John T. Pagel, 58, of Kewaunee, Wis., passed away unexpectedly on Thursday, February 22, 2018. He was born on February 28, 1959, to the late Carl and Garnet (Bunda) Pagel. He was a graduate of Kewaunee High School and Madison Farm Short Course.
John profoundly touched the lives of countless people personally and professionally through his friendship, his willingness to help and his public service. He loved farming side by side with his children and beamed with pride over them and his grandchildren. In them, he saw a bright and secure future and a lasting family legacy.
John was a devoted dairy farmer and a pioneer in the dairy industry. In 1978, he took over the family farm and spent the past 40 years building Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy into the largest single family-owned dairy in Wisconsin. His vision and entrepreneurial spirit led to the creation of an on-farm cheese plant and farm-to-table restaurant, and he inspired others in the industry to try new approaches.
John was dedicated to the dairy community. He was a founder of the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, where he was serving as President. He was a member of the WI Cheese Makers Association, WI Farm Bureau Federation and was formerly on the WI Milk Marketing Board.
John also felt a deep sense of duty and commitment to his community. He served on the Kewaunee School Board and the Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors and was also a member of Peninsula Pride Farms through which he helped develop progressive conservation practices. He opened his farm to tours for schoolchildren, business groups and many others.
John’s motto was “Living the Dream” and that’s exactly what he did. He lived his dream with his family, friends and employees. He loved his employees and treated them just like family. He enjoyed hunting, Packer games and traveling with Julie. His smile and laugh were infectious.
John was approachable and had an everyman quality. He always spoke from the heart and was authentic. Despite his stature in the community and business world, John never stopped being the farm boy from Kewaunee County. Always remember, “Drink Milk, It Does a Body Good!”
John is survived by his soulmate, Julie Veldhuis; his children Jamie (Steve) Witcpalek, JJ (Chase) Pagel, Bryan (Ashley) Pagel and Dustin (special friend Stefani Ann Vandenelsen) Pagel; grandchildren Brooke, Braelyn and Brex Witcpalek; Kiley, Jaylyn, Jaxen and Jase Pagel; Peyton, Bryley and Brynn Pagel; Kadence Pagel and Stefani Ann’s son Aiden Scott Liss; and brothers and sisters Joe Pagel, Bill (Eileen) Pagel, Linda (Allen) Baumgartner, Marcia Hayes, Mona Pagel and Suzanne (Dave) Pagel-Tlachac. He is also survived by many nieces, nephews and friends. John was preceded in death by his parents, Carl and Garnet Pagel.
Visitation will be held from 3:30 to 8 p.m. on Friday, March 2, 2018, at Kewaunee High School with a prayer service at 8 p.m. led by Deacon Chuck Agnew. Visitation will continue at the high school from 8 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, 2018. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 1 p.m. at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Kewaunee with Monsignor Jim Dillenburg, Fr. Milton Suess and Deacon Chuck Agnew officiating. Burial will follow at Holy Trinity Catholic Cemetery in Casco. Online condolences may be shared on the tribute wall.
In lieu of flowers, a college and future foundation fund has been established through Nicolet National Bank in Kewaunee for John’s grandchildren. The family would like to extend a special thank-you to their family, friends and staff for all the caring and support they have shown during this difficult time.
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