Charlie and Kay Haecherl’s Custom tractors have been part of Veseli’s Fourth of July parade off and on for the past 10 years, but for the first time this year, the Lonsdale couple has been selected as the march’s grand marshals.
“I was happy about that,” said Charlie.
Kay added, “And surprised.”
Charlie and Kay won’t be the only Haecherls riding in the parade. Their oldest son, Doug, will drive his parents in his convertible — the same vehicle he drove in the very first Fourth of July parade in Veseli. Behind them, the Haecherls’ son Ken and daughter Yvonne as well as three grandchildren and one son-in-law, will make up a line of six Custom tractors. With some great-grandchildren riding on the tractors with their parents, the Haecherls will have four generations of their family represented on the parade route.
In the past, the Haecherls brought as many as seven tractors to one parade.
“I thought it would be a good time to do it again,” said Kay. “The kids always love to drive tractors.”
This July, the Haecherls celebrate 50 years since they moved to their Lonsdale farm. Charlie, who grew up on a farm in North Dakota, had worked in the Twin Cities and told a co-worker he someday wanted to escape the city life and buy a farm. That co-worker told him about the land neighboring her own farm in Lonsdale, and that’s where the Haecherls have resided ever since.
On their 100-acre farm, the Haecherls planted corn and beans, milked cows, and also ran a farrow-to-finish hog operation. They sent 250 hogs to market each year until sales dropped and after a fire, they opted not to rebuild the pig barn. In 2015, Charlie retired from farming.
Charlie and Kay enrolled their five children at the former Lonsdale-New Market-Veseli Area Catholic Schools for grades kindergarten through eight and then New Prague High School. The couple now has 15 grandchildren and 18 grandchildren, most of them near Lonsdale.
Throughout the years, the Haecherls have been highly involved at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church, the American Legion and the School Board. But since Charlie retired from Sheldahl in Northfield in 1999 and Kay retired from the same company in 2005, they’ve adapted a new interest: Custom tractors.
Charlie remembers being a young teenager when his father bought a Custom tractor in 1950. During his retirement, Charlie called a cousin in North Dakota to find out what happened to the tractor. The cousin’s son owned it, and Charlie bought it from him to restore. It was the first of many restoration projects for Charlie, and that made it one of the most difficult.
These days, Charlie keeps a binder documenting all the Custom tractors he’s bought and restored. He’s traveled to neighboring cities and states but also ventured as far as Maryland to pick up a tractor. Since 2000, he’s purchased around 20 tractors and restored most of them himself with help from Novak Garage and painter Chad Smisek.
The Haecherls discovered an international Custom collector club soon after Charlie’s passion gained traction. Every year, the club meets somewhere different in the United States. Kay and Charlie were secretary/treasurer of the club for 20 years.
Farm Collector Magazine recognized Charlie’s Custom tractor restoration projects in an article, which the Haecherls have displayed in their home.
See the Haecherls and their family line of Custom tractors at 3 p.m. July 4 in the Veseli parade.