William Edward Gautsche, Jr. age 86, of Hayward, WI, passed away Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at the Water's Edge Nursing Home, with his daughter, Jan, at his side.
Bill was born January 14, 1926 in Withee, Wisconsin, the son of William and Susan (Hoha) Gautsche. He graduated from Withee High School, and later the Reisch Auctioneering School. Bill had many odd jobs: he slaughtered cattle, harvested potatoes in North Dakota, painted mailboxes with his brother Gerald and was a truck driver. In 1946 on a trip through Hayward, Bill landed his first guiding job at Ross' Teal Lake Lodge where he designed his first bait, the Billy Finn Bucktail. During 1948 he went to work for his good friend George Brandt, at Brandt's Lost Land Lake Lodge. In the same year he met the love of his life, Gerhardine Peters.
Bill and Ger married October 4, 1952 at the Spider Lake Church and soon moved to Hastings, MI where Bill continued his life-long career in the fishing tackle industry. Through the years, Bill worked for Action Rod Industries, Berkley Line, Daisy/Heddon, Gladding/US Fiberglass, Woodstream Corporation, which included Old Pal, Victor leg hold traps, Fenwick fishing rods and Terry Bass Boats. As a partner in the Tommy Thompson Company, he represented Zebco, Quantum and MotorGuide. And lastly, he was with the Cullerton Company, representing Stren-Dupont, Remmington Arms, Plano as well as Zebco.
Bill and Ger moved often to follow Bill's work. Over the years they resided in Hastings and Dowagiac, MI; Syracuse, NY; Miami, FL; Eden Prairie, MN; Lancaster, PA; Irvine, CA and Hoffman Estates, IL. While living in all of these areas, Hayward was always considered home. Later Bill and Ger had a home on Round Lake where friends and family loved to gather. They purchased their last home in the city of Hayward.
With over 60 years in the fishing tackle industry, Bill was an icon in the industry with thousands of friends and stories. He attended his first Milwaukee Sport Show in 1949 and estimated that he may have attended this show 50 times or more. And in later years Bill served as an advisor with the Great Outdoors Group, managing The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sport Show.
Although Bill had a well documented career in the fishing tackle and outdoor sporting industry, his greatest achievements may have been his volunteer efforts serving the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hayward, WI. For nearly 35 years Bill was the first and only chairperson of the Hall's nominations and awards committee. In 1975, Bill was the first person appointed to the Fishing Tackle Industry Advisory Committee at the NFWFHF. In 2005, Bill became and Executive Board member for the Hall and in 2009-2010 Bill served as the Executive Boards Vice President. And with his leadership and guidance Bill has been the Executive Board President of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame since 2011. However, it was in 2006 that Bill was honored with the Fishing Hall of Fame's highest level of enshrinement when he was inducted for "his significant and lasting contribution to the sport of fresh water fishing on a national level".
Survivors include his children, Jeri (John) Springstead of Mazomanie,WI, Jan Ingbretson of Hayward, WI, William "Bill" (Lynn) Gautsche III of Eau Claire, WI, and John (Leigh) Gautsche of Robbinsdale, MN; grandchildren, Theran, Nathan and Karsten Springstead, Greta and Meredith Ingbretson, Ashley (Gautsche) True, Taylor and Walker Gautsche, Mariah and Hayden Gautsche, and Kayla (Ammerman) Beccu; and 7 great grandsons. He is further survived by two sisters, Lois Vance of Torrance, CA and Betty (Ken) Smith of LaValle, WI; and many beloved nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife Gerhardine (2007); daughter, Julie Kay Gautsche (2002); sister, Eleanor; brother, Gerald; his parents; and son-in-law, Jess Ingbretson.