August ‘Gus’ Rankey

Gus Rankey loved to fish, and the sign he hung near his boats at the Port Washington marina reflected his philosophy — “Caution: Fishing Pox. It’s a contagious disease with no known cure. The treatment is to go fishing as often as possible.”

Mr. Rankey not only went fishing as often as he could, he turned it into a charter fishing business, the Fishing Pox, with three boats that operated out of Port Washington for 30 years.

“It was his dream job,” his daughter Lori Swanlund said, noting it combined his love of fishing and meeting people.

“He was a good captain, a good fisherman,” Bob Hammen, president of the Ozaukee Chapter of the Great Lakes Sport Fishermen, said. “He was one of the early charter captains in the Port marina. He was a good guy who was always willing to help other people.”

Mr. Rankey was an outdoorsman, his daughter Lori Swanlund said, and his love of Lake Michigan fishing took root when he befriended people at the Port lakefront.

“He would go out on boats and learn as much as he could,” she said. “He caught the bug.”

He not only ran a charter fishing business, she said, he was president of the Charter Captains Association for years and helped expand the fleet in Port Washington by mentoring other fishermen who wanted to captain their own boats.

“He held classes for them,” his daughter said. “People would come to our house and he’d go through the rules and regulations with them.”

Among those he helped was his wife Darlene, the first female charter captain in the Port marina.

Through his charter business, Mr. Rankey saw a need to find a place for fishermen to stay in their campers and recreational vehicles. He leased some property from Bolen’s, where he worked, and opened Gus’ RV Camping, which he operated for about a decade.

The lakefront was Mr. Rankey’s home away from home, his daughter said.

“He lived his life exactly like he wanted to. He didn’t sit still,” she said. “He worked hard, loved life and was always on the go. It was an amazing life.”

Mr. Rankey, who was in his early 70s when he retired from the fishing business, suffered with Parkinson’s disease but died of complications from a fall Wednesday, March 20, at Lawlis Hospice in Mequon. He was 78.

Mr. Rankey, whose birth name was August, was born on June 7, 1940, to August and Florence Smith Rankey in Milwaukee.

Even though he grew up in Milwaukee, his love of the outdoors took root in his childhood.

He loved to hunt, and when he was an altar boy as a child, he and the parish priest would head out after Mass to go rabbit hunting, his daughter said.

He later owned land in northern Wisconsin, where he would hunt deer, bear and grouse. He took annual fall hunting trips to places such as Wyoming and Montana, where he would hunt antelope,

He would head to Iowa and South Dakota, where he and his Labrador retrievers would chase pheasants, and in spring they would go to Horicon and Grafton to hunt geese, hunt turkeys in Muscoda or fish for walleyes on the Mississippi River near Trempealeau.

In winter, Mr. Rankey would ice fish throughout Wisconsin.

He married Darlene Cera at St. Therese Church in Milwaukee on April 4, 1964.

Mr. Rankey wanted to move to the country to provide a better atmosphere for his family to grow up, and the family moved to Grafton in 1971.

During his lifetime, Mr. Rankey worked as a tool and die maker and later as a process engineer at American Motors, and later was a maintenance and building supervisor for Bolen’s and Trak International in Port Washington.

He enjoyed sports and watching his children and grandchildren participate in them, loved hosting family Christmas parties and other gatherings.

Mr. Rankey was a quiet man “but what he said had a lot of meaning,” his daughter said. “He was caring and was always trying to help people out, to teach them stuff. He had a good sense of humor and was a jokester. He was stern and kept us in line, but we always knew he loved us.”

He worked hard but played even harder, his family said, and lived his life to the fullest without regrets.

Mr. Rankey is survived by his wife Darlene of Grafton; children Sara (Steve) Lubner of Reedsville, Sherri (Steve) Kultgen of Port Washington, Lori (Eric) Swanlund of Winneconne and Mike (Renata) of Villa Park, Ill.; grandchildren Carly and Faith Lubner, Megan (Dan) Flieschman, Lauren (Michael Foley) Kultgen, Ben (Meghan Learned) Kultgen, Courtney, Tyler, Scott and Sophie Swanlund and Kristina Rankey; and three great-grandchildren.

He is further survived by his in-laws Paul (Bonnie) Cera of Racine, Larry (Carol) Cera of Port Washington, Shawn Cera of Mayville, Jim (Chris) Cera of Wauwatosa and Mary (Jim) Pokrop of Port Washington; and family friend Richard Mielke of Port Washington.

He was preceded in death by his parents August and Florence, in-laws Lawrence and Caroline Harner Cera and brother-in-law Don Cera.

A memorial Mass for Mr. Rankey will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Grafton. Father Mike Barrett will officiate.

Visitation will be at the church on April 6 from 11 a.m. until the Mass.

In lieu of flowers, memorials to St. Joseph Parish are suggested.

Funeral arrangements are being handled through Eernisse Funeral Home, Port Washington.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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