Going once, Going twice, Gone!
R. Jerome Boge, husband, father, papa to ten grandchildren, radiation physicist, and auctioneer extraordinaire, died suddenly at home Saturday, March 21, 2020. His 82-year-old, wonderful big heart just gave out.
He was born in Amarillo, Texas, grew up on farms in Iowa and central Wisconsin, graduating from St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin in 1963. He completed graduate work at the University of Minnesota, staying on as a radiation safety officer and faculty member in the School of Public Health. He then joined the University of Wisconsin Medical School under a grant to improve the state of radiation treatment in hospitals throughout Wisconsin. Upon completion of that project in 1971, he became the Gundersen Clinic’s first radiation physicist, working with Dr. Bob Edland. In 1989 he became the Director of Radiation Oncology at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, helping them to build a new regional cancer center. He retired from that position in 2001.
While at the Gundersen Clinic, Jerome decided to look into auctioneering as an avocation and a respite from his intense work with cancer patients. He remembered going to farm auctions with his father and always admired the auctioneer. After running a few amateur household auctions, he decided to attend a two-week course at the Reisch Worldwide School of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa. After doing some estate auctions, he decided to donate his services to charities and fund raisers. This was his way of doing community service. In over 44 years, he conducted almost 2500 benefit auctions, raising over 2 million dollars for local agencies and causes, including the La Crosse Symphony, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Pump House, St. Francis Tiny Tim, Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club, and countless others. He finished his auctioning career at the Chamber Chorale’s May Feaste in 2018. Parkinson’s sapped his energy and he no longer had the stamina to do an extended auction.
Despite his busy schedule, he found time to test his thespian and singing skills, starring as Sir Thomas Moore in Community Theater’s A Man for all Seasons and winning a Kenny Rogers look-alike contest. The win enabled him to take his, then eight-year-old daughter, Blythe, to the Rogers concert and meeting the Sesame Street star and singer backstage. (Coincidentally, Kenny Rogers died the same day and within two hours of Jerome. Our son, Thane, commented that they’re on that great train together, probably doing a Gambler face-off).
Honors received: Winner of the first La Crosse Symphony Conductor Wanabe Contest, 1997 (for raising the most money); Distinguished Alumnus Award, St. Norbert College, 1978; Outstanding Citizen Award, Chamber of Commerce, 1984; Boys and Girls Club Wall of Fame, 1990; Outstanding Volunteer Fund Raiser Award, National Society of Fund Raising Executives, 1991; King Rex, Mardi Gras, 1992; Mr. “O,” Oktoberfest Royal Family, 1995.
He was a proud member of Downtown Rotary, Eau Claire Rotary, and Rotary East and a Paul Harris Fellow. He served on the boards of UW-L Foundation, Boys and Girls Club, and Pump House Regional Arts. After retiring from Sacred Heart, he volunteered his time at Gundersen Health System in the Pastoral Care department and also in the Hospice Care department at Mayo Health, then St. Francis. The last few years of his life he was part of the Giving Hearts Choir, a singing group under the direction of Jill Ahrens and the auspices of Gundersen Health Healing Arts. These weekly get togethers were the highlight of his week, forming many lasting friendships.
Jerome lived a faith-filled life. A long-time member of Roncalli Newman Center, he also attended daily mass when he could, alternating between Newman, San Damiano at Viterbo University, and the Cathedral. Each April he looked forward to attending a silent retreat with his son, Thane, at Demontreville, a Jesuit retreat house outside of St. Paul. His other son, Justin, was able to participate when he was in the area. Jerome was a 50+ year member. He was active in the monthly Blessed Sacrament Men’s Rosary Group. He was also an affiliate of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
He was born to Raymond and Aurelia Flynn Boge in 1938. He married Patricia Furlong in 1965, the partnership lasting 55 years. They have three children: Thane (Michelle), La Crosse; Justin (Sarah),Colorado Springs (Jerome was looking forward to Justin and family moving back to La Crosse in April); and Blythe Boge Stanfel (Michael), Des Moines, Iowa; and ten grandchildren: Tanner, Caden, Lauren, Ella Boge; Andrew, Jordan, Teagan Boge; Joshua, Jonathan, Gianna Stanfel.
The family wishes to thank Gundersen’s Dr. David Momont and Care Coordinator Jean Frank; Parkinson’s specialists Dr. Rachel Biemiller, Veronica Heath, and the rest of the PD team; the PT specialists, and the Expand program at UW-L. It takes a village….
A memorial celebration of life will be held at the Roncalli Newman Center in late summer when all this craziness is done. There are a lot of “Jerome” stories to be shared. Blaschke-Schneider Funeral Home is assisting with the arrangements. If desired, memorials may be made to the Gundersen Foundation for Parkinson’s support or the Boys and Girls Club of La Crosse.
This tribute ends the way Jerome always started his auctions: “It’s a beautiful day in La Crosse!” Amen.