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.