Both are born and raised Lincolnites since Arnie's family lived in
nearby Burton View but he was born at his grandparents' home in
Lincoln in 1921.
As Arnie and Ruth both explained, in those days families often
would have gatherings -- picnics, parties and celebrations at each
other's homes -- and Arnie's and Ruth's parents were good friends.
That meant that the two would see each other at these functions, and
Ruth, who was born in 1926, was a good friend of Arnie's sister
The couple began dating, but then Arnie joined the U.S. Army in
January of 1941. It was just before he shipped out to Europe that
the two were wed on Jan. 15, 1944.
Arnie was released from active duty in July of '45 and joined the
National Guard. He was activated during the Korean War and spent two
years as an instructor at Camp Cook in California, attaining the
rank of master sergeant. In a bit of understatement, Ruth said she
was able to go to California with Arnie but not to Europe during
World War II.
Both Ruth and Arnie had long careers at Barrick Transfer, Arnie
working there 22 years with Ruth employed for 25. Arnie then worked
for Consolidated Freightways for another 22 years before retiring
from work the last day of October in 1983.
Although Ruth and Arnie have retired from their labors, they
never did retire from their labor of love: the veterans groups that
both of them belong to, especially the AMVETS.
C. Wayne Schrader, an active American Legion member and previous
Personality of the Week, mentioned something that the modest Ruth
and Arnie didn't bring up. Schrader noted that for years the couple
made the trek up to Quincy to visit veterans at the AMVETS veterans
hospital to give support to the old soldiers. Schrader also said
that until Arnie's health prevented him from being involved with the
veterans color guard, he was in charge of it and did an outstanding
job for years in the capacity as commander.
"Arnie is the kind of guy that if you ask him to help, he would
do it," Schrader said. "To the credit of both of them, they have
been instrumental in the AMVETS being an active local veterans
organization for all the years I can remember."
Even though Arnie has had to give up his duties with the color
guard, to this day Ruth is still involved in the laying of the
wreath at all veterans events. She has the same commitment to
veterans as her husband and has served as the department secretary
of the AMVETS Auxiliary for 32 years.
Arnie is a life member of AMVETS as well as the Disabled American
Veterans group. He is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the
American Legion and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Arnie received his Purple Heart in Belgium when a flare blew up
in his face, blinding him for a week. Showing the toughness and
dedication of the soldiers in those times, Arnie said that when his
eyesight came back, the hospital released him and told him to go
find his squad.
Arnie has held the Illinois AMVETS' highest honor, being the
commander in 1964-65. He has held office in the AMVETS Department of
Illinois for 13 years to add to his resume of achievements and
honors in working with veterans.
Ruth laughed when she said, "Arnie tried to retire a few times,
but they wouldn't let him."
Les Van Bibber, an active AMVETS member himself, holds Arnie's
commitment to veterans in the highest regard. "Arnie is Mr. Logan
County Veteran. I say that because Arnie has pretty much devoted his
life to that cause," Van Bibber said. "I hold him in very high
esteem because I see that as an exemplary position and Arnie has
certainly held that himself."
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In regard to the Haaks being LDN Personalities of the Week, Van Bibber added,
"Good for Arnie, and good for us."
Bob Sullivan, who is now the commander of
the veterans color guard, agrees that Arnie and Ruth's dedication to
veterans is exemplary. "When you think of a veteran or a veteran's
family that is in need or needs help, you think of Arnie and Ruth.
They will do whatever they can to help," Sullivan said.
The couple has two "monumental" accomplishments to be proud of
that will last for generations. Ruth pointed out that the Latham
Park band shell, the hub of the park, almost was lost if not for
Arnie and the AMVETS. It was in 1982 that a deteriorated and badly
in-need-of-repair band shell almost was torn down until the AMVETS
stepped in and began a fundraising and restoration project that
saved the iconic structure for the community. Today, it is the hub
of not only the park, but the yearly Lincoln Art Festival as well as
But for both Haaks, the crowning achievement that they became
involved in is the AMVETS All Veterans Park on Union Street at the
intersection with Pekin Street. The pie-shaped lot was christened in
1988. In 2004 the work began of placing commemorative or memorial
bricks with area veterans' names and service information. The park
is almost complete, with just a few more spaces available for
personal bricks to be placed.
It was noted that the park has frequent visitors almost every day
of the year. Ruth agreed and hoped for more interest still. "I wish
teachers would bring their classes to the park," she said. "The park
can be educational. It seems like there isn't enough teaching of
what our veterans did for us, nowadays. The park can be a learning
tool for our children to tell them what these people did and to tell
them why they should be proud. Some families don't even know their
relatives' histories and how they served."
With the Haak family, understanding service to country didn't
stop with Arnie. Arnie and Ruth have two sons, Bill and Michael.
Michael and his wife, Nancy, served 21 1/2 years in the Navy. Their
granddaughter Felicia now is also serving her country in the U.S.
Ruth and Arnie both acknowledged that in this day and age, all
veterans groups as well as other civic organizations are struggling
to maintain membership. Ruth feels the problem lies in everyone
being too busy and not making time for other things such as
"We are very proud of Arnie's service. We feel that being
involved (in veterans groups) is something we should do, and to keep
that same spirit alive in us as when Arnie was in uniform," she
It is this keeping that spirit of love of country and for those
who have served that makes us proud to add the names of Ruth and
Arnie Haak to our own honor roll as this week's Personalities of the