Gregory E. Franken

Gregory E. Franken

Gregory Eugene Franken of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, was a steadfast husband, father, and grandfather. He built a wonderful life for his family and created lasting friendships. Greg passed away from cancer on October 18, 2017, with his family by his side. He was 70 years old.

Born June 7, 1947, in Sioux Center, Iowa, Greg was the oldest of four siblings and had a large extended family. He often helped out at relatives’ farms and businesses, was a lifeguard at the local swimming hole, and even made time to get his pilot’s license. He was known for his dry humor, a trademark throughout his life. Because he was soft-spoken, he would often catch people off guard with his jokes.

At Sioux Center High School, Greg lettered in basketball, football, and track and field, where he set school records in the 440-yard dash. His junior year, Greg caught the eye of the new girl in school, a senior named Judy Vander Ploeg, whom he would marry on September 1, 1970.

Greg received an athletic scholarship to Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, and graduated in 1969 with a BS in Biology. He had an interest in entomology and over the years assembled an impressive insect collection that he later donated to the college.

After college, Greg and Judy moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. Greg spent his career at State Farm Insurance, starting as an underwriter in 1969 and retiring as a manager in 2006. He was deployed on “storm duty” several times, and he was proud to assist communities across the country in recovering from natural disasters.

Greg was a creative father who enjoyed being outside with his two daughters and teaching them about the natural world. Franken family hikes were notorious among friends for their frequent stops as Greg gave nature lessons to the girls (something he had recently begun to do with his young grandchildren as well).

The Franken family moved to Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1986. Greg was always active, playing volleyball at Prairie Athletic Club, running, and especially biking. Greg participated in long-distance rides–such as RAGBRAI and GRABAAWR–as well as shorter rides and casual biking. In January 2016, he biked around Cuba with friends.

In addition to biking, Greg enjoyed photography, making rustic wood furniture, discovering new things about the world, beachcombing in Florida, and driving his Corvette. He and Judy were longtime members of the Mad City Vettes club.

In retirement, Greg and Judy took road trips all over the country to visit national parks. One of their favorite adventures was hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to camp overnight.

Greg lives on in the hearts of daughters, Kimberly (Thad Standley) Franken Standley of Bloomington, Minnesota and Jessica (Niko Tomlinson) Franken of Minneapolis, Minnesota; grandchildren Catherine and Gregory Standley; and siblings, Yvonne (Tom) Molinari of Ventura, California, Evan (Chris Carpenter) Franken of Carpinteria, California, and Mona (Mark) Waldrep of Pacific Palisades, California.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Judith Kay (Vander Ploeg) Franken and his parents Everett G. Franken and Nelvina (Kleinhesselink) Franken.

A memorial service will be held at Sun Prairie United Methodist Church, 702 North Street in Sun Prairie, on Sunday, October 29, at 3 p.m., officiated by Reverend Jenny Arneson. There will be a time to gather from 1 to 3 p.m. Greg will be buried alongside his lifelong love, Judy, in a private ceremony at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Sioux Center, Iowa.

The family suggests gifts in Greg’s name be made to the Ice Age Trail Alliance ( or Olbrich Botanical Gardens (

Cress Funeral & Cremation Services
1310 Emerald Terrace Sun Prairie
(608) 837-9054