Obituaries are a service of Brainard Funeral Home, with locations in Wausau and Weston.
Sen. Walter John Chilsen
Senator Walter John Chilsen, 95, of Weston, Wisconsin, died on Christmas morning after a brief illness. Beloved husband of sixty-five years to Rose, guiding light to his eight children as well as to numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, devoted friend and neighbor. Known for his integrity, compassion, and kindness, Walter John (or WJ, as he was known to his many friends and constituents) was a public servant, skilled rhetorician, consensus-builder, and orator. He was deeply committed to the democratic process, community, and the environment, and he was an ardent Badgers and Packers fan.
Born in Merrill, Wisconsin, on either 18 (or 19) November 1923, he delighted in celebrating two birthdays: the official one, November 18th, set by the hospital, and the 19th, set by his mother. It is emblematic of the expansive generosity of his character.
The second son of Walter Burt “WB” Chilsen (cofounder of the Merrill Daily Herald newspaper) and Margaret Chilsen née Sullivan, he was infused from the start with a sense of the importance of public service and a keen sense for storytelling and the newsworthy. As a boy Walter John learned to play the piano, sing, and golf and developed an aptitude for skilled communications that defined his professional life.
The Chilsen family lived in a large white house on the corner of 201 Mill Street, and every day WB would walk down the hill to the office of the Merrill Daily Herald, a newspaper he cofounded with his brother Joe in 1898. Walter John later described how WB would walk along, glancing back over his shoulder toward the house repeatedly until it was out of sight. It was almost as though he was assuring himself that it was there. WB was a self-made man. He’d been kicked out of high school on a misunderstanding. By the time the principal acknowledged his error and invited him back, WB had decided he didn’t need high school, and he didn’t return. That steely resolve was evident in Walter John as well.
Walter John enlisted in the Air Force during World War II, serving in the South Pacific together with his brother Pat, who served in the army. Rising to Lieutenant, he was a bombardier in a B-24 that caught flak over Okinawa. He helped successfully engineer his plane’s daring return, crashing shortly before reaching base. The lives of all but three flight members were saved, and he sustained a back injury that accompanied, yet didn’t define, him the rest of his life. Like many World War II vets, he rarely discussed his Air Force experience. He was awarded the Purple Heart for bravery, having helped the remaining crew members reach safety after the crash.
He attended Northwestern University briefly, and graduated later from Lawrence University. While at Northwestern, he took a course in radio announcing and radio acting. The course professor, impressed by his work, encouraged him to act, which led to his convincing portrayal on the stage, at about age 20, of the old sea captain Shotover in George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House. Rose Edl, his girlfriend at the time, saw every show. He performed in other plays at Lawrence, including a role as Kit Carson in The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan. After a stint in Stockbridge, MA, he ventured to Hollywood, where he played a sergeant in At War with the Army at the old Hollywood Canteen. He got paid $10 a week and, as he put it, “all the popcorn I could eat.”
He attributed his theater experience to his interest in pursuing work in radio and television.
Walter John met the love of his life, a beautiful young x-ray technician who was attending to his mother at Holy Cross Hospital in Merrill. Rose Edl already knew who he was. She enjoyed listening to his weekly radio show, Eventide Echoes, a dreamy nighttime music program Walter John hosted at the local radio station. Throughout his life, Walter John could bring a glittering smile to her face describing how his heart fluttered when he first saw her.
They married on 20 September 1952. Living in Los Angeles at the time of their engagement, they intended to marry there, and WJ later enjoyed telling the story of how they arranged a meeting with their parish priest to begin wedding planning. In his office, the priest opened his notebook on his desk, “Tell me about your families. Walter John, how many siblings do you have? Four? Thank you. And you Rose?” Pencil poised to make his note. “Twelve? I see.” He set his pencil on the desk, closed his book, looked at them patiently, and said “Go home.” So they were married in Ridgeway, Wisconsin, with a reception at the farm of Rose’s parents, and settled in Merrill in a small apartment above his father’s newspaper office along the railroad tracks. He started his broadcast career at WLIN radio in Merrill, relocating to Wausau two years later to take a job at WSAU radio and television. He and Rose bought a solid old farmhouse on Townline Road with a yard full of mud and chickens. He lived there with Rose until his death, having made multiple improvements to accommodate his growing family.
WJ’s media experience, good looks, resonant voice, and sense of adventure led to his being tapped as the first news anchor for a new television station in northern Wisconsin. He was very proud to have signed WSAU-TV Channel 7 on the air, making the opening announcement for the station in 1954. He went on to anchor the news program for ten years as part of the “News, Weather and Sports” team of Chilsen, Gernetzke, and Zelich. Theirs is the only broadcast trio to have all been inducted into the Broadcast Hall of Fame, which Walter John joined in 2005. “Dick Dudley had a lot to do with that,” he said. His broadcasting job led to lifelong friendships that sustained him and Rose and continue to sustain their family.
