Life Story / Obituary
Frederick William Dobke, 81, went to his heavenly home on March 9, 2022. He was born in Milwaukee, WI on February 27, 1941 to Erich and Ida (Maier) Dobke. He was a first generation American, and a proud “son of a baker.”
After attending St. James Grade School in Milwaukee, he graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran High School in 1958. Fred originally thought that he would go into the ministry, and started attending classes at Northwestern College in Watertown, WI. After taking courses in Greek and Latin, Fred found his calling - to be a teacher. He transferred to UW-Madison in 1961, where he earned his BA (and later his MA) in English Literature with a Classics minor. He started his teaching career in the Racine Unified School District as an English teacher at Horlick High School (1965-1974). He later was at Starbuck Middle School for a short time before finding his “home” at J.I. Case High School in 1975. It was there that he began teaching Latin (in addition to English), and where he met his lifelong friends, “The Breakfast Crew”. There was breakfast (or a Zoom call) every Thursday morning even after retirement. Fred wrote curricula for both English and Latin for the school district and wrote articles for the North American Cambridge Classics Project.
Fred believed in the power of the Union and collective bargaining. He walked many a picket line and was even arrested for supporting fair working conditions and pay for teachers. He was a proud member of the Racine Education Association, Wisconsin Education Association, and the National Education Association. He was on the Teacher Rights Committee and the District Concerns Committee. As a member of the Wisconsin Association For Language Teachers he attended their conventions regularly, and was president of the Wisconsin Latin Teachers Association from 1995-1998. Fred retired from teaching in the spring of 2003, only to return in the fall as a substitute Latin teacher. In 2005, he came further out of retirement to be the Latin teacher at both Case and Park High Schools and returned to Horlick in 2006 to teach for several more years as the part-time Latin teacher. He continued teaching Latin “informally” to his grandchildren in recent years.
In 1974, he met Christine and they were engaged a week later. They were married on March 22, 1975. Fred always said, “she is the best thing that ever happened to me- and our girls are the best thing that ever happened to us.” They had 4 daughters: Sarah (Kevin) Firchow of Madison, WI; Martha (Andrew) Netzloff of Madison, WI; Hannah (Carlo Becheri) Dobke of Montelupo, Italy; and Rebekah (John) Herman of Madison, WI. He was an incredibly proud and loving “Papa” to 8 grandchildren: Olivia Grace Netzloff (12), Benjamin William Firchow (11), Emily Joyce Firchow (9), Dario James Becheri (8), Norah Christine Firchow (5), Lillian Faith Herman (4), Alessio William Becheri (4), and Gabriel William Herman (2).
Throughout his life, Fred was a voracious reader and collector of books. He instilled his love of literature, poetry, history, and art in his children and grandchildren. He was always reading two or three books at a time and loved to read his favorite stories to his grandchildren. He would happily give recommendations and pass books on to his family and friends. Quot libros, quam breve tempo.
Fred loved living next to Lake Michigan, listening to the lake “talking,” and watching the incredible sunrises from his bedroom window. He could often be found sitting on his backyard swing in the evenings with a book and a gin gimlet in his hand. He enjoyed traveling and had many memorable trips to Canada, Italy, Germany, England, as well as the yearly family reunion road trip to Pittsburgh. He and Christine loved to antique, attend plays at the Milwaukee Rep, go to movies, and go out to dinner together. Fred loved good food, good wine, good gin, and good conversation. He was an excellent conversationalist and could find someone to talk to anywhere he went. He loved opera, classical music, and especially hearing Christine sing.
Church was an important part of Fred’s life and his love for God was demonstrated through his dedicated service to Holy Ghost Lutheran Church. Week after week, Fred led and attended Bible studies, prepared the bulletin, sang tenor in the choir, and was a church elder for many years.
Fred was known for his sense of humor, his love of education, his belief in God, his fairness, and his honesty. He once wrote, “Fifty years ago, I dreamed a future. I made a list (and) I have everything on that list –mostly. Of course, I have to delete words like: millionaire, mansions, wealthy, famous, etc. - unimportant words. But the important words are there: love, laughter, happiness, security, faithful, trusting, challenging, meaningful, and interesting. I am blessed.”
Although we miss him terribly, we know that he is safe in Jesus’s arms, and we look forward to a happy reunion with him in Heaven.
He was preceded in death by his parents - Erich and Ida Dobke, his father and mother-in-law - Pastor and Mrs. Wilbert and Martha Sallach, and his sister-in-law - Faith Hass. He is further survived by his brother Eric (Mary) Dobke, brothers-in-law Timothy (Sandy) Sallach, James (Peggy) Sallach, many nieces and nephews, Steven Firchow, and countless friends, students, and relatives. There will be a memorial service in the summer with another notice posted at that time. The family requests no flowers, and will gratefully send any memorials received to one of Fred’s favorite charities.