John (Hans) Huesby passed away in his sleep during the evening of November 28, 2014. Businessman, athlete, philanthropist, and a humble and sometimes reluctant community leader Hans was first and foremost a loving husband, father, and grandfather to his wife Laurie, their four children and six grandchildren.
“I have a village down here to take care of me and our family; he was loved and admired by so many. Ours was a great partnership full of love and respect,” said Laurie Huesby.
Hans and Laurie were partners in life and in business for 43 years. Together they began and shepherded what would become a highly-successful business focused on health, fitness and the sport of running at a time when Miami was not a venue for marathons.
Under Hans’ leadership, the FootWorks store located on Sunset Drive in South Miami became and remained for decades a mecca for runners, walkers, and the fitness-minded. He was a founder of the Miami Running Club that was born in his living room during a meeting there in 1977.
Hans later established Team FootWorks in 1994 as a non-profit organization to promote public health, fitness, and running events. An athlete in his own right, Hans has the distinction of running a full marathon in 2:49. He was also a practitioner of karate, holding a Second-Degree Black Belt in the sport.
Hans was a visionary in the sport of running and worked for 40 years to promote it in the community. He produced events such as the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run and the training programs for the Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon. His business offered classes to walkers and runners who can be seen shaping-up on the streets of South Miami. Hans’ efforts elevated the sport and helped create a community mindset in favor of fitness.
“Team FootWorks is directly responsible for building the running community,” said Josh Liebman, South Miami City Commissioner.
Friend David Altshuler wrote, “Hans transformed us with his tireless devotion to our sport and his endless gentle guidance… Hans almost single handedly gave us a town to be proud of. He brought “real” runners down here to run… Big names! Don’t ask me how he did it… There are hundreds of happy, healthy folks in this city who owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Hans Huseby. Probably thousands of people…We have lost a giant.
As a pillar of the business community in South Miami, Hans twice served as the President of the Red Sunset Merchants Association (RSMA), some say reluctantly because Hans’ humility made him a person who enjoyed working quietly and tirelessly in the background. However, because he was needed, he answered the call.
“I served with Hans on the Board of RSMA…His good nature, big smile and big heart made him irresistible. The thing that made him stand out as a community leader is that he always put the greater good ahead of his own. What was good for SoMi would be good for Footworks, and he was right…What made him so darn special? The sincerity, authenticity, honesty, good nature, playful, hard-working, love of family and community, and health and fitness and nature…He was magical. The community has lost a champion, and irreplaceable giant,” said Amy Livergood Donner, Director of Advertising for Community Newspapers.
Hans invested heavily in the community via his business, volunteerism and philanthropy. He donated over $1.5m to causes that helped children and children’s education, such as the City of South Miami Police Explorers, the South Miami Alliance for Youth, and the South Miami Drug-Free Coalition, among others.
“Hans was one of those people who had a true sense of purpose about life. He was able to successfully balance being a husband, father and grandfather with the needs of his business and the community. He was a large supporter of our organization. He made life a lot of fun,” said Margaret Sotham, Executive Director of the South Miami Drug-Free Coalition.
Hans Huesby’s community involvement also included his work for “Safe Streets Halloween” and the Parade of the Elves. Halloween was the occasion in which Hans would dress in his clown outfit and give haircuts to adults to the delight of children.
At a recent city commission meeting, Hans arrived in full clown regalia and when he was called upon to speak about the Halloween event, he stood up, put his arms out and said, “Gee, that’s me!”
“Hans was a ball of positive energy! Hans would always work silently behind the scenes in our community to make it a better place. He could always be counted upon for his support and generosity for community events…His humble and kind Midwestern style brought a smile to the face to all who encountered him anytime and anywhere. I will certainly miss him,” wrote Veronica Birch Flores, Executive Vice President of the First National Bank of South Miami
Mayor Philip Stoddard wrote, “What a sweet guy we have lost. Nobody can fill those shoes. We are bereft and we will miss him terribly.”
Hundreds, possibly thousands of mourners and celebrators of Hans Huesby’s life attended his memorial service Monday evening. Other celebrations honoring Hans are in the planning stages, including a “virtual” 5K run.
Businessman John Edward Smith said of Hans, “He was the heart and soul of this community. A person who never lost his Midwest values; a caring person who helped build the community. We’ll miss you Papa Hans.”
Pete Huesby, Hans’ brother said of him, “He loved all things to do with the West and cowboys because he visited the Grand Canyon from Minnesota as a young man. To tell you something about him, he went to Woodstock and spent most of his time there carrying injured people to the first-aid tent.”
Hans and Laurie’s adopted daughter Kim said of her father, “He had the biggest heart. He loved the environment and made a butterfly garden at his home to bring beauty to the city. He loved everything. Everybody loved him.”