(Jan. 20, 12:38 p.m.) Larry Baneck, who worked in the produce trucking industry for 34 years, died on Dec. 5 in a fire at his family home in Marion, Wis. He was 53.
Also killed in the blaze were Baneck’s wife, Peggy Baneck, 47, and the couple’s son, Charlie Baneck, 17.
Two children escaped the house. Anthony Baneck, 22, was treated for burns at a local hospital and released. Katie Baneck, 16, was transported to Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee for treatment for burns suffered in the fire, but returned to school Jan. 5 and reportedly is healing and regaining use of her hands and fingers.
“Katie wants everyone to know that her brother, Tony, is a hero,” said Larry Gohlke, a friend of the Baneck family. “She wants everyone to know that her brother saved her life.”
According to local newspaper reports, the Waushara County Sheriff’s Department communication center received a 911 call on the fire around 1:25 a.m. Dec. 5. When firefighters arrived, the house was fully engulfed in flames, and it took six hours to extinguish the blaze. The two surviving children already were out of the house by the time emergency crews arrived.
Larry Baneck started driving trucks after graduating high school in 1974. He worked 34 years in the produce trucking industry, 33 years as owner/operator of his own business. He started farming in 1992 while continuing to drive produce across the country.
“I’ve known Larry and his father (Don) for about 15 years,” said Tim Fronsee, owner of Blue Marlin Express, a trucking company in New Port Richey, Fla., in an e-mail. “In that time, I can only express my thanks to a driver that represented the qualities of the old-school mentality — honest, trustworthy and on-time delivery. If you had a delicate load, Larry was who I wanted to put under that load.
“He was also one of those drivers who took pride in his knowledge of farming and would not hesitate to question the quality of the shipper’s product,” Fronsee said.
Peggy Baneck worked as a 911 dispatcher for Waushara County for the past 7 ½ years.
Other surviving children are Billi Jo, 24, Nellie, 20, and Emmie, 19.
A memorial fund has been set up for the Baneck family. Donations can be sent to Farmer’s Exchange Bank, P.O. Box 197, Neshkoro, Wis., 54960. Gohlke is setting up a separate scholarship fund for Katie Baneck. Donations to that fund can be sent directly to Gohlke at P.O. Box 120, Neshkoro, Wis., 54960.