Our cover story this week owes to the relentless march of science and the process of turning science into business. The University of Wisconsin is a research powerhouse, and that, in turn, has led to a bumper crop of biotechnology start-ups, which have become a significant factor in the local economy and put this city on the biotech map.
In her story "Spark, Fuel, Fire," author Maggie Rossiter Peterman documents this phenomenon. Not surprisingly, a lot of the biotech business revolves around drugs and the continuous quest to not just cure disease and prolong life but to deal with the challenges that living longer produces.
Eventually, though, the end of life comes, causing sorrow and retrospection. The end of life for Rudi Wuennenberg, former Madisonian, came on Oct. 29 in California, as I am informed by my former partner and Isthmus co-founder Fred Milverstedt. Rudi was at hand back in 1975-76 when we began to put this publication together. His wife, Carol, was our first accountant, and both were mentors to our fledgling business.
The Wuennenbergs lived in a big house at 504 Wisconsin Ave. Rudi worked in the financial department at Oscar Mayer, while Carol specialized in accounting services for a variety of entrepreneurial types, largely of the left-leaning variety. They rented out the upper floors of the house to an assortment of mostly gay residents, many of whom were customers of Carol's. One such was Ricardo Gonzalez of the Cardinal Bar, who put Fred and me in touch with Carol in the first place.
Carol and Rudi were progressives and acted like it. They were involved in their community: Carol was Fourth District alder from 1974 to 1977, and Rudi founded the Fourth District Neighborhood Association. They had a sort of European/progressive attitude toward child rearing. At least some of their five children lived in a separate house around the corner on Gilman Street when they got older, and they were involved in a variety of political and activist causes.
Rudi retired in 1980 and moved to Fort Bragg, Calif., in 1983. Carol died in 1987 from causes related to her omnipresent cigarettes. I had seen neither in the 25 intervening years, but I run into their kids from time to time. I offer them my condolences and recall their parents fondly. No matter how much the future changes Madison, what it becomes has a lot to do with active, involved people like the Wuennenbergs. It was my good fortune to have known them.