January 20, 2021 – West Bend, WI – It is with a heavy heart to announce the passing of Roger Kist.
Roger Kist began his eternal life on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. We are comforted to know that he has joined his beloved daughter and that we will see him again on the other side.
On July 16, 1936, Roger William Kist was born at home to Raymond and Florence (nee Alton) Kist in Clermont, Iowa. Roger lived a happy and simple life on the family farm, but it was also hard without electricity or running water. After his father’s unexpected death in 1951, his mother sold the farm and the family moved to Milwaukee where Roger graduated from South Division High School.
Roger learned many life-skills on the family farm and continued working as a hired-hand at area farms until he landed his first job as a bank teller, and then as a lab technician at Allen Bradley for 12 years.
Roger was driven to serve his country in the US Navy Reserves from 1954-1962. He earned his associate degree from UWWC in 1972 and his BBA from UW-Milwaukee in 1981 after taking night classes on the 25-year plan. Education was also important to him…he was an especially proud father when each his six children graduated from college.
Roger held deep faith in our Lord and was currently a member of Holy Angels Catholic Church. He was an ordained minister and a church elder/deacon, and, for a short time, hosted a Christian radio ministry program. He led Bible studies in his home and gifted many Bibles to those in need.
In 1967, he was hired as the caretaker for Ridge Run County Park and quickly became known as Ranger Roger. If he did not know how to do something, he read the book, asked questions, and taught himself. He was a father-figure and mentor to many park workers and took pride in sharing his knowledge and experience. Roger was committed to service in the Wisconsin Park and Recreation Assoc. and the National Recreation and Park Assoc., where he held many leadership positions and received numerous awards over his 36 years in the field. Roger was recently honored at Sandy Knoll County Park for his service to the citizens.
The day after Roger retired from the parks, he accepted the Executive Director position for the Washington Co. Convention and Visitors Bureau until he was elected as Alderman on the City of West Bend Common Council in 2009. He also served as a Board Member for Washington Co. Board of Supervisors from 2016-2020.
Roger believed in giving back to the community and served numerous organizations in volunteer leadership positions, including the West Bend Senior Center, Washington County Republican Party, 4-H, Embassy Condominium Assoc., Rock River Coalition, and he was honored to organize a Harley motorcycle ride with Governor Thompson through Washington Co.
Roger was active and often seen jogging on the streets of West Bend before dawn. He claimed to solve many problems on those solitary runs, as well as befriending wildlife and having chats with God. Roger loved nicknames and inside jokes, especially with his children and grandchildren. If you knew Roger, you knew about his Blue Bird.
Survived by his wife Denise (nee Wilde) whom he loved deeply and made sure others knew it. Also survived by his beloved children Abraham (Sayuri) in Tokyo, Japan; Isaac in West Bend, WI; Sarah Beth in Fitchburg, WI; Jacob (Beth) in Downers Grove, IL; and Jeffrey (Meghan) in Lockport, IL; his 12 grandchildren Akio and Haruka; Jackson and Shenandoah; Cryssanne and Helena; Ellie and Ethan; and Addelyn, Jason, Riley, and Hannah. Further survived by many nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters-in-law, and friends.
Preceded in death by his parents, his daughter Susannah Kist, his sister Minnie Kress, and his brother Alton.
A Memorial Mass in Remembrance of Roger will be held on Friday, January 29, 2021 at 4 p.m. at Holy Angel’s Catholic Church, 138 N. Eighth St., West Bend. Mindful of current restrictions, masks and social distancing will be required.
The family will greet relatives and friends at the church on Friday from 2 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
The family is deeply grateful to Roger’s caregivers at New Perspectives and Seasons Hospice for their care and compassion.
Memorials to family will be used to dedicate the memory of Ranger Roger at Ridge Run Park.
Please consider signing our online guest book (www.myrhum-patten.com) to share your condolences with the family. Cards addressed to the family may be sent in care of: Myrhum – Patten Funeral and Cremation Service, 1315 W Washington Street, West Bend, WI 53095.
Myrhum-Patten Funeral & Cremation Service of West Bend has been entrusted with Roger’s arrangements. For those unable to attend Mass, the funeral will be livestreamed to the funeral home’s Facebook page.
