Donald Massa

/Donald Massa
obit template2018-11-29T12:10:12+00:00


Date of Service:

Longtime Journal-Sentinel executive Donald J. Massa died on December 17, 2018 after battling cancer intermittently since 1984. He was 88.
Massa was born June 28, 1930, in Milwaukee and grew up in West Allis. He graduated from West Allis Central High School in 1948. He was a bright student and excelled as an offensive lineman on the football team, earning the opportunity to play at Marquette University when he enrolled that fall. He met Eleanore Nau of West Milwaukee while he was in college and married her in 1951; she was the love of his life and survives him after nearly 68 years of marriage. He became the first member of his first-generation-American family to graduate from college in 1952, majoring in accounting and joining the Arthur Anderson firm that year as a Certified Public Accountant. The couple settled in Greendale in the mid-1950s and raised their family there. They were members of St. Alphonsus Catholic Parish.
Massa joined The Milwaukee Journal Company in 1956 as assistant office manager. (Actually, his first job for the company was paper boy. He and his late brother Ernie delivered their route on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, and were called back in that afternoon to deliver an “EXTRA!” edition with breaking news of Pearl Harbor). He served the company as assistant treasurer, office manager and treasurer before being named a vice president in 1975. He retired in 1990 as senior vice president and chief financial officer of both Journal Communications and Journal/Sentinel Inc., when the company was employee owned. He was just shy of his 60th birthday, after having survived cancer surgery in 1984 and again in 1987.
He enjoyed a long and full retirement, splitting time between Arizona and Milwaukee. He joined Tuckaway Country Club and made up for all the golf he didn’t get to play while working. Don and Eleanore were frequent travelers, visiting dozens of foreign destinations and staying close to their children and grandchildren. They had many friends and a social calendar that would exhaust a couple half their age. He loved Sinatra, big band music, and loved to dance with his wife. They supported charitable causes including cancer and heart research and volunteered at DePaul Hospital. Don also provided his financial expertise to St. Camillus Health Center as a member of its advisory board.
But it was as husband and father where he best lived his Catholic faith and left his mark. He and Eleanore were raising their three children in Greendale in 1969 when his only brother and sister-in-law passed away; without hesitation they raised their three nephews as sons without qualification. They rarely missed a child’s swim meet, basketball game, school play or music recital.
Don was a big sports fan. He shared Packer season tickets for the games at County Stadium and Marquette season tickets during the glory years of Al McGuire. He enjoyed the occasional Braves or Brewers game and attended several major PGA Tour events. For the past two years, he and Eleanore lived at Tudor Oaks in Muskego, where he died in hospice care in the presence of family, after cancer returned aggressively late this year.
For all his professional and personal achievements, what mattered most were those who survive him – his wife, sons Michael (Karla Sandrin), Milwaukee; Bill (Cindy), Pewaukee; Jerry (Krystyna), Naples, Fla.; Mark (Maureen Keefe), Indianapolis; and John (Mary), Brookfield; daughter Marcia Hendrickson (Kurt), Madison; grandchildren Lisa (Brett) Jondle, Madison; Tim (Samantha), Appleton, and Tom Wyngaard, Oshkosh; Tyler (Lindsey) Hendrickson, Woodruff; Max, on active duty United States Marine Corps, and Nick Massa, Wauwatosa; Kelsey, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Danny (Carson Hope) Massa, Indianapolis; Dawn Hill, Lake Geneva; Laura (Bob) Scholke, Wausau; Haley and Mitchell Massa, Brookfield; Gavin (Jessica) Massa, Richmond Hill, Ga., Bailey (Kieran) Montefiore, Royston, England, and Casey (Samuel) Green, Harrogate, England, and 13 great grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Magdelena “Mary” (Giaudrone) Massa, his in-laws Carl and Clara (Kamrath) Nau, brother Ernest and sister-in-law Marjorie Massa, and great granddaughter Olivia Hill.
Family and friends are invited to celebrate his long consequential life, bravely and generously lived, with visitation from 10 AM to 11:45 AM on Wednesday, December 26, at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, 7963 S. 116th Street, Franklin, with Mass of Christian Burial at noon. Interment will follow at Mount Olivet Cemetery, 3801 W. Morgan Ave., Milwaukee.
Memorials may be made to The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and the House of Peace.

Past Comments

Jodie Castaneda

My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mr. Massa, especially Marcia. My prayer is for peace and understanding during this difficult time. Jodie Castaneda

Chris Coplan

John, Mary, extended Massa families,

Sending thoughts and prayers for all of you today.

Chris, Teresa Coplan

Mike Smith

I went to school with Mr. Massa’s son Mark for many years; I often refer to him as my best boyhood friend. That friendship lent me many advantages over the years, the most obvious of which was that when Mark and I were together I wasn’t the homeliest guy in the room.

I was invited to spend Easter Break with the Massa family in Florida our Senior year in high school and it was a very rewarding experience, in addition to it being a flat-out good time spent with a great friend. We somehow all managed to oversleep service on Easter Sunday and that led to an experience that I count myself, to this day, very fortunate to have shared with the Massa family. It was a very nice morning in Panama City and we gathered out on the beach together. The environment was perfect, we were nearly alone on the beach, the sun was shining but it wasn’t too hot and there was a very nice breeze coming in off the gulf. Remembering it now, it seems like it couldn’t have been a better Easter morning had it been planned.

As we all looked to Mr. Massa, he stepped up to the undertaking of recounting the passion story and bringing it to reality better than I had ever heard it told before. To an 18 year old who, by such youth, has little experience and, therefore, less understanding than he would one day have, the story of the passion was more story than history at that point in my life, though I didn’t have enough understanding to then realize that. Mr. Massa made the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus somehow more real than it had ever seemed to be, more real than any priest had made it. He made a moment spent with him and his family matter more than most moments of my life growing up.

Touching others in such a way is something that comes from those among us who see others as mattering to them. All of us on the beach with Mr. Massa that morning mattered to him and mattered very much, such that he would open up and share himself about something so vitally important. When I consider, now, what I have learned since that day, as I read the Word of God, how Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no man cometh to the father except by Him, I often think back how Jesus’ passion was made more vibrant, more real, more terrible, as we stood enveloped in an environment that God made, not surrounded by the trappings of a man-made environment, inside a man-made building. If there were distractions on the beach that day, the white sand, the water to the horizon, the sound of the surf, they were distractions made by the Creator of all that was created, not manmade distractions like paintings or pews or bells and candles. I am certain that we were all better off that day being led by a man whose life testified so personally, so intimately to what was important to him: his faith; his family; and, as evidenced by my being allowed to be a part of the Massa family that day, anybody else he could touch in a way that mattered. Mr. Massa mattered more than most, and others mattered to him as he lived out the golden rule (Matthew 7:12).

Brett T Jondle

I will always cherish Grandpa Massa welcoming Caleb, Brynn, and me to the family. He was a man of integrity, faith, and “family first” approach to everything he did. He taught me what it meant to be put family first and to make time to truly listen. He was always a man of his word. -Brett

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