Madison – Robert “Bob” E. West, age 77, passed away on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 at his home in Madison. He was born on July 12, 1942 in La Crosse, WI and is the son of Ellis and Jean (Haffa) West. Bob attended La Crosse State University where he majored in secondary education. He met Karen, his wife-to-be, during his senior year while rehearsing as the lead in a production of Aristophanes “The Birds”. Bob’s career plan had been to graduate and head for New York where he thought he would have to live on peanut butter and attempt to make it as an actor. When he asked Karen to marry him, however, and she agreed he moved to plan B and began his career spending five years teaching speech and drama to students at Cashton High School.
Bob continued his teaching career in Mauston where they were implementing innovative programs. He was there two years teaching Social Studies, directing plays and bargaining their first union contract as the elected president. While students and their parents loved him, he had a contentious relationship with the administration and school board, eventually suing the school board over an illegal calendar change… and the union won. That exercise led Bob to a job with the Wisconsin Education Association.
Bob was hired in 1971 and served in a state-wide capacity doing teacher defense work. He was assigned to work out of the Rice Lake office where he was ultimately hired as the Executive Director of Northwest United Educators. After 14 years, Bob moved to Madison to become the Director of Organizing and then the Director of Collective Bargaining for the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) representing teachers and support staff. When the political winds blew ill, and the bargaining law which had protected education professionals and their communities from labor unrest was decimated, the organization decided to take a course which didn’t include its original values. Bob retired. After his retirement in 2000, Bob began a consulting business. He represented airline pilots and substitute teachers. His largest client, however, was the Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) where he worked in organizing and contract arbitration. He spent over 18 years representing the interests of police across the state.
Bob was a fan of golf. He loved to play golf and he enjoyed going to golf tournaments. He was nuts for the Badgers. Football, basketball, you name it – if there were Badgers involved he was all in. Bob loved to travel, especially in his RV. In his later years, he enjoyed spending winters in Florida where he continued to consult with the WPPA, as his knowledge was irreplaceable.
Bob was a force of nature. He was a kind and generous man to his friends and family. He is greatly loved and missed.
Bob is survived by his wife of 54 years, Karen West; son, Erik West; daughter, Samantha (Aaron Wahle) West; 7 year old granddaughter, Addi; brother, David (Jim) West; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ellis and Jean West.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 13, 2019 at RYAN FUNERAL HOME, 220 Enterprise Drive, Verona. A gathering will take place at the funeral home prior to the service at 12:30 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Bob’s name to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (WisDems.org/bobwest) or Wisconsin Progress (WisconsinProgress.org/bobwest). To view and sign this guestbook, please visit: www.ryanfuneralservice.com.
Ryan Funeral Home & Cremation Services
220 Enterprise Drive
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