Willis "Willie" Franke passed away in the early morning, Wednesday, January 9, 2013, at his home in Kansas City, in the arms of his "bride" of 46 years and surrounded by his precious family. For nearly two years he fought fiercely, without complaint, against metastatic prostate cancer. He was born on January 24, 1945, in
Gaylord, Minnesota, to Clella (Renneke) and Raymond Franke. He married Linda Frederick of Madison Lake, MN, on December 17, 1966. He was blessed with two sons, Paul and Greg, who made him so proud every day to be their father.
Simply stated, Willie celebrated life. He grew up on a farm and loved driving the tractor. Neighbors would occasionally hear him sing his spirited rendition of "The Cattle Call" while he was doing his outdoor chores. He played football, basketball and ran track for Gaylord High School. He was pleased to be part of the fun-loving graduating class of 1963. The 50th class reunion is planned for August. Willie wanted you to know that he will be there in spirit. While attending Minnesota State University, he ran track and was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. He graduated in 1967.
Willie's career path took him to many locations where he enjoyed his work and made numerous friends: Mankato, MN; Union Carbide in Red Oak, IA; Kenworth Truck in Kansas City, MO; Scherer Truck in Riverside, MO; and 17 years with Altec Industries in St. Joseph, MO, traveling the U.S. and Canada as Director of Training. Over the years, he thought of Altec associates as his extended family and was honored to belong to the Altec team. He was a lifelong member of the International Fluid Power Society and served as Vice President and as a member of the Board of Directors. One of Willie's colleagues said, "I always use Willie as my example for what a manager should be; love your area of responsibility, support your people, provide the tools they need to do their job, train them with enthusiasm, trust them, reward their hard work, and care about your people."
Willie had a joyful spirit, adventurous soul and a passion for travel. While raising his family, he took them on countless family trips, from one end of the country to the other. The zany stories from those trips will remain forever in the family folklore. Willie and Linda traveled together to all 50 states, a dozen countries, several continents and 60 islands. While Willie loved experiencing new places, he most enjoyed the detours of a trip to visit his large family and many friends. He lived life to the fullest and was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He enjoyed boating, woodworking, woodcarving, creating wooden Christmas ornaments, dancing, and teaching his grandkids how to use every tool ever produced. He was Linda's anchor, and "Prince Charming." Anyone who knew Willie would say he was a gentleman, quick to laugh, and exceedingly generous. He always saw the best in everyone and had an incredibly positive influence on his entire family and all who were privileged to be part of his life. One of the greatest treasures anyone could possess was to have Willie Franke as a friend.
Willie will be greatly missed by the love of his life Linda; his cherished sons and daughters-in-law, Paul (Lori) Franke, Overland Park, KS and Greg (Tricia) Franke, Kansas City, MO; his enchanting grandchildren Grace, Gavin, Claire and Noelle who were the light of his world; mother Clella Franke, Gaylord, MN; brothers Gary (Linda) Franke, Lexington, VA and David (Sally) Franke, Little Canada, MN; sisters Jane (Larry) Westerbeck, Bloomington, MN, Jil (Kirk) Lytle, St. Paul, MN and Susan (Kevin) Sallstrom, Winthrop, MN; mother-in-law Valeria Frederick, Madison Lake, MN; sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law Clem Frederick, Mankato, MN, Barb (Jim) Hoffman, Mankato, MN, Rosie (Darryl) Hoffman, Benson, MN, Claver Frederick, Madison Lake, MN, Larry (Barb) Frederick, Centennial, CO, David Frederick, Madison Lake, MN, Dan (Carolyn) Frederick, North Mankato, MN, Virginia (Chuck) Flitter, Pemberton, MN, Nick (Linda) Frederick, North Mankato, MN, Andy (Marilyn) Frederick, St. Peter, MN, Mary Kay (Len) Carpenter, Eagle Lake, MN, Clete (Kim) Frederick, Eagle Lake, MN, Ralph (Nan) Frederick, Duluth, MN, Linnette (Pat) Anderson, Madison Lake, MN, Philip (Kathy Bouley) Frederick, Monticello, MN, Darlene (Jim) Dauk, Eagle Lake, MN; numerous amazing relatives and friends.
Willie was greeted at heaven's shore by his beloved father Raymond, baby brother James, infant sister Gail and revered father-in-law Cletus Frederick. Willie was a wonderful example of how we should all live here on earth - with unmitigated integrity, great compassion for others and a willingness to play the hand we are dealt in life with remarkable strength, grace and guts.
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at All Saints Catholic Church in Madison Lake with Rev. Robert Schneider officiating. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery in Madison Lake. Visitation will be held from 4 - 7 p.m., Monday at Northview - North Mankato Mortuary, 2060 Commerce Drive, North Mankato, MN. Memorial contributions are suggested to the Bishop Sullivan Center, 6435 Truman Road, Kansas City, MO 64126. Memories of Willie and condolences may be left with the family at mankatomortuary.com