WILLIAM THEODORE LUEDKE III
Published 11:14 am, Wednesday, March 3, 2010
William Theodore Luedke III died Feb. 24, 2010, at his home in Madison, Wisc., where he had lived during retirement in recent years.
Born on April 30, 1926, in La Crosse, Wisc., he spent most of his early years in Clintonville, Wisc., where his father ran a community bank. It was in fourth grade at Clintonville Elementary School that Luedke met his first wife, Phyllis Schauder, who predeceased him in 1985.
Upon graduation from Clintonville High School in 1944, Luedke enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served in the Pacific as one of the youngest commissioned ensigns in U.S. Naval history. Upon discharge from the Navy, he matriculated at the University of Wisconsin. He and Phyllis were married in 1948.
After graduation, Luedke was accepted into the prestigious General Electric Co. training program in Crotonville, N.Y. His first work assignment was as an internal auditor based in General Electric's then-headquarters in Schenectady, N.Y. In 1958, he was appointed manager of finance for GE's ballast facility in Danville, Ill., after which he served in a similar capacity at GE's Wire and Cable Division in Bridgeport, before moving on to GE's new headquarters in Fairfield.
In Fairfield, he worked directly with Stan Gault, who later became chairman and CEO of Rubbermaid, and with Larry Bossidy, who later served as CEO of Allied Signal. Ultimately, Luedke reported directly to General Electric's CEO, Jack Welch.
In 1986, Luedke married Helen Hartz, another GE executive, and they both retired from the company several years later. Prior to the move to Madison, Wisc., he and Helen spent their retirement years alternating between family residences in Westport and Sanibel Island, Fla.
During his business career and in retirement, he served in a variety of civic capacities, including as a member of the Rotary Club, the Y's Men and various country club boards.
Among many notable personal characteristics was his extraordinary, quick-witted sense of humor. He loved sports and celebrated his beloved Green Bay Packers while commiserating with fellow Chicago Cub fans. In the summer, he planted and tended a vegetable garden, and in the winter, he felled trees and chopped his own firewood. He was an exemplary, loving father.
Along with his wife, Helen, Luedke is survived by his sister, Jean Palmer of Forest, Miss.; three children, William T. Luedke IV of Houston, Texas, Fred Carl Ludwig ("Fritz") Luedke of Dallas, Texas, and Ann Luedke Lobdell of New Canaan; and four grandchildren, Sarah Childs Lobdell, Brian Michael Lobdell, Hannah Mingzhu Qiuwang Luedke and Phyllis Claire Luedke. In addition, he is survived by three step-children, Bill Raboin of Cottage Grove, Minn., Cheri Sinclair of Ft. Meyers, Fla., and Robin Hanson of Cottage Grove, Minn., and seven additional grandchildren, as well as eight great-grandchildren.
The Ryan Funeral Home & Cremation Services handled arrangements.