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Donor Stories

Getting to Know Robert and Eleanor Franke

December 7, 2018

Katie Berkedal, Program DirectorBy Katie Berkedal, Program Director

Robert (Bob) and Eleanor Franke are known to many in La Crosse because of the philanthropic gift bestowed to the community at the time of Bob’s passing. La Crosse Community Foundation (LCF) is fortunate to host the Robert and Eleanor Franke Charitable Fund that’s used to support the good work of our local nonprofits through competitive grants. LCF recently reached out to Peter Grabow, a dear friend of Bob, to learn more about this generous couple with a passion for giving. Here’s what he shared:

Bob and Eleanor Franke lived modestly on the northside of La Crosse, and were very kind, private people. They met later in life, were married over 40 years, and had no children. Prior to marriage, Eleanor was a teacher. She passed in 2001, he in 2009.

Bob came into wealth by selling pop bottles for recycling. He’d invest the change in the stock market, and eventually became one of the largest shareholders of Heilman’s in La Crosse. He retired from Burlington Northern in 1989 as an engineer.

Bob would quietly do things for northside neighborhood residents, sometimes anonymously and other times by directly placing a wad of cash in someone’s hand! Bob and Eleanor would buy houses and rent them out for cheap and never increase the rent amount. They’re rumored to have owned 19 homes in this way.

Bob was endearingly quirky. He loved dogs and had many beagles adopted from the Coulee Region Humane Society; all of whom were named “Rex.” He had a female dog once who he called “Rexanne.” Bob would famously go to church every day except Sundays; presumably because he didn’t like the crowds and talking to lots of people.

Bob and Eleanor were passionate about helping people and were determined to do good even after death. Their giving spirit will continue to impact the people in our community forever.