The Legend of Bill Hatke

Here, you can tell your stories about how Bill Hatke touched your life and the lives of others.

-Simply add your story through the comments section below.  All you have to do, is write your story about Bill in the white box below, then just click on the “Submit Comment” button.

  • Feel free to make your story as long as you want.

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24 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by daniellassman on June 22, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Here is a sample comment, just to show you how your stories about Bill will look

    Reply

  2. When I met Bill I was dating a man he had a crush on. He invited us to Thanksgiving dinner. We arrived at his small house on New York street. There was a turkey cooked brown, a large pan of baked sweet potatoes. Chickens and rabbits lived in a hutch to the side, the windows were open, My friend and I sat on the bed, picking at the turkey, wondering where Bill was. It was quiet and peaceful. I like it a lot. Later he told me that the idea of guests and the whole thanksgiving thing over whelmed him and he had spent the day by the river. It was a perfect thanksgiving. I told him he couldn’t of hosted me better. He asked me if I liked beets. I told him I did. Later he dropped by and gave me about 150 pounds. I took them and said thanks. I was lucky, to him it meant we were even and could be friends.

    Reply

  3. Posted by danielbbentley on July 2, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Playing Bridge from an interview with Fran Beier

    Bob and Patricia, Bill and I played alot of bridge over the years. We’d party….We all love word play…there were times we laughed so hard we hurt. The bridge was the background for having fun with words, joking around etc…it was a game we played while we played. Bob and Patrica and I found out pretty quickly that Bill, being who he is, if things were too unbalanced he would have to balance them out. If that meant cheating, well….. Occasionally someone would catch him at it and he would be totally nonplussed.

    Bill was also playing Boy’s Bridge for years with this group, the Backus boys, Stuart Valley, Michael C Green, Rod Runyan and they invited me over for a game. It was obvious immediately that Bill didn’t want me there. He needed space between his people. He needed it badly. That was OK, I got to see those guys at other times…..but that evening Bill was at another table and he bid something and I heard somebody say “Why did you bid that, Bill?”…cause they went down, see. Bill replied “Well, I thought…..” and I said “Are you kidding, it was for the balance. You were too far ahead and he had to see you go down. He likes the numbers to be the same or close to the same at the end of the game”. And they said “is that true?” they just kind of swiveled on him. Then I really couldn’t go back to Boy’s Bridge, I had totally tipped his hand. It had never occurred to them that he had done certain things on purpose. Ozzie said, “I thought he was kind of an erratic player” and I said “No, no, no, he’s a very exact player.” He was playing at least two games at once, sometimes three because he also had to balance the emotional issues at the table.

    Occasionally he would go though periods when he wouldn’t go to Boy’s Bridge. He invited people’s honest and full disclosure of their lives and then if it was sad or hard he’d be very burdoned by it. He really wanted to heal it or make it better and if he couldn’t….well some of those things we don’t get to fix for anybody else, you know, except to pat them and go “that’s really shitty”. We don’t get to fix them and 25 pounds of beets ain’t gonna do it. And he would feel burdoned and angry with them because he couldn’t fix them, when he had encouraged them to tell him in the first place. He liked it when it was sexy and juicy but he didn’t like it when it was sad or hurtful…. so. For awhile he didn’t go to Boy’s Bridge because for several of the men there he was a safe male friend that they could confide in about emotional issues, a friend who would acknowlege there is such a thing, which, I understand, in the world of men is rare. That’s what it looks like to me anyway. And then he’d get really down, too many problems he couldn’t fix, then he’d get pissed that they had problems.

