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Basil Joseph "Joe" Kennedy was born on January 30, 1937, in Park Falls, Wisconsin, son of Ann (Draxler) and Merton Kennedy. On 1/23/24 he peacefully joined the love of his life, his beautiful wife, Renate, in heaven while surrounded by his loving family.
Joe was a devoted husband, father, Opa, brother, uncle, and friend to all. He was a loving, strong, warm, fun, dedicated and honorable gentleman with a profound sense of humor and beautiful penmanship. He became a hometown hero when he saved a young boy’s life. Joe’s sense of humor, storytelling, fishing, hunting, camping, gardening, freezing and canning food, his excellent and safe driving, his patience (especially when teaching his children to drive), and his obvious love for their mother are his children’s most cherished memories. Family trips to Canada were a huge highlight in their lives as well.
Joe savored life's special moments like surprising Renate with midnight candlelight dinners and dancing in the kitchen on Friday nights after she worked until 11pm. Oh, how they loved to dance! They met on the dance floor and were married for over 58 years before Renate passed. They would go dancing whenever they could. Joe and Renate's favorite dance was the Waltz.
Joe enjoyed the outdoors, especially duck hunting and fishing. He enjoyed cooking fresh caught walleye, perch and salmon, steak dinners on Sunday and stir-fry too. He loved fresh bakery runs and he made the most excellent pickles! Joe had the ability to tell an exceptional story and he always recalled every detail with precision. He was mentally alert and quite clever! There were times when he may have been one of the quietest in a room filled with people, but he never missed a thing. Even during his last moments, his family knew he was listening, and he was aware of what was happening around him.
Joe, like others, had so many things to be proud of but he was most proud of his entire family. We live in a society that puts so much value on what you do for a living and the money you earn, but he said that in the end, what you did for a living mattered little to most people. How you served, loved, and treated other people is what truly matters. Living your life with JOY - Jesus, others, you – would be where our hearts are best focused.
Joe proudly served the USA in the Army for over 9 years, April 12, 1954 - Sept 5, 1963. Basic training in TX, stationed in Heilbronn, Germany, where he met and married his loving wife, Renate. He then transferred to Fort Riley, KS for about 9 months and then after a 2.5-day train ride he arrived at Churchill, Canada where it was -72 degrees when he arrived and he literally "froze his butt off" for just over one year. Next up was Stuttgart, Germany, and lastly, he landed in Columbus, Georgia where he finished his service to this great nation.
He and his family moved to Milwaukee and shortly after to Manitowoc. During his time in Manitowoc, he was a 50-year member of the International Typographical Union. Joe was president of the local 431 for one year and served 10 years as their secretary. He also spent two years on the graphics art board at LTC. He was Cub Master for five years at James Monroe School and he served two years as the PTA president. He was the delegate to the 113th Typographical Union Convention in Milwaukee and a member of the Great Lakes Fishing Organization.
While residing in Manitowoc he was a dedicated 32-year employee of the Herald Times Reporter, appointed as manager of the composing room in 1978, he retired in 1999. He recently talked about his favorite manager, Arden Draeger, who was not only a significant role model, but an upstanding citizen and a wonderful friend as well. Later under the leadership of a new manager, Joe sustained an injury at work. This injury went on to change Joe's life. As time progressed, he lost more flexibility and movement in his hand, his job requirements changed, and he was unable to fulfill the new duties assigned. Joe had to take early retirement. After doctors’ visits and trips to Milwaukee to see a hand specialist, it was later determined that his hand degression "couldn't be proven related to the injury he sustained at work." Although Joe, his family, and close friends believed differently. Realizing it is not always the victim who is protected, Joe never complained, nor did he take pity on himself.
May that story be a poignant reminder of the importance of our choices. In his last days, he talked a little about his own regrets in life. Joe was not ready to retire. He loved working. He loved people, but another person's action sent Joe’s life down a different path. Our choices can affect more people than we realize, either in a positive or a negative way. There can be a snowball effect that continues, sometimes for generations. We each have a choice to do what is right and honorable in any given situation and whenever we may be at a crossroads. One of the most important things we can learn in life is to grow from our own mistakes and the mistakes of other people who are in our lives. That, and forgiveness is powerful.
Preceded in death by his beautiful bride, Renate, his parents, three loving sisters, Maxine, Carol, and Margaret and their husbands, relatives, and close friends. Joe leaves behind four children, Ulrike (Charles) Ross, John Kennedy, Barbara (Scott) Leschke, and Patrick Kennedy and all of their children. He loved each of his fourteen grandchildren and nine great - grandchildren endlessly. Joe was adamant about not wanting a service or large gathering when he passed. To honor his wishes the family will host a private event to celebrate his wonderful, long life!
Months ago a kind woman stopped to help him off the interstate when his vehicle ran out of gas. We, his family, have no idea who she was but we will be forever grateful that she stopped to assist him and keep him safe. Joe would be so happy if you would pay it forward with an act of kindness for another person or family in honor of him.
Now, as we celebrate the joyous, heartfelt memories we hold dear to us, we will share his legacy with others and keep Joe alive in our hearts forever. He will be forever loved and greatly missed.