William (Bill) Louis Bethke, age 97, of Monona, WI died peacefully at SSM Health Monroe Hospice Home on Monday, December 18, 2023.
Bill was born March 16, 1926, in Wisconsin Rapids, WI to Irma and Louis Bethke. When Bill was 9 years old his family moved to New Mexico for a better climate for his father’s health. His father died shortly thereafter, leaving his mother to care for Bill, his brother Harold and sister Carol. She worked as a telephone operator, an industry which later became Bill’s career. He loved to tell stories of his days in New Mexico.
Bill’s family returned to Wisconsin when he was fifteen, first residing in Endeavor and later in Auburndale where he met Joyce Connor. Even though Joyce was a few classes ahead of Bill they formed a fast friendship.
In January 1944 Bill graduated from Auburndale High School and was drafted into the Army to serve in World War II. He first attended UW-Madison in a pre-engineering course and in June 1944 went to Fort Hood for basic training. He later went to Camp McCall and Fort Bragg, NC for Airborne Infantry Training. In December 1944 he was shipped to Europe to join the 82nd Airborne Division, spending 8 ½ months in France and was in Paris for VE Day.
When he returned to the States, he married Joyce Connor on July 18, 1945, and they enjoyed 76 years of marriage. In 1947 they welcomed son William David Bethke to the family. After the service, Bill joined Wisconsin Bell Telephone Company and served in several positions in Madison, Rhinelander and Appleton. He retired in 1986 as supervisor in the engineering department and remained active in the Pioneers retirees association throughout his life.
Bill was active in many civic organizations including the Boy Scouts, Lions Club and Lake Edge UCC, volunteering, serving in leadership positions, and fundraising for projects and causes to improve the lives of others. He enjoyed fishing, bowling, golf and gardening. In 1954 he and Joyce purchased a cabin on the Moen’s Lake Chain in Rhinelander, which continues to be a special place for family. He and Joyce enjoyed many adventures traveling, spending time with family, camping, volunteering and playing games. Bill loved to tell stories and will be dearly missed as the librarian of our family history.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents Irma and Louis Bethke; sister Carol Krueger; wife and life partner, Joyce.
He is survived by his son Bill (Elaine) Bethke; granddaughters Ericka (Chad) Nelson, Jenny (Joe) Bochar, and Emily (Dan) Gruenewald; great-grandchildren Jack Bochar, Sophie and Ali Gruenewald; brother Harold Bethke, and many special nieces, nephews and their families.
A visitation will be held Saturday, February 10th at 10 am followed by a memorial service at 11 am at Lake Edge UCC Church, 4200 Buckeye Rd, Madison followed by a noon luncheon at VFW Post 7591, 301 Cottage Grove Rd, Madison.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Lake Edge UCC.
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