William “Bill” Robert Drew, born in Clinton, IA on October 6, 1939 to Laurence W. and Mary E. Myers Drew, passed away peacefully from cholangiocarcinoma, otherwise known as bile duct cancer, on Sunday, August 20 at age 83 at University of Wisconsin Hospital surrounded by his loving family. This very rare and aggressive form of liver cancer metastasized rapidly, taking Bill’s life in just three months from initial diagnosis.
A 48-year resident of the Madison area, Bill was raised in DeWitt, IA, graduated DeWitt High School in 1957, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics at Grinnell College in 1961, and achieved a Masters in Business Administration at Emory University in 1963.
Bill enjoyed sales and marketing in the food-products industry for most of his professional life. He began his career in sales with the Nestle Chocolate Marketing Division, serving Northeastern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and later relocated to the national headquarters in White Plains, NY. During his time in Wisconsin, Bill met and married the love of his life, Madeline Ann Jones, a Kindergarten teacher in Neenah, WI. They were married June 17, 1967 in Stevens Point, and promptly moved to White Plains, NY. An opportunity soon arose in Cambridge, MA with Nabisco’s Confectionery Division and headquarters, marketing various candy products, including Junior Mints. Sons Stephen (“Steve”) and James (“Jim”) were born in Cambridge during this time, and spent their early years growing up in Wakefield, MA. To enable the boys to know their grandparents and other Midwestern relatives, Bill sought employment in the Midwest, and landed his favorite job marketing Swiss Miss products for the Sanna Division of Beatrice Foods. When Beatrice relocated Bill’s division to Nashville, Bill and Madeline chose to remain in Madison after receiving word that their new daughter, Susan, age five, was soon to arrive from Seoul, Korea. Bill then joined Saco Foods, Graber, and later the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, where he spent 18 years promoting and branding Wisconsin cheese as VP, Marketing Services.
Bill learned to play the trumpet in high school after a surgery to remove a benign tumor on his leg prevented him from playing sports. He continued to play during college, participating in a band formed by Herbie Hancock while at Grinnell. After putting the horn away for over 20 years, Bill joined the Studio Orchestra and later the Swingin’ 7 Dixieland group, which both perform concerts for senior citizens in retirement homes throughout Madison.
Bill is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Madeline, a retired Blessed Sacrament Catholic School kindergarten teacher; their two sons, Stephen of West Linn, OR, and James (Angie) of Prior Lake, MN; their daughter Susan of Atlanta, GA; their seven grandchildren; Ethan, Liam, Brandon, Erin, Katelyn, Xavian Scott and Mikai Hale; and his nephews, Rich and Joel Kane.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, and sister, Sarah Kane.
Visitation for Bill will be held at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 401 S. Owen Drive, on Friday, September 8, from 4-6 p.m.; and on Saturday, September 9, from 9:30-11 a.m.; followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m.
In Bill’s honor, the Drew family asks that donations be directed to the UW Carbone Cancer Center to raise attention and funds to research and cure this rare and aggressive form of liver cancer, and help those afflicted by this devastating disease. (Please see https://give.wiscmedicine.org/bill_drew.)