William Gene Wessels

William “Bubba” Gene Wessels was born to Frieda Mae (Onken) Wessels and John Frederick Wessels on March 14, 1944, and left this world on April 17th, 2021. Bill was the youngest of 3 Wessels boys. He is preceded in death by both parents and his older brother Richard Henry. He is survived by his oldest brother Gerald John, his beautiful and devoted wife, Kaye Suzanne (White), his son Travis Duke, his daughter Shanon Dee, and 2 treasured granddaughters McKaye Frieda, and Danielle Florence, as well as his beloved son-in-law Christopher Scott Whiteside.

Bill attended Columbia Grade School and Peoria Central High School. His passion for football, inspired by Bear Bryant and the University of Alabama football program, eventually led to a football scholarship extended by Bradley University. Bill cultivated and maintained lifelong friendships with his Braves teammates. He graduated with a degree in education and went on to teach and coach at Pleasant Valley Middle School and Bellevue Middle School in Peoria, IL, Eureka High School in Eureka, IL, and eventually at Circle of Life on White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. Known as “Big Guy ’ to his athletes, he was a gentle giant, a strong leader, and a compassionate man whose sense of humor put you at ease. He embraced his students and athletes with a father-like love and attention that made them feel appreciated and valued.

In addition to Bubba’s love of Bama football, he found his greatest joy in family, friends, and living things. He spent many hours fishing the strip mines and other lakes in Illinois with his brother Dick and lifelong friend Dave Ziebert. His older brother Jerry inspired an interest in golf that morphed into 25 years of “Bubba Open” golf tournaments. While living in Sunnyland and Eureka, he and his wife hosted annual corn roast parties in the summer and Superbowl parties in the winter. Summer vacations were spent at Pine Hollow Resort in Park Rapids, MN with his brothers and their families. Bill spent a lifetime cooking and feeding others, demonstrating his love through “dippin” eggs and pancakes, chicken & wild rice soup, and homemade pizzas.

Though Bubba was born and raised in Illinois, Minnesota was the home that called to him. After years of vacationing there, his family made Park Rapids a permanent residence in 1987. He was able to spend many hours on Island Lake, fishing his favorite crappie hole. His gregarious nature led to enduring and endearing friendships with colleagues from Detroit Lakes and White Earth, and his local favorites Wayne Warmbolt and Dean Bentler. Bubba created a small bird haven just outside his front door where he fed a multitude of birds. He especially enjoyed the hummingbirds and black capped chickadees which he called “cheeseburger birds” because he said their call sounded like they were saying “cheeseburger”.

A celebration of Bubba’s life will be held at Firefly Event Barn in Nevis, MN on May 22, 2021 from 2-5pm. Bubba loved to tell stories. And so shall we on that day. Stories of him and his magnificent life.

In lieu of flowers the family asks that you make a donation to Dream of Wild Health, Honor the Earth, the American Bird Conservancy, or L.E.A.D. Rescue. These gifts will memorialize Bubba’s devotion to the indigenous students he served, his deep appreciation of wildlife, especially birds, and his combined love and compassion for his granddaughters and their love of dogs in need of homes.

Related Topics: OBITS