Whitewater loses an icon: Kachel donated millions of dollars to the athletic department over the years

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To some, David Kachel was known for the millions of dollars he donated to the UW-Whitewater Athletic Department for more than half a century.

David Kachel and his wife Lolita have donated to many causes for the city of Whitewater as well as the university. David died last Thursday, but his memory will be felt for generations.

Words like rich, powerful and wealthy probably filled the minds of the outside population.

But to those who were closest to him, it went much deeper.

It went beyond money, facilities and sports.

Words like unassuming, passionate and genuine are how these people describe him.

“Dave was a tremendous friend,” UW-Whitewater Athletic Director Paul Plinske said. “He was truly a friend, a role model and even a father figure to me. I know he did that same thing for a lot of different people.”

Head football coach Lance Leipold said he met weekly with Kachel during the football seasons for a chat.

“I feel Dave Kachel, the person, the friend, is what we’ll really miss the most, because he truly cared,” Leipold said. “He’s a special man; a one of a kind. I think everyone will truly miss him.”

Kachel, 83, died last Thursday at the University of Wisconsin Hospital.

Plinske said Kachel fell recently and had a stint put in his heart, but added the family has not released a lot of information.

However, Plinske said Kachel’s death was unexpected.

“We truly all thought Dave was going to pull through,” he said.

Funeral services are at 1 p.m. today at First United Methodist Church in Whitewater.

“It’s shocking,” men’s basketball head coach Pat Miller said of Kachel’s death. “Dave’s such a strong personality. You felt like he was always going to be around.”

Miller, who first met Kachel when he was a sophomore at UW-Whitewater in the 1980s, said Kachel’s love for the campus is second to no one.

“He was the most loyal, dedicated Whitewater guy I’ve ever met,” said Miller, who like Leipold, welcomed a weekly talk with Kachel.

His dedication showed in his generosity for UW-Whitewater athletics.

Kachel, a 1948 UW-Whitewater graduate and 1998 Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, was a member of the university’s Quarterback and Tip-Off Clubs, served on the Athletic Hall of Fame Board, and used the money he earned in his housing and apartment business to help make the athletic facilities what they are today.

He donated $250,000 in the 1990s to help remodel the basketball gym, which is named after him; he was at the helm in the construction of the fieldhouse, which was built in 2001; he contributed $1.5 million in 2008 to the multi-sport outdoor athletic complex, which is also named in his honor.

He also helped get scoreboards put up in most of the athletic arenas in the indoor and outdoor venues.

According to many who knew him well, his drive and determination to make UW-Whitewater the best is what motivated him.

“He truly saw the big picture,” Plinske said. “And he did it behind the scenes because he truly felt that’s the best way to get things done.”

There will also be a void inside the press box at home football games where Kachel always watched games with former UW-Whitewater head coach Forrest Perkins, 90.

“He cared so much for coach Perkins,” Leipold said. “He had such admiration for the job coach Perkins did. That relationship goes back so long. Again, that’s something else that will be missed.”

While it’s been an emotional week for those who knew Kachel, Plinske said everyone should pay tribute to a man who gave his heart and soul to the UW-Whitewater athletic family.

“We’re sad about the loss,” Plinske said. “But we also want to celebrate Dave’s life and be thankful for all he’s done for us, and we want to carry the torch that he has helped create. Dave’s legacy will never be forgotten. We’re just honored we’ve had the chance to know him and to be a part of his life.”