obit template2018-11-29T12:10:12+00:00

Darrell John

To have known Darrell Paccagnella was to love him. A friendly sort, he made friends easily and could readily strike up a conversation with anyone. He made life interesting for those who knew and loved him with his antics and soft hearted ways. Deeply missed, Darrell will be remembered for his unwavering faith and service to his Lord with whom he loved with all his heart.

The year 1963 was an unforgettable, eventful year in our nation’s history. From fashion to politics, America’s once conservative nature was turning in new directions while new electronics made life easier and enjoyable. Beloved President John F. Kennedy’s assassination affected the hearts of all while mounting troubles in Vietnam continued to escalate. Beatlemania took music charts by storm, and history was made when Dr. Martin Luther King gave his, “I Have a Dream” speech. For Neil and Patricia “Penny” (Bruneau) Paccagnella, an unforgettable event took place in their lives on August 18, 1963 at Trinity Memorial Hospital in their hometown of Cudahy, Wisconsin. It was on this very special day when they welcomed twin sons into their hearts. Darrell John Paccagnella was born a mere three minutes before his twin brother, Dean on this most happy occasion.

Darrell’s father worked as a heat treat operator for the Ladish Company while his mother later went to work as a cashier and in customer service for Kohl’s Department Store. The oldest of three children, Darrell later welcomed his younger sister, Kellie, born in 1970. He experienced an enjoyable childhood and received unconditional love and nurturing from his family. He began kindergarten at Lincoln School in Cudahy before attending Cooper Elementary School in Milwaukee. There were many things that captured his interest, and along with his studies, kept Darrell busy as a young boy.

While growing up, Darrell came to have a soft spot for animals, and never found a stray he didn’t like. He loved animals, and once he found a stray, it usually ended up in their yard or house. He especially loved his cocker spaniel, Mollie, Bosco, a hound, and Mutzie. Darrell’s compassion for animals was unwavering. One time, while digging for worms to go fishing, he stopped to retrieve a bandage from the house. Thinking Darrell cut his finger, his father’s heart was touched by the fact that Darrell needed the bandage to put a severed worm back together again.

In the Spring of 1972, Darrell and his family moved to Caledonia. Due to his special needs, he attended Olympia Brown School in Racine, and later, Gilmore School. Fond of model trains, he joined the Railroad Club in school and continued to enjoy membership in several clubs over the years with his friend, Bob Brown. At this time, he also discovered his love for hunting and fishing. Darrell went on to Horlick High School, graduating with the Class of 1983.

An important part of Darrell’s life took place shortly after his family moved to Caledonia. He and his siblings were invited by Parkway Apostolic Church in nearby Oak Creek to attend services there, and the church bus would come by to pick them up and bring them there. It was the beginning of a long and fulfilling time in Darrell’s life as he grew to love what he experienced there. He gave his life to Christ and was soon baptized in the name of Jesus, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Darrell volunteered in various ministries at church and enjoyed the choir. He later became an usher and was on a regular rotation team.

Although Darrell never had a driver’s license, he thoroughly enjoyed walking all the same. He could be seen walking everywhere around town, and when he needed to travel long distances, he was an avid transit bus traveler. He memorized the bus routes and was always willing to share information with others. It was easy for him to make friends as he could engage in conversation with most everyone. Throughout the years he held several working positions, mainly for a number of food venues as a dishwasher and doing food preparation. He worked at O’Dennis’, DeRango’s and at the Roma Lodge. For a time he also worked at Racine Cast Iron Steel, and later did janitorial work at Parkway Apostolic Church.

Darrell’s love for hunting and fishing continued. He often traveled with family members and loved to accompany his friend, Jerry Rayeske to his property in Northern Wisconsin. They harvested sap from the maple trees for syrup and took in a little hunting and fishing while there. Once while deer hunting with another friend, Ed, Darrell came close to getting them in big trouble with the game warden. He decided to play “Rambo”, and fired numerous round into the air. He also liked archery and bow hunting. While in his room one time checking on his bow, Darrell took an arrow and drew back the bow. After accidentally releasing the arrow, he soon discovered it traveled through a new glass window his father recently installed. It eventually lodged in the side of the neighbor’s house!