    Reply

    • Posted by rettaHB on July 6, 2009 at 6:13 pm

      wow! that gives me a whole new insight into the “boys bridge night”….. thanks Danny

      Reply

  4. Posted by danielbbentley on July 4, 2009 at 4:13 am

    Bill as “Storyteller” from an Interview with Fran Beier

    Some people said Bill lied, but I always saw him as a storyteller who saw things in terms of symbols and universal flows of energy down through the ages. I saw him as a myth teller, a story teller. All of it was just fine with me as long as I wasn’t depending on a detail that I was really supposed to take seriously. Like, who ever he was telling about, was I supposed to go over there with some food or a bushel of tomatoes or a dinner or something to help. I need a little more concrete information sometimes to draw conclusions. Sometimes there were other ways to interpret events. We didn’t always agree on what this or that symbol was supposed to mean….but certainly within his own system he was very true to himself and consistet. Over time you really understood what the stories meant and you also understood how careful he had to be not to…the reason he was mad at the boys and Boy’s Bridge or me or somebody about some story that was told him or some confidence they gave him, he had to be soooo….he lived his life so close to the dark place. He worked so hard to stay out of the black palce. When he took confidences he took them into his heart and that could push him toward the black place. He really took them all the way into his heart. Bless his heart, God bless him. But I always thought it was really ironic that the way he responded to that was to get mad at someone for having a problem. It was like “Bill!” (laughs) “I don’t think that is a reasonable expectation that nobody you know will have a problem. You know. And It’s OK for you to say ‘I can’t talk about this’.”

    It certainly did get better between us because, I,…. well I….. I can’t say problems don’t get me down but,….. I’m a private mourner. I guess that’s how I see it. I don’t have the need or desire to talk to somebody about some deep things. I don’t talk until I realize the story is amusing too. It’s turned into a story by the time I want to talk. It may be full of high drama and mystic omens but emotionally, it’s history.

    When my sister Rita was very sick I had a very bad time with that. She was my baby, I was 10, she was a baby and I loved that little girl with all my heart. But as I grew up we grew apart because that relationship wasn’t appropriate any more but we had an adult relationship. We weren’t as close as we had been, but when she got sick it brought all that up for me and I had a need to protect her. So one day I said to Bill “I have such a bad feeling about this. I think they’re lying to her. I think it’s more serious. Either they’re lying to her or she’s lying to me. It’s more serious than she’s admitting. I just have such a bad feeling.”

    He was soooo angry and he just turned around and said “Don’t you know how dangerous it is to go there?”
    And I said “Yes, you’re completely right. Thank you very much.”

    He was furious maybe because that was a part of the basis of our friendship. I understood how dangerous it is; he understood how dangerous it is. Neither of us had any intention of taking the other one there, you know. Both of us delt with alot of privacy. As I looked at him he was furious and frightened. “Don’t you understand how dangerous this door is? You want to see how dangerous it is to go there? Don’t go there.” And it did seem to me that in all the time I knew Bill he’d go through periods when he dwelt there or close to it.

    Reply

  5. How William Burroughs got media credit for Bill Hatke’s garden.
    Burroughs yard was great. At first it was over grown and being used by neighbors as a play ground. I suggested he ask Bill Hatke to garden there. Our first job was to level some of the ground. I called Skillet Stiles a local auctioneer and tractor guy. Skillet usually worked his tractor only in North Lawrence, didn’t like going over the bridge. He agreed to the job out of curiosity about Burroughs.. Skillet shows up and it is about 95 degrees. William watching from the back porch. Skillet’s advice is to disc, rather than plow. Skillet starts and runs the tractor for an hour, When Skillet takes a break, William goes out and offers him water, which is de rigueur in the Midwest. They stand by the tractor for about an hour jawing. I wish I had heard all they said. Both men were interesting. Skillet was years older than William, one of those old thin tough guys.
    Next came Bill Hatke. Bill Hatke gardened for a living. He was a shy man with steel opinions. He worked up a wonderful garden. He wanted to just grow beets and basil,if I remember correctly. Bourroughs did ask for some tomatoes. The garden I think lasted two years. During the second summer some one came and interviewed William and unhappily in the article they were astonished that William gardened so extensively. William was appalled they guy missed that it wasn’t his garden but Bill Hatke’s.
    Now getting Bill Hatke to garden at your place was a matter of luck and magic. William and Bill got along pretty well, James stepped in and kept suggesting to Bill to plant this or that, Jame’s idea was a big mixed vegetable garden. Both William and I knew what would happen. Hatke decided not to garden there again. One rule was never to interfere with Bill Hatke’s gardening mojo.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Roger Joe Hatke on November 2, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Hello. I’m the son of Joe Hatke(Bill’s borther) Roger Joe Hatke tho they still call me Joey lol. I’m 36, engaged, have a 12 year old son(Joseph), and live in Ohio. I use to keep in touch with Uncle Bill by mail we would write each other and send pictures. I still have all his letters and pictures he sent me. He taught me alot about our family and also about life. Last time I saw him was when we all went camping at Camp Tatoke in Sidney,Ohio. We would take walks and sit by the campfire and just talk, talk, talk. He would always bring up the subject that he was gay and I would just laugh and say “I know Unlce Bill. It’s ok. I know Dad frowns on that but I don’t. Everyone in life is different in there own ways. (As i’m hugging him) Your my uncle and I love you no matter what.” He would smile and we would go for a walk around the campsite. That’s the last time I saw Uncle Bill. I miss him and will never forget him. As i’m writing this I can still see him laughing and smiling. He was a great man no matter what anyone says. I Love You Unlce Bill and miss your walks and talks!

