Andrew John “Turk” Waterman
Lifelong Wisconsin Dells resident, Andrew John “Turk” Waterman, 77, passed away June 29, 2017 with his loving wife Judy by his side in Florida after a courageous battle with cancer and diabetes. In recent years, when traveling to Wisconsin became difficult, a non-stop string of visitors including his children, their spouses, grandchildren, relatives, friends, and business associates helped keep his spirits high and outlook on life in top condition. Everyone had their own expertise in making Turk’s life full until the very end, especially his bother Jack who worked daily to make his life easier and more mobile.
Turk was born the first child of Andrew Victor Waterman and Mae Vanderveer Waterman on July 14, 1939. He went through the Wisconsin Dells school system, and was the starting center on the high school football team. Shortly after graduation he enlisted in the US Navy. Trained in guided missile repair he spent the better part of three years on active duty on the USS Galveston. After an honorable discharge, he played football for UW-Eau Claire for one year. The following year his former football coach, Duane Counsel, whom had taken a job as head coach at UW-Stevens Point and convinced him to transfer. The tough college football training regiment was not conducive to Turk’s pre–med intentions or his personal goal of camaraderie building with a social group known as Siasefi. While attaining the degree became elusive, he still considered his time at college “the best nine years of my life.”
Arguable the best thing accomplished while attending UW-Stevens Point was landing the love of his life, the former Judy Malone of Hales Corners, WI. Their marriage on the Clipper Winnebago in Wisconsin Dells on September 19, 1970 was the start of their storybook tale. Turk and Judy built on that tale by starting a family that would include four children: Andrew W. Waterman V (Tamra), Cory Waterman (Holly), Megan Waterman Carvelli (Luigi), Aaron Waterman (Kyla), and 10 grandchildren, Ava, Andrew VI (Ryder), Piper, Wiley, Louie, Glen, Peter, Nico, Bryce and Jacquelin.
In addition to family, a number of successful businesses were developed throughout the years; most notable included Turk’s Leper Colony, Midwest Amusements, Noah’s Ark Waterpark, Crazy King Ludwigs, Great Wolf Lodge, Moosejaw Pizza and Dells Brewing Company, Knucklehead’s Family Entertainment Center, Buffalo Phil’s Restaurant, Timber Falls Amusement Park, Houlihan Restaurants, and Outlets at the Dells. Many lifelong partners and treasured friends resulted from these ventures. The partnership between Turk, Judy, Jack and Mary Waterman spans close to 50 years not only in business but also as the closest of friends. The treasured partnership with the Schmitz family started in the eighties at Noah’s Ark also continues to date.
Turk had many keys to his business success. 1) Lead by Example. He was the first one on the job in the morning, and usually the last to leave in the evening. Throughout the day, no shovels were damaged by leaning on them, but many were worn out! His skill-set of welding, concrete work, carpentry, heavy equipment operation, electrical installation, employee motivation and business management were on display continually! 2) Be Surrounded By Great People. He always felt he had the best staff. The crew always knew when Turk cracked his first beer, it signaled the end of a hard day’s work. His crew became his lifelong friends many following him from business to business. If asked to round up his ‘usual suspects,’ Turk would name his trusted and cherished friendships with Ed Terry, Tom Diehl, Chuck Neuman, Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, Pete (Stanton) Helland, David Walsh, and John Mitby. He felt they all contributed to his success. 3) Listen To the Advice of Others. His dad always said, “The Lord gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.” 4) “Don’t Give Customers What You Think They Want, Give Them What They Actually Want.” The mission statement of most of Turk’s businesses was: “Make memories worth repeating.”
If imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery, Turk’s buttons are indeed popping. The Dells area has many successful businesses, and the blueprint of Turk’s innovations and contributions to the tourist industry are seen in many of them. Some of Turk’s many honors which he was proud of included having the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena hockey facility named after his father and also being one of the founding members of the World Water Park Association and being named to its Hall of Fame. However, the honor he felt most humbled by was receiving the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau’s Lifetime Achievement Award from his peers in 2013.
Of all Turk’s successes, it was his marriage to Judy, his children and grandchildren that brought him the biggest sense of accomplishment. He was a disciplinarian on the outside, yet on the inside Turk was caring and wise. He instilled in his children and grandchildren a work ethic and responsibility that went along with the opportunities he presented to them.
He will be deeply missed by his wife Judy of 47 years, his brother Jack of 73 years, his four children and 10 grandchildren, brother-in-law Jim and sister in-laws Mary, Patti and Peggy, countless nieces, nephews, friends, Sofia his special angel, many friends, Siasefi brothers, present and former staffers and, of course, the many waitresses to whom he notoriously over-tipped!
Turk’s only request was for everyone to have a good time. A celebration will be held August 27th on the lawn in front of Knucklehead’s Family Entertainment Center from 2pm to 6pm in Lake Delton, WI.
Turk spent his life helping anyone he heard was in need – a trait passed down from his father Poppy Waterman. He hoped to pass this same trait down to his children through example. Therefore, in Turk’s memory the family asks in lieu of flowers or memorials, that an act of kindness be bestowed onto a loved one or stranger in his honor. It will put a smile on his face.