In the Rosemount home of Peter and Helen Hausmann is a large painting, showing an endless procession of villagers traversing the wilds of Kenya.
"You'd scratch your head to look at it," says Rev. Leo Hausmann, a pastor and one of Peter's three brothers. "But Peter explained the whole human and spiritual history to me, and it made sense."
The artwork also illustrates the people and struggle Peter Hausmann, the youngest child of a South Dakota ranching family, adopted as his life's work.
While his intellect set him up for a career in computer programming, Hausmann's heart and active Catholicism led him 20 years ago to Kenya, following the path of older brother Leo to take up missionary work and the humanitarian efforts of Father John Kaiser.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
Kaiser, a 67 year-old native of Perham, Minnesota, had been in Kenya for 35 years and was an outspoken critic of the Kenyan government. Kaiser died in Kenya seven years ago under suspicious circumstances.
Through Kaiser, Hausmann focused on the village of Kisii, working to build schools, fight the spread of AIDS and amplify the alarm over human rights violations. He learned to speak and understand enough Ekegusii to get by. In Kisii, he also met and married the woman who, in every sense, became his life partner.
"He was really searching for a deeper purpose before he left and, once he came back, it was as if he'd found fulfillment," says his sister, Rosemary Opbroek. "His heart was very big. He had more than enough room for his family and (to continue) his work for Kenya."
From the moment Helen first stepped into this country without a winter jacket, to the August evening when her husband drove for the last time along the Interstate 35W bridge, the Hausmanns shared connected purposes and visions.
They made posterboard presentations of life in Kenya, to show people here the life and color beyond that country's slums and strife. They raised money to build a church in Kisii and provide educations for children whose parents died of AIDS.
They opened their home to the bishop of the Kisii diocese, and returned to that village every few years to pick up where they'd left off. All the while, they raised their four children with the cultural and community ideals of Helen's native country.
"He was never out of things to do," says Hausmann's oldest son, who is 15. "How selfless he was, how much he cared about others, how much he sacrificed --- we will remember him for all of that."
Hausmann, 47, worked as a computer security specialist at Assurity River Group in St. Paul. At work, he was the diligent worker, nose to the grindstone. The one who mentors colleagues and whom everyone trusts. And the guy who's the first to make the coffee every morning.
Jeff Olejnik, Hausmann's boss, chuckles as he recalls the company's recent move into a new office. He notes that Hausmann took pains to assure a "seamless" transition on the coffee front.
"One of the things that was very high on the priority list was to get the coffee machine in and running as fast as possible," says Olejnik. "Pete was very happy when we got that installed. He was the number one person who was going to be using it."
Olejnik says Hausmann often logged long hours at the company's small office of eight employees, sticking around until 6 or 7 p.m. Hausmann was, Olejnik says, a quiet leader and a man capable of explaining the most confounding aspects of information security.
"A couple words I keep hearing from our clients as they talk about Peter is how patient he was with them explaining some very technical concepts, and making sure he had a tremendous bedside manner," says Olejnik.
The night of the bridge collapse, Hausmann was heading to St. Louis Park to pick up a friend for dinner when the bridge gave way.
He phoned his wife during rush hour traffic on the bridge and was not heard from again.