Roger received praise from many people he worked with over the years. Tributes are below.
Rick Gundrum_ I enjoyed serving with Roger on the Washington County Board.
He was a very dedicated public servant who took his role as County Supervisor seriously. Roger made it a priority to attend all committee meetings so that when it was time to vote he’d be well informed on the issues.
Whether he agreed with you or not on an issue Roger was always respectful of your views and opinions.
Dist. 8 West Bend alderman and Dist. 2 Washington County Supervisor Roger Kist.
There are few communities as lucky as Washington County to have a plethora of people dedicated to helping make it a better place. One of the notable community leaders is Roger Kist.
Kist, 81, was a young pup when he moved to Ridge Run Park in November 1967. Originally hired as caretaker of the park, Kist said it “reminded me a lot of when I worked on the farm.” A supervisor at the park, Kist sported a handlebar mustache and eventually became a fixture known as Ranger Roger.
Aside from the parks and Washington County Tourism, Kist has been a familiar face in politics on both the West Bend common council and as a supervisor, elected in April of 2016, to the Washington County Board.
“When I was on the council and I was also chairman of the local Republican Party,” said Kist. “I remember Mike Schlotfeldt was elected alderman and he chaired the Democratic Party. When he sat down he looked over at me like the devil had just shown up.”
Kist took his time and built a relationship with the representative from Dist. 6. “When Mike decided not to run again we had a little party and he said to me, ‘Roger you’re the only friend I’ve got.’”
Over the years Kist has made quite a few friends and below are some comments from friends and coworkers about the impact he’s made in this county and the community.
West Bend Police Chief Ken Meuler: I met Roger before he ever ran for alderperson as he has always been actively involved in the community. He donates his time to a number of community events, and supports almost every community function. Anyone out in the community will see him at Music on Main, Farmer’s Market, church festivals, parades, and numerous fundraisers in the community. During his time as an alderperson he has not been someone that pounds his fists or grandstands, but he always speaks up on issues that are important to him and his constituents. He has called me on a number of police issues to get a better understanding of our policies and practices. He has been a strong supporter of the police throughout his tenure as alderperson. I have always enjoyed working with Roger as an alderperson and appreciate all he has done for the community. More important, I value his friendship.
Washington County Supervisor Marilyn Merten: “Roger has always been a considerate and caring individual and he’s willing to do a good job at whatever he did.” Merten was county clerk and worked with Kist when he was at the Washington County Planning and Parks Department. “I’d contact Roger to help make the grounds look nice at the county building. Roger would always take care of it.”
Leah Baughman at Interfaith Caregivers of Washington County: “Roger Kist is very active and in touch with the West Bend community and knows what is needed to help support its citizens. When asked if he would like to be a part of the Interfaith/RSVP Advisory Council Roger very graciously accepted right away. Even though this venture has just begun he has been an important member that has contributed many great ideas and support.”
Todd Tennies remembered Kist when he worked and lived at Ridge Run Park. “As a little boy I can remember going to Ridge Run Park and riding bikes past the log cabin as we headed to our favorite fishing spot. Roger would always stop and say ‘Hi’ and ask us how the fishing was. He was always friendly and willing to talk to us kids. After his retirement from the county he settled in and served the community through his involvement in city government. He did a great job and always had an interest in what was best for the community. His interest in our county also carried over into the Tourism Committee for Washington County. He did an extraordinary job promoting the Washington County Fair Park as well as all of our wonderful parks we have in this county. Great job Roger.”
Former Dist. 5 alderman Rich Kasten said Kist is somebody he really admires. “The things he’s accomplished at the county and city and he can still walk down the street and people know him from Ridge Run Park. I wish I could be more like him with his ability to relate to people and between him and his wife the way they’re prepared for every meeting. I’m very lucky I’ve been able to spend time on the council with him.”
Former West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said serving the community is in Roger’s blood. “Whether it’s an elected position, or in his career or during his time off he’s always been committed to service and giving back to the community.
Former West Bend city clerk Amy Reuteman spent 15 years at City Hall and noted, “Roger Kist has been there forever. And he’s early; you can always count on Roger to be early.”
Thank you Roger Kist for your dedication and service to help make West Bend and Washington County a great community.