The Adler Family, Part III: The legacy
Passing the torch to Paul Rogers
(Above photo courtesy of the Adler family)
By Kris Leonhardt
On a somber Friday morning in July of 1959, various local newspapers would publish the news that one of Marshfield’s most prominent businessmen had been taken from their midst. While playing golf at the Marshfield Country Club, J.P. Adler had retired to the bench on the fifth hole awaiting his turn to tee off. Stricken by coronary difficulty, a nearby physician rushed to his side, but attempts to revive him would prove unsuccessful, and Adler would succumb to the attack.
What Adler left behind that day was an industry built on 50 years of his own hard work and determination — 60 years, including the time he worked by his father’s side — as well as two lovely and intelligent daughters who had become successful in their own right.
Anne Victoria was born in 1917, and though she yearned to be an architect like her maternal grandfather, Hans Hansen Bille, women were not permitted into drafting programs. Instead, Anne pursued an entirely different field, graduating from the University of North Carolina with a master’s in economics.
“She was one of the first registered women stockbrokers in the nation,” recalled Anne’s sister, Bette. “My sister was just a brain.”
Elizabeth Bille “Bette” was born in 1919, and after receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she took a job as a chemist with the Kimberly Clark Corporation in Neenah.
Anne would build a life in Milwaukee, and Bette would later return home to run the Adler Theater Company. George Edward Moyle, a manager hired by J.P., would assist in the operations of the remaining Adler properties — that is, until a young man would take a place in Bette’s business as well as her heart.
“The first time I met him, he was on his hands and knees,” said Bette, now 96.
Paul Rogers at that time was the manager of a youth center that was housed in the old Adler Opera House. The pair would form a close and solid relationship, with Rogers working his way up to assistant manager and then manager of the company.
“I couldn’t have run it without him,” said Bette.
Rogers would become the new owner of the company in 1972, and the pair would remain close.
The Adler sisters, though young, beautiful, and smart, were never married.
“There was a war that got in the way for one thing. It’s too bad,” lamented Bette, expressing her regret for the inability to pass on what has been afforded her in talents and assets.
Searching for a means to carry on the family legacy, the sisters devised a plan to memorialize their family while providing for the future of the city of Marshfield.
By offering a challenge grant in 1993, the Adler sisters put up $25,000, which was later matched by another fund, and the Marshfield Area Community Foundation (MACF) was formed.
“It was her fault it happened,” Bette said, crediting Anne as the driving force.
Since its formation, MACF has grown to include over 100 separate funds. The Adler family continues to give back through multiple funds offered through MACF, including the Rosamund Victoria Bille Adler Scholarship for Lawrence University, for music education; the Anne V. Adler Nursing Scholarship Fund, created following Anne’s death; and the J.P. Adler Community Improvement Fund.
The J.P. Adler Fund was designed to provide for the city of Marshfield’s future and targets “brick and mortar” projects within the city. In one of the fund’s most recent acts of charitable giving, it contributed to Wildwood Zoo’s new bear exhibit.
In commemoration of the Adler family’s generosity, Rogers has plans to curate a tent displaying Adler family and company memorabilia during the exhibit’s dedication.
“Since I was an usher, I am going to wear a tux and carry a flashlight,” said Rogers.