Kenneth Lee Bigler was born in Chicago, IL. on September 11th, 1942. He moved with his family to Milwaukee when he was 4 years old. He met his future wife Peggy Oppitz when her family moved in next door. They were married on August 20th, 1966 at Mt. Lebanon Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. Ken was preceded in death by his beloved parents, Victor Bigler and Evelyn (Palmer) Bigler and his beloved sister Janice Laehn who passed away just five months ago.
Ken is survived by his wife Peggy, his three sons Ken Jr. (Michelle), Jeff, and Cory (Marci) and 7 grandchildren, Emery, Abigail, Brooks, Braylan, Zachary, Peyton, and Mason. He is also survived by his brother Bill (Marguerite) and his sister Barb (Steve). Also his in-laws, Wallis & Terry Oppitz, Mark & Lou Ann Oppitz, Liz & Jeff Kutil, Jon & Kathy Oppitz and Gabe Laehn.
Ken loved baseball. He played in High School (Custer H.S.) and in college at UWM where he earned the Silver Slugger Award. He was asked to try out for the Minnesota Twins, but he decided not to because he didn’t want to leave his girlfriend, Peggy. (It was a long time before she knew that.) He went on to play for Shorewood Sports and the Police Dept. – teams in Milwaukee.
Ken earned his Bachelor and Masters degrees at UWM. He began teaching in 1966. He was quickly promoted to Assistant Principle in the Milwaukee Public School systems, and worked there for 17 years. He later taught Bible class at Heritage Christian School and coached the baseball team. But his first coaching job was at Shorewood High School in 1967. At this time Ken developed a heart for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and decided he should open our home to FCA meetings for his players. This continued through the years with a lot of the teams he coached.
In 1975 Ken started a Bible study on Monday nights in our home with help from Dallas and Linda Strom and with the blessing of Elmbrook Church. For 7 years we met and made great friends, and Ken got to play his guitar. In 1980, Ken decided to run a summer camp for kids in our backyard…he called it Sports Bible Camp. He asked some of the Brewer Baseball Players to come and give their testimonies, and they did. He ran this camp for 3 years which included baseball games, swimming, basketball and Bible Study.
In 1985, Ken opened the first indoor baseball workout facility in Wisconsin. It was called Grand Slam USA, but later was renamed the Field of Dreams. It was a great place for our sons to work and work out in. All 3 sons played college baseball and two of them played pro-ball. Jeff played for the Philadelphia Phillies organization, Cory played for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, and K.J. played for Concordia University and was the MVP his senior year. In 1996 Ken was asked to be the commissioner of the WSYBL-Wisconsin State Youth Baseball League. He served for 23 years.
In 2012 Ken was inducted into the Old Time Ball Players Association of Wisconsin, there’s a plaque at American Family Field with his name on it. Ken’s family will always remember him as a man of faith that lived it every day. One of his gifts was being an encourager. He was a husband who was always thinking of his wife. He was a father who was so proud of his sons. He was a grandfather that loved spending time with his grandchildren.
We believe that God has a plan for our lives, but it was hard to imagine that at 70 years old Ken’s life would change so drastically. He developed Lewy body dementia after beating bladder cancer and gradually became very sick. He handled all of this with great grace. His residence the last 2 years was at Waterford in West Bend, a facility for dementia patients. He couldn’t walk and couldn’t talk very well, but the staff knew he loved to coach baseball and so they all called him “coach”. Billy Graham once said, “A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime.” This was Ken’s calling.
The Bigler family would like to thank all the wonderful staff at Waterford and Heartland who helped Ken and the family through his terrible disease. Special thanks to Alyssa, Anne, Marcy and Bethany.
Visitation will be held Friday, February 11 from 12:30-3 PM at Elmbrook Church, 777 S. Barker Rd., Brookfield. Funeral service to follow at 3 PM. Private interment Highland Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers please make a donation to: Fellowship of Christian Athletes or FCA.