Teacher/Coach Bill Putnum

William H. “Bill” Putnam

Madison/Black Earth – William Hollis Putnam died at home, surrounded by his family, in Black Earth, Wisconsin on January 27th, 2019 at age 77, after a courageous battle with the blood cancer, MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndrome).

Bill was born in Madison, Wisconsin on July 17, 1941, to Willard H. Putnam and Mary Elizabeth (O’Brien) Putnam. He attended St Raphael and Blessed Sacrament Grade Schools and Edgewood High School. He graduated from Milton College in February of 1965, with a double major in History & English. He also did graduate work at UW-Madison. He was united in marriage on June 6, 1964, to Patricia Barnes and they had two children, William and Rachel.

William H. "Bill" Putnam
William H. “Bill” Putnam
Bill shared his love of history when he began teaching at Madison Central High School from February, 1966 until the school closed in June, 1969. He coached hockey, including Central’s City Championship Team in 1969. Bill was on the faculty at West Junior High School for two years, and then taught US history at West Senior High from the fall of 1971 until his retirement in June, 1999. Bill held his students to very high standards. He guided them on how to take notes, write essays, term papers and grasp complex concepts such as ETHOS. He had the ability to reach students who felt marginalized or who needed additional resources to succeed. He was famous for his “Scholars’ Row”: and for making his class fun to be a part of, even if your interests did not revolve around history. There was never a dull moment in Room 234, especially when sending students searching for a board stretcher or 100 feet of shoreline. Bill’s students knew he cared for each of them as an individual and always made everyone feel accepted and respected. He encouraged respectful discourse in differing political and social points of view.

Bill also coached hockey and soccer for West from 1975 to 1982. Through his teaching and coaching, Bill positively influenced thousands of students. He said he never felt like he went to work; he absolutely loved being a professional educator and loved his students.

1980 Hockey Team - Photo by Dick Gruber
1980 Hockey Team – Photo by Dick Gruber

Bill was also an avid outdoorsman learning to fish from his Father-in-law, Bob Barnes in the Boundary Waters Canoeing Area from 1964-1980. He fished in Northern Wisconsin for over 50 years enjoying “Gods Country”, on the lakes with family and friends: George Chryst, Dave Mergen, Roger Wiebe, Steve Shaw, Bob McClellen, Skippy Skrobot, Carl Reuter, Bob Martens, Dick Walser, Lee Ackley, Paul du Vair and Karl Solberg. Fortunately, Bill shared his extensive knowledge and love of the lakes near Boulder Junction & Manitowish Waters with the family’s younger generation. He and his wife purchased a cabin in Boulder Junction, WI Township in the year 2001, and he personally worked on its renovation. “Put’s Place” became the favorite gathering spot for family and friends. Bill’s love of deer and duck hunting was fostered by close friend Bob (Gretchen) Martens in the mid 1960’s. Bill’s hunting spots included the Martens Farm, the Barnes family’s school house near Dodgeville at Bethel Horizons, Ron Olson’s “The Swamp” near Muscoda and most recently the Cusic farm. Bill also had a lifelong love of cars. Growing up working on and driving everything from his first car, a 1951 MGTD, to his 1967 GTO. He was a member of the Vintage Sports Car Driver’s Association (VSCDA Group 1) from 2000-2014, racing at Blackhawk Farms and Road America. Always the chef and host, Bill was featured in a December 25, 1988 article in the Wisconsin State Journal entitled: “Large Meals Suit Bill Putnam Just Fine.” He loved “feeding the troops.” Bill was known to many as a lover of Rock-n-Roll and especially for his ability to dance like Elvis. He was generous, kind, thoughtful, hard-working, supportive, creative, introspective, always learning new things, a fun man to be around and a consummate gentleman. He was the quintessential Renaissance Man.

Bill is survived by his wife, Patty; son, Bill (Emily) Putnam and daughter, Rachel (Ron) Olson; grandchildren, Aidan J. Olson, William (Liam) Putnam, Heidi & Josephine Putnam and their mother, Heather Maxwell; sisters, Patty Chryst, Penny (John) Richert; sister-in-law, Connie Fox; brother-in-law, David Barnes (Vicki Rabe); and many nieces & nephews, Rick Chryst, George (Shelley) Chryst, Cathy (Bob) Greco, Paul (Robin) Chryst, Mary Ellen (Dave) Strauser, Susan (Dan) Corwith, Annie (Sam) Ballweg, Seth (Elena) Barnes, and Brianna Barnes, 17 great nieces and nephews, and 6 first cousins. Also surviving are close family friend, Lare Arra and his family, Cynthia, Liam and Ella.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Willard & Betty Putnam, his mother and father-in-law, Bob & Christine Barnes, two brothers-in-law, George Chryst, and Stan Fox, as well as his cousin, Bill O’Brien.

The family would like to thank Bill’s medical team in Madison: Dr. Rob Olson, Dr. David Hei, Karen Huseby-Moore, NP, the staff members at the Carbone Cancer Center, the Infusion Center at Meriter Hospital, and the IMC/8th floor. Special thanks to David B., RN and Kim A.,RN. The Heartland Hospice representatives (Denise, RN) and Lisa Mahoney’s very special network of in-home caregivers. Heartfelt appreciation is also extended to Bill’s medical team in northern Wisconsin: Dr. Demet Gokalp Yasar, and staff members at the Marshfield Clinic and the Howard Young Medical Center in Minocqua. Thanks to “Team Bill” for their tireless support.

The family requests that memorial donations be made in the name of Bill Putnam to any of the following: *Marshfield Clinic (for the Oncology Dept., at Minocqua) Attention: MCHS Foundation, 1000 N. Oak Ave., Marshfield, WI 54449 *Howard Young Foundation, Surgical Services, PO Box 470, Woodruff, WI, 54568 *Meriter Foundation, (for the Infusion Center), 202 S. Park St., Madison, WI 53715 *UW Carbone Cancer Center, c/o 4th Floor Dr. Hei, 1 South Park St, Madison WI 53715.

A Celebration of Life/Irish Wake will be held in the spring, with an announcement to follow at a later date. Please sign the Tributes section on the Cress Funeral Home website.

After the sudden death of a long time fishing partner, Bill wrote this Reflection:
When you are sitting there at the cabin,
The moon shining across the lake;
A boat skimming by,
A fisherman on his way;
This boat leaves no wake
Only an etching on the moon.
And over the water, the call of a silent loon.
Around the next point an anchorage is sure;
Then we’ll ALL fish TOGETHER around the next point.