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New Ulm loses one of its greatest lovers

Journal file photo George Glotzbach, a tireless promoter of New Ulm, pictured here waving to the multitudes who turned up to honor him during his last birthday celebration Aug. 4, died Tuesday at his home in New Ulm.

NEW ULM — New Ulm lost one of its greatest lovers when George L. Glotzbach, 89, died peacefully at his home Tuesday.

The news filtered into the newsroom slowly Tuesday afternoon. His childhood friend, Elmer Rolloff was the first to call, remembering his childhood days with George.

“We were very good friends. He lived at 22 S. Washington St. I lived at 22 S. Franklin St.,” Rolloff said. “He was a neighborhood magnet. He was very generous and had lots of toys. His home had a basement with carpets and painted walls. I had a concrete floor. A couple of the younger boys that played with him lived on a dirt floor in their house.”

“I always enjoyed George,” Elmer said. “I remember walking home from school with him every day, spending nickels and pennies at stores on the way home.”

Rolloff said George retired in New Mexico a few years ago, then decided to move back to Minnesota. He came to see Rolloff first.

“George drove right to my shop and said he was going to move to Minneapolis,” Rolloff said. “I told him, he knows New Ulm, New Ulm knows him, and he’ll enjoy it. He stayed here.”

The New Ulm High School Class of 1949, Glotzbach’s class, had its 72nd class reunion just last week. George usually called The Journal about it and ensured a photo was taken.

“George couldn’t make it (he was ill last week), so a few of us went to his house and took the photo,” Rolloff said.

Just last month, friends showed up to help Glotzbach celebrate his 89th birthday. A surprise drive-up celebration was held for him.

George called the event “one of the best moments of my life.”

An old-time band including Dane Moldan, Adam Munstermann, and Lee Weber played “Happy Birthday” in his driveway.

Glotzbach sang German songs with the band. He added some words of wisdom.

“With all my health problems, I will live to the fullest and take pride in what I am still able to do, as long as I can,” George said. He continued singing with gusto.

If it had anything to do with history, the arts or politics, George was probably involved in it.

Brown County Historical Society Research Librarian Darla Gebhard had a lot to say about Glotzbach.

“He was a great man. A gentleman. Very politically savvy, he knew how to get things done. New Ulm was lucky to have him,” Gebhard said. “When George called me and told he was moving back to New Ulm, he said he would move here, land on his feet, join things and become active. That is exactly what he did. At a late stage in life. He left his mark on many things. He always had a list. He was a very strong supporter of the Brown County Historical Society (BCHS) and the Wanda Gag House Association.”

Gebhard said Glotzbach was so interested in Wanda Gag, he would call Gebhard and tell her about what he found.

“He was looking for her artwork when he lived in Baltimore,” Gebhard said. “He made a large donation to the BCHS and Wanda Gag House Association and served on their boards.”

New Ulm Mayor Bob Beussman said he will always fondly remember Glotzbach.

“He was quite the gentleman. When something was going on, you’d see him in his lederhosen, pushing New Ulm. He loved history and was upset when things didn’t look quite right to him. He’d do research on issues and most of the time, he was right.”

Denis Warta of New Ulm had similar feelings.

“It’s a sad day. No one was ever more active in the community. He was a true New Ulmite. Very proud of New Ulm history,” Warta said. “When he told you he was going to do something, it happened. He loved his German heritage like no one I ever knew. He was very meticulous about making sure it was factual.”

Theater director Paul Warshauer said Glotzbach was his friend for a decade.

“As soon as I arrived in New Ulm, I was told he was the man to talk to about history, politics and the arts. We were actually working on a new project about German expressions for Americans in New Ulm. We’ll finish that project in his honor,” Warshauer said. “George supported the middle school (housing) development project and was one of its first investors.”

State Street Theater Company Board of Directors member Mark Santelman of Winthrop added his thoughts.

“For those of us who think New Ulm is the greatest city in America, George Glotzbach is a kindred spirit,” Santelman said. “George loved New Ulm intensely and was a marvelous ambassador for all things New Ulm. I will miss George deeply.”

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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