    Reply

  7. Posted by danielbbentley on September 29, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I do not remember precisely when I first met Bill, but it was probably in 1980 when I was a VISTA volunteer for the East Lawrence Improvement Association. Back then, Bill was living in a tarpaper shack on New York Street and driving an old black Plymouth that he had chopped the top off of and used like a pickup truck to haul gardening tools. Bill was a community organizer’s dream. He was never big on going to neighborhood meetings, but I could always count on him to work the annual neighborhood cleanup and deliver the monthly neighborhood newsletter on a couple of blocks near his home. He was always a good source of neighborhood gossip, and for a man who had no telephone and didn’t read the newspaper, he was amazingly well informed and tuned in. Like Harry Puckett and other venerable East Lawrence citizens at the time, Bill had his run-ins with the city code enforcement officers, and the neighborhood would rally to his defense. By and large, East Lawrence embraces its free thinking, free spirited residents, and Bill had many many friends in the neighborhood and around town.

    The last time I saw Bill was on March 1, 2006 which was one of the saddest times of my life. I had come from Florida to bury my infant son at a cemetery in Kansas City. Some friends quickly organized a gathering for me in Lawrence, and Bill was one of a few dozen people there. He said very little – there was really nothing to say – but he embraced me in his strong and gentle arms. He was very loving and comforting. His embrace and his eyes said everything.

    One of my favorite stories about Bill involves a difficult time in his life. Bill’s tarpaper shack had caught fire when the wood stove ignited bags of leaves he was using for insulation. Through his own hard work and the generosity of friends, Bill was able to build a new home on his lot on New York Street. (I know that Shelley Miller helped Bill out with a loan, and although it wouldn’t have mattered to Shelley, Bill insisted on paying back every penny. But that’s another story.) Before he could live in his new home, it would need to pass a building inspection by the City. Building codes required that Bill waste a sizeable sum of money installing plumbing that he had no intention of ever using. I remember visiting Bill shortly before the City inspection was to take place. He was upset that the City was requiring the water to be turned on before he would be allowed to occupy the home. He just couldn’t see paying a minimum monthly charge for a service he wasn’t going to use, and he wasn’t sure what to do about it. I advised Bill that he could try to appeal, but it was my opinion that the City could indeed force him to turn the water on before approving his occupancy of the house, and maybe there was a better way to address the issue without drawing so much attention to himself. With that characteristic twinkle in his eyes, Bill asked whether they could force him to pay a monthly utility bill. I grinned back and told Bill that I couldn’t possibly advise anyone not to pay their bills, especially to the City. And so the City utility department came out and turned the water on, the house passed inspection, and several weeks later, the City utility department came back and turned the water off. Apparently Bill just never saw that little disconnect notice hanging from his door, and to the best of my knowledge, the issue never came up again. A few days after Bill’s water was turned off, I found a bag of vegetables on my front porch. It was no mystery where they had come from or why they were there. Bill always took care of his friends as only he could.

