Phillip Edward Gokey

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Phillip Edward Gokey, 86, died after a short battle with pancreatic cancer Wednesday, Nov. 22, under the tender care provided by the Madison VA Hospital Community Living Center Hospice.


Phil was born in 1931, in Prairie du Chien to Peter and Levina (St. Jacque) Gokey, as the youngest of nine and already an uncle! After graduating high school in 1949, he joined the Navy and served aboard ship from 1951 to 1955 primarily as radar operator in the Pacific on a Destroyer Escort. He received seven battle stars during the Korean Conflict and was honorably discharged in 1955.


Then he attended UW-Madison, graduating with a BS in Electrical Engineering. He met his former spouse, Mary LaDuke, at school and raised his family and a hodgepodge of animals on a hobby farm in Whitewater. After retirement, he returned to live in Madison where he met his partner, Jan Hagen, enjoyed ballroom dancing, and volunteered at Olbrich Gardens and the Madison voting polls.


Phil lived a rich life, filled with many interests and a never-ending quest for learning, inventing and trying new things. A few of his interests included hunting, fishing, canoeing, gardening, beekeeping, boxing, playing guitar, square dancing, running, reading, writing and cooking. 


He loved returning to Prairie du Chien to visit his hometown, fish the banks of the Mississippi, and eat at Pete’s Hamburger Stand which was started in 1909 by his father. As the family historian he spent years researching, collecting, and compiling genealogical records. Some of his elaborate and artistic extended family tree drawings are on display in the Fort Crawford Museum in Prairie du Chien.


He is survived by his children Matt (Faith) and their children Cybil and Ben, Sarah Yao (James), Ben (Elise) and baby Marc, and Aaron (Lillie); his domestic partner and dance partner Jan Hagen, and their dog Bruno.


A modest celebration of life memorial service will be held Dec. 9, at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison. Visitation at 9:30 a.m., service at 11, with light lunch to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his honor to Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the Spinal CSF Leak Foundation, or the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.


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