William H. Upham, Jr. unselfishly gave of his time and talents. He served his country and community well, and was proud of his heritage. A loving provider, he was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend to many. He will be long remembered and fondly missed.
The year 1916 fell into a decade of advancement and struggle as the U.S. was advancing as a world power while heavily engaged in World War I. Although the central Wisconsin town of Marshfield was far removed from the chaotic battlefields of Europe, the war was on the heart of many. It was during these uncertain times that William H. Sr. and Grace (Mason) Upham welcomed the birth of their son, William H. Upham, Jr. on July 15, 1916.
The eldest of three children, Bill was just eight years old when the family suffered a great loss with the death of his father. Following his father’s death, Bill was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Beaufort, North Carolina until he was ten years old. He then returned to his mother in his childhood home, which still stands today as the Upham Mansion, headquarters of the North Wood County Historical Society. These things, along with his family’s military background, would forever hold Bill’s interests.
Enjoying typical adventures growing up, Bill also had a knack for finding his share of trouble as a youngster and quite often was found running wild and getting into mischief with his little brother. They were quite a pair, and at the age of 19, Bill, his then 15 year old brother Frederick and a friend drove from Marshfield all the way to Oregon seeking adventure. Soon after, his mother signed a release allowing Bill to enter the ROTC program even though he was underage. It was a blessing for his mother when he finally completed his high school education and enrolled at the University of Michigan where he attended for one year; he then attended Milton College in Wisconsin for one year before going on to the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
It was while attending school that Bill met the love of his life while ice skating one day on Lake Mendota. Elizabeth Dentz, also a student at the university, captured Bill’s heart that day, and that memory was forever etched in his heart. They soon found themselves in love and before long, wedding plans were being made. While continuing their education at the university, the two were joined in marriage on September 10, 1937 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at Kenwood United Methodist Church by a Presbyterian minister. Bill later went on to graduate from the University of Wisconsin in June of 1938.
In 1939, Bill began attending law school at the University of Wisconsin. It was during World War II in 1941 that Bill was sent to Ft. Custer, Michigan to enlist. He served as a reserve officer, 2nd Lieutenant, and at the time of his August 1942 depoloyment to Iceland, Betty was four months pregnant with their first child. After Iceland, Bill was shipped to England, and then to France where he was injured during the Battle of the Bulge. He honorably received a purple heart and bronze star prior to being discharged in September of 1945 when he returned home to his beloved Betty and his firstborn son William III who by that time was almost four years old. He and Betty bought their home at 2728 E. Bradford Avenue that following November where many fond memories were made. It was in this family home that they were blessed to raise their three children, William III, Monie and Darby. The family enjoyed memorable vacations together, and over the years visited some historic battlefields, even the ones that Bill fought on.
It was also in 1945 following the war that Bill went to work for Schlitz Brewery where for seven and a half years he worked in sales. After leaving Schlitz Brewery in 1952, Bill joined Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company as an agent where Betty began working alongside Bill as a special agent in 1957. Over the years, Bill received many company honors for his great sales ability and was also honored with the Million Dollar Round Table award eight times during his career. He later retired in 1996 from Northwestern Mutual after 44 years of faithful and dedicated service to the company.
Bill enjoyed many hobbies throughout the years and was an avid hunter who was most noted for his good shot. With his love for sailing, he was a member at the Milwaukee Yacht Club for over 50 years where he made many longtime friends. Active within his community, Bill was always busy and found much gratification being of service through civic responsibilities and patriotic activities. Throughout his life, he took pride in the fact that he was one of the last true Sons of Union veterans. Over the years, he also belonged to, supported, and became an officer for many service organizations throughout the area. At one point in 1975, Bill even ran for the governor of Wisconsin on the American Party ticket. His campaign slogan was “Go forward, back Upham”.
In their later years, Bill and Betty continued to live on Bradford Avenue but moved to Bradford Terrace instead of their beloved home. After 71 years of marriage and a beautiful life together, Betty sadly died on September 12, 2008. The following days became difficult for Bill, but he spent much time pedaling around the east side on his three wheeled bicycle where he was well liked and known well. At the age of 93 years, William H. Upham, Jr. died on Sunday, August 16, 2009.
Bill was the cherished father of the late William H. III (the late Debbie) Upham, and is survived by Monie Upham and Darby Upham; loving grandfather of Susan (Jeff) Amundson and David (Becky) Upham, and proud great-grandfather of Grace, Edwin and John Upham. He was a dear brother to Frederick M. (Jean) Upham and Letty Mechler as well as many other relatives and friends. The family will receive friends at the Suminski Funeral Home, 1901 N. Farwell Avenue on Thursday, August 20, 2009 from 5:00 PM until time of the Memorial Service at 6:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to the North Wood County Historical Society, 212 West 3rd Street, Marshfield, WI 54449. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to submit a favorite photo, memory and sign Bill’s online guest register.