Joseph J. Wilke, sales manager for the Red Star Yeast Company, and since 1907 general agent for Racine County, was born in Austria, August 19, 1882, the son of John and Fannie (Vlenovsky) Wilke, who were also natives of that country. The father died in 1883 and the mother afterward married Antone Keller. In 1894 they came to the United States, settling in Racine, at which time Joseph J. Wilke was a lad of twelve years. He had previously attended school in Vienna, Austria, and in 1893 he came to the United States with an aunt. They made their way to Duluth, Minnesota, and for eight months he remained in that city and for a year in Chicago. He then joined his mother in Racine in 1894 and began work in a machine shop, being thus employed until 1898, when he removed to Walworth County, Wisconsin, where he spent three years on a farm.
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On the expiration of that period Mr. Wilke returned to Racine in 1901 and for two years was employed at the Alschuler Overall Factory. In 1903 he began work for the Red Star Yeast Company and occupied the position of salesman for four years when in 1907 he was made general agent for Racine County and thus manages and controls the business of the company in this County, selling to both the wholesale and retail trade, his patrons being grocers and bakers of this part of the state. He now has about two hundred customers and supplies each with yeast three times a week or more. He has developed a business of large proportions, his enterprise and determination bringing to him well earned success.
On the 1st of June, 1910, Mr. Wilke was united in marriage to Miss Rosa Keykal, a native of Racine and a daughter of Antone and Barbara Keykal of Austria, who came to the United States in 1880, and in 1882, established their home in Racine. The father was employed as a trunk maker by the Secor Trunk Company. The mother of Mr. Wilke is also living and makes her home in Buffalo, New York.
Mr. Wilke is a member of the Catholic Order of Foresters and for the past four years has been secretary of St. Mary’s Court, No. 211. He is also a past councilor of the United Commercial Travelers and was formerly president of the Racine Trades & Labor Council, and a member of the state executive board of the Federation of Labor. He is likewise a past vice president of the State Federation of Catholic Societies and he belongs to the St. Rose Catholic church. His political allegiance is given to the democratic party and for one term he filled the office of supervisor while on other occasions he has been candidate for clerk of the court and alderman from the sixth ward. His has been a busy life. for from the age of twelve years he has depended upon his own resources and whatever success he has achieved is attributable entirely to his own labors.