Charles “Charlie” G. Schwanke, 74, of Chetek, formerly of Kenosha, was born to eternal life Monday, July 9, 2012, at his home.
He was born in Kenosha on Jan. 17, 1938, the son of Charles and Bernadine (Laneville) Schwanke. He was a 1956 graduate of Mary D. Bradford High School and spent two years earning credits toward a marketing degree at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha. After Gateway, Charles committed the next two years of his life to hard work, and then enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard, serving at Fort Gordon, Ga., from February 1961 to July 1961, and again from October 1961 to August 1962 at Fort Lewis, Wash. He was then released from active duty and continued to serve in the Wisconsin National Guard for 22 years, attaining the rank of master sergeant, serving as first sergeant in HQ. and HQ. Battery 57th Field Artillery Brigade. During his time in the National Guard, he was voted Soldier of the Year for the state of Wisconsin in 1965.
In his civilian life, Charles was employed at American Motors Corporation, Kenosha, becoming a member of the United Brotherhood of Teamsters, which in turn led to a position of business agent for that organization as well. He was employed by Teamsters Local 43 out of Racine from 1970 to 1994, and for the last 15 years of his employment, was elected to five three-year terms as president of that local.
During his working years, Charles was also the labor management representative to the Sunrise Rotary Club from 1989 to 1994. He served on the Board of Directors of the United Way of Kenosha County from 1976 to 1984 and was appointed chairman of the Kenosha Harbor Commission from 1987 to 1991. In addition to this, Charles was also a scuba diving enthusiast, serving as the president of the Kenosha Dive Club from 1971 to 1976. He was also a loyal member of the Moose and the American Legion.
On June 13, 1987, Charles married Colleen Moeller in Kenosha and became a devoted father to Noel Lynn and Christopher James Moeller. Charles spent 25 wonderful years in his roles as husband and father and will always be remembered for his commitment to his family.
Upon his retirement from Teamsters Local 43 in 1994, Charles and Colleen moved to the Chetek area, where they spent many happy years together. During that time, Charles also proceeded to further himself by taking courses at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire. In May 1998, he was awarded a technical diploma in the Marine and Outdoor Power Products Program, which covered outboard motors, chain saws, snowmobiles, motorcycles and other outdoor power equipment.
Charles then began many happy years of volunteer service as a lab assistant, especially enjoying his work with students within that program. At this point, Charles continued on with his education and in May 2004, he was awarded part-time status as a teacher in the state of Wisconsin Technical College System. He was further employed by Chippewa Valley Technical College, Eau Claire, as an adjunct instructor within the same program in Fall 2010.
Even though busy with work during his career and in his retirement years, Charles enjoyed many hobbies and outdoor activities. He put his technical skills to good use through diagnosing and repairing outboard motors. Through this work, he became known as Old Man Charlie among local resort owners and boating and fishing enthusiasts in the area. He was also an avid hunter, hunting whitetail deer with gun and bow for many years. His other passion was fishing and he spent many years fishing the waters of Wisconsin, as well as the Province of Ontario, Canada, catching trophy walleye and northern pike. He also enjoyed fishing Falcon Lake in Texas for striped bass and catfish, and especially enjoyed his trips to Alaska, fishing for halibut and red salmon while enjoying the beauty of the glaciers and awesome scenery. Charlie also enjoyed snorkeling in Aruba, skiing and snowmobiling in Wisconsin, kayaking in Colorado and spending time with his wife and friends in Key West, Fla. He also loved home brewing a variety of wines, which he readily bottled and offered to all of his friends and family who he always wanted to remember.
With his passing, Charlie is survived by his wife Colleen, of Chetek; one daughter, Noel (Randy) Bryan, of Estes Park, Colo.; one son, Christopher (Lisa) Moeller, of Racine; one granddaughter, Sydney, of Racine; his beloved sister, Kathryn (Marvin) Hohl, of Bella Vista, Ark.; and nieces, nephews, cousins and many close friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
A celebration of his life will be held from 4-7 p.m. at the Skinner Funeral Home, 637 N. Main St., Rice Lake, on Thursday, July 12. In addition, a one-hour visitation will be held prior to the service Friday, July 13, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 1618 20th St., Cameron, where a Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Burial with military honors will follow immediately at Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery, N. 4063 Veterans Way, Spooner. Following the burial, lunch will be served at Adventures Restaurant, 2901 College Drive, Rice Lake.
The family would like to extend a special thank you to Lakeview Medical Center Hospice; Dr. James Peters; the Lower Keys Medical Center; Doctors King, Pandea and Ahamed; The Visiting Nurse Association of the Florida Keys, in particular Heather Lyvers R.N.; and Charles’ friends in Key West and in Wisconsin for providing him with excellent care and assistance during his difficult illness.
The Skinner Funeral Home in Rice Lake is serving the family: www.ricelakeskinnerfh.com.