The broad name recognition and high visibility of the job also contributed to his successful election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 1966 where he served for six terms, twenty-four years. He tried his hand for Congress in 1969, in an unsuccessful bid to fill the seat vacated by Mel Laird, who had moved to Washington to join the Nixon administration.
WJ’s service as a Wisconsin state senator was marked perhaps most significantly by his insistence upon listening. He especially listened to people who disagreed with him. He said it helped him to understand and refine his own beliefs. And he listened to his constituents, out of a sincere belief that it was up to him to represent them in Madison. He felt this was one reason he continued to be reelected as a fiscally conservative Republican in a liberal Democratic district.
He expressed concern over the direction of political discourse in recent years and bemoaned the loss of the art of negotiation and collaboration, which he saw as essential for governing in a democracy.
After leaving the senate in 1990 he continued in public service, joining the Weston Town Board, retiring after seventeen years in December 2017. He was proud of his service on the board of the environmental group, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, where his voice was a valued presence of bipartisanship. He and Rose were decades-long volunteers at The Neighbor’s Place, a food pantry Rose helped to cofound, and where Walter John held the honor of “Permanent Vice Chair.” His most avid interest in the years before his death was to establish a legacy giving campaign to sustain the organization.
He esteemed his friendships and neighbors.
Walter John Chilsen loved Christmas. He thrived on the gathering of family, relished singing carols, loud and in harmony, found promise in the spirit of renewal and light. Every Christmas Eve he’d fill the house with the sound of public radio’s broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. He and Rose sang in the church choir for Christmas midnight mass many years, joined at times by their children. Recent years’ Christmas celebrations saw WJ and Rose perched in the middle of their large living room, surrounded by the hubbub of conversation and gift-giving, enveloped in mountains of wrapping paper, accompanied by their many loved ones, relishing the cacophony. Every gathering included a boisterous family caroling sing-a-long.
The legacy of Walter John’s compassionate familial love lives on.
Walter John is survived by his cherished wife, Rose, willing straightwoman to his many bad jokes; by his eight children: Jonathan (Tammie Weiss), of DeForest, WI; Anna (Joe Straub), of Marathon, WI; Kristine (Bill Rundle), of Evansville, WI; Elizabeth “Liz” (Michael Garman), of Forest Park, IL; Peter (Jacquelynn Evans), of Muskego, WI; Patricia (John Golbach), of New York, NY; Paul of Nashville, TN, (Lisa Chilsen, of Kenosha, WI); and Matthew, of New York, NY; and by former daughter-in-law Jo Shilts, of New Richmond, WI. He is further survived by his grandchildren, whom he held dear and in whom he took such pride: Kali Chilsen, Devon Weiss and Garrett Scheffen; Katherine, Andrew (Ayila Hall), and Amelia Straub; Margaret Chilsen; Alexander (Tarren Sohier), Benjamin, and Jackie (Brian Montpetit) Chilsen; Gabriella (JonCarlos Velez); Freyja Chilsen Golbach; Rose and Anfinn Chilsen; and by a growing tribe of great-grandchildren: Eliana and Reyha Velez; Michael and Aidan Torres and Phillip Waller; Evalie and Jasfer Straub; and many beloved nieces and nephews together with their beautiful families.
Walter John and Rose’s much-loved dog Bily keeps faithful watch beside Rose now, in Walter’s honor.
His “adopted” foreign exchange families include Mario Antonio and Marilia Firjam, of Juiz de Fora, Brazil, and their children and extended family; and Eugenio “Gino” Alvarado and his daughter Maria Alejandra, of Panama City, Panama.
Walter also nurtured lasting ties with extended family overseas, treasuring connections with Rose’s Bohemian relatives.
WJ was the last surviving member of his generation in his family, having been preceded in death by both his parents, and his siblings Bill, of Ellsworth, OR; Bette (Bob) Klocksin, of Milwaukee, WI; Pat (Phyllis), of Merrill, WI; Val (Shirley), of Onalaska, WI; and his beloved nieces Terry Chilsen, of Wausau, WI, and Janice Chilsen, of Ellsworth, ME.
