LaVern was born September 28, 1932 on the Hanke family farm in rural Marathon County, WI, the son of William and Elsie (Haehlke) Hanke. He attended grades 1-4 at Mitchell Grade School near the family farm. His parents moved to the Little Chicago area and he attended the LaFollette School for Grades 5-6. After the death of his mother, Elsie in 1944, his family moved to Wausau and he attended the Trinity Lutheran School for grades 7 and 8 where he was Confirmed in 1946. He attended Wausau East High School and graduated in 1950. He worked at the Curtis Wood Co. in Wausau from 1950-51. He enlisted in the United States Air Force in February 1952 and served honorably for four years including time served in North Africa as a payroll clerk for his unit as a Staff Sergeant. LaVern began his post high school education with financial assistance from the GI Bill at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and graduated in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science Degree. While a student at the university, LaVern met his future wife, Janet Louise Woller; they were married August 6, 1960 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Town of Berlin, Marathon County, WI.
After graduation, he worked as Probation and Parole Employee in Eau Claire County. LaVern continued his Education at the University of Wisconsin –Madison, moved to Beaver Dam and worked part-time at the State Prison in Waupun and graduated with a Masters Degree in Social Work. In 1962, they moved to Waupaca, WI where LaVern continued work as a State Probation and Parole Agent in Waupaca, Shawano and Waushara Counties. In 1966, LaVern accepted a position as the first director of social services at the Wisconsin Veterans in King, WI. Lavern and Jan’s first son, Paul, was born October 16, 1961 in Beaver Dam, WI. A daughter, Rebecca, was born on December 5, 1962 and a second son, Aaron, was born on May 8, 1964 in Waupaca, WI. The family first rented a home on Shadow Road and then purchased a home located at 1206 Royalton St. In 1972 they purchased a home located at 111 E Junction St. They moved for a period of time to a staff home located at the Wisconsin Veterans Home after LaVern’s promotion in 1978 to the position of Deputy Commandant. After renting the home for a period of some years, the family moved back into the home on Junction St. where Jan currently resides.
LaVern served on the Waupaca City Council, Police and Fire Commission and Lions Club where he received the Melvin Jones Fellow and Birch-Strum Fellowship awards. He was a long time member of Trinity Lutheran Church, a charter member of the German Club, Pommerscher Verein, the American Legion, the VFW and Amvets. LaVern was a long time member of the Waupaca Curling Club and enjoyed ‘bonspieling’ in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Canada. He also liked to fish, golf, play softball and hunt; he was one of the original members of the Buck Horn Hunting Lodge in the northern woods of Lincoln County.
He is survived by his wife, Janet (Jan); oldest son, Paul, Eau Claire, WI; daughter, Rebecca Austin (Dean Postings), Freedom, WI and son, Aaron (Denise) Hanke, Waupaca; eight grandchildren: Alex (fiancée, Brittany) Hanke, Tyler Hanke, Brett Hanke, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Hanke, Michael Austin, Holly Austin, Ryan Austin and Logan Austin-Postings and brother-in-law, Emil Braatz. He is preceded in death by his parents, his stepmother Flora (Stuplich) Hanke and sisters, JoAnne (Dorian) Schmidt and Verona Braatz. A special thanks to the staff and Pastor Wayne Schwanke at the Wisconsin Veterans Home for their exceptional care and spiritual guidance, Holly’s Funeral Home and the Trinity Lutheran Church.
A visitation will be held at the Holly Funeral Home located at 526 S Main St, Waupaca, WI 54981 on Sunday, December 17, 2017 from 1- 4 p.m. A funeral will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church, 206 Badger St, Waupaca, WI on Monday, December 18, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. with viewing at 10:00. Military rites will follow the services. In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established in LaVern’s name. Holly Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.