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Greenfield town board member, set to turn 99, re-elected after 3 decades, lifetime of service
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Greenfield town board member, set to turn 99, re-elected after 3 decades, lifetime of service

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Greenfield Town Board Supervisor John Goeghegan, who turns 99 on June 15, sits on the porch of his home Monday along Steinke Road. Goeghegan, a World War II veteran and retired Sauk County highway commissioner, has dedicated much of his life to public service and encourages others to get involved as well.

Town of Greenfield Board Supervisor John Geoghegan has spent his life in public service.

Born at home in Baraboo in 1922, Geoghegan went off to fight in World War II at 20 years old. When he returned, Geoghegan eventually became Sauk County Highway Commissioner and served in that position for three decades before retiring in 1993.

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It was in those final years as commissioner that Geoghegan decided to help out by serving on the local town board.

“There was a vacancy and I thought I could do some good,” Geoghegan said. “And I must have, because they keep putting me back there.”

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Geoghegan, who will turn 99 June 15, was recently re-elected after 30 years on the board.

“It’s something to do,” Geoghegan said, laughing. “I feel that I can serve the people in the township in a capacity that I have some experience in.”

Geoghegan has served under three town board chairmen. Current board chairman Terry Turnquist has been the longest. He started on the board in 1997 and has been the leader since 1999.

Turnquist referred to Geoghegan as “quite the character” and acknowledged his vital contributions to the board, especially when discussing roads.

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“He can make you laugh, he’s got a very good sense of humor,” Turnquist said. “But he has his serious moments too.”

Turnquist, who served as a firefighter for 32 years and division fire chief in Madison, said he and Geoghegan have both lived lives that put dealing with an angry constituent into perspective. Turnquist ran into burning and collapsing buildings. For Geoghegan, it was the chaos of war, where he said he saw “too much” combat.

Geoghegan went to basic training in Louisiana and Texas before flying to Europe to fight as an Army infantryman in France and Germany, where he was shot by enemy fire. While recovering from his wounds at the former Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan, Geoghegan met a nurse named Jane Allen. They were married in April 1947.

“I knew a good thing when I saw it,” Geoghegan said.

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When Jane died in 2012, he said she reflected on a lifetime of laughter.

“Two days before she died, she said, ‘We sure have had a lot of laughs, haven’t we?’ And we did, we laughed at each other and with each other,” Geoghegan said.

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After leaving the Army, he worked as a gravel truck driver and the pair settled down in their rural Baraboo home along Steinke Road which was “an old shack here that we about froze to death in,” Geoghegan said.

Together, they raised three daughters and three sons while operating a farm. With a breadth of experience fixing and maintaining highways, Geoghegan decided to run for a seat on the board and represent the town he had lived in most of his life.

“They graciously let me look after the roads,” Geoghegan said.

He continues to look after those stretches of asphalt by offering insight brought by decades with the highway department, Turnquist said.

“He keeps all the road building companies honest,” Turnquist said. “He can be pretty tough when he has to be.”

Geoghegan stays active even as he approaches a century of life, maintaining a wood workshop at his home and by attending meetings to deal with issues like road maintenance and concerns from residents. A recent push for ATVs and UTVs on highways has become a topic of town conversation, like much of the rest of the county.

He said after serving as highway commissioner and as an elected official, Geoghegan knows there will “always” be conflict in public service, but taking the time to ensure the town operates at its best is essential.

“It’s important to me,” Geoghegan said. “And on top of that, I enjoy it.”

Geoghegan said everyone should serve on town boards or in some type of municipal government position to see how every day decisions are made.

“It’s a good experience to see how local government is run,” Geoghegan said. “I think in the rural areas, it’s very important that both men and women serve in that capacity.”

Turnquist credited Geogehegan as a person who has “spent a tremendous percentage of his life” serving his community and his country. He agreed that arguments will arise over important decisions, which can be troubling, but it is a necessary job.

Geoghegan said he knows he won’t be on the board forever and said someone could take his seat and the town would be unaffected, but some people who are a good fit for the position may be hesitant to take a seat. He encouraged them to step forward.

“I think local service is very important,” Geoghegan said. “It has to be done. Very capable people are out there, but some of them need a little push.”

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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