The family would like to extend special gratitude to long-time caregiver Shandra Skalecke for her kind and gentle attention over the years, and to Noreen Landowski for her kindness.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 12:00 noon on Friday, January 4, 2019 at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, 1104 S. 9th Ave. Wausau. The Rev. Robert Thorn will officiate. Visitation will be held from 10:00 a.m. until the time of the funeral service at the church on Friday, and again on Thursday, January 3, 2019 from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. also at the church. Parish Rosary Service will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at the church. Military Honors will be performed by American Legion Montgomery-Plant-Dudley Post 10 and the United States Air Force. Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a contribution be made to The Neighbor’s Place, 745 Scott Street, Wausau WI 54403.
Dad’s sonorous “Good-bye!”—which he always sang out, starting at a low bass tone and rising to a treble vibrato, following us as we left any visit—will ring warmly in our hearts forever.
He is profoundly missed.
Brainard Funeral Home – Everest Chapel is assisting the family with arrangements. Online Condolences may be shared at www.brainardfuneral.com
Donations may be made to:
The Neighbors’ Place
745 Scott Street, Wausau WI 54403
Dolores M. Riege, 89, of Wausau, was reunited in Heaven with her husband, David, on December 24, 2018.
Dolores was born in Wausau on January 25, 1929 to the late Werner and Stella (Pauls) Ericson. She grew up in Schofield and graduated from Wausau High School. She married her 7th grade sweetheart on July 2, 1949 at Peace United Church of Christ in Schofield. She dedicated her life to serving others; volunteering at Area Religious Education for Handicapped, Wausau Hospital,- doing Lifeline, Gifts a la carte and the waiting room, Kiwanis Club, The Neighbor’s Place, Immanuel Lutheran Church – serving as a Sunday School Teacher, Alter Guild ,Women’s Circle and the Children’s Library.
She was active in Antique Club, Garden Club and the YWCA. She enjoyed her time working at Janke Bookstore for many years. She and her husband spent two years serving the congregation at Trinity Lutheran Church in Brevort, Michigan. Dolores was a lifelong summer resident of Sayner, WI.
Dolores is survived by children Jim (Jan) Riege, Steve (Maryanne) Riege, Mary (Bob) Johannes, and John (Rose) Riege; grandchildren Gina (Eric) Sorensen, Jesse (Amanda) Riege, Sarah (Brian) Kurtz, Ross (Natasha) Riege, Megan (fiancé Chris Lemarca) Merrell, Tracy (Tarek) Sraidi, Abby (boyfriend Brett Piasecki) Merrell, Steven (fiancé Dawn Miller) Johannes, Beth (Jason) Balck, Nicole (Jason) Christensen, Alyssa (Jon) Czerwinski; and 16 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, sister Joan Patterson, and three grandchildren- Eric and Paul Johannes and Julia Riege.
A visitation will be Friday, December 28 from 4-6pm at Brainard Funeral Home, 522 Adams Street, Wausau. There will be a private family graveside service at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Immanuel Lutheran Alter Guild or the Plum Lake Library, Sayner, WI.
Lori Ann Stark, 55, Cottage Grove, formerly of Mosinee, passed away peacefully on Thursday, December 27, 2018.
She was born June 7, 1963 in Wausau, the daughter of David and Arline (Wojdac) Stark of Mosinee.
Survivors include her parents; two sisters, Diane (Larry) Gilbertson and Patti Stark; five nieces and nephews, Mary, Joe, Gabrielle, Christy and Jamie; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
She was preceded in death by one nephew, Erik Burns; her paternal grandparents, Joseph Sr. and Theresa (Jansan) Stark; her maternal grandparents, Frank and Henrietta (Kubick) Wojdac; and her step-maternal grandmother, Sophie (Ambroziak) Wojdac.
Memorial Mass will be at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 12, 2018 at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, 651 Mead Ln., Mosinee, WI 54455. Rev. Jim Trempe will preside. Visitation will be on Friday from 4:00 until 8:00 p.m. at Peterson/Kraemer Funeral Home, 1302 Sixth Street, Wausau and again on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until time of services at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Marathon County Humane Society.
Online condolences may be expressed at www.petersonkraemer.com
Ryan P. Fischer, 42, quietly passed at home, Sunday, December 23, 2018, after an intense battle with cancer.
He was born June 5, 1976, in Wausau, son of Gary and Sandra Fischer. He met his wife in 2013, and found an instant connection. They married August 7, 2015. She survives.
Ryan was a 1994 graduate of Wausau West, attended UWMC, then transferred to UW Madison, earning an undergraduate degree in 1999. He worked 17 years for Liberty Mutual Insurance.
Ryan was a lifelong baseball fan, playing all 4 years at Wausau West. He continued enjoying baseball as an adult for many years on local fast-pitch teams. Family members involved in pro ball, were a big source of pride for him. His other interests included travel, food, music, fitness, Star Wars, and spending time with family and friends.
