Cover photo for Gretchen Mary Franke's Obituary
Gretchen Mary Franke Profile Photo
1938 Gretchen 2021

Gretchen Mary Franke

October 3, 1938 — July 24, 2021

Gretchen Mary Franke, 82, of Fond du Lac, passed away peacefully and entered her heavenly home on Saturday, July 24, 2021, at Harbor Haven Health & Rehabilitation after courageously battling multiple sclerosis for over half a century, as well as a stroke and two bouts of breast cancer. She was born in Fond du Lac October 3, 1938, a daughter of the late Edwin and Chloe (Mayrand) Marggraf. On December 17, 1960, Gretchen married Leroy Melvin Franke at St. Patrick’s Church in Fond du Lac. He preceded her in death on July 16, 2009.

Upon her graduation from St. Patrick’s Grade School, Gretchen received a two-year scholarship to St. Mary’s Springs Academy. At that time, tuition was eighty dollars a year, the school’s teachers were nuns, except for the gym teacher and the priest who taught religion classes. While in school, Gretchen worked at Huber Brothers Candy Store and as a carhop at Gilles Frozen Custard to pay for tuition and bus fare to and from school which was only ten cents a ride. After graduating from high school in 1957, she received a scholarship to the St. Agnes School of Nursing. Gretchen would work as a nurse at Waupun Memorial Hospital until motherhood occupied her time.

Over the next ten-years, Gretchen gave birth to three children, but sadly two of them died at a young age from Reye’s Syndrome, Linda Marie who was born on May 30, 1962, and died on July 15, 1966, and David Scott, who was born on March 14, 1966, and died on September 15, 1968.

After three years of mysterious pains, Gretchen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March of 1969, but this did not stop her passion to be successful. She returned to school, attending Marian College earning a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education. Gretchen went on to work for many years as a teacher for Head Start, a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages three to five. As her health worsened, she retired from teaching, but still had the drive to be involved in education by volunteering in the school library at Evans Elementary. Over the years, various students would faithfully help her home from school by pushing her wheelchair. One of these dedicated students was Heather, who would become a nurse and eventually help Gretchen during her time at Harbor Haven. In all, Gretchen enjoyed twenty years as a volunteer at Evans until her second retirement in 2006.

Some of Gretchen’s past and present hobbies included participating in the Joint Efforts Class at the Fond du Lac Aquatic Center, faithfully attending all of Leroy’s softball games, reading books, playing miniature golf, ringing the Salvation Army bell during the Christmas season, playing Scrabble, watching game shows, and staying in close contact with family and lifelong friends. She was a long-time member of St. James Catholic Church (Sons of Zebedee) in Oakfield and Holy Family Catholic Community in Fond du Lac. Gretchen’s faith was always strong even throughout her struggles.

Survivors include her son, Stephen (Jean “Jeannie”) Franke of Fond du Lac and their children, McKinlee “Mick”, Caray, Hans, and Claire; two sisters, Sue McLain-Iwashita of The Villages, Fla. and her children, Kara Gildone, Kevin (Marc Holt) McLain and Michael (Jill) McLain, and Kris (Wayne) Tatro of North Fond du Lac and their children, Peter Tatro (Kim Eggers-Stoegbauer), and Paula (Chris) Lemke; and her brother, Peter Marggraf of Winter Haven, Fla., and his son, Jason (Melissa) Marggraf. Gretchen is further survived by two sisters-in-law, Dori Riel and Joann Moehr; a brother-in-law, Larry Franke; special friend Norine Rodenkirch; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband; two children; stepmother, Angie Marggraf; brother-in-law, Ken Iwashita; brother-in-law, Michael McLain; half-sister-in-law, Delores Alexander; brother-in-law, Robert Franke; brother-in-law, Roger Franke and her close friend, Betty Reetz.

Gretchen was always a giving person, and her final wish was to donate her body so that others in the medical field could learn more about the health issues that she encountered. The family is extremely proud and grateful that her body was accepted by the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. More information on donation can be found at under anatomical gift registry.

Memorials are appreciated in Leroy and Gretchen’s honor to the “Franke Family Memorial Fund” at the Fond du Lac Area Foundation, 1020 S. Main Street, Ste. E, Fond du Lac, WI 54935. These will be used to support causes that were passionate to Leroy and Gretchen.

Visitation will be held from 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM, Saturday, October 2, 2021, at Holy Family Church, 271 Fourth St. Way in Fond du Lac. The Memorial Mass will begin at 11:00 AM with a formal luncheon to follow. Burial in Avoca Cemetery will take place at a later date.

A special thank you to all the staff at Harbor Haven Health & Rehabilitation for the twelve years of outstanding care that Gretchen received and to the nurses and CNA’s from Agnesian Hospice Hope for the care and support given to Gretchen for the last two years.

Services are in the care of Uecker-Witt Funeral Home, 524 North Park Avenue, Fond du Lac, WI, 54935. Additional information and guestbook can be found at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Gretchen Mary Franke, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, October 2, 2021

9:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

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Funeral Service

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

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Avoca Cemetery

, Oakfield, WI 53065

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