    Barry Shalinsky, Oct 2007

    Reply

  8. Posted by Susan N. on October 26, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Amazing—I just found this page. I didn’t know Bill Hatke, but Jane Anne Staw, who wrote about him, has been a teacher of mine here in Berkeley, and so I know him through her book. How much I missed by leaving Lawrence in 1971! Hello, Retta and Ozzie.

    Reply

    • Posted by danielbbentley on January 16, 2012 at 2:30 am

      Hello. What is the book Jane Anne Straw wrote that references Bill and is it available? Dan’l B

      Reply

  9. I’m interested in the book too…. but also Susan N. would you remind me who you are?
    🙂
    ~r

    Reply

  10. Posted by Susan N. on January 16, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Retta, I’m a friend of Lauren. I grew up across the street, 8th Street, from her and I know her whole family. My mother was her mother’s best friend; my sister was Lauren’s best friend. We moved away in ’71, so I missed the wonderful-sounding ’70’s that people have been writing about here. I also was in high school with Ozzie and in LRY with his brother Rob. I live in CA now, but I was back in Lawrence in early October and stayed at Lauren’s mother’s house for a few days. Lauren invited me to your place for the sauna but she said it was wood-fired, so I couldn’t go for health reasons. I might be on your Facebook list.

    Jane Anne’s book, with her cowriter Mary Swander, is called _Parsnips in the Snow: Talks with Midwestern Gardeners_. There’s a long detailed profile and interview with Bill Hatke and eleven other accomplished gardeners. I think Jane and Mary probably did the interviews while they were MFA students at Iowa, so all the gardeners are one or two days’ drive from Iowa City. It’s a wonderful book, both in way that Jane and Mary effortlessly, never boringly, impart information and ideas from these master gardeners, and in the way that they capture their unique and wonderful personal voices. I just love the book.

    I found a copy on Amazon and I’m sure you could too.

    Reply

  11. Yes I remember now. I did meet you once, didn’t I? You came out once with Lauren, no sauna but a visit. I’m remembering that your an artist but i could be wrong.

    Bill was a regular at our sauna. I remember his common response when people asked for advise……….. “Weed”.

    thanks for responding Nancy,
    ~r
    PS Lauren is engaged!

    Reply

  12. Posted by Susan N. on January 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    No, I haven’t met you yet. Looking forward to meeting you on some visit to come. Lauren has talked a great deal about you. No, it sounds as though you may have met my sister, who was Lauren’s close childhood friend–Sara is a visual artist, yes.

    I’m excited and happy for Lauren. I did meet Scott. What a guy. They seem to complement each other very well.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Dr. Lawrence D Evans on February 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I met Dr. Bill in 1974 when he lived across the hall from my bourgeois 4-plex apartment on Missouri Street just north of the KU football stadium. I remember Dr. Bill’s roommate was giving him the business about earning a D in graduate school because he refused to finish an assignment and had gotten in an argument with the professor. What was funny was that the professor was the only person teaching that class and Dr. Bill was going to have to apologize and retake the class. His roommate said “Bill you know you have to retake that class from Professor _________ in order to graduate.” Dr. Bill looked at the ground with a sheepish grin and said, “I know.”

    Reply

  14. Posted by Dr. Lawrence D Evans on February 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    In 1974 Dr. Bill was driving a shiny black 1968 Plymouth Barracuda Fastback with hubcaps and an intact back window. It was always parked up front in the drive and so we had to park in the alley. Vandals (I blame college students) broke out the back window a few years later and then Dr. Bill used the vehicle as a pick-up truck and just violently threw gardening tools in the back. He would take produce to New Hampshire Street Farmers Market in the back of the Barracuda along with all of his gardening tools. (At the Farmers Market if he knew you he would throw extra garden vegetables into your bags and would not take money because it was a gift).

