William O. Pankoke, 1927-2010


This is probably one of the hardest posts I will ever write, enough so that it took me three full weeks to even figure out what to say. And yet, this probably will be easier than ones yet to come which will more than likely appear across the remaining space and time of my life.

As a child, you feel that life can do nothing except go on forever in your favor. As a young adult, you’re taught to consider and train for a thousand different trajectories where your life could take you, particularly since there are no guarantees. As an adult in your apparent prime whose enticements of youth keep slowly receding into the distance, you recognize whether you like it or not that the familiar and the old must make way for the unknown and the new, hopefully in life affirming ways.

What do you do when that which seems inevitable in the life of one close to you, for which you had been bracing for many intense days – and before that, silently dreading for several years – is suddenly done and gone in a flash? You work through the initial throes of sorrow and second-guessing to be followed by indiscriminate mood swings and moments of dreary malaise, then tapering into an intangible haze that sits there draped over every square inch of your altered existence. Unconditional acceptance seems a hundred eons removed from the present moment.



In that moment, the most I’ve been inspired to do is watch more television than usual because I’m not really sure where I’m at now. I don’t know exactly where he is now, either. The physical self has already been returned to dust and will be gently reunited with Mother Nature by sifting through the body of water that gave him 21 years of fishing bliss during retirement. My mother reassured me many moons ago that they both felt this to be a good way to deliver him to a final resting place while not breaking their bank. Mother Nature herself was never formally consulted, to the best of my knowledge, but I’m happy this is the inevitable that will play out the more I think about it.

I had to resolve with myself early on that, because of the age difference, a portion of his life would be lost to me and a good chunk of my later life lost to him, too. The overlap we shared was respectful and laced with a quiet kind of love which, on many days, was the best he could give and I gladly accepted. He grew up, he worked hard as a meter reader and provided for his family, he took it easy for two full decades by running errands and doing chores, finishing crossword puzzles and assembling picture puzzles, reading the paper and paperback books and electronic books, watching baseball and football and World War II specials and cooking shows and true crime reenactments and bad, bad movies on television, casting a line as often as he possibly could, and spinning the driest of stories which became more bearable over time simply because they were told in his voice

Most who have been instrumental in my adult life never met him, as he and my mother have watched mostly from a distance as I’ve done the things that I do. I hope he approved even if he never quite understood or got to experience certain parts of my life. Then again, like father like son.

For those who need to know, an unfortunate head injury sent him from a hospital bed to the heavens in less than three weeks with minimal discomfort. The details aren’t important public knowledge right now as this is not exactly the best forum to discuss.

Every time I’ve touched this acknowledgment, my eyes quiver and force me to pause. In time I’ll be able to revisit dear old Dad with more clarity and less of an impulsion to curl up and sink into the salty brine of the tears I’m not quite done shedding. That’s when we’ll get to learn a little more about him … and probably about me as well.

We’ll visit again soon, Dad. Love, your Number One Son.

~ Jason Pankoke

[Updated 5/14/23, 5 p.m. CST]



William Otto Pankoke
February 19, 1927 – July 13, 2010

5 Responses to William O. Pankoke, 1927-2010

  1. Shirley Matejovsky-Havlik :

    Jason, What a heartfelt story, the words are so true. Your Dad right now is probably fishing in the sea of heaven, because that is where he is.

  2. Judi Smit :

    Jason, your words convey love and life, sorrow and joy and the wonder of relationship…it is a gift, and your Dad and you shared in its warm embrace. I have been privilaged to view, even though far away, the joy he had in his family. He was a man of few words but so much heart. We will miss him, and always be grateful he was a part of our lives.

    Judi & Rich Smit

  3. Luke Boyce :

    That was a completely sincere and beautiful eulogy. I can relate as my father passed away almost 4 years ago. I can understand the loss and hope that things are going well for you emotionally. You’re in my thoughts.

  4. Kathy Soucek Dewees :

    What a beautiful tribute to your Dad. He was a wonderful person. I’ll bet there is no limit on what he can catch in heaven and he is filling his creel daily. He will be missed.

  5. Joe Taylor :

    a very nice tribute Jason. But I’m confused, the two of you don’t look anything alike ;-).