Bill Hanke

KANAB, Utah — William Peter “Bill” Hanke, lately of Kanab, Utah, and formerly of Westby, Wis., died June 16, 2019 in Weyauwega, Wis.

Bill was born May 30, 1940, in Burlington, Wis., to August and Magdalena “Helen” (Kain-Kilps) Hanke.

His first 15 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 a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-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 County, Wis., and he taught at Weston, Wis., where he also enjoyed coaching basketball, baseball and track.

The couple 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, Mont., four of their bulls finished in the top sire group of 1977.

After about 10 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 20 years, so they began exploring the west together during the winter months, eventually settling full time in Kanab.

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.

Surviving are his son, David (Sandra) Hanke, daughter, Dawn (Jonathan) Knauft, both of Oregon, Wis.; grandchildren, Adam and Samuel Hanke, and 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, Wis.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

Graveside services will be held at Valley Cemetery, at approximately E14121 County Highway P, LaFarge, Wis., on Saturday, June 29, at 11:30 a.m., with a visitation on Saturday at the Picha Funeral Home in Hillsboro, Wis., from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m.

For online information, visit

To plant a tree in memory of Kanab William Peter “Bill” Hanke, Utah; Westby Wis. as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.