    Reply

  15. Posted by Dr. Lawrence D Evans on February 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Dr. Bill told a story about being in the Army and he had a high aptitude for shooting weapons and was trained on 30 caliber machine guns and 50 caliber machine guns, etc. The Sergeant was proud that Dr. Bill was proficient with all the weapons and as a reward Dr. Bill was going to get to go Viet Nam to serve his country. Dr. Bill said, “You can’t do that.” The Sergeant asked, “Why not?” Dr. Bill said, “I have two brothers in Viet Nam. You can’t send me there.” The Sergeant said, “Why didn’t you tell me that?” Dr. Bill said, “I wanted to shoot the guns.” He was sent to Korea as punishment for wasting taxpayer’s money. Dr. Bill learned the Korean language and taught English while in Korea. Because he knew the language when Dr. Bill was off duty he would go into the Korean farmers’ fields and help out. In Korea he learned a lot about farming practices, sustainable agriculture and organic gardening.

    Reply

  16. Posted by Dr. Lawrence D Evans on February 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Dr. Bill answered the door and showed us he jars of sauerkraut he had just canned. He had canned enough sauerkraut to eat a quart jar everyday all winter for the Vitamin C. There were hundreds of jars of sauerkraut all over the kitchen. Dr. Bill’s cooking was very interesting. One of the things he would eat was an African recipe of very earthy flavored boiled sweet potatoes mashed with peanuts.

    Reply

  17. Posted by Dr. Lawrence D Evans on February 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Dr. Bill Hatke answered the door and was home babysitting Casey Firns. Dr. Bill had gathered some eggs from the chickens he kept in the back alley and had them on his kitchen counter. Casey Firns went to the tool box to get a hammer that was almost as big as he was to smash the eggs. Dr. Bill said he had let Casey smash one egg with a hammer and now every time he saw an egg he went to get the hammer because he thought that is what you were supposed to do with eggs.

    Reply

  18. Posted by Dr. Lawrence D Evans on February 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Dr. Bill answered the door with blood up to his elbows holding a skinned animal and said, “I caught a couple of the neighbor’s cats in the back alley” and gave us a Dr. Bill wide eyed MAD Scientist face. And we said, “OK….” (He raised rabbits in the alley but a bloody skinned rabbit held up by a hind leg looks just like a bloody skinned cat).

    Reply

  19. Posted by Dr. Lawrence Evans on February 16, 2012 at 2:49 am

    I met Dr. Bill in 1974 when he lived across the hall from my bourgeois 4-plex apartment on Missouri Street just north of the KU football stadium. I remember Dr. Bill’s roommate was giving him the business about earning a D in graduate school because he refused to finish an assignment and had gotten in an argument with the professor. What was funny was that the professor was the only person teaching that class and Dr. Bill was going to have to apologize and retake the class. His roommate said “Bill you know you have to retake that class from Professor _________ in order to graduate.” Dr. Bill looked at the ground with a sheepish grin and said, “I know.”
    In 1974 Dr. Bill was driving a shiny black 1968 Plymouth Barracuda Fastback with hubcaps and an intact back window. It was always parked up front in the drive and so we had to park in the alley. Vandals (I blame college students) broke out the back window a few years later and then Dr. Bill used the vehicle as a pick-up truck and just violently threw gardening tools in the back. He would take produce to New Hampshire Street Farmers Market in the back of the Barracuda along with all of his gardening tools. (At the Farmers Market if he knew you he would throw extra garden vegetables into your bags and would not take money because it was a gift).
    Dr. Bill told a story about being in the Army and he had a high aptitude for shooting weapons and was trained on 30 caliber machine guns and 50 caliber machine guns, etc. The Sergeant was proud that Dr. Bill was proficient with all the weapons and as a reward Dr. Bill was going to get to go Viet Nam to serve his country. Dr. Bill said, “You can’t do that.” The Sergeant asked, “Why not?” Dr. Bill said, “I have two brothers in Viet Nam. You can’t send me there.” The Sergeant said, “Why didn’t you tell me that?” Dr. Bill said, “I wanted to shoot the guns.” He was sent to Korea as punishment for wasting taxpayer’s money. Dr. Bill learned the Korean language and taught English while in Korea. Because he knew the language when Dr. Bill was off duty he would go into the Korean farmers’ fields and help out. In Korea he learned a lot about farming practices, sustainable agriculture and organic gardening.
    Dr. Bill answered the door at his 1113 NY Street house and showed us he jars of sauerkraut he had just canned. He had canned enough sauerkraut to eat a quart jar everyday all winter for the Vitamin C. There were hundreds of jars of sauerkraut all over the kitchen. Dr. Bill’s cooking was very interesting. One of the things he would eat was an African recipe of very earthy flavored boiled sweet potatoes mashed with peanuts.
    Dr. Bill Hatke answered the door and was home babysitting Casey Firns. Dr. Bill had gathered some eggs from the chickens he kept in the back alley and had them on his kitchen counter. Casey Firns went to the tool box to get a hammer that was almost as big as he was to smash the eggs. Dr. Bill said he had let Casey smash one egg with a hammer and now every time he saw an egg he went to get the hammer because he thought that is what you were supposed to do with eggs.
    Dr. Bill answered the door with blood up to his elbows holding a skinned animal and said, “I caught a couple of the neighbor’s cats in the back alley” and gave us a Dr. Bill wide eyed MAD Scientist face. And we said, “OK….” (He raised rabbits in the alley but a bloody skinned rabbit held up by a hind leg looks just like a bloody skinned cat).

