Emil John “Ja Ja” Pionke, age 75, of Berlin, died peacefully surrounded by the love of his family, after suffering for many years with congestive heart failure, diabetes, arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, on Thursday morning, Aug. 12, 2010, at the American House of Berlin.
Emil was born on Aug. 22, 1934 in Stevens Point, Wis., to Emil E. and Irene (Mrozinski) Pionke.
He attended Saint Peter’s Catholic Grade School and P.J. Jacobs High School in Stevens Point graduating in 1952. Emil was a Korean War Veteran, serving in the U.S. Navy as a Hospital Corpsman from February 1953 to December 1955. He also received a general accounting degree from La Salle International Correspondence School in Illinois in 1970.
Emil married the love of his life, Anita M. Sedarski on May 29, 1954 at Saint Stanislaus Catholic Church in Berlin and she preceded him in death on Nov. 24, 1997.
He is survived by his children, Thomas (Jean) Pionke of Berlin, Gloria (Frank) Lichtfuss of Berlin, Julie (Frank) Greff of Ripon, Rose Lund (special friend Jim White) of Berlin, and Master Sergeant U.S.A.F. Paul (Johanna) Pionke, of Pasadena and Maryland; 10 grandchildren, Beth (John) Kwakkel, Bryan Lichtfuss, Michael Vaughn, Heather Lichtfuss (fiancée Paul Stinston), Melissa Greff (special friend Cody Klebs), Joshua Pionke, Nicholas Lund, Chelsey Pionke, Brianne Lund, Megan Matyas, and one sweet great grandchild, Lillian Faith Kwakkel; as well as very special friends, Art Lund, Dru Mansmith, Sandy Kotloski, and Bob Markofski and siblings, Donald (Elaine) Pionke of Hermitage, Tenn., David (Dick) Pionke of Stevens Point and twin sisters, Diane Kitowski and Audrey Kohler of Stevens Point; a sister in law, Peggy Sedarski of Chippewa Falls, Wis.; along with numerous nieces and nephews.
Emil was preceded in death by his parents; beloved wife, Anita; and two brothers-in-law, Ralph Sedarski and William Kitowski.
Emil looked forward to visits from family and friends in his last years as he wasn’t able to get out on his own and always had doggy treats ready for his canine friends Zeus and Gracie.
Emil was very active in many organizations throughout his life. He was the past President and State Director for the Berlin Jaycees and received their “Spoke and Spark Award” and also served on their board of directors for ten years. Emil received a lifetime honorary membership from the Jaycees for playing Berlin’s Santa Claus for 20 years from 1959 to 1979; and then on his own until 1996, when due to ill health he had to hang up his suit and beard, of which is on display at the Berlin Historical Society Museum. He was a past member and Chaplain of the Berlin Eagles Club, was the Cub Master for Scout Packs 168 and 127 of Berlin, he also served for five years as a District Director for the Cub Scouts. He was a Berlin Police Officer for six and ½ years, and also served as an Alderman for two years. Emil was the Berlin Theatre’s movie projectionist for eight years, he was a third degree member of the Father Fiss Council 1547 Knights of Columbus of Berlin, serving twice as the Grand Knight; he also served on the Knights of Columbus Corporation’s board of directors and as their treasurer for four years. Emil and his family received the Madison Diocesan family of the month award in 1993. Emil had also served as an Usher, Eucharistic Minister, and Reader for Saint Stanislaus Church for many years, serving on the Parish Council for 2 three year terms and was their financial recorder for 15 years. Emil was a Holy Name member serving many times as President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. He was always very proud of the fact that he had attended 30 retreats at the Oshkosh Jesuit Retreat house and enjoyed reading his bible daily. Emil had also taught religious education for 23 years, receiving a 20 year appreciation award from Bishop O’Donnell. Emil and Anita had also taught marriage encounter classes to young couples for 12 years. He was a member of Oshkosh’s Toastmaster club from 1970 to 1972, serving as their treasurer. He was a member of the American Legion Post 340 of Berlin, where he served as commander, Adjutant, Sergeant at Arms and Chaplain. He was also Green Lake County’s American Legion Chaplain for two years. He is a former member of the Berlin Civil Defense (now known as the Berlin Emergency Government) from 1956 to 1986 and a former member of the Green Lake County Deputy Sheriff’s Association. He was the Green Lake/Marquette County’s vocation director for 11 years, retiring due to poor health. He served as a Peer Counselor for Green Lake County receiving his diploma from Moraine Park in 1992. He was employed by the Oshkosh Truck Corp. for 10 years prior to retiring due to health problems; he later worked as a data clerk for five years at the Green Lake County Health and Human Services and Fox River Industries. He was a committee member for the Green Lake County Community Options program and the first Tri-County’s Aging and Disability Resource’s Board and was a Board member for four and1/2 years for the Berlin Senior Center. He is a current member of the All Saints Catholic Parish of Berlin.
Emil enjoyed telling jokes, playing sheepshead and cribbage, doing card tricks, fishing, golfing, and watching sports on TV, and was a die hard Packer, Badger and Brewer Fan. Most of all Emil enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. Emil and his family are very thankful for all the assistance and hugs given to him in his last years at the American House of Berlin and will be remembered fondly as Nancy Trotter’s favorite “Pita,”
In lieu of flowers Emil’s request was to have memorials sent to one of the following in his name, the American House of Berlin and or the Berlin Senior Center.
Funeral services with the Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Monday Aug. 16, 2010 at 10:30 a.m. at the All Saints Catholic Church of Berlin with the Rev. Jerome Maksvytis officiating and burial will follow in the Saint Stanislaus Cemetery with full military honors provided by the Berlin V.F.W., and will be laid to rest beside his beloved wife Anita.
Immediately following the services at the cemetery all are invited to the Berlin V.F.W hall for a lunch and fellowship with the family.
Relatives and friends may call at the Wiecki-Skipchak Funeral Home of downtown Berlin on Sunday Aug.t 15, 2010 from 4 to 8 p.m. with a combined Parish Rosary and Knights of Columbus Prayer Service at 7:45 p.m. and may also call at the Funeral Home on Monday from 9 to 10 a.m. before we leave for the services at the church.
John R. Wiecki-Skipchak Funeral Home, 116 S. Adams Ave., downtown Berlin, Wis. 54923 920-361-2050.
Online condolences may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org of Berlin.