When Darrell was diagnosed with diabetes in 2000, he was already experiencing several other health issues. Through the years that followed, he underwent many challenges trying to control the effects of the disease, and later developed cardiac issues. It was especially difficult for him when his mother died in 2005. Darrell took her death quite hard, and his health went up and down. Before long he had poor circulation in his lower extremities, along with congestive heart failure. He entered Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare–All Saints Hospital in Racine on Saturday, February 4, and sadly died on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at the age of 48.

One of a kind, it was easy to love Darrell John Paccagnella. Ever friendly, he had a compassionate heart and was always willing to lend a helping hand. He will be always remembered for his, “Smile, Smile, Smile”.

Darrell was the cherished son of Neil and the late Patricia “Penny” Paccagnella; loving brother to Dean Paccagnella and Kellie (Rick) Smetana; proud uncle of Kasey Lynn, Ashley Marie, Isabella, Olivia and Sophia, great-uncle of Dev. He is further survived by special friend, Lorraine Zacher, other relatives and friends. Family and friends will gather Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at Parkway Apostolic Church, 10940 S. Nicholson Road in Oak Creek, WI from 6:00 PM until the time of the his Memorial Service at 7:00 PM. Please visit to share a favorite memory of Darrell and to sign his online guest book. The family is being served by Suminski Life Story Funeral Home-Niemann/Suminski, 414-744-5156.

Past Comments

The Wahners

Thanks for all of the wonderful smiles and hugs! You always had genuine warmth about you. You will be greatly missed. God Bless you and your family!


The Wahner Family

Racine Friendship Clubhouse

We are sad to hear of Darrell’s passing. It was a shock to us. We have so many memories of Darrell. He was a member of the Racine Friendship Clubhouse for many years. The Racine Friendship Clubouse is a day program for adults

with mental illness. We focus on a person’s abilities, not their disabilities. Darrell had many opportunities to share his abilities with us.

We always knew when he was in the building because of his outgoing personality. Darrell loved to greet people so one of his favorite things to do was working the reception desk. There, he had the chance to talk with everyone who came in or out of the building.

Darrell also liked to go on outings with the clubhouse. He participated in many trips, especially Frank’s Diner in Kenosha, and Festa Italiana in Milwaukee. He also went on our annual camping retreat in Wisconsin Dells where he had the chance to meet clubhouse members from all over Wisconsin.

Darrell could often be found in the kitchen, helping to prepare lunch. He liked to make salads, especially his green bean salad. He also had his specialty pasta dish which he loved to share with others. Darrelll would saute onions, green peppers and lots of garlic! He added this to chunks of Italian sausage and simmered it in a pot of Italian tomato sauce. This was served over pasta and topped with cheese. We miss Darrell in our kitchen.

Darrell was also proud of his employment history. He enjoyed working and telling us about the stories of his work days. We encouraged him to work as it gave him a sense of accomplishment and well being. We were proud that he pursed his goals with work.

We know Darrell had a heart for God. He loved to talk about his church and his participation in the choir. Although we are saddened at the thought of missing Darrell, we are glad to know he is safe in the arms of God. He is no longer having to battle health issues and is completely whole now.

We will miss you Darrell.

Roger W.

Darrell became a friend in mid 2008 when I joined the Racine Friendship Clubhouse and moved to McMynn Tower in downtown Racine where he lived, too.

So we were “brothers in recovery” from mental health issues, plus shared, similar health concerns and supported each other as we could. Darrell had a strong personality but a tender, lonely heart, a tough combo to deal with sometimes.

The first I tried to temper as an older “brother.” The second I understood, as a fellow bachelor. We both needed a “buddy” around, so we hung out some, talked over a few things and had some good times and great meals nearby.

