Elizabeth (Lemke) Ries (Mrs. Joe Ries) lived for 101 years, 99 of which were lived in the large 1880s-era home on the northwest corner of Silver Spring Drive and Waukesha Avenue.
She had a tragic start in life, and then faced some tragic coincidences later on. But she was a survivor and a doer, and she died with great memories of her long life in Sussex as a community booster.
Always involved with the youth in Sussex, she helped set up a Sussex Teen Club, and funded an open basketball night at the Sussex Community Hall in the 1960s. It was part of her longtime membership in the very first Sussex Park Board, once Sussex Village Park was bought in 1958.
Elizabeth Lemke was born April 18, 1915, in Milwaukee to Catherine and William Lemke. Shortly afterward, her father William was killed by a runaway horse and his wife Ann could not take care of Elizabeth and her sister, Marie. The sisters (infants) were shunted here and there, until they ended at their aunt's place, Anna Tutzke's home in Sussex on Silver Spring Drive, in 1918.
Henry and Anna became the step-parents while Catherine Lemke worked in Milwaukee and visited her daughters twice a month, first taking a train to the city of Waukesha and then the Soo Line Railroad to Templeton-Sussex.
Elizabeth grew up and helped her step-parents with family chores, such as digging potatoes in the garden, and picking strawberries and raspberries for both household use and to earn money for the family's use.
As she grew up, she attended Sussex Main Street School, and then the two-year Sussex High School, class of 1931. By fifth grade, she had started noticing a sophomore boy, Joe Ries, who would graduate from Sussex’s two-year high school in 1925, and then go on to Waukesha High School. Eventually, Elizabeth would also go on to graduate from Waukesha High.
Joe had his wild streak when he became interested in early aviation, eventually owning a three-seater, which he flew off a local air field where Quad Graphics is today. He did a little barnstorming at local fairs to make ends meet for his air hobby.
However, as he started to age, approaching his 30th birthday, he passed a comment that he wanted to be married and that meant he could either afford a wife or his air hobby. Elizabeth won out, and they were married Aug. 26, 1939, on his 30th birthday.
They were married at St. James Catholic Church, and then took an extended honeymoon to the Manitowish area, only to come back to go to a funeral for the man who bought Joe’s plane (John Schaap, who died at Mary Town while barnstorming).
Joe was an outstanding mechanic and worked at multiple local filling stations and garages. Meanwhile, he was into the Sussex Athletic Club as a promoter of Sussex youth sports teams, and had a high point of being a coach of the great 1950-51 Sussex Land O'Rivers grand championship team (won the league, two tournaments and the grand championship tournament with an overall record of 27-4).
Meanwhile, from day one of the marriage, Joe and Elizabeth lived in the former Lucy Weaver/Tutzke home as Elizabeth bought it from her retiring step-parents, and she continued her long Iife in the now nearly 137-year-old home.
The couple had three daughters: Jean in 1943, Joann in 1944 and Cathy in 1950.
Joe was presented with the opportunity for a mechanic job in Japan. However, Joe didn't feel good when he got there, and came back to Sussex. On Nov. 4, 1959, he came home from his local job, complained that he didn't feel well, and died at age 50. Elizabeth lived on in her home, even after the next door boy, Ray Ische, married her daughter Joann and raised their family in the same home.
Ray died Dec. 27, 2016, after a 50-year co-residence with Elizabeth. Elizabeth died Feb. 1, 2017, and her funeral was held at St. James Catholic Church, where she joined her husband in the church cemetery.
She had spent 99 years as a resident of Sussex, even when it was not an incorporated village. She was in fifth grade when Sussex officially became a village in 1924. She was married for 20 years.