Hausmann family: Peter remains their role model

  • Updated: July 28, 2012 - 9:13 PM
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Helen Hausmann’s husband, Peter, was killed when the 35W bridge collapsed, leaving Her to raise the couple’s children (David, Andrew, Justina and Theresa) alone.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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Peter Hausmann, 47, died in the collapse. His car fell into the water. Authorities found his body eight days later. They told the family that he was half inside another car, and it looked like he was trying to rescue someone. He is survived by his wife, Helen, now 45, and children Justina, 21; Andrew, 19; David, 14; Theresa, 12.

In the bustling suburban Rosemount house that Peter Hausmann's wife and four children still call home, his spirit is thriving along with them.

"You see his personality so much in every one of my kids," said his wife, Helen. "They could be talking or making jokes or running around, and I will really see him -- right there -- in each one of them. I wish that they can see it like I do."

Peter was Helen's soul mate and guide after they married in her native Kenya and moved to the United States. A computer consultant, he handled many of the household tasks: bookkeeping, small house repairs, ferrying children to school activities because Helen doesn't drive.

The couple worked as a team in raising their children. They celebrated their 17th anniversary the year he was killed.

Almost immediately, the community rushed to their aid. The family is still in awe of the kindness. Without being asked, neighbors cut their grass. Friends drove the children to school activities. Members of the Church of St. Joseph prayed with them, sent cards and called to check in on them.

But even with all the support, Helen knew it would be up to her and the children to forge ahead with life.

The older children, Justina and Andrew, took on more responsibilities: They helped the younger two with homework, drove them to school events and learned to fix jammed doors and computer printers. The younger two, David and Theresa, pitched in with more house and yard work.

"Our adjustment was a little fast, and quick adjustments like that, you have the bumps in the road that are always going to be there, and if you go over the bumps too quickly, sometimes you feel like you're going to fall out of the car," Andrew reflected. "But we got there, and we've stuck pretty good."

The children used their father's longstanding encouragement to propel them in achieving their goals in life.

Justina graduated from high school with honors in academics and music and attends the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Andrew won academic and athletic honors in high school before going to Harvard University, where he competes on the track team.

The family visited relatives in Kenya a few times. There, they learned more about Peter's generous spirit, including how he had given young Kenyans money for tuition and bought them school uniforms.

He is still the family's role model.

"How can I live my life in a way that I know would make him proud?" Justina asks herself. She has made several mission trips, just like her father did. "I talk about him all the time as though he's still here. ... I need to talk about him."

Andrew never saw his dad give up on anything, a principle that guides him. Like his father would have done, he volunteered to help dig a well for his family in Kenya.

"We're just capable of so much more than we usually give ourselves credit for," Andrew said. "There is no other way. I just go straight and never look back."

Helen says the children have kept her strong. She is proud of what they're accomplishing.

"It makes me feel like, Wow! He's not gone," Helen said. "I know, 'Peter, you may be gone, but you're still here always, in the words of your children, in their behavior.'"

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