Cover photo for William E. "Bill" Hackbarth's Obituary
William E. "Bill" Hackbarth Profile Photo
1930 William 2020

William E. "Bill" Hackbarth

January 30, 1930 — November 18, 2020

William E. “Bill” Hackbarth, age 90, of Fond du Lac, formerly a longtime resident of rural Armstrong, Town of Forest, passed peacefully into eternal life on November 18, 2020 at St. Francis Terrace where he lived for the past 33 months.

He was born in the Town of Lamartine on January 30, 1930 the son of the late William and Mary (Beeschke) Buschke Hackbarth. He grew up on the family farm and loved to share stories about his childhood adventures and the mischief he would get into on the farm. Bill also told stories of being educated in a one-room schoolhouse and walking 2 miles each way to attend as the only member of his class.

On June 30, 1951, he married his soul mate and the one and only love of his life Gloria T. Schaub at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Mount Calvary. Bill Hackbarth was a member of Shepherd of the Hills Catholic Church where he served on the building and grounds committee for over 20 years, as well as the church council.

He was formerly employed by Kiekhaefer Mercury, Mercury Marine, Kiekhaefer Aeromarine, and Mercury Racing for over 40 years. His last position was as Plant Engineer at Mercury Racing until retiring in 1995. Over the years, Bill worked on several special projects for Mr. Kiekhaefer including research and development projects to improve the racing engines. The most legendary top-secret project he worked on was the 1957 historic “Operation Atlas” a non-stop, “around-the-world” endurance run using two boats powered by Mercury Mark 75 outboards. On September 11, 1957, the two boats left the docks. After 34 days, 11 hours, 47 minutes and 5.4 seconds, the lead boat completed its 4,526th lap of Lake X for a total distance of 25,003 miles. It was followed only minutes later by the second boat. Upon verification by USAC to sanction the test, the same outboard motors and two new boats conducted the same endurance test again. The reputation of Lake X was established immediately by Operation Atlas, an endurance trial that would see two boats powered by Mercury Mark 75 outboards run non-stop for over 50,000 miles, a distance matching twice that of the Earth’s circumference over 68 days. The second endurance test was completed on December 24, 1957 and was once again sanctioned by USAC.

Bill was a devoted husband, dedicated and attentive father, fun-loving grandfather, and proud great-grandfather. He was a gentle, kind, and good-hearted man who was loved by many, and will always be remembered in our hearts and memories. His favorite pastime activities over the years included Muskie fishing at his cabin on Lake Archibald near Lakewood, boating, hunting, snowmobiling, bowling, woodworking, playing cards, and more importantly spending time with his family. He was a very loyal Green Bay Packer fan and stockholder that never missed a game. Bill was a master electrician and had a unique talent to fix, build, invent or create just about anything. If he could not “find or buy” a part, he would make one from scratch. Everyone knew of his ability to repair or build most anything. He was always generous to lend a hand to family, friends and neighbors that needed his help or expertise. Bill’s true passion was restoring antique tractors and farm machinery, and then displaying them at the annual events of the Empire Thresheree Association of which he was a member for over 25 years.

As a young adult, Bill learned that he inherited from his German grandfather Buschke the rare skill of Dowsing. Water witching or dowsing is the practice of locating groundwater by walking the surface of a property while holding a forked willow stick that responds and deflects toward the ground when the person moves above a location that will yield an adequate flow of water for a drilled well. Bill was a Dowser for over 50 years and worked with many drilling companies to find water. He saved landowners thousands of dollars over the years, but he never accepted any money to help them find water. He said dowsing or witching for water was a “Gift from God.”

At age 80, he was very excited to fulfill his lifetime dream to visit and experience the rugged beauty and wildlife of Alaska - America’s last frontier. The highlight of that trip was his opportunity to pan for gold with a local prospector in a shallow Alaskan river and find a few small nuggets of gold.

Survivors include his two daughters, Linda (Gary) Smet of Fond du Lac, Sharon (Charlie) Hoepfner, of North Fond du Lac, four sons, Robert (Maria) Hackbarth of Aramoho, New Zealand, John (Kay) Hackbarth of Glenbeulah, James (Cathy) Hackbarth of Fond du Lac, and Tim (Brenda) Hackbarth of Byron; eight grandchildren, Sarah Hackbarth (Charlie Yerkes), Nicholas Hoepfner (Dona Richardson), Kimberly Hoepfner, William “Will” Hackbarth, Jacob Hoepfner (Kelsey Jensen), Halie (Eric) Dobbeck, Annie (Charlie) Bills, and Ethan Hackbarth (Lindsay Hesprich); three great-grandsons Oliver, Emerson, and Abner Dobbeck; and daughter-in-law LuAnn Hackbarth. He is also survived by one brother George Hackbarth of Fond du Lac, and one sister Janet Flitter of Campbellsport. Further surviving are his in-laws Roger Lefeber of Campbellsport, Rose Hackbarth of Fond du Lac, Henrietta Watson of Spooner, Wisconsin, Elizabeth “Liz” Kranig of Gold Canyon, Arizona; and other relatives and many friends.

He will also be missed by his special family friends Paul and Annie Mueller and their children: Angie (Tim), Jenny and Lucy and grandchildren: Lilly, Vicki, Garet and Abby Feider. Thanks for everything all of you did for Bill and Gloria over the years; you were truly great friends and part of our family.

William was preceded in death by his parents; parents-in-law Joseph and Anna Schaub; his wife Gloria; son Richard Hackbarth; granddaughter Marilynn Hackbarth, grandson Nathaniel Hackbarth; four sisters Gertrude Engels, Dorothy Lefeber, Joyce Lefeber, and Mary Vorderbruggen; three brothers Lester Hackbarth, Elmer “Butch” Hackbarth, and an infant brother; sisters-in-law Viola Hackbarth, Beverley Hackbarth, Ermina Schaub, Sidonia Lassig, Beatrice Abler, Alice Schmitz, Lorraine Schaub, Dolores Buerger, Elizabeth Schaub; brothers-in-law Wendell Engels, Leander Lefeber, David Flitter, Ivan Vorderbruggen, Alois Schaub, LeRoy Lassig, Benno Schaub, Edwin Abler, Wilfred Schmitz, Joseph Schaub, Alphonse Buerger, Marvin Schaub, William Taugtes, Frank Watson, Paul Kranig; and Elvis his loyal and beloved German Shepherd dog.

The visitation for William Hackbarth will be held Monday, November 23, 2020 from 3:00 – 5:30 PM at Shepherd of the Hills Catholic Church, W1562 County Trunk B, six miles east of Eden. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 5:30 PM at the church with Fr. Mark Jones officiating. A private family burial will be held in Our Lady of Angels Cemetery in Armstrong. The family is planning a Celebration of Life service which will be held at a later date, so as to honor Bill’s memory.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and wearing of masks by those in attendance is requested by the family.

The family extends a special thank you to the staff of St. Francis Terrace for the care, support, and compassion given to Bill and his family during the final years and days of his life.

We hope this long obituary has done justice to Bill’s legacy, ancestry, and a life well-lived. We know we’ve probably missed names and events and for that we apologize.

In lieu of flowers, a donation in Bill’s name may be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Shepherd of the Hills Church.

Guest book and tribute wall may be found at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William E. "Bill" Hackbarth, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Monday, November 23, 2020

3:00 - 5:30 pm (Central time)

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Funeral Service

Monday, November 23, 2020

Starts at 5:30 pm (Central time)

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Our Lady of Angels Cemetery

, Armstrong, WI 53010

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