William Peter Hanke, lately of Kanab, Utah and formerly of Westby, Wis., died June 16th, 2019 in Weyauwega, Wisconsin.
Bill was born May 30, 1940 in Burlington, Wis. to August and Magdalena “Helen” (Kain-Kilps) Hanke. His first fifteen years were spent on the family dairy farm west of Burlington. His parents then bought another farm southeast of Jefferson and Bill graduated there in 1958.
During high school he played basketball, baseball and was an outstanding 800 meter runner in track. He went on to be one of the first in the U.S. to earn an MS degree from U.W. Madison in the fledgling area of Health Education.
In 1965, while still a student, he married Lillian Looker. After graduation, they purchased a farm near Viola in Richland Co. and he taught at Weston, where he also enjoyed coaching basketball, baseball and track. They began raising Angus cattle. The timing of this choice was perfect because the American Angus Association had just made it possible to use artificial insemination to genetically improve a herd. This enabled Bill and Lillian to, within five years, take their herd to the level of breeders who used their own bulls and had been in business for decades. At the Midland Bull Test Station in Billings, Montana, four of their bulls finished in the top sire group of 1977.
After about ten years of teaching, coaching and farming, he retired for health reasons and began investing in rural properties. Bill and Lillian divorced in 1990.
In the late 90s, he met Jean Schnick in La Crosse, his partner until her death in 2018. Bill had taken a number of road trips out west, beginning just after high school. Jean had lived in Colorado for over twenty years, so they began exploring the west together during the winter months, eventually settling full time in Kanab, Utah.
Bill suffered a stroke in January 2019 and fought hard to regain his function. We are particularly grateful for the caring staff of the Neuro Specialty Rehab Unit in St. George, Utah. They made it possible for him to return to Wisconsin for his last few months.
He was preceded in death by his parents. Surviving are his son David (Sandra) Hanke and daughter Dawn (Jonathan) Knauft, both of Oregon, Wis.; grandchildren Adam and Samuel Hanke; Anastasia, Natalie and Aaron Knauft; his sister Karen (Ron) Grunewald of Jefferson, Wis.; niece Wendy (Steve) Fahlgren of Waunakee, Wis.; and nephew Dan Grunewald of Jefferson.
The funeral will be held graveside at Valley Cemetery (approximately E14121 County Road P, La Farge, WI 54639) on Saturday, June 29 at 11:30 a.m., with a time of visitation held on Saturday at the Picha Funeral Home in Hillsboro from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m.