Obit: Lukes, Henry ‘Hank’ John (1922 - 2015)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Lukes, Gibson, Glassbrenner, Tomesek, Hepola, Mara, Patey, Urlaub, Urban, Gesche
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 3/25/2015
Lukes, Henry ‘Hank’ John (28 September 1922 - 19 March 2015) With Flag
Henry (Hank) John Lukes, 92, longtime resident of Neillsville, passed away Thursday, March 19, 2015, while residing in the Neillsville Care and Rehabilitation Center.
Henry was born Sept. 29, 1922, to Anton and Johanna Lukes in New Lisbon. He was raised in New Lisbon and attended New Lisbon High School where he made his mark in athletics. Henry was inducted into the New Lisbon Hall of Fame, which he shared with his family one glorious evening in the fall of 2007 in New Lisbon. He attended the La Crosse State Teacher College until his enlistment in the United States Air Force in 1942 where he rose to the rank of gunner-technician sergeant. He was deployed to Italy where he was a veteran of 48 missions as a waist gunner on a B-24 Bomber. On mission 48, Henry and his crew were shot down over Yugoslavia when their bomber was crippled by enemy flak. He was separated from the rest of his crew and was taken in by a group of loyal Partisan supporters. The crew was reunited within 24 hours and then they all began the long journey back to Italy during which the crew was shuttled between barns, haylofts, sheds and homes via ox-carts. The courageous Partisans shared all they had with the crew even though they knew they would be shot if found helping Americans. That was to be the last war mission flown by him; as, he and his crew were returned stateside after their harrowing ‘adventure.’ Henry was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Mediterranean Theater of War ribbon with three bronze stars also with a good conduct and American Theater of War ribbon. One of the Oak Leaf Clusters was awarded to him for shooting down a German Messerschmitt 109. According to Henry, ‘I didn’t have much time to shoot, guess I was lucky to hit him.’
After the war, Henry returned home to finish his degree at La Crosse and marry his high school sweetheart, Charlotte Gibson, on June 11, 1946. Henry and Charlotte moved around to La Crosse and Janesville before settling down to raise their family of three in Neillsville. Henry began teaching physical education and economics at Neillsville High School while pulling double duty as a coach of any type of athletics, which were offered at that time.
He made his mark in the basketball arena where numerous teams advanced deep into the playoffs only to fall short to the larger towns in one class system. He often lamented that if they hadn’t kept running into the Eau Claire teams, they would have made it to the ‘big dance’ at the state tournaments.
Henry spent his summers at Stout University picking up his masters Degree in education. He left coaching to take on the role of guidance counselor and then finished his career as the principal of Neillsville High School until his retirement June 15, 1984.
Henry enjoyed things athletic throughout his life. He spent many an hour at the golf course and even scored a hole in one during one of his rounds. It is unclear whether he fulfilled his obligation of buying everyone in the clubhouse a drink afterwards. He was very adept at shooting a basketball and won many a game of Horse shoes in the backyard with his deadly one-handed set shot. He still had a nasty curveball throughout his later years and could still ‘snap-one off’ even in his late 70s.
He found peace and quiet on the lake with his fishing pole (making numerous trips to Canada) and was known to knock down a pheasant or two. His deer hunting exploits were legendary in that for all the many he went to deer camp he never bagged a buck or doe. There were rumors he never shot his gun and some rumors that it never left its case, but the time spent with his hunting buddies was very precious to him. Charlotte always said he never had the heart to shoot a ‘Bambi’ deer.
Henry enjoyed playing cards with the ‘boys’ Monday nights after Rotary Club and also Wednesday nights after golfing , although his coin bag never seemed to be overflowing with winnings. All were welcomed in Henry and Charlotte’s home and often were greeted with one of his brandy old-fashioned’s, and visitors never left their home with an empty stomach.
Hank and Char were inseparable during their retirement years and were totally devoted to each other and their family. They rarely missed an athletic event their grandchildren were involved in, and they lived and breathed in the successes and joys that their grandkids achieved. Hank and Char spend 20-plus winter years down in Florida with their transplanted Neillsville friends with their home open to any who wished to visit.
Henry was preceded in death by the love of his life, Charlotte, who passed in December of 2013. Life never was quite the same for him after the loss of his partner. Henry was the last surviving sibling of a family of six. He is survived by a daughter Anne (Gary) of Cannon Falls, MN; sons: Thomas (Nancy) of Reedsburg, and Gary (Ruth) of Spring Valley; nine grandchildren, Lori, Jennifer, Autumn, Anna, Lauren, Casie Leigh, Dayn, Dylan, Drew; and five great-grandchildren: Nicole, Grant, Gabe, Falon and Adalynn.
A memorial service will be conducted at the Gesche Funeral Home Saturday, March 28, 2015. Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. with service to follow at the funeral home. Refreshments will follow at the Neillsville Country Club after a short graveside service. The family will conduct the service with music provided by Drew Lukes. Memorials can be made to an educational scholarship fund that will be set up by the family in honor of Henry and Charlotte at Neillsville High School.
Pallbearers/honorary pallbearers are: Chuck Glassbrenner, John Tomesek. William Lukes, Greg Hepola, Craig Mara, Grant Mara, Dayn and Dylan and Drew Lukes, Dan Patey, Benny Urlaub Joe Urban and Lowell Gesche.
Online condolences may be made at www.geschefh.com. The Gesche Funeral Home is assisting Henry’s family with arrangements.
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