William ‘Bill’ J.
“Bill” J. Herziger died on July 21, 2013, and with his passing at age
96, Cedarburg lost a link to its early history. Born near Cedar Creek on
May 16, 1917, Bill would later build a house on Edgewater Drive and take
satisfaction in noting that he had spent nearly his whole life on or
near the creek.
His parents were Frank and Catherine (nee Epple) Herziger. The Herzigers
came from a long line of German butchers who settled throughout
southeastern Wisconsin. In looking at records of almost any town, one
would be hard-pressed not to find a Herziger butcher shop somewhere in
its past. But unlike his father, and grandfather, and great-grandfather
– and numerous uncles – Bill was not destined to become a butcher. An
early family tragedy and the influences of living near Cedar Creek would
take him in another direction.
Bill had an older sister, Laura, who was born in October 1913. (She
later married Frederick J. Hilgen, a descendent of Cedarburg’s founder.)
The young family lived across from the Herziger Meat Market in a brick
house on Washington Avenue. Bill’s grandfather, Emil Herziger, had
opened the shop in 1875. And like the numerous Herzigers before him, it
was expected that Frank would work in the butcher trade, which he did.
Frank also had a flair for the arts, and was an accomplished violinist
and photographer. Frank started a small orchestra through which he met
Bill’s mother, Catherine Epple (1886-1983), who played piano. Catherine
was the daughter of Gottlieb (1847-1943) and Mathilda (nee Stielhle,
1851-1933) Epple. Her parents were born in Germany and like Frank and
his father, Emil, Catherine was born in Cedarburg. She attended the
Wisconsin College of Music to improve her skills and enable her to give
piano lessons. For 13 years, Catherine played the organ for St. Francis
As a photographer, Frank took many pictures of early Cedarburg, which
became part of the Rappold collection and subsequently a part of the
Cedarburg Cultural Society's collection. Many of his pictures were
included in the book “Reflections of Old Cedarburg.”
Frank aspired to be an architect or engineer, but died in 1922 at the
age of 41 following a complication from an appendectomy. Bill was only 4
Shortly thereafter, the family moved into the home of Catherine’s
parents, Gottlieb and Mathilda, on Hilbert Street. Gottlieb trained as a
carpenter in Germany and was hired to do carpentry work on the Cedarburg
Grist Mill in 1871. He also became the father figure in Bill’s life.
Strong family ties and roots to the growing community along Cedar Creek
shaped Bill’s life.
Gottlieb became general superintendent of the Hilgen Manufacturing Co.
across the street from the Epple home. Bill visited there often and
became fascinated with the power source of the factory.
The home on Hilbert Street was only a block or two away from Cedar
Creek. The creek, Columbia Mill and the dams became the source of Bill’s
activities prior to entering high school. He and his friends built
shacks and boats with lumber scraps from Hilgen Manufacturing. But Bill
was mostly interested in the dams and the power they produced. In time,
Bill was building telephones, telegraph sets, radios and rebuilding
gasoline engines. He and his friends even managed to connect their
shacks with a communication system. Bill often said that he lived a “Tom
Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn” childhood.
During high school, Bill played the violin in the school orchestra and
then decided the saxophone was more suited to him. He also played
football, ran track and was elected prom king. With physics being his
favorite subject in high school, it wasn’t long before Bill knew he
wanted to be an electrical engineer. In the midst of the Great
Depression, in an era when most folks did not go to college, Bill,
through his own hard work earning money, was close enough to Milwaukee
to attend Marquette University and study electrical engineering. It was
also here where he met the love of his life, Marjorie Tump. Marjorie was
attending Mount Mary College. Mutual friends arranged a blind date for
them, and it was love at first sight. In 1940, Bill graduated from
Marquette, got a job with the machinery manufacturer Allis-Chalmers, and
on Nov. 23, he married Marjorie.
In the late 1930s through the mid-1940s, Allis-Chalmers’ civilian
manufacturing lines were put on hold to focus on war-related production.
Shortly after the United States entered World War II, it was one of
numerous companies to get involved with the Manhattan Project – the
research and development project that produced the atomic bombs that
ended the war with Japan. While he didn’t know the specifics at the
time, Bill was put to work to solve an electrical problem related to the
development of the weapons – the end result was the invention of an
electric motor control system that contributed to the project’s eventual
success. Years later, Allis-Chalmers presented Bill with the patent.
From 1950 to 1953, Bill ran his deceased father-in-law’s soap company.
By the early 1950s, he was working for the Federal-Pacific Electrical
Co. in sales. In 1951, Bill and Majorie moved into their new home on
Edgewater Drive, where they raised their daughters, Nancy and Mary.
Built on the Columbia Pond area of Cedar Creek, where the river is very
wide, the home sits high on a hill with large windows to take in the
In 1963, Bill started an engineering firm – Herziger and Associates –
that designed the electrical layouts for large institutions such as
schools and hospitals. He also lent his interest and expertise in
electrical power to Cedarburg’s Light & Water Commission, serving as a
member starting in 1952. After 35 years on the board, 15 as president,
he resigned in 1987. Prior to that, Bill sold his business and retired
Bill’s hobbies over the years included amateur (ham) radio, boating and
golf. He golfed into his 90s and was delighted the first time he played
“four generation” golf with his great-grandchildren.
Shortly after retirement, Bill and Marjorie began wintering in Sarasota,
Fla. In 1993, after 53 years of marriage, Marjorie passed away. Bill
never left Cedarburg, however, and stayed in his house on the hill until
the last few months of his life. In the meantime, he continued to spend
most winters in Florida. During summers, he often hosted family
gatherings on the Fourth of July. Looking out over the water, with a
backyard filled with family waiting for the fireworks to go off, he
would often chuckle that, after more than 90 years, he had only moved a
half mile down Cedar Creek.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 16, 2013,
at St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church-South, N44 W6055 Hamilton Road,
Cedarburg. Interment will be at Zur Ruhe Cemetery. The family will greet
relatives and friends on Friday at the church from 10 a.m. until the
time of Mass.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the charity of your choice in
The Schramka-Densow Funeral Home is assisting the family. Online
condolences may be forwarded to the family at