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Attorney gives up the law for the land

Henk VanDyk won't be relaxing much in an easy chair now that he's retired from his long-time law practice. The New Richmond native still plans to keep busy operating a dairy operation in rural New Richmond.

After nearly 40 years of practicing law, Henk VanDyk is retiring from his downtown New Richmond practice.

VanDyk said he is ending his legal career to devote more time to his second career as farmer, and to spend more time with his children and grandchildren. VanDyk is a long-time partner at VanDyk, Williamson & Siler SC.

Ever since his brother John retired from the farming operation in 1995, VanDyk said he's had to spend more and more time working with the cows and crops.

"I'd spend a couple hours in the morning, before going to my law office, and then spend many hours at the farm after work," he said. "It got to be too many hours. I had to drop one or the other."

He decided to choose farming over continuing to be an attorney because "the cows weren't going anywhere," VanDyk said with a laugh.

"This is actually a lot harder than I thought it would be," VanDyk said of his decision to stop practicing law. "When you do something for 40 years, it's tough."

Still, VanDyk said, he has had little free time in recent years to attend sporting events that his kids were involved in and he has had little time to be a grandpa. He said he hopes more time will be freed up now. VanDyk and his wife Bonnie have four children and three grandchildren. VanDyk's youngest is headed to Bryant University in Rhode Island this fall and she'll play volleyball while attending school. VanDyk said he's hopeful he'll now have time to visit and see a few games during the season.

A 1963 New Richmond High School graduate, VanDyk attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. VanDyk originally thought he'd end up in agriculture after college, but local attorney Jim Drill convinced the young man that becoming an attorney was a good path to take.

"I found this law stuff wasn't so bad," he recalled. "I thoroughly enjoyed it."

VanDyk's first job was with the U.S. Forest Service in Milwaukee. He dealt with legal issues the agency was faced with in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

In 1974, VanDyk returned to New Richmond to establish his own legal practice. He eventually partnered with Lou Reinstra from 1976 to 1978. The law firm then added Scott Needham to the practice.

Needham eventually left the practice in 1994 to become a judge, and the practice added attorney Kristina Williamson to fill his shoes. Reinstra eventually retired, and attorney Ron Siler was brought to the firm.

Even though he pursued a legal career, VanDyk never strayed from his agricultural roots. By 1976, while working as an attorney, he partnered with his brother John to purchase a "hobby farm."

"I really didn't want to get back into farming, but it's worked out well," VanDyk said. "We tried to operate the farm with hired help for a while, but that didn't work. I've put in really long days for as long as I can remember."

Now that VanDyk has retired, his former law practice will be known as Williamson & Siler SC.