Ronald (Ron) Harold Nicklaus passed away on Monday, August 7, 2023, at the Aspirus Hospice House in Wausau. He was born on February 9, 1936, in San Jacinto, California. Son of Elmer Nicklaus and Jessie (Cottrell) Nicklaus.
Ron’s parents moved from Irma, Wisconsin to San Jacinto, California in 1934. Jessie had family living in California. They returned to Wisconsin in 1937 and purchased a dairy farm from Henry Magnuson in 1942 where Ron was raised along with his sister, Jeanette Jensen. It was their first home that had electricity and real Christmas lights. Ron attended Tug Lake School, a 1 room school with 12 students grades 1st through 8th grade. The school was just up the hill from the family farm where his father, Elmer would make the fire in the morning every winter before milking the cows. Ron graduated from Merrill High School in 1954. He attended the University of Wisconsin Marathon campus for two years and worked at Weinbrenner Shoe Company in Merrill.
In 1958, he was drafted into the Army and received basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and trained in the army at Fort Knox, Kentucky. In 1961, Ron had to report to Fort Lewis, Washington. While stationed at Fort Lewis, Tacoma, Washington, he would come into Seattle, where he met Ellen (Kay) Delmore on a blind date. They fell deeply in love and later married in Duluth, Minnesota on November 16, 1962. They traveled the world together.
Ron was a dreamer, visionary, and entrepreneur. He founded a custom bean harvesting business, Nicklaus Enterprises in 1956, that supplied green beans for the canning industry. Ron convinced his parents to sell the 30 head of cattle that they owned and borrow as much as they could against the farm to start the business. This business grew into a company that harvested over 36,000 acres of beans a year in nine different states. Most of the harvesting was done in Wisconsin. As he grew the harvesting operation, he developed 6,000 acres of irrigated land in central Wisconsin near Coloma. The business made him the largest supplier of green beans in the world. He also grew potatoes, corn, cucumbers, sunflowers, and rye.
Banking played a huge role in the growth of Ron’s business, and as a result, he became very interested in the banking industry. In 1982, he sold the harvesting business and land he had developed and bought controlling interest in River Valley State Bank in Rothschild, Wisconsin. He also acquired New London National Bank and Farmers State Bank both located in Wisconsin. His philosophy was that every customer, business, and community is unique, which allowed his banking business to grow and flourish along with the communities they served. The bank was changed to IncredibleBank in 2019 and is currently the fourth largest privately owned community bank in the state.
Ron loved his family and loved life. This was evident in the time he spent with his children and grandchildren, making up games, telling stories, fishing, hunting, golfing in Florida, going to the Fair, and just about anything else a kid would love to do. All who knew Ron were aware of his passion for birds, flowers, the farm, old tractors and cars, and Old Camp 2 (hunting camp). The last 10 years, on any given day during summer, you can find him at the farm tending to the crops, visiting his crew for lunch, fixing equipment, and making connections with all the generations that worked at the farm. He was most proud that all the produce from the farm was given away to employees, customers, neighbors, food pantries, and other organizations in need. Ron loved to give and he was so proud he could do this.
He served on numerous business and community boards: Greenheck Group (27 years), Weinbrenner Shoe Company (33 years), Rainbo Lodge, Dealer’s Credit, Good Samaritan Hospital (Merrill), Aspirus Healthcare System, Wausau Benefits, IncredibleBank, River Valley Bancorporation.
Survivors include his wife, Kay (Delmore) of more than 60 years, two sons, Todd (Camille), and Gregory (Darcey), and six grandsons, Steven (Elizabeth), Michael, Christopher, Tanner, Connor, and River, and nephews, Nicky (Lisa) Jensen and Mark (Cathy) Jensen, and brother-in-law, Wilhelm Jensen. He was preceded in death by his parents, Elmer and Jessie (Cottrell) Nicklaus, and sister Jeanette Jensen.
Aspirus Hospice House was a huge gift to our family. The care Ron received was tender, gentle, and joyful. The nurses and volunteers were angels, and we are so thankful.
A visitation will be held at Waid Funeral Home, Merrill, on Friday, August 25, 2023, from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm. A visitation will continue on Saturday, August 26, 2023 at St. Paul Ev. Lutheran Church, N6537 Old Hwy 51, Irma at 10:00 am with a church service at 11:00 am. Rev. David J. Sutton will officiate. Due to the space being limited at the church, there will be both indoor and outdoor seating for those who wish to attend. Interment will take place at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Town of Rock Falls immediately following the service. Military honors will be performed by the VFW Post 1638 and the US Army.
Donations can be made in Ron’s memory to the Merrill Historical Society, Merrill Public Library, and Aspirus Hospice House, Wausau.
Waid Funeral Home & Cremation Service of Merrill is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences are encouraged and may be made at www.waidfuneral.com.