Visitation: Thursday, December 8, 2022 from 3-5pm at HERITAGE FUNERAL HOME (9200 S 27th St, Oak Creek)
Funeral Service: Thursday, December 8, 2022 at 5pm at HERITAGE FUNERAL HOME
John Edward Kehler
Born on December 5, 1960 and passed away November 23, 2022 at age 61.
John was born in Milwaukee, WI, the only son of Gordon and Dolores Kehler. He attended Oak Creek High School and graduated in 1979. His secondary education was completed at UW-Milwaukee, Southern Illinois University for electronics, MATC for Electronics, Metallurgy and Welding, Embry-Riddle University for A.S. in Electronics Technology and Gateway Technical College for a degree in Professional Aeronautics. His education provided a pathway for many years of varied and productive employment as an Instrument Rated flight instructor at Gateway Technical College, and afterward as a Maintenance Mechanic and Electrical Technician, Plant operator and Field service technician for the Oak Creek Water Department. Later, he was employed with Milwaukee Steel Converting, Coca-Cola Corporation, Innovative Packaging Corporation, Kleen-Test Products, J & L Fiber Services, Patrick Cudahy, Cargill Meat Solutions, Castlestone Incorporated, and finally a businessman as owner/operator of Thor Enterprises Incorporated.
John enjoyed many activities during his free time. He was always an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed fishing, hunting, canoeing, hiking, backyard bonfires and travel. His love for pets, especially dogs was evident throughout his life. As a boy, he joined DeMolay, and went on a very memorable rafting trip with the group down a white water rapids area of the Wolf River. During one fishing trip in Michigan, he caught a record- sized brown trout and had it mounted for display.
His parents started taking the family on camping trips all over the United States, seeing many of the State and National Parks, and John always loved road trips. Some years the summer trip was fishing at Casey’s Camp near Northland, Michigan or a trip up to Canada. Since then, his love of travel has taken him to Mexico, Alaska, to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, to North Carolina and Florida. John loved the Gulf coast and visited the Gulfport and Pass Christian, Mississippi area to enjoy the ocean and some fresh seafood on occasion. The rugged beauty of Southwestern Wisconsin near the Mississippi River was also something he visited and enjoyed often.
John and his friends enjoyed tinkering with cars, making them faster, more powerful and new again. The Pontiac GTO Judge was his favorite muscle car and he watched and listened with a smile on his face when one drove by. He and sister Kathy, along with his buddies Jim Stevenson, Chris Smith, Brian Skamra and Mark Krzoska all worked together to rebuild a late 60’s model Firebird convertible. Sister Kathy says they “shoehorned” an oversized 350 engine into it and enjoyed the attention the car received when it was complete.
John had a great love of music and had the heart of a poet, as the songs were favorites not only for the music, but more importantly for the message the lyrics held. He loved going to concerts at County Stadium, Summerfest, Alpine Valley, and the Milwaukee Arena and Auditorium. With groups of friends all attending, he saw bands such as Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Boston, Hooters, Styx, Stevie Nicks, and Bruce Springsteen. His souvenir band tee shirts were never worn, and are collected in pristine condition, some with tags still clinging, in a dresser drawer to be taken out and admired when he wanted.
His entertainment interests were varied too. With friends he attended the Nutcracker Ballet, Irish Fest for the “happy music” where he discovered he liked a band called Peat Bog Fairies and enjoyed the Irish dancers. He went to see the Blue Man Group, and a play narrated live by Chaz Palmenteri called “A Bronx Tale” and raved about both. He liked summer community festivals with local talent where he could relax with a cool margarita and a four legged buddy by his side. Crawfish boils with corn on the cob and new potatoes at a lakeside bar were one of his favorites too, and he was always ready for a kayak or canoe ride with friends or relatives in the summer time, maybe followed with a bonfire for a perfect day.
He also enjoyed his days as a pilot and instructor and thrilled many of his friends and family as passengers during his flight time. It was said he had nerves of steel, and it is no wonder when hearing this story that was offered: John took two students out for flight instruction and on approach but just before landing, there was a deer on the runway and the plane’s landing gear struck the deer. The students both went into panic mode but John remained patient and calm. It was not clear whether the landing gear had been damaged by the strike. One student had the controls and was trying to land the plane while John was fighting for control with the steering on his side of the plane so that they could circle the tower and have them inspect the landing gear. The other student had grabbed the intercom and was calling “Mayday! Mayday!” Chaos reigned for a moment, but the tower was able to see that the landing gear was still intact, and they were able to land the plane safely.
John loved people from all walks of life. His social life earned him the nickname “Bacardi John” with his friends. Those same friends introduced John to the woman would be his future wife Lori Brzakala at a going-away party for John just before he was due to travel to Florida to attend Embry-Riddle University. On one of their first dates, he flew them to Oshkosh for dinner. They dated for 13 years and then married on October 27, 2001. John and Lori enjoyed concerts at the Performing Arts Center, the Pabst Theater and the Bradley Center seeing such acts as Yanni, Kenny G and Shania Twain. Together they enjoyed travel as they were able, and took their honeymoon in Bayfield, WI and the Apostle Islands.
They both were Green Bay Packer fans and held season tickets to attend several games per season, and were fortunate to meet several players, Ahman Green, William Henderson and Brett Favre. They also spent time at Lori’s parent’s second home on Lake Arrowhead.
John always tried to keep a positive outlook on life, even while he wasn’t feeling well, he would always look toward recovery. Each time he would make a recovery, his mood would soar and he would kid everyone that he was “bulletproof”. Some phone calls from him at the hospital were not even a hello, just a loud “I’m back!” or “I’m still here!” which always brought a smile.
John was preceded in death by his father Gordon and brother-in-law Robert Dehli.
John is survived by his wife Lori, his mother Dolores and sisters Kathleen (James) Billek and Rosemary (the late Robert) Dehli, beloved family friend Juliette Wegner, mother- and father-in-law Karen and David Brzakala, brothers-in-law Jeff Brzakala and Gary Brzakala (Laura Kocher), niece Regan Brzakala, niece Alyssa Dehli, nephew Michael (Amanda) Dehli, great-nephew Xander and great-niece Mara, aunt, cousins and numerous friends.
The family wishes to thank the dedicated staff at ProHealth Care- Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ICU staff and Angel’s Grace Hospice care for all they have done to care for John. You are truly a credit to your professions. We would also like to thank by recognizing each of these wonderful doctors by name: Dr. Renee Knapp, Dr. Russel Harland, Dr. Muhammad Akbar and Dr. Lisa Schmitz. Thanks also to Palliative care Nurse Practitioner Christy Kleinmeyer, and Dr. Amy Malik at UW Pulmonology.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Wisconsin Humane Society or to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (pulmonaryfibrosis.org) in memory of John.
A visitation will take place on Thursday, December 8, 2022 from 3-5pm with a service at 5pm at HERITAGE FUNERAL HOME.
Heritage Funeral Homes
9200 S 27th St, Oak Creek