John R. Suminski was a man of noble character, who instilled the significance of faith, responsibility and service in his family and demonstrated the same among his friends and neighbors. As a loving husband, he shared his life and calling with his wife, and as an invested father, John parented by example. He was disciplined yet fun loving, adventurous as well as reflective. His education showed many interests, still his commitment was singular: John valued his family and the people of his community and attended to them in multiple ways.
John was born to John P. and Regina M. (Zawatzki) Suminski in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 12, 1942, just months after the United States was drawn into World War II. Families had come through the challenges of economic depression with a strong work ethic, and even as war began, the nation pulled together to make life as good as possible for the next generation. At the time of John’s birth, the Suminski name was already well known for several generations of the family contributing to the common good.
When John was still young, his family moved to Waterford, Wisconsin, where he and his younger sister Carol spent an idyllic childhood on Fox River. With all the outdoor recreation available to him, John developed a lifelong interest in fishing, water skiing and boating.
Following his elementary and secondary education, John went on to St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, graduating with a BA in Philosophy in 1964. His choice of a major perhaps offers a glimpse into a man who exhibited careful thought and meaningful guidance that those around him came to know so well.
It was during an event sponsored by Catholic Alumni Association for single Catholic College graduates, that John first met the lovely Colette Miller. They had both come to a fish-fry at the Press Club in Milwaukee, and though Colette came with a friend, she left with John. The ride home in John’s new car sparked a romance that grew into love and commitment. The two were married November 7, 1970 at St. James Parish in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, with a reception at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Waterford. That same year, John put himself through the Wisconsin Institute of Mortuary Science, and the newlyweds began a journey that not only joined them together in marriage but also in their vocation.
John began working at Borgwardt Funeral Home in Wauwatosa as an apprentice and funeral director. Later, he joined the family business, Suminski Funeral Home, as a third generation funeral director. He and Colette lived in South Milwaukee and operated the Suminski Funeral Home for a number of years. In addition, John used his experience and education to teach in the mortuary science program at Milwaukee Area Technical College (M.A.T.C.) from 1972 through 1975.
In 1976, John and Colette moved “up north” to own and operate funeral homes in Wabeno and Crandon, Wisconsin. The northern woods became the backdrop of a lovely setting in which to raise a family. They were blessed with four children—Theresa, Matthew, Jean Marie and Mary—who learned life’s lessons not only from what their father said, but more importantly, from the life he lived. John truly “walked the talk.”
As a parent, John was strict but loving and involved in the lives of his children. He provided direction and made sure they were exposed to life’s opportunities. For example, family vacations were fun for the kids but also educational. John was right there for them, helping develop their talents, stimulating their passions, encouraging responsibility and establishing budgets. Leaving the “Three Rs” to classroom teachers, John taught life lessons on the “Four Fs”: Family, Faith, Finances and Fun.
The family’s faith was tested when Jean Marie was diagnosed with cancer. They journeyed with her in her courageous battle, and in her death, they clung to each other and to the promises of God.
Alongside his professional life, John was actively involved in the community. He taught religious education at his church, served on parish councils, sang in the church choir, and was a member of the Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, and Human Concerns. Being part of a family business over several generations, John’s vocation and volunteer activities wove him into the fabric of community life and earned the respect of many.
John and Colette retired from funeral service in 2009, after nearly 40 years of compassionate care for the community. They returned to Waterford, and John welcomed the surroundings of lake and land. His backyard garden became the “apple of his eye,” yielding such success that he often donated extra produce to area food pantries. He enjoyed the solitude of any lake, a lone fishing pole and breathtaking sunsets offered him. Yet he was also willing to try bolder ventures such as water skiing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, golf and snorkeling.
Sadly, life also contained internal struggles for John, especially in the past two years. He entered into his rest and was born to eternal life on March 19, 2013. His family and friends take comfort in the faith that was John’s and the life he lived with integrity and in service to others.
John R. “Jack” Suminski, aged 71 of Waterford, Wisconsin (formerly of Wabeno, Crandon and Townsend) is survived by his loving and devoted wife Colette; two daughters: Theresa Neddo, and Mary Suminski; one son: Matthew; three grandchildren: Holly, Alex, and Elena Neddo; one sister: Carol (Francis) Wagner; other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by one daughter: Jean Marie. Visitation Sunday March 24, 2013 at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church 305 S. 1st Street, Waterford, WI from 2-6 PM. The Mass of Christian Burial 10:00 AM Monday, March 25, 2013 at the Church. Burial Holy Cross Cemetery, Milwaukee, WI. Suminski LifeStory Funeral Homes, Suminski/Weiss, 414-276-5122,