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Bill Mattes

The name is pronounced with a soft “a” as in “Ma, He’s Makin’ Eyes at Me.” Bill will be our LIR president for a spell, so we might as well say his last name right.  His photo is on the front page with his address to the troops. His aims for LIR are worth are-read.

A Racine native, Bill Mattes took Extension Center courses there for a year after graduating from Washington Park High School, then transferred to UW Madison where he pursued a degree in chemical engineering, and squeezed in as many “Hill” courses as a young man’s energy could handle. Bascom Hill, we can assume, was a campus neighborhood where electives could be had to broaden any narrow field of science. He widened his curriculum with elective entrees like Corporation Finance, Contemporary Trends, and Marriage and the Family. Lucky this last one… because Kathryn Bisel, now his wife of 46 years was also on campus majoring in English. She grew up in Neenah, miles from Racine. Their paths crossed. They engineered some chemistry. One thing led to another. .. and they now reside in Neenah. No surprise. Bill and Katie have a daughter and grandson living in Wauwatosa. Katie recently became a part-time nanny so their daughter, Nancy, can finish her Ph.D. studies. Bill and Katie also have two sons; John in Madison and Dan in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Bill Mattes for all his expertise in chemical engineering is far from the single-minded or narrow side. Before, during and right out of high school he worked as a golf caddy, hauled groceries, did a stint at an ice cream parlor, and in college worked in the mess hall. Some summers were spent painting houses. One summer he did maintenance on metal shop machines at a Vo/Tech facility. He put in two summers as a maintenance and delivery man at a die-cast factory.

Bill joined Kimberly Clark Corp. in 1957 in an understudy program that provided technical support to the pulp manufacturing area. The real practice came in a chlorine plant, sadly suffering from, as he says, “lack of technical attention,” and had his first brush with chemical hazard. He recalls, “Someone had goofed in connecting hoses while loading tank cars, and the atmosphere turned green real quick. Standing ankle-deep in green fog can be an exciting experience, but it sure doesn’t do a fellow any good!” While at KC Bill worked at three of their mills, did product research on four different assignments, spent eight years in sales and marketing, and finished off his 34 KC years with 11 years in purchasing.

Several mini-careers with one company. After leaving Kimberly Clark in 1991 he did some consulting and new product development for, among others, Menasha Corporation and ABE, Inc. in Chicago.

Along the way, he got a call from someone in Neenah city government suggesting he could make a contribution to the council. He ran for alderman, was elected and served two terms in that capacity from 1994-’99. He is currently on the Fire Commission for the new joint Neenah-Menasha fire department.

Although he occasionally glances at the magazines that come to the house, Bill Mattes reads non-fiction on topics that pique his interest, as well as current novels. Two or three books a month on average. Katie and he belong to a book discussion group that has been meeting for 25 years. “It has become complicated,” he says, “since one couple now lives in Florida and another in Chicago, but we get together four or five times a year, and correspond via e-mail.

For sure we would not have read some of the books we stumbled on were it not or this association … although sometimes we’ve found ourselves saying “Who picked this book!?” Bill is coordinating a study group “Should We Export Democracy” this semester, and is coordinator/leader for “Revisiting the Dells,” a lunch-on-board tour of the scenic Upper Dells, and visit the H.H. Bennett Museum.

Bill used to bowl, and was active in the Neenah Boys and Girls Brigade, but admits he can’t “run with the kids anymore.” Instead, he devotes part of Tuesdays and Saturdays to work with Habitat for Humanity. It was former LIR president Tim Moe, a KC pal of Bill’s who, by a chance remark, got Bill interested in joining LIR. From what Bill says in his “From the President’s Desk,” he has met people he likes, and been introduced to new topics that only enlarges his appreciation of life.

When Bill Mattes joined LIR he knew four or five people on our membership list.  (This is probably true for most of us.) He admits” Now I have friends I would never have had otherwise. I’ve met some delightful people.” Ditto from the membership. “I never regretted for a moment the time spent driving down to Oshkosh from Neenah,” he says.

Our members are glad, and we appreciate the contributions Bill is making to this organization.