He made sure we got over to Casablanca once for a great Italian meal. He was very proud to have worked there and politely introduced me to the owners and management, who were appreciative of his passion and dedication.

His work there helped inspire him to try culinary school at Gateway. Working hard at his courses, Darrell would have made a fine chef and host if only he had the time, means and health to get there. I know he worked hard at his other jobs, including at the Clubhouse, the Courthouse and elsewhere.

He was very proud of his Italian heritage and helped Roma Lodge at Racine’s Italian Fest every year. His Italian sausage feast at the Clubhouse was not to be missed.

Darrell’s passing has been hard on us at the Clubhouse and McMynn, where he could often be found visiting with other residents for lively conversation in the lobby.

Personally, I wish I had tried harder and helped him more with his health struggles, knowing myself how such challenges are tough to deal with – especially alone and with limited resources. Another painful lesson in the short trial of Life.

But I will remember him most for his wide smile and twinkling eyes and hearty laugh. And the friendship he gave back to me.

Kathleen Chaney

Dear Family,

As I look at the Kindergarten picture of Darrell above, in his red shirt and vividly remember him, I recall that he was such a wonderful little boy! As Darrell’s first teacher, I’ve kept that picture and have often wondered what happened to the child with the beautiful smile and energy for life? His happiness was always so visible and made me smile each day!

I am so sad to hear of your loss.

As I was reading of ALL of Darrell’s accomplishments, I was astounded at the magnitude of his life! I thought, “Not everyone has the warm, caring life that he many friends, a family that surrounded him with love and a life containing so much joy!” I am so glad to know of the life that Darrell experienced and was so happy to see that it was shared on line for everyone to read.

Please know I will always thank God for the privledge of being Darrell’s first teacher. I will always remember him with fondness. I pray that as you think of Darrell and enjoy the many good memories, you will be comforted.


Mrs. Kathleen Chaney- Shorewood

Dawn Kotecki

I remember Darrell from living in the neighborhood. I remember riding bikes and such when he lived in Cudahy.

I am so sorry for your loss. Please accept my condolences. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. God bless all of you.


Mary Ann Wright

I had the priviledge of knowing Darrell for over 35 years when he and his brother Dean came into our Sunday School Class through bus ministry. We taught Juniors – 9,10,11 yr olds. Darrell loved the class and because he had special needs we opted to keep him a year or two longer which was perfectly fine with him. One Sunday morning while the Maki’s were evangelizing here at Parkway, Sis Judy Maki prayed with him after an altar call in our classroom and God graciously filled him with the gift of the Holy Ghost. I was surprised to learn years later that his mother’s maiden name was Penny Bruneau. I graduated with Penny in the class of 1959 Cudahy High School.

I was delighted to watch Darrell sing in the choir and was proud to see our former student now all grown up as a church usher.

Whenever our eyes met in the foyer, he would say “Hi, Sister Wright” and then kiss me on the cheek. Darrell, thank you for your love and respect. You indeed were special. With Love

Geraldine Larson

Darrell was my neighbor who went out of his way to greet me with a smile and make me feel special almost every day. While everyone was cheering for the packers at a football game shown in our community room, he took the time out to teach me the game of football. That was a lot of patience on his part! Darrell was a generous person and I will miss him. I am saddened to hear of his loss. My prayers are with his family and friends.

Nathan Eckstadt

Back in the 1980’s I sang in the Parkway Church Choir and Darrell and I stood near each other. I was a Friend of his Brother Dean back in those days. Every time I would approach near Darrell in church, no matter long it had been since we last talked. He would accpet nothing less than a hug and a big slap on the back. I can tell you that very few people of any status could have been as friendly as Darrell. It’s bee a few weeks and I have started to miss the opportunity to greet him in the enterance of the Church. Some great day my old friend we shall see each other again. RIP in the hands of our loving God…~Nathan Eckstadt

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