Byron Bok

Byron William Bok passed away on 9/13/22 at the age of 73, surrounded by loved ones in Racine, WI. He was born on 7/11/1949 to William and Betty Jane Bok in Kenosha, WI. Byron attended Tremper High School in Kenosha where he was an All-State swimmer who set several school swimming records. He graduated from Tremper High School in 1967 and went on to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He left UW-Oshkosh to enroll in the United States Airforce during the Vietnam War. After his military service Byron completed his Bachelor of Arts Degree before going on to the Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics at Louisiana State University which he completed on August 6th, 1976. His time in Louisiana and New Orleans were extremely influential and important to Byron and it would remain a place he held in high regard throughout his life. During his MFA program Byron exhibited his ceramics in many art shows and had his works displayed in several museums including having a functional teapot in the Smithsonian Art Museum. He began teaching for Racine Unified School District in 1978 at Red Apple Elementary School and would stay there until he retired from teaching in 2004. Mr. Bok shared his passion and knowledge for art with an entire generation of young minds. Well after his retirement former students continued to contact Mr. Bok to let him know how much their experience in his classroom impacted not only their views on art but their careers and adult lives. His impact cannot be understated, and he will never be forgotten. 

Byron is survived by his 4 Children: Anderson (Iris), Michelle (Kyle), Jeffery, Lucas (Sasha). 4 Grandchildren: Jackson Bok, Scarlett, Arlo and Dexter. He is further survived by an Aunt, Gail Casey and many cousins.

He was preceded in death by wife Janet Bok, his parents William and Betty Jane Bok.

 He was an aficionado of many things including The Chicago Bears, NASCAR, Harley Davidson Motorcycles, GONZO Journalism and cigars. He was a truly unique man who was known for his “Bok-isms” and had a penchant for “Bok-ing” things when they no longer served his purpose. An avid fan of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Byron always had the perfect quote for any new adventure. Wherever he is now, we know he is on two wheels and we hope he’s taking his own advice… “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

          Funeral services will be held on Friday September 23rd, 2022, at the Kemper Center Founders Hall at 5:30PM. (6501-3rd Avenue) Visitation with the family will be on Friday the 23rd in Founders Halll from 4: 00PM until the time of services.

        Burial at the Southern WI Veterans Memorial Cemetery will be on Thursday October 6th, 2022, at 2:00PM. 

Casey Family Options Funerals and Cremations

Stephen P. Casey, Owner/Funeral Director

(262) 653-0667

Thoughts for Byron Bok;

  • Blake W. Thompson says:

    When I was about 10 I had a pottery class with Mr. Bok at Red Apple. He took a ruler to my precious clay pot and flattened one side of it. I was horrified, but he created something I didn’t yet understand. He was right, he taught me that there are no mistakes in art and how to work my way from a problem. I remember him handing out art projects and swearing he would scream if he saw one-more-Homer-Simpson (inevitably he did). I remember him doing the egg drop from the 4th floor of our school, with utter glee, at some of the silly projects we created. This man had as much impact on my future as anyone could imagine. What a glorious man to dedicate his life to us ingrates.

    “Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom … is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.” – Anthony Bourdain

  • To the family of Mr. Bok: My sincerest condolences. May the God of all comfort be with you during your time of mourning. 2 Corinthians 1:3,4. Take care.

  • Hello, I visited at Byron’s service at Kemper Hall. It was very nice to visit so close to his childhood home. I have a few photos and a functional piece Byron produced before he quit that. Please reach out if these momentos are important to you.

  • I can not believe he passed away , oh how hurt I am.He was the best art teacher ever and taught me how to draw and always said ” hey patton, what don’t learn someone else will. So get yo butt in here so I can teach you art and stop eating so much, if you want to do go in the back room!” 🙂 Also I see that you want to learn but ya can’t cause you’re always somewhere else never on art , it’s ok to have a wondering mind but I need you to leave that the door so you can learn , now get up to that board and draw something and you’re like my wanna be cool granddaughter who’s always eating lol…” He definitely taught me how to stop worrying about things that I couldn’t control and to never stop giving up in life 💯! Reading that about him broke my heart cause I still brag about how he loved him some Harley Davidson motorcycles and how good he smelt and how he was like a cool grandfather that I Never had.

  • A Remembrance for Byron Bok – one year after his passing.

    Mr. Bok was the coolest art teacher ever.
    Long grey hair pulled back in a pony tail, sunglasses, white mustache, rode a Harley, and taught 9 and 10 year olds art.

    I remember 2 specific lessons
    The first: “Battle of the Shapes”!
    Using pencil/ colored pencil, on giant white paper.

    The assignment was an EPIC battle between circles, squares, rectangles and triangles of all sizes and colors.
    I remember drawing a spear-like isosceles triangle piercing an opposing circle in the foreground, blood 🩸 spraying out across the battlefield.
    It was a major blow to the circles because they only had 1 more of that size. But what the triangles didn’t know was that small circles all across the battlefield were enveloping triangles and steering them into each other, breaking points and scattering triangle fragments like shrapnel.

    Lesson 2 “How Many Lines?”
    Placing a large piece of blank paper on the wall,
    Mr. Bok drew a single line with the widest edge of a thick black marker from one edge of the paper to the other.
    Then he asked “How many lines do you see”
    We all answered “one”
    He said “I see two”

    Then he showed us how the edge of the line itself created two separate lines where the white paper met the edge of the black marker.
    I remember drawing forest on the “top” line, and cities on the bottom.
    The opposite side of a flat world.

    This lesson in perspective stayed with me for 30+ years, and probably will for the rest of my life.

    It’s not an exaggeration to say that he taught me how to see.

    To see art work.

    The last memory I’ll share is how his class room felt.

    It felt peaceful, fun, and exciting.
    It felt like construction paper, oil pastels, paint, clay. Especially clay.
    Clay dust, clay pots, that reddish orange putty at various stages of turning into hardened chips. Evidence everywhere of art being made.

    Sunshine through basement window wells


    I was 9 years old, yet Mr. Bok and his work as a teacher helped to shape the course of my life.
    You can draw a straight line (or winding ones if you prefer) from that foundational experience to my love of comic books.

    To my ongoing practice as an artist over the 20 years following that class

    Even to my professional leadership roles, where one of my greatest skills is my ability to see things differently, to notice connections, opportunities, trends that other people might be missing. I’ve applied that vision to organizing people, developing national initiatives, and building movements.

    In real and important ways, Byron Bok had a hand in that.

    On the 1st anniversary of his death, I honor him.
    Thanks Mr. Bok.

    (Originally shared on Facebook).

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