Alton “Corky” Dale Cain Jr

Alton “Corky” Dale Cain Jr

MADISON- On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, a very special man passed peacefully with his companion and 8 children by his side. He was blessed to be able to spend his last few days at his home as he wished.

Alton Dale “Corky” Cain was born in 1930 in Hillsboro, Texas. His family settled in Frederick, Oklahoma because “that’s where the car broke down”. He was raised there by his maternal grandparents. His nickname comes from his childhood resemblance to a comic strip character.

Corky enjoyed sports, working on cars, and learning to fly a plane as a teenager, and these became lifelong interests. He joined the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and served in Canada and Thule, Greenland as a radar mechanic, where he also perfected photography and dark room skills. After his transfer back to the States he married Donna Kexel of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, in 1953.

After his honorable discharge from the service, Corky and Donna moved to Elkhorn where he picked up his life-long trade in musical instrument repair, specializing in woodwinds and brass. During his career he moved from Elkhorn to Sun Prairie, taking a job at Ward-Brodt Music Company in Madison. His family grew to include eight children as his career and renown were also growing. His meticulous craftsmanship and perfectionism eventually earned him a world-wide reputation for artisanal repair on rare and antique instruments. He met and repaired pieces for thousands of budding musical talents and virtuosos, including, among many greats, Louie Armstrong. He completed 41 years of employment with Ward-Brodt. After his retirement, he worked out of his shop at home. His last 21 years were spent with his companion, Janine.

Corky had many talents and interests. He was an avid Wisconsin sports fan, member of the Walworth County Dive Team, volunteer Scout Master, outdoorsman and nature lover, and car/plane aficionado. He particularly loved to visit “The Cabin on the Jump River” where he and his family vacationed for 50 years, shared by his relatives, the Tubbs family of Sun Prairie. He loved Madison and many of its landmarks, including the Plaza Tavern and the Union Terrace. Perhaps above all he loved to spend time on projects, practicing his patience and tremendous eye for detail, to keep his surroundings well-cared for, groomed and meticulous. His large family and many friends enjoyed the benefit of his expertise and precision whenever he was needed.

Alton “Corky” Cain is survived by his long-time companion, Janine Smiley; his eight children, Michael Cain and wife Denise, Cathy Cain, Jim Cain, Bob Cain, Jennifer Ellestad and husband Christian, Scott Cain, Marcy Lampe, and Al Cain. He is also survived by 13 grandchildren: Sarah Cain, Evan Cain, Marcy Beck, Erin Fisk, Mary Cate Fisk, Daniel Cain, Eric Cain, Dustin Cain, Haakon Ellestad, Austin Cain, Leah Cain, Brittany Lampe, and Luke Lampe. He is also survived by 2 great grandchildren: Hayden Beck and Brynden Beck and by his former wife, Donna Horton.

A gathering will take place from 12-2:45 PM on Sunday, November 23, 2014 at the Cress Center, 6021 University Ave., Madison. A Memorial Tribute to Corky will follow the gathering at 3:00 PM on Sunday at the Cress Center.

Memorials for scholarships are appreciated to the UW Summer Music Clinic (

The family wishes to express special gratitude to Dr. Kinsley and all the staff at Agrace Hospice for their help and care through this loss.