    Reply

  20. Posted by danielbbentley on April 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Kevin Elliott says on Facebook: “Hero is a great word for Bill, he inspired good in so many people. No, he inspires good in so many people, that is one of his legacies.”

    Reply

  21. Posted by danielbbentley on September 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Hello,

    I’m writing in regard to William F. “Bill” Hatke. I’m wondering if you can tell me where Bill is buried? I have set up a Find a Grave memorial for him and linked him to his parents, however I could not show what cemetery he is buried in because I don’t know that information.

    William Ferdinand “Bill” Hatke – Find A Grave Memorial# 96622710

    I have visited the website set up for him. I was so excited to see everything that’s there, including pictures. How wonderful! I’m also wondering if I might have permission to use a few photos from the website on his Find a Grave memorial?

    I will appreciate any information you can give me regarding Bill’s burial place. Also, if you have any contact information for any of his siblings, I would appreciate that. I’m compiling information on the Hatke family.

    Thanks so much for your help,
    Andrea Walston

    Hi Andrea. Bill was an unconventional person and an inveterate dumpster diver, hence he asked that his ashes be placed in a dumpster and there they were. There is a picture of the dumpster on the website— though, of couse, Bill ended up in the landfill. He also had a wry sense of humor as you might gather. Feel free to use any pictures you might want but please mention the website so that others might read Bill’s story. joe.hatke@yahoo.com is Bill’s brother. I think that he can get you in touch with other family members. If that doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll try to help. Thanks for your interest. Dan’l Bentley

    Thanks you so much for your prompt reply. I amended the bio on my Find a Grave memorial for Bill to include a link to the website, and I posted a few pictures. I never knew Bill, but I feel like I got a chance to know him through the website and the pictures. We need more Bill Hatke’s in this world. If you want to mention Bill’s Find a Grave memorial on his website, you can find it as follows:
    William Ferdinand “Bill” Hatke – Find A Grave Memorial# 96622710 at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=96622710

    Friends can leave flowers on the memorial. I took the liberty of leaving a couple by using pictures from the website.

    Thanks again for your help, and thanks for Joe Hatke’s email address. I will contact him.
    Andrea Walston

    Reply

  22. Posted by David A. Summers on April 19, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    I was one of Bill’s psychology professors at KU, and remember him well. With him in your class, you knew that merely pronouncing something to be true would never suffice. Nothing got past him. He challenged virtually everything, and did so in a good natured, thoughtful way. It was a pleasure to to interact with him. He was a thinker. I also remember his personal warmth, and his openness. I think I learned more from him than he learned from me.

    After I left KU in 1973, we had very little contact. Recently, however, I ran across a letter he wrote to me in 1974. It brought back memories, and as a result I decided to see if I could find him. I was sorry to learn about his death, but very happy to learn that he had lived such a good life, and had affected so many people in a positive way. I wish more people were like him.

    Reply

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