WATERTOWN, Wis.----Due to overwhelming support and inquiry, the funeral
service Tuesday for famed Wizard of Oz star Meinhardt F. Raabe was open to
The funeral was held at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Farmington, a small
rural farming community just east Johnson Creek, Wisconsin where Raabe
grew-up. A cremation burial took place immediately after the funeral at the
Meinhardt Franz August Raabe, 94, passed away April 9 of a brief illness in
Orange Park, Fla. He was born in Farmington in Jefferson County on Sept. 2,
1915. He grew up on his family's dairy farm and enjoyed canning with his
younger sister, and raising ducks and rabbits, which he sold to raise money
In his 2005 autobiography, Raabe said as a "little person" he endured years
of schoolyard teasing about what he called his "abnormal lack of height",
before wandering one day into the "Midget Village” attraction at the 1933
Chicago World's Fair.
It was not until later on in life that he learned the cause for his
dwarfism. Doctors indicated that his pituitary gland was underdeveloped
causing him to remain small. While seeking higher education at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated in 1937 with a
Bachelor's degree in accounting, Raabe spent summers working at world fairs
and expositions to earn tuition money.
In June 1937, he began working for the Oscar Mayer Company in Madison as an
accountant and then as the public spokesman and image of “Little Oscar--the
World's Smallest Chef,” promoting their products. In November 1938, Raabe
took a leave of absence to film “The Wizard of Oz”, based on the 1900 novel
"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum, and was cast as the Munchkin
Coroner. He was paid $125.00 a week.
Once the movie filming was completed, he returned to the Oscar Mayer Company
and continued his career. He worked a combined 30 years for the company.
Raabe also received his private pilot license in 1944 and joined the Civil
Air Patrol during World War II in 1945 as a ground instructor, teaching
navigation and meteorology.
As “The Wizard of Oz” gained popularity so did Raabe and the other remaining
Munchkins, and they appeared at various celebrity events and reunions around
the country. Raabe was present when the remaining living "Munchkins" were
honored in November 2007 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los
He was married for 50 years to Margaret Marie Hartline Raabe, another
"little person", until her death in October 1997 following a vehicle
accident in Florida, in which Raabe also received injuries.
Raabe, who was 4'7", co-authored a book in 2005, “Memories of a Munchkin: An
Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road”, published by Back Stage Books,
with Lt. Daniel Kinske, USN. Raabe was a member of Little People of America
and often attended the "Oz-Stravaganza!" in Chittenango, New York where he
was treated like royalty.
The north central community, just east of Syracuse, is the birthplace and
hometown of L. Frank Baum, and has had a "Oz" celebration since 1978,
inviting all living actors from the "Wizard of Oz" movie including the
"Munchkins". He also made guest apperances in Chesterton, Indiana and at
other Oz festivals around the country.
The last Munchkin actor death was in May 2009, when Mickey Carroll died at
89. He was born Michael Finocchiaro in St. Louis, Missouri, and played the
part of the Munchkinland "Town Crier", marched as a "Munchkin Soldier", and
was the candy-striped "Fiddler" who escorted Dorothy Gale (portrayed by Judy
Garland) down the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City.
With Raabe's passing this month, only four Munchkins survive today; they
are: Ruth Duccini, Jerry Maren, Margaret Pellegrini and Karl Slover, from
among the slightly more than 100 adults and children recruited as
"Munchkins" for the film.
Prior to his death, Raabe, a master gardener, enjoyed returning home to
Wisconsin as often as he could (his last visit being in the spring of 2006)
while residing at Penny Retirement Community in Penny Farms, Florida. He is
survived by his younger sister, Marion Ziegelmann of Watertown, Wis., other
relatives and friends.
Flags were at half mast at Oscar Mayer Foods, Inc., in Madison, Wisconsin
until Tuesday night in honor of Raabe. Memorials may be given to Immanuel
Lutheran Church in Farmington or the charity of one's choice.
Raabe, who led a colorful and eventful long life, returns to his beloved
Wisconsin this week. where, as just as in the classic movie, there is "No
Place Like Home.”