Former fire chief Norman 'Pepper' Steffen dies at 85
A lifelong Sussex and Lisbon resident, Norman "Pepper" Steffen, died Saturday, March 29, 2014, one month short of his 86th birthday.
He was born on a Lisbon farm off Highway 164 on April 29, 1928, to Otto and Anna Steffen, the last of six children. At about age 6, forced by the Depression, he moved with his family to Sussex where his father became a milk hauler.
The Steffen family was part of the "Lisbon German Invasion" that started about 1880 with the Stiers, Mankes and later the Steffens and Tetzlaffs.
Norman is said to have gained the nickname of Pepper as a youth because his mother made special peppernut hard cookies. Even when he was 85 years of age many people did not know that his baptized name was Norman.
He attended the Lisbon Sixteen School with Miss Thelma Halquist as his teacher. On moving to Sussex he attended Sussex Main Street School, graduating in 1942. He attended the two-year Sussex High School, graduating in 1944, and finally graduated after two more years, in 1946, from Menomonee Falls High School.
Steffen played on the Sussex High School baseball and basketball teams, and later played on the Sussex Land of Puddles and Rivers teams.
He started hauling milk with his father in 1943, and then took over his own route for Golden Guernsey Dairy in a 25-year career.
Steffen joined the Sussex Fire Department in 1950. He entered the Army during the Korean War, and served at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, and Fort Hood, Texas, mostly as a truck driver.
Steffen met his future wife, Joan Cumiskey at a wedding reception for his friend, Charles Zimmermann. Soon after his release from service he and Joan were married. They had three children — Pam, Randy, and Jimmy, who died of cancer at age 11.
In 1950, after he joined the Sussex Fire Department, it became his second home. He held the steward post, and later was a lieutenant and a captain before becoming chief in 1973.
He served as chief until 1975, when he suffered a stroke. While he gave up the chief's position, he was a member of the fire department until 1984, having served 33 years in all.
Pepper Steffen was from a dancing family, and he loved to play sheepshead and cribbage, especially with family members. Just recently he won $5 in a family cribbage tournament.
Steffen was preceded in death by his wife, Joan, who died of cancer in 2004. He is survived by son Randy, daughter Pam (John)Willoughby, three grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Services will be at Redeemer United Church of Christ at 7 p.m. Thursday, with visitation from 3 to 6:45 p.m.
Interment is set for Friday at Pine Lawn Cemetery.
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