Archive for Wednesday, October 3, 2007

E. Lawrence resident known for simple life dies

October 3, 2007


Bill Hatke, who lived a frugal life as a gardener in East Lawrence, died last week at age 61. He lived for many years on an annual income of about $100, and traded his produce to meet some of his needs.

Bill Hatke, who lived a frugal life as a gardener in East Lawrence, died last week at age 61. He lived for many years on an annual income of about $100, and traded his produce to meet some of his needs.

Bill Hatke lived his life the way he worked his gardens - simply and efficiently. He weeded out complications, negotiating only with the land.

"He lived out his ideals almost more than anyone I know," said longtime friend and Scrabble partner Boog Highberger.

On the surface, Hatke may have appeared an eccentric. But close friends describe him as an intelligent individual who lived a purposely simple life, on his own terms.

"He decided the best way to live was to live simply," Highberger said. "A lot of people talk about it; Bill lived it."

Hatke died Thursday after recently learning he was in the late stages of pancreatic cancer. His best friend, Karl Ramberg, said Hatke was in immense pain during the past month and doctors told him there was no hope for recovery.

And because he didn't want to burden his friends in his final days or weeks, Hatke took control. He left life much in the same way he lived it and committed suicide.

"In a way, getting his ducks in a row and then killing himself was a way of not losing independence or control over his body and mind. He was very disciplined," said Bob Marvin, a friend of Hatke's for more than 20 years.

Despite his extensive academic background, Hatke chose a profession as an organic gardener. Patricia Marvin, Bob's wife, said Hatke wrote all winter, anything from novels to epic poems. He then gardened during the summer. People around Lawrence let him use their land for his vegetable gardens, and his own yard was filled with flowers and vegetables. He supplied Chuck Magerl, founder of Free State Brewing Co. and Wheatfields Bakery, with basil, beets, garlic and melons.

"He'll leave a huge void in the spirit of the community," Magerl said.

For years, Hatke lived on just $100 a year, Patricia Marvin said. He often traded people in vegetables, sure to keep his balance even with others and theirs with him.

He lived in the 1100 block of New York Street for years. He grew more than 10,000 pounds of organic beets and sold them to Pines International Inc. for money to rebuild his home after it was destroyed by fire in 1989.

"He was a dear friend to many people, and I got lucky enough to be one of them," Karl Ramberg said. ": He was sort of the heart and soul of East Lawrence in the sense that the acceptance that East Lawrence had for all lifestyles, Bill's lifestyle certainly was different than most modern Americans."


Duffman 9 years, 5 months ago

Hey Bill - thanks for everything you did for me. Teaching me that my pretty flowers were actually weeds. Giving me huge bundles of the best spinach and basil I have ever had. I can't begin to explain how much you touched my life. I will miss you tons. I feel so lucky to have known you and even more lucky to have been one of your neighbors. I'll keep a look out for ya in my dreams. Oh and yea she's still pregnant. Bye Bill have a good one!

acg 9 years, 5 months ago

He sounds like he was a cool and interesting man. I'm sorry for those of you who lost your friend.

Kat Christian 9 years, 5 months ago

My deepest condolences to Bill's family, friends and people who came in contact with him. I did not know him but it appears he will leave a void in many lives, as well as fond memories and a legacy of some. Happy journey Bill. PS - I believe that those souls that have taken their own lives cannot be guided into the light by praying for them. So PLEASE pray for this soul often and everyday for at least 3 days so it can be guided into the light. The more intense and the many who pray - the brighter the light will become to guide him. Don't ask me how I know - I just know. Those who were extremely close to Bill will know when he has crossed-over.

George_Braziller 9 years, 5 months ago

So long Bill. I'll miss your smile and wave as you ride by the house.

Griblit 9 years, 5 months ago

Dear Bill! I will always think of you when I pick my basil. If I ever get my strawberries to produce, I'll know it is because you helped me.

Your face was never without a smile for more than a second or two, and I'll remember you just like that- and barefoot!

Tuesdays will not be the same without you, and all who knew you will hold you dear in our hearts. You will always be remembered as a generous, inspirational, wonderful friend.

I will miss you.

Katherine Greene 9 years, 5 months ago

Several of Bill's friends put together a nice obituary that appears in today's print edition. It isn't online because it was a paid obitiuary. We wanted the tone to reflect Bill. If you want a digital copy, send me an email. Kat

pace 9 years, 5 months ago

Bill was a great friend. One of the things i am remembering was, when one of the kids in our community was having trouble in a subject, he would incorporate the person in his precious schedule and tutor him or her. He encouraged my girl in so many ways. He was also responsible for encouraging more people to make more pesto than they ever dreamed they wanted to.

Katherine Greene 9 years, 5 months ago

I meant to say, please send me your email address and I will send the digital copy of the obiturary. I can't send attachments through the Journal World system. Kat

cutny 9 years, 5 months ago

Sorry for the news. A genuinely great guy. God bless.

Yohanna 9 years, 5 months ago

Dr. Bill! My dear friend. I can't believe you're gone. Even out here in Oregon, I heard the news. I think you handled it well, though. And I respect your decision to take matters into your very strong, capable hands. I remember how you talked to and guided my kids when they were growing up, (You talked to ALL the kids in East Lawrence!) Now the kids are all grown. You came to our circles, and celebrations. You were there for everything! And the gardens...You once told me I should go easy with the tiller, and only make as big garden as I knew I could handle. Good advice that I've kept. Last time I saw you, you were very happy, and were headed out for a well-deserved vacation. Listen, my friend, if you pass over Oregon on your way to a happy hereafter, please look me up. There is a candle burning for you on my altar, and another in my heart. Glory Be.

pcopt 9 years, 5 months ago

Hey buddy, I'll miss you. I remember dancing the night away at Liberty Hall. You were always ready to enjoy life. Thanks for showing me how. Your spirit is with me. The white-tailed deer and the geese and the blue heron all salute you tonight.


pace 9 years, 5 months ago

Bill was intellectually and philosophically the most interesting person I have met. What was more impressive was his honor, his sense of personal responsibility and his heart.

Kathi Firns-Hubert 9 years, 3 months ago

I think of you so often, Bill. We missed you at our 27th annual pot luck, but know you were here in spirit (I hung a picture of you carrying our oldest when he was around 2--now 28 years old. You were such a guiding force in his life). Thank you for everything you did for everyone.

Spangler 5 years, 3 months ago

I've been thinking about you often of late.

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