CUBA CITY—“Mr. Red, White and Blue” has spent decades promoting Cuba City in the most patriotic of ways, from establishing the presidential shields on display along Main Street to selling flag kits so the American flag could be displayed in every front yard. Joe Goeman has proven he is an active Cuban with his long-time participation in the City of Presidents, hunter safety education and Lion’s Club.
Goeman, who served as Cuba City Elementary/Middle School principal for 38 years, used his connections at the school to get the community involved in improving the city’s appearance and making it memorable for those passing through.
Cuba City’s centennial was 1975 and the nation’s bi-centennial was 1976.
“I was asked to be on a committee to celebrate [the centennial events] in one way or another and get Cuba City involved,” Goeman said. “At that time, most communities were painting their garage doors and fire hydrants red, white and blue. I had a dream about what we would do and I saw all of these flags flying and the presidents and so forth. I was principal at the elementary school then, so it was easy for me to get involved at that time. I came up with this idea for the shields for the City of Presidents on Main Street.”
His dream became a reality with the help of a large committee dedicated to the cause. From George Washington onward, the lampposts down Main Street have red, white and blue shields of the presidents, with their silhouettes, term in office and home state.
At first, the shields lining Main Street were called the Parade of Presidents.
“Some people thought we should have some way to identify the city with it, and they had a contest for names,” Goeman said. “They picked out City of Presidents and changed it.”
The name officially changed on Oct. 17, 1993.
The original shields, made of painted plywood, were designed by the Cuba City Elementary School art teacher and painted by high school students. Since 1976, the shields have been repaired and maintained four times. In May 2015, Signs to Go of Platteville installed new aluminum shields with plastic PVC backing are guaranteed to last 12 years and possibly for three decades. The new shields cost $20,000. In 1989, when they were last replaced, they cost $3,000, which was much more than the $626 they initially cost in 1976. The Cuba City Lion’s Club was an original sponsor of the first set of shields that were hung on Main Street.
“We had several blank shields made and hung because I wanted to make sure that the shields would last for many years,” Goeman said. “I take a lot of pride in that.”
To help with future projects in Cuba City, the City of Presidents committee established an endowment fund in November 2010 specifically for the upkeep and enhancement of Cuba City.
Goeman’s community involvement isn’t limited to the City of Presidents shields. He has been very active in the local Lion’s Club, hunter safety education, veterans memorial and caboose. Through the years he has acquired a collection of awards, pins and patches for the various activities.
As a Lion, Goeman designed and traded pins. He took pleasure in crafting 46 Lions pins over the years and trading approximately 500 of each with others around the nation at conventions or through the mail. At one point he had over 10,000 pins hanging on his wall in his basement. Eventually he sold off most of his collection.
He also designed Wisconsin pins and traded them in a similar fashion. He belonged to a pin trader’s club. His designs are stored in cases at his home.
Through the Lion’s Club, he has received awards such as the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award, President’s Appreciation Award and Lion of the Year in 2002. He has been a member since 1969.
As a charter instructor with the state’s hunter safety education program, Goeman has taught more than 2,000 students about hunting safely in the last 47 years. He received many patches and plaques for his accomplishments.
“Education is an important part of my life,” Goeman said. “I was principal for 28 years.”
When the caboose was purchased for Cuba City in 2002, it became a museum of local history. It was placed downtown on Main Street.
“One of the biggest things to happen to Cuba City was the president came to visit,” Goeman said. “Of course, that didn’t happen by itself. We had people write to the presidents for several years until finally it happened.”
Presidential candidate John Kerry briefly stopped in Cuba City in August 2004 while on the campaign trail; President George W. Bush spoke at the Cuba City High School in October 2004 and signed his shield. The autographed piece is on display in the caboose.
To maintain the caboose, bricks with business or individual’s names were sold. Bricks are still available to help maintain the small park.
Goeman and the City of Presidents committee were also a part of establishing the veterans memorial and having the park’s name changed from City Park to Veterans Memorial Park in 2000. The shelter in Veterans Memorial Park displays the history of the city on six pillars.
“This didn’t happen because of me,” Goeman said. “A lot of the community members got together to make it happen.”
He said there were approximately 20 people on the committee. The City of Presidents committee motto is “What a person does for himself dies with him; what he does for his community lives long after he or she is gone.”
Goeman also sold flag kits over the years. The kits include a 10-foot pole, stake and flag for $40. This allowed anybody to put a flag in their yard. He said he sell approximately 300 kits each year.
Goeman also maintains the flag wagon that holds the state flags for events. Those flags are also loaned to other communities for their events when requested. They’ve been in Dubuque, Potosi and Hazel Green in recent years.
Joe Goeman, originally of Antigo, and his wife, Jerry, met in Cuba City. She was cheering at a ball game and he was visiting with a classmate from UW-Platteville who introduced them. Jerry eventually attended UW-Platteville as well and married Joe in 1953 before moving with him to Phillips where he took a teaching position as an eighth grade teacher for one year. They moved back to Cuba City where he taught seventh grade in Platteville. He farmed with his father-in-law for 10 years, then returned to teaching in Darlington and Platteville. In 1967, he earned his master’s in administration and was hired at the Cuba City Elementary School as principal.
Together, they have three children: Cindy Dolphin of Peosta, Ill., Tim Goeman of Cohassett, Minn., and Ben Goeman of Chippewa Falls. They also have six grandsons and eight great-grandchildren.
Joe said he couldn’t have been as successful with all of his accomplishments without the help of his wife.
“I may have had the ideas, but she helped me type the letters and stay organized,” Goeman said. “It all was really a team effort. I couldn’t have done any of this by myself. The committee has been great about getting everything done. All of the members work really hard for the community.”
“Joe has been a great promoter for Cuba City for as long as I can remember,” Cuba City Mayor Tom Gile said. “He has led the City of Presidents committee through a lot of accomplishments throughout the years. I would like to thank Joe and let him know, Cuba City is a better place because of him and his leadership.”
Editor's Note: This column will be a special addition to the Tri-County Press on a monthly basis. Look for each installment near the end of the month. All volunteers are recomended for the article by Mayor Tom Gile. If you have ideas for future volunteers in the community to be recognized, contact Gile at 608-744-3203.