Greg Streveler is a modest and unassuming man who does not agree that he is a Gustavus icon; however, I believe the description fits. He has worked for many years, either for pay or simply as a concerned citizen, to move forward projects designed to enhance life here. His contributions to our community, no matter what he says, have been enormous.
Greg was born in Racine, Wisconsin. He lived with his folks across the state line on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. His dad worked in the steel mills as an electrician. When Greg was six, they all moved to Marathon County in Wisconsin, where his parents were born. The family lived in the country about 30 miles south of Wausau. His dad was the “Mark Berry” of their community. (Mark Berry is the local man in Gustavus who wears many hats and fixes what we break.) Greg says his dad could fix anything. Greg was often his “gofer.”
They lived in farm country. Though they didn’t run a farm themselves, they were surrounded by them. Consequently, Greg grew up working for farmers. He says, “To this day I have to get my hands in dirt or I don’t feel right.”
Greg worked for a German farmer, Joseph Baur, who paid him what he earned and taught him to be useful. He adds, “There was a difference between then and now. During my youth, people were poor enough that the work I did for them really mattered. That’s always stuck with me. I wanted to be useful.”
Greg says he had a lovely childhood. He had a very tight family; his parents were good to each other and to the children. The neighbors and his parents were good because they gave Greg things to do that made him feel worthwhile. He was lucky as a kid. Everyone treated the children well in the community too — they all looked after each other. Greg feels grateful to have had that.
At 12 years old, he was put in charge of the garden, 1/4 acre in size. They grew everything in that garden. His dad helped him when he could but he said, “This is up to you.” He learned to use a rototiller and spent a lot of time with a hoe.
A moment from his childhood: Greg loved sports. His dad said they didn’t have money to get him a ball glove. Greg finally earned enough to buy his first baseman’s mitt for $12.95. It had Ted Williams’ name on it. Greg felt it important to work and to see what changes earnings could bring. He had that mitt until he moved to Alaska. While in Anchorage, Greg watched some young people playing catch. One tall black lad had no glove; he was catching with his bare hands. Greg gave the boy his glove, deciding that he needed it more than Greg did.
For his last two years of high school, his folks sent him to Stevens Point, Wisconsin to stay with an aunt and uncle. This was the first time he had lived away from home. He went to a school run by the Christian Brothers, a Catholic teaching order. He found out he could think! In his earlier years, he just got through school; nobody learned about thinking. He was more interested in playing baseball. When he went to that school, he found it pretty cool to think. His grades improved; he took that self-teaching skill to university. He still uses it to this day.