Cover photo for Pfaff, Burton E.'s Obituary
Pfaff, Burton E. Profile Photo

Pfaff, Burton E.

Milwaukee - Burton E. Pfaff, a decorated Army Staff Sergeant, captured during the Battle of the Bulge said, following his liberation, "every day is a bonus." Born to Erwin and Verona Pfaff (née Zautke), May 25, 1924, on a farm in Ableman, Wisconsin, Burt was a member of the Greatest Generation. Surviving the depression and World War II, he thrived in building his company, New Berlin Auto Body, raising a family and playing the garbage can bass. His motto was "always do your best and a little bit more."

His legacy is an inspiration to his family; daughter, Patricia Pfaff Brach, who loves him dearly, along with six grandsons; COL(USA-RET) Daryl P. Brach, The Honorable Matthew Brach, Cameron Brach SFC(USA), Jason Johnson SSgt(USMC), Aaron Johnson and Dustin Pfaff SSG(USA). Through his example, four of his grandsons and his great-grandson decided to serve in the military. He remains in the hearts of his 11 great-grandchildren, his sister Luon Pfaff High, and his niece and nephews. Burton remains dear to his caregiver, Marta Potok and son-in-law Andy Verbeski, who generously took care of him for many years. He is also loved by many friends, and those who had the pleasure to know him.

Although Burt lost his son, Donald Pfaff, in 2006, his daughter, Sandra Johnson Verbeski (née Pfaff) in 2012, and his beloved wife of nearly 70 years, Jane (née Schulz) in 2013, he had an infinite joy for life and remained positive. He enjoyed the open fields outside of Milwaukee on the back of a Harley. At 90, he tandem parachuted out of a perfectly good airplane. He believed in living "life one-day-at-a-time" and died with dignity at the age of 97 on September 14th, 2021. SSG Burton Pfaff, was in the 422nd infantry regiment of the 106th infantry division, awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Burton Pfaff - How He Lived

By his roommate of 14 years and son-in-law, Andy Verbeski

Honor Flight - November 6, 2010

I signed Burt up for the honor flight at 86 years old, but did not realize that if I wanted to accompany him, I had to put my name down the same day I signed him up. During the months prior to his flight, we traveled around south-east Wisconsin on my motorcycle. We would get about two hours of free time per day and we used it to ride. One day we stopped at The Bunker, a Veteran's bar in Waterford, Wisconsin. We had a great time with six bikers very interested in Burt. Their vests said, “Renegade Pigs”. A few hours later they told us they were all veterans and Milwaukee County Sheriffs. They said, “we’ll be there when you come off the plane.” The day of the flight, I had Burt at the airport at 4:30am to leave for Washington on a 747. I was back that night at 11:00 pm and the concourse was packed with people waiting for the honor flight return vets. Fifteen minutes later I got a tap on my shoulder and all six Milwaukee County Sheriffs looking sharp, were there with me to greet Burt. On the honor flight the government took Burt’s picture and later printed it in the 106th Infantry Newsletter, which still goes out today.

Joe Cucarola & The Colorado Trip

In March of 2011, the phone rang and Burt answered it. The person on the phone asked if Burt was the blonde haired sergeant from the 106th. Burt’s response was, “I’m not blonde anymore, who the hell is this?” Joe said, “I was your bazooka man in the bulge, I thought they killed you.” Burt thought the Germans had killed his bazooka man. In August of 2011 Burt & I flew to Denver and rented a beautiful full dress Harley. We drove to Sterling, Colorado for a reunion between Burt, Joe, his Wife, & oldest son. What a beautiful day and I got to hear stories I don’t think anyone has heard. After the reunion, Burt and I left and took the most beautiful 1,000 mile motorcycle trip through Colorado.

Burt’s 90th Birthday

Burt’s 90th  birthday was an exceptional one. Our dear friends Sandy, Brook, Dick Oberman, Tony & Terry Fischer, Jim & Kathy Elliot, Steve & Joann Brown, the Penny Bar, and the Windlake VFW plus many many others, invested a lot of time to make this Burt’s special day. Sandy arranged for Channel 4 to spend the day with Burt at the jump site, on the plane where he was interviewed in the hangar. Then they followed us to the old Penny Bar and stayed through the rest of the day for his birthday celebration. Steve Brown recruited Burt’s jump partner, a pro with over a thousand jumps. Dick Oberman brought his huge chicken grill and prepared 200 hundred chickens. Everybody involved participated in setup, VFW trucks, and really enjoyed the day.

