For as long as Pete Van Horn’s daughter could remember, her father was always a public servant of some kind.
“He always drilled into us how important it was to be part of it,” said Mary Peterson. “Don’t complain about it, be a part of it. He always felt it was important to be involved in things.”
From being a member of the town board since 1995 to being of the Rotary Club of Waukesha to traveling to Haiti for volunteer work, Van Horn was involved with helping others.
Van Horn, who lived in the town since 1979, died Nov. 14 at 80.
Van Horn grew up in Milton and earned an associate’s degree at Milton College before going on to earn his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Two of his children also graduated from UW.
“He was the biggest Badger fan you could have,” Peterson said. “He had season tickets to football games and was there every Saturday he could be.”
In 1972, he started Van Horn Construction. Peterson said her father worked as a general contractor for commercial and industrial construction.
His engineering background played a crucial role in his many trips to Haiti, which began in 2003. Van Horn would sometimes travel two or three times a year to Haiti to do numerous jobs that improved the lives of others.
Ken Schumann worked with Van Horn in Haiti on different projects.
“He built classroom buildings for a vocational school and a generator shelter,” Schumann said. “Those were financed by rotary clubs. Then we went to the north part of the country to Port-de-Paix and he did a storm water project. He moved on to building latrines. He built two or three in various neighborhoods in the city of Mirebalais.”
Schumann said Van Horn was referred to as “Engineer Pete” while in Haiti.
Van Horn, who had a passion for education, also sponsored children in Haiti to get their education.
“I bet he put dozens of children in Haiti through school by sponsoring them, out of his own pocket a lot of times,” Peterson said.
One woman he sponsored later graduated from nursing school. When she got married, Van Horn flew down to Haiti to walk her down the aisle.
“He packed his suit, which you don’t usually do when you’re going to a Third World country, and he walked her down the aisle when she got married,” Peterson said. “That was quite an honor for him.”
Edward Kranick, a supervisor with the town who knew Van Horn for years, would help put up yard signs for Van Horn when he decided to run for town supervisor in the mid-1990s.
“Pete always had great character and great wisdom,” Kranick said. “He had a lot of institutional knowledge of how things worked in the town.”
Van Horn was the town representative on the Pewaukee Lake Patrol and was actively serving as a member of the Lake Country Fire and Rescue Board for the town. He was also liaison to the highway department for many years.
“He was a rock on the town board,” said Town Chairman Ron Troy. “He would always get re-elected. The people had the highest respect for him and would always bring him back to office.”
Troy said the flag at town hall will be flown at half-staff for one week to honor Van Horn.
Peterson said her father had a love of sailing and was involved with the Pewaukee Yacht Club from the early 1970s into the 2000s.
“He took our family sailing in the Caribbean twice,” Peterson said. “Once bareboating in the British Virgin Islands with three other families, and once in the West Indies in the British Virgin Islands and West Indies.”
Van Horn was also an avid outdoorsman who would drive to Montana every year to hunt with family.
After his wife Meredith “Penny” Van Horn died in 2015, Van Horn and his family donated more than $100,000 to build a pedestrian bridge over the Pewaukee River in the village of Pewaukee.
“We’ve always enjoyed water and bridges and that kind of thing,” Van Horn said at the time. “And she was a very active person in the community.”
Van Horn is survived by three children, Mary Peterson (Randy) of Pewaukee, Mark (Lora) Van Horn of Springfield, Missouri, and Brian Van Horn of Durham, North Carolina; seven grandchildren; and one great grandchild.
A memorial service will likely take place in early 2021 at First Baptist Church of Hartland but a date has not been set.
Contact Evan Frank at (262) 361-9138 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Evanfrank_LCP.
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