Holmen, WI (WXOW) – On this 4th of July, and in the midst of Canada History Week, we’re saluting a local veteran who served with the allied forces in World War II, and has fierce patriotism for both sides of the border.
His is a life that’s always kept rolling and included a few brushes with royalty.
“He was just Elvis,” said Cafe. “That’s all he was—a loudmouth guy.”
Meeting the “King of Rock and Roll” is just one highlight among the whirlwind memories for the 97-year-old. He’s lived a life full of adventure and independence.
“Any time I want to I’m free to go where I feel like. That’s what I’ve been doing all my life.”
A call to serve
His story begins in Regina, the provincial capital of Saskatchewan, Canada on January 20, 1922. A carefree childhood spent on the playground gave way to a call to serve the allied effort when the world engaged in a second great war.
It’s a call inspired by a brother who spent D-Day—now 75 years ago—in the midst of some of the fiercest fighting.
“He was right there at the front of the boat when the Germans opened fire on their boat,” said Cafe. “They dropped the boat down, and those guys had to swim ashore.”
His brother survived, and Cafe answered his call to serve as a member of—at the time—His Majesty’s Canadian Naval Reserve as a boiler room worker. It’s a service that would eventually translate to a meeting with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
“We met her, and we tried to be…as proud as we could be talking to her, but I think we ended up being more rude than good,” Cafe laughed.
Frederick Cafe talks about how he ate like a king during a WWII mission
Skills to pay the bills
He would himself live like royalty thanks to his skill with a childhood favorite: the classic Duncan Yo-Yo. It was how he first came to the United States in the 1950s when the Chicago-based company called him to serve in a new country.
“[They said] ‘How soon can you be down here in the States?’” Cafe said, “How soon can mum pack my grip?”
Cafe toured the US as a Duncan Yo-Yo master riding in style in a brand new Buick, showcasing the company’s toys in schools and on one really big show.
“That was our Ed Sullivan deal. We did the paddle ball. We drove him crazy trying to figure out where the heck that ball was going.”
Always on the move, Cafe would eventually settle in Holmen but keep the wanderlust alive with nearly four decades of work on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. That freedom to go as he calls it, inspired his call to independence.
“I think anybody who has the opportunity to jump and run and travel or anything should. Get out and see the world.”
And in a world that sometimes seems like its spinning too fast, that spirit in turn has inspired his unflappable worldview
“To me it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing. We’re all the same.”