Survivors include his wife, Anna Fischer; step-children, Max, Ellie and Jakob; parents, Gary and Sandra Fischer; sister, Sara (Ryan) Wietor; brother-in-law, Aaron (Kelly) Sics; nephews, Carson, Hudson and Nolan; niece, Lana; and many other relatives and friends.
A commemoration of Ryan’s life will be from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Saturday, January 5, 2018, upstairs at the Sawmill Brewing Company, 1110 E. 10th Street, Merrill.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, memorials may be directed to your local cancer organization.
Peterson/Kraemer Funeral Home, 3400 Stewart Ave, Wausau, is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be expressed at www.petersonkraemer.com.
Clemens S. Wadzinski
Clemens S. Wadzinski, 93, formerly from Rothschild, WI passed away Wednesday December 26, 2018 at the Wisconsin Veterans Home, King, WI.
He was born October 10, 1925 to Joseph and Mary (Lepak) Wadzinski in the town of Cassel, WI. Clemens grew up in the town of Cassel and attended Marathon City High School. He was sworn into the Cadet Program in Milwaukee, WI and placed in the Air Force Reserve on August 11, 1943. On December 12, 1943 he entered basic training in Greensboro, NC and then attended Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC. He transferred to San Antonio Cadet Center for Pre-Flight School, where as a member of the Army Air Corps, studied the theory of flight, air and naval recognition and link and parachute training. Clemens was injured in a parachute accident and during his recovery the war in Europe ended, he was honorably discharged on October 31, 1945.
On April 27, 1946, he married the love of his life, Arleen (Dottie) Sicklinger at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Marathon City, WI. Together they raised 5 children in Rothschild, WI and were devoted members of St. Mark Catholic Church, Rothschild. While raising their children, Clemens worked at Marathon Corporation, American Can Corp, and Weyerhauser for 41 years as a Supervisor until his retirement in 1988. During those years he also spent time serving as commissioner of the Rothschild Swimming pool, President of the Rothschild, Schofield, Weston Little League, and loved coaching. He was a lifetime member of the Rothschild Urban Aires Snowmobile Club, member of the Marathon County Snowmobile Association, Director of District 3 Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs from 1986 -1991, and a 70 plus years member of the American Legion Post 469. Clemens went on the 6th Never Forgotten Honor Flight 10-17-2011, it was very emotional for him especially the Iwo Jima memorial and mail call on the way back to CWA. Clemens played baseball for many years and remained a Milwaukee Brewers fan as well as a Green Bay Packers fan.
Clemens and Arleen enjoyed a wonderful life including the many years they owned a cottage on Lake Nokomis in Tomahawk, WI, boating and fishing the summer months and snowmobiling winter months.
They RV’d through the U.S. and Canada for several years until they gave up snowmobiling and purchased a permanent spot in Hawaiian Isles Park, Ruskin, FL to spend the winter months. There Clemens enjoyed many things including golfing, playing horse shoes and volunteering on several committees.
On August 21st of 2014 Clemens moved into the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, WI where he was well liked and very well cared for, which his children are forever grateful.
Survivors include his children, Jeff (Fay) Wadzinski, Sun City, FL; Russ (Debbie) Wadzinski, Tomahawk, WI; Jay (Carrie) Wadzinski, Melbourne Beach, FL; Jodell (Bill) Brumfield, Columbus, OH; a son-in-law, Michael Rewey, Madison, WI; sixteen grandchildren, twenty-five great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. Sisters Geraldine Lang and Luanne Zemski and Brother Kenneth Wadzinski.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Arleen Wadzinski, daughter Pam Rewey, parents Mary and Joe Wadzinski, mother-in law, Lillian Mucha, Brother Marvin Wadzinski, great grandchild Samara Woodland, and many beloved friends and relatives.
The Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:30 a.m. Friday January 4, 2019 at St. Mark’s Catholic Church, Rothschild WI. Rev. Allan L. Slowiak will preside. Entombment will be in Memorial Chapel Mausoleum Restlawn Memorial Park, Wausau, WI. Friends may call on Friday from 10:00 a.m. until the time of services at the church. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Wausau Never Forgotten Honor Flight in care of the family.
Peterson/Kraemer Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences may be expressed at www.petersonkraemer.com
Erna Sobjeck Heldt
Erna M. Sobjeck Heldt, 98, of Wausau, passed away on, Thursday, December 27, 2018 at Aspirus Hospice House.
