William "Bill" LuedkeJanuary 18, 2018
Let’s celebrate the man we know as Dad, “Pops”, Gramps, Garr,“Wild Bill”!
We could all learn to live our lives, young at heart from this gentle man. He maintained his position that people are often judged by their age. He chose to be valued for his attitude and actions, and not his age. So, please don’t ask us how old he was, because we’re not supposed to know.
That same attitude kept him going, right up until very recently. He lived on his own in the tri-level home that he and his wife, Nancy built on that beautiful wooded lot in Hales Corners in 1961. Up until 1-½ years ago, he was still climbing onto his roof to blow off the leaves and hickory nuts, cutting his grass- including the woods, and snowblowing or shoveling both his and the neighbor’s connected driveways. Yep, that was him in the ancient blue snowmobile suit and boots held together by duct tape, but CERTAINLY NO SOCKS!
Gramps had a very active social life, maintaining his schedule of dinner with friends and family at his favorite restaurant Lychee Garden 4-5 times a week, breakfast or lunch with his long-time buddies that worked with him at Ladish Co. or with his family, coming to read People Magazine with “Louie” his granddog, shopping for lawn ornaments- particularly frogs, dates with “the girls”-- (Jenny, Steph, Jan and Michelle,) and a wide variety of activities with grandkids, great grandkids and neighbors.. Fiercely independent, he drove himself to all his own Dr. appointments, even all the way to Mequon at 6 am.
Many of us remember hearing Dad say things like: “You can be two ways in life.”; “You’re that great because of your mother.”; “That’s not for me, that’s for old people”; “That was then, and this is now”; “you don’t get what you don’t ask for”; “One of the grandkids called because they ‘had to talk things over’”. I know we’ll miss hearing those words from his mouth, but we’re sure to repeat them, often.
We know that over the years, Bill shared stories that are now a living history for us. From his stories of his days in the service as a Navigator in the Navy and Army we learned that on several occasions, they flew in various acts for the USO Shows including Doris Day, Les Brown and Bob Hope to entertain the troops during World War II. And he made sure we knew that Doris Day and the other “girls with the band” were led to think they were flying the plane, as they sat in the laps of the pilots, even though the plane had been switched to “auto pilot”.
We know that he grew his finesse as a smooth dancer with his beloved cousin Charlie. “Charlie took the lead”. They were regulars at The Eagles Ballroom on Saturday nights. He and Charlie also rented lake property on Pewaukee Lake during the summer and one night Dad’s car rolled, and found its way into “the drink”-- Pewaukee Lake. Charlie and Dad were also called upon by the owner of ‘Sailor Ann’s’ to roll and hide the crap tables behind the walls when she got advance word of a “raid”.
Imagine him serving only one pre-game drink at Mansou Gardens to Al McGuire each game night, as Al “readied and steadied” himself for Marquette basketball.
Dad loved Bay View, and up until a few weeks ago, he drove through his old neighborhood to check out the changes to his boyhood home, watch the planes take off and land at Mitchell Field, and to drive through Woodlawn Cemetery to visit Nancy and other family members. Dad never remarried after mom’s death 36 years ago. Even now, many of her things remain undisturbed in drawers and throughout the house.
Garr hated tailgaters. When we were in the driver’s seat, we were reminded that we were following way too close to the driver in front of us, and we would certainly be ticketed for that offense in Hawaii. Speaking of Hawaii, Garr and his good friends, Bill and Marie Webb shared a condo while on vacation there. It was a happy place for him, with many great memories and stories shared between him and his longtime Navy buddy, Bill. During these vacations, Garr didn’t even mind that the girl relatives stole his underwear, which were oh, so stylish. He loved reminiscing with Marie whose family he had stayed and lived with during his military leaves and after in San Francisco.
He was a faithful friend to many, negotiating a parking spot for his long-time friend, Eddie Quan, who owned Mansou Gardens in the Cudahy Towers Building. Senator Herb Kohl, the owner of the Towers at the time was actually talked into giving up his personal parking spot by Dad, so that Eddie could get into the restaurant safely at night, and not have to run out and constantly plug the meter.
Many people in this room have been “mentored” by Dad, and he enjoyed the pride and satisfaction of having been a possible “change agent” in their lives. I’m sure many of you here this evening may have been thinking of his commitment and impact to you. In addition, we were reminded of the fact that potential mates/spouses of his grandchildren had to pass “muster” with Gramps/Garr. His grandchildren valued the strong role he played in their lives, and often he was the first member of the family they met.
Bill’s colorful collections included: frogs, Big Band Music, the latest mystery novels, cashmere sweaters, friends, outhouses and as Tom and Pam have discovered in preparing for this day, thousands of saved cards, pictures and momentos from friends and family.
We need to remember today, and always, that Dad wants us to CELEBRATE him by sharing our many great memories, by sharing stories, laughs, and of course great big band music.
Dad/Gramps/Garr did things “his way” right up until the end. And, in the words of the man we live to celebrate: “It will all work out. It has to, we’re in too deep!”
DISCLAIMER: “It’s impossible to capture the total essence of Bill on paper, so please also enjoy the pictures we have collected that are looped on the screens, and the artifacts that give you a larger glimpse.
Memorials may be made in Bill’s honor to St. Jude, www.stjude.org, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105; Alverno College, www.alverno.edu/onlinegiving/, 3400 South 43rd Street, P.O. Box 343922, Milwaukee, WI 53234-3922; or Sojourner Family Peace Center, https://familypeacecenter.org/, 619 W Walnut St, Milwaukee, WI 53212.