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Obituary for David L. Henke

David L. Hanke began his quest on December 5, 1945, at Kansas City, Missouri as David Stuart. His adoptive parents were Ewald A. & E. June (Bowles) Henke of Beloit. From the early years of his life he pursued the impossible dream of perfection and excellence in all facets of his life. And he expected it from everyone else as well. Unbroken by the consistent perils of his existence, his heart and courage finally failed him at his home of July 28, 2021, on what would be the final day of his quest. All his battles fought, peaceful and calm at the end. And the world was a better place for those he touched with creativity, compassion, style, and wit throughout his life as a teacher, mentor, administrator, and friend. David’s first encounter with death occurred in 1968 in an auto accident that left him in a body cast for six months with a broken back. He also left his upper front teeth in the steering wheel and a broken nose for which he endured multiple surgeries. Life seemed almost carefree as he continued his career quest until 1992 when he suffered a ruptured appendix and drove himself, passing out twice on the way to the hospital. The doctor later told him that another half hour or he would of been dead. Then in 1995 he again encountered death and averted a massive heart attack with open heart surgery. Not done yet, he once again cheated death with an infection that put him in a coma in the ICU for four months. As he was recovering he suffered a brain bleed that required successful brain surgery. Still not ready to give up, David had his leg amputated in 2016 as a result of diabetic complications. Raised as a Missouri Synod Lutheran, even briefly considering the ministry, David became a member of First Congregational UCC Church when he moved from Madison to La Crosse in 1972. A chronological listing of David’s life and career follows: 1964 graduate of Beloit Memorial High School; 1969 B.A. from UW-Whitewater; 1970 graduate studies in Theatre Arts at UW-Madison; Instructor at W.W.T.C., La Crosse; teacher of debate, speech, and theater at La Crescent Junior and Senior High School; executive director at La Crosse County Historical Society; executive director of the Maritime Museum in Newburyport, MA; development officer of the La Crosse County Humane Society; development officer of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra; executive director of the Mid-Continent Railroad Museum in North Freedom, WI; and marketing director at Cindy Gerke and Associates in La Crosse. Survivors include his adopted sister, Susan Johnson-Henke; niece, Elizabeth Herrling; two nephews, Kevin Johnsrud and Robin Johnsrud; cousins, Paul Henke, Jim Henke, Mary Gempeler; and his life partner of over 51 years, King Holley. A special thanks to Erin Magrath and Patty Vigness of Inclusa for providing needs and services for David’s continuing stay at home and to David Bautch for caring for David 24/7 during the last three months of David’s quest. A private graveside service will be held in Oak Grove Cemetery in La Crosse. A celebration of life will be held at 5:00 p.m., on Friday, September 24, 2021, at the Bentley Wheeler House, 930 Cass Street, La Crosse. In lieu of flowers memorial gifts are encouraged to the Gundersen Medical Foundation, First Congregational UCC, The Humane Society, UFAH, or a charity of donor’s choice. The Jandt-Fredrickson Funeral Homes and Crematory, Woodruff Chapel, La Crosse is assisting the family. Online condolences may be offered at