Monday, April 21, 2008

Obituary: William Dean Engler

CHILTON - William Dean Engler, age 96, of Chilton, died peacefully at his home on Sunday, April 20, 2008, with his family at his side. He was born on Feb. 14, 1912, in Madison. His mother was Theresa Krenz Engler and his father was William Martin Engler. Also preceding him in death were his sisters, Gerturde Schmitz (Edward) of Madison and Mildred Wirka (Herman) of Madison. After attending Blessed Sacrament Catholic Grade School and Edgewood and West High in Madison, he graduated from Madison Central High School and went on to school at Worcester Academy in Worcester, Mass. Returning to Madison, he worked as a car salesman for Pyramid Motors. On Sept. 1, 1934, he married Virginia Elizabeth Knauf of Chilton. He later owned and operated a Standard Oil gas and service station on University Avenue in Madison until World War II. During the war he worked at Badger Ordinance Powder Plant near Baraboo where he was supervisor in charge of storage and shipment of all black powder used in making war explosives. After the war, in 1945, he went to work for his father-in-law, William N. Knauf, at Knauf and Tesch Company in Chilton. In 1964 after both the former owners of Knauf and Tesch Company had died (William N. Knauf and Roland Tesch), he purchased the company and eventually renamed it Kaytee Products. Knauf and Tesch had been family-owned dating back to 1866 when Nicolas Knauf opened a grain and feed business in Sheboygan, eventually moving to Brillion and then Chilton. Knauf and Tesch operated a general store in Chilton, a grain elevator in Chilton with branch elevators at Mapleleaf, Kaukauna and Greenleaf as well as a dairy farm in the Chilton area. Upon purchasing the company, he discontinued the local feed business and focused on wild bird food and pet food for birds and small animals on a regional and eventual national basis. He was a pioneer in producing wild bird food for sale into the mass market and national chain grocery stores. Under his creative direction and determination, he laid the groundwork for Kaytee Products to become a national leader. In 1981 he sold the business to his three children and continued on as president until 1984. Thereafter he was a member of the Board of Directors until Kaytee was sold to Central Garden and Pet in 1997. He was an active supporter of the Chilton community. He was a charter member of the Chilton Chamber of Commerce, serving as its president twice; during which time he was instrumental in getting a hospital in Chilton and also assisted in several fund raising drives for the construction and expansion of the Calumet Memorial Hospital. He was a lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus and former Grand Knight. He was a charter member of the Chilton AFS Chapter and was a former member of the Chilton Kiwanis Club and Chilton Rotary Club. As a member of Good Shepard Catholic Parish (formally St. Mary's), he served on several parish councils. In 1956 he and his wife, Virginia, built a house on a wooded lot where he enjoyed its natural surroundings until he died. His hobbies included golf, some fishing and daily walking. He became a familiar figure walking around Chilton or on the beach in Florida where he often stopped and talked with his many friends. In his later years, he enjoyed traveling. His favorite leisure time, however, was spent on his power boats in Florida which he operated with great pride. After his first wife, Virginia Knauf Engler, died in 1973, he married his wife's widowed sister, Charlotte Knauf Geary of Oshkosh, who also preceded him in death in 1998. He and Charlotte were married 24 years. They enjoyed extensive travel abroad and spent many enjoyable winters in Florida. He especially enjoyed his family. He was well known for giving advice and positive words of encouragement to family and friends. He is survived by his two sons, William Engler, Jr., (Gail) of Chilton, Michael Engler (Kathleen) of Crystal Lake; and a daughter, Virginia Gilmore (James) of Fond du Lac. Also surviving are four step-children, Robert Geary (Judy) of Waupaca, Lucy Casey Geary Ripp (Mickey) of Hales Corners, William Geary of Oshkosh and Victoria Geary Neelis (Kevin) of Manitowoc. Mr. Engler is survived by 13 grandchildren; eight step-grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren; and two step great-grandchildren. Also surviving are a sister-in-law, Alice Jackson of Madison; and a brother-in-law, Kenneth Knauf of Grayslake, Ill. Mr. Engler was cared for in his last several years by a group of wonderful and dedicated caregivers. Special recognition should be given to Rachel Schroeder of the Affinity Visiting Nurses Program, for her loving care during his final days. Funeral services will be at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 24, 2008, at the GOOD SHEPHERD CATHOLIC CHURCH, 54 E. Main St., in Chilton with the Rev. Bob Kollath officiating. Friends may call at the WIETING FAMILY FUNERAL HOME, 411 W. Main St., in Chilton from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Wednesday April 23, 2008, and again on Thursday at the funeral home from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. when family prayers will be held. A parish vigil service will be held Wednesday evening at the funeral home at 7:30 p.m. Memorials are appreciated in the name of William Engler, Sr. to the Chilton Community Foundation, William Engler, Sr. Library Fund, 42 School St., Chilton, WI, 53014 or to the Affinity Visiting Nurses Hospice Program, 618 Memorial Dr., Chilton, WI, 53014. Online condolences may be made at

Originally published in the Wisconsin State Journal on April 21, 2008

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