LAKE MILLS — Clifford Everett Topel, 96, of Lake Mills — loving husband, father, grandfather and friend — passed away, surrounded by his family, at home on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.
Cliff was born on Oct. 4, 1923 in Lake Mills, on the family farm, located where St. Paul Lutheran Church now stands, to the late W.C. and Mabel (Strauss) Topel.
The second of seven children, Cliff was baptized at the family home on Dec. 16, 1923.
He grew up farming and raising Duroc Jersey hogs with his family.
Cliff was a charter member of the Southside Eagles 4-H Club. He attended the City School, St. Paul’s School, Brick Street School and Lake Mills High School for two years, before quitting to help his family farm full time.
He became the farm machinery repairman for the neighborhood and, in 1948, Cliff and his family founded and developed the repair business Topel’s Lakeside Service, currently known as Topel’s Towing & Repair, at 1110 S. Main St.
Cliff also helped develop Topel’s Mobile Home Park, including creating the boat channels. For many years he sold International trucks and Bridgestone motorcycles, Wheelhorse, and Toro Power Equipment.
He mastered the towing profession, and was proud to pass that talent and knowledge on to his son, nephews and many others over the years.
Cliff was a 10-year member of the Rotary Club, and belonged to the Lake Mills Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin Towing Association.
As a young man, he frequented local dance halls and enjoyed dancing his whole life. His first date with the lucky woman he one day would marry was at a dance hall.
Cliff married Violet (Bobholz) on Feb. 12, 1966, at St. Stephens Church in Beaver Dam. He found someone who not only shared his hobbies, but his faith. They were married in February, so they could honeymoon at his home away from home at the Daytona 500.
Over the course of their marriage, they enjoyed traveling all over the United States and throughout Europe. Best friends, they were married for almost 54 years.
During his younger years, the hobby he enjoyed the most was stock car racing. Cliff spent winters in Florida where he attended the races at Daytona Beach and was at the first race at Daytona Motor Speedway.
He met and partied with AJ Foyt at the racetrack. Cliff provided the towing service at Jefferson Speedway for many years.
Cliff spent time snowmobiling and was a member of Flat Traxx Snowmobile Club.
Cliff and Vi attended many car shows and parades over the years, and were members of the Model A Restorers Club of Madison and Jefferson Collectibles Club.
Cliff was proud of his German heritage and combined his hobbies every year at Gemuetlichkeit Days.
He was a lifelong member of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church where he was confirmed on April 5, 1936.
Over the years Cliff’s biggest joy was his family: their daughter, Pamela and Mark Shefferman of Sparta, N.J.; and his grandson, Alex Shefferman (fiancé Christina Morris) from Dallas, Texas; their son, Daniel (Tara Schroedl) Topel and his grandchildren, Mallory and Christian, all of Lake Mills. He always could be found supporting them at their many activities.
He further is survived by his siblings, Earl (Dee) Topel of Lake Mills and Ellen (Gerald) White of Waukesha, and David (Jay-Lin) Topel of Ames, Iowa; and sister-in-law, Delores Topel of Lake Mills.
Also preceding him in death were his brothers, Wilbur (Florence) Topel, Lyn Topel and Harvey (Patricia) Topel, all of Lake Mills; and his sister-in-law, Jackie Topel of Ames, Iowa.
Cliff will be deeply missed by his many nieces, nephews, other relatives, customers and friends. He helped put the legendary in Lake Mills.
Funeral services will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9, at the St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lake Mills.
Friends may call from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8, at Topel’s Towing & Repair, 1110 S. Main St., Lake Mills, and also on Sunday at the church from 1:30 p.m. until the time of services.
Burial will be in St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to Rainbow Hospice; St. Paul Lutheran Church or the International Towing Museum Survivor Fund.
Claussen Funeral Home in Lake Mills is assisting with arrangements.