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Wauwatosan recalls life, achievements, family

Former radio personality Betty Mosher champions theatre in Wauwatosa

Feb. 19, 2013

A slice of radio and theater history lives in Wauwatosa and goes by the name of Betty Mosher.

Mosher, who married her high school sweetheart, has a storied history which includes working in the 1940s as a radio personality, raising four daughters (two of which move on to work in Broadway musicals), being a founding member of Wauwatosa Children's Theatre and the Village Playhouse of Wauwatosa and working as a Docent in the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Although she has accomplished much and touched many lives, eventually earning Citizen of the Year award alongside Theo Baier in 1995 for her theater involvement, she is modest about her work.

"I felt that there were many more people worthy of that honor," she said of winning Citizen of the Year, "but I was honored to be chosen."

A Milwaukee native, Mosher was active in theater as a child. She was cast in many lead roles in high school and moved to Los Angeles and Chicago to chase her dream of becoming a movie star.

It wasn't a lack of opportunity that brought her back to Milwaukee, as she was offered a few leads in LA. It was her family and her high school sweetheart - captain of the football team Rick Mosher - that called her back. She abandoned her big screen dreams to marry him, start a family and invest in her community.

Shortly after moving back, she landed a radio gig on WMLO, 1290 AM, as a host for Schuster's Musical Kitchen. She would serve up recipes and household advice in the show, with a dash of music thrown in for flavor. Guests would call in and mail suggestions to her for recipes or musical suggestions.

"It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it," Mosher said. "It was my notoriety for the world."

An American love story

Mosher's time in the radio, and Milwaukee, were short lived. Her husband served in the air force in World War II, flying cargo between bases and transporting celebrities to USO shows. He stayed in the U.S. until he was called to fly in the Berlin Airlift, where he flew food and supplies to beleaguered Germans.

Betty Mosher wasn't about to leave his side. While her husband was in the U.S., she traveled the country with him while raising two daughters.

When he came back to the states in the early 50s, the two decided to make a home for themselves in Wauwatosa.

"A story about Betty would be incomplete without mentioning Rick," her daughter Laurie Mosher said. "My dad just completely adored her and worshipped her. They had an incredible love story and were married for 69 years. He would always open a door for her and stand up when she walked into a room. She was his princess."

When Rick Mosher passed away a few years ago, Laurie Mosher recalled receiving letters and stories about her parent's blossoming love throughout high school and their lives.

While in Wauwatosa, Rick and Betty Mosher had four daughters, three of which were deeply involved in theater. Their involvement, plus Betty Mosher's deep roots in theater, forced Rick Mosher into participating, a role he was happy to serve. He even ended up acting in a few performances.

Theater in Tosa

Wauwatosa theater was in a much different state than it is now when Betty Mosher moved to Wauwatosa. There were no theater groups outside of school productions in the 1950s when she came, but that was about to change.

Mosher worked with a group of theatrically-minded Wauwatosans including Norma Muth, who founded the Children's Theatre of Wauwatosa, and Byrll Hoelke, who founded the Village Playhouse of Wauwatosa.

The groups worked feverishly to extend the reach of theater beyond the schools, hosting plays mainly at Hawthorne and Longfellow middle schools. They were met with what Mosher describes as open arms from the Wauwatosa community.

On the importance of community theater, Mosher said she could write a long dissertation on the subject.

"It helps young people express themselves," she said. "It gives another area for young people to enter into if they so desire and have talent and direction. A whole new world opens up for them when they express themselves. Many young people don't know they're good performers until they are on stage."

A family tradition

When Mosher wasn't busy helping start, direct and find talent for two theater groups in Wauwatosa, she was raising her four daughters.

Times where at least one of her daughters wasn't involved in a play were few and far between.

Debra Pyzyk, Laurie Mosher's older daughter, was involved in Wauwatosa Trailer Theater, a troop that would act from a trailer hauled from playground to playground. Trailer Theater is no more in Wauwatosa, but Laurie Mosher remembers watching her older sister perform with the troop.

While Betty Mosher is described as encouraging and uplifting by her daughters, she was never overbearing and shuns the term stage mother.

"I worked with so many pushy mothers," Betty Mosher said. "I never wanted to be a pushy mother. I think the kids gravitated in that direction because they enjoyed it and they were good at it I must say, as a mother."

Two of her daughters were so good at it they landed shows on Broadway. Her daughter Christine Mosher was in the original cast of "Nunsense" and Laurie Mosher acted in Broadway's "Annie" and "Grease." Pyzyk, while landing several lead roles in high school productions, moved to St. Louis to start a business with her husband.

Betty Mosher continued to be supportive of her daughters, making several trips to New York to see them perform.

"That's a thrill for a parent to have a child in something they've done and loved," she said. "It was a source of much happiness for me, you bet. And pride. I was very proud of them. I'm still proud of them."

While retaining her love for theater, Betty Mosher had to withdraw from active work for the Wauwatosa Children's Theatre and the Village Playhouse at the age of 80. She found a way to keep her theatrical flair alive by working as a docent for the Milwaukee Public Museum. She would speak with a cockney accent for some exhibits, or act as a character on the Titanic for the 2008 exhibit.

Laurie Mosher currently drives her mother to movies and productions. One of their more recent forays took them to Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," a slave-revenge shoot-em-up. Laurie Mosher said that her mother was absolutely delighted to see the movie and picked up on all the nuances of the film.

On theater in Wauwatosa, Betty Mosher shared some words of wisdom: "Look into what Wauwatosa has to offer and encourage your children. I think theater is a wonderful avenue for children to express themselves."

By the Numbers

89

Years old

69

Happy years of Marriage

2

Daughters who made it to Broadway

1

Fulfilling life serving the community

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