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William R. "Bill" Brandel

November 18, 1948 ~ June 18, 2022 (age 73)


“It’s A Wonderful Life.” A classic movie buff, Bill certainly appreciated this one and believed in living every day to the fullest, never letting loss or pain discourage him. His own life adhered to the lessons of his favorite story, A Christmas Carol- that there is good and redemption in the world and the most that one can give is kindness and service to others.

William Robert Brandel was born a natural singer, story teller and go-getter on November 18, 1948 to Judge Jacob William and Ione (Carney) Brandel. Bill grew up in Jefferson with his sisters Vicki (Richard) Schicker and Valerie (Roger) Cole, alongside lifetime friends the Dellamater family, Chunky and Peter. Little Bill loved playing with modeling clay all day long on the kid’s porch, delivering baked goods from house to house on the block for all of his German ‘grandmas’ (sampling as he went) and singing with barbershop quartets for many years. He respected and emulated his father “Big Bill”- being fair and generous, serious at times yet otherwise jovial.

After graduating from Jefferson High School in 1967 as an honor student, class president and president of the National Honor Society he went on to earn his Bachelor’s degree with honors in Broad Field Social Studies and English Education from UW Whitewater in 1970. Bill worked his way through college as a machinist at Arrow Inc. and made pizzas, poured beer and bounced for the Keuhn family’s Towne Inn. Never fear, he made time to party and play cards with Curly, Boozer, Randy, Tom and the rest of that college crew. 

In December, 1971, Bill joined Harriet and John Piek’s clan when he married his high school sweetheart and neighbor, Carol. Over 50 years together, they enjoyed going out to a nice dinner, traveling, going on cruises and drives (or crashes) and seeing movies, concerts and shows. Carol kept his shirts ironed and his schedule straight, which was no simple task, helping him participate in all he did. Bill was an insurance agent for Northwestern Mutual before he and Carol owned their own gift shop. Southgate Gifts, later The Present Place Gift Shoppe in downtown Jefferson, was only possible with the help of best friends Ted “Theo” and Paula “Poola” Heitzler.  During this time, Bill bartended part time at Wayside Inn, Edgewater and the Cambridge Country Club.  With all of that, he and Ted managed to still have too much fun in their weekly bowling league.

Bill and Carol had one daughter Elizabeth (Beth) of Jefferson, but always considered their nieces and nephews along with Kelli, Eric, and Carrie as part of their brood.  He was such a loving dad to Beth, introducing her to music and singing all the time with her and reading novels to her using character voices.  Being a teacher gave him the opportunity to spend summers with her as she was growing up, making extravagant Hobbit holes with windows and lights out of boxes and cushions to play in, watching movies and DOOL and going for convertible drives in his TR4A, just palling around.  Bill passed along his affection for history, reading, bourbon and all things Abraham Lincoln, among many other interests, to his ‘precious’ daughter Beth.

Bill loved Jefferson and devoted most of his life to the city. He was a founding member and director of Gemuetlichkeit Days, Inc. established in 1971 and spent decades running the card tournaments and co-piloting/beer can opening for Jeff and Ron with the G-days float.  In 1979 Bill joined the Jefferson Kiwanis Club and was the club president for three terms, later secretary, and was honored with the George Hixson Fellowship Award.  He was president of the Greenwood Cemetery for 37 years.

Bill was a teacher and public servant who epitomized the can-do spirit. He took great pride in teaching World Geography, International Relations, U.S. and World History, Economics, Sociology, Leadership and AP History for 35 years at Jefferson High School, retiring in 2006.  Throughout his career he was the Social Studies Dept. Coordinator, member of the national and state Councils for Social Studies and the national, state and local Education Associations, serving many years as union representative and president. “Mr. Brandel” also was Senior Class Advisor and in charge of graduation, was Student Council co-Advisor with his buddy Paul “Skip” Schulz, ran the National Honor Society and AV Club, and enjoyed hosting the detention students (shout-out to David) during lunch time in his classroom.  Additionally, he taught Economics to adult students one or two evenings a week for MATC-Fort Atkinson and Watertown, which recharged him. Along the way, Bill took courses as well, finishing his own master’s degree in 1992.  He was a dedicated teacher most remembered for his tiny perfect hand printing, treating students justly and with empathy, recognizing effort as well as achievement. Bill reveled in past students sharing their accomplishments, one even honoring him, Skip and Collin as heroes in the book “Not in My School” by Ted Hayes.

