William (Bill) Edward Kiessling, Jr., long-time judge, attorney, and avid fisherman, passed away surrounded by his family at the age of 87 on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison. Bill was born on Oct. 7, 1932 in Watertown, the son of the late William E. Kiessling and Abigail (Hooper) Kiessling.
Bill grew up in Lake Mills, and was a 1950 graduate of Lake Mills High School. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1954, then served his country in Korea as a U.S. Army Artillery First Lieutenant from 1954–1956. (“So, you wanted to be a ‘big gunner’!” was a favorite admonishment to his children.) Bill received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1959, and then worked at Northwestern Mutual Life in Milwaukee, specializing in taxation.
In 1966, Bill returned to Lake Mills and joined his father’s law firm. Bill was dedicated to the practice of law, and he was an active attorney up to the day of his death.
Bill served the Lake Mills and surrounding communities in the areas of estate planning, probate, real estate, elder law, and taxation. In all of these endeavors he served his clients with integrity and compassion.
From 1967 to 2010, Bill was the municipal court judge for the city of Lake Mills. In 2010, when he retired from that role, Bill was the State of Wisconsin’s longest serving municipal judge. In a 2004 article in the Lake Mills Leader, Bill was quoted as saying, “For most of the people I see in court, this is going to be their only experience with the court system...I try to treat every person as a person, and make their experience with the court system as positive as it can be.”
Bill and Erna met through their love of biking and the outdoors. For many years they cycled their way through the back roads of Michigan and Wisconsin, and a New Year’s Day pedal around Rock Lake was a family tradition.
Bill was always drawn to nature; he truly loved fishing, and instilled that love in his children and grandchildren (sometimes with the enticement of a stocked pond). Still, the fax machine in the Wisconsin Northwoods cabin often beckoned.
Bill was an avid hiker, bird watcher, and camper. He and Erna visited dozens of National Parks in both the U.S. and Canada. Bill loved to learn about and experience new places and cultures. He and Erna visited many European countries and had an unforgettable adventure in Tanzania, Africa.
Bill was a devoted fan of Wisconsin sports. He rooted for the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium, the Kohl Center, the Field House, and the Rose Bowl, typically with Erna. Bill rarely missed a Packers game.
From his law practice to his role as municipal judge to the many professional organizations with which he was affiliated during his long legal career, Bill saw no division between his legal work and his community service.
Bill was a board member for over 40 years of the Marquardt Memorial Manor in Watertown, and President of the Board for 15 years. He was instrumental in developing what is now Marquardt Village, an elder care campus that provides vital services to the surrounding communities.
Bill was an active member of the Lake Mills Moravian Church; Board Member of the Provincial Elders Conference of the Moravian Church in North America; President of the Moravian Ministries Foundation; President of the Larger Life Foundation of the Moravian Church; Past President of the Jefferson County Bar Association; Member of Madison Estate Council; Member of the Traffic Safety Partners Committee of the State of Wisconsin; Member of the Wisconsin Bicycle Safety Committee; Member of the Lake Mills Chamber of Commerce; Past President of the Lake Mills Lions Club; Member of the Lake Mills Rotary Club; Past President of the Cedarburg Jaycees; and Lake Mills Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America.
Survivors include his loving wife Erna, along with his three children: Dr. Laura Kiessling (Dr. Ron Raines), William E. Kiessling, III, (Julie), and Mark Kiessling (Savona); two stepchildren: Carma Peterson Baker (David) and Diana Peterson, J.D. (David Makowski); ten grandchildren: Emily Kiessling, McKala Kiessling, Carina Baker, Kyra Raines, Rosemary Kiessling, Cole Baker, August Kiessling, Samuel Kiessling, Victoria Makowski, William E. Kiessling, IV, (Liam); a brother, Dick Kiessling (Annie) of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas; and many nieces and nephews.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be given to the Lake Mills Moravian Church, Mt. Morris Camp and Conference Center, the Marquardt Foundation, the American Cancer Society, or the Humane Society of Jefferson County.
In celebration of Bill’s life, a memorial service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020 at the Lake Mills Moravian Church with visitation starting at 9 a.m. followed by the service at 11 a.m.