Joseph Bernard Hengel
1932 - 2020

Joseph Bernard Hengel

The world lost an amazing man, Joseph Bernard Hengel, 88, died Sunday Nov. 15, 2020. Everyone in the area seemed to know him. He was born Sept. 11, 1932 to Joseph and Hildegarde (Buchner) Hengel.

He was preceded in death by his brothers, John (Edna) and Ed (Rose); and his sisters, Patty Hinytzke (Dick) and Mona McIntyre (Dan).

His work ethic started early with a large paper route on the south side of La Crosse which was not an easy task for a boy that lost his right arm to a shotgun blast while duck hunting at age 14. He went on to set bowling pins at Holy Trinity Lanes. After that it was off to Aquinas High School. While not the greatest student they ever had, he may have been the most ambitious. The nuns there have been quoted as saying, "Joe Hengel you will never amount to anything!" He took that as a challenge. After graduation in 1950, he went on to work as a plumber in his family's business. He and his brother John soon branched away from the family business and created Hengel Brothers Plumbing.

In 1954 he married Lois Helgerson. They have four children, Jane Walz (Richard), Joe (Sue), Judy (Billy), and Jim (Kris); six grandchildren, Brad Walz (Britni), Jess Dzurko (Ashley), Jennifer Kopp (Jeff), Ross Dzurko (Lindsey), Joey Hengel, and Jason Hengel (Ali); and four great-grandchildren, Everett, Charlotte, Mille, and Isaac.

Family was the most important thing in his life and according to Dad, "Nothing Else Matters." After years in the plumbing business, he looked to other opportunities such as multifamily apartment complexes. He built thousands of rental units in the tri-state area, not to mention hundreds of single-family homes in subdivisions. At eighty-eight he was still working on-site everyday with several projects still in the design stage.

As much as he loved to work, he loved to play even more. For him, no challenge was too big, so he bought an airplane and earned his pilot license in the early 1970's. Not many pilots fly only with one arm. His favorite hobbies included hunting, fishing, and golfing. He loved to play at the La Crosse Country Club (Forrest Hills) with all his buddies. He played in the National and World Amputee Tournaments, finishing second three times. What he loved most was spending time fishing with his family, especially the annual fishing trip to Canada. In true Hengel fashion, he always had a joke, and he could deliver it. He was one of a kind, he was loved, and he will be missed.

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, private family services will be held.

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Published by La Crosse Tribune on Nov. 18, 2020.
No memorial events are currently scheduled.
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9 Entries
R.I.P. joe .
michael Bilot and family .
November 20, 2020
My deepest sympathy to the Hengel families. I've been around Joe, Lois, Joe and Jim , Jane and Judy for nearly 40 years, traveled to FL, TX, AZ, Las Vegas, etc. His sense of humor was always present!! Tons of GREAT memories! A work ethic like no other!! RIP JOE
Paul Dawson
November 18, 2020
I remember Joe from when my family needed a plumber. My Dad would call Joe and in short order problem solved! Prayers coming your family's way from ours! Peace & blessings, Linda K.
Linda Hall Kuehl
November 18, 2020
I didn't know THIS Hengel, but my parents, Verd and Dorothy Grabinski always used Hengel's Plumbing services. I'm sure Joseph Hengel will be missed. My oldest son, also lost his complete right arm, years ago, and I am impressed at the recuperative spirit and abilities these guys accomplish. May Joe rest in peace!
Mary Grabinski Grabski
November 18, 2020
My sympathies to the Hengel family. I enjoyed my relationships with Joe both professionally and on occasions socially and on the golf course. I recall an occasion at one of the past St. Francis pro-am tourneys sitting with a couple PGA pros in the clubhouse watching the event on close circuit TV when Joe appeared and the pros couldn´t believe how well Joe played and they both raced out to watch Joe finish his round. They were impressed. His ready smile and laugh will be missed.
Don Flynn
November 18, 2020
My memories of Joe go back to my childhood when my father told me about a man who lost his right arm and was doing things you would only expect of a man with 2 arms. I don't know Joe personally but his ability to overcome made such an impression on predominantly left-handed me that I have always held him in high regard. I'm sure Joe inspired many. My condolences to his family.
Carol (Amann-Olson) Reichhoff
November 18, 2020
My deepest sympathy to all of you, hugs
Sherri Petras
November 18, 2020
Everybody that knew Joe said what a hard worker he was. Said he could lay pipe better and faster than anybody with two arms. Always had a smile on his face! My deepest sympathy to the family.
Barbara Hengel Cozy
November 18, 2020
So sorry for your loss. Always friendly. I´ll never forget one of the trips to Vegas where we were guests of one of the suppliers. My wife and I were sitting next to Joe on the flight and our approach into lacrosse was a little bumpy. When we landed the passengers all clapping. Joe looked at my wife and said " boy I wish I could do that" very funny guy with a sense of humor.
Ted Johnson
November 18, 2020