'Thank you ... for you touched our lives'

  • Article by: Pam Louwagie
  • Star Tribune
  • August 21, 2007 - 10:50 PM

Peter Hausmann's teenage daughter was struggling with her emotions. She'd just returned from a mission trip in Louisiana and when she witnessed the poverty, she felt she hadn't done enough to help. Hausmann gave her the advice that he seemed to live by: You may not have saved the world, but you saved someone's world.

Tuesday, 20 days after his life ended in the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, Hausmann's world came to pay him respect. More than 1,000 people packed the Church of St. Joseph in Rosemount to say goodbye and support his wife and four children.

There were crowds from the church and the school where he taught confirmation classes. There were co-workers and neighbors. There were members of the Kenyan community in the Twin Cities, and relatives from around the world.

The Rev. Thomas Hill stood by Hausmann's coffin and addressed him: "Peter, welcome back to St. Joseph's for the last time," Hill said. "My guess is that you probably are a little bit embarrassed by all the different ... communities and people's lives that you have touched. ... We can simply say thank you for your presence, for you touched our lives very deeply."

Hausmann, who was 47, spent about three years in Kenya as a lay missionary, where he met his wife, Helen. They married in 1990 after corresponding for a year and a half before dating, the funeral program said.

Back in the United States, he volunteered at his church and wherever help was needed, friends said. He and Helen worked on behalf of orphans of AIDS victims in Kenya

When authorities pulled his body from the Mississippi River on Aug. 9, it appeared that he had been trying to rescue people nearby, a source involved in the investigation said then.

It was true to form, friends said. "He was the kind of guy that, whenever you needed help, he would always say yes," said Sister Mary Louise McKenna, who taught religion with him for more than a decade.

Family members said they were overwhelmed by the community's kindness -- meals brought, rides given and everything else. "We were absolutely astounded at the support and the incredible giving of so many people," said Hausmann's sister Rosemary Opbroek, of South Dakota.

Hausmann's oldest daughter and son stood before those gathered at the funeral to describe a little of what they would miss about their father.

His teenage son Andrew described Hausmann's "dad" sense of humor: "We didn't really want to admit he was funny ... but he was always completely hilarious."

He poked fun at the English language, saying to cut things with a "k-nife" or a "skizzywhizzers," Andrew said.

His daughter Justina described how he discussed faith and assured her that her work in Louisiana had helped.

"I'll always be your little twinkle toes," she said. "I love you, Daddy." • 612-673-7102

Pam Louwagie •

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