William H. Rochon, 84, of North Port, Florida, died Sunday, October 10, after a long illness. He was born August 24, 1937, to William F. Rochon and Meta M. (Kneer) Rochon, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Bill had a uniquely genuine, caring and memorable personality. He impressed others as a true gentleman and a man of high character. Bill was a tireless worker, filled with boundless energy and enthusiasm. He strove for excellence and mastery in everything he did, often to the point of exhaustion; yet he was fun-loving, with a infectious sense of humor.
Bill’s maternal grandmother, who had emigrated from Germany, lived with Bill and his parents and was a very special and loving influence in his life. From her came his love for German food; from his paternal grandmother came his Native America ancestry.
A constant throughout Bill’s life was his passion for music. He began playing the piano accordion at age six; by age 15 he was teaching his own students at a music studio, and had formed his first band. He studied and performed all types of music, but closest to his heart were Slovenian-style polkas and especially waltzes, because he said he could put the most feeling into them. A consummate musician, he was always humble, and loved making people happy with his music. His second band, first formed to perform at his oldest daughter’s wedding, went on to perform extensively throughout Wisconsin and other Midwest states.
Music brought Bill his first wife when he met Mary Frances Pesczek as he was performing with his first band. He had to wait a few years for her to grow up, though, since he found out that she was only 14! They dated under strict supervision until she turned 18, and then married in 1959. They welcomed 5 children: Barbara Smith (Randy), Kathleen Rochon, Jean Marie Thiel (Brad), William B. Rochon, and James (Michelle) Rochon. He was also blessed with 12 grandchildren: Matthew (Karie) Smith, Adam (Jessica) Smith, and Katherine (Stuart) Wulterkens; Jaclyn Horlamus and Collin Horlamus; Morgan Thiel and Michael Thiel; Trent Rochon, Briar Rochon and Isabelle Rochon; and Grace Rochon and Cole Rochon. Great-grandchildren are Margaret Smith; Nathaniel Smith and Alexandra Smith.
Having grown up an only child with no cousins or extended family, Bill’s family brought him great joy. He deeply loved and was proud of each of his family members. He had a multitude of interests and hobbies which he loved sharing with his family: fishing, snowmobiling, boating and water activities at the Northwoods cabin he built; building and flying large-scale model airplanes; Harleys, motorhomes, computers and more. He served as a Boy Scout leader for his sons, and taught his children the value of hard work as well as fun and recreation. His children have many funny “dad and grandpa” stories.
Bill had a deep affinity for animals. He trained and rode horses at his farm, in addition to raising goats, chickens, geese, rabbits, a steer and one stubborn sheep. He had many pets, but his favorites were the family’s many dogs.
After exploring a number of work options, Bill entered the field of HVAC service, which he thoroughly enjoyed and at which he excelled, eventually founding his own mechanical contracting firm, which operated successfully for over 20 years and employed many of his family members.
In 2002, Bill mourned the loss of his wife Mary after a long illness.
He rededicated himself to his music, deciding to relocate to Florida and begin performing again.
Bill found love again when he met Karen, a music teacher in Beloit, Wisconsin. She shared his love of music and adventure, and was eventually persuaded to find a teaching position in Florida and embark on a new life together. They married on January 1, 2006.
Bill threw himself into this new phase of life, overseeing every detail of the building of their new home in North Port. He supported Karen in her work as a music teacher, helping with her concerts, and putting his computer and technical skills to good use. Bill found many opportunities to perform with several groups in Southwest Florida, and Karen traveled with him whenever her teaching schedule allowed.
The couple spent 18 idyllically happy years together. They loved traveling, going on many cruises: snorkeling in Cozumel, snuba diving in the Cayman Islands, zip lining in Honduras, sailing in St. Maarten, ATVing in Grand Turk, visiting Mayan ruins in Belize and Cozumel, bobsledding in Jamaica, a wild Jeep ride in the Dominican Republic, and many more adventures. A highlight was their land and sea cruise to Alaska. In the summer months they traveled to Wisconsin to visit their families, and after Karen’s retirement in 2017, they traveled in their small trailer around the country from the Florida Keys up to Maine, from Niagara Falls to the Northwoods of Wisconsin and out to Colorado several times, from the National Parks in Utah, to Las Vegas, down to Arizona, then back home to Florida. They enjoyed going to concerts, museums and theme parks, and Karen shared Bill’s lifelong love of the Green Bay Packers.
Bill was also highly respected, loved and appreciated by Karen’s children Jeremy, Amber, and Lindsay, for the happiness he brought to their mother’s life.
The ultimate fighter, Bill battled his final illness for four years before losing his last battle.