Tom Van Handel

February 13, 1948 ~ May 7, 2021 (age 73)


Tom Van Handel passed away peacefully in his sleep on May 7, 2021 at the age of 73 with the love of his life by his side. 


Tom was husband to Mary Van Handel, Father to Brian (Jessica) Van Handel, Rick (Monica) Van Handel, and Wendy (Chad) Van Camp, and Grandfather to Cale, Brecken, Warren, Sydney, Carter, Fallon & Declan. 


Tom was born February 13, 1948 to Harold & Jule (Van Dinter) Van Handel in Appleton, WI. He called Freedom, WI his home, where he lived for the last 46 years.


Growing from his love of playing in the sandbox as a kid, Tom fulfilled his dreams by founding his own excavating business, where he was known throughout the valley as the “Diggin’ Dutchman”. Tom had a special talent for visualizing how a grading project should look.  He helped to create many beautiful ponds and landscapes throughout the area, literally leaving his mark on this earth.  He loved to stop at jobsites and watch his equipment work and is thankful to the many hardworking and talented employees that helped make his vision a reality.  In the last years he was incredibly proud to see his children carry on this business legacy.  


He was generous with his resources and time and was always eager to include everyone in whatever he was doing. Throughout his life Tom took the time to teach and mentor others, whether it be in business, life or any of his outdoor adventures.  He loved sharing the things he loved with others. 


As a passionate outdoorsman, some of Tom’s favorites past times included snowmobiling on a well-groomed trail, watching the sun rise in a quiet duck marsh, and catching fish at home with his grandchildren, who were his pride and joy. His enthusiasm was contagious and he could never quite get enough.  He was always the first one ready to go and the last one ready to quit. He lived his life “full bore.”


Tom is survived by his wife Mary, his children Brian (Jessica), Rick (Monica), Wendy (Chad), his 7 grandchildren, his mother Jule Van Handel, his siblings Diane (Bruce) Hietpas, Wayne (Bonnie) Van Handel, & Dawn Vandenberg, his brother and sister in-laws Dick (Gail) Schommer, Margie (Dave) Heindl, Barb (Brent) Rohm, Jane (Jim) Krueger, Bob (Janece) Schommer, and many nieces and nephews.  Tom is further survived by his “adopted” children Carrie & Rob Scheibe, Jeremy Van Dera, Andrew Hitt & Joe Verbeten.  


Tom’s family would like to extend a special thanks to Dr. Michael Johnson for going above and beyond to comfort and care for Tom, as well Jessica Van Handel for being there at the end to take care of him and be his rock in his final days. 


A celebration of Tom’s life will be held on Sunday, June 6, 2021, from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. at The Lodge at Bubolz Nature Preserve, 4815 N Lynndale Dr, Appleton.  In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund is being established in Tom’s name to give back to some of his favorite charities.

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