Rex Endres’ sudden death shocked and saddened many in the Waunakee community. The Innkeeper owner had seemed vibrant and youthful, making his loss completely unexpected.

In death, Rex achieved what he had throughout much of his life: He brought the community together.

Hundreds celebrated his life at the candlelight vigil hosted by family and friends July 7, just two days after he died. It was clear then he had two families, one with his wife Brenda, children and grandchildren, and the other his work family, including Karen Haag, who fondly recounted his life for us.

As I took pictures at the vigil, like many, I thought about Rex and his contributions to Waunakee. He made the Innkeeper a welcoming place for all. It was like the community’s living room, a place to celebrate weddings and to gather for funeral luncheons. People also stopped in just to shoot the breeze with one another.

I have attended countless banquets in the large dining room and more than 20 years of weekly Rotary meetings there. At all of them, Rex was a presence, helping his staff seamlessly serve meals to several tables of people.

He also hosted countless wine tastings, bingo parties and other events as fundraisers. And he hosted the Tribune’s Best of Waunakee awards events, where, with great humility, he graciously accepted numerous winner certificates year after year.

Over the years, as the community has grown, so has the Innkeeper and the lovely garden in front. Waunakee has been fortunate to have Rex and his two families provide this place for more than three decades. As I believe Karen Haag said, he worked hard, and he played hard. He will certainly be missed, but not soon forgotten.

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