KEWAUNEE, Wis. Well-known dairy farmer John Pagel and his son-in-law Steve Witcpalek are being remembered on Friday for their philanthropic contributions during a combined visitation at Kewaunee High School. Both were killed in a plane crash in Indiana a little more than a week ago, pilot Nathan Saari also died.
Friends say John Pagel maintained the highest standard in dairy farming, often sharing his successful methods with other farmers. Pagel also helped create an agriculture building for Kewaunee students.
“He would show people what he was doing and why he was doing it, if it wasn’t quite right he would show them why it wasn’t quite right. John was for the greater good for all of us,” said Don Niles, Pagel’s close friend and business partner.
“I think he’ll be sorely missed, he was a great asset to the community, he always promoted Kewaunee County, especially the agriculture part of it but he was a great advocate for Kewaunee County,” said Brian Vogeltanz, Kewaunee School District Board of Education President.
Sources close to the family say they’ll see more than 3,000 people during visitation hours.
“It’s almost overwhelming to see the people coming in to do that it’s such a testimonial for the reach and the positive impact John Pagel had,” said Niles.
Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy set up a fleet of tractors across from the farm to remember the life and legacy of John Pagel.
John’s son-in-law Steve Witcpalek created a playground for special needs kids at the Kewaunee High School. Family members say he’s humble and cared for the community.
“Steve was an intelligent, gifted, remarkable man. His parents were so proud of him, he’s a loving and caring husband, a great role model for his kids, he had so many friends that loved him because he was fun loving. He had a great sense of humor and he’ll be missed by all family members, cousins, aunts and uncles tremendously,” said Al Paul, Witchpalek’s uncle.
Niles says the work both men have contributed to the Kewaunee community will forever be remembered.
”We’ve got the school here now with the agriculture facility with students coming through that can potentially have great careers in agriculture. We got to carry that on, we can’t just stop because of the tragedy with John and Steve, we have to take what they’re doing and continue to make it great,” Niles added.
A prayer service is set for Friday at 8 p.m. at the Kewaunee High School. The combined visitation will continue Saturday at 8 a.m., burial is set for Saturday afternoon in Casco.