Willard E. Shager, age 88 of Wiota, WI passed away unexpectedly on Thursday, January 14, 2021 at Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County in Darlington, WI. He was able to fulfill his wish of ‘staying at the farm’ until the morning of Wednesday, January 13.
Willard was born May 22, 1932, the son of William and Alma (Erickson) Shager. He grew up ‘on the home farm’ in rural Wiota with his three brothers. He graduated from South Wayne High School in 1949. After high school, he was drafted into the United States Army and served during the Korean War. He traveled across the Atlantic Ocean on the USS General LeRoy Eltinge military ship with 13,000 other GI’s for 13 days. Shortly after being honorably discharged in 1953, Willard met Mavis Anderson at movie night in Wiota and they have been together ever since…68 years. They were married on August 25, 1957. Willard received his Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture Education from the University of Wisconsin – Platteville in 1958. His first job out of college was with AMPI – Associated Milk Producers, Inc. – for 14 years as a fieldman. He enjoyed traveling to farms around IL. This time in IL also gave him and his family the chance to meet great friends that they still have to this day. In Danforth, Dad served on the fundraising committee when Prairieview Lutheran Home was built in 1971.
In 1972 he moved his family to ‘the farm’ in Wiota – that he bought with Mavis back in 1966 on receiving a tip from his dad that there was a farm for sale ‘just down the road.’ Dad loved being a farmer and being able to work alongside his two sons for all these years. From this passion came his co-founding of the John Deere Collector’s Club, with members across WI who also own antique tractors. Another passion of Dad’s was traveling all around the Midwest and especially out to South Dakota to buy good used farm machinery with any friends who were available to ‘ride along.’ He made many lasting friendships this way.
Dad was the Assessor for Wiota township for over 10 years. He loved being able to visit with everyone in this way and literally find out ‘what was new.’ Both of his daughters worked along side him in this.
Dad loved ‘all things Wiota,’ including being a member of Wiota Lutheran Church for all of his life. After the West Wiota church burned down in a winter thunderstorm in December 1987, he served on the committee to build the new church in Wiota.
Dad loved playing cards, traveling with friends, relaxing on the farm, spending time with his family - especially the grandkids. While he didn’t take much time away from the farm, he did go ‘up north’ to Rhinelander every summer with friends from IL and then family members. He will be sadly missed by so many.
Willard is survived by his wife Mavis and his children: Kevin (Pam) Shager of Wiota, Peggy (Randy) Ziebarth of Mt. Horeb, WI, Tim (Julie) Shager of Wiota, and Jill (Brent) Ruffridge of Monona, WI; 10 grandchildren; 7 great-grandchildren; one brother: Donnie (Margaret) Shager of Wiota; and two sisters-in-law: Jean Shager of Monroe and Bonnie Anderson in Warren, IL. He was also happy to have many grand-kids’ spouses and nieces and nephews and their families as part of his family.
He was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers: Delbert and Chuck and Chuck’s wife, Luann, and his brother-in-law, Mike Anderson.
A public visitation will be held Wednesday, January 20, from 9 to 11:30 am at Wiota Lutheran Church (6682 Highway 78, South Wayne). Family will not be there to visit due to COVID restrictions. A private family funeral service will be held Wednesday at 1 pm at the church, with Rev. Kate Kieckhafer of Grace Lutheran Church in Darlington officiating. Burial will follow at the West Wiota Cemetery where military graveside rites will be accorded by Bates-O’Brien-Howe-Wiegel-Roelli American Legion Post #214 of Darlington.
The family thanks the great staff at Memorial Hospital and Clinic for all the care for Dad through the years. We are also very grateful to the staff at the Erickson Funeral Home in Darlington for the wonderful services provided to us at the most difficult time. Online condolences may be expressed at www.ericksonfuneralhome.com. Mavis would love your phone calls any time, in lieu of the chance to be able to visit in person.
A memorial fund has been established in Willard’s name for the Wiota Lutheran Church.
Due to Wisconsin state mandate, masks are to be worn throughout your visit inside the church and proper social distancing guidelines are to be practiced at all times.