Eugene Spencer (Gene) Haugse passed away at the age of 101 on December 2, 2022, in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Gene was born the sixth of seven children to Ivar Nels Haugse and Anna Gavle Haugse in Decorah, Iowa. The son of a father who immigrated from Norway and a mother who was born shortly after her family immigrated from Norway, Gene grew up steeped in Norwegian tradition and was always proud of his heritage.
When Gene was a small child, the family moved to Omaha, Nebraska where he had a colorful and rich childhood. He was proud to have graduated from Omaha Central High School and was grateful for the academic foundation it gave him as he pursued studies at the University of Nebraska. It was there that he met Shirley Olson, who would become his wife of 76 years.
Gene spent his career in education as a college professor, most recently at Carroll University, where he retired in 1987. It was a career he loved, and he valued the connections he had with his students – for many of them, connections that lasted decades after they graduated. A highlight of his academic career was leading groups of students on trips to the former USSR, Eastern Europe, and China for experiential study of comparative government.
Gene was a storyteller of both fiction and non-fiction. His children and grandchildren were all familiar with the many colorful events of his life growing up during the depression. Some of the characters may have been embellished, but the events were real. One of his favorite stories to tell was of the day he met his wife and knew that she was “the one.” He also loved to make up stories using familiar places and things to entertain his kids and grandkids, resulting in gales of laughter from a lap full of children.
He was a man of great faith, which was lived out in his kind, loving, and patient nature. He also possessed a rapier wit and some strongly held opinions. He was a keen observer and frequent commenter on geopolitical events for over 70 years. He was a voracious reader who also loved spending time in his workshop, where he produced lovingly crafted pieces of furniture for his family. He was also an amateur fisherman, spending much time in his later years philosophizing and fishing with his son on Puget Sound. In retirement, Gene fulfilled many travel adventures with his wife.
Gene’s family was always at the center of his life. He is survived by his wife Shirley, his children Gretchen, and Eric (Jenny); grandchildren Justin, Kirstin, Kari, Jacob, and Josh; and great-grandchildren Fiona, Jack, Valerie, and Julian, as well as nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings.
Gene’s life will be celebrated on Thursday, December 15th at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church in Waukesha. Visitation will begin at 10:00 with the service at 11:30. Lunch will follow.
Anyone wishing to make a gift in Gene’s memory is encouraged to do so at Carroll University (
), Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, or The Hope Center (