Bob Armbruster, whose family has operated Armbruster Jewelers on Cedarburg’s Washington Avenue since 1884, received The Cedarburg Foundation’s fourth annual Civic Award at the foundation’s annual civic celebration February 19, 2006.
Armbruster was recognized for his lifelong contributions to Cedarburg’s quality of life. He is widely sought as a local historian. He and his wife Mary Aileen have overseen the restoration of the 1904 white terra cotta jewelry store to its early 20th century décor. His cheerful demeanor has been a presence on Washington Avenue for decades.
Bob is the third generation of Armbrusters to operate the jewelry store. His grandfather John Armbruster came to Cedarburg from the Black Forest region of southwest Germany in 1882 to play clarinet in the Weber Brewery Band of Cedarburg. He opened his jewelry and music store in 1884.
Grandfather John was mayor of Cedarburg for 16 years. He also served as county board chairman, secretary of the fire department, secretary of the Turnverein and he was an avid booster of local businesses. One of his sons, also named John, Bob’s father, ran the store until 1946.
Bob was born in 1920 and lived until adulthood in a large apartment above the jewelry store along with his grandparents, his parents, two sisters and his brother John. That was typical for Washington Avenue in that day, when many families who ran downtown businesses lived above their stores.
The language upstairs was German, although German was being heard less and less on the street. Bob and his siblings attended elementary grades in the Lincoln Building, now the Cedarburg Senior Center, and high school in the present City Hall, both buildings across the street from the jewelry store.
He and his brother John returned from the service in late 1945 and ran the store together for 25 years, when John left to become City Clerk under Mayor Stephen Fischer. Bob and the former Mary Aileen Behnke, a Marquette University-trained medical technician, were married in 1949.
In 1952, they built their present home on St. John Street where they raised their four children, Joan, John, Wendy and Peter. All are married and Bob and Mary Aileen have 11 grandchildren.
Bob has been an active member and leader in the Lions Club, Rotary, Knights of Columbus, Wisconsin Jewelers Association, and the Peter Wollner Post of the American Legion. In some cases his membership dates back more than 50 years.