Life With Burt

I have known Burt & Jane since 1970. The following are a collage of photos that show the times we spent together. When Burt and Jane moved in, in 2007 his primary goal was taking care of his wife. He had watched me take care of my mother until she passed. Burt, Sandy, and I with the help of various caregivers, cared for Jane. But Sandy died in 2012. That was when Burt hired Marta to live with us and care for Jane. Marta changed our lives, brought sunshine to our house, and was a gentle angel with Jane. Jane passed away in 2013 after her 90th birthday, but Burt continued Marta’s employment to the day he died. Burt and I had traveled to Poland to visit Marta’s family twice. On the second trip Burt was honored and spoke to all of the children and teachers in the school in Marta’s village. They had never heard from an American who was in WW2. Burt had his first Harley Davidson when he was 15. He didn’t have a driver's license, but that didn’t stop him. When Burt got back from the war he gave up riding for the most part. When he retired he still gave it up. When he moved in, in 2007 he saw my Harley in the garage and we talked about it. He had given up his passion for riding and so had I. Riding again was the best thing for both of us. We had many years of riding a couple of hours a day and exploring every two lane black top in southeast Wisconsin; every lake, every river, and we met some of the most beautiful people in Wisconsin. Burt was honored by all of the Veterans he met, and he spoke at several gatherings. He was parade marshal in several Veterans Day parades and when he had his 90th birthday there were over 200 people who attended his birthday party. All of whom we met while riding the motorcycle.


Donny was one of my best friends, I have known him since he was twelve and we have taken many trips together. Donny passed away in 2006.

Burt’s Motorhome

Jim & Annie Brooks were dear friends of both me and Sandy for many years. Because we were dear friends, I used to help Jim with work on his motorhome. It was pristine. Burt and Jane wanted to buy a motorhome after retirement and it just so happened that Jim and Annie were thinking of selling. I put the four of them together and they bought it. I then immediately put in water, sewer, telephone, & cable TV in a spot 100 feet from our house, right over the pond. Burt and Jane used that spot for the motorhome and for their 5th wheel trailer. One year they came up from Yuma and stayed in this spot over the pond, only going to Green Lake for short periods of time in their pick up truck. Burt and Jane used that motorhome to find a second RV retirement park. They would winter in Yuma and summer on Green Lake, and stop to see us going and coming. Burt often spent the entire year in shorts.


Dustin was Burt’s son, Donnie’s son. He was the extension of the Pfaff name. He also had two great-grandsons of Burt’s; Jayden and Aaron. Dustin lives in Gernsheim, Germany. He served two tours in Iraq and he would take R&R in Germany. He met a beautiful German girl, Katarina. They married and Dustin went to work for Lufthansa. Dustin and his sons, being the extension of Burt’s namesake, were very important to Burt. We traveled to Germany to visit Dustin and family. He and his family visited us many times. On one trip to Germany Dustin, Jayden, and Aaron took us into Belgium and we returned to the spot Burt was captured. We had trouble finding it and we called Matthew Brook, who lived in Manhattan Beach, California for GPS coordinates to Burt’s capture. Matthew did extensive research into his grandfather’s WW2 experiences. When we left the site, we traveled down narrow black top drives through the countryside and came upon a small village with a hostel / restaurant. They had fresh goulash and we stopped to eat. The waitress took our order and saw the back of Burt’s jacket. It said ‘POW WW2’. Soon after she came back to the table and said, “thank you for your service.” I was flabbergasted. Later she came back to the table and told us that when the Germans came through, they stripped her parents' farm of all food and livestock. She was a child at the time and after the Americans pushed the Germans back, she said the Americans would come to her school everyday with stainless steel tubes of ham and bean soup and each child took home what sounded like gallon containers of soup that fed their family over the winter. We finished our meal and she brought back a thank you card written in the Belgium language, the German language, and something else I didn’t recognize. She brought Burt a jar of her honey and gave him a kiss. Quite a difference from being captured and spending a winter without heat to comeback and get a thank you for your service in a foreign country. There was a church yard across the street from the hostel and Burt said that the first day after capture they were marched and he slept behind a tombstone in that church yard.

Jamaica Mississippi House Boat
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