Robert Humke

Robert Humke

Robert Humke, age 86, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease.

A celebration of life will be held at WELLSPRING UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, 5702 S. Hill Drive, Madison. on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. Visitation will begin at 10:30 a.m., a memorial service at 11 a.m., followed by lunch at the church.

Robert Paul Humke was known to a lot of people as Bob. And to a lot more he was known as “Buzz,” a nickname from birth because his legs were “kicking like a buzz saw” when he was born. From birth, Buzz kept moving.

He was a Wisconsin boy. He was raised in Edgar, Bay View and Whitefish Bay where he attended high school. He was a state pole vaulting champion back in the days of bamboo poles and sawdust landing pads. He recaptured the spirit of his childhood in his second book, The Logging Road Gang.

His father, Robert Humke Sr. purchased land in central Wisconsin, initially called, “father’s folly,” because it seemed like a crazy idea. That property became “The Land” and served as the special place for many important family events. Buzz made it a haven for family and friends throughout most of his life and filled it with a teepee, windmill, “troll bridge,” painted rocks, and a frisbee golf course made of hula hoops. Many friends were invited over the years to share a weekend or more of outdoor activities and happy memories at the Land.

Buzz attended Ripon College where, most importantly, he fell in love and won the heart of Ellen Luebke. He left Ripon early to join the U.S.Navy but one year later on Aug. 19,1957, he and Ellen were married. They loved each other for the next 65 years.

Stationed in Florida, he experienced duty on an aircraft carrier and wrote and read poetry in his spare time. Towards the end of his service, he and Ellen became the parents of Lisa Carole. The family later welcomed brothers, Mark John and Jason Bruce.

Buzz became a leader in the early days of parks and recreation administration. He completed his undergraduate work at LaCrosse, and his Master’s degree at Indiana University. He worked in the Waukesha, Wis., and Peoria, Ill., parks departments and for the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign as a community recreation specialist. He finished his career as the director of the Madison School and Community Recreation department. His first book, Mad About Play, recaptures the stories and personalities of Madison’s recreation history.

Buzz was always active in living out his faith in God. He participated in church choir, and eventually became a regular soloist in church. He had an excellent tenor voice. He also wrote original songs for church and worship. He was active in serving in Madison Urban Ministries and the Lussier Education Center/ Wexford Ridge neighborhood. He and Ellen participated in several disaster relief work projects through church outreach and Habitat for Humanity over the years.

Buzz was a life-long athlete, playing on recreational softball teams and discovering success in master’s track later in life. He loved hiking with the family, cycling and cross-country skiing with Ellen, deer hunting, fishing, camping and traveling. His famous expression when enjoying all these activities was “Is this living?”. He knew how to add fun to every family event.

Buzz was known for his original songs for family weddings and other special occasions and would call up all the family members to be an impromptu choir to sing his tribute songs. We did it with joy. There were so many songs for people and events throughout his life. One highlight was the surprise birthday party for Ellen with his own love song (“You are the Special Woman in my Life”) in her honor. Another was his song for his own retirement party (“Nothing but Weekends”) complete with back up singers/dancers; i.e., two staff members with a great sense of humor.

Buzz was slowed down by Parkinson’s disease over his last years. He loved eating until his last week of life and was a championship snacker. His eyes lit up when friends and family entered the room (especially when they mentioned ice cream!). He imparted his stories to his family until the end. All his family knew he loved them. And he died knowing he was deeply loved.

Buzz is survived by his wife, Ellen; daughter, Lisa (Larry) Lloyd; sons, Mark (Gretchen) Humke and Jason Humke; grandchildren, Stephen (Marta Lobo) Lloyd, Dustin (Hang Nguyen) Lloyd, Ryan Lloyd and Keenan Lloyd; great-grandson, Robert (“Bert”) Lloyd; brother, Bruce (Marian) Humke; and sister-in-law, Carole (Richard) Koehler. He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Edith; brother, John; and sister-in-law, Mary Humke.

We wish to thank Agrace HospiceCare for all their amazing care and support.

Memorials on behalf of Robert Humke may be made to one of the following organizations:

MOM (Middleton Outreach Ministry), 3502 Parmenter St, Middleton, WI 53562

Lussier Community Education Center, 55 S Gammon Rd, Madison, WI 53717

Online condolences may be made at

Gunderson West

Funeral & Cremation Care

7435 University Ave.

(608) 831-6761