Itasca County man retired to quiet life after international intrigueWayne Hoshal lived a life that sounds like it could have been out of a novel: traveling by rail behind the Iron Curtain, watching a ballet in Moscow during the height of the Cold War, getting stranded in India when war broke out, ferrying moon rocks across Washington.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Wayne Hoshal lived a life that sounds like it could have been out of a novel: traveling by rail behind the Iron Curtain, watching a ballet in Moscow during the height of the Cold War, getting stranded in India when war broke out, ferrying moon rocks across Washington.
It was not the standard career.
“Especially coming from Calumet, you know?” said his widow, Jean Hoshal.
Hoshal, who returned to his beloved Itasca County with his wife and children in 1985 after a 32-year career as a diplomatic courier that took him around the world, died Thursday at Grand Itasca Hospital in Grand Rapids. He was 86.
Born in Sioux Falls, S.D., Hoshal was 10 when his family moved to the little town of Calumet, just up U.S. Highway 169 from Grand Rapids. Although he loved what he called “God’s country,” he also sought bigger horizons, Jean Hoshal said.
“He said he was always interested in travel,” she said. “He said he told his mother that someday he’d like to go to Paris. Well he got there, and plenty of other places.”
Hoshal graduated from Greenway High School in 1945 and served in the U.S. Navy at the tail end of World War II. He then graduated from Itasca Junior College and the University of Minnesota.
He was taking a study break at the library in the Calumet Village Hall, Jean Hoshal said, when he came across an article about a diplomatic courier and decided that was the career he wanted. Just 23 at the time, he was told he’d have to wait two years to meet the age requirement. He filled the time by working as a bellhop and doorman at luxury hotels in Florida, Maine and New York.
Hoshal began his career as a courier in 1953, and he lived the life he had dreamed of, his widow said.
“Most of the fellows were bachelors,” she said. “They were in Europe and around the world in the ’50s and ’60s, so they had loads of money compared to everybody else. And it was a pretty good life.”
But it also had elements of danger.
“Behind the Iron Curtain, they would always travel in pairs, and they brought their own food so they wouldn’t be poisoned,” she said.
Hoshal began his career bringing his top-secret messages in a big satchel known as a diplomatic pouch. “Later, what they were actually accompanying was the machinery to pass some of these secrets,” his widow said.
By the time he married Chicago native Jean Lessner in Washington in 1970, Hoshal was chief courier, and most of his traveling was over. But they were posted to Frankfurt, West Germany, where both of their children were born.
She was 15 years younger than her husband.
“I was really surprised that he’d never married, but he was having too much fun, I think, traveling,” she said.
Their daughter Ann Hoshal, 38, of Brainerd said she gradually learned about some of her dad’s earlier exploits as she was growing up.
Once, when she was watching the ballet “Swan Lake” with her dad, he described watching the same ballet in Moscow during the 1950s, Ann Hoshal said. Although he claimed he had never been in a war zone, she learned that he had been drinking tea on the fourth floor of a Saigon hotel while the city was being shelled during the Vietnam War.
Jean Hoshal recalled that her husband once was stopped at the border between India and Pakistan when war broke out and was stranded an additional six weeks in India.
The incident with the moon rocks was less somber. Assigned as the courier to deliver them to the National Air and Space Museum, Hoshal knew the curator and decided to have some fun with him, Ann Hoshal said.
“He took out the package with the moon rocks and put out a package with chunks of blue cheese,” she said.
After Hoshal retired early and moved the family to Grand Rapids, he stayed busy with outdoor activities, such as counting loons for the Department of Natural Resources, his daughter said.
Although his health declined recently, he was still downhill skiing at Giants Ridge last spring, Jean Hoshal said.