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

Gary P. 

Please scroll down for gathering, service, and memorial contribution information and link to online directions to places of gathering and service.

Gary Peter Grunau, 80, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 enveloped in the love of his family, after a long battle with cancer. He was born April 17, 1939 in Bay View to Paul and Lenore Grunau and lived his entire life in the Milwaukee area.

Gary is survived by his wife Joanne; sons Paul (Jeanie) Grunau, Daniel Grunau, and John (Adrienne) Grunau; stepson Jeff (Kate) MacInnes and stepdaughter Laura MacInnes; grandchildren Grace, Hank, Gus, Sadie, Alex, Jon, Grant, Andrew, Wesley, Darcy, and Wilson Grunau; sister Gretchen (James) Henry; brother-in-law John Dragisic and many nieces and nephews. He is also survived by Linda Grunau and Anne Bach Grunau. He was preceded in death by sister Susan Dragisic, parents Lenore and Paul, and aunt Fern “Toonie” Perry.

Gary was larger than life. He lived each day with grace, integrity, compassion, humility, and a charisma revealed each time he entered a room and caught the eye of every occupant. His unending drive to live life to the fullest and laugh along the way inspired family and friends alike. Everything he touched he made better. He relished the opportunity to be involved in new projects and organizations, jumping in with both feet and propelling it forward, regardless of the time or effort needed. Gary got things done, period.

Gary loved many things, but most important to him, other than his family, was the city of Milwaukee. Each day, he woke up motivated to make this the greatest city on earth. The results of those efforts can be seen and enjoyed by anyone strolling through the city today. From the Milwaukee Riverwalk, through Schlitz Park, over to the Hyatt Hotel, The Milwaukee Convention Center, and down to Discovery World, you will find a little bit of Gary around almost every corner. And he will be with us all as we gather each September to enjoy the Milwaukee River Challenge, and help celebrate the city he loved so dearly. His impact extends beyond these projects and into the hearts and vision of many of the urbanists we find in our great city today.

Even beyond the buildings built and the companies led, Gary’s true passion lay with the organizations he has helped create and/or direct. His generosity can be felt across the city, region and country. The students of the Milwaukee Academy of Science and Alverno College will be the first to tell you that his influence goes well beyond the bricks and mortar for which he is most recognized. Gary worked tirelessly to invigorate institutions throughout Milwaukee to nurture, cultivate, and inspire some of our greatest minds. His direct involvement in Discovery World, the Harbor District, Milwaukee Riverwalk District, Spirit of Milwaukee and the Greater Milwaukee Committee (just to name a few), has had an invaluable impact on this city, and one that will continue to reverberate for ages to come.

The exuberance he brought to projects in Milwaukee permeated everything he did in life. He traveled the world with his family and friends and was kept young by child-like wonder and unquenchable curiosity. He was an avid fisherman, ravenous reader and a pretty darn good golfer. He cherished his time in Delray Beach with his family both immediate and extended and loved a chilled glass of chardonnay or a fine burgundy. Though, perhaps not as much as good brandy Manhattan, with an olive of course.

Friends and family will gather from 3-6 pm on Sunday, September 29, 2019 at the Pilot House at Discovery World, 500 N. Harbor Drive, Milwaukee. Visitation will continue on Monday, September 30 from 9 – 11 am at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 812 N. Jackson St., Milwaukee followed by a Memorial Mass at 11:00 am.

Special thanks to the Froedtert Cancer Center, especially Dr. Fenske and staff; caregivers at Restorative Home Care, especially the amazing Abby; and the wonderful staff at Zilber Family Hospice.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Gary P. Grunau “Good for Milwaukee” Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, 101 W. Pleasant St, Ste 210, Milwaukee 53212. Or online at: (to be directed to this site, click on “Web Site” under the Contributions section to the left).

Past Comments

Jack Hellriegel

I only learned of Gary’s passing recently. Somehow we didn’t keep up with each other over the years, that was a shame. Gary and I were roommates at Cornell for several years, being members of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He was the best man at my wedding in Dec.1963, in a blizzard in a small town outside of Buffalo, NY. (Fond memories of a unique groom’s dinner)

I remember I used to go to his house over spring break and he came to my house in Baldwin, NY on Long Island during the Thanksgiving break. (Gary never got used to the our pet parakeet), funny the things you remember. From there, we went to the Cornell – Penn football game, then Cornell’s rival, in Philadelphia a number of years, (memories of our activities there).

Memories – ( Gary and my mother bartending together at a Cornell joint party at the TKE house). My mother had a ball and never forgot the experience. She loved Gary.

Gary was a leader, a serious student and a fun guy to be around. Clearly he was destined to make significant contributions to whatever he touched. His passing if a loss to us all.

Leave a condolence or share a memory

Go to Top