Bill first ran and was elected to the City Council in 1984. Two years later he ran and was elected mayor of the City of Jefferson, having the honor of serving four terms.  During that time, he presided over the Planning Commission and the Water and Electric Commission.  He served on the Finance Committee and Planning Commission, Museum Board and was a Council liaison to the Jefferson Development Corporation (JDC).  Later he was a member and director of the JCD and served as chairman of the promotional committee and as a member of the Business Retention Task Force. After completing his final mayoral term, Bill continued as a city alderperson during which time he served as Chair of the Streets, Health and Sanitation Committee and a member of the Finance Committee.  He was a Council Representative on the Museum Board, the Utility Commission, The Board of Review and the Revolving Loan Committee. He served many years as President of the Common Council, attending his last meeting 11 days before he passed. He found working alongside Tim Freitag and Dale Oppermann while meeting and working with current and potential business developers, business owners and industrialists to be highly rewarding. His leadership style was steady, very modest and not showy. He was the recipient of the Jefferson Citizen of the Year Award in 1994, the Outstanding Citizen Award by the Jefferson County Reserve Officers Association in 1998 and the WPPI Community Service Award in 2019.

Bill was often called upon to write and deliver speeches, to perform wedding ceremonies for friends and once even sang and danced as a founding father in Jefferson’s CPA production of 1776.  Billy B. had a unique combination of being able to talk to anyone about any topic from history to movies to sports, 60’s music to cars to politics all the while listening to them with keen interest and curiosity.  Not much was better than having a good drink and chatting with friends, especially his ‘grumpy old men’ Roger, Steve, Gino, Kevin, Skip, Wedo, Gordy, Joe and the rest of his Thursday night crew, including Maureen. Being an old movie aficionado, Bill always delighted in being able to chat with Joseph about all of the old films and stars. He relaxed by going up north to hang out with John and Ellen or traveling cross-country to visit friends including Chad and Mariah or Michelle and Matt, and to wherever his stars, Beth or Joel, were performing. He got a kick out of going to the horse races with the guys, having a margarita on vacation and throwing a yearly Christmas Eve bash. He always had a Sudoku book or a crossword puzzle in his hand.  He would read the newspaper and spend hours each day researching and confirming what he had read. The Milwaukee Journal recognized Bill with a story and photos displaying the historical presidential political buttons he had collected and organized over many years. He just loved learning and sharing his wealth of information.   

Having been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in December of 2018, Bill courageously underwent many years of treatment but passed away June 18, 2022 after spending 5 days at Rainbow Hospice.  He is survived by Carol and Beth and so many wonderful friends and relatives. Special thanks to Dr. Dan and R.N. Mary Mulkerin, Bob and Sally Zentz and family, Candy Heggie, Patty Strohbusch, Tim and Roberta Freitag and everyone at the City of Jefferson and Jefferson Police Department and to Jake and Olivia with Olsen-Gibson Funeral Home.  We imagine he must be having a clear one with Jule, a lengthy conversation with Bob or Ruth and chatting with all the friends and loved ones who went ahead of him. He does not expect to see any of you too soon, so be good but have a good time.

The family wishes to honor Bill's life of service with a future memorial in Jefferson as well as donations to organizations he supported, and so in lieu of flowers, contributions to the family would be appreciated.

Bill's Bash will be held to commemorate Bill's life from 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2022 at the Jefferson VFW Hall at 1420 S. Rockwell St, Jefferson, WI 53549. Tributes to Bill will be shared at 5:30 PM. 

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Bill's Bash
June 30, 2022

4:00 PM
Endl-Gruennert C.M.H. VFW Post 3589 of Jefferson
1420 S. Rockwell Avenue
Jefferson, WI 53549

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