Patricia Balke, age 65, passed away peacefully at her cottage in Winneconne on Saturday, September 25th, 2020, surrounded by her loved ones. Patricia was born on January 17th, 1955 in Neenah, Wisconsin to Donald and Margaret Ehrgott. She graduated from Neenah High School and went on to receive her bachelor's degree in social work from University of Madison, Wisconsin.
Although Patricia has passed away, her legacy will live on. As Executive Director of WAHRS (Wisconsin Association for Homeless and Runaway Services) for 39 years, she has made many permanent contributions to this program as well as many others. During her time as Executive Director, she improved services by increasing the number of runway agencies in Wisconsin from four to twenty-three and provided mutual support, technical assistance, as well as training to these programs to better serve youth. Patricia was also a strong advocate for state and national legislation and regulation regarding services for at-risk youth.
Patricia was very highly respected at the state and national level, which was evidenced by the fact that she was awarded the 2020 National Safe Place Network Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2020 Ren Svanoe Youth Leadership Award, the National Network for Youth Award, and was recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families as well as by Wisconsin State Representative, Melissa Sargent.
Although her work was very important to her, it was evident to anyone who knew Patricia that her family always came first and she had an extremely deep love for all of them. In return, she was deeply loved and will be missed by many. Patricia is survived by the love of her life, Ovet Hughes, her loving daughter, Lauren Balke, her grandchildren, Aleczander Denis, William Denis Jr., and Jazlyn Denis, her sisters, Mary Wrolstad, Rosemary Ehrgott, Jean Ehrgott along with a niece, Wendy Davis and family, a nephew, Wayne Wrolstad and family, as well as a few very special friends. There will be a Celebration of Life and those who wish to pay tribute are asked to donate to the Patricia Balke scholarship fund which was created in her honor. This scholarship was created to aid a young person who has experienced homelessness or adversity and is nominated by the program in order to assist their transition into adulthood (education, vocation, training, housing, etc.). Donations can be sent directly to WAHRS at P.O. Box 317, Portage, WI, 53901. Please be sure to include in the memo line, “Balke Scholarship Fund.”