garments than anywhere else in the world. It’s likely Mr. Prager was meeting with the Pfister and Vogel Tanning Company to discuss business and stayed in Charles Pfister’s flagship hotel.

As history has revealed the 1930’s in Europe was shaping up to be a bad time and place for those of Jewish heritage to continue to safely raise their families. Mr. Prager could foresee the political winds and started looking for a place to relocate his family. Ernest came to the United States to establish business contacts and begin the process of gradually moving his family to the States. They ended up moving to Gloversville in Upstate New York, and, yes, the town’s name is quite literal. The Prager family moved to where there was an ample supply of gloves requiring imported leather, which became Ernest’s new line of business.

Charles Prager, son of Ernest and Valerie, met his wife Harriet in Gloversville. After marrying in 1947 the couple moved to Milwaukee where they gave birth to three lovely daughters; Sharon (Marissa’s mother), Renee, and Diane. No one quite knows whether Charles realized his father had spent time in our city.

The Pfister of 2011, complete with the rear tower and parking structure installed in the 1960's. The Milwaukee Club sits across Jefferson and behind the photographer is the Federal Building.

So…fast forward to 2011. Ernest Prager’s great-grand daughter Marissa meets Wiley. Wiley is an absolutely suitable suitor and the two decide to marry. Wiley and Marissa choose the Pfister Hotel for the place to invite their families to join together. But they make the decision without being aware that her great-grandfather stayed here decades previous to moving to the U.S. while beginning the process toward citizenship.

Before I get too mired in kismet let me say Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!


Thanks to Wiley Norden and Marissa Mullen for allowing us to share in their special day and to Sharon Mullen for telling us her family’s connection with the Grand Dame of the West. Please give a listen on the player below to hear Sharon Mullen tell her family’s story.


Serendipity swirls around the Pfister by Ed Makowski

A Message from Joe Kurth, General Manager

At this special time of year looking ahead to the holiday season we are especially thankful for the overwhelming support for the Pfister in our Brand Madness final four run.  It is a true privilege to have been voted as not only Milwaukee’s number one hotel brand within the contest, viagra but also as one hotel to have reached the final 4 of the 64 other outstanding partners within the community.  Your public support and votes are appreciated, and our entire team is humbled and appreciative of you taking time in multiple voting rounds to show how much this special hotel means to so many.

For over 118 years the Pfister has been proud to continue Charles Pfister’s original vision as a “Palace for the People”, ask and also our founder, Ben Marcus’ tradition of “People Pleasing People”.  These traditions are alive and well based on the comments and support received from: our many past guests that have stayed overnight, enjoyed a meal or spa appointment, or simply walked through the hotel for family photos during the holidays; our friends across the country at Historic Hotels of America and Preferred Hotels; our statewide supporters within the Department of Tourism and Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association; the many college students helping champion the message of travel led by our friends at UW Stout and other campuses; the thousands of you joining in the campaign through our social media connections; our friends at Marcus Theaters; and certainly the overwhelming pride shown by our associates and their families over these past weeks.

A special thank you to the Business Journal for the campaign itself – allowing us a platform for increasing our engagement and sense of partnership with so many over these recent weeks.

After a tight voting battle in the recent victory for the Milwaukee Art Museum, let’s shift our support to them in their championship match with Associated Bank.  Vote via the link below and let’s close out this contest with the iconic Art Museum leading the way as the gateway for many future visitors to join us in downtown Milwaukee!

Veterans Day at the Pfister

Patrick's hat and cocktail resting on the bar while resident mix maven Valerie serves guests.

This past Saturday I asked Pfister Chef Concierge Peter Mortensen (found out chef translates to “chief,” and not strictly the cuisine variety. Yep, I asked.) to grant me a tour of a few rooms and unique suites. The Pfister is actually two buildings, the initial 1893 Wisconsin Avenue building and the 1960’s tower addition which stretches the hotel to Mason Street. I wanted to get a feel for the subtleties of each. Saturday morning there was time prior to check-in so Peter and myself raced around the two buildings. Just in case…Knock knock knock. Knock knock. “Good morning, Concierge…”

After my whirlwind tour I sat in the lobby lounge and ended up meeting David and Patrick. These wonderful Polish “Sout-Side” gentlemen were in town for the Veteran’s Day parade. Amongst many things we talked Milwaukee history, state politics, brandy. Growing up David and Patrick’s neighborhood on the South Side featured a deli which carried several different types of European sausages. A Hungarian made the Hungarian sausage. A German immigrant ground and cased the bratwurst. A Polish employee…and so on.

What stuck with me most was Pat’s experience during his tour in Vietnam. He explained that there was one day which defined his time serving there and his life as well. Pat graciously allowed me to record him telling the story he doesn’t tell very often.

It’s pretty rare that the storyteller relays something so serious as, “I feared for my life. Then…I feared nothing,” and by the end is laughing from his belly. My new friend Pat is a class act.

This interview originally aired Veterans Day 2011 on 89.7 WUWM during the Lake Effect show. To listen simply click play below.

My barometer for if an interview is this simple criteria: After arriving at my destination, would I sit in the car to hear the end of the story? If yes, then the work is worth sharing with people. If no, then I chalk it up to a learning exercise. This one is definitely “sit in the car” worthy.

To all of our veterans- Thank You.

Patrick’s Vietnam story told at the Pfister Hotel for Veterans Day 2011 by Ed Makowski