John Pagel is being remembered as a “visionary”; a “leader”; and an “inspiration.” Pagel’s Ponderosa is the largest family-owned dairy farm in Wisconsin.
Pagel also owned The Cannery restaurant in downtown Green Bay.
“John treated everybody here as family and we are all grieving and our hearts are broken,” says Adrienne Winter, general manager of The Cannery. “He was an extremely motivating and inspiring person that showed us to share the love is how to live life. And he will be deeply missed by all of us.”
Pagel’s son-in-law, Steve Witcpalek, was with Pagel on the plane when it crashed.
Pilot Nathan Saari was also killed.
The Pagel and Witcpalek families released this statement Friday afternoon:
The Pagel and Witcpalek families are heartbroken over this tragic loss. John and Steve were wonderful family men and dedicated dairymen who brought joy to the lives of so many people. They valued their community, loved their neighbors and lived life to the fullest. Although it’s unimaginable to think of a future without them, we know that their loving spirit will guide us. We sincerely thank the countless people who have showered us with love and support. We also grieve for the loved ones of the pilot who was lost, Nathan Saari, as they try to bear the terrible pain of this tragedy. We appreciate your respect for our privacy as we wait for additional information.
Investigators say the Cessna 441 Conquest Turboprop plane crashed in a muddy field in Carroll County, Indiana Thursday night. Indiana State Police say there are no survivors.
The plane took off just before 6:30 Central time from Eagle Creek airport on the outskirts of Indianapolis. It crashed in a muddy field 60 miles to the northwest. First responders had a hard time finding the wreckage due to it being dark and far back in the field. They used ATVs and other off-road vehicles to find it.
The plane disappeared off radar, according to sources with our sister station, RTV 6. Right after, multiple 911 calls came in Carroll County of a report of a plane crash. People who live in that area who heard the crash said it sounded like thunder.
The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, which is standard procedure for aircraft incidents.
The plane that crashed was a Cessna 441. Cessna manufactured 363 of them between 1978 and 1986, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Pagel served as board president of the Edge Dairy Farm Cooperative. The Green Bay-based co-op represents dairy farmers across the Midwest. Pagel was with the co-op from its beginning in 2010.
Pagel traveled to Washington, D.C. to talk with Congress members about how federal decisions impacted local farmers.
“John was a pioneer and entrepreneur who built a thriving multifaceted business and inspired others in the industry to try new approaches. The Edge board and staff will deeply miss John’s friendship and energy, but his vision and spirit will continue to inspire and guide us,” reads a statement from Edge.
Pagel was on the Kewaunee County Board. Chairman Robert Weidner and Kewaunee County Administrator Scott Feldt released a statement Friday morning:
“Few men can claim to have had a greater impact on the county, the region and indeed the nation than John Pagel, who was an unparalleled leader in his industry. John’s legacy will be evident in what he has done for Kewaunee County and all of the people he has touched.
“We have much to learn from John’s achievements and will no doubt look to his legacy for inspiration for years to come. Kewaunee has lost a leader; the dairy industry has lost a strong advocate; and most importantly we have lost a father and a friend. There is simply no replacement for what Mr. Pagel represented and what he contributed to our county and to the dairy industry. We have a lot to be thankful for because of John. He is a loved and respected man, and he will be missed by many.”
Action 2 News spoke with Jim Kratowicz, the Chief Operating Officer at Titletown Brewing Company. He talked about how Pagel was a force behind redeveloping downtown Green Bay.
“They were very instrumental in taking these abandoned buildings along with Titletown Brewing Company and the rest of our professional building into a destination. They were a key part of that,” Kratowicz says.
He says Pagel was innovative and looked at the “big picture.”
“In conjunction with what Titletown has done, adding The Cannery to our mark was just a very, very important part of the business into creating a destination here in downtown Green Bay,” he says. “And I know that was very important to John as well. To not only tell his farm-to -table story, but really trying to take a part of downtown that you know needed some help, needed some development and he wanted to be a part of that as well.”
Action 2 News spoke with John Pagel in January about a DNR rule that stops farmers from spreading manure on soil less than two feet deep. That’s to stop manure from seeping into groundwater.
Despite the impact on his bottom line, Pagel supported the rule.
“It will affect me, but we’ll figure it out. And if it improves water quality, which I believe it will, then it’s the right thing to do. But it concerns me when we affect family businesses that have been in the family for many years.”
Pagel was worried that smaller operations could lose family farms. “I don’t want to see anyone—no matter how small—lose their farm.”
By: Cearron Bagenda