Joanne Christine Huebschen (nee Radke),
Joanne was born on May 10, 1934, to Ben and Mary Radke, who were Wisconsinites through and through – and raised Joanne to be one as well. She grew up in Milwaukee with her six siblings: Jack, Robert, Betty, Dorothy, Ralph, and Harvey; and attended Pulaski High School. On a fortuitous outing to a roller-skating rink, she met a charming Navy man, Clayton Huebschen, who swept her off her feet. When she told her parents about Clay, Joanne told a little white lie about his age – he was six years her senior, and she was worried they wouldn’t approve. Little white lie notwithstanding, Joanne and Clayton happily married when she was just 19 years old, on September 12, 1953.
They began their life together in a new subdivision in Franklin, Wis., in a little white ranch home with a big grassy backyard and neighbors who would become lifelong friends. There was a tiny bird feeder near the window over the kitchen sink where Joanne would watch the hummingbirds visit. Joanne and Clay became parents in 1957, when their first child, Scott, was born. Their second, Dawn, arrived in 1959, and the baby of the family, Mark, arrived in 1967. Their free time was spent with family and friends, playing cards and drinking cocktails at Joanne and Clay’s basement bar. Sundays were spent watching the Green Bay Packers. Many holidays and weekends were enjoyed with Clayton’s brother, Gordon, his wife Bernie, and their children, Steve and Yvonne, with whom the family was very close.
As was typical in the 1950s and 60s, Joanne stayed home to raise her children while Clay worked for many years at Godfrey Company in Waukesha, Wis. Once, Joanne shocked Clay when she announced that she would be taking a girls' trip to Las Vegas – leaving him at home with the kids, and, upon her return, helping him acknowledge that life as a stay-at-home mom wasn’t quite as easy as he thought it was. When the kids were older, Joanne entered the retail world – working at Kohl’s Grocery Store, and, later, at K-Mart in Hales Corners until her retirement.
In 1982, Joanne became a grandmother when Dawn had a daughter, Michele; and again in 1983 when her grandson Matthew arrived. Joshua came later, in 1991, when Dawn and her new husband Kevin would have their first child together. Joanne’s three oldest grandkids fondly remember spending many a sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa’s – they would pretend to host parties at the basement bar, steal olives out of their grandparents’ brandy Manhattans while they watched Wheel of Fortune, get spoiled with ice cream sundaes, and tell stories and sing songs with Grandma before bedtime – when Joanne would often fall asleep before the kids did.
Annually, the family – Joanne, Clayton, their kids and their kids’ kids – would make a trek up north to spend a week at Wheeler Lake Resort, in Lakewood, Wis. These seven days were always kicked off by Joanne doing a little dance, while spelling “V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N” in her trademark singsong voice. The week featured countless hours of swimming and floating, fishing, Grandma’s famous spaghetti, card games on the screened patio, campfires, cruising around the lake, nights in the “lodge” (aka bar), Grandpa’s “snake bite kit” (aka Manhattan kit), and infamously, no television. Joanne’s favorite vacation mode was stretched out on her beach lounger, reading. These seven days were a highlight of every year for the whole family.
Joanne was blessed to spend more than 40 years with the love of her life, Clayton, but life changed when she sadly lost her husband to a heart attack in 1994. Fortunately, she had the support of her loving family and friends to help her get through this difficult and unexpected period.
Years later, Joanne was on an outing at a bowling alley with friends when she met Ken Brown, a widower and a retired butcher. They hit it off and began to spend more and more time together; soon, Joanne had a boyfriend in her 60s. She sold her home in Franklin and moved in with Ken, to his lovely little lakefront house in Tichigan, Wis. Her role as a grandmother expanded in 2003, when she discovered that her son Mark and his wife Katie would be adopting a sweet baby from Guatemala City. Ally arrived early in 2004.
Joanne and Ken lived happily for many years, enjoying date nights and vacations together, and living the relaxed life of retirees. They sold the home on the lake, opting instead for a smaller, more practical home in Waterford, Wis. with less maintenance required. They would spend their winters in Florida, but wouldn't miss a Christmas Eve with her family in Wisconsin - with its abundance of food (including Grandma's deviled eggs and chipped beef spread), drinks, gifts, and laughs. She celebrated 80 years of life in May 2014, on a bright and joyful Anna Maria Island, Fla., vacation with Dawn’s family. Soon after, Joanne added the title of Great-Grandma to her resume when Charles Clayton was born to her granddaughter Michele and her partner Jeff; Jeff’s son and Michele’s “bonus” son, Louis, was also a great-grandchild to Joanne. Two more great-grandchildren would come later, when her grandson Matt and his wife, Stephanie, welcomed Zoey in 2018 and Bennett in 2020.
Joanne’s journey through life took a sad turn in 2017, when Ken passed. No stranger to losing a great love, Joanne was heartbroken but resilient. She continued to enjoy her life and create memories with her family and friends. She dodged a close call with COVID-19 at Christmas 2020, only to get it a short time later and bounce back after a stint in the hospital. Her strength and love for life were clear, as her age would force her into the hospital – but her spirit would have her out in a day or two. Her granddaughter Michele would start telling people her grandma was invincible; with a nod to her knowledge that nobody is, Joanne would start telling stories from over her years and end them with the observation, "you know, I’ve had a good life.”
In the summer of 2021, the family revisited their “up north” tradition (though Wheeler Lake Resort had closed and sold years before), with a trip to a beautiful cabin in Winter, Wis. There, Joanne spent a memorable week surrounded by her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids; sipping cocktails, taking pontoon cruises and reading outside in her chair with a view of the lake.
In 2023, the years began to take their toll, and her heart and kidneys weren’t up to the task. After another stay in the hospital, she told her doctors that she just wanted to go home, and so she did. Her son Scott cared for her there, and Dawn and Mark would visit often. She passed peacefully at home on October 22, 2023, at the age of 89.
Joanne will be remembered for many things, but most of all, for her wit and quick laugh, her thoughtfulness, her hugs, and her love for those dearest to her. She will be deeply missed by her children, Scott Huebschen, Dawn (Kevin) Erwin, and Mark (Katie) Huebschen; her grandchildren, Michele Duranso (Jeff Newman), Matthew (Steph) Duranso, Joshua (Lily) Erwin, and Ally Huebschen; and great-grandchildren, Louis and Charles Newman, and Zoey and Bennett Duranso; her brother, Robert; her niece and nephew, Yvonne (Dave) Flessner and Steve Huebschen; and countless others that she met along the way on her journey through life.
There will be a celebration of Joanne’s life on Saturday, November 18, from 1 – 4 p.m., at Club Paragon (3578 S. 108th St., Greenfield, Wis.). The family asks that attendees please bring their stories, photos, and memories of Joanne’s life well-lived.
“To live on in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die.”