Erna was born in Merrill on October 9, 1920 to the late Paul and Clara (Howard) Beilke. She married Paul Sobjeck on January 4, 1941. He preceded Erna in death on April 1, 1982. She found love again and married Ervin Heldt on July 2, 1983; Ervin preceded her in death on September 23, 1999.
Erna worked for the Wausau Police Department as a crossing guard for 30 years at the corner of 11th Street and Thomas Street. Starting and ending her days with the kids is what made her truly happy.
She is survived by her step-son, Ken Heldt and his children, Samantha and Christopher; as well as her great grandson, Joel.
In addition to her parents and husbands, Erna was preceded in death by her step-daughter, Vicky Heldt; and her sister, Malinda (Emil) Wiesner.
Funeral services will take place at 7:00 pm on Saturday, December 29, 2018 at Helke Funeral Home, 302 Spruce Street, Wausau. Vicar Joseph Pinzl will officiate. Visitation will take place from 5:00 pm until the time of services at the funeral home. You may sign the family guestbook at helke.com.
The family would like to thank Jolene for her continued care and dedication to Erna for the past six years.
Susan M. (Leitermann) Jilk
Susan ( Sue ) Marie (Leitermann) Jilk, 60 passed on peacefully to be with her Savior on Sunday, December 23, 2018 at home with her one and only true love (husband Steven) by her side. Susan battled colitis for 45 years. Her colitis disease led to her journey through PSC, Cholangiocarcinoma, and liver transplant the last 10 years of her life. Susan’s faith in God carried her through the rough times.
She was born May 28, 1958 to Allan and Marcella (Mroczenski) Leitermann Marathon, WI. (They survive). Susan and Steve married May 10, 1980 at The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Marathon WI. They met at St. Anthony’s Retreat Center, Marathon, WI.
Sue was a stay at home mom, who home schooled her two children. One of Sue’s greatest joys were spending time with helping her children “organize” new homes. She had a bit of a passion with being organized. While raising children, she owned a successful home-based window treatment business that she took over from her mother. She enjoyed singing on the Praise and Worship Team at her local church. Listening ,singing, and playing music brought joy to her soul. She played keyboard, flute and guitar. Another passion was to preserve memories in her journaled scrapbooks. Traveling with her husband was always a highlight for Sue. From their cabin to over 30 states they explored life together, with Hawaii being her favorite place. They also loved to ballroom dance, either on the dance floor or practicing at home.
Late in life she added writing to her many talents. She wrote many stories for her grandchildren. Her big project was a published book about her health and her faith in God that helped her persevere through all her challenges. (As The Sun Was Setting by Susan Jilk) Sue spent many hours in her flower gardens and in the kitchen. Countless hours were spent canning fruits and veggies from the garden and baking for friends and family. Sue was a caretaker to all who needed help. She took the term “pay it forward” to a new level. She could be sick in the hospital one day and a week later cooking and baking for a sick friend. A faithful servant she was. Compassion was a huge part of her life, not only caring for her 1 pound baby son, adopted daughter, 4 foster children and especially helping to care for her 100 year old grandmother.
Sue enjoyed starting a book club with her sister that brought balance to her life. A gathering of women supporting each other. Sue was a social butterfly and enjoyed spending as much time as she could with her family, friends and her cousins. She LOVED planning and hosting tea parties. Sue was very passionate about organ donation and to share with others the gift of life she received with her her own liver transplant that gave her family 5 more precious years with her. Her two little grandbabies gave her the will to fight to the very end. Her last big ear to ear smile came as a little girl came running into the house yelling, “Nana! I’m here!” with her toy doctor kit in hand.
Besides her husband and parents she is survived by a son, Jason Jilk Marathon. Daughter, Dawn (Lucas) Gordon Tomah.Grandchildren, Cole and Ella Gordon. Brother Ken (Bonnie) Leitermann. Sister Brenda (Kevin Sorenson) Kaiser. Brother and sister in laws: Roger and Shirlene Jilk, Thomas and Paula Jilk, Donald and Stella Jilk, Shirley and Bill Newhart, Barbara and John Norquist, and Judith and George Kuzma.
She is preceded in death by paternal grandparents Elmer and Eleanor Leitermann, maternal grandparents John and Tillie Mroczenski, infant Baby Jilk in 1980 and daughter Faith Marie Jilk 1981.
The memorial Service will take place at 11:00 a.m on Saturday, January 5, at Highland Community Church, Marathon. Pastor Brian Whitaker will officiate. Visitation will be at the church from 9:00 a.m. to the time of service. Graveside service will take place following at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Marathon with Fr. Joseph Diermeier officiating. John J. Buettgen Funeral Home is assisting the family. For a complete obituary and online condolences, please visit www.honorone.com.