Wisconsin has lost not only one of its best, but also a direct link to a time when civility ruled state politics.
Bill Kraus passed away Friday at the age of 92 after a brief bout with pneumonia, ending a life that played a major role on the state's political scene.
He was a Republican in the mold of the late Govs. Warren P. Knowles and Lee S. Dreyfus. He helped fashion Knowles' winning campaigns in 1964, '66 and '68 and was the mastermind behind Dreyfus' unconventional campaign in 1978.
But his demeanor, his openness and his personality won him friends from throughout the political world. He was a go-to person for reporters seeking sage comments. He was a frequent guest on panels at political gatherings and he selflessly wrote columns for newspapers and other media urging politicians to show some civility in their jobs.
He was frequently a guest representing the Republican view on television shows, often paired with the late Ed Garvey, a staunch progressive Democrat, with whom he became close friends.
He served as the chair of Common Cause in Wisconsin for more than 20 years, stepping down two years ago not to retire, said Jay Heck, CCW's executive director, but to take on other pursuits, remaining active to the end. He joined Common Cause because of his disgust with latter-day GOP politics, gerrymandering legislative districts and enacting laws to make it more difficult to vote.
An award was established in his honor by the UW System's Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service. He was named the first recipient of the award this past April; the honor recognized his "lifetime of civic leadership."
In short, he was a serious thinker and helped move Wisconsin into better places during his long career. But he was also a fun guy who enjoyed everything from sports to playing bridge. His Friday afternoon lunches with retired politicians and newspeople was one example of his constant involvement in forging better relationships.
Madison — no, the entire state of Wisconsin — is going to miss Bill Kraus and long remember what he's meant to so many people.
Our sincere condolences go out to his widow, Toni Sikes, and